Vermont Man: Cheap and Proud of It

Frugal man reuses paper towels; asks for strangers' leftovers at restaurants.

October 10, 2008, 10:11 AM

Dec. 12, 2008— -- He's a man known by many nicknames -- the "frugal fanatic," "the tycoon of tightwads," "the cheapest man in America." And they all make him proud, especially in the current economy.

Vermont's Roy Haynes wears each of his nicknames as a badge of honor. At 55 years old, he has no debt, no mortgage and no car payments. He doesn't have a real job, but he earns about $15,000 a year -- enough to get by.

His wife, Lisa Haynes, has endured his penny-pinching ways since he started courting her on the cheap 20 years ago.

Haynes, ever the romantic, recalled his proposal of marriage.

"Lisa and I had been living together for a number of years. Then I found out I needed some dental surgery and being a practical guy, I proposed so I could be covered under [Lisa's] policy," he said. "The entire wedding cost $70. We stopped by McDonald's on the way home. The neighbors threw rice. So, naturally I swept it up and cooked it for dinner."

Every Woman Loves Roses -- From a Funeral Home

For his wife, Haynes' cheap ways know no bounds.

"Roy sometimes thinks he's a romantic kind of a guy," Lisa Haynes said. "He did bring me a nice bouquet of roses. I found out he got them from a funeral home after they were discarded!"

"It's the thought that counts!" Haynes said.

For Haynes, the best things in life are free. He can turn a simple courtesy-sample buffet at a store into a four-course meal. From free cheese samples at Cabot Cheese, to free cookies at the Trapp Family Lodge, to free chocolate from a Vermont chocolate factory, he turns visits to neighboring tourist towns into a dining event with his wife.

On the rare occasion Haynes actually spends money for food, dining out with him comes with a price all its own.

"We don't go out to eat often," he said. "Lisa says I can only go to the same place twice -- the first time to eat, the second time to apologize."

"He sees that there's a leftover at somebody else's table he'll ask and want to take that food home," Lisa Haynes said. "Sometimes I'd like to kill him when he takes home other people's food."

From Frugality Comes Profits

The couple is welcome at the Bridge Street Café in Richmond. Owner Marvin Carpenter finds Haynes' unique ways may be a sign of things to come.

"It's going to be a long winter," he said. "The economy is going to be so much tougher. … There may be a line fighting for the table scraps."

For Haynes, saving money and economizing is half the fun. Figuring out clever ways to earn money is the flip side of his coin. From bartering with neighbors and stores for goods to turning donated clothing into cash by reselling them, he is constantly stretching every dollar he earns.

Never one to waste, he rips two-ply toilet paper in half in order to get more use. And he not only reuses his paper towels more than once, he also washes them clean after use and hangs them on the clothing line to dry.

He's also not shy about digging through other people's garbage. The self-proclaimed professional Dumpster diver said he's literally turned trash into treasure.

"There's those scratch-off lottery tickets that people, if they lose, toss them right in the trash. That's the wrong thing to do because they have a second-chance drawing," Haynes said. "We won that great trip to Maui, Hawaii, all expenses paid, just by investing a few postage stamps with someone else's discarded tickets."

Haynes' passion for "waste not want not" extends to animals that have been cast out, and more frequently, abandoned because of a dire economic situation.

Roy and Lisa Haynes share their passion for pets. They run a charitable organization called Save Our Strays.

"The bad economy doesn't really affect me at all because I've been living as if there was a depression or recession on anyway," Haynes said. "I am a firm believer in getting something for nothing. If it's free, it is for me."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events