Newspaper theft skyrocketed — any couponer knows that’s where the best deals are — and the shows have developed their own cult followings.
But there are some things people just shouldn’t have to do to save money.
We rounded up the most outrageous moments from the shows and countered them with some money-saving tips of our own.
A TLC-featured 'Extreme Cheapskate,' Victoria has a pretty gross way of saving water: Using a bottle for bathroom breaks instead of wasting money on toilet flushes.
On top of that, she dumps her urine in her compost bin afterward.
'I thought wow, I can pee in a jar, grow my compost and not have to flush my toilet,' she said.
Estimated savings: $10 a month
Our tip: We fully support the compost and water saving initiative here, but you don't have to take it to this extreme. Try the 'if it's yellow, let it mellow' approach and you can easily cut back on water use. In fact, you can save 2,190 gallons of water per person per year by only flushing once a day.
What is with extreme savers and their bathrooms? In this episode, featured cheapskate Kay uses a water bottle and soap to clean herself after using the bathroom so she doesn't have to buy toilet paper.
'I don't believe in spending money on something that you are going to throw away, such as toilet paper or paper towels,' she says.
Estimated saving:$150 per year
Our tip: OK, she has a point about wasting money, but toilet paper is so cheap already that there are definitely better and bigger ways to save than by compromising sanitation. Toilet paper and other paper products are among the best items to buy in bulk to save -- up to 40 to 50% off retail prices.
If her DIY-bidet wasn't bad enough, Kay also uses her dirty bath water as a washing machine -- while she's showering -- and stockpiles free soap samples from catalogues.
Estimated savings: $6 per month.
Our tip: Laundry is among the biggest money sucks for families, what with pricey detergents and all that energy from the washing machine. We love the idea of following a DIY detergent recipe, like everyone's favourite big family, The Duggars, use. And simply waiting to do laundry until you have a full load will go a long way toward saving energy and water because it makes the wash cycle more efficient.
Instead of buying a bed, Kay scrounged up some old yoga mats and placed them on the floor with her bedding.
'I don't have the need for a real bed,' she explains. 'Beds cost hundreds of dollars and that is absolutely outrageous.'
Our tip: Yes, beds are expensive, but hear us out: mattresses are meant to usually last 8-10 years and we spend an average 24,000 hours of our lives sleeping on them. In our minds, that's reason enough for an investment. Studies show that a quality mattress can improve sleep quality and reduce back pain and stiffness. Looking for sales? Mattress sales are abundant in February over President's Day weekend.
And never settle for their first asking price ---- furniture stores will almost always negotiate.
In another episode, featured cheapskate Ben washes his clothes, hats, comb, dishes and even his toothbrush in the dishwasher.
'It's kind of an all-in one cleaner,' he says, claiming that the dishwasher gets hot enough to wash anything he throws in there.
Estimated savings: $5-10 per month
Our tip: According to energy.gov, a dishwasher uses 3.5 times more wattage to run than a clothes washer, costing you much more to run. Also, washers have a special way of agitating clothes in order to clean them. A dishwasher does not. ... plus, there's no spin cycle to be sure you're getting all the excess water and dirt out. A dishwasher is only recommended for use on clothing items like shoes and baseball hats, things that would lose their shape in the washing machine.
Roy hangs up his wet paper towels to dry, and reuses them multiple times.
'And they are still functional,' he proudly says.
Estimated savings: $100 per year
Our tip: This is not worth the time or effort. Instead, use a regular, washable dish towel. Or, if you're set on paper towels, buy them for 40-50% less in bulk at wholesale stores.
Roy rifles through the trash of movie theatres for used popcorn and drink containers.
He rinses them and takes them to the counter to refill. He calls it his 'lucky day.' His wife doesn't know.
Our tip: Sign up for a theatre loyalty card and score points for free tickets and concessions. Pop your own popcorn at home for about $1 a bag. Don't want to go to the theatre? Check out DVDs at your local library or Redbox kiosk, or put $7 towards a Netflix or Hulu subscription for all of the movies you want.
KT has no qualms about diving in recycling bins for coupon inserts. She typically has 300 inserts on hand at a time. Her stockpile is worth $50,000 but she only paid $200.
'I wouldn't say I'm married to my stock, but if it came down to someone over my stock I'd probably choose my stock,' she says.
Our Tip: Couponing is on its way out thanks to the advent of digital coupons and apps. Download The Coupons App, SnipSnap, or RetailMeNot, apps which pump deals directly to your phone, and give your coupon binder a rest.
Chastity and April are friends and fellow couponers. Between the two of them, the women have 1,000 bottles of mouth wash, 300 tubes of toothpaste, 200 sticks of deodorant, 390 bottles of laundry detergent, 500 trash bags, and over 300 face wash items. April has a special building behind her house to store her stockpile.
Our tip: Research has shown that people who buy in bulk tend to use more of the products over time than they would normally. And there comes a point when you simply don't need another tube of toothpaste. Why not put that money in savings and earn interest on it instead?
Erin buys a whole cow -- all 1,000 pounds of it -- each year to have meat for her family.
She pays $2 a pound, which she says is about half the going rate at the grocery store.
Our tip: The best way to save on meat? Stop eating it. If that's not your flavour, you can always work the grocery system to get the best prices out there. Buy bigger cuts and slice them at home, rather than spending more for prepackaged, sliced versions. You can freeze meat in smaller packages for a quick defrost and easy meals.
If you're looking for cheap meat, chuck eye steak and pork shoulder are reliably affordable.
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