24 Stories of Cheapness That Will Make You Wonder How These People Even Survive

From reusing paper towels to taking home leftover napkins from restaurants, these examples of extreme cheapness will astound you. Brace yourself for a wild ride of frugality that defies all logic! These people take cheap to a whole new level!

Levels of Cheapness That Have Astonished You

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Someone asked, What levels of cheapness have astonished you? and the responses were, in fact, astonishing.

Get ready for a wild ride!

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Related: 10 Best Examples of Being Cheap vs. Being Frugal 

Year Old Leftovers

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Someone shared a story, “My girlfriend invited me to her mother’s birthday dinner, and tonight she revealed to me we would be dining on left overs from her brother’s rehearsal dinner a year ago. Maybe saving leftovers for work the next day, but a year later.”

The Good Napkins

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Someone shared a story about their grandparents, “When I was a little kid, I used to spend summers at my grandparents’ house, and one of my chores was to set the table before dinner every night. Whenever we were having company over for dinner, I was instructed to use “the good napkins.” That meant the napkins that didn’t have restaurant logos printed on them.”

Come Ahead of the Deal

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via DepositPhotos.com.

The same person continued, “We only went to restaurants when my grandmother felt she could come out ahead on the deal, and there were many ways to accomplish this. She clipped coupons, of course, but that was kids’ stuff. Any time she did anything for someone, she’d get them to take her to dinner to “return the favor.” She had an enormous purse, which generally came back stuffed with napkins and food from the buffet. She didn’t see much point in going to any restaurant that didn’t at least have a salad bar. One year, when my mother and I offered to take her to dinner for her birthday, we ended up having to drive over an hour to get to a Sizzler she hadn’t been banned from.”

Perhaps the grandmother lived during The Great Depression, and that’s why she was so cheap.

Sweet N Low

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Someone said, “At my local Dunkin’ Donuts, you have to ask the workers specifically if you want a packet of sugar/Sweet ‘n’ Low or one of those little half-and-half containers because the senior citizens in the area used to come in, and take them all so they wouldn’t have to buy them in the store and the workers had to take them all away.”

Only for His Kids

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One person shared a terrible story, “My aunt and uncle were visiting with their two kids. My uncle asked me if I wanted to go to Friendly’s for ice cream. He bought himself and his two kids ice cream then asked if I had money for myself. I was 9 so I did not have any money. He said “too bad” and started back towards his car.”

Pull the Stems off the Cherries

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One person answered, “My mom had a boyfriend that would pull the stems off of cherries before purchasing them from the grocery store because he felt they’d weigh less without the stems, and he’d get more for the money.

How much do cherry stems even weigh?

Pay for Leftovers

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Someone replied with this story:

“A group of folks went out for dinner at a convention, and several people had leftovers. When we returned, one of the people who had not been able to get out to dinner was bummed, so one of the diners said, “Well, I have some leftovers, if you’d like them.”


“Okay, my meal was $10, and there’s about half of it left, so you owe me…”

No, I am not kidding. No, it was not me.”


girl with two oranges looking weird
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Someone nice enough to share candy shared some cheap behavior they see, “In my department where I work, I always have a small basket of candy (jolly ranchers, tootsie rolls, life savers) out for my customers. Most are most appreciative and ask “are these free?” and take one, maybe two and thank me for the candy. Then there are some customers..who just walk up and take HANDFULLS of the candy. Once I had an older man dump the entire thing into his man purse, look straight at me and walk out.”

One Lightbulb

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“I knew a farmer who only had one lightbulb; he would carry it around with him all the time. Taking it from one room to another if he needed to,” someone wrote.

Wow! That is the next level.

Another person commented, “My great-grandfather did this during the depression.”

Cheapskate Company

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khosrork via DepositPhotos.com.

Someone shared how the company they work for is cheap and miserly, “The company I work for won’t buy us pens,” he wrote.

Ice Cream at the Fair

five kids inside a tube playing cheap indoor activities for kids
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I don’t know if this is cheap or just plain rude.

Someone shared this story, “Last night, this happened at a fair. The man at the front of the line for ice cream offered to pay for all the kids in the family behind him because he was taking awhile. He gave the booth $40 bucks and said what was ever left over should go to the charity (the church was running the ice cream booth). The people with the kids ice cream totaled $21 and they insisted for the change back. It wasn’t even their money!! When the lady refused she asked for the manager!”

Dumpster Dive

Couple throwing away raw meat in kitchen at home
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This person shared some very bad life choices made by their friend, “I have a friend who is full-on gluten intolerant. However, he’s SO CHEAP that he’ll go to ANY LENGTHS to avoid paying for food (or anything else!)…When he found out, he could dumpster unlimited bread in San Francisco, that became the staple- nay, the entirety- of his diet. He spends his days moaning in agony as his insides churn and roil, suffering from constant fiery diarrhea… yet he continues to eat his glutinous meals merely because they’re free!”

