TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates Is Just For Show

I’m going to get right to the point with this one. I watched TLC’s new train wreck of a show called Extreme Cheapskates last night. Or. I watched as much of it as I could stomach, and it’s just 100% trash television meant to shock you into watching every week.

Now, I don’t get to watch much television because (1) I work late and have a 1.25 hour long one way commute, and (2) my boyfriend usually kidnaps the remote control. I’ve learned to live with Youtube and Hulu or whatever when I feel a need to watch something.

Anyway I got home last night close to nine, made myself a ham sandwich and settled in to write the announcement for my massive giveaway (coming soon). Lo and behold, my boyfriend was in a brutal online card game and actually gave me the remote. So, I flipped through the channels to see what was on and landed on the show, Extreme Cheapskates. Anything with the word ‘cheapskates’ in the title will catch my eye for obvious reasons. I’m pretty open minded, so I actually put the laptop aside and started watching the show.          

The very first couple that was profiled had horrible spending habits and ended up with over $70,000 in debt on their credit card. The husband makes a six figure income, but they decided to cut their spending. Okay, I have no problem with that. Right on! So, they started timing the kids’ showers. Fine. They made the babies bathe in the same bath water. Okay, no problem with that either. But then, they started to lose me with the next one. They eliminated toilet paper. That’s not bad either, right? Europeans use bidets and stuff, so no toilet paper could be okay, right. No, no, kids, this is where it gets, er, messy. Instead, she cuts little squares out of cloth and uses those as “reusable” toilet wipes. So, next to the toilet is a stack of these cloth squares that you use for – you get the idea. After you’re finished using them, you drop them in a bin next to the toilet, and I guess she washes them in the machine every week. Let’s just marinate on this for a moment.

I don’t judge. I don’t. But the show cuts to her pulling out a stack of these toilet wipes from the dryer with her and one of her children stacking and folding them. The cloth CLEARLY had brown stains all over them, and the child pointed out that it wasn’t clean. She responded that the cloth was perfectly clean. At that point I think that my mouth actually popped open. I believe in squeezing pennies out of dollars but I am NOT willing to buy cheap toilet paper and I am certainly not willing to completely eliminate toilet paper. Guests were expected to use the same non-toilet paper system that they had in place.

There was more to this messy, messy, show including the same woman taking her kids and others that she was babysitting to the playground. Nothing wrong with that, any mom would do that. But then she took the kids to the grassy area for them to forage for things to put into the salad. You’re probably thinking that it’s a little weird but not bad. Oh no, my friends, it gets nasty. Not mere feet away from where the kids were foraging was dog poop! Of course one of the kids stepped into it and she told them to wipe it off in the grass – where they had just been foraging! What are the odds that there was dog poop and pee and God knows what else already on the things that they had picked?! I have a little reflux even now, just thinking about it.

There’s more to this, but I could just keep ranting on and on about this show. Like how she bought two year old tomato sauce and fed it to all of the kids! TLC used to have things that were not just for shock value, but now, they just keep cranking out shows meant to leave you aghast and wondering if these people are crazy. I’m ashamed that by watching this show last night, I just made them money and reinforced their belief that these shows should continue.

Look, if you’re in serious debt, it’s not from toilet paper or the tomato sauce. Chances are that you have some serious habits that you can eliminate to help whittle down your debt. Going to the bathroom isn’t a ‘habit’. It’s a fact of life. Why make it less comfortable than it has to be just to save maybe $20 a month for a large family. It’s just not worth it.

And just in case you think that I’m kidding, here is a clip. Enjoy.


P.S.: I guess I might be cheap enough for this show since they’ve tried to recruit me for it three times.  No, thanks. I’ll pass. I’m cheap, but I’m not THAT cheap.

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39 thoughts on “TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates Is Just For Show

  • Okay…that does sound really gross, BUT, I have ready much better ways of going ‘paperless’ in the bathroom, so don’t write off the idea entirely. Just to clarify, I do not now, nor have I ever done this–but if I were to, this is the way I’d do it. In the article I read, the family basically purchased tons of inexpensive washcloths for ‘wiping’. There is a receptacle in each bathroom for the used clothes, and each family member has a squeeze bottle of water sitting in the bathroom. Basically, after using the facilities, you rinse yourself with your squirt bottle, and then wipe with a clean toilet cloth (you then refill your bottle for the next use). The cloth itself is not really very soiled at this point and, quite frankly, much less grosser than a cloth diaper. The article went on to point out that the family felt so much cleaner after bathroom use using this method, that they never felt really clean after using bathrooms outside of the home. Just wanted to offer a different perspective.

