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Being Extremely Frugal – Is this entertainment?


Last week, I got an email from someone who is casting for a TV show. They are looking for extremely frugal people and the tips they can share. Even with the amount of money we save, we aren’t really that frugal. To me, the things we do to cut expenses are probably not going to make a entertaining TV show.

For me, being frugal largely means NOT buying a lot of stuff we don’t need. It’s simple, really. We don’t have or do a lot of things that regular middle class families take for granted.

  • A big house
  • 2 nice cars
  • Smart phone
  • The latest gadgets and toys
  • Cable TV
  • A ton of new clothes
  • Eating out, buying $3 coffee, going to movies and other entertainment.

I didn’t have most of these things when I was growing up so I know it’s possible to live without them. Not buying stuff is a great for our net worth, but I don’t think a channel surfer would find this riveting.

gave kid a free haircut

Being Extremely Frugal

Our monthly expense is low compared to a lot of other families, but we have a long way to go to being extremely.  When I hear the phrase “extremely frugal,” I think of the following:

  • Dumpster diving because you want to, not because you need to
  • Sharing a room with 4 other people or squatting in a cave like The Man Who Quit Money
  • Eating ramen or rice & beans everyday
  • Making your own clothes from whatever material you have
  • Washing your clothes in the shower
  • Hahaha, I just found the show – Extreme Cheapskate on TLC

OK, these extreme cheapskates are hilarious. While I admire their desire for frugality, some of their frugal practices are downright nasty.  Now that I have seen a few clips, I don’t think we are going to make the cut. Last week, the screener convinced me to think of a few things and make a video for them. I had to really brainstorm a bit to see what I could come up with…and it wasn’t much.

Check out the clips that I sent in

Saving on the utility bill

Here is how we save money on our heating bill. The kotatsu table is awesome and I don’t know why more people in colder climates don’t use it.


Cooking at home is a great way to save money. My pizza is so much better than the one from cheap pizza joints like Domino’s. I used to make the dough by hand, but I rescued a bread machine from the dumpster so it’s so much easier now. J This technically wasn’t dumpster diving, because the person who discarded the machine helpfully left it outside of the dumpster, hoping someone would actually take it.


Who in their right mind would pay for a haircut? That’s $15 down the drain and it will just grow back. That’s like paying for parking. 🙂

Free Workout

Are you paying for a gym membership? Why not just go outside and run around? See my stay at home dad’s playground workout routine.

It would be great to get on the show and increase our exposure a bit, but I am not telegenic at all. Somehow, these videos are not in the same entertaining yet cringe worthy factor as the clips I saw from TLC.  I guess that’s why I blog. It’s so much easier for me express myself though writing.

What is the most extreme cheapskate move that you have pulled? Actually, between me and Mrs. RB40 we have done everything on my extremely frugal list above. We don’t consider these an everyday part of our lifestyle, though.

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{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Ernie Zelinski April 22, 2013, 2:00 am

    Yes, I used to be frugal and do things like:

    1. Trim my own hair
    2. Drive a clunker of a car that doubled in value every time I filled it up with gas
    3. Have 3 obnoxious housemates to share with the rent and utilities (I live in the same place by myself now, which I purchased after renting it for over 25 years. I paid off the mortgage in 4 years flat.)
    4. Turn down the thermostat to save on the heat bill (some mornings my bedroom was so cold that I could see my breath)
    5. Buy certain foods such as grapes only when they were on sale.
    6. Use coupons to buy gas for the car so that I would save 2 or 5 cents a gallon. Also, drive an extra 5 miles to be able to use these coupons.

    I eventually found out that being on the extreme, when one does not have to be, is not only frugal, it is operating out of “poverty consciousness”.

    So I don’t do poverty consciousness anymore. I don’t even do being frugal anymore.

    I am much too prosperous to do either. So I do “prosperity consciousness.”

    I actually enjoy spending money. Last night two friends and I went to dinner. We drank three bottles of wine. I offered to pick up the tab. With tip, the bill was $180. I felt really prosperous doing this.

    In short, I have found that focusing my energy on making more money through creative projects (working only 3 or 4 hours a day) is much more profitable than focusing my energy on being frugal.

    This way, I get to enjoy spending quite a bit of money, and I still put more in the bank than 85 percent of people do.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:37 pm

      Thanks for your perspective. I would love to get there someday. Working a few hours a week on things you like and generating income is a great way to live.

  • My Financial Independence Journey April 22, 2013, 2:28 am

    I don’t think that I do anything that makes the cut. Mostly because I prefer to scale back to low but passably normal levels rather than do anything that would be labeled “extreme.”

