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Extreme Cheapskates: That Could Be You!

Tuesday night I was channel flipping and landed on a new show called Extreme Cheapskates on TLC. As the title perked my interest I began to watch. In fact, I watched four episodes that night as I was amazed–and a bit repulsed–by some of the things these people would do to save a buck or even a few pennies. But, of course, my mind began to contemplate exactly what I would or would not be willing to do if the need truly arose. The funny thing is that a few of the “bizarre” things these people did would be considered part of the prepper mindset, such as foraging for wild edibles and using a rocket stove; other actions, such as dumpster diving… not so much.

While I eluded to the fact that our lives will likely be very different in the coming years when I wrote The “Use It Then Trash It” Mentality Simply Won’t Work for the Middle Class Any More, the extent that these cheapskates would go to may be a glimpse into our future whether we like it or not. Here’s a list and short explanation of what I remember seeing while watching these extreme cheapskates in action:

  • Dumpster diving – Two people showcased did this. I can say that this might be too much for me to consider but if I had no other choice… who knows. Granted, some people seem to survive doing this but it takes a strong stomach. I can also imagine that there would be some strong cometition for this food if groceries become scarce and such a lifestyle could become a thing of the past if people are willing to pay for food that would otherwise have been considered trash.
  • Foraging for wild edibles – A few people also foraged for various berries and plant leaves (for salads). This could be a viable consideration if you know that what you’re picking is edible and not sprayed with pesticides or otherwise soiled by pets or wild animals.
  • Built a rocket stove – One lady prefers to use her rocket stock to cook with instead of her rangetop if the weather is nice. We may very well be doing this too so you had best know how to make one. And, considering that they’re fairly efficient it’s not a bad idea anyway. Although they didn’t show that she boiled water using it, I assume she found other uses for her rocket stove than just cooking food.
  • Urinating in a jar – A lady did this to cut back on her water bill by not flushing the toilet as often; she then utilized the urine in her compost pile. Not too long ago people used chamber pots for this very purpose, so I can see us going back to something like this idea pretty easily.
  • Salvage water from shower – In similar fashion, a guy would salvage the water he showered with and use it to flush the toilet. Not a bad idea, especially if/when water is scarce.
  • Washing clothes while taking a shower – Another guy was so cheap he choose to wash his clothes in the shower, while he bathed. The best part was that he even kept the tags on all his clothes in case he ever wanted to return them! I don’t think he ever did. And, yes, apparently he wore them out in public like that. ;)
  • No toilet paper used – One lady refused to buy toilet paper (as well as paper towels, napkins, etc) because it was like throwing money away. Instead, she used a water bottle and small bar of soap to clean herself (like a bidet). Don’t make funny faces, we could be doing this very soon too and, in fact, is something that some prepper gurus recommend for when times are tough.
  • Left home in disrepair – A man was so cheap he generally refused to fix anything in the house; the front doorbell even had to be rung by touching two wires together (is that safe?). While I don’t recommend you do the same it may be that we have no other choice. Fix the doorbell or eat today… hmmm?
  • Take free furniture from street - While I’ve never choosen to take anything from the curbside, we have often left assorted furniture and other small appliances that were still functional for other people to have rather than let it go to the dump. Maybe you and I will be on the recieving end some day?
  • Saves/pickup coins – This is never a bad idea as even small change adds up and, who knows, maybe they’ll be worth more than dollar bills a few years from now. Apparently nickels are the coin to stockpile if you’re interested.
  • All electronics unplugged – One lady purposely unplugs nearly everything she owns when not in use. That’s not such a bad idea if you’re willing to take the time to do it. I’ve seen/read/heard in the past that leaving electrnoics continuously plugged into the wall even when turned off still consumes a very significant amount of power when all added up. In fact, there are devices out there that are meant to allow you to completely turn off anything they’re plugged into using a master switch in order to saving your electricity bill. It may be that electricity will become a luxury item and that “phantom power” drains will become a big deal to your way of life.
  • Freezer on timer – The same lady also put her chest freezer on a 12-on/12-off timer cycle. I’m not sold on this one as it might cause the freezer to work harder when it’s back on to make up for lost cooling time when off. That said, such decisions may be forced upon us with rolling brown outs; many countries practice this as a regular way of life.
  • Haggles ALL prices – A man was so cheap he actually haggled every price, including clothing, restaurant meals, and gasoline (I had no idea you could do that one). Barter may be a long lost art that resurfaces as a daily occurrence.
  • Roadkill for food and fur – A family actually goes roadkill-searching not only for a meal but to reuse the fur to make mittens or whatever; not a bad idea, but I think I would rather trap/hunt my furry little friends if I had to. And, besides, I can’t imagine there would be a lot of roadkill around in hard times given that people will snatch them up ASAP.

There may be a few examples that I missed but you get the point. The reason these people did this was to save money. The interesting part is that many of them seemed to be faily well off

3 comments to Extreme Cheapskates: That Could Be You!

  • T.R.

    I think we are talking mentally ill instead of cheap .

  • Bellen

    I, too, watched all 4 shows. Some of the things I’ve done and some I would never do.
    Dumpster Diving: never for food but at a printing company for reams of paper for the computer, the kids, signs and cards. At a major craft
    Foraging: for nuts, raspberries & blueberries & fiddleleafs. If I knew my mushrooms I’d do that.
    Salvage shower water: because of severe drought and water restrictions we’ve done that, plus rain water caught in buckets to use for the gardens
    Free Furniture: on garbage day and by checking Craig’s List – small table, patio furniture that just needed cleaning, bookcase that needed paint, child’s rocker that needed glue that we then sold, and after yard sales anything left at the curb most of which we donate. A local man cruises the neighborhood on garbage day picking up all metal objects to sell to augment his income.
    Roadkill – in some states, Alaska comes to mind, when a deer or moose is killed on the road there are organizations that are called to collect & use. In other states it is collected and distributed to homeless shelters. Obviously it has to be fresh roadkill.

    In the case of not making household repairs – not safe and will diminish the value of your home and if extreme, the value of your neighbors’ homes. In all things frugal/cheapskate safety should always be the first rule.

    • I simply found it quite interesting what people would do to save money. What will really be interesting is what people will do because they’re forced to do so when money becomes so tight they can’t afford to do otherwise. While I’m not against most of the things these people did I figured I better learn a bit because I could be doing that too!