New Year’s Resolution: Extreme Cheapskate?

December 27, 2011

extreme cheapskateThere are a number of New Year’s resolutions that you can expect many Americans to make each year–lose weight, quit smoking, eat better, save money. As far as that last resolution goes, I expect that in 2012 we’re going to start hearing more about a new kind of saving money–becoming an extreme cheapskate.

Yes, first there was extreme couponing–the practice and the show on TLC. Now TLC has upped the “extreme” ante with its new show called “Extreme Cheapskates.”

Some of the antics of these extreme cheapskates include reusable toilet paper and asking strangers at a restaurant if you can take home their leftovers. (Um, if you’re really a cheapskate, what are you doing eating out at a restaurant, unless you’re also an extreme couponer and you’re eating out for free, thanks to coupons.) Hearing this makes me think of the ultimate cheapskate bible from way back when–The Complete Tightwad Gazette.

Finding out that TLC is focusing a show on cheapskates brought me back to a blog post I wrote nearly four years ago, in which I discuss the differences between frugality, cheapskates, tightwads and others.

What inspired this long ago discussion? A survey from Wharton Business School that asked, “Are you a tightwad, frugal or a spendthrift?” In surveying 13,000 Americans about these three “labels,” they determined that people who fit into one of these categories have very different personality traits. Here are some of their findings:

  • Tightwad: According to this study, which created its own “spendthrift-tightwad” scale, tightwads are defined as people “who feel intense pain at the prospect of spending money, and therefore tend to spend less than they would ideally like to spend.” In fact, tightwads, which some call cheapskates, tend to underspend on many things and therefore always feel as if they’re living at a disadvantage or like they’re missing out on something. That doesn’t sound like much fun.
  • Frugal: Frugal folks take great pleasure in saving money and will spend when they know they are getting the best bang for their buck. The Wharton study showed that frugal people tend to be the happiest of the three. “The more frugal you are, the happier you are,” says the study’s authors.
  • Spendthrift: Spendthrifts “feel insufficient amounts of pain at the prospect of spending and therefore tend to spend more than they would ideally like to spend.” Because of their out-of-control spending, spendthrifts carry a great amount of guilt, which makes them feel unhappy

To some there is no difference–they’re all penny-pinchers. But in reality there are subtle differences in the definitions that really do count for something. I’m proud to call myself frugal. What about you?

Photo Credit: Simon Howden /

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2 Responses to New Year’s Resolution: Extreme Cheapskate?

  1. Nini on December 30, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I did watch that episode and all I can say is “WOW”. Asking people for their leftovers is quite……….I dont think I can say it on this blog! To me…that is very rude. I understand the concept of not wanting to go to waste or in the garbage but …come on! Think of the diseases and bacteria that man is ingesting from eating food from other people. I am NOT implying that people are disease ridden…just that the normal human mouth harbors so much bacteria. Think about it…..people eat with their forks in their mouths and go back to that food many times “contaminating” the food. Hence to “no double dipper” rule at parties. Ewww…

  2. Denise on December 28, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    That frugal definition is right on. There are so many misconceptions that a frugal person is a tightwad. Frugal people are prudent with finances and will spend more for quality (since quality generally lasts longer).

    Thank you for sharing.

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