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The dangers of being an extreme cheapskate

22 July 2014, 16:43Susan Erasmus

Abuja - Few people like wasting money, and there are few things that make us feel as good as getting a good bargain. In some countries, such as the US, many people discard perfectly useful goods. I once rescued an antique mirror from a heap of discarded furniture by the roadside in Ohio. All it needed was new glass. It now hangs in my hallway after being flown home in my suitcase.

But the people on TLC's Extreme Cheapskates are more than cheap – they are pathological. Many of them don’t even need to save money. Their extreme stinginess actually poses a danger to themselves, their families and their relationships. They also employ false economy: driving around in search of a bargain means any saving is cancelled out by the cost of the petrol.

For these people saving has become an obsession: and a life-threatening, unsanitary and dangerous one at that. Of course, the programme is edited for maximum shock effect, but even so, some of these things are enough to make you squirm for a week.

Take the case of the pregnant woman who looks for discarded medication in dumpsters behind pharmacies (drugstores). The reason medication is discarded is often because it has expired and could possibly be dangerous/ineffective. Either way, this just isn’t safe to do, especially if you’re pregnant. Whatever happened to following dosage instructions? And what’s more, no one should take any medication without speaking to a doctor or pharmacist – and they’re not standing next to the dumpsters waiting to give advice.

Love hurts
Then there was the couple who shared earbuds and dental floss. Apart from the serious yuck factor, this is how infections are spread. If you use the same earbud in both ears, and you have an infection in one ear, pretty soon you will have one in the other one too. And about the dental floss, the question is probably whether you love your partner enough to share gum infections? Maybe misery does love company.

You light up my life
Here comes the couple who so hate the idea of spending money on electricity, they have only one light bulb, which they carry around with them and screw it in where they need it. Their chances of an electric shock, or a serious injury while climbing up on chairs are huge. Guys. Light bulbs are cheap. It costs a few cents to burn a light bulb for hours. That’s not the thing pushing up your electricity bill. Get real.

Dumpster dining
Quite a few participants in these programmes take food out of rubbish bins, or dumpsters as they are called in the US. Ever heard of food poisoning? Stuff that has passed its sell-by date (or use-by date) might still be OK to eat, but why take the chance if it isn’t a question of survival? Also much of this food should be refrigerated, and no one knows how long it’s been lying in the dumpsters. The worst was the woman who served up dumpster food to her guests. Fine, if you want to poison yourself by trying to save money, but why do this to others (and then tell them about it?)

Washing machine hijacker
Don’t feel like paying for your own laundry to be washed? An extreme cheapskate solution to his problem is to hang around laundromats and wait until someone puts in only half a load of washing, and sneak yours in while they’re not looking. Just one thing: ever wondered if they might be washing their 15-year-old dog’s blanket, or their incontinent grandmother’s pyjamas? The mind boggles.

Party pooper
Flushing a toilet pushes up the water bill. Meet the people who don’t flush theirs for a week. It’s party-time for all the bacteria in the neighbourhood. Even in the days of the long-drop, people put a layer of sand on the latest arrivals – for a reason.

Movie madness
How would you feel if your partner went to fetch you popcorn and a cooldrink during the movie – only, he didn’t pay for it. These things are bottomless (in America, at least), so he fished empty containers out of the bin that previous movie-goers discarded, and presented them at the counter for a free refill.

Till death us do part
And finally, the couple who want to share a coffin. Right, but there is one problem: few couples die at the same time. Well, this lot has the solution: when the second one shuffles off this mortal coil, dig up the first one and shove in the second one. Devotion is such a special thing.

- Women24

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