Who Are The Cheapest People You Know?

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-08-1729

Do you know anyone who deserves the “Most Frugal Person” award? And if you do know someone who’s crossed the line to becoming the “cheapest person ever” (read: one who saves money at everyone else’s expense), then how do you deal with them? I’m glad I haven’t yet found myself facing a situation wherein I have to coax a cheapskate to part with their money. Needless to say, if your cheapskate is a family member, I can imagine just how frustrating things can get.

In my mind, I only know of a few ways to handle a serious miser — especially one who won’t fork out their share of the tab. You can either avoid involving them in a financial situation, or if there’s no tip-toeing around the subject, you’d have to confront them about their behavior. Either way, it’s awkward. Of course, you can always just accept things as they are and bail out a scrooge every now and then.

When CNN Money came out with a poll that tackled this very question, I found myself agreeing with the majority:

cheapskate poll

Just for fun, I thought I’d compile some examples of serious tightwad behavior from the web. Chances are, you’ve not seen anything as absurd as the following cases I’ve come across. But I could be wrong and you may just know someone who is resourceful, creative and stingy enough to do these things. If you have, then feel free to share your story with us!

Tightwad, Missouri

The Worst Case of Cheapness I’ve Ever Heard

The Cheapo Anniversary, Submitted by: MsBubbely
On their anniversary, both my parents visit the store and scour the racks for the perfect anniversary card for each other. They choose a card each, from which they read messages to each other. Afterwards, they simply put back the cards on the rack! Blogger’s Note: Sounds like fun! I actually don’t think this is a bad idea at all!

Water Cheapskate, Submitted by: GBSmgmt
We’ve got friends who have decided to designate their two toilets for different functions. One toilet is for No. 1 while the other one is for No. 2. They save bucks by flushing toilet No. 1 only once, which is at the end of the day. Toilet No. 2 is flushed only when necessary, and for the exclusive and pure purpose of removing waste — this means that any toilet paper used is introduced into a garbage bag to be disposed separately. They do this to avoid having to flush down toilet paper, which could take more flushes than needed. Blogger’s Note: If we were experiencing a drought, I can imagine going through such extremes, but not so sure about doing this on a regular basis.

Kitty Horseshoes, Submitted by: Stantango
My brother is incredibly cheap. He’s decided to hang on to “used” cat litter and recycles this by throwing it into his horseshoe pits. Blogger’s Note: Caution, this is hazardous to your health! Don’t let a pregnant woman get near those horseshoes or risk a possible fetal disease called toxoplasmosis!

Fridge Thief, Submitted by: Karenkburge
I had a roommate that wouldn’t buy her own food. She would eat what I bought — I would even find her boyfriend in our kitchen cooking dinner for the two of them with the food that I bought. I decided to handle this problem by leaving food at work and eating my main meal there. The problem was that we worked together and she figured out what food was mine and ate it at work! Blogger’s Note: Kick out your roommate! Find someone else who doesn’t filch. Someone who has no shame about taking your food could feel the same about taking anything else you own.

Tooth Cap Tightwad, Submitted by: ELFbuying
One of my husband’s co-workers is so cheap, after he accidentally swallowed a tooth cap and didn’t want to pay a few hundred dollars to have a new one made, he actually fished it out of the toilet after it worked its way through his system and had the dentist re-use it. Blogger’s Note: Even in desperation, I’d borrow money first.

Sleep Washing, Submitted by Dunnontn:
My brother-in-law sets his alarm clock for 2AM. He’ll get up and do his laundry then because the night rates are cheaper than the day rates. Blogger’s Note: Unfortunately for me, I’ll have to be out a few bucks. I value my sleep at rates much higher than laundry rate savings.

Bar Nuts to Go, Submitted by Jerseygirl225:
My friend would go to a bar with a ziplock bag and would take cheez-its, pretzels and popcorn that are put onto the bar into her ziplock bag and bring them home to eat. Blogger’s Note: I don’t think this is too uncommon. I’ve known people who do this and actually stuff hors d’eouvres into their purses to eat later. Though they’ve admitted it’s not to save a few dollars but more so because they’re always hungry.

