Lessons from Extreme Cheapskates

Roy Haynes pinches pennies by reusing paper towels, which he hangs in his living room to dry (Photo: TLC)Some people are frugal. Some people are tightwads. And others are so cheap, even they consider themselves to be extreme. Yahoo! Shine talked to three super-savers -- stars of TLC's new show, "Extreme Cheapskates," which debuts on October 16 -- to get tips on how everyday people can go for extreme savings.

"I would say 'cheapskate' is probably an understatement for me," Roy Haynes, 62, told Yahoo! Shine in an interview. "Some people think outside the box. I tend to live outside the box."

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Haynes will happily dumpster dive for gifts and items to fix and resell and, while he won't touch food from the trash, he has no problem taking leftovers from a restaurant -- even if they come from other diners.

"We go out to eat every now and then, and I ask the people at the next table for their leftover food to take home," he told Yahoo! Shine. "That's fine. I have no qualms with that."

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He married his longtime girlfriend years ago so he could be on her health insurance, but she's not always a fan of his extreme frugality. "Lisa sort of frowns upon some of my ways," he admits. When he starts eying other people's dinners, she'll walk out of the restaurant; she also hates it when he unwinds the two-ply toilet paper in order to make separate, single-ply rolls.

He'll go to great lengths to save a few cents -- he has a clothesline in his Huntington, Vermont, living room where he hangs the paper towels he washes and reuses, sharpens disposable razor blades, and makes his own cleaning supplies -- but Haynes has a big reason for pinching his pennies: He and his wife run a non-profit pet rescue center, Save Our Strays, out of their home.

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"We've been doing this for 15 years," he says. The money he saves goes to pay for food and veterinarian bills for the pets they rescue. "It's a full-time job that doesn't pay anything," he explains. "We derive no income from it. That's why we have to save every penny we can."

Abdul-Salaam Mohammed, a hot-dog cart business owner in Sioux Falls, South Dakaota, cuts his expenses by haggling for everything, from food and utility bills to gifts and party supplies.

"First, you have to have the bravery to ask," he told Yahoo! Shine. "Most people are too intimidated to even ask for a cheaper price."

Most businesses have sales, discounts, and mark downs, he points out. "Don't be so willing to give up so quickly," he advises. "If you're not embarrassed by how low your offer is, then you didn't get a great deal."

He recently bought a $7,000 used car for $3,500 in cash, thanks to his keen haggling skills, and threw an anniversary party for his wife for just $25. The money they save funds family trips to places like Aruba, China, and the Dominican Republic, but his kids -- ages 17, 14, and 12 -- aren't impressed.

"They're still at that embarrassed stage right now," he admits. "Maybe when they get a little older."

Artist Ben Livingston with one of his thrifty neon sculptures. (Photo: (c) Randa Bishop)Ben Livingston of Austin, Texas, is a 54-year-old artist who's gotten creative about ways to keep his costs low. He covers himself in cornstarch to beat the Texas heat, and gets his drinking water from a creek nearby.

"We have a lot of artisan springs here that come out of the ground," he told Yahoo! Shine. "Why would I spend money on awful tap water that has all these impurities in it when I can go down and get really lovely creek water that's coming out of a spring?"

"I've been an self-supporting artist for 30 years," he explained. "When you work on a shoestring budget, you have to keep your expenses down."

His thrifty ways extend to his artwork: He crafts his neon sculptures from scraps and shards gathered from glass makers and neon shops. (You can see some of his work at BenLivingston.com.)

Because he works with glass, deep cuts are a fact of life. But Livingston handles these work-related injuries himself: He has friends and clients who are doctors, and they taught him how to suture. "I have sewn myself up on my kitchen sink so many times," he says. "I have probably saved… God only knows. It's fantastic!"

He does have health insurance -- "I'm not stupid, I'm just frugal," he quips -- but he, his wife, and their 30-year-old daughter live debt-free thanks to his penny-pinching ways.

"If you get into what people call the waste stream, it's kind of amazing how inexpensive you can live," he says.

Interested in trying out some of their extreme measures? Here are a few of these frugal zealots' best, easy-to-adopt tips:

  • Save on your water bill by putting a brick in your toilet's tank; you'll use less water with every flush.
  • Slip scraps of soap into an old sock and keep it in the shower. "It works like a scrubby thing," Livingston says.
  • Be aware of what you're using. Victoria Hunt, who retired from her accounting career before she was 50, has been tracking her expenses and her income on a spreadsheet since 1989. "Every minute of every day has something to do with how I can make a better decisions financially," she points out.
  • Refill your condiment bottles at home with free packets from fast-food restaurants.
  • Instead of throwing away your coffee grounds, add a pinch of fresh coffee to the old ones and perk another pot.
  • Cut open your toothpaste tube after you've squeezed all you can out of it. "You'll get an extra week's worth," Haynes says.
  • Kill your cable bill and subscribe to services like Netflix that allow you to watch what you want through your gaming console, Mohammed suggests.
  • Keep electrical appliances and gadgets unplugged whenever possible.
  • Look for the deep discounts on out-of-season decorations, discontinued gadgets, and about-to-expire food that's still good. You don't have to dumpster dive to get something for almost free.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for a discount. "I've called and had the electricity bill lowered," Mohammed says. "I just called and asked."

But the cheapskates agree that their biggest tips are to stop worrying about what other people think, stay open-minded, and believe that every little thing matters.

"You decide what it is in life that you really want to spend money on," Livingston says. "To live on a shoestring budget and to do what you want to do in life just takes a little more imagination."

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