    • Oh….and I’ll add here that my interest is more about the ‘green’ aspects of going paperless. I totally agree there are more effective areas to cut costs before you need to set your sites on TP.

  • At least one of the other guys on the show had the decency to take a two ply roll and separate it into two new rolls. But, he also asks people at restaurants for their leftovers.

    I’m thinking, why are you eating at restaurants if you are a cheapskate? The meal costs more than you’d ever save by begging table scraps.

    Just shows that compulsion is the problem. Turning a compulsive spender into a compulsive saver is not a winning scenario.

  • I had first heard of this show a couple of weeks ago because another blogger I read was supposed to be featured on the show. They cut her segment out because she “wasn’t cheap enough” or something like that. When I saw that it was on yesterday, I attempted to watch it. I got through two minutes and turned it off after the gentleman half of one couple was scavanging on the ground for grains of rice that were left after a wedding. And this was his anniversary present to his wife! I’m all for frugal but that was just gross. I was appalled at the picture this was painting, and couldn’t stomach it anymore. I promptly turned it off.

    I’m glad I missed the segment you mentioned. I probably would have screamed at the TV in disgust.

  • it really explans a lot about families there are other things to consider like lost a job lost of spouse etc and of course fruitill so they can take a trip and back up money also the way they grew up

  • I started watching the show too and turned when I saw those stained towels. I was mortified. I thought the 2 ply guy was crazy until I saw that lady. They’ve officially been crowned “too cheap”.

  • That is just too extreme. I could imagine trying to bath myself with a little bit of yesterday. For me spending a little bit for disposable toilet paper would totally be worth it.

  • My 9 year old asked me to turn it off when it got to the toilet paper part. It grossed him out. I watched it alone last night. The woman with the “bum cloths”(as we in the group home I work at call them) had gone way beyond cheap. Putting this out there is unwise. Her children will face ridicule because of this. It is one thing to do this at home, but to put it out there for the world, when it can never be undone, very stupid.

    The first guy actually irritated me the most. I gag just thinking about taking half eaten food off peoples tables. His wife clearly does not think she is deserving of better. 25 years and the best he can do is dead flowers, and a kettle from a garbage can. She should have made the kettle a part of his body….that would have been good tv.

    The barter guy at the end, I was embarrased for him. If you cannot afford a freakin donut, stay out of the store.

    This show was too much.

    • Hi Jeff,

      Congrats on your feature on the show. Personally, I thought you missed the boat on the goat head. You should have made soup. Delicious! And you actually had some decent tips with biking instead of driving and not upgrading your lifestyle just because you got a bigger paycheck. The week long “fiscal fast” was also a good idea. I like do challenge myself every so often with a no spengind week as well. It’s doable and effective.

      Some of the others featured on the show didn’t have any real takeaways that you could learn from and was there simply for shock value.

      • Yes, I love goat head soup too, but I prefer them roasted … a sort of “mixed offal grill served on the half-cranium,” if you will.

        I agree that much of the show(“Extreme Cheapskates”) was filmes for shock value. Then again it is TV: (“I can’t beleive Charlie really just say that on Three and Half Men?!).

        Having written about frugality for many years – I have to admit that the show used a formula pretty similar to the one I’ve always used in my books: Engage people’s attention with the quirky, the entertaining, the humorous, even the bizzare, and then try to impart some bigger message about waste, consumerism, environmentalism, or happiness/quality of life.

        Do we really need – and will anyone really watch – a show about how to dry out you Ziplock bags, make stock out of your chicken carcass, or hang out your laundry to dry? Don’t get me wrong, we frugal folks do and believe in all of that, but it ain’t exactly rivetting TV, likely to expose new, uber-consumers to the simpler way of life we believe in.

