Would You Wipe Your Butt with a Used Napkin?

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wipe your butt

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


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Jen is the owner of The Happy Homeowner, where she writes about living a healthy, balanced life one cent at a time. Previously, she paid off $14K in credit card debt in less than a year and hasn’t looked back since. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


  • I now have to check this show out! To me, it’s pushing the saving money boundary a little too far. I can see where the no furniture guy is coming from…he likes to sleep in a sleeping bag, no big deal. But reusing floss??? Imagine meeting someone and after a few dates, going over to their place and having to use the bathroom. As you enter, you see used floss hanging there. Do you stay or do you make up an excuse to leave? Or do you just jump out the window, regardless of what floor you are on?

  • I’ve been known to wash plastic utensils for reuse, but that’s about as far as I’ll venture into cheap territory. =)

  • Catherine says:

    Thanks for making me wake up and instantly want to vomit. I should commend this man for flossing maybe but instead id like to send him a research paper with the microbial status of his floss. Barf. If his dentist knew he was reusing floss im sure he’d gladly provide it for free….having said all this I actually know a guy who reuses garbage bags…..

    • Jen says:

      Hahahaha…sorry about that, Catherine! 🙂

      I can’t fathom what’s crawling on that floss…NASTY!!!

  • Moneycone says:

    The problem is people confuse being frugal with being cheap.

    I consider myself frugal, but not cheap. When I was a student, I could only afford cheap eyeglasses and invariably, I would have to replace it every year because of constant wear and not because my power increased. I got what I paid for.

    But once I started earning, I switched to much more expensive designer frames. Not for the design, but for the quality. Best decision ever! These frames last a long, long time!

    On the other hand, I take water with me on road trips rather than buying it at the gas stations. I hate paying library fines, I can’t get myself to buy a brand new car… the list is long!

    • Jen says:

      Sounds like you have a great perspective on the matter! I agree that you get what you pay for–I’ve learned that the hard way over the years as well

  • Yikes. First of all, napkins shouldn’t be flushed in the first place! At least I’m paranoid about flushing anything besides TP down the toilet if at all possible…that will happen when your sewer drain-out gets clogged and backs up. I’ve watched “Extreme Cheapskates” and it’s amazing what these people get away with! I love how their spouses sometimes just shake their heads at their significant other’s saving habits.

    • Jen says:

      I honestly can’t imagine being married to someone who thought these types of things were mandatory behaviors…it would drive me nuts! I’d be scared of getting sick or, like you’ve pointed out, ridiculously high repair bills, etc.

  • What is wrong with peeing in bottles and dumping them in your garden? Doesn’t everybody do that? 🙂

  • Jai Catalano says:

    When I bought my house I wanted a bidet. I am super specific about that area of my life. Ok I think I am done. 🙂

  • cashrebel says:

    Ugh, gross! How could you not want to sleep in a bed. These guys are giving frugal enthusiasts everywhere a bad name

    • Jen says:

      I agree! It’s not safe, hygienic, or socially acceptable–what in the world would possess someone to do these things unless they’re acting for TV?!

  • Matt Becker says:

    I don’t think saving money just for the sake of saving money is a helpful strategy. The value is in prioritizing the things that truly matter to you and structuring your spending around those values. I place value on having some furniture in my home, so the furniture-less approach isn’t for me. So my view on frugality isn’t a quest to spend as little as possible. I don’t view that as an end. Rather, I try to understand the things I really want from life and focus my money best to those ends.

    To me, “cheap” is a term that applies to how you treat other people. If I go out to dinner with a friend and order a less expensive meal, that’s frugal. If I order a more expensive meal and then make my friend split the bill 50-50, that’s cheap.

    • Jen says:

      Love your approach! And I agree about being cheap with others–I hate when people try to do the 50/50 split thing when it’s clear we haven’t spend close to the same amount!!

  • Ok, there’s frugal, and then there’s those who are simply obsessed with money. I loved Matt’s definition of cheap here. Frugal people use their rain barrels to water the garden, obsessive people pee in them so they don’t have to waste the water or TP. There’s the difference. 🙂

  • Is pee even good for the garden? I guess I’d never be cheap. I’m obsessive about having a stock pile of toilet paper, so I can’t imagine using old napkins.

    • Jen says:

      I’m right there with you–no thank you on the napkin thing! And I can’t imagine it’s good for the garden…

  • Mr. 1500 says:

    Napkiins would make for a pretty scuffed butt, so no thanks!

  • Tara says:

    I thought the high ammonia in urine is bad for grass? Or at least I heard female dog urine is definitely bad for grass… so the urine thing makes no sense. Plus, as a New Yorker who rides the subway and experiences the stench of urine frequently, I would not want to hang out at someone’s house where they dumped all their pee in the yard.

    • Jen says:

      Yeah…I thought that, too! No idea why she chooses to dump it in her garden.

      I ride the subway sometimes in Boston–I’m with you on that one. I can’t imagine how their yard must smell!!

  • Michelle says:

    I want to throw up. Thanks for this! Haha I would never go this far to save money.

