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Erin Huffstetler

Frugal Living as an Extreme Sport

By August 10, 2007

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What's the craziest thing that you've done in the name of saving money? Is it even something that you'd want to admit? Since reading Wild Ways to Save on Digerati, I've been thinking about the extremes that we frugal folks sometimes go to to save or make money. So what are some of the craziest things that you've done?

Here's a taste of my "extreme" frugal moments:

  • saved the bags that tortillas come in, and used them in place of store-bought zipper bags
  • gotten mad when guests threw out the "good" plastic silverware
  • contemplated whether reserving a library copy of Harry Potter 7 was really worth the 50-cent fee
August 10, 2007 at 9:59 pm
(1) FrugalasIcanB says:

I see a nice big bunch of brocolli in a box for garbage in front of a fruit stand. The only thing is is that the top is yellow. I don’t care as I can turn the bottom into brocolli soup or use it in stirfry.

August 10, 2007 at 10:01 pm
(2) FrugalasIcanB says:

I was given some brown rice. When I went to cook it bugs floated to the top. I skimmed them off & used the rice in dog food. Dogs have to eat too.

August 15, 2007 at 7:50 am
(3) Rick says:

I had coupons for free catfood, so I fed my kids “tuna” sandwiches.
HEY! It doesn’t hurt little kittens!

August 15, 2007 at 7:53 am
(4) Cheepsk8 says:

If you cook rice and bugs float to the top,you don’t have to give the rice to the dog.Those bugs are always there;they just haven’t hatched yet! Your “hatched and skimmed” rice probably has less dead vermin in it than the unhatched stuff you usually eat.Get over your queasiness and enjoy your free rice!

August 15, 2007 at 7:58 am
(5) cheepsk8 says:

Careful with the pet food for your kids! Animals aren’t as prone to catch or exhibit signs of salmonella.Pet foods don’t go through the same controls as food meant for human consumption.Usually safe,just something to think about.

August 15, 2007 at 8:39 am
(6) JK says:

The box of tissues I kept on my desk kept disappearing. So I saved one of the “cube” shape tissue boxes, cut around 3 sides of the bottom, inserted a roll of TP (remove cardboard tube first), inserted it in the box, and tapes the bottom closed. I can pull out as much as I need, and it’s fun when some unsuspecting person grabs “a tissue” and pulls out 3 feet of TP. And, since doing this, my box of “tissues” hasn’t “disappeared” once!

August 15, 2007 at 9:10 am
(7) Marylyn says:

When I was a teenager in the 1950s, I hung a roll of toilet paper on a string onto a water pipe in my basement bedroom. My home ec teacher did a home visit to see my decorating project and was (not?) impressed.

August 15, 2007 at 9:10 am
(8) Greg says:

Papa John’s accepts competitor’s coupons…so I had a coupon for 1 large pizza and cheesesticks for $10.99. They gave me a hard time and tried to sell me their own special. I did not give in to the pressure and didn’t stop until they honored the coupon…which only saved me less than a dollar but $ is $!

August 15, 2007 at 9:12 am
(9) MR says:

We were poor when I was first married and had children, and I couldn’t afford to buy boots for the kids, so I put their feet into plastic bags and put elastic bands around their ankles to hold them on so they could play in the snow.

August 15, 2007 at 9:14 am
(10) MA says:

In the 1950s, you could buy flour in flowered cloth sacks. I used this fabric to make dresses for my daughter.

August 15, 2007 at 9:28 am
(11) Alice says:

To MA – I too was growing upin the 40′s and 50′s and my mother bought not only flour but chicken feed that came in those lovely flowered bags. I learned to sew with them.
My frugal thing is that I save all bags, like the zip bags that different frozen things come in, turn them inside out, wash them good and use them to put my home made bread, english muffins etc in. I reuse margarine cartons for everything, we try to fix anything and everything before even considering throwing it out.