        • Good points, Jeff. The fiscal fast is a great idea and I’d like to start implementing it in my household (if only I could get my husband on board). I do have a question though – on the show, I believe it said you estimated that fiscal fast weeks save you about $700/week. Not to get too personal and into your finances, but WOW that’s a lot of money – do you really spend that much on a normal week when you’re not fiscally fasting? Is the lack of driving costs factored into that number? Just curious (i.e., nosy). 🙂

          • Skrpune – That’s a good question, the answer to which is that my wife and I have absolutely no idea where that figure came from; it’s clearly inaccurate and isn’t based on anything we said.I would estimate our savings during a week long fiscal fast to be closer to $100-$200. For us, the value is not so much how much we “save” during the week, but it’s a chance to reflect on how much we spend/waste in a normal week and how many terrific things in life don’t involve spending money. It’s truly a chance to take stock in all that you already have, rather than continue to stock up on more stuff you don’t need.

    • 7.50 for goat head is not being cheap… it’s being ridiculous, that easily get you chicken legs on sale with change left over

  • All in perspective, I guess.
    I remember a (perhaps apocryphal) story of a Egyptian singer who was booked to perform a show in London, her first outside of Egypt. When she walked on stage, she was paralyzed by a bad case of stage fright, also her first. She explained later that all she could think about that there were people in the audience that wiped their bottoms with dry bits of paper.
    Still, I think I’d prefer regular ol’ TP over “family cloths”.

  • I have to ponder the t.p. lady: what about the cost of washing these cloth scraps? I mean, the detergent, the water, the electricity/gas? I have gotten a lot of toilet paper for really cheap with coupons and careful shopping. I realize that she has a large family…but still hygiene has to be an issue, too right? I also had to turn the channel it was just too much.

  • I agree with Kristi — the cost of washing has to be close to the cost of buying cheap TP at the store or use coupons. Really, there has to be a better way.

  • To those who think the family cloth is to much or gross because of sanitary reasons are way off base. In actuality using paper toilet paper is very unsanitary and doesn’t even clean you off very well.. hence the wet wipes that are popular. using a squirt bottle and a washcloth is much cleaner than nasty underware that your wearing all day long. Think about it would you just wipe a babys butt off with paper toilet paper? No because it would be dirty right? I think the reason she is doing it is silly ( saving 20 bucks a month is really not huge) but at least she isn’t using paper products unecessarily. Good for her.

    • I have no issue with cloth. I have no problems with a bidet. I just would prefer that the cloths were cleaner…and if her justification was the cost savings, which it appeared to be from the video, it was off base. Toiler paper isn’t a basic human right. There are plenty of cultures that would not consider using paper. But then, there are also cultures where using the left hand is acceptable. Do as you choose.

  • Oh my god that is horrific. And disgusting. Does she at least use steaming hot water to wash the cloths – that’s what you do with cloth diapers. My guess is she uses cold water to save money, which is not how it’s supposed to be done! Remind me to politely decline if ever invited to a party at their house, I can’t imagine using someone else’s poopy diaper as tp.

  • Yep, it’s a strange way to save money when you can buy a roll of toilet paper on special for about 40 cents. The cost of washing and drying the ‘wee wipes’ would far outweigh the cost of toilet paper.

  • I really wanted to watch this show when I first heard about it, but after viewing a couple of short clips, I think I’ll pass. Since I didn’t watch the show about the lady with the cloth TP, I don’t know if this was mentioned or not, but does she at least use a fair amount of bleach in the wash?? People wash their baby’s diapers in the wash, but at least in our home, my mother always used A LOT OF BLEACH to sterilize them. My grandmothers, who did not have bleach, would literally boil their whites with lye soap, including diapers, outside in a huge kettle designated just for that purpose. If that lady thinks that simply washing the butt rags in hot water in the washing machine is safe, then she is sadly mistaken. There are a few bad bugs spread though poo, Clostridium difficile and E. coli being two of them. I won’t get into the other nasties of using cloth butt rags here, but I can say this is not something I would do (can you tell I’m a nurse? lol). You can get TP on the cheap with coupons and I’d personally rather cut expenses somewhere other than there. Even splitting a two-ply roll doesn’t make sense to me. Who has time to do that??? Plus you’re probably going to have to use more to do the job effectively so you’re really not saving there either.

