There was a lot of belt-tightening after the Great Recession hit. Five years later, some of those belts have stayed tight.
Whether it's avid couponing, keeping the thermostat turned down, or simply using every last leftover, thrifty folks go to all sorts of length to save money. And sometimes they cross a line into what could charitably be described as "extreme."
This week on Reddit's "Frugal" subreddit, a thrifty user posed a question to his fellow money-savers: "What is the most ridiculous, absurd thing you have done for the sake of being frugal?" His own story consisted of buying ten boxes of cheap raisin bran in bulk and spending hours picking out the raisins, eventually winding up with 9 pounds of raisins for less than he'd pay for raisins a la carte.
But some of those who responded had stories that went even further. Here are some of the most extreme examples.
When Frugality Gets Extreme: Tales from Reddit
7 Strange but True Tales of Extreme Frugality
"I bought sweaters at a thrift bag sale, to unravel them for yarn. So much yarn for 3 dollars. That yielded 2 blankets as well as other projects. Literally hundreds of hours of entertainment."
Getting two blankets for $3 is a great price. But if time is money, spending "hundreds of hours" making the blankets means this isn't exactly a slam-dunk money-saver. On the other hand, 3lazycats is right: DIY projects like this are fun.
"I ate $1 pizza every day for months just so I can afford to take this girl out every week"
I've got a dollar pizza joint near my office that makes a surprisingly good slice. I've sometimes considered eating there for lunch every day, which would save me about a hundred dollars a month. But I decided against it for two reasons: I'd get sick of pizza, and I'd get fat.
If you really need to save money on lunch, we suggest packing your own lunch -- cold cuts aren't that expensive, and a batch of chili or rice and beans can go a long way.
"I'm sometimes a bit ashamed of my frugal nature at work. I'm a dishwasher in a catering kitchen. I save all sorts of stuff the cooks considered trash... 1/2 lb of grated cheddar jammed into the crevices of the mechanical grater? You bet I spent 10 minutes scraping that shit into a tub. 6 to 10 oz of turkey breast tenderloin that stuck to the grate it was cooked on? You bet I brought that home and made a sandwich! 4 oz of hazelnut ganache? I ate that shit right there!"
Picking food out of the trash might be a step too far to save money. But getting leftovers from the kitchen you work in seems fine. Plus, that hazelnut ganache sounds great. As long as it's not going to get you fired, you might as well grab some food that's destined for the trash bin.
"I buy really good (read: more expensive and tastier) loose leaf tea. When I am done with it I dry it in the oven. I then reuse a lot of the redried tea for iced tea (which doesn't have to taste as good). After I make iced tea I make a tea mask for my face."
Frugality doesn't end once you've purchased something. If it can be used more than once, go for it.
"I used to live with a guy that traveled a lot for work, sometimes twice a week. After every trip he'd empty the hotel shampoo, conditioner, and body wash into his home bottles... He had been doing this for no telling how long. I imagine he hasn't purchased those three toiletries in years."
Sometimes frugality crosses an ethical line. But this isn't one of those times. Hoteliers tend not to mind too much if the shampoo goes missing -- in fact, most say they expect that guests will take the toiletries. As long as you aren't taking pricier items like towels and robes, it's fine. And if you don't have a particular brand loyalty when it comes to hair care, you might as well just dump all your stolen shampoo in a big bottle.
"During college my roommate and I decided not to use any heat during one winter in our Ohio apartment. It was an upstairs apartment with two adjacent units in use who were presumably keeping their places warm. This helped keep the place above freezing. We also wore coats inside and slept in sleeping bags. Booze also helped. After a while it became something we just wanted to do for the sake of doing it rather than just saving a little money. It was one of the most fun winters of my life."
You can save on your heating bill by insulating your home... or you can just skip the heat altogether and insulate yourself. This strategy just comes down to personal preference. If you're strapped for cash and don't mind keep warm through sweaters and booze, go for it.
"One of my back molars was broken and decayed and was starting to scrape my tongue. The pain had gotten unbearable, not in the tooth, but my tongue. I didn't have dental insurance at the time, so I got a steel file and filed the sharp parts of the tooth off. Instant relief for free.
Don't worry, I have insurance now and my teeth are fixed."
Please don't do this.
Do you save every penny... so you can melt them down for copper? Do you add water to the end of the shampoo bottle so you don't have to buy more? Do you show up to the store with a stack of coupons?
If you practice some sort of extreme frugality, we'd love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments about the great lengths you'll go to save a buck.