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What is the Cheapest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

For those of you who practice frugality and constantly look for ways to save money, have you ever done anything extreme to save money?

As a frugalist myself, I found the Canadian Money Forum thread about being frugal and examples of being extremely frugal or even cheap to be quite entertaining.

Here is what some of the members came up with:

Cal:

Me….In college I would rollerblade to the grocery store, take off my blades, buy my groceries, put the blades back on, and push the cart home, unload the groceries, then put my blades back on and push the cart back to the store so that I would get my quarter from the cart. HA!

MoneyGal:

My sister and I used to hold competitions (in university) about who could feed the household (we had roommates and we shared meal prep) the most cheaply. It was years before I could bring myself to eat brown rice and lentils again.

Brad:

I had an acquaintance whose car would routinely run out of fuel (several times a year) because he kept driving around town when his tank was nearly empty, shopping around for the station with the cheapest gas price.

I’m sure he wasted more money on gas by driving around than he would have if he’d settled on a higher price, and certainly spent a lot more on the occasions when his car had to be towed. And one time he got rear-ended when he ran out of gas in the middle of a busy road, so those expenses need to be added to the picture as well.

A great example of how extreme cheapness can cost you more in the long run

Spidey

Probably the cheapest thing I’ve ever done is to cut my own hair.

kenwood

go to tim horton’s before they close and ask for left over donuts

bike to work instead of drive to save on gas

charge all your batteries at work rather than at home

repeat lining up for food samples at costco

spp_24

when finished with a shower, wipe yourself down with a facecloth. This will prevent most of the soap/skin/hair from accumulating in your towels. You will have less towels to wash and dry (but more facecloths which are cheaper to wash/dry)

if you live in the city never fill your car more than 1/4 full of gas. Why lose fuel economy to haul around gas when there is a station on every corner?

peterk

I pulled up to a stop sign next to a grocery store. I saw two apples sitting in the gutter at the side of the road, and got my passenger to hop out and grab them. We enjoyed a delicious free apple treat that afternoon!

Financial_Cents:

A bunch of us were low on cash one fall in university (too much money spent at the pubs), so we bought about 40 lbs. of potatoes from a farmer and used them for every other meal for about half a month between 4 guys. Mashed potatoes, homefries, french fries, baked potatoes, BBQ’ed potatoes; you name it, we made with potatoes.

Jungle:

Glued the soles of my shoes with contact cement (at work of course) and continue to wear them with holes

Plugging Along

Would take us to free pancake breakfasts (like 3 in a day) and save it for lunch and dinner. – I couldn’t eat pancakes until close to my 30s

There was one year it was Mcd’s anniversary, and there were 20 cent hamburgers. There was a 5 limit/person. Somehow my mom kept going through the drive through, and we ended up with around 80 of them. She then froze them. The hamburgers are gross when fresh, frozen is much worse. I just recently had one for the first time.

KaeJS

I once walked 45 minutes to get home when it was freezing outside with the snow coming down like crazy. I was only wearing a sweater, jeans and regular shoes.

But there was no way in hell I was paying $2.50 to take the bus.

Mine was:

When I was younger, I used to always check the telephone booth coin dispenser for quarters left behind!

Just recently, I went to two separate Macdonalds drive through solely for the free coffee.

What is the most frugal or cheapest thing you’ve ever done?

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FT About the author: FT is the founder and editor of Million Dollar Journey (est. 2006). Through various financial strategies outlined on this site, he grew his net worth from $200,000 in 2006 to $1,000,000 by 2014. You can read more about him here.

{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Sustainable PF April 1, 2011, 10:16 am

    I turn off lights. Can’t help myself. Save on the power bill (ever noticed it never goes down?) and burn less energy. Win win.

  • Jeff April 1, 2011, 10:24 am

    Water Wiener Soup!

    Recipe:

    Fill a pot full of water on Monday
    Cook hotdogs all week using the same water (do not throw out the water).
    At the end of the week the water has now absorbed the deliciousness of the hotdogs!

    Viola – Water Wiener Soup for the weekend!

  • Chris April 1, 2011, 10:37 am

    Up until I was about 12 years old, I thought it was normal that after you had your hair cut, some old person would come around and check your hair, fixing up spots here and there.

    Then, when I was in grade 7 or so, I put it together that the place my Mom always took my brothers and me for haircuts was the school of hairdressing.

    I plan on doing the same thing with my kids.

  • Echo April 1, 2011, 10:40 am

    Ha-ha, great list of stories! I did the McDonald’s thing too for free coffee. I also wear the same pants and shirt around the house forever to save on laundry.

    You can learn a lot from the homeless and I notice they like to hang out around busy building entrances to scrounge for cans and to find half-smoked cigarettes for their own enjoyment.

  • Canadian Couch Potato April 1, 2011, 10:58 am

    I got sick of paying for water, so I tried I fusing hydrogen and oxygen atoms to make my own. Turns out that’s actually a lot more expensive.

    I’ve also saved on the cost of chewing gum by using the free sources available on Toronto subway seats.

