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What We Can Learn from TLC’s “Extreme Cheapskates”

There are spenders. There are savers. And then, there are cheapskates. Extreme Cheapskates is a new show on the TLC network that showcases the incredible — and often questionable — measures some people will take to save money.cheapskate

Ranging from the mildly inconvenient (only showering at the gym) to the potentially illegal (taking expired food from upscale grocery store dumpsters), to the cringe-worthy (one tub of bathwater used by every family member) the cheapskates place the importance of saving a buck above all else. Often, these measures place them at odds with friends and family who have grown weary of their extreme cost-cutting tricks.

But despite the cheapskates’ extreme tactics, there are some lessons they can teach us about the benefits of saving and how to do it in a more reasonable, realistic way.

Get Excited About Saving

We all know the “buyers’ high” that comes from peeling the protective sheet off the latest smartphone screen or scoring the perfect pair of shoes. Extreme Cheapskates get a similar “savers’ high” by not spending money. But how can you change your mindset from one to the other? Try this: think of a way you spend every day – like morning coffee or an afternoon snack from the vending machine. Challenge yourself to say “no” to it for one week and every time you do, set that cash aside. You’ll be surprised how quickly it adds up, and soon, you’ll be looking for other ways to achieve that savers’ high.

Break the Rules

A recent study by the National Resources Defense Council shows that most Americans throw away up to 25% of purchased food and beverages. We’re trained to see a “sell by” or “best by” date and think things go bad once that date hits. Given their fondness for dumpster diving, Extreme Cheapskates know that’s simply not true. Oftentimes these dates are just baseline metrics that indicate an item’s optimal taste, rather than an indicator of food safety. The good news is, you don’t have to dumpster dive to avoid wasting food. Simply visit StillTasty.com to learn about the shelf life of thousands of fresh, prepared and packaged foods. It’s safer and easier than the Extreme Cheapskate strategy. And legal, too!

Be Aware of the Little Things

Extreme Cheapskates maximize their resources by multitasking in unique ways. One woman washes her clothes in the bottom of the tub while she takes a shower, while another couple uses one cotton swab to clean their ears (he gets one end, she gets the other). While these extreme measures don’t seem particularly hygienic they call to mind the everyday opportunities we have to save money. Think about that extra-long, extra-hot shower you take every morning. Or the tissue you use to wipe a smudge off your glasses and throw away. On their own, they’re little things. But done consistently, they add up over time, costing you money you don’t even realize you’re spending.