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January, 2013

  1. A Rebuke of “Extreme Cheapskates”

    January 21, 2013 by 25hoursadaymom

    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.

  2. Remove Your Clothes

    January 8, 2013 by 25hoursadaymom

    Some of you may recall the post I wrote in response to Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7.  Overall, I found it thought-provoking and interesting, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why the chapter on Clothing bothered me.  In the book, she focused on one of seven areas to reduce to seven items for a month. For the clothing month, she chose seven articles of clothing to wear exclusively. I don’t remember exactly what she chose, but it was something like a black t-shirt, a pair of jeans, a skirt, cowboy boots, a short-sleeved shirt and I don’t recall the other two. (Underwear and socks were not part of the deal.)

    I think I’ve finally identified what it was that I didn’t like about that chapter. Choosing seven articles of clothing is, obviously, an extreme reduction for most first-world people. But cutting clothing down to seven pieces for a month doesn’t amount to anything meaningful if, at the end of the month, you simply revert to your previous clothing assortment.  If I recall correctly, Hatmaker did also cull and donate a lot of her clothing during her experiment, so it wouldn’t be fair to say it made no difference, but I admit I felt like there was no point swearing off clothing for a month if you’re just going to spring right back to a “normal” array of clothing like most westerners have. I wanted her to suffer, damn it!

    Just kidding.

    Kind of.

    I recently stumbled upon something called Project 333. That’s more like it! With Project 333, you choose 33 articles of clothing you will use exclusively for 3 months. I would piggy-back on that and say while you’re at it, get rid of nearly everything else for the current season that you didn’t select for the Project. Chances are good that you don’t need it. Then, when the 3 months are over and you move into the next season, repeat the procedure.

    If you’re a virgin to removing your clothing, you might not be able to start something like Project 333 right off the bat. First, go through closets and drawers and remove all the obvious unwanted or unneeded clothing – doesn’t fit, isn’t in style, never really liked it to begin with, Aunt Maude gave it to me, needs repair but I’m too lazy, doesn’t suit my life.  Once you’ve gotten rid of the clear losers, perhaps wait a few weeks or a month before you do the second culling. This involves getting rid of clothing that you could use, though you rarely do, that is nice, but is not your first choice. These can be much tougher to part with. Remember, though, you’re not giving away your first born; it’s just a sweater, for God’s sake! Naked into the world we came and naked will we leave. In between, a black t-shirt will be fine.

    I’ve been thinking about clothing and simplified living for several months. It’s been pecking at the back of my mind. For one thing, although I am a girl, I really hate shopping for clothing. I don’t want to look at 10,000 things, I just want to walk in, find a white shirt, pay for it and leave.  Most girl stores intimidate me. The assortment is endless. I dodge well-meaning sales help. It can’t be expensive, dry-clean-only, busy, fragile, low-cut or one of those tops you can only wear with another top underneath. (What’s up with that, anyway?) God knows, it can NOT be itchy! Soft is crucial.  I bought a sweater just before New Year’s at J.Jill. I thought it met my criteria, especially since it was half-price. Only once I tried to wear it, it felt like nine hundred ants were crawling around under it. That itchy beast is going back!

    I ordered a black t-shirt from Lands End today, on-line. Ahhh. No stores. No racks. Just click, type in coupon code and voila! Simple shirt on the way. I also have confidence because I have already bought t-shirts from Lands End. They are great staples. And since I’m going to be paring down to staples, that will be a very good thing.