In the world of personal finance where penny pinching is celebrated and frugal purchases are rewarded, it sometimes can be hard to draw the line between being frugal and being cheap. How you answer the question ‘would you wipe your butt with a used napkin’ may reveal which side of the line you fall on. But even with the frugal vs. cheap debate waging on, there’s another group of penny-pinching enthusiasts that take cheap to a whole new level: The Extreme Cheapskates (aka: people who say ‘yes, I would wipe my butt with a used napkin.’)
Perhaps known to most of us through reality TV shows such as TLC’s aptly named “Extreme Cheapskates,” these people–some who are actual millionaires–make a living by spending as little money as humanly possible. And when I say little, it’s more like pennies on the dollar for things you and I might usually spend tens or hundreds of dollars on without blinking an eye.
Lest you think I’m talking about extravagant purchases that allow us to acquiesce to our every want and desire, I’m not. What I’m talking about are everyday expenditures such as food, transportation, and even utilities. Take a gander at some of the profiles below and consider what your personal threshold for saving money is. Chances are, there’s someone out there who’s quirky (or insane) enough to give your frugal habits a literal run for the money.
A House Without Furniture
When I bought my condo three years ago, I needed to buy quite a bit of furniture. Since I’d mostly relied on hand-me-downs and university pieces up until that point, I had very little to actually move in with me. And so the shopping adventure began. That was, until I realized how ridiculously priced furniture is! However, I realized that I’d need to pick up key pieces like a couch, dining table, etc., so I became a savvy discount shopper. By stacking my purchases on sales, price matching, and tax-free weekends, I was able to fully furnish my place for less than $1K. Not too shabby for a 1,500 sq. ft. place, eh?
Well, someone like Terence Candell would definitely disagree with me. That’s because Candell doesn’t have much of ANY furniture in his California home. He deems it a prime example of the ‘Keeping up with the Jones’ sickness he vehemently shirks. Plus, because he feels furniture is frivolous and doesn’t “give anything back,” he’s proud to sit on a few lawn chairs and sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor instead of in a nice, warm bed. Would you choose a sleeping bag over a mattress and box springs? I wouldn’t either….
Weird, Obscure Bathroom Habits
When it comes to personal hygiene, I’m of the vein that money is well spent on taking care of your body by using things such as toothpaste, soap, and floss. I actually like those little, disposable flossers that are single-use. But if you asked Roy Haynes about my flossing habits, he’d surely shudder as he prides himself on re-using dental floss until it’s shredded by hanging it to dry overnight.
And then there’s Kay, the woman in NYC that inspired my title for this post. You see, when most of us are throwing the Charmin into our shopping carts, Kay is laughing. That’s because she refuses to buy TP, opting for napkins (preferably those she’s already used for other purposes) to take care of business. Editor’s note…one word – NASTY!
If Kay’s behavior isn’t enough for you, what about self-made millionaire Victoria Hunt who refuses to use the toilet at all?! Instead, she pees in bottles and empties them in the garden. Say what!?
Frugal, Cheap, or Just Plain Crazy?
The stories I’ve shared above, while mostly for entertainment value, really get you wondering about the level to which some people will (climb or stoop to, depending on how you look at it) to reduce their expenses. But at the end of the day, they’re saving money so what’s the big deal? Well, the big deal would be the social ramifications of these actions, not to mention the plethora of health and safety infractions that could cause any of these people to become gravely ill.
I look at frugality as wise decision-making, but I can’t wrap my head around the extreme cheapskate behaviors.
What do you think? Wiping your bum with a used napkin–yay or nay?
John’s take: I thought I had some cheap family members, but nothing like this. When it comes to TP, or dental floss for that matter, I say spend the money. Frugality can only go so far. Let the fun search terms begin
Photo courtesy of: Theimpulsivebuy