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January 11, 2012

Huntington, Vt.'s Roy Haynes featured on TLC's "Extreme Cheapskates"


Clicking past the cable TV channel TLC is like trying to walk by a train wreck: It's a gruesome disaster unfolding before your eyes but your morbid curiosity just won't let you look away. Such was the case last night when some friends and I chanced upon TLC — which, I suspect, now stands for Total Lunatics Channel — only to see a recent episode of "Extreme Cheapsakes." The show regularly features "average" Americans who try to stretch every penny well beyond its normal tensile strength. 

As the episode started, it previewed all that was to come, including a Kansas City woman, Angela Coffman, who refuses to buy toilet paper for her family and instead uses reusable cloth wipes, which she washes wih the rest of her laundry. There was a collective groan of revulsion in the room at the sight of her kids holding up the skidmarked rags — "Don't worry, they're clean!" mom insists. But before the channel could be changed to something less nauseating, we all began to recognize some familiar local landmarks.

Lo and behold, this week's episode (original air date: December 28, 2011) prominently featured Vermonter Roy Haynes, aka the self-anointed "cheapest man in America." Haynes, 58, lives with his wife, LIsa, in a surprisingly attractive house in Huntington. There, the couple runs a dog-rescue shelter called Save Our Strays, which was featured in Seven Days' March 2009 Animal Issue. Previously, Haynes was also featured for his Dumpster-diving proficiency in this September 2003 7D story, "Cheap Tricks." 

For me, the most compelling aspect of "Extreme Cheapskates" — other than the fact that its subjects allowed a national television crew to come into their homes and document what, to a layman, appear to be diagnosable disorders — is how my feeling toward these people ran the gamut from disgust to embarrassment to pity to, yes, modest admiration.

Admittedly, it's highly unlikely I'll ever shop for my wife's wedding anniversary gift in a Dumpster, as Roy Haynes does (see video above) or, more revoltingly, ask fellow patrons in a restaurant if I can take home their uneaten leftovers for my own consumption. Still, Haynes definitely walks the walk when it comes to rejecting American consumerism, and even offers a few levelheaded suggestions for stretching a buck, including cutting a toothpaste tube in two when seems to be empty, just to get another week's worth of toothpaste out of it. As for separating the two-ply toilet paper into two rolls? Hmm... not so much.

By the end, I couldn't decide whether Roy Haynes comes across as über-frugal or just bat-shit crazy. There's no denying that his wife, Lisa, is a bit of an enabler, but she's also a saint for putting up with his endless mishigas. (Lisa has her own story worth telling: She's a former pro wrestler who went by the stage name Lisa the Adjuster before taking in the stray dogs.)

Still, there's also something a bit touching about this love story, even if it began when Roy married her  so he could get some much-needed dental work done through Lisa's generous health insurance policy. According to Roy, the couple were married on a Tuesday and he got the dental work done the following day. Zing! Cupid's arrow, right through the bicuspid! 

Check out more ideas from the cheapest man in America:


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