August 15, 2007 at 10:13 am
(12) kat says:

i never pay full price for clothes. I got a hundred dollar shirt for 1.50 at goodwill a 150$ hand bag for 1.50 at an estate sale people think i wear all these EXPENSIVE name brans HA! the deals i have gotten are far to many to list!
i even stopped and picked up a free sewing machine (older) off the curb the other day and fully intend to use about.com to learn how to sew1

August 15, 2007 at 10:30 am
(13) Lyn says:

We have saved our bathwater to water the plants in summer, reuse old rags for napkins and handkerchiefs, reuse bread bags to freeze food (double/triple bagged).

August 15, 2007 at 10:51 am
(14) heather says:

i used to make money shopping at walmart. they used to have a policy that if you bought an expired item they would double your money back. i would scan our local walmart food section for expired food items. when i found them i would buy them and then return them, for double the money. my largest payout was over 100 dollars! sad but true!
shame on walmart..hehe i laughed all the way to the bank!!
please note that they have DISCONTINUED
this program, i guess they lost to much
money on this policy.

August 15, 2007 at 10:51 am
(15) jpalme2000 says:

I turn off the electricity to my apartment for a month to find out if my electric company bills correctly. BTW; They don’t bill correctly.

August 15, 2007 at 10:55 am
(16) jpalme2000 says:

I got an old handcranked military surplus generator and made my own battery power system. I used it to power my DSL modem and my computer when I used it.

I also used small solar panels in my window to provide additional power to the small battery system

I used hand cranked LED lights at night to read and do things that required light.

August 15, 2007 at 11:29 am
(17) tnelson says:

I’ve done lots of the things listed here, but my favorite thing nowadays is freecycling. I’ve almost given up on yard sales because I know that similar items–if not the same items–will eventually make it on my local freecycle list! Then I’ll get it for free!

As a result, I don’t throw much of anything away (not that I ever did). I never buy garbage bags and just use grocery bags. I also tie up the produce bags to use for a scrubbie.

August 15, 2007 at 11:32 am
(18) ramie says:

to FrugalasicanB: you can use the yellow tops to broccoli in quiches or casseroles in which the sauce distorts the color anyway

August 15, 2007 at 11:33 am
(19) Frugal is awesome says:

There are some pretty crazy things I have done to save money. I.E. Saving the bathwater to wash clothes in. Or reusing plastic sandwich bags. Ya wash ‘em and stick ‘em to the frig to dry! Reusing old bread bags for my homemade bread! There are a ton more!

August 15, 2007 at 11:49 am
(20) frugie says:

I bought many clothes at the thirft stores in Florida. I got many outfits for $98.00, all expensive name brand items, several were new with the tags still on them All were just like new.

August 15, 2007 at 12:15 pm
(21) The Digerati Life says:

Thanks for the shout out. With all these ideas, people can literally live on half of what they’re accustomed to spending — but we need to make sure there aren’t any negative consequences (such as to health or safety) when attempting them.

August 15, 2007 at 8:27 pm
(22) Paco says:

I can promise you that I will never practice the “extreme” bizarre thrifty
“hints” described here. You only get one crack at life, people. I can’t envision one scenario where I’d eat bug-infested rice or utilize microscopically-thin toilet paper.

August 15, 2007 at 10:00 pm
(23) gator says:

To keep insect eggs from hatching, store your flour, etc in the freezer 24 hours. What has now become ‘frugal’ is actually how people have lived throughout the ages before the Industrial Age, mass production, and what has become the ‘entitlement’
mentality of millions of consumers.

Conserve as much as possible; treat it like a game. Be prepared: plan for the worst whether it happens or not. Waste not, want not. Help others in His name; you will get your reward.

Things here are only thrown out if we can’t use them for anything else-that includes packaging.

One winter our tub’s faucet dripped; until it was fixed, the packaging from an electronics gadget was just the right size ‘n shape to silently direct the water into the drain.

We only buy a new item if the old one can no longer be repaired. That includes vehicles and tools.

