8 Ways To Be An Extreme Cheapskate

One of my guilty pleasures is watching the show Extreme Cheapskates. I know that everything on the show isn’t real (quite a bit of it is fake from what I’ve heard), but I’m sure some people do go to crazy measures in order to save some money. I’m not making fun of anyone who is an extreme cheapskate because I know…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: February 4, 2024

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

One of my guilty pleasures is watching the show Extreme Cheapskates. I know that everything on the show isn't real (quite a bit of it is fake from what I've heard), but I'm sure some people do go to crazy measures in order to save some money.One of my guilty pleasures is watching the show Extreme Cheapskates. I know that everything on the show isn’t real (quite a bit of it is fake from what I’ve heard), but I’m sure some people do go to crazy measures in order to save some money.

I’m not making fun of anyone who is an extreme cheapskate because I know I probably do some ridiculous things that people laugh at as well, but what is life if you don’t make fun of yourself occasionally?

On a side note: I do think that some circumstances can occasionally mean that being cheap is actually stealing, which I talked about in the post Frugality And Ethics – Are You Being Cheap, Frugal, or Stealing?

Related articles:

Here are 8 ways to be an extreme cheapskate. If you are looking for extreme cheapskate tips, then here you go!

8 extreme cheapskates tips


1. Dumpster dive for free food.

I don’t know if this really needs any explaining, but dumpster diving is when you go around to various dumpsters (homes and stores), and dig around until you find yourself a treasure.

A few people on the show have made full meals for their guests all from dumpster food.

I know that some people dumpster dive and that you might be able to find some good things. However, dumpster diving isn’t for me.

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2. Dig through trash cans to find free refill cups and bags.

There was one episode where a husband took his wife to the movie theater. He then dug through the trash at the theater in order to find a cup and bag of popcorn so that he could get free refills while they were there. I think he cleaned both items, but this was too much for me.

We usually just skip the popcorn and drink when we go. I think it’s crazy that it often costs $20 just for those two things! However, I won’t eat with someone else’s garbage in order to save some money.


3. Go to the bathroom in a jar or bottle instead of using the toilet.

There was one episode where the woman had a working toilet, but wanted to save water. In order to save water, she had a jar next to her toilet that she would use the bathroom in.

There was another episode where a guy only flushed his toilet once a week. It didn’t matter what happened in his bathroom, he waited ONE ENTIRE week to flush it.



4. Take extra condiments from restaurants.

I have seen this several times. This is when a person takes things like ketchup and mustard packets from stores and uses them to squirt into their own bottles at home.

I think this sounds like a lot of time wasted, and it really crosses the theft line as I have heard of people taking hundreds of extras in order to have enough for themselves.

I don’t think we have any ketchup or mustard in our home since we never use any, so this is something I don’t really understand. However, if there is an extra buffalo sauce in the bag after I have fast food, I tend to just throw it in my fridge. However, I will not go out of my way to take it.


5. Bring your own food to a restaurant.

In one episode, someone brought their own food for the restaurant to cook for them. It wasn’t anything crazy as it was just white rice, but she did ask the waiter to heat it up for her.

While this sounds crazy, I have actually seen something similar to this happen in person.


6. Eat leftover food when at a restaurant.

This one kind of makes me sick. This is where a cheapskate will eat what is left on a stranger’s plate. They will wait until you are done and then will ask for whatever is left.

Just eat at home!


7. Eat roadkill. 

I know that all food comes from somewhere, but driving around trying to find a dead animal just seems a little extreme to me. One family did use almost every single part of the dead animal they found though.

They ate the animal and I believe the mom made keychains for their guests as well.


8. Wear dead people’s clothing.

One woman on the show would often read obituaries in search of dead people who might have clothing that she liked. She would offer to clean the person’s home in exchange for some of their clothing.

This just seems crazy to me.


How to become an extreme cheapskate- summary

As you have learned from reading the above, there are many ways to become an extreme cheapskate.