All for a Quarter, Submitted by Da3B:
We superglued a quarter to the floor so our cheap co-worker would try to get it up. Not to our surprise, he tried and tried and tried. Finally after about a week of this, he bought a $2.00 chisel to finally scrape this quarter up. Blogger’s Note: This must be a joke, or else that chisel will be returned fairly soon.

Pilfering Papers, Submitted by Bijou02:
I know a person who goes through people’s recycled newspapers and magazines to pick out the magazines and newspapers for the past week. That’s how he stays up on his current events. Blogger’s Note: He may not have a library in his town!

Tea Anyone? Submitted by AKingBuyAHouse:
My mother-in-law uses the same tea bag all week. Blogger’s Note: I have some family who make broth out of eaten chicken bones and corn husks. I hope they don’t read this.

Cheapy Pop, Submitted by Dhuntc70:
I know someone who is so cheap that when they go to the movie theater, they go to the garbage can to find a used jumbo popcorn bucket. He then goes to the counter to get new popcorn because you get free refills on the jumbo size. By the way, he makes a little over $100,000 a year. Blogger’s Note: He must be rich by now.

The Paper Thief, Submitted by: CFree95589
The cheapest person I knew was a coworker who used to steal toilet paper from the company bathrooms. He also used to take pens, pencils and tape. Blogger’s Note: Could this be why we’re always out of supplies?

Bathtub Blues, Submitted by Justdyan37:
Our bathtub wall caved in, and my ex-husband fixed it with trash bags and duct tape. He left it that way until mushrooms grew behind the toilet. Blogger’s Note: This actually happened to me at one point in my life but I swear it was because of procrastination, not miserliness!

Air Drying, Submitted by Nononoall3:
My ex would send me outdoors to hang clothes on a line instead of letting me use the dryer. He also would change the buttons on the dishwasher, which defeats the drying feature on it. Blogger’s Note: If you’re going to go this far, just sell all your appliances.

Vacuuming The Cheap Way, Submitted by Mfmichillin:
I hate to admit this, but instead of buying those costly vacuum bags, I would get some old socks and put a paper sack over the sock and attach them to the vacuum cleaner. Blogger’s Note: Wow, good idea!

Reusable Rinsing Cups, Submitted by Kurtfan14:
After my fiancee’s family are done brushing their teeth, they use a Dixie cup to rinse. That’s not a big deal, except all four adults use the same cup for one week. Blogger’s Note: I suppose they think the cup is sanitary because it’s constantly filled with mouth wash or minty water?

Well that was a trip. What I gather from this is that there’s nothing wrong in being so cheap — or being extremely frugal — just as long as you can keep safe and everyone can smile about it.


Interested in more crazy ways to save money? Then here are a few more posts I wrote about saving as an extreme sport:
Seriously Thrifty? Some Wild Ways To Save (Part 1)
22 Outrageous Ways To Save (Part 2)
Radical Ways To Save Money On Your Wedding

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Decisions Made Easy August 17, 2007 at 11:09 am

I think a lot of this stuff is reasonable. Growing up my family always used the turkey bones after thanksgiving to make soup stock with, and it’s only a small step to doing this with chicken on a regular basis.

Hanging up laundry can save a pretty good amount of money, and you spend more time outside.

The different toilets is a great way to save a tiny bit of money but mostly to reduce water consumption, which is a growing national problem. I’d applaud them for their proactive approach.

Just shows how there are lots of different points of view I guess.

60 in 3 August 17, 2007 at 11:23 am

Water cheapskate – This is actually good for the environment too. However, it can be a bit… er… bad. You’re better off going with a low flush toilet or just putting a brick in the tank. Heck, you can install a zero water urinal at home if you really want to.

Kitty Horseshoes – That depends on the litter and how it’s used. I’d be more worried about the chemicals in some litters than in the cat urine. Some natural litters are actually good gardening material, even after they’re slightly used.

Tea Anyone? – No reason not to use leftovers to make something else. I never understood people’s aversion to leftovers. It’s the same food.


