This post is by my awesome staff writer Jordann. Enjoy!
When I decided that it was time to get out of my $38,000 in student and car loan debt, I knew that reducing my expenses was one of the key ways to free up enough cash flow to make this happen.
I was limited in my extra earning opportunities, so cutting expenses was the quickest and easiest way to achieve fast savings.
I made all of the usual cuts, things like no more cable, no hair cuts, no yoga classes. Those were all great ways to save money quickly, but I wanted more. So, I started doing some really weird things in order to save money. Not all of them panned out, but they were all, definitely an experience. Here are a few of them:
Permanent House Sitting
I’ve talked at length about how I live in a 400 sq. ft. cottage, but I’ve never explained how I came across this cottage. It’s actually owned by a relative of mine, who has his own house elsewhere.
He asked us to babysit his cottage while he was away, which we happily agreed to – mostly because of the very, very reasonable rent. The only downside is that it’s very rustic, and full of his furniture. Not many people I know would dain to live in this small, rough cottage full of someone else’s stuff. The price is right though, so we’re here to stay for the time being.
A Hair Cut Hiatus
I mentioned above that I stopped getting regular hair cuts when I started paying back my debt. You’re probably picturing me with half-grown out highlights, but still normal length hair.
The truth is, I haven’t had a hair cut since March of 2012, and my hair is starting to get ridiculously long. I know it wouldn’t be that expensive to get my hair cut, but when I only have $140 per month for personal spending – dropping $50 on a hair cut seems like a lot! I’m ending the hiatus this month, because I got a 50% off coupon.
Mix and Match Lunches
I take my lunch to work with me four out of five days a week. This is absolutely a great way to save money since a purchased lunch would run me $5/day at minimum.
I’m not always the most prepared person in the world, however, and that results in some…creative lunches. Often, if several things in the fridge are about to spoil, I’ll just throw them all in my lunch bag together and make do. My weirdest lunch to date has been a slice of pizza, half a cup of oatmeal, and a chicken wing.
I am The Dog
One thing I definitely splurged on, even though I was in debt, was getting my dog Molly, from the SPCA. She’s the best dog I’ve ever had and I don’t regret taking her home for a second.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to save money on her expenses though. One of the things I make sure to do myself is bathing her and clipping her nails. The only problem is, she’s an SPCA dog, and about five seconds into clipping her nails for the first time, it became clear that she had NEVER seen nail clippers before.
She wasn’t too keen on the experience, so picture me, with one of her paws in my hand, trying to get her nails clipped, and her, half hopping, half running away from me! I did eventually get it done, and after a ton of training, she actually likes getting her nails clipped now. Since taking her to the groomer would be a big expense, I’m happy to put a little extra effort in, and save the money.
There are tons of obvious ways to save money, but after those are exhausted, sometimes a few more, non traditional methods will present themselves. I’ve definitely tried a lot of weird things in order to save money.
What’s your weirdest money-saving moment?
Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies says
Oh consider donating your hair! Non-color treated hair donations can be made to Locks of Love or Pantene Beautiful Lengths and they are made into wigs, usually for children with cancer. There are minimum length donations, so you’d have to look up if your hair will be enough to donate.
I usually cut my hair every 2 years or so and donate when I do.
FI Pilgrim says
My wife will go without haircuts for certain periods of time as well. One suggestion for you is to ask your friends if any of them have stylist experience, or would mind giving you a trim. We have a friend who used to cut hair professionally but has kids now and stays home with them. All it costs my wife is a $10 box of diapers to get a professional cut. Just an idea!
Your house sitting arrangement is awesome. We want to do some extended traveling once we reach FI and this could be a great way to reduce our travel costs. Going to look into it. Thanks for the idea!
Amanda @ Passionately Simple Life says
Really great tips! We look at grooming our dog as a bonding moment and find it’s easier the more we do it. Just takes a lot of practice to clip the nails! And trying to find a hair salon or place that has mainly students is a great way to save some money.
Haha, I only just got my haircut after about a year because I started a new (better paying) job.