From finding alternatives to toilet paper, reusing bathwater, cutting down on laundry, stretching your water bill, and lowering your entertainment spending, you can save some money.

Would you do any of the above and become an extreme cheapskate? Why or why not? What’s the cheapest thing you do?


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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. These are all crazy Michelle! I couldn’t imagine myself doing any of those! LOL!

  2. All are a bit too extreme for me, especially with some bordering on illegal.

    As you noted; many of them can be done cheaply through alternative measures. If you can’t afford to eat at a restaurant then just eat at home.. Take your own food into the cinema (if allowed) and shop at supermarkets at the very end of the day when things can be reduced by 90%, no need for the dumpster diving.

    1. I agree with everything you just said. I don’t really see the need for extreme frugality as there are usually other measures that can be taken.

  3. Petrish @ Debt Free Martini

    Michelle….I love you, but I am just too fabulous to dumpster dive. Nothing against people who may have no choice, but Petrish has a choice and I can’t. If this is what being a real cheapskate entail….I think I’ll prefer to be just frugal. The only thing on this list I may do sparingly is take a copy extra packs of sugar for my coffee I may have later in my office that is never sweet enough.

    1. Haha I agree with you. I wouldn’t do anything on this post. This post was meant to be a joke 🙂

  4. Extreme Cheapskates is one of my favorites because it gives me an insider’s look at the most outrageous penny-pinching people around. This show is really an eye-opener.

  5. Cindy Merrill

    You may be unaware of it, but if you shop at Second hand thrift stores, chances are you DO have dead peoples’ clothing.

    1. Very true, but I wouldn’t bother a family by knocking on their door the day that their loved one has passed away.

    2. Marilyn

      A lot of people get dead peoples clothes when someone in there family passes. I don’t see what is wrong with that.

  6. Hah! I’m one frugal weirdo, but I wouldn’t do any of those things! I do enjoy finding furniture, etc by the side of the road, but I haven’t ventured into food dumpster diving and I’m just not sure it’s for me. Like you said, there are plenty of ways to live a frugal life without going overboard!

    1. Haha thanks for reading! 🙂

  7. I think these things take you from frugal / cheap to downright poor. I would not do any of these things!

  8. Oh good, I’m so relieved that I’m just a “cheapskate”, not an extreme one! 🙂 Compared to most of my financially flamboyant friends, I was pretty sure I would be classified as extreme, but now I have lots of examples to defend (justify) my own cheapness. 🙂

  9. Amy

    I don’t do any of these things, and I don’t think I count as an extreme cheapskate. I do pick up change I see on the ground, which my husband thinks is ridiculous. Also, I return our soda/beer/water cans and bottle to the grocery store and apply the credits to my purchases. To me, this is a no-brainer, since I paid the deposit when I bought the products.

    1. Those don’t sound extreme at all, I agree.

    2. Debbie

      My husband and I return bottles and cans to the store and apply those credits to our grocery purchases. We also price match as often as possible.

  10. Kathy

    I will probably be labeled too judgmental, but those people are just bizarre. I do take extra sauce packets from the Taco Bell drive up because the employee gives me handfuls. I’m not going to sit in the car and sort through them and hand them back. But everything else is beyond cheap and often times unhygienic. I can’t imaging the smell in the man’s house when he only flushes once a week. He must incur some astronomical plumbing bills from plugged toilets. I like to save but I consider myself smart and some (most) of these are just plain dumb.

    1. I agree, most of these don’t make any sense.

  11. I’ve heard a lot about the show, but have never seen it. I think I’d have to pass on these eight.

    1. Haha I agree Brian.

  12. This post really made me laugh! I probably couldn’t bring myself to dig in random unknown trash in search or anything. I do take extra packets of condiments from restaurants sometimes just to have them around the house or in my car if needed but I would never try to squeeze each of the packets into a bottle lol that sounds like it would be a mess.

  13. Brian

    #2 is totally stealing…. that’s not cheap… that’s stealing.