Minimum Wage August 17, 2007 at 5:55 pm

A former employer specifically allowed employees to take home $3 worth of (“free”) supplies per week. He’d factor that in and increase his orders to take advantage of quantity price breaks, so the net cost was minimal.

the baglady August 17, 2007 at 7:19 pm

hahah these people are hilarious. It’s funny because I just recently wrote about my frugal/cheap coworkers. Besides that, my grandparents are pretty cheap. My grandma used to collect popsicle sticks from the street, take home and wash them and make popsicles. She also didn’t use diapers on my cousin, instead, she used plastic bags.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 17, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Great stories, this all brings to mind my beloved departed grandmother who was also extremely cheap. What is it about old people and tightwad behavior? My grandma, bless her soul, used to recycle gifts all the time and not just the gift, but also the gift paper! It was often sadly obvious that the paper was reused because it was (1) crumpled (2) had tape still stuck to it in odd places (3) had torn areas were tape was removed.

I have fond memories of her and her extreme frugality! 🙂 X0X0

Sean Remington August 17, 2007 at 10:17 pm

Wow, I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Thanks! 🙂

plonkee August 18, 2007 at 3:05 am


I’ve actually sort of done what the sleepwashing guy did, except that my washing machine has a delay start button, which means that you don’t have to get up to turn it on, you can just time it to finish when you wake up.

Patrick August 18, 2007 at 2:55 pm

Wow! Some of these are a little (or way) over the top! Some are also just plain disgusting or unhealthy.

The chicken bones for stock is a common thing. It’s great for soup and recipes.

Josh August 18, 2007 at 3:07 pm

My dad used to work with a cheapskate who ate a free lunch in the cafeteria each day:

tomato soup – made w/ free ketchup, salt, pepper, hot water
lemonade – made w/ free lemon slices, sugar, water

This was a well-paid engineer at a Fortune 500 company.

Silicon Valley Blogger August 18, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Sometimes, I really don’t get how the most highly paid people can be so stingy. But then again, that’s what they say is the profile of “The Millionaire Next Door”. At the same time, these people are not very well understood, are made fun of, criticized, etc. etc. when in fact, they espouse values that will probably get them to a good financial place faster than most people. But I shouldn’t be saying this really — because it’s a case of “the pot calling the kettle black.”

Looking back at my own financial history, I have to say I functioned to some degree like these office guys for a long long time, having to deflect lots of jokes and mild criticism from those around me. Ironically, today, these are the same people who criticize me for spending too much!! I can’t win can I?? 😉

Eric August 18, 2007 at 5:31 pm

“Sometimes, I really don’t get how the most highly paid people can be so stingy.”

I asked a wealth client of mine that exact question when he was negotiating my rate for a project (lopping off a couple dollars with every breath during the discussion). He stopped for a moment and said – “How did you think I got rich in the first place?”

Chief Family Officer August 20, 2007 at 8:43 pm

RE: cheap grandparents. It’s because most of them grew up in a totally different culture, in which they had to be cheap by necessity. My one grandmother who grew up poor can’t be persuaded to fix up the bathroom that grosses me out with its disrepair. My other grandmother who grew up wealthy before her family lost all their money during World War II is frugal but understands the value of spending on some things (like me when I visit 😉 ).

Lise August 28, 2007 at 3:39 am

I’m a bit of a tea aficionado, and I reuse tea bags once or twice. Generally you can get a couple of good steeps out of one tea bag before it all becomes watery. I generally do this to stretch out more expensive teas.

DivaJean August 28, 2007 at 6:54 am

I get po’d when people talk about “free ketchup” or stuff like that. It isn’t free. A certain portion of ketchup is considered by the management as appropriate for use when eating their food. The ketchup offered isn’t offered to rid you of your ketchup needs for the rest of your lives. People who take extra for “making cheapskate soup” or whatever lame excuse are just making it more expensive for everyone by taking more than the expected portion. (Just a pet peeve!)

The cheapest person I know is easily my father in law. My fave story of his penny pinching (to the point where Lincoln cries out in pain!) is when we had a pretty big windstorm that took out power for almost a week. On the first day, the grocery store nearest us was selling all their ice to help people try to save as much food in home freezers as possible. The cash registers were not working (the power was out) and they were charging one dollar for the regular sized bags of ice. A few weeks later, my father in law found out the ice usually sells for 99 cents— and he wanted my mother in law to go back and get the penny, with no receipt of course- since the cash register was out.

