Embracing Your Inner Cheapskate

Lauren Weber Eats Discarded Food, Reuses Plastic Bags and Makes Own Detergent

For Lauren Weber, saving money is an obsession. A self-declared "cheapskate," Weber says she eats old food discarded by restaurants, washes out and reuses plastic bags -- even digs through the trash to save money.

She just might be one of the cheapest people in America, but if you follow her advice, you might just save yourself rich.

"I can save about 30 percent of my income," said Weber, 38. "I think more people should embrace their inner cheapskate. We lost that sense that thrift is a virtue, and it started to become a punch line, something we make fun of people for. And I'd like to make it so that nobody has to feel ashamed that their intention is to live as cheaply as possible."

On the Cheap
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Following in the footsteps of her frugal father, who Weber says would set the thermostat at 50 degrees in the dead of winter in their Connecticut home and rationed toilet paper, Weber learned early in life how small everyday decisions can add up to big bucks.

"I put a clip on the end of the toothpaste to get every last squeeze," she said as an example.

Weber, who now lives in the Queens section of New York City, wrote a book about frugality in America called "In Cheap We Trust."

To learn some of her savings secrets, ABC News spent a day in the life of a "cheapskate," following her and tallying the annual savings along the way.

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Weber got rid of her car, relying on biking, walking and public transit to get around, which saves about $3,000 a year.

"I was probably spending about $300 to $400 a month total on transportation," Weber said. "Now, I basically just pay for a subway metro card, which is $90."

Weber also walks out of protest when it comes to those pesky ATM fees that can be as high as $3 per transaction.

"I have been to known to walk about 45 minutes out of my way just to go to my own bank so I don't have to pay the ATM fees," Weber said. "It's those extra little fees and charges that add up. I will do everything I can to avoid them."

"If I have the extra time I don't mind. The way I see it it's also exercise," she said.

This saves another $100 a year, she says.

One place you won't catch Weber walking toward is the mall. She avoids temptation by instead opting for local thrift stores.

Bathing Suits at Thrift Stores

"I try to spend less than $5 on my jeans," Weber said.

At her local Salvation Army in Astoria, Queens, Weber found a huge selection of designer clothes and shoes -- almost as good as new -- for less than $10.

She spotted a pair of gray shoes with a Barneys label, priced at $6.99. "Probably new these would have been $150, maybe $200, and they're in good shape," she said.

Savings from buying used clothes: $800 a year.

But just how far is she willing to go? A used pink bra for $1.50?

"I probably would. I have bought bathing suits at thrift stores," Weber said. "I'm not a squeamish person to begin with. What could possibly be wrong with it? I wash everything in hot water."

When she washes her finds from the thrift store, Weber uses her homemade laundry detergent.

"This is all stuff you can get at any grocery store. Basically the ingredients are one cup of Borax and one cup of this super washing soda," she said. Adding in one bar of grated Ivory soap, she says her homemade supplies will last her years.

Laundry savings: $15 a year, but Weber said her homemade supplies will last her years.

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