    The ones wanting to save water are insane! Maybe I am spoiled but our water bill is pretty much the same no matter how many times I use the bathroom or not (I have been gone for 3 weeks out of a month before and the bill was maybe $8 less). So that one seems like a waste to me, and the smell or a non-flushed toilet wouldn’t be worth it.

    1. Yeah, the water thing doesn’t make much sense to me. Our water bill is usually around $25 a month (we pay on a quarterly basis so it’s $75 a bill), and it doesn’t seem to fluctuate ever.

  14. I squirmed like 20 times reading this article! Of all the things a person can do to save a buck. That toilet one is just…. words can’t describe.

    In college, a lot of people stole flatware and glasses from the cafeteria. Not sure why they didn’t see it as stealing.

    1. Hahaha hope I didn’t make you sick!

  15. Fig @ Figuring Money Out

    That show is my guilty pleasure too! I enjoy watching it only because I get to shake my head at how crazy some of those people are. I could never imagine doing any of those activities just to save money. I’m all for saving but I don’t think extreme cheapness is going to enrich my life in any way.

  16. Wow, that is extreme! I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing any of those things. I like to save money but I draw the line at dumpster diving.

  17. We would always take any extra sauce packets that we got from fast food and throw it into a small container in our pantry. After a couple of years, we had the entire basket filled up and it was mostly Taco Bell packets….and we don’t go to Taco Bell all that often. It just goes to show how wasteful they were being, so now we’ll actually ask for specific number of packets so as to avoid waste.

    1. Yes, we always ask for a specific number now. That way we always get exactly what we need.

  18. I must to say that I find weird but interesting and funny at same time this series, some suggestion could be good oher are terrible…savvy ok, some extreme cheapskates are too cheapskaters!!!

  19. That show seems so crazy to me. The producers contacted me about appearing but after watching a few episodes I knew I was not willing to do anything crazy enough to appear on the show. I’m all about being smart when it comes to spending money and there are plenty of things I do to save, but alot of the stuff I’ve seen on the show is downright embarrassing!!

    1. Haha I think a lot of the things you see on the show is fake, but it does make for good TV 🙂

      1. Yes, even if it’s fake — who wants to do those things just to be on TV? I wouldn’t compromise myself or reputation that way, LOL.

  20. Candis

    There are pivotal moments in life that will forever change who you are, either for the good of bad. I am not sure reading this post was a pivotal moment but it changed me. I learned something I did not know, and will forever be grossed out. I am certainly not opposed to reusing or re-purposing items, but why, really why would ppl eat a strangers leftovers (by choice)….got to the bathroom in a jar…by choice. Ok I am going back to work now, but……whhhhyyyyyyy…lol

    1. Hahaha I’m glad you read this post Candis 🙂

  21. Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom

    We wear dead people’s clothes. People we knew though. Might as well put it to good use. My husband loves the cardegan my papa used to wear. I never even considered that this would weird people out! Glad I already call myself cheap.

    1. I don’t think that’s weird. In the example I was talking about in the post, this woman would search obituaries and contact strangers about the dead people’s clothing.

  22. Jessica

    Wow these are pretty crazy things! I couldn’t imagine doing any of these just to save a few bucks.

    On that note, I have picked a couple of free side tables and a piece of art left next to a dumpster at my old apartment complex. I also keep condiment packages from restaurants if there are extras. I would never go out of my way to take more though!

    When I lived in Kentucky, it wasn’t unheard of for people who hit a deer with their car to take the deer home for the meat. For some reason this isn’t as disgusting to me as actively seeking out something that’s been sitting on the road for who knows how long.

    1. Haha thanks Jessica for reading!

  23. A lot of these are flat out gross. Dumpster diving for food and wearing dead people’s clothes is kind of on the crazy side. I won’t even get into flushing the toilet just once a week.

    1. Haha I agree Jason!

  24. Ughh…the first three made me sick.

  25. Your examples are frugality to the extreme. That’s a little bit too much. I would never wear dead people’s clothes or eat food from the garbage. Gross!

