It’s starting to feel like TLC is trying to glamorize my life. First there was all the shows on mulitiples (I have twins), then there was Extreme Couponing, and now there’s a new show, Extreme Cheapskates.
I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing glamorous about the life I live. It’s a happy life, built on friendship, ingenuity, a quest for knowledge, and generosity.
The show Extreme Cheapskates on TLC does not depict the reality of a frugal lifestyle. It highlights the weird, the unusual, and the extreme.
The first episode of the hour-long show follows four “extreme” cheapskates:
- Roy Haynes of Vermont dumpster dives for gifts for his wife for their 25th wedding anniversary, asks strangers at restaurants if he can fill a to-go box with the food they don’t eat, and visits numerous fast food establishments seeking ketchup and mustard packets to refill his jars at home.
- Angela Coffman of Missouri forages for salad greens in local parks, buys expired foods to save money on feeding her family, and (gulp!) uses reusable cloth instead of toilet paper.
- Jeff Yeager of Maryland is the most famous of the profiled; he’s written books as The Ultimate Cheapskate. In this episode of Extreme Cheapskates, he and his wife talk about their fiscal fasts. On the last day of the fast, he rides his bike 20 miles to town to scrounge up $7 worth of change from payphones, restaurant booths and laundromats, to create a feast of goat’s head.
- Jordan Mederich of Missouri barters for everything he can from a 60-cent donut to his $22,000 wedding. He truly believes that everyone has an item or a skill that can be used to barter for things you want. In one scene, he sweeps a salon and cleans tanning beds in exchange for a haircut.
I’m not going to address the individual choices of these extreme cheapskates because I’m betting that some of their behavior was exaggerated to make for better television. In fact, Jeff Yeager has even written that some scenes were a stretch.
But as a self-proclaimed cheapskate, I do want to set the record straight. This show does not depict the full reality of living frugally.
Cheapskates are logical beings. They recognize what their time is worth. They consider the environmental and social impacts of their actions.
Cheapskates are creative problem solvers. They’ll figure out how to get toilet paper and ketchup for free with coupons. They’ll find alternatives to dinner menus that don’t include goat’s head. They’ll create special gifts that don’t involve dumpster diving.
Cheapskates are generous. They don’t call all of the shots in their house when it comes to financial choices, and they consider the feelings of those around them. A true cheapskate saves money, but not at the price of another family member’s pride. They give generously of their bounty, weather it is from a stockpile of things they got free with coupons, or by donating helping hands.
Cheapskates don’t care what anyone else thinks. Who cares if you drink wine from a box or eat cereal from a bag? Cheapskates teach others that labels don’t matter when they show their true frugal selves.
Cheapskates have a reason for being frugal. They have goals of getting out of debt, retiring early, traveling, or helping those less fortunate. It is much more than just saving pennies.
I’m guessing that each of the people profiled in Extreme Cheapskates do have these qualities, but that TLC chose not to highlight that. Why? Because selling crazy makes TLC a lot of money.
Well, as a self-proclaimed cheapskate, I’m here to say, “Go sell crazy someplace else.”
I’m not buying it.