Lately, I've been watching TLC's new show, Extreme Cheapskates. It's an interesting program that focuses on those who take saving money to the point of near obsession. While I consider myself a pretty hardcore saver, certain techniques illustrated on the show have made me queasy. Some of the show's participants have some good ideas and saving ideas, but as the title denotes, these practices are taken to the extreme.
In the process of watching this program, I realized one thing in particular…I will never be an extreme cheapskate. Dumpster diving for food, peeing into jars to save toilet flushes, and cutting greens for dinner from the community park are a few of the extreme measures you won't find me doing, and here's why.
As a work-at-home father of two, the value of my time is something I have to consider when it comes to cutting costs. Sure, I like to save money, but there is a point that comes at which I must consider the amount of savings versus the value of my time. It makes no sense for me to spend time trying to save pennies, when the same time could be spent earning dollars.
For example, there was a good scene in one of episodes of Extreme Cheapskates in which a mother takes her kids to the local park to clip greens for their dinner salads. While in some ways I find this action commendable, since she's using natural ingredients that are also free to feed her family, I find it illogical for our family. When I can go out and buy a head of lettuce for .99 cents when I'm at the store, why would a spend 30 minutes or an hour going to the park -- time that I could use to make significantly more in income -- to pick my own greens? Let's say my time is worth $20 an hour. Well, I would in essence be giving up $19 in income to spend that time clipping greens. My time would be much better spent working on earning income than saving on that much smaller cost.
I Prefer a Proper Financial Balance
I enjoy looking for ways to reduce expenses; however, I've noticed a tendency at times for me to become too fixated on cutting costs and not focused enough on earning more income. I found this to be the case in many some of the Extreme Cheapskates examples. There was an extreme fixation on cutting pennies, when there could easily have been a focus on earning dollars.
Personally, I try to keep an even balance between both cutting expenses and earning income. Focusing too much on one or the other can lead to an improper financial balance. This imbalance can lead to living a "miserly" type lifestyle should expenses become my focus and a wasteful lifestyle should I only focus on earning more money but not trying to save any of it.
Poor Business Sense and Building a Bad Reputation
One example on the Extreme Cheapskates show really struck a note with me as an example of saving -- in my opinion -- gone too far. A man was taking his wife out for "date night" and brought her to a small ice cream shop. Rather than buying them each an ice cream treat, he kept asking for samples. The man said something to the effect of "How am I supposed to know what I want if I don't know what I like?"
He ended up with a variety of samples but then didn't buy anything, instead using the samples as their "treat". The owner of the shop was obviously unhappy, and in my opinion, this is pretty much the same as stealing, taking money out of someone else's pocket for your own profit.
As a self-employed writer, it would be like someone asking me for a variety of free writing samples and then not hiring me for a job just so they can get free product. It might work a couple times if they tried it on various people, but eventually, that person could start to develop a bad reputation and could be refused service or not taken seriously. In my opinion, it's just bad business, and there should be a line to be drawn between saving money and hurting others in the process.
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