No AC or Heat

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Someone replied with a story about their selfish roommate, “I lived with 3 other people during my Junior year of college, and one of them insisted on keeping the AC off in the summer and the heat off in the winter (even though we lived in campus housing and didn’t pay for any utilities) just so she could prepare herself for the following year when she would be living on her own in an apartment and never using it to save money. I got fed up, found the manual for the thermostat online, and set it to never be allowed to go above a certain temperature in the summer and never go below a certain temperature in the winter.”

Single Cup of Coffee

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benzoix via DepositPhotos.com.

This story is a family affair, “At Ikea, coffee is bottomless (now a cup is free with the Ikea family card) but before that it was like $2. My girlfriend’s friend, and her family, would go in and buy one cup and it would be passed along to each member to get their turn. They would apparently be there for hours socializing over a single coffee.”

Jello From 1996

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Someone shared a story about Jello, “My grandparents lived through the depression. They waste nothing. Their freezer is a menagerie of ancient treasures. Last year we ate Thanksgiving at their house. My mom did all the cooking, but my grandma contributed a couple of desserts. One was a marshmallowy jello sort of thing with pistachios. When we got done eating, she proudly declared that it had been sitting in the freezer since 1996. She was afraid we’d find out and would waste it by not eating it.”

Charge Gameboy for 30 Seconds

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One person wrote, “At my friend’s house in the second grade, I was only allowed to charge my Gameboy for 30 seconds because electricity was too expensive.”

Food From Buffet

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Someone else wrote, “A lady I used to know was thrown out of a buffet for filling her purse with food. She was actually offended and called the manager!”

Split One Hamburger

woman fast food restaurant worker holding a burger
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One person shared a story from their childhood, “My aunt and uncle once brought me out to eat with my cousins. We went to McDonald’s, ordered one hamburger from the dollar menu, and split it three ways with my cousins.”

One person commented, “That would make me more hungry than I started out!”

Cheap Wine

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Someone wrote a story about their coworker, “Work dinner party, about 25 us coming, potluck. Co-worker says, “I’ll bring the wine!” She brings four open bottles, each between 1/3 and 2/3 full.”

Reuse Paper Towel

woman leaning on kitchen counter and holding washing sponge
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“Using the same paper towel over and over again. So whenever my family and I visit my grandma, we always make sure to throw it out. She buys new groceries and other toiletries, but for some reason, she thinks that throwing away paper towels is extremely wasteful….” someone wrote.

Return the Tree

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One person worked in a store, “At one of my former places of employment, a woman returned her Christmas tree on December 27th.”

He later added, “I don’t think she desperately needed money, as some have suggested. Given her attitude when speaking to the manager, she just seemed, well, cheap.”

Camping Equipment

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Another person shared another unethical way to be cheap; he said, “A friend of my dad goes on a shopping spree at REI before every camping trip and returns everything he bought when he gets back.”

Stealing a Tip

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via DepositPhotos.com.

Buckle up! This story is a doozy! One person wrote, “Went to dinner with some friends and their friends, it was a really nice Japanese place, and we all had a fantastic meal. When it came to pay, we all kinda threw in roughly what we owed with enough spare for a tip, except for one lad who was being tighter than a gnat’s a**** making sure he was only gonna pay exactly what his meal was to the cent and nothing more.”

Shocked About a Tip

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The story continues, “So the receipt comes back, and there’s a good bit of change left over for a tip, but since the staff went above and beyond for us because some of us had special dietary requirements, needed to make sure things were gluten-free and all kinds of picky or awkward things, we wanted to throw in a bit more on as well. Well, this guy was shocked, he couldn’t fathom us leaving a tip! According to him, we were throwing away our money, and the food was already overpriced. We didn’t really think much of it because this is Ireland, and tipping is generally not the done thing here.”

Steal the Tip

Greedy businessman is swimming in water and catching money
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Now for the crazy part! The person contained, “Well, you know what this guy does? When we’re all leaving and getting our coats, he goes back to the table, and grabs the big tip we had left for the staff! I guess we all thought he had forgotten something, or just didn’t notice, but we didn’t find out until later what he had done when we were having drinks in the pub. He said something along the lines of “I should go out for dinner with you lot more often; I came out with more money than I went in with!” What really annoyed us off was that the way he said it, he was so proud of himself. We were all absolutely livid, but he said “sure you didn’t want it anyway” and was acting like we had just tossed our money in the bin.”

Tape Shoes

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One person shared their own cheap behavior! They wrote, “I once wore a pair of shoes until I broke through the soles. Then I wrapped them in duct tape and wore them for another month.”

Chip In for Gas

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This is another absolutely crazy story! One person wrote, “My dad had to go to prison in Kazakhstan for a visa violation. On the way to prison after his court hearing, the cops pulled into a gas station and asked my dad to chip in for gas.”

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This post originally appeared on A Dime Saved.


Hi! I am a millennial mom with a passion for personal finance. I have always been “into” personal finance but got inspired to start my blog after a period of extended unemployment. That experience really changed the way I viewed my relationship with money and the importance of accessible personal finance education.