I've been watching a new show on TLC lately called Extreme Cheapskates. It's an interesting show, and delves into the lives of people who take cost cutting measures to the point most of us would find, well…extreme.
As a good cost cutter myself, I've actually found myself feeling physically ill at times watching this show due to the measures people have taken to save a penny, yet I've managed to take some good lessons away from the program as well. Here are a few of the things that I've picked up by way of watching the show.
Time Value vs. Savings
I'm certainly a fan of saving money, but there's a point at which the savings involved don't outweigh the time I'm expending to obtain those savings. I could be doing more important things with my time that would garner me more income than the savings I'd realize. For example, in one of the Extreme Cheapskates episodes, a woman takes the kids and goes out to cut salad greens in the local park. Such an activity might take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes to collect these free items. Well, that's all well and good, but I could pick up a head of lettuce at the local grocery store for about .99 cents. And with the time I save, I could generate five to ten times more income in the meantime.
Spending my time saving pennies, when I could be earning dollars, just doesn't make for good financial sense. Of course, if I could pair the two, say by turning the thermostat down or lights off while I work earning income at home, then that would be an even better scenario.
Even the Good Savers Have Room to Grow
I consider myself good at saving, but I was astounded by what I saw while watching the Extreme Cheapskates episodes. While frankly there is no way I could ever see myself taking such extreme measures to save money, I have realized that even good savers like me have room to grow. And sometimes it takes some "outside the box" thinking and looking at things in the savings realm in a new light to find new cost cutting methods.
For example, one thing that I picked up on while watching the show was a way to cut my costs on tea simply by using the bags twice. While I'm not taking it to the extreme by using them seven or eight times as an "extreme" saver might, the idea was a good one to enhance my savings but not get ridiculous with it.
Tracking and Analysis can Pay Off
Wow, and I thought I was crazy with my tracking spreadsheets! After watching Extreme Cheapskates, I realized that I'm not the only one who finds the information garnered from these financial tools to be valuable, and I haven't taken it anywhere close to the level that some others have.
While I already track income and expenses, and while I use spreadsheets to look for ways to cut costs in areas like utilities, home costs, baby costs, and similar expenses, there is still room to grow. While tracking such costs has helped me cut these expenses by thousands of dollars, drilling down into subcategories in these areas by doing things like breaking baby costs into diapers, clothing, food, etc. or food costs into product types, I can begin to get an even better feel for ways in which I could further stretch our family dollars.
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