I don’t know if she really did go back; if it was me I would have thrown a penny at him.

Cameron September 3, 2007 at 9:10 am

I thought I knew some cheap people but I don’t think I do after this. Hilarious and sad at the same time.

Meredith October 15, 2007 at 6:49 am

Here from Frugal Hacks.

I don’t see anything wrong with line drying or disabling the heat-dry feature on the dishwasher. The machines still do the work of cleaning for you. It’s the forced hot air drying that uses so much electricity.

tightwadfan November 29, 2007 at 1:20 am

Most of these examples are unethical. Yes, unfortunately, many rich people got that way by being unethical, but you can be frugal and get rich without stealing from others (which many of these examples essentially are) or creating a public health hazard.

Except for putting the toilet paper in a plastic bag (sounds like a possible health hazard), Water Cheapskate is actually a creative way to apply the let yellow mellow, flush brown down concept. Sleepwashing and Airdrying are also reasonable, although usually dishwashers have an option to air dry so I don’t know why he has to switch buttons? I make stock from chicken bones, although I don’t use the ones that people have been gnawing on. I’m sure the boiling would kill the germs but it’s kind of icky. Homemade vacuum cleaner bags? Nothing wrong with that if they work for you.
My family tend to be on the spendthrift side and I often cringe at their spending but I’m so glad they’re not like these people! Trash popcorn buckets, bathroom with mushrooms growing? Ugh!

Shauna January 17, 2008 at 9:02 am

These are awesome. I feel so much better about my frugal lifestyle!


Greg September 11, 2008 at 7:41 am

I find great irony in the fact that miserly people actually end up with less than non-miserly people, and live a miserable, resentful existence. I have an incredibly cheap friend who bought a sleazy $75,000 apartment and stayed there for the next twenty years, living in a dump, even though he consistently made over $100k per year as a CPA. While his home value tripled in 20 years, to a whopping $225K today, all of his peers reaped huge equity gains by trading up over time as their income increased.

So, Mr. Miser ended up with $150K in additional equity while most of his friends/peers ended up real estate millionaires during the same time period. I HATE CHEAP BEHAVIOR. I really think it has to do with low self esteem, feelings of underservingness, and a deep seated belief that one should suffer, an effective form of self-abuse.

I recently went to visit my cheap-ass friend for three nights. At bedtime, he handed me blanket to sleep with that was at least 30 years old — stained, torn, and funky smelling. He’s a clean person, just incredibly CHEAP. This friend of mine is so cheap he drove a 15 year old Honda with no radio, no A/C, and NO HEAT, in the City of Chicago no less. I am so sick of my friend’s cheapness, I am not sure I can be friends with him any longer.

Silicon Valley Blogger September 11, 2008 at 8:35 am


Wow! It sounds like your friend has a compulsive “problem”. It’s okay to be frugal and be particular about trying to save money, but to make poor choices because of the tendency to be cheap makes it a problem.

If he makes such good money and lives like a pauper and his behavior is affecting his life, then that’s when his behavior crosses over to pathological and he needs to seek intervention of some sort.

I touch on this subject on my post on serious savers who died very wealthy.

Greg September 11, 2008 at 9:36 am


I completely agree with you. Very interesting article. But I’m still left asking myself what good is it to die wealthy if the miser suffers physically and emotionally through life like my friend?

I mean, behavior such as rarely washing things like rags-for-towels and blankets to save quarters at the coin-op laundry is downright diseased. What kind of an existence is that? I’ll tell you: it is a mean and alienating existence, and one that perpetuates a self-limiting belief system of scarcity, unhappiness, and fear of loss. (Not to mention the pervasive, paranoid thinking that other people “owe you” or are trying to take financial advantage of you.)

I believe nothing can be further from the truth, and that the universe is infinite in its ability to provide abundance for those who believe that to be true for themselves.

People like my friend (and some of the people cited above) hold their fists so tight they suffocate their innate ability to create prosperity and sabbotage their material experience. And so goes the cycle of “there is not enough, therefore I act as if there is not enough, therefore I suffer because there is not enough, proving that there is not enough.”