    This is one more reason that I refuse to pay for cable. I’m probably dating myself, but at one point TLC showed solid educational programing. Now, tripe.

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:35 pm

      I think we are still in the normal range for the most part as well. There is no point being extreme when you don’t need to be.

  • Bobby @ Ban Excuses April 22, 2013, 3:08 am

    Yeah, definitely looks like you wouldn’t make the cut, unfortunately. The show could/should be used to show people the positives of cutting back a little, but this show focuses on the crazies who do things like use cloth toilet paper!?!

    However, you should be charging for haircuts! Maybe a side gig for retirement 🙂

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:38 pm

      I’ll put it on the kid’s tab. 🙂

  • AspiringYogini April 22, 2013, 5:01 am

    I’ve spend many years being frugal because my parents and grandparents were. Then once I started making my own salary, I went to spending all of it every month. It didn’t take too long to reign it in and embrace voluntary limits, with specific goals for the future. When I was doing this (20 years ago), I would watch those shows and read those books and then be really annoyed if they didn’t tell me something that I was already doing, or show me a different way to be resource conscious. Only if they featured something new or different could I then decide if I wanted a new challenge. Unfortunately cloth toilet paper (like a previous comment mentioned) is not one I’d be willing to try. I do think that one needs to think of “diminishing marginal utility” because TIME is another resource that is very important.

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:41 pm

      Washing clothes seems to be another popular topic. The one guy washing his clothes in the dish washer is pretty funny. I probably would try that if I was single. 🙂

      • AspiringYogini April 23, 2013, 12:11 pm

        There’s always a “awful” list of things guys would do if they were single. Their mothers thank goodness that they are married!

  • JC @ Passive Income Pursuit April 22, 2013, 5:07 am

    I don’t take any frugal practices to the extreme. If you go too far you either won’t keep with it or you’ll go way overboard. Is it worth it spending 8 hrs a day planning out and executing extreme frugality? Surely that time could be better spent if you made some simple and easily repeatable changes and devote the rest of that time to either creating a side income or some other venture? We try to just cut out the things that aren’t really bringing value. We dropped cable and got subscriptions to Hulu/Netflix. That saved us about $90 per month and there’s nothing else we have to do to maintain that frugality other than ignoring the cable companies attempt to bring us back in.

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:42 pm

      That’s right. If you’re being extreme, it will be hard to stick with it. It will probably alienate other people too so get use to being single. heh heh.

  • Greg April 22, 2013, 5:31 am

    So it the show the extreme cheapskate one, or is it a new show? I saw something on Craigslist looking for casting of frugal people but assumed it was like the extreme version. You’re right, those folks go a little overboard, but I pick up a few things here and there 🙂 .

    Good luck on the casting and the things you mention are all certainly good ways to save/

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:43 pm

      I think it is extreme cheapskate. The person I talked to didn’t tell me the name of the show.

  • SavvyFinancialLatina April 22, 2013, 7:58 am

    I don’t think you are extremely frugal. You are just money conscious. I think people dub people “frugal” for anything these days. Especially if you are spending less money than everybody else. Frugal used to be living within your means, now it just means living below your credit card limits.

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:44 pm

      Living below your credit card limit? That’s a slippery slope and not a good way to live.

  • writing2reality April 22, 2013, 9:13 am

    I am the definition of boring when it comes to frugality. Nothing sexy about simply living within my means and working to invest/save the difference. Without a doubt the definition of cheap/frugal have been altered by the various tv shows out there. When someone mentions they use coupons (I do not), people immediately think they are buying 47 tubes of toothpaste. There is a bell curve to financial prudence and I am no outlier.

  • Robert April 22, 2013, 9:29 am

    Doing your children’s haircut is one good way to be frugal, but it will probably apply to younger boys, but for girls and the older boys, it would be better to ask them if are willing to take the risk. 🙂 I am a frugal person, but I also know that it feels good to spend money and buy things we need and every now and then, stuff we want, but I do my best to be very careful when it comes to spending our hard earned money.

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:45 pm

      Hopefully I’ll get better at giving haircuts by the time he’s older. It would be a lot easier if he just sits still.

  • Pretired Nick April 22, 2013, 10:42 am

    Yeah, we live in twisted times when living a normal life without going crazy with consumerism is considered “frugal”. I still think giving the kiddo his haircut would make great TV, though!

  • kathleen April 22, 2013, 11:48 am

    Let me know if you make the cut! I forgot a couple of others when I made my list the other day: http://frugalportland.com/2013/04/frugal-tips-for-the-real-world-and-for-televisionam-i-frugal-enough-to-be-on-tv/ — like not having cable!

