By K. Thor Jensen Jan 11, 2016
Money: it makes the world go round. We want to save it for a rainy day (or our eventual old age), but there are just so many things to spend it on. Especially in the holiday season, where our gift budget threatens to send us into bankruptcy. That’s not a problem for the ten people we’re spotlighting in this article, who hold onto their pennies so tight that it gives them finger cramps. These cheapskates hail from all over the world, and the one thing they have in common is their incredible reluctance to spend money.
One of the most amazing things about these cheapskates is that many of them are in long-term relationships. Vermont native Roy Haynes is known as “the cheapest man in America,” and he’s been married for years. To be fair, he only tied the knot so he could be covered by his wife’s dental insurance. Haynes doesn’t have a job and subsists on $15,000 of income a year by cutting just about every corner imaginable. He tears two-ply toilet paper in half to get more wipes out of it, washes paper towels and re-uses them, and digs through dumpsters for treasure. He even uses banana peels to shine his shoes. Now that’s dedication to penny-pinching.
TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates show does a terrifyingly good job of scouring the country for the most penurious people, and one of the craziest cheapskates they’ve unearthed was a woman named Kate Hashimoto. The New York resident has a good-paying job as a certified public accountant, but she’s so obsessed with savings (putting $5,000 a month into rainy day accounts and her IRA) that she survives by dumpster diving from Upper West Side restaurants, scrounging free toiletry samples, and sleeps on discarded yoga mats. As for housing, she bought her tiny Harlem apartment and paid it off, avoiding the nightmare of NYC rents.
Here in the United States, there was a bit of an uproar when stores started charging for plastic bags. That wouldn’t have bothered British retiree Martin McCaskie any, though — he’s been using the same shopping bag for a staggering 34 years. McCaskie got his trusty plastic bag in 1981 at grocery chain Tesco and has used it just about every week since then, keeping it folded up in his jacket pocket. The sheer effort required to preserve a plastic shopping bag for that long is pretty ridiculous, but we have to give the old codger props for it.
One would think “having five children” would be a bad move for a cheapskate, but Arizona man Steve Economides and his wife make it work, spending just $350 a month on food and cleaning products. How is it possible to feed and sanitize a family of seven on under $2 a day each? It involves a whole lot of coupon clipping, price gouging (they bring walkie-talkies to grocery stores to compare costs!) and hunting on eBay and Craigslist for bargains. One of their favorite tactics is buying meat that’s at its expiration date, because “restaurants charge premium prices for aged beef.”
Interestingly, several of the cheapskates on this list have managed to turn being frugal into a full-time job. Radio host Clark Howard hosts a syndicated program on money management, and in his personal life his penny-pinching is enough to drive friends and family nuts. He’ll drive around looking for broken parking meters rather than spend a few bucks, buy clothes that people left behind at dry cleaners and ruthlessly clip coupons. Once, he and his brothers took advantage of a bizarre deal to fly for three days straight to rack up frequent flier miles. It’s not like he’s hurting for money, either – radio insiders estimate that Howard pulls in over a million bucks a year.
Here’s another woman who’s appeared on Extreme Cheapskates and managed to become a millionaire while living like a cheapskate. Victoria Hunt works as an accountant, which gives her a clear picture of the value of money. As a young woman, she set up a “life budget” that predicted her financial future up to the optimistic age of 110, and to meet those requirements she does all sorts of things, most notoriously peeing into a bottle and using it to water her garden instead of wasting water flushing a toilet. She also gathers food from local dumpsters and showers at her gym instead of at home. Hunt keeps a handle on her spending by meticulously recording every penny in a spreadsheet.
The old maxim “you have to spend money to make money” isn’t necessarily true. Take Edward Wedbush, the owner of the largest stock brokerage in Los Angeles. The man is a millionaire tens of times over, but he lives in a one-story house in Ladera Heights with a roof that’s been patched with blue tarps for years. Wedbush is notorious for his incredible frugality — he’s been seen going around the conference table after meetings collecting paper clips to re-use and brings his lunch from home every day in his 1992 Lincoln Town Car. Wedbush also personally signs expense reimbursement checks to let his employees know he’s monitoring their spending.
The massive economic development we’ve seen in China over the last few decades has created a number of millionaires and even billionaires, but the nation’s years of austerity instilled a serious respect for money in its citizens. Zong Qinghou is the CEO and founder of the biggest beverage company in China, and for several years was also the single richest person in the country. But that hasn’t made him a big spender – quite the contrary, in fact. Zong only spends $20 a day on himself and eats with his workers, eating simple meals of tofu and pickled vegetables in the company cafeteria and sometimes spends the night in his office rather than pay to go home. His only hobbies are drinking tea, smoking cigarettes and doing market research.
You have to really be committed to cheapness to salvage medication from a dumpster. Angel Durr, a woman featured on TLC’s Extreme Cheapskates, was eight months pregnant with her first child when the cameras caught up with her. Shockingly, part of Durr’s health regimen involved hunting up medications and prenatal vitamins from the trash. Living in a former frathouse that she bought with her husband and restored, Durr’s low-cost lifestyle is a result of a hard upbringing. That attitude even extended to the weirdest things, like building her own breast pump out of trash found in a junkyard.
Another strong contender for the most miserly man in the world, Jeff Yeager has transformed not spending money into a career. Jeff pinches pennies in just about every way imaginable, whether it be soft-boiling eggs in the dishwasher along with his dirty dishes, pouring boxed wine into fancy bottles to serve at dinner parties, or never spending more than $1 a pound for food. He even wipes his butt with cloth toilet paper that he washes and re-uses. Jeff is a former CEO who made the decision along with his wife Denise to live a life not based on consumerism, and the insane savings he squeezes out have allowed him to sponsor a child in the Philippines to get a college education and travel the globe.