Monday, November 25, 2013

Cheapskatery in Extreme--The Do Nots

As I said in my previous post, there are a lot of gems of information in Extreme Cheapskates, but there are also a lot of rather insane things that these people do that just make it not worth it to save a few dollars.  Most of the most extreme people were incredibly obsessed with saving money on electricity and water.  This makes sense, obviously, and anecdotally, I realized that if I keep my laptop unplugged overnight (just my laptop), I save about $10/month on my electric bill--and it's better for the laptop's battery.  However, I do not unplug EVERYTHING in my house the second I stop using it, I occasionally leave lights on in a room that I'm not in and I have some non-CFL lightbulbs.

This all comes back to the whole frugal vs. cheap debate, in particular the question of how much work you have to do to save $.50.  in the case of one woman on the show, she showers at the gym.  She says that she would be there anyway, and like saving money on her home water bill by doing it that way.  This makes sense.  Then she shows her pee jar and says that the only time she flushes her home toilet is when she's moved her bowels.  The rest of the time, she pees in a jar and adds it to her compost pile.

Showering at the gym = worth it
Peeing in jars = not worth it

The number one rule of frugality (or cheapskatery), as far as I see it is: Don't be a dick.
  • Don't fill up on samples and never buy anything.
  • Don't refill your ketchup bottles from ketchup packets that you've gotten from restaurants where you haven't purchased anything.
  • Don't serve houseguests food you found in the trash.
  • Don't exploit other people just so you can avoid spending money.
Once thing that was more interesting to me than watching people reuse paper towels and dental floss, was learning how some of these people started down the road to extreme cheapskatery.  One woman on the show was married at 19 and divorced at 22 with a baby and no money.  Another woman was a victim of the dot com bubble bursting.  She doesn't say how long she was unemployed, but I'm still reeling from about six weeks of unemployment a couple years ago, so I kind of see where she's coming from.

When you've been vulnerable like that, you will do anything to not feel that way again.  It probably seems like you can never have enough money, and it's very easy to just embrace bizarre behaviors to save a few cents.  Plus, I admit, I really hate buying toilet paper too (but I still do it).  Watching this show and reading this article on 7 Things No One Tells you About Being Homeless, really made me realize--or re-realize, I guess, how important it is to plan ahead and have emergency savings.  You don't have to be an extreme cheapskate to save money, you just need to be aware of your spending and be able to control it.  Everyone has fixed expenses, but everyone also had discretionary expenses too.

For me:
Eating most of my meals at home and packing my lunch for work (and taking home leftovers when the option is presented to me even if I get some odd looks) = worth it
Dumpster diving for food = not worth it


  1. Did you know that's also Wheaton's Law?

    Loved this post :)