Sunday, November 11, 2012

Extreme Cheapskates

I have been watching this show called “Extreme Cheapskates”. It is about people who are very tight with their money. I consider myself somewhat frugal, I don't go spending money willy nilly. However, often times these people are proving they are as economically ignorant as their spendthrift cousins. There is more to life than just how much something costs upfront, you need to factor in other things like time, like long term costs, like quality of life improvement. I have watched these people spend hours dumpster diving to come home with $10 worth of stuff, I suppose they saved some money but they obviously place a very low value on their time. I am not against pulling something from the trash if you need it, but unless you have a real plan then your time is likely more valuable than someone's used pans. There are many instances of this placing a few cents in savings as a value over time. In another episode they showed a lady who unplugs everything in her house before she leaves her house even if it is only for a couple of hours. Unplugging your stuff makes sense if you are not going to use it for a while, but really the time it takes to plug and unplug something you use often likely is more of a waste than what ever savings you get.

My father-in-law goes dumpster diving everyday, he does this for additional income and it makes sense. He is an immigrant from Mexico and is low skilled and low wage. He has found that collecting aluminum cans from the area dumpsters pays him several hundred a month in additional income. I use a community dumpster and if I happen upon something I could use I might grab it if it looks clean and in good working shape, but I don't waste my time digging through the garbage and I think that is a key difference. I understand that my time is more valuable than the few dollars of savings I might get from digging through the trash.

There are also several instances where the person being a cheapskate is actually being a petty thief and this is something I simply cannot accept as proper behavior. In one episode they showed a guy going to an ice cream shop and sampling every flavor and then leaving without buying anything, he really just stole some ice cream from the shop. In a different episode they showed him going into a fast food restaurant and taking dozens of ketchup packets without purchase, he is really just stealing ketchup. These things are not really showing that you are cheap as much as they show a low moral compass and a willingness to steal something that is offered for free, but with the unwritten understanding that this is actually offered free “with purchase”.

There have been many episodes where a person's personal life has suffered tremendously because of their obsession with not spending money. One example was a guy who went on a date and then basically demanded his date share her plate of food and he did not want her to order a drink, etc. She said she would not go out with him again. Another lady had her boyfriend move in and then she asked him to pee in a jar to save money, this is silly, if alone she spends $500 a month in household expenses and he moves in and the expenses got to $750, but he is willing to pay half then she is still better off in the long run, don't drive him away in an effort to save pennies as it will cost you dollars. Plus personal relationships have some level of value in and of themselves so a reasonable person has to weigh that as well.

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