I’m pretty well-established as a frugal person. I am almost as sad that Amy Dacyczyn retired from writing The Tightwad Gazette as I am that JK Rowling has no intention of taking us through anymore wizarding adventures. So, upon hearing that there was now a show called Extreme Cheapskates airing on TLC*, my interest was piqued. What odd things are today’s tightwads doing to save a dime that I hadn’t yet discovered? I watched one forgettable episode last year and then watched it again last night.
When I watched the first episode, I thought they were just having a little fun by featuring a couple of really odd cheapskates. There was the dumpster-diving man who found a “perfectly good” wilted rose to give his wife for their 25-year wedding anniversary. He also picked up a box of animal crackers and a “squeezie” doll – a rubber toy you squeeze to release stress. These were at the dollar store if I recall correctly. They also featured Jeff Yeager, a cheapskate I already know of, as he wrote The Ultimate Cheapskate and a sequel of a similar name. I have read those books and enjoyed them; found them filled with interesting ideas and good, sound strategies for spending less. Yet on the TV show, they cartoonify him by watching him purchase a goat head to make for dinner for something like seven bucks in change he fished out around a pay phone. I do believe that Jeff Yeager may indeed make goat head for dinner; I heard or read somewhere that he says his food choices “tend toward the offal.” (Or is it ‘awful’?) However, even if he does eat goat heads at times, it annoys me that this is what they feature on the show.
Last night I watched the show again and realized hey are, indeed, trying to feature the most extreme (hence the name, I guess) ways a person or family could possibly save money. Not necessarily the best way to save money. Not the best way to achieve value by spending little or no money. Just the MOST extreme ways. Such a disappointment from the useful, informative TV show it could be.
The show last night featured a large family (5 kids at home, 10 altogether) that goes out looking for usable road kill. They come upon a nice, fresh bunny, which they supposedly make into a fried rabbit dinner. They also foraged a “salad” of weeds and leaves. They invited their neighbors to share in their bounty. Frugal Mama cuts up the bunny pelt and the feet to make four “lucky” rabbit’s feet for the boys and some little fur purses for the girls. They don’t really show anyone eating this strange meal, but there’s another questionable matter involved: How could one road-kill rabbit possibly feed even one family, let alone guests? Additionally, the little purses were actually pretty impressive, but the larger purse she gave to the neighbor mother could not possibly have come from the rabbit. It was pretty close to the size of a regular purse. It looked like cow hide, but they didn’t explain that. Something is very fishy with the whole deal.
It is possible that the family does actually go look for road kill to eat and make gifts, plus forage for weed salad. I’ve heard of stranger things (such as this guy, who has lived a scavenging lifestyle for going on 13 years now – he takes and uses no money whatsoever). Still, I find myself very annoyed that TLC is using this show for nothing but gawking, aren’t-they-too-ridiculous “entertainment.” They could feature people making a delicious dinner to share with their neighbors, showing us how to delightfully entertain and care for others while spending little. Home-baked bread is inexpensive and delicious. So is homemade soup. If you garden, you can make a “free” salad (at least seasonally) that could be made up of lettuce, cucumbers, apples, berries, carrots, and tomatoes – you know, food people have heard of eating. In the summer, I forage blackberries on our property and make an inexpensive and tasty blackberry cobbler. I have shared this with guests before. They don’t run from the room on the verge of vomiting from my low-cost food, like was displayed on the TV show last night.
If you’re thinking of embracing frugality, don’t look to the show Extreme Cheapskates for inspiration (although there were a few worthwhile tips sprinkled in there). Most everything there is weirdness, which frugal living definitely does not have to be. On the other hand, if you’re brain-dead from a busy day and just want to laugh at people for their oddities, it couldn’t hurt to watch the show. It’s cheaper than taking a sleeping pill.
*The episode I watched last night may have aired on Discovery Health Channel, although I believe the show is owned by The Learning Channel. What this has to do with Health or Learning, in any case, is anyone’s guess.