Extreme Ways to Save Money

Posted by Kristen on March 11, 2013

When I’m looking for inspiration for personal finance tips to write about or want my own tips for myself, sometimes I flip on the television to watch a certain show that gives inspiration on saving. Watching TLC’s Extreme Couponing or Extreme Cheapskates makes me realize just exactly what I would not be willing to do to try and save money. I consider myself a frugal person, but I was shocked to see some of the outrageous, over the top things people do to save money. Here are some examples of the extreme saving methods I myself would not be able to handle, and a handful of extreme saving methods I believe are a little more doable.

Photo Courtesy: Kristen

Extreme Couponing

Clipping coupons are a great way to save money on your grocery bill, but what about when you take the action to extreme? Extreme couponers can spend hours, sometimes even the equivalent to a full-time job searching for coupons online and newspapers, organizing their coupons, and finding stores with those products on sale. Often this excessive planning allows these super couponers to get their entire purchase for free. Besides getting hundreds of dollars of items for free, some even get money returned to them.

Cons: To do it to the degree that’s featured on the show on TLC, it would take way too much valuable time. With the rise in coupons, there was actually instances of coupon fraud and people getting in trouble for stealing coupons from neighbor’s newspapers. Many times, the “stock pile” consists of items that these extreme shoppers don’t even really need or want. Fortunately, the show does feature many couponers who share their stockpile with those in need.

Trash Diving

Trash diving is literally what it sounds like. Freegans, or people looking to not spend any money at all, dig through trash. Clothing, furniture, and house décor are pulled from the trash and brought home. Besides those items, trash divers go to grocery stores and restaurants to dig through their garbage to find food.

While I can appreciate the devotion to not wasting, recycling, and trying to do good for the environment to use what we have, in my opinion, this is a terrible idea. Eating food out of the garbage can get you severely sick. There is no regulation on food that is in the garbage so therefore there could be something wrong with it or bugs or rodents near it transferring diseases to the food. Digging through garbage also raises concern with the legality of it, and it can actually be considered trespassing or theft.

Extreme Frugal Behavior

I do many things each day to save money, but there are extreme frugalists that push the limit. People have stopped flushing the toilet to save water or showered with their clothes on to do double duty washing both themselves and their clothes. Others don’t use toilet paper, but use newspaper to wipe instead. On the show, Extreme Cheapskates, people are shown peeing in bottles as to avoid flushing the toilet, eating expired food, and skip showering to save soap and water.

I’m all for taking a few extra ketchup packets or reusing a cup as to not waste dish soap and water, but these other ways seem to border on poor hygiene. It’s great to always look for a way to save and be conscious of your money and thrifty, but when it takes over your entire life, it seems like it could start to become problematic in relationships with others as well as personal health and life quality.

Realistic Ways to Save Money

I personally do not have what it takes to do some of the things mentioned above. I am willing to make a sacrifice to save money and deal with my student loan debt by doing some other extreme methods:

  • Sell your car.
    If you are able to, getting rid of your car can save you thousands of dollars each year. Yes, you are giving up a huge convenience and could make things a little more difficult, but that’s why it’s an extreme measure. Getting rid of your car eliminates the cost of gas, car insurance, fees like license plate renewal, fees for parking, car maintenance, and car repair. Instead, take public transportation, walk, and bike wherever you have to go. Read more: 6 Surprising Benefits of the One Car Household.
  • Get rid of cable.
    To many people, giving up cable would be a pretty tough thing to part with. But depending on your plan, you can save thousands per year. You can watch television on Hulu.com as well as most tv network’s websites. You can also borrow complete seasons, documentaries, and movies from your local library. Sign up for Redbox text alerts, and every month they’ll send you a free movie. Read more: 10 Free Web Services to Check Out.
  • Skip the professional treatment.
    In a given month, you might be surprised at how many people you’re paying to do something you can do yourself. Instead of paying a mechanic to change your oil, learn to do it yourself. Skip the professional colorist and salon and have a friend help you dye your hair. Stop having people prepare your food, and learn to cook. Even a more extreme option is to learn how to repair your own car and make home repairs as well. Read more: 16 Ways to Do It Yourself.
  • Buy second hand items.
    Stop buying things new, and buy them used instead. Head to the thrift store and consignment shops for clothes instead of pricey department stores. Furniture, electronics, housewares, books, and anything else can be found cheaper if it’s used. Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist are great places to start your search online. You can also check out yard/garage sales, flea markets, and the thrift store. Read more: 7 Things You Should Be Buying Used.
  • Make it yourself.
    Besides buying used items, you can skip buying items. Instead, make them. You might be surprised that with a little practice you can make your own body soap, clothes, furniture, and laundry detergent. An easy way to save money on your groceries is to grow your own herbs and vegetables. Read more: Substitute, Improvise, and Make Do With What You Have.

What do you think of extreme ways to save money? Which ways have you tried, which work, and which things would you never do to save a penny?

More Ways to Save Money

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Comments to Extreme Ways to Save Money

  1. Enjoy the e-mails from mydollar plan. Disagreed w/something from this one about pulling “clothing, furniture, & house decor” from trash piles. I live in the south & this is very common; etiquette would be to leave the pile as neat as you found it. Especially larger items such as furniture & house decor would otherwise go to a landfill so this is green living. To dispose of useable furniture we clean it up and put it out to the road on a sunny day; it always disappears within hours. Some people don’t want to take the time to donate but are glad to see things go to new homes when they’ve but it out to the curb. I hope you get more comments about this as it’s a common practice. I can understand having reservations about dumpster diving for food, but mydollarplan should be promoting the idea of “recycle, reuse, reduce” for responsible, green living.

    Therese Clark

  2. I agree with Therese. There are somethings you don’t go “trash diving” for, however basic things that look good are perfect. When my son was born I found a high chair in a neighbors trash. I cleaned it and validated its structural integrity before putting him in it, however being made of old school steel, there was nothing wrong with it. That high chair went through my son, and now 5 other grand kids that my parents have. It has been 18 years since we found that and it would just have sat in a landfill otherwise.

    I agree, you don’t want to take food, or anything like that, however furniture, electric items, etc. can be placed on the street with a sign that says “Free” and people take it all the time.


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