  • Colin April 1, 2011, 12:37 pm

    I tried this once just to see if it would work, not necessarily to save money.

    I mailed a letter and did not put a stamp. I put the return address as the address I really wanted the letter to go to. Canada Post “returned” the letter and three days later my friend received it. Money saved $0.49.

    And now I just email…

  • Steve April 1, 2011, 1:16 pm

    Clothing is never worn out. It’s function has simply changed.

    New Shirt -> good enough for work..shirt gets older..
    Frayed Shirt -> Good enough for visiting family functions
    Shirt with some small holes -> good enough for going out with friends
    Shirt with large holes and tears -> good enough for pajamas
    Shirt that is mostly holes -> good enough for washing the car
    Shirt that is mostly holes and permanently dirty -> good enough for shop rag when doing auto repairs
    Shirth that is simply too soiled to soak up oil -> good enough for temporary clogs, like car exhausts, PVC pluming, etc. when doing repairs and renos

    I don’t think I throw out the last type, I just accumulate more of them.

  • Kerry April 1, 2011, 1:22 pm

    I have never done this one myself, but I learned the meaning of frugal from my Dad who said he would brush his teeth with paste off the bottom of the sink after sloppy brushing by the children.

  • CapitalC_Cheap April 1, 2011, 1:43 pm

    My wife got a free drink coupon in the mail for starbucks, she ordered the largest size and I fished a empty timmies cup out of the car garbage and split the drink with her.

  • Cheapoo April 1, 2011, 4:10 pm

    Some of these are pretty funny.

    I fill my wifes car up with company expense account. Is that being cheap or is that just plain wrong?

  • ITS April 1, 2011, 5:13 pm

    I admire frugal people.

    My wife and I try to always consider “do we need this” vs “do we want this”.

    I hate cheap people.

    We are not cheap, and have acquired a taste for the nicer things in life, especially when it comes to food, drinks, and travel. However some of the things I am reading above are repulsive, and some simply illegal.

    I would like to remind all that our time on earth is relatively short, and remember to enjoy it. Splurge on coffee, but brew it yourself as much as you can…

  • Greg April 1, 2011, 5:27 pm

    In ontario you only pay one sales tax for food under $4, so I often split my bill or go through the line twice at lunch to evade taxes, and this still works with HST! Mind you, I shouldn’t be eating out at all.

  • Bob April 1, 2011, 5:44 pm

    I was really motivated to take my wife back to her ancestral home in Africa but couldn’t afford two tickets. This was 1996 and Canadian (airline) had a promo – fly enough and get two tickets anywhere in the world.

    I checked thoroughly and any flight qualified. I flew 28 times to the closest city (30 minutes) on the cheapest ticket I could find (evenings and weekends – I had to keep working). Bottom line was I got two tickets for less than half of what one ticket would have cost me. I got serious brownie points with the wife (since used up). I am now a family legend.

    Funny thing was I must have met 20 or more people at the airport doing exactly the same thing! Thank goodness this was before “terminal improvement”, “navigation” and “Security” fees.

  • stueegee April 1, 2011, 8:37 pm

    1/4tank gas trick… beware you need at least a 1/4 tank to keep your $400 in-tank fuel pump cooled or it will fail.
    My cheapest so far is cutting my own hair. The barber clips on a 3/8″ or 1/2″ rake to his clippers when he would cut my hair so I figure I can do the same. 2 cuts equals the clipper set from Crappy Tire. Wifey double checks and says it looks OK (with an eye roll of course) The $ I save being cheap takes her out for dinner more often so she doesn’t b..ch too much.

  • Nova Scotian April 2, 2011, 2:04 am

    1. Cut my own hair
    2. Take bus sometimes to work and walk home afterwards instead of driving car.
    3. Slept on an air matress for a whole year as it was cheaper than a regular matress.
    4. Buy most of my groceries only when they are on sale.

  • Kayla @ Finance.. What?! April 2, 2011, 2:44 am

    Wow, some of these are being really frugal! I’ll admit I’ve never done anything quite like this, but some of the things I do…

    I usually never fill my car all the way to FULL with gas. I usually fill it to about half. Or however much I feel like spending. I usually put $20 no matter what the price is, and nowadays that puts me to half a tank from being at 1/8 of a tank.

    I don’t know if this is being “cheap” but I get the banks to put holds on my savings accounts so I can’t access the money inside of them. I can still transfer money into them, I just can’t get money out unless I ask for the hold to be removed. This is great when you’re really trying to save. Not sure if all banks do this though.

    I also have stopped buying and drinking bottled water. I bought one of those aluminum bottles and have a Brita filter at home. I can’t imagine how much I’m saving, but I know it’s a lot.

    I don’t use dryer sheets.

    I’ve put myself on a shopping ban for the year in order to “shop my closet” more.

    I use toilet paper to blow my nose. Tissues are basically toilet paper just more “fancy”

    Nothing too “cheap” but things that will make a difference!

    Some of these that people have posted I’m eager to try though.
    Thanks for the post!

