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Like me, you probably love to find new ways to save money. But how far will you go to save a dollar (or $100 or $1,000)?
In an article on possibly unethical savings hacks I admitted to sneaking food into a theater.
My wife and I lived in our van for a month to save on hotel rooms while traveling.
I’ve collected a lot of wild edibles over the years to save on groceries.
But all that seems like normal behavior compared to the things some frugal people do. Consider Roy Haynes, reported on in my article on crazy ways to save money. He reuses his dental floss and he takes other people’s leftovers home from restaurants.
Speaking for myself, that’s going too far, but what about you? With my research (and my life) providing plenty of new examples of extreme frugality, it’s time to ask the question again… which of the following would you do to save money?
1. Collect Sink Water to Water Plants
I have a neighbor who disconnected the drain pipe and put a five-gallon pail under the kitchen sink to catch the water. She uses the dirty dishwater collected in this way to water her flowers and vegetables, in order to save money (and to be environmentally friendly).
Would you go to that much trouble to save money on your water bill?
2. Wash Your Hair Once Weekly
Hair stylists will tell you that washing your hair too often damages it. And in any case, less-frequent washing means you’ll save money on water and shampoo.
How long should you wait between washes? I found one blogger who says she washes her hair just once per week. She might even stop using shampoo.
Would you wash your hair only once weekly to save money (and make your hair healthier)?
3. Scavenge From the Dead
The first time my wife and I lived in Tucson, Arizona we had a small apartment furnished only with a cheap air mattress. So when the landlord let us into the apartment of a recently deceased tenant to take any furniture we wanted, we jumped at the opportunity.
Not knowing where he died, we avoided the suspiciously-stained easy chair, but we snagged wooden chairs, end tables, and a lamp. The landlord assured us that no family members were coming for the stuff.
Would you feel comfortable scavenging and using things from a dead person’s apartment?
4. Scavenge From a Murderer
When I was young I was hitchhiking across Montana, and I was picked up by a nice lady who was returning home from her brother’s murder trial.
He had cut his girlfriend into pieces, she explained, as she showed me a newspaper story on the trial — and then let me stay in her brother’s bedroom for the night.
In the morning she offered me her brother’s shirts and expensive cowboy boots, telling me, “He won’t be needing any of this now.” For all I knew they might have been the clothes he wore while committing the murder. I told her I didn’t have room in my backpack.
Would you wear free clothes from a murderer or serial killer to save a few bucks?
5. Burn Everything for Heat
If you have a wood stove or fireplace, you can save money by purchasing less firewood and burning other things. According to OffTheGridNews.com, your options include yard waste, DIY paper logs, cotton “rag-logs,” lumber scraps, and old wooden furniture.
But don’t burn everything! Plastic items, roofing materials, charcoal, and treated lumber all give off toxic fumes, and burning flammable substances like old oil or gasoline will likely cause a fire or explosion.
My wife and I lived in our van for a month when we left that apartment in Tucson, and we took along the dead guy’s furniture to burn in our nightly campfires.
How far would you go to save money on firewood?
6. Pee in the Shower
If you pee while in the shower you’ll save water (and money) by flushing the toilet less often. But that’s not all.
One shower-peeing advocate offers eight reasons to pee in the shower, including the fact that it’s good for the environment, saves on bathroom cleaning costs, and… (wait for it) it can help cure foot fungus.
Is peeing in the shower to save money going too far?
7. Make Free Lemonade
Most restaurants and bars bring you free water with a slice of lemon in it, and will give you extra lemon if you ask. Add to that a packet of free sugar from the condiment basket, and you have lemonade.
Is that going too far, or will you try it?
8. Skip Holiday Traditions
I haven’t bought a Christmas present in decades. I’m not religious anyhow, but it also saves me a lot of money.
I never buy fireworks for the fourth of July. This too saves me a lot of money, and in any case I can always enjoy watching all the fireworks other people buy.
My wife and I refuse to contribute to more dental decay in children by handing out candy on Halloween, so we just turn off the lights. This too, obviously saves us money.
