You think you know cheap? Meet Victoria Hunt, 51, of Columbus, Ohio. She is so cheap that she urinates in a bottle and then empties it in her garden, a move she estimates shaves a couple dollars off her monthly water bill.
"I am also an avid gardner and I read that urine is a component [for a compost]," said Hunt, who is featured in the upcoming TLC series "Extreme Cheapskates."
But Hunt isn't cheap because she's poor. In fact, Hunt is self-made millionaire who owns several houses and has stock and other investments. She retired from her career as an accountant at age 48, and now her primary income comes from her rental properties. Still, she lives on just $12,000 per year, including bills, groceries and even health insurance.
It wasn't always this way; 25 years ago Hunt was a single mother living in a trailer park and receiving government assistance.
"I wanted to be sure I would never be poor again," she recalled about starting her life as a cheapskate around the age of 28. "Some people like pedicures, I enjoy ways to be frugal and save money."
Hunt's cheapness doesn't stop at her bottle toilet routine, and to stay on budget, she meticulously tracks every penny spent in a giant spreadsheet. (For the record, the bottle stays at home, she flushes for number two and when out in public: "I am not concerned with other peoples' water bill!")
Her other cheap tricks include putting her freezer on a timer so it only runs 12 hours a day and taking showers at her gym to save electricity and water. She also dumpster dives and forages for food, sometimes even in her front yard.
"My house had landscaping [when I bought it], and I explored if my yard was edible," Hunt told The Huffington Post. "Most flowers are edible, it turns out. Everything on your lawn that is a weed, like clover and purslane, are all edible." In fact, she now picks her own dandelion roots for herbal tea, instead of paying $8 per box.
While living a life of extreme thrift has allowed Hunt to save money and retire before 50, it hasn't always been easy.
"During my career, I was a cheapskate. My peers were buying bigger houses and there I was with 16-year-old Corolla with broken windows," she said. "A lot of people made fun of me and ... I felt like a black sheep."
But her unorthodox lifestyle hasn't stopped her from finding love. Her boyfriend Steve Barker was "hit really hard" in the recession, she said. In the year-and-a-half they have been dating, they have joined forces to create a life based on modern-day hunting and gathering. They often feast on the fresh -- and free -- venison he has killed while hunting. Meanwhile, Hunt spends her days gathering, both in dumpsters and in the forest.
"It's exciting. When we find nickels and dimes that's a little joy," Hunt said of her dumpster finds, which often include boxes of fresh pastries and cakes. "It's really my hobby, so when I find something, the joy is perfect."
"Extreme Cheapskates" premiers on TLC on Oct. 16.
Forage for food
Victoria Hunt washes wild greens that she has foraged from the forest.
Victoria often goes through grocery store dumpsters to find free food. "It's really my hobby so when I find something [good], the joy is perfect," she says.
Grow your own food
Victoria not only forages for edible plants in her yard, she also gardens to grow vegetables.
Gathering in the wild
Victoria said the best season for foraging for edible wild plants is the spring. "Plants taste best when they are babies," she said.
Finding the sweet spot
The dumpster-diving millionaire says finding whole cakes and boxes of pastries are among her favorite finds.
Unplugging the appliances
Victoria keeps her energy bill to a minimum by unplugging appliances when she is not using them, she said.
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