  • Rob April 2, 2011, 10:43 am

    Back when Subway used to give out ‘Subway tickets’, a friend of mine would wait near the cash register and ask the customers for their tickets (most would give them to him, probably because they either felt sorry for him, or were embarassed for him..). He would collect tickets until he had enough for a 6 incher – it usually didn’t take very long!

  • Dr. Philosophy April 3, 2011, 3:18 pm

    Because I don’t really like coffee but once in a while, I take the unused coffee and tea pouches from hotels whenever we are travelling to avoid buying any at the store. Nowadays I draw the line at the plastic cups and sugar and artificial creamer packets, but there was a time when I would take them too. I still take the extra TP if provided.

  • CalgaryWorker April 3, 2011, 4:23 pm

    I don’t have anything to compare with the above, but I do have a story to share.

    Some years ago, I was visiting my friends in New Zealand, where there are no pennies. Products purchased with cash are either rounded up or rounded down. My friends were in the habit of visiting the grocery store to purchase one loaf of bread for $1.82 and paying cash, thus saving 2 cents with the rounding factor.

    This seemed to work well for them until one day my friends grabbed a loaf of bread and were charged $1.90. Consternation! My friends refused to cough up the extra dime, arguing about the above mentioned price dynamic. As the line grew behind us and other shoppers grew ever antsier, my friends stuck to their guns. Finally, the store manager was called, my friends righteously took them to the bread section (at the very back of the store), only to find that they had mistakenly grabbed the wrong loaf of bread. The loaf that was priced $1.88…

  • Jungle April 3, 2011, 9:22 pm

    I am so glad to make the list Frugal!!!!!!!! lol @ some of the examples.

  • Paula @ AffordAnything.org April 3, 2011, 10:03 pm

    I agree with ITS — our time on earth is short, and it’s better that we don’t spend our time trying to save a few pennies. If you’re walking rather than taking the bus because you enjoy walking — and you want the fresh air and exercise — then good for you. But if you’re doing it to save a couple of bucks, take the bus and devote that extra time to launching an entrepreneurial side venture, playing with your pets or spending more time with friends and family.

    That said, Bob’s comment about getting two airline tickets to Africa for less than the price of one ticket is awesome!!!!

  • SavingMentor April 4, 2011, 10:12 am

    This article and the comments made me laugh out loud several times! I can’t believe some of the things people come up with to save money. My favourite has to be mailing a letter without a postage stamp and putting your destination address in the return address position. Haha, genius! I’m sure it’s probably illegal somehow and I wouldn’t do it, but it sure is brilliant!

    I do lots of things to save money but most of them are either fairly normal or involve working the system in such a way to get a good deal.

    One thing I did do back in the days before Netflix and legal online TV when DVD TV series box sets cost $60 a pop was to look for great sales on box sets, watch the season quickly, and then resell them on Kijiji often for as much or more than what I paid for them. I’ve never paid for cable since moving out of my parents house.

    I also admit it feels pretty cheap to walk into Boston Pizza with my coupon for a free birthday lunch all by myself and leave without paying anything but a tip! I think I only did that once – so far.

  • Brandon April 4, 2011, 1:48 pm

    When I was younger I tried to get Futureshop to price match a product at Best Buy that was only 4 cents cheaper. I then reminded the salesperson that Futureshop’s policy is to “beat the difference” by a certain percentage. He wouldn’t go for that because 10% of 4 cents rounds down to 0 cents :(

    On a side note, using the company’s expense account for personal gasoline is illegal. If/when your company finds out, you will be fired. They could also press charges if they so desire. It only takes one whistle blower to start the investigation… and gas stations keep a history of their surveillance tapes for this exact reson.

  • Leo April 4, 2011, 10:16 pm

    1. Use the cheapest liquid soap for bathing – today we have hand soap, facial soap, I’ve even see foot soap! How did people 50 years ago shower?!
    2. Refuse to pay ATM fees. Pay to access my own money??
    3. Still pick up pennies! (these days, maybe the copper content is worth it lol)

  • Richard April 7, 2011, 11:01 pm

    1. Saving up my dishes for a couple days in order to save water.
    2. Then, leaving the hot smelly and fatty water to increase the temperature in my house

  • cannon_fodder April 8, 2011, 3:08 pm

    My favourite is addressing a piece of mail with the actual intended recipient in the return address location. That is brilliant!

    You put your OWN address in the middle and the actual intended recipient’s address in the returnee location – that way at worst the mail is sent to you for free.

  • Paul Unosawa February 13, 2014, 1:14 pm

    The half gas tank myth is pretty dumb, in my opinion. Petrol/gasoline is less dense than water so a 50l tank, on most mid cars like civic (I am assuming, is the car you have, since this is an issue in the first place, not a more expensive car with a bigger gas tank) weighs less than 37 kg on a full tank, so doing a half tank you are saving 18kg of weight thats quarter of a normal sized person, not to mention the amount of time you waste every 5-10 min to fill again to the half tank, plus gas always fluctuates up and down, the amount you save is pretty minimal at best.

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