Last Tuesday, TLC debuted its latest offering in the “extreme” genre: Extreme Cheapskates. (This follows Extreme Couponing and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.)
The show’s initial episode highlighted some “out there” behaviors (e.g., not using toilet paper). However, it also provided some sneaky good source money advice. Seriously.
Let’s cut through the extremity to find these money-saving actions. After all, we all know that it takes more than words to show that something is truly extreme anyway.
ONE WOMAN’S TREASURE…
The first episode introduced Kate, a CPA living a super-frugal lifestyle since the tech bubble burned her. The show didn’t clarify her current employment status (perhaps I missed it), but she appears to have some money since she owns her apartment.
Throughout the episode, Kate looks through garbage and dumpsters for buried treasure. And you know what? That can make sense—especially if you’re just starting out. My first post-college apartment featured a number of junkyard finds, including a recliner, a utility table, and even a charcoal grill.
If your city has a central dump, see if it has a used items section. If not, look around your neighborhood on trash day or check out Craigslist. A lot of people will give you free furniture, like a sofa, just for moving it by yourself out of their house. Even if you have to invest in cleaner (please, do clean the items—even Kate had standards about what she would take), you’ll still save money.
CUTTING UNNECESSARY COSTS
In addition to furniture, Kate also goes garbage picking for food—which earned her a lot of looks from people passing by. (Though the film crew probably didn’t help.) While I can’t wrap my head around this practice, Kate does cut her unnecessary food cost in other fashion.
When she cooks (usually she eats her dumpster food cold… delicious!), Kate uses a single electric burner. Her apartment came with a gas stove, but she shut it off because the gas company charged her $17/month to have the line available.
This is totally reasonable. In fact, you can apply similar lessons to your life. Going away on a long vacation? Maybe you could cancel some utilities, turn off your water, postpone your Netflix, etc. It may feel like a hassle to go through this, but you’ll be saving money on things you’re not using anyway.
Kate found one of life’s big secrets: It doesn’t hurt to ask someone if you can pay less. We saw her do this with a hot dog vendor and at a second-hand clothing store.
Now, most of us don’t work with the barter system anymore. But think about it—what’s the worst that can happen? The person says “no.” That’s it!
If you choose your spots wisely (like with late fees), you can save money just by asking. Sure, you may feel uncomfortable, but the benefit outweighs the awkwardness.
Kate seems very content with her lifestyle. Still “over-saving” like hers can increase regret later in life—especially when you look back at missed opportunities.
Ultimately, you can benefit from both saving and spending money. I can’t say which you need to be thinking more about. But I can guess—especially if you’re like Kate and haven’t bought clothes in 13 years. (She uses a binder clip to keep her shorts up!)
Did you watch Extreme Cheapskates? (Yeah, right—like it was just me!) Share your thoughts in the comments.