    1. They are cheap to the extreme 🙂

  26. Tara @ Streets Ahead Living

    I don’t think #8 is that off, especially since people often look for Estate sales in that manner to buy antique furniture. I maybe wouldn’t offer to clean but i would look out for the possibility of an estate sale to find high end clothing and/or furniture which I would then pay money for.

    Also, you forgot about taking hotel soaps, or at least grabbing extras from the cleaning cart. Unless the hotel I’m staying at has AMAZING brand name products (which is rare for me with the quality of hotels I stay at), I don’t use the free toiletries (outside of opening the soap to wash my hands). There are people I know who hoard all these little bottles, even though they have plenty at home already! Unless you’re grabbing them to donate to a homeless shelter, I don’t see why people take the toiletries.

    1. I agree, #8 isn’t too bad, but I think bothering someone right when their loved one has passed away is just a little too much.

  27. I honestly question how much people really do these things versus making them up to get on tv. I am all about frugal living and making smart choices, but I would never sacrifice personal hygiene to save a few bucks.

    1. I know that some of the stuff on the show is fake, but I bet there are some people who do some of these scary things in real life!

  28. I agree. There is a line between theft and being frugal and many of the above are stealing.

  29. Wow! I’ve never heard of this show before. I’ll have to check it out, but these people certainly go to the extreme. I could never dumpster dive or eat other people’s food. I’m too much of a germaphone!

    1. You should definitely watch it! It’s addicting 🙂

  30. Mrs. Maroon

    All of these ideas are way too extreme for me. I am unwilling to compromise on food like that. We have been known to keep extra containers of Whataburger ketchup in the fridge to use later. For those not from the south, y’all are totally missing out on the glory of Whataburger ketchup. Someone was finally brilliant enough to bottle it and sell at the grocery store now too! To die for!!

    1. Haha that’s how I feel about some of the buffalo sauce I get from some of the restaurants around here. It can’t be beat so whenever they give me extras, I gladly save them! 🙂

  31. Kasia

    Oh my goodness! I can’t imagine doing any of those things. I wonder what causes these people to be such extreme cheapskates.
    The cheapest thing I do is sometimes take my own cake/biscuit when I go out for a coffee to a cafe. I buy the coffee and enjoy my home made cake. Usually, the home made tastes much better than the bought cake, and the bonus is a few dollars extra remain in my pocket.

    1. Haha yeah I can’t imagine doing them either!

  32. Melissa @ Sunburnt Saver

    Wait, bring food… to a restaurant… to have them heat it up for you??? Are those people too cheap to have a MICROWAVE?! Holy cow! That’s insane 🙁

    I think the worst thing I did (accidentally) is when I took a handful (like 3-4) ketchup packets at a fast food restaurant (I don’t even like ketchup, I grabbed it for my boyfriend) and it turns out he grabbed a handful too… so we got back home and had, like, 10 ketchup packets.

    That’s no where near as terrible/crazy as stealing 100+ packets, but I definitely felt like we had (accidentally!) gone overboard! I couldn’t imagine doing any of the things on this list!

    1. Haha yeah the restaurant thing is terrible!

  33. Wow. Those are some very off the wall things and the bathroom ones border on a mental illness more than cheapness. My cheap-streak confession is I will pick up a Penny, any coins I see laying on the ground. Goes back to my growing up low income.

    1. I see nothing wrong with picking up change on the ground. Why not? 🙂

  34. Khadija

    Oh my goodness! I forgot about this show! I loved that show! Too funny! People are so funny! Some of them are inspiring though like Jeff Yeager – he was on the first episode but seriously you should read his book – The Cheapskate Next Door” – it’s actually his second book but I like it better b/c he went all around the county on the book tour for his first book and he met all these cool people who are cheapskates and he highlighted them in his 2nd book to prove that you can have all kinds of lifestyles and still live cheaply. It’s a great book and right up your alley I think!

