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  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. Why You Shouldn’t Extreme Coupon

    April 29, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

    Years ago, Oprah did a show in which there was a barrel of shoes in the studio with a “FREE” sign on it. Hundreds of people scurried off with their treasure after pawing through the Free shoes.  There was only one oddity about this behavior: none of the shoes were a pair. It was just a barrel of left shoes.  A bargain, I suppose, only for those with two left feet.

    The point of the experiment was to illustrate the strong pull of “Free”. Now – some of the people had good (in their minds) reasons for wanting only one shoe.  One lady said you throw a single shoe in the dryer and it confers some benefit to the drying clothes. (Anti-static? De-wrinkle? I don’t recall.) Several people though, couldn’t really articulate what benefit they expected to gain from a single shoe, but it was free, so why not?  I find this thought process at the heart of the Extreme Couponing movement.

    Now, let me just say, I do use coupons some.  If I’m buying deodorant anyway, might as well get it at a dollar off if I can. I will also confess that I wanted Extreme Couponing to work like it’s supposed to, as long as certain parameters were not violated. But that was the problem.  There were always drawbacks that I couldn’t avoid.

    The first problem to come into play is that Extreme Couponing is highly dependent on stockpiling.  If you know Colgate toothpaste can be had for free at CVS by layering a coupon with a sale, Extreme Couponers say, “By Ten! Or Twenty!”

    Why is this a problem? It’s a problem for me because it is a form of hoarding. If you aren’t sure stockpiling is a form of hoarding, just google, “Extreme Coupon+Stockpile+Images.” It may be more organized than someone who hoards trash or knick-knacks, but it’s still based on filling all available space with excess. Unless you’re one of the Duggars, 20 tubes of toothpaste will be around for a long while.  It’s better psychologically to have fewer things in your home than to hoard a pile of them just because they were cheap or free.

    In Feng Shui, there is a component that says shelving units should have at least one shelf empty. This represents being open to new things.  If every shelf in a closet or pantry is crammed with products, you signal to the universe, “I’m stuffed – I can’t accept more abundance!”

    Another reason I object to stockpiling 20 toothpastes is that it drives the machine of consumerism. Every time you buy an item, it is like a tally-mark that signals manufacturers to produce more. In EC, part of the theory is to buy any item that is cheap or free, with no concern about whether you want, need or even understand what the product is supposed to do. This thinking drives consumerism and product greed.

    Some EC’ers object to this point by saying they have items to donate to food pantries or Helping Up or Samaritan’s Purse. To that, I would say, if that is truly what is happening to 18 or 19 of the 20 toothpastes and lotions and razors and shampoos, then great. Still, it doesn’t appear to be the case, or else there would be no advice on how to stockpile.

    Another problem I see with EC is that the majority of the coupons are for products that I don’t need or want to buy. The whole reason manufacturers create coupons to begin with it to try to induce you to buy products you haven’t tried or aren’t buying regularly.  If the product is one you aren’t buying regularly or haven’t tried, it may be that it’s unnecessary anyway.

    For example: Air fresheners. There’s nearly always a coupon for air freshener. I never buy them. You know the best way to remove bad smells? Get rid of the bad-smelling source.  If the bathroom stinks, clean it. If the trashcan stinks, throw out the trash. If the cat box stinks, scoop it. You don’t need a perfumed block of gel emitting chemicals into the air you breathe.

    Laundry and cleaning products can be unnecessary, too. I  make my own laundry soap. It costs pennies per load, is as easy to make as mashed potatoes and creates very little trash.  Bottled laundry soap lasts only a short while and then there is a piece of trash to recycle or throw away.  I make my laundry soap in the same 5-gallon bucket again and again.  Simple, cheap and eco-smart.

    For these reasons, I don’t find Extreme Couponing to be in line with my values. Use a few coupons for something you need anyway? Yes. Stockpile 97 bottles of mustard? It bothers my Chi just thinking about it.


    Have a thought on this? Am I wrong? Do you EC without stockpiling? Feel free to comment.