It’s tough to avoid holiday expenditures altogether, because there’s a fair amount of social pressure to participate. But if you start opting out of traditions early in life, as I did, people get used to your non-participation.
Would you consider dropping out of holiday traditions to save money?
9. Unplug Everything at Night
Many devices in your home keep using power even when they’re turned off. These include phone chargers, VCRs, coffee pots, laptop cords, and televisions. Duke Energy says these “energy vampires” can add up to 20% of your monthly electric bill.
The solution? The extreme one is to unplug everything when you’re not using it. Of course, you’ll have to reset the clocks on the microwave and other appliances every day.
How far do you go in unplugging things to save on electricity?
10. Use Jars as Glasses
Who hasn’t done this? Peanut butter jars in particular make great beer glasses, since they easily hold a whole can and the ice (yes, I use ice to chill and extend the beer).
Do you use jars in place of cups and glasses?
11. Hang Out With Low-Income Friends
Income level determines how much people spend, at least to some degree. For example, as frugal as we are, when my wife and I made more money, we ate at more expensive restaurants.
That’s not a problem, but it becomes one if you spend much time with friends who make a lot more money than you. They’ll think nothing of meeting you at a bar that has $7 beers, or at a movie theater for non-matinee flicks.
On the other hand, if you spend time with poorer friends, you’ll typically spend less.
So, would you adjust your social schedule to spend more time with lower-income friends just to reduce your expenditures?
12. Pull the Stems off Cherries
On a Reddit thread on cheapness one contributor says she knows a man who pulls the stems off cherries in the supermarket, so they’ll weigh less and cost less.
I suppose you could also pull off the loose outer layers of onions that are priced per-pound, and look for other ways to lighten fruits and vegetables.
Would you modify grocery produce to reduce the cost?
13. Cut Open the Toothpaste Tube
When financial guru Dave Ramsey asked his Facebook fans for their money-saving strategies, one woman admitted that she cuts open each toothpaste tube at the end, to get out the last of the toothpaste.
Is cutting open the tube to get the last bit of toothpaste worth the time and trouble?
14. Make Reusable Cloth Toilet Paper
Yes, this is for real. There is even a nice tutorial (with photos) on how to make your own cloth reusable wipes, and how to handle/wash them between uses.
I suppose it’s not so different from using cloth diapers on a baby, but I think I’ll pass (I’m not even sure how much you save after accounting for laundry soap and hot water costs).
Is making and using recyclable wipes to save money on toilet paper going too far?
15. Live in a Tent
My friend used to live in a tent during the warmer months in Michigan, which allowed him to save enough money to rent a small cabin on Lake Michigan during the rest of the year.
He spent part of that time at campground with showers, but to save even more money you could rough it and stay in national forests and other free places.
For inspiration and tips you can watch a YouTube video on living in a tent to save money, by a guy who did this for two years.
Buying a cheap piece of land on which to park your tent might make sense too.
Would you ever consider living in a tent to save money?
16. Go Completely Homeless
It might seem like a big step down, even from a tent in a park, but I know several people who have chosen to be homeless and live in cars, under bridges, and so on.
For example, a veteran with whom I play chess lives on a fixed monthly income of $1,000, and he alternates between sharing a place with someone and living in the bush on cardboard (or under bridges) for months at a time, just to save money for traveling.
Would you ever consider being homeless as a way to save money?
How Far is Too Far?
In researching this article I ran across some pretty shady ways to save money, like keeping a soda cup from a fast food restaurant and using it for endless free soda refills. And timing a breakup just to save on a birthday gift? I hope that one was a joke.
But in case you’re wondering if you are going too far to save a buck, here are some clues:
- You Start to Cross Ethical Lines
- You Buy Too Much in the Name of Frugality
- You Undervalue Your Time
- You Don’t Account for the Long-Term Cost
- You Deny Your Needs and Desires
- You Risk Your Health
Those are from the post, “6 Signs That You’re Too Frugal,” which you can read in its entirety for examples and explanations of each sign.
If you have your own stories or examples of extreme frugality, please share them below … and keep on frugaling!