Self-sufficiency is the ultimate in frugal, wise living: learn to do as much for your family as possible. Learning new skills keeps your mind alert and free from boredom.

August 16, 2007 at 10:52 am
(24) Sandy says:

One thing my husband and I do religiously is turn off the power strips for our entertainment unit and computer desk. We dropped our electric bill 100 dollars a month just by turning things completely off when we went to bed and back on when we got home. We were amazed!

August 16, 2007 at 11:08 am
(25) Sandy says:

Oh and I buy 3 liter soda bottles at the dollar store or on sale and take them to work rather than use the soda machine. Saves me about $10.00 a week. Bringing my lunch saves me 25. Buying my husband sodas in bulk at the distributor saves him 15. My daughter got into it and now drinks water whenever possible. We buy 10oz water bottles at Wawa (local convienience store) 6 for 3.00 but then we refill them and wash them with our filtered tap faucet until they look nasty (usually 2 months) and then we buy new ones. This makes us feel like we are splurging when we aren’t. Savings $60.00 monthly on bottled water. The funny thing is we aren’t crazy frugal. We spend more on the baby because we use regular diapers (I won’t do reuseables it was just too much when we all work). But these few were easy.

August 16, 2007 at 11:17 am
(26) erindreg says:

I once had a coupon for $1 off a package of gum. The store had a weekly sale and the item was marked $0.99 (which, btw, is exactly $1 off the regular price). My coupon wouldn’t scan, so I made the poor cashier get the manager and several people had to wait behind me in line just so that I could use the coupon even though I could have used it some other time.

August 16, 2007 at 6:03 pm
(27) Cindy M says:

I guess frugal in the extreme is just not spending the money at all, getting something for almost nothing, right? I’m with whoever mentioned freecycling. There’s not much you may actually need (or at least a reasonable facsimile of it) that you can’t get for next to nothing these days if you’re patient. I’m bored with thrift stores and garage sales and don’t need much of anything anymore plus only have myself to worry about. I’m also not into getting rid of much of what I have in order not to empty space which I would then feel obliged to fill up again (like closets). I’m not a packrat, just using the psychology that an empty space may beg to be filled up again, ha-ha. In other words, I think it’s a good idea to be content with what you have and not always be looking for goods or looking to make a buck on selling goods. I must be getting old, ha-ha.

August 16, 2007 at 7:37 pm
(28) Greg Beck says:

I agree with the sentiments described in post #22. You do indeed get only one crack at life. Who wants to spend it eating bug-infested food, re-using unsanitary bath water, or dividing two-ply toilet paper? It’s beyond bizarre. Nobody says on their deathbed that they wish could have have eaten more contaminated rice.

August 16, 2007 at 8:16 pm
(29) Kelly H says:

Well I think it is funny that Paco would not do many of the extreme frugalities, but yet he is on this site. Hmmmm…. dont worry Paco you dont have to eat bugs, but my mind set on consuming on neccessary items has changed. My most frugal was waiting for one of my coupons to double…. I unfortunately held up the line… apolized, and then received my $1.00 off. Every dollar counts.

August 17, 2007 at 12:33 am
(30) Kristina R. says:

I want to make sure everyone knows what freecycle is. Go to http://www.freecycle.org and sign up for the group in your area. Then just check every now and then to see what people are giving away. Quite often someone needs to move in a hurry and they would rather give away their belongings that they cannot take with them than throw them in a dumpster. The purpose of the site is to keep landfills from needlessly being filled up with perfectly good lamps, clothing, blankets, furniture, even cars. One time I saw someone trying to get rid of a manufactured home. That probably really helped someone out a lot.

I do not work for this site, I just visit it a lot. Not only do I find things for myself, but often I find items that I can bring to the shelter for kids where I work.

August 17, 2007 at 6:59 pm
(31) Amy says:

Washing and resusing plastic bags…
Reusing tea bags…hey, it still tastes good!
Haggling with the furniture store to take a coupon they sent me for $100 off..and winning
“Urban guerilla gardening,” i.e., digging up stray plants in public right of ways that are non-native species…

The list goes on!