    That being said…the goats head segment was okay though I would prefer to do that as soup (just something about having a goats head on my plate I guess, lol). I have used turkey necks to make a really delicious and nutritious soup. 🙂 Love your blog, BTW!

    • Thanks, Susan. My mom used cloth diapers on me as a kid and I grew up in my early childhood seeing cloth diapers. As you mention, I remember those cloth diapers literally being boiled. I also didn’t think about the potential for germs to be spread to the rest of the laundry if she’s mixing things. I remember a story from about 10 years ago about a man who caught polio from changing the diapers of his daughter who had just gotten the vaccine. He didn’t clean his hands well enough. I can’t imagine what’s swirling around in her washing machine.

  • i’m confused as to why everyone is up in arms over the toilet paper/cloth issue. plenty of people do it (sara jensen from “walk slowly live wildy” did it for a time). its our crazy western culture that has deemed it necessary for us to wipe out butts with paper and then dispose of it. how incredibly wasteful!!

    take a step out of your little box and try it….

  • I think it might be worth your while to check out the blog of the woman who was profiled. As you said yourself, it is trash tv aimed at shocking you and making you want to watch each week… Here is her post that directly refers to what you posted about… . Also, im pretty sure that they dont just wipe, but rinse and wipe, if that makes any difference to you. I only mention it because it made more sense to me once I heard that.

  • I was astonished at this as well. How did the woman foraging for “wild salad” know that it had not been sprayed with pesticides, etc.? I wonder whether the people in her babysitting group know that she feeds their kids pizza made from ingredients that have LONG expired, and wild salad from the public park? And as for the guy who asked people for their leftovers in the restaurant, he also did that while he and his wife were out celebrating their anniversary after she clearly asked him not to and said it embarassed her. I was embarassed for all of them.

  • I am amazed at how people are being so judgemental. Granted I am not remotely close to being a cheap as the people on this show but I don’t judge them for what they do or don’t do. If it works for them fine, Good for them. Personally I like my toilet paper. The woman who was picking food from the local park. News flash, people used to do that all the time. If you know what to look for, good for her. I have heard of several actresses that forage at least 40% of thier daily diet from central park. Just because you choose not to go dumpster diving or forage from the local park or use old cloths as toilet paper doesn’t mean it is disgusting or makes you any better than they are. Granted the guy who would take other peoples leftovers was a little out there. Rather than being disgusted I found him entertaining. I would not stay married to him, but he was entertaining. People need to lighten up.

    PS.. They guy who would sing and barter for a doughnut was really irritating to me. If it works for him, more power to him but I he just bugged me. I would have been really pissed if I were behind him in line an had to wait for him to finish before I got my order.

    For those who said it was just a shock value to get you to watch more shows was also mistaken. It was a one time special not a new series. Although I do believe that they are doing a new show this fall.

    • They’ve made it into a series. So, they got enough people to watch the special to warrant making it into a series. TLC needs to return to the root of their acronym, learning, and get back to that. Or else change it to TOTTRC (Totally Over the Top Reality Channel).

  • I get that tolit paper can be a little pricy sometimes but switcth to the stores generic brand. also it cost just as much to get the cloth, and to clean them as probably just cheap toliet paper. lastly she said that, “the bacteria would not be able to withstand those conditions.” if you have bacteria sitting in one place for a while its going to multiply. then yes in most cases detergent and water would kill it but havent you heard of bacteria that survives water cold and hot (alge) heat should kill the rest of it. I did a friends laundry at the laundy mat when i got her clothes out of the dryer bed bugs were on it still crawling. and if you think that bacteria is killed by detergent think about this germX kills 99.99999 percent of germs and that stuff can damage your liver. if bacteria can survive that dont you think it can survive detergent just saying

  • The lady that took the kids foraging in the park. What was the name of the store that she went to for the out dated food.


  • All I have to say is WOW!!! How is washing the cloth toilet paper over and over again, saving any money, or any better for the environment?? Buying expired cheese?? Bottled stuff, and canned items, might be ok past expiration, but dairy products?? Plus your feeding it to neigborhood kids?? Foraging is something I have heard of, but feeding wild weeds to a child you might not know has an allergy, is asking for a hospital trip!!

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