Extreme Cheapskate CPA: NY Living on the Cheap

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By Teresa Ambord

By day, Kate Hashimoto is an employed New York CPA. By night, she's a self-confessed "extreme cheapskate" whose entire focus seems to be on ways to spend almost nothing. She spends so little, in fact, that the TLC network recently followed her for a couple of days to feature her in an episode of its new show Extreme Cheapskates
 
Here's a peek at how much she spends and how much she puts into savings every month:
  • Food: $15
  • Toiletries: $0.17
  • Clothing: $0 for the last eight years
  • Housing costs for her condo: $237 in real estate tax and condo fees
  • Amount put into savings: $4,000 plus $1,000 into her 401(k)
 
According to the breakdown above, her monthly net is over $5,000 and her monthly outgo is about $252. How does she do it? You may not want to know all the details.
 
Most of the food she eats comes from the refuse of upscale restaurants. Kate lives in Harlem, but treks to the Upper West Side three times a week to scavenge through the trash put on the curb by eateries there. The restaurants don't allow that, said Kate, but she maintains that once trash is put on the curb it's legal to pick through. In an effort to gain sympathy from restaurant managers, before embarking on her dumpster diving, she dons old clothes that make her appear destitute. She still gets told to leave, but that doesn't bother her much.
 
Most of the food, she said, is totally edible. A lot is thrown out because it has reached the expiration date, but Kate takes it home and, depending on what it is, will continue to eat it, months and years after it has technically expired. "Consumers in wealthy areas expect their products to be perfect," she explained, "so upscale stores throw out a lot of items that are still good. New York can be the most expensive place to live, but it can also be the least expensive if you know how to work the system."
 
Occasionally she'll pay cash for food items, but she approaches vendors with a handful of coins that equal much less than the actual price and asks vendors if they'll settle for a smaller amount. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. If it doesn't, she moves on.
 
On the reality show, Kate is seen having guests to her condo for dinner - a rare event. The guests are a colleague and his girlfriend, who are fully aware that her lifestyle is "cheap." But when she serves them a meal and then tells them the food was picked out of restaurant trash, they suddenly decide the food is stale and doesn't taste right, and they quickly leave.
 
Personal items like shampoo, toothpaste, and feminine hygiene products come mostly in the form of free samples, which she avidly pursues. Sometimes she participates in clinical trials and product testing to get items - including five years' worth of free birth control. Other times she takes online surveys in exchange for gift cards.
 
What about toilet paper? She refuses to buy anything that's going to be thrown away. Instead, she opts for the old soap and water routine. On TV, she actually sat on the toilet to give a demonstration of how it's done. 
 
Hashimoto has never purchased furniture, preferring to do her "shopping" on the streets. She sleeps on used yoga mats, which she said are very comfortable. On the show, she invited her visitors to sit on her bed to test the comfort but they refused, rudely suggesting it was probably filthy and might have bugs. 
 
She has no transportation costs because, instead, she runs to work. "I was extremely angry about the latest round of subway fare hikes," she told New York Post reporters.
 
Her housing costs are minimal because she owns her condo outright. She purchased the tiny Harlem studio in 2010 for $200,000 and paid it off nine months later. That's obviously one great result of her thrift. Still, with all due respect to frugality, why would a person making a decent living opt for such extreme austerity?
 
"No job is guaranteed, so I live as if I could be fired at any time," she told reporters. "I've always been frugal, but it was when I was laid off in the dot.com crash that I became extreme." 
 
There's no arguing that her methods work. Needless to say, not everyone has a taste or the will to live life Hashimoto style.
 
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"Sometimes she participates in clinical trials and product testing to get items - including five years' worth of free birth control."

Why would she need birth control ??

think about it if your on birth control you get your period maybe 3 times a year thats a lot of money you just saved from not having to but pads and tampons

Respect! for her self reliance life style. she doesn't harm anyone. she made herself rags to riches by her own, not like most people complains about the society or living on welfare system with other ppls tax dollars.

I feel sorry for Kate, If she likes to live that way...it is her privilege, but
forget about a social life, and yes---she is going to be fired!!!!!!

Fired...for what? i never seen anything she did or does that would lead to being terminated.I really hope people will wake up and enjoy ones freedom to live his or her own life.What is wrong with saving money.Some people veiw some things as extreme and i could label even people like you as extreme.america is spoiled and needs to wake up and im really sad that if the life alot of people are used to comes to an end,many will not make it but maybe its for the best..i will miss you brother.

She's helping save the environment and everyone on earth in her own way by not feeding the greedy and destructive consumer culture that pervades our society. Better than what most of us achieve. Respect to Kate for her choices and actions, as unconventional as they may be. She is braver than I am.