At any rate, I see you’ve apparently spent a great deal of time on this subject, and I have some questions for you. I’ve been friends with “Bob” for over twenty years, and he has a lot of terrific qualities. I care very much about him and want him to be happy. Do I accept the way he is? Disconnect? How do I approach him about getting help or open up mind to some self-analysis on this subject? Any advice?

Silicon Valley Blogger September 11, 2008 at 10:18 am

Hi Greg,

Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I have some people in my family who remind me a little of your friend, but they aren’t as extreme, thank goodness.

I used to be quite frugal as well (which is the positive way to be cheap — this just means you are value-conscious) but less so these days, as my family, home and savings have grown.

I believe that your friend, from the outside, appears to need help — as I am familiar with and understand this behavior all too well. The question you may want to try to answer is this: is your friend happy about his situation? Is he content? If he is not seeking change, then it will be tougher to get through to him. Unless one seeks change for their own sake, chances are, improvements will be very hard to come by.

If your friend is happy and refuses change, then the next question is, is he willing to give up friendships and relationships to live the way he does? If the answer is yes, then the ball is in your court — he won’t change, not even for your friendship. Will you then be willing to accept him as he is? That would be your decision to make.

It may be worth finding out how flexible your friend is about getting help — this kind of behavior has a strong obsessive-compulsive element in it. It’s rooted in insecurity and fear, which result in the irrational behavior.

If you see hypochondriacs or phobics who have irrational fears of various things, then you know what I mean. Your friend has an irrational fear of losing money or not having enough money. So in effect, he’s battling a phobia.

There could be medication for this sort of thing, I don’t know. I do know they have ways to treat OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). If his condition is related to OCD then medication may help, also behavioral therapy.

I’m no doctor though, so I can’t assess what’s best for your friend. I only speak from my own and my family’s experiences on these matters.

You may want to have an honest conversation with your friend about his fears and maybe you can be sympathetic and offer suggestions to help curb some of his behavior. But if he shuts you down though, I guess you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth it to keep testing your patience and living with frustration with a friend like this.

Sally March 17, 2010 at 5:29 pm

re: Reusable Rinsing Cups, Submitted by Kurtfan14. Um, what? Even cheaper, and less ridiculous: using re-usable plastic/glass/whatever cups. Did that never occur to them?

Lauren January 19, 2012 at 12:32 pm

My current roommate is so cheap that she had the nerve to tell me I needed to pay her back for a teaspoon of cinnamon. The worst part is that I had offered the dinner I was preparing at the time.

The sad and frustrating part is that I am in college and have to work and take out loans. Where as she has, as she bragged to a mutual friend who couldn’t afford school this semester, “a quarter of a million in her bank”. Let’s also note she has never worked a real job in her life and is always buying tacky and useless decor for our apartment and feels I should chip in to buy shelving to store her assorted ceramic kittens and frames for her homemade paintings.

So when she wont let me borrow an egg and I have to drive 15 minutes to the store or have to pay her back for a teaspoon of cinnamon it hurts my feelings.

However, despite her unwillingness to share she is perfectly fine with using my supplies, eating my food, and asking my boyfriend to pay for assorted things for her.

She also has a habit of asking for favors and never paying people back. Like on the egg situation. My friend sarcastically asked her if she needed anything from the store since we couldn’t “borrow” not just “take” an egg. My friend said get me this coffee and then never paid my friend back or even thanked her.

I’ve known her for 3 years now and all of a sudden she has started being ridiculous. I’m not sure what I need to do or to explain how frustrated I am.

Any suggestions are welcome.

Silicon Valley Blogger January 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Sorry to hear about your roommate problems. In order to remedy your situation, you can either — face it (communicate with your roommate) or avoid it (move on to a different arrangement that no longer includes your roommate).

First thing I would do is to talk with her about the issues. Be honest and up front but tactful. Say that you are not thrilled about how things are going at this time and see if there’s anything that can be done to smooth things out.

If this is not taken the right way, and things don’t improve or get worse, then perhaps it’s time to go your separate ways (if it’s at all possible). I think that with someone like this around, it’s obvious you are not getting along and this is causing you unneeded stress. Are you forced to be her roommate or you’re stuck in your living arrangement?

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