  • Cat says:

    Jen – fantastic title! 🙂 I really do want to watch that show. There’s a line between saving money and just being obsessive. And as for no bed – eventually that guys gonna have a really sore back!

  • E.M. says:

    These are all just a tad ridiculous. I would never go to these lengths just to save money. Being comfortable and healthy is more of a priority for me. I wonder if money is stressing these people out to the point of insanity. I could never imagine feeling the absolute need to go to these lengths to save. I imagine they compulsively check their savings every day. But I guess if they are happy then it works for them. I will have to watch an episode now…

  • I watched one episode of that show and it really turned me off. The only one I can somewhat agree with (but barely) is the guy who doesn’t have furniture. I don’t think furniture has to be fancy or expensive or overdone, but you gotta have something. As far as the other two? Gross! Just gross!

  • Jake @ Common Cents Wealth says:

    I’d like to think I’m frugal, not cheap, but that’s a tough line to walk. That being said, I would never contemplate using napkins instead of TP or peeing in a bottle and dumping it in the garden. There is a fine line there, but the difference between frugal and cheap is pretty huge.

    • Jen says:

      Absolutely! I pride myself on frugal choices, but I’m not cheap to the point of harming my health, etc.

      • Andrew says:

        I agree with Jake…there is definitely a difference between frugal and cheap even though some people use them interchangeably. Frugal people find the best value whether it be by waiting for it to go on sale or using a coupon. On the other hand, a cheap person only looks at the price and will buy the item with the lowest price without regard to the quality.

  • krantcents says:

    Extreme anything is short lived! I don’t think you can maintain this kind of behavior for very long and you shouldn’t anyway. Frugality becomes cheap or worse!

    • Jen says:

      Very true! I’d be interested in the follow up for these stories…hopefully they’d all have come to their senses…

  • Okay, clearly you get the award for best blog post title of the day!

  • Debt Blag says:

    Eeeuw. I’m assuming that people like this don’t budget. Otherwise, they’d probably be able to find savings in other places that don’t require this sort of grossness.

  • I’ve always liked lots of open space where I live, so I definitely go for a minimalist tone in terms of furniture, which looks modern and saves me money.

  • I am glad that I don’t watch that show. There are times when you can be cheap, but they take it literally to the extreme. What is the point?

  • anna says:

    That show is pretty gross, especially with all the unhygienic ways they try to save. There was one episode where the lady served her guests food from garbage, which I thought was pretty disrespectful (especially when not disclosing it from the beginning).

  • Some people are just nasty indeed. The sleeping bag no furniture no problem. Reusing napkins and not using the toilet not on the bucket list. I guess they will get what they want which is people watching the show.

  • Nay! Just think about all the bacteria that’s on that used napkin. The lady that refuses to use the toilet and uses bottles instead just gave a whole new meaning to being frugal! I wonder how she manages when she is out and about. Thanks for the interesting post!

    • Jen says:

      Ewww..that’s gross to think about! Like if she was at a restaurant–would she just bring the bottle back to the table?! ICK

  • pauline says:

    When I first moved to Guatemala, I blew my first paycheck on a mattress and a piano. The rest of the place was empty until the next paycheck, where I got a stove and a fridge. I was out a lot so didn’t mind the bare appearance and it did not even last 6 months. Finding used furniture was next to impossible, people reuse everything until it dies around here!

  • that is just taking it too far! These people can´t be living any normal, social satisfying lives! There is just a certain limit to certain ways of behaving, if you ask me!

  • Let them rot in their misery. Certainly there are essentials in life for which our antecedents fought wars. Hanging out the dental floss, using used napkins, yuk. They must enjoy msery or they are secret entertainers!

  • Wipe with a used napkin? No thank you. I believe in BALANCE between a frugal lifestyle and living life to the fullest….and that is not balanced to me. Extreme cheapsakes seem to be too caught up in saving money that they are not living a full life they enjoy. But who am I to judge, maybe they do love it?

  • Aaron says:

    No thanks! I’m always surprised at the length some of these cheapskates go in the name of saving a few bucks. To me – I think it’s something more going on. There’s some type of payoff they are getting – emotionally.. where they get the kick out of being deemed the “cheapest” around. God bless ’em.

  • I could say.. Maaaaybe.. If you were camping or something and completely desperate.. Well, you gotta do what you gotta do..

    But yeah.. at home.. TP really isn’t THAT expensive.. And I buy the cushy nice-to-your-bum kind of TP.

  • Wow, these are some BAD ones! I could not even imagine. The answer would be no! Hahaha

  • Eerrr, I think there are habits that are just too extreme for me. Not really crazy but something that I won’t do. I agree with Jefferson. Maybe if I’m out camping and there are no other alternatives but I wouldn’t do those when I’m at home.

  • I’ve never seen these extreme frugality shows… so what’s the reason for their extreme frugality? To me spending wisely and being frugal is about being able to save enough money to retire earlier than the traditional 65 and not have to worry about money again in your life. If these extreme frugal folks amass millions and never spend any of it until the day they die… well, isn’t that kind of a waste? Guess it’ll be a wonderful bonus for whomever inherits the money… or Uncle Sam if they didn’t plan properly!

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