Kate..honestly there is no excuse for your lifestyle. It is abhorrent. You must be one lonely girl as no one could ever live with you. Even your friends left early. If you want to east dumpster food go for it, but don't have the nerve to expect your friends to indulge in your very strange habits. If you want to get food poisoning that is your choice..don't make other people sick with your bizarre lifestyle.

its people like you that need a wake up brother.this is america or a shell of what used to be america.everyone could take some lessons on saving money but as the show is titled extreme and you should watch again how she picks her food.restraunts and stores are regulated to throw out food after so many days but that does not mean it is spoiled.I would say that you should stick to store bought items or dining out and hope the stores stay full of food but i know Kate might survive and others like you will be starving if the day comes you cant swipe a card and buy food delivered to the store..lol.

I just brought some chocolates/candy and juice to a small house party last night. They were expired by 2 months at least. No one knew, and they loved me for bringing these treats (that I ate as well). All the food and drink were gone by 2h after me arriving, while the other stuff people brought (bought at stores) were hardly touched.

Sure, I haven't worked up to "fresh" unpackaged items, but baby steps.

I'd hardly call those people she invited into her home her friends. They were rude and condescending. The guy *knew* what he was getting into. Just went on the show to make fun. Typical cam whore.

If I were Kate, I would have at least put on some nicer clothes and tidied up a bit. Nothing says cringe than going to a friends house and see socks drying on top of a microwave, and clothes strewn all over the place.

Food poisoning from what exactly? From day of expiry thrown out food? From processed/prepackaged food? Oh puleeese. She seems in more shape than most Americans I've seen. She exercises on a daily basis and eats healthy (fruits, veggies).

I absolutely LOVE Kate. She is my girl! She has this down to a science. Do not underestimate her.

I think that although saing money in different ways can seem to extreme,i believe that is the number one problem in america today of people spending to much and society today in general is spoiled including the government.I like kates attitude and people can learn from her.I would look her up if i was in NY.

she has a mental disease---Im sure of that..u can be cheap..but she went to farrrr

If a mental disease keeps you debt free (in today's American society), pays off a $200,000 home in one of the countries most expensive neighborhoods in under a year, and have $250,000 in the bank in 2 years time - sign me up!

You know, this made me think, if she paid off that condo in 9 months. That mean she was making payments of at least 22K dollars a month. Not including interests. This lady is making at least 300K a year as a licensed CPA, however, http://www.indeed.com/salary/q...

Average is around 100K a year.... something is very off here which makes think that this show is full of BS. She puts down 4000K into her savings account MONTHLY. Something is not right here

Good point, but they did not say what her down-payment was. If she put down $150,000 on the apartment then she could easily pay it off in 9 months.

Except for the dumpster food, I think that she is a cool chick.
Is she married?
She is very cute!

She just needs to brush up on her cooking skills (not dumping everything into a pot and serve) and she'll do just fine.

This is exactly the type of shit women run into, domestic sterotyping that is too awfully convenient for men.

Is she married..........

You should be very proud of yourself Kate. You have your own flat in New York, all paid off. I wish I could be this structered.. you are so smart and beautiful.

At first I wasn't sure what to think,.. but I started to understand why and now I really respect. Her fear of not having and had have lost made this pretty young lady become self reliant. The fact that she survives in one of the most expensive city makes her an incredible CPA. Yes not every method works for safety reasons but in looking at it in all, a penny save is a penny earned.She doesn't rely on any government help, she refuse's to become a burden on tax's payers, I have a lot of respect for her. I'm sure that she has sacrificed a lot in her life, but I can tell you that this lady is a gem. She would be a great true friend. If I ever get a chance to go out with her , of course my treat, I know that we would have fun. Why you might ask,,,because she doesn't hide anything. That's an honest person, I truly like that in a person and in a CPA.

Watching her episode now. Pretty sure she doesn't need that free 5 years worth of birth control...

kate..I want a date..I think you are cute and quirky..like me!

Kate, I want to be your friend and love you!

I don't see why everyone is applauding her when she is preying on sympathy from others to get out of paying a fair price for goods. I rented a room out of an older lady's house a few summers ago and she would go to the Farmers market in old clothes and strategically places random crumpled dollar bills and coins throughout her wardrobe and puts on an act trying to put together money to buy corn or whatever she needs in the hopes that the kind farmers will take less out of sympathy. This crap makes me sick because its outright manipulation for personal gain. Not to mention you are losing all dignity doing this.

Of course if your really down on luck, you do what you gotta do. But people who do this just because they are cheap should not get praise for it.

Cool that she wants to save and all. But eating food out of the dumpster is just asking to get food poisoning. If you've ever worked in the food industry, you understand food temperature safety zones. You never know what may be on the food in those dumpsters. Someone could have puke or peed in there and you'd never really know. Gross.

I honestly can't wait until the day when she gets a severe foodborne illness from doing what she does. Hopefully, it'll teach her.

Is it possible the restaurants she's getting the food from could get sued if she falls ill? I ask because that lady who worked at the bakery she was dumpster diving from came out yelling at her.

yes. absolutely. But at the same time, she should know that eating expired/thrown out food could very easily make her sick whether by dropping in temperature or other unseen by the human eye bacteria that has grown on said food.

I can understand wanting to save the environment but dumpster diving for food that's not at all sanitary and not allowing yourself AC in New York City heat (on days that are 90 and above) can have a real adverse effect on your health.