August 18, 2007 at 4:40 pm
(32) squirt says:

I use vinegar, baking soda, and shampoo(free-through coupons and samples)for house cleaning. I also buy store brand soap pads, like sos pads, and cut them in half, for heavy duty jobs. I use coupons and sales ads to do my weekly shopping and stocking up my pantry. I also use certain leftovers such as spaghetti, and make baked spaghetti for the next night. Seeing how much I can save has become a game of sorts to me. I enjoy hearing and learning tips from others as well.

August 19, 2007 at 1:40 am
(33) Tash says:

Rick – Theres a difference between being frugal and taking stupid risks with your kids lives. Pet food isnt fit for human consumption 99% of the time – I know as I used to process the junk – its not subject to hardly any bacterial tests that canned food for humans is – yes, it is SUPPOSED to go through the same testing – but it doesnt.

Giving canned animal food by choice to children is sick. So is any parent who actually brags about it and believes it to be right to save a few dollars.

August 20, 2007 at 6:37 pm
(34) sewingirl says:

The negative comments about eating pet food are very important! My husbvand worked at a feed mill that made dry dog and cat food, and they never saw an inspector in the seven years that he was there. Use your common sense please!

September 23, 2007 at 8:22 am
(35) edgar says:

There is a huge difference between being frugal and exposing yourself and your children to health hazards!! How frugal would it be if eating catfood, bugs and/or garbage made you or your children ill enough for a trip to the emergency room?!

September 23, 2008 at 5:13 pm
(36) Dana says:

I am young (20s) and happy to call myself frugal. I have never been like the rest of my friends. Americans today annoy me they are wasteful and spoiled and they are raising lazy, self-centered and dependent children. This economy is crumbling if something don’t change and you have grown women that can’t cook if the directions aren’t printed on the box. MY GOD!!!! As for Paco, if it was good enough for the generations before you it’s good enough for you. It amazes me at the ignorace of people. The goverment allows a certain % of the little critters to remain in the food. The bugs are harmless and natural and you eat them EVERYDAY. You have a greater chance of catching something from Taco Bell. You can’t get rid of every bug and bacteria. They are also needed at times. This is not to say you should throw caution to the wind and become nasty and unsanitary. If something don’t change with this economy you’ll be doing the same thing before long. I do many of the things talked about here. As a teenager I would dig through a dumpster or someones trash I am not embarrassed. My daughter has nice toys all free from the dump or given to me. There is a lot of nice things you can have being thrifty and it rewarding to use your head and see a way out of a situation that is healthier or more economical.

November 18, 2008 at 3:22 am
(37) Sondra says:

I agree with not risking your health for frugality – but to the few who have issue with this with the comment “you only have one life” – when you really begin to dissect this life, you will begin to see that you are caught – caught in a system that has you buying and working as a slave to have a certain standard – what it takes from you is any possibility to save, or to choose to not work forty plus hours a week. Frugality gives you back some control over your life. Frugal people don’t freak out and jump off buildings when they are laid off – because they know how to conserve – they are creative and they are survivors. Most people cannot make it if they get disconnected from the system. It’s perfectly ok if you don’t want to try some extremely frugal things – but knowing that you have a choice gives you power.

December 18, 2008 at 12:04 am
(38) Jen says:

I do Coupon $ense! I have saved thousands on my grocery/household/toiletry needs! In November alone I saved $1325.77 and spent $289.15! For a family of 7, it is the only way to go! It is so much fun to get items for free or even make money on your groceries… I think I float out of the store sometimes ;-)

May 7, 2009 at 4:27 pm
(39) erzebet says:

my most frugal thing was to stop using a car, instead bought a folding bike that i can use and carry in the tube/train/airplane.

i am also making myself a solar oven to cook for free.
self-sufficiency is the extreme frugality and this gives me control over my life

May 16, 2010 at 5:06 pm
(40) Miss Kitty says:

I make a large portion of my yearly income by selling things I have designed and manufactured using materials I have “rescued” from the trash.
My favorite word is “upcycle”. That’s where you start out with a piece of trash and end up with a whole new useful item. I first learned of this concept decades ago after reading an article in The
Mother Earth News. I once met a guy on the beach in So. Cali and he had the most incredible beach chair!!! He made it himself….out of a trashed matress and boxsprings set. He used the wood from the box to make an Adriondack style chair and weather-sealed it with deckwash (that he got for free) then he made the chair pads with the heavy material from the top of the boxspring (after bleaching the livin’ whatever outta it, of course).
Now about the matress, he says he “skinned” it and
after a serious disinfection job it is now his new beach blanket. He always takes one extra “set” of these things with him whenever he goes down to the beach. Seems that when other people see his rather
brilliant recycling efforts they wanna go all green
too. So he sells that extra set. This guy says he’s been makin’ extra money this way for years.
Well, one of my most frugal moments in my life? LOL
I declined to buy one of his “Life’s a Beach Sets”:
I made my own!!! and it’s quite beautiful. See you on the beach……

February 25, 2011 at 6:25 pm
(41) Jenna says:

The most frugal I have ever been/ for two years I lived out of a car. I would eat oatmeal made with powdered milk and applesauce and peanut butter. I drank water from water fountainsI refilled my own bottles. I had zero money for anything but the gas I needed to get around. I showered at the gym which my friend owned and when I had money I would leave her a tip in an envelope for the showers! This was the most difficult part of my life but you do find out who your real friends are. You also know exaclty what you need to get by with until the next day!

September 20, 2011 at 9:18 pm
(42) Crad says:

I am hoping to do a lot of Christmas baking this year, but moniy is tight. I’ve been collecting “extra” sugar packets and emptying these into a jar. I have 2 cups at the moment. I also save and use hotel amenities including soaps, instant coffee, and tea bags. I use sewing kits to repair and restore my clothes. I use freecycle to furnish my home. I use found bottle & can refunds & use that money for gifts and for groceries I need and can’t coupon and save to get for free. I get food at work, so I take on extra shifts to eat. Have I mentioned yet I’m 23? I do a lot more, but that’s good for now

April 12, 2012 at 2:09 am
(43) Debra D. says:

I went back to school this year. I read somewhere that education is frugal and I believe it is. My car (bought used from a person after DS totaled the one I bought new) last for 5 years with repairs. Still a bargain, since I had no car payments. Finally the motor was in danger, it had 200,000 miles & the transmission was going. So I looked around for another mode of transportation, before the car died. I didn’t want to not have a way to school. Used money from a refund at school to purchase a like new scooter (600 miles on it) looked brand new for $600. Now I hardly spend anything on gas, where I live it doesn’t have to have a tag/insurance. So I am saving a lot. Old car was a gas drinker and I spent $3 each trip to school at 4 days a week. Now I spend $2 a week on gas. I live within a mile to two major competive grocery stores so I don’t worry about shopping trips. The scooter has under the seat storage and if you pack well, you can get a lot of groceries in there. My family members who live nearby, take me to the Doctor or if I have to go somewhere else important. So it really has not been a sacrifice. It’s fun riding the scooter (I am careful & pick low peak traffic times) and it’s paid for. Hoping to upgrade to a slightly bigger scooter when I finish school. Did I mention this will be a second degree for me? The degree I am working on is a job in demand now, in healthcare, so yes education is definitely frugal!

July 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm
(44) Heather says:

I just bought 10 boxes of lemon cranberry cookies (reg $3.49 per box) for a total of $4.70 for all 10 boxes ( $0.47 each!) Reason is that they were reduced to clear becuase some of the ones on the shelf must have been close to expiry but all the ones I bought are good for another 3 months! Cashier was not happy about me getting this price because she said it was supposed to only be the expired ones, I said sorry the sign is up and that is what they are ringing up for. She had to let me buy them.

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