  • GregoryT April 22, 2013, 1:06 pm

    Frugal isn’t my middle name, but people thought I was too extreme on the previous truck I got without A/C (in SoCal) and just an AM/FM radio. And I must admit, there were some summer drives were I was sweating quite a bit.
    These days, I tend to buy less, and do stuff or make stuff more myself. Feels better, I know what went into it. Sometimes it’s food from scratch, and spent the last week digging a trench to fix my water main that was leaking. I also started doing my own yard so I don’t have to pay a gardener, and I could use the exercise, so it helps on that side, also. Nothing extreme – but depends on who you ask. Most I know think not having a gardener mowing the lawn is extreme, and they’re not willing to do that.
    I was actually looking to make my own laundry detergent recently – people told me that was too extreme. But when I see the cost of in stores, paying those prices seems extreme to me.

    • retirebyforty April 22, 2013, 11:56 pm

      I never had a gardener. Yard work is not too bad, but I don’t want to spend every weekend doing it. That’s one reason why we moved to a condo. It’s just easier. I rarely use AC, but the climate is a lot cooler up here.

  • GregoryT April 22, 2013, 1:34 pm

    Shows like that thrive more on drama than reality.
    But you could probably have some fun with it.
    Hide under the slide at the local park, and as kids lose change from their pockets – grab it from below.
    Or maybe the local wishing well fountain – get a video of you gathering up all the change in it.
    It may not be realistic, or maybe it is :-), but it could be fun and could get your blog some additional attention.

  • Seems to be a spectrum that turns on what a family feels most comfortable with. The playground workout regimen is a great one!

  • Mike April 22, 2013, 4:16 pm

    Frugality does have it’s place. It’s simple little lifestyle changes but it gets too easy to go too far on it. Plan and gradually introduce these new changes into your routine but also allow yourself to enjoy life a little bit.

  • Mark Ferguson April 22, 2013, 7:48 pm

    I choose to spend my time researching and setting up ways to make more money instead of concentrate on ways to be frugal. I do try not to spend money on unneccesary things, but I also invest a lot of money into education and systems to make more money. The saying it takes money to make money is very true.

    I also like things that are expensive like cars. Cars make me happy and to deprive myself of being happy is not healthy in my oppinion.

    Rental properties are my source of passive income and retirement. So far I have 7 and all are returning over 24% cash on cash return.

  • Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey April 23, 2013, 1:31 am

    I totally agree with you. One does not have to be a dumpster diver or eat rice and beans everyday to be frugal. When we started living frugally, we simply cut off our expenses. No to cable TV, magazine subscriptions, movies, and a lot more. By living frugally, we did not need to sacrifice family bonding activities. Instead of going to the mall and eating out, we go to the park, fly a kite, ride the bike, and have a picnic. If we want to watch movies, we go to the library and borrow DVDs. Fun for the family without spending much.

  • The Dividend Guy April 23, 2013, 2:47 am

    During college, I’ve traveled across Europe. I didn’t have enough money to both pay for food and pay for entrance to museum and other attractions. We used to find hostels with free breakfast for 10 Euros and eat all I can in the morning before skipping lunch and having a light dinner (like a piece of pizza at the corner of the street). I’ve seen everything I wanted plus I’ve lost 25 pounds in one month 🙂 hahaha!

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2013, 11:53 pm

      Great weight loss plan! 🙂
      It’s amazing how much our body can handle when we were young.

  • I dream of getting rid of cable, but my husband and kids feel differently! My brother cuts our hair for free, and I run outside for exercise:)

  • Amanda L Grossman April 23, 2013, 1:41 pm

    Darn–I would have loved to get a sneak peek into your household;).

    Let’s see, a few things some people might find extreme (but probably aren’t):
    1. I make our own laundry detergent (which has the added benefit of cutting out chemicals in our household)
    2. I make our own kitchen cleaners out of good ole’ vinegar and water with a lemon rind thrown in
    3. I only get my haircut twice a year, and for $25 (that includes a nice tip)

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2013, 11:57 pm

      Getting haircut for $25 is pretty good. Mrs. RB40 just splurged at a salon for $50… She probably goes twice a year as well.

  • Squirrelers April 23, 2013, 9:01 pm

    While going thru the drive-thru for cheap coffee, I would look down below the window to find coins people dropped. If coffee was $1, and I got 5 cents, that was like an instant 5% discount. I did this regularly.

    • retirebyforty April 23, 2013, 11:59 pm

      I will have to remember this the next time I go through a drive through. We probably do it only once a year though so not a big deal…

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