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Lessons We Can Take from TLC’s show Extreme Cheapskates

Have you seen TLC’s new show Extreme Cheapskates? I was excited to catch the show thinking it would be right up my alley. I love shows about frugality, and cheap living. Instead I was disgusted and even turned my head away from the screen several times so I wouldn’t have to see things. In short, Extreme Cheapskates is extremely disturbing.

The show profiles people who take saving money to the extreme. Among those the show follows is Kate Hashimoto. Despite living in the most expensive city in the U.S., New York City, Kate manages to save half her salary, an admirable feat. What makes her stand out is the lengths in which she’ll go in order to save money.

Last week’s episode showcased Kate dumpster diving for food. She treks from her apartment in Harlem to the Upper West Side a few times a week to forage through dumpsters and the trash of expensive grocery stores. “Consumers in wealthy areas expect their products to be perfect,” she explained, “so upscale stores throw out a lot of items that are still good.”  She has no qualms about eating food that has passed its expiration date.  She also doesn’t see anything wrong with serving it to her guests. Kate had her colleague and his girlfriend over for dinner on the episode and after they had taken a few bites proudly proclaimed that the food they were eating was gotten out of the trash behind an upscale eatery. As you can imagine her dinner guests were horrified and quickly left.

Kate also doesn’t believe in wasting money on disposable items. “I don’t believe in spending money on something you’re just going to throw away such as toilet paper or paper towels,” Kate proclaims. Every time she uses a public restroom she puts her used paper towels in her purse to bring home, dry and reuse. And instead of buying toilet paper she uses water to clean herself off after going to the bathroom. Kate goes so far as to sit on the toilet and demonstrate her self-cleaning skills. Yes, this is one of those times that I had to look away from the TV. I just couldn’t watch it.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, last week’s episode also showcased Ohio millionaire Victoria Hunt. Victoria is so cheap she pees in a bottle instead of the toilet so she can shave a few dollars off her water bill each month. “I am also an avid gardener and I read that urine is a component [for compost],” says Hunt.  She even asks her boyfriend, who moved into Victoria’s house in the episode, to pee in a jar instead of the toilet.

Hunt’s cheapness doesn’t stop there though. She routinely dumpster dives for food and forages through the woods for wild edibles. Last week’s episode shows her walking through the forest and gathering flowers, weeds and such for a salad she was preparing to serve to her son and daughter-in-law who were coming over for dinner that night. As you can expect her dinner guests were less than enthused to learn they were eating leaves that had been plucked along the hiking trail Victoria walked earlier that afternoon.

Victoria also sets her freezer on a timer so it only runs 12 hours a day. She claims her food stays frozen and she doesn’t get sick from food contamination or spoilage. She also saves money by showering at her gym instead of her home, and unplugging everything in her home when not in use including her appliances.  Though most of her money saving ways are too extreme for me they did allow Victoria to retire before she turned 50 from an accounting job.  I at least was able to get through her who segment without turning my head away in total disgust.

While this show does showcase the extreme measures these people go to in order to save money, there are some less extreme lessons we can take from it. Now I’m not going to recommend that you dumpster dive to save money on your grocery bill or pee into a jar to conserve water. Or wash your clothes while you shower (another crazy thing Kate does to save money).

The good thing that this show does is make me more conscious of all the ways I spend money and that there is always a cheaper method out there. Victoria keeps a spreadsheet of all her expenses. She can tell you down to the last penny how she has spent her money over the past couple of decades. Tracking expenses is the first step to understanding how you are managing your money. If you don’t know where your money is going, you won’t know what habits you can change in order to save money.

To lower your expenses try some of the less extreme measures the people on the show do. Unplug appliances and gadgets while you are not using them. This will shave off a few bucks from your monthly electrical bill. Put a brick in your toilet so you use less water each time you flush. Take home the condiments you don’t use at restaurants. This should save you a few bucks on your grocery bill. And don’t be afraid to ask a vendor if that is the best price they can give you. You will be surprised at just how many businesses will take a few dollars off your bill if you ask them too. You have nothing to lose, the worst they can say is no.

If you have a money saving tip that doesn’t compromise personal hygiene tell me about it in the comment section at

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson

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  1. yury October 31, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    dear Nancy very interisting article

  2. Steve October 31, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Well I am the Boyfriend of Victoria Hunt from the show and she is VERY frugal. She earned 2 college degrees, worked hard and lived within her means her entire life. Its been a real eye opener dating someone with this lifestyle but you can`t argue with the results! Retired at 48 with a pile of money and rental properties and is now living life her OWN terms….while I`m still slaving away in corporate America!
    Believe me I`m listening to the things she says!! ; )

  3. Nancy Patterson November 2, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    Thanks for the comments. Steve I hope things are going well with you and Victoria. Yes, certain aspects certainly are extreme, though there is something to be said about being more conscience of all your spending habits.

  4. Loverly Lorn November 2, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    What is the point of becoming rich enough but to avoid the necessity of having to penny pinch? Total Comfort without the need to worry about paying the piper later.

    I am not wasteful, I feed my leftovers to my pets and the animals GOD left outside without homes for themselves She would be better off and live more safely if she arranged a nightly collection from the restaurants for their non perfect offerings to “distribute to the needy poor and help herself first she would do very well outside Hells Kitchens who seem to dump more scallops than they finally serve- just needs a wee bit more cooking everything from of eating from a dumpster or miserable economies in the home like leaving my electric blanket on 24/7 I hate the cold and live under my duvet in the cold weather cozy and warm enough to switch off the heating. I live frugally as I was brought up with my nine siblings on a widows pension and the thought of God with every breath and insufficient funds. Every penny in the family was tithed and we rarely lived without the poor orphans in to share with us. Going without is a very good way of being frugal. Watching this program might help those who live frugally from necessity and learn how to do it without the knowledge of avoiding illness. I loved buying late bread for my birdies and served up at 11 am to my birdies who would collect on the fence for their share – 17 to 23 each morning seeing the greed of the female blackbird who would wastefully throw out every other piece to find the ones she wanted. She was so messy but One can be desperate but picky Kate probably never gave a thought to the down and outs who she was taking from who probably went hungry because of her greed – All the money we take from the idiots in the internet stream do not see the hungry who are having to do without as they cannot get into to the stream for a share! Thank you for making us think about the rich who are sing us to get richer

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