    1. Ha I’ll have to read that book. I’m not interested in becoming a cheapskate but I’m sure it’s an entertaining read.

  35. Okay I’m gonna admit to being gross for a sec here. I was working at a convention center and had brought my own tea bag so I just needed hot water. The Starbucks on site counted their cups so they couldn’t give or even sell me hot water (it’s not on the menu). It was first thing in the AM so there wasn’t much trash but I took a look and found a double cupped cup in there, so I took it out and slid the bottom cup off and went back for my hot water.

    1. Haha good job finding the cup Stefanie 🙂

  36. Connie @ Savvy With Saving

    I watch this show and some of the stuff people do is really crazy, just to save a buck. I won’t do anything that is unsanitary so most of the above lol.

  37. Yeah I don’t know about most of these. Doesn’t the person who tries to find dead people’s clothing realize there is a place called Goodwill where you can get clothing for just a few dollars a piece? *sigh*

    1. I know! Some of these people go way out of their way just to save a tiny bit of money. Maybe they like the “thrill” of the hunt?

  38. Wow! I’m always looking for deals but these go a little too far. The other day I was looking for stir sticks to purchase for photo booth props. Fred Meyer didn’t have any but they do have a Starbucks so my hubby asked if he could buy 8 of their stir sticks. The gal asked if he had a Starbucks card and gave them to him free. I felt a little weird about it.

    1. Stir sticks must be a benefit to having a card 🙂

  39. Well, the term “Extreme” didn’t disappoint, at least. Yikes.

  40. Ms. Frugal

    I love being frugal. I haven’t eaten road kill but my Dad does hunt/fish and we eat what he kills. I cut the crusts off my daughters sandwiches that she WON’T eat and I make bread crumbs and cookies from them. I bake our own bread at $0.18 a loaf and we have toast or oatmeal for breakfast a lot. There are a hundred little thing I do to save money. “It’s not about how much money you make but about how much you keep.”

    1. These all sound like great ways to save money. I think you are doing well!

  41. Jess

    I just want to say… I have done some of these things. It may sound strange to some people, but some of these things are done out of necessity. That’s what it like to live in poverty. Sometimes being an extreme cheapskate is a survival skill. I think some people who do these thing without necessity don’t realize how lucky they are to be privileged.

  42. Pat

    I hate to tell you but how do you know that the clothes you get at a resale shop aren’t ” dead people ” clothes? Really they normally get rid of whatever they die in. When you pass your clothes ( in your dresser /closet ) will be ” dead people ” clothes ! lol

    1. Haha, I used to work at a resale shop for over 5 years, so yes, I know this 🙂

  43. Magda

    The eating in restaurants from either your own food or from strangers’ plates seems to be pointless – is it not cheaper simply cook at home?

    The estate cleaning in exchange for the clothing is not so bad – no different from shopping at Goodwill.
    Also – I would eat roadkill if it is something like a goose or a deer, and if I have actually seen it die (like it hit my car, or the car right before me, or a friend’s car). That way I know it is fresh. Randomly driving and looking for dead things on the roadside is out of the question for me! (who knows how long it was dead?)

  44. Linda Mountain

    This stuff is FUNNY! Just watched u tube extreme cheapskates-never laughed SO HARD!!!!!!!!!! I’m one to a degree-always have been-but these people push it OVER THE TOP!!!!lol…have to draw line at roadkill though

  45. Well, i just discovered a frugal tip for laundry. Turns out that even the “cold” setting on a washing machine can indicate that your washer is using some hot water to raise the temp slightly of your tap water before allowing it to fill your washer. BUT the cool thing is that some new washers now have a “Tap cold” setting for water temp…which means that the water is sent straight from your water intake into the washer. This is a more frugal setting…so it is a good thing to have🌻

  46. Jouwad

    Wow this gives me the creeps!!!! I think there was a point in college I used to take extra condiments. My wife will not even allow those types of shenanigan anymore :).