Are TV's Extreme Cheapskates Going Too Far?
There's a new show on TV causing quite a lot of buzz amongst frugally minded people like myself. It's called "Extreme Cheapskates," and just like a similar show called "Extreme Couponing," it tells the stories of people who go above and beyond to save money. (See also: Crazy Frugality Schemes That Just Might Work)
Now, I have done a few things in my time that crossed the line from frugal to cheap. I'm sure many of you have, at some point, done the same. But the people featured in this show don't just cross that line; they race over it into the realms of downright insanity. The question is, which of these money-saving methods do you think go too far, and which could you see yourself doing? In other words, which of these are "too extreme" and which are "frugally fine?"
1. Doing Your Laundry While You Shower
Several people featured on the show seem to think this is a perfectly acceptable way to save money. Some will wash the clothes as they wear them in the shower, others will use the leftover shower water. And they do it using free samples of laundry detergent or good old-fashioned soap.
Verdict: Too Extreme!
While it's fair to save water from your shower for other uses (watering plants perhaps), or sharing a shower with your partner, doing laundry with your dirty shower water is just nasty.
2. Getting Food From Dumpsters
Would you eat a meal that was made with food from a dumpster? Well, quite a few of the extreme cheapskates get their food from the dumpsters outside of grocery stores and high-end delis. Some of the food, including fruit and vegetables, is perfectly fine to eat; it may not be beautifully cosmetic though. Other food has gone past its sell-by-date, either by a day or by much longer. (See also: Dumpster Diving 101)
Verdict: Frugally Fine
Dumpster diving for food is not new, and it's not gross if it's done right. Expiration dates are guidelines, but grocery stores will dump on, or just before, a sell-by-date. There are many ways to be "freegan," and it's a great way to save money and stop good food going to waste. (See also: Quick Guide to Expiration Dates and Food Safety)
3. Taking Leftovers From Other Diners' Plates
Perhaps one of the most bizarre money-saving tips came from a guy called Roy, one of the biggest cheapskates I've ever seen. This is a man who reuses paper towels and tea bags, many times, and gets all of his ketchup free from fast food establishments. But he takes it to another level when, after finishing his meal at a restaurant, he walks around asking people for their leftovers, and scraping it into take-out containers.
Verdict: Too Extreme!
Look, it's not great to waste food; we all know that. But this is one of those times when you have to consider how far is too far. You may not feel bad asking for leftovers, but the people with you, and the diners in the restaurant, do not expect this kind of behavior when dining out. It's one thing to give leftovers away, perhaps to someone homeless. It's something else entirely to petition the diners as they're chewing on their last bite. And let's not get into the hygiene issues. Yikes.
4. One Family: The Same Bath Water for All
Imagine standing in line to take a bath, and when you get to the front you find out it's the same bath water for everyone. That's the bizarre twist in one cheapskate's tale. Her whole family takes a bath every day, each taking turns with the bathwater; yes, the same bath water. If you think "it'll be cold after a while," then don't worry. They don't ever use hot water. (See also: How to Shower Less and Still Feel Clean)
Verdict: Too Extreme
Is this one even up for debate? Sure, if you're first into the bath you get clean water. Go second, it's going to be dirty. By the time you're the poor kid at the end of the line, you're bathing in the dirt and scum from a whole family! This is not hygienic, it's not good for a young boy's self esteem, and it's just way beyond the realms of normalcy. The water is the color of a cappuccino by the time the last kid gets out! This family also sleeps together in one bed, and never uses their electricity. This is not even cheap; we need a new word.
5. Peeing in Jars to Avoid Flushing
The strangest part of this story wasn't the act of peeing in the jar, or pouring it onto the garden to help it grow. No, the weird part is that this was done by a millionaire to save $2 per month in "wasteful" flushing.
Verdict: Too Extreme!
If it were saving a lot more money, I could see this being something worth trying. But for $2 a month, peeing into jars and storing them by the side of the toilet is just plain insanity! And forcing your boyfriend to do it too? That's even worse.
6. Using a Bicycle to Go Everywhere
A chap called Jeff Yeager, author of a bestselling cheapskate's book, takes his bicycle everywhere he goes. He's not an overweight man, as you probably guessed, and says he has saved over $50,000 by using a bike instead of having a car or taking public transportation. (See also: How to Become a Part-Time Bicycle Commuter)
Verdict: Frugally Fine
This is not a cheapskate thing to do at all; it has so many benefits to yourself and the environment. Jeff is staying in great shape, reducing his carbon footprint, and saving a ton of money. This is a no-brainer. Good on you, Jeff.
7. Getting Vitamins and Medicines From the Garbage
A pregnant and exceptionally cheap young lady did not want to pay for vitamins and medicines during her pregnancy. So, armed with a litter picker, she goes diving through dumpsters and garbage shaking everything until she hears the rattle of a pill bottle. Then, whether it's expired or not, she takes them home and stocks her medicine cabinet.
Verdict: Way Too Extreme!
This is bonkers. Sure, some vitamins will be OK to take after they expire, but old medicines can be dangerous, and have unpredictable side effects. There's also a reason every vitamin and medicine you buy comes sealed with tamper-proof packaging. This is your health; you cannot risk this kind of behavior. (See also: How to Get Free Medication)
8. Reusable Toilet Paper
You know, as a frugal man with 39 years under my belt, I thought I'd seen it all. Then, I saw something stomach-churningly bizarre. A family that refuses to buy toilet paper uses scraps of fabric from old clothing. Mom takes these squares and places them in a pile in the bathroom. You take a square, wipe, and put this dirty square into an open trash can in the bathroom. When the trashcan is full, you put it in the laundry.
Verdict: Borderline Extreme
I have used washable diapers on my kids. The diapers are washed several times, and until laundry day they are stored in a sealed bag. If it's acceptable for a baby, it's certainly acceptable for adults. However, I question the storage methods, and also forcing this upon houseguests. Would you wipe your butt with something that's stained, and has clearly wiped someone else's butt before? Me neither.
9. Refusing to Spend More Than 99 Cents Per Pound on Meat
Our cyclist Jeff is just as thrifty in the kitchen. In several instances, he goes shopping for meat and fish and usually ends up with the kind of cuts most of us would throw away…or throw up! He's made fish head soup and cooked goat's heads for dinner. He's quite fond of the eyes.
Verdict: Frugally Fine
If you have the stomach for it. Personally, I just couldn't eat a goat's eyeball, although I have it on good authority that cheek meat is very delicious. Fish head soup, I could easily eat that; it's more about flavor anyway. But be respectful of guests. Inviting them over for a chunk of goat head may not serve you well.
10. Eating Rice Thrown at Wedding Ceremonies
If you need to read that one again, go ahead. It's real, and it's bizarre. Our friend Roy (the plate scraper from #3) has been known to collect handfuls of rice that have been thrown at weddings. He'll scrape this up from the ground, pocket it, and use it in a meal later.
Verdict: Too Extreme to the Max!
Seriously, it's not only unhygienic, it smacks of bad taste and would take hours to collect enough to make one plate of rice. Considering you can buy a whole bag for a buck, this is a waste of time and not worth the effort. Yuck.
That's my top ten list. Did you see something even worse when watching the show? Does your opinion of these extreme money-saving ideas differ from mine. Chime in below.
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