I don’t think I have any overly weird money-savings habits. Maybe the fact that I “borrow” my sister’s Netflix account or still have a student discount on my cell phone even though I graduated 4 years ago. I can’t think of anything weirder, but I’m sure there are not uncommon!
Matt Becker says
I can’t think of anything too strange, but I’ve definitely gotten into full “dad” mode where it bothers me when people leave lights on. Objectively I know that I’m not talking about a ton of savings there, but it still bothers me.
Lisa @ Cents To Save says
Great budget cutting. I don’t think I could give up my haircuts. I think I get a good deal from my longtime stylist, so that helps.
I like your mix-n-match lunches. That’s how Greg eats if I’m not home to cook for him. Ha!
John S @ Frugal Rules says
We’re guilty of the mix and match lunch. I could always tell how much time my wife had when I went in to the office. I she didn’t have the time it was like a mystery bag, Lol. But, it was good for a laugh and I had what I need. You should check out to see if any beauty schools in your area offer hair cuts. My wife discovered that about two years ago and she can get anything she wants done for $9. It looks the same as when she was spending $50-60 and it helps out the school to boot.
Mark Ross says
Well, I also bring my lunch to school and it really saves me a lot of money. It’s also a good thing because I know that I’m not eating something unhealthy.
Steps to Save says
Here are the “weird” ways I save money:
Curbside Treasures- I have found a lot of nice and new items that were on the curb for garbage day. I have kept some for my family, given some to friends, and then resold the rest. I have found new purses ($69 price tag!), Little Tykes Castle Slide, new clothing, new jewelry, baby walker, baby highchair, new craft items, vintage bowling ball and bag, appliances, and much more!
( I will be making a post on this soon)
Craigslist Ads For Free Fruit- When my husband was out of work, I posted an ad to see if anyone had any extra fruit I could pick or have. I new ahead of time that I was going to be very picky and careful of where I went for safety reasons. A nice woman invited me to her home and let me pick as many figs as I could and also gave me around 50 fresh eggs for free.
Hair Accessories- I will save my children’s stained and ruined clothing and turn them into flower hair bands and barrettes for my girls. They look like the boutiques brands that sell for $10-$20 but only cost me $1-$2 each to make.
This is all I can think of right now. Hope everyone has a great day!
Yvette McKenzie says
I just wanted to say how much I love your site. It’s very interesting and educational on so many levels.
One thing that I wanted to mention to you in regards to your hair, perhaps you should consider becoming a hair model. I have not (as I mostly maintain mine with products from the $1 store and I keep it in a neat bun), but in the past I have used students from schools who are stylists in training. Some schools like Aveda offer discount hair nights, where for something like $20 you get a $100 do. The students are supervised.
There’s also almost always a posting on Craigslist under the “free” section for hair models who would be willing to color/cut their hair. Take a look, you can still be fabulous on the cheap. Good luck.
Kali @CommonSenseMillennial says
I skip haircuts, too! Glad I’m not the only one. And my husband does the grab-bag lunches.. and even other meals sometimes. I think he likes to pretend he’s on Chopped 🙂
Grayson @ Debt Roundup says
I have cut my own hair for about 7 years. I have also brought lunch to work everyday for 7 years as well. I think I go out to lunch only once a month. My wife and I also groom out dogs because it is expensive to have someone else do it.
Nick (@ayoungpro) says
I ate $.89 Progresso soup for lunch every day for two years while getting out of debt. I will never eat Progresso again. 🙂
Kendal @HassleFreeSaver says
I can relate on the weird lunch items story! I always bring leftovers and when the pickin’s are slim, I come to work with some interesting choices. The oddest combo was a slab of ham, sugar-snap peas and popcorn.
lyle @ the Joy of Simple says
“My weirdest lunch to date has been a slice of pizza, half a cup of oatmeal, and a chicken wing.” – I literally LOL’d!! Thanks for that 🙂
I get my hair cut from my ex-girlfriend once every few months which might seem weird to some!
Other than that, I live a dull life 🙂
Take care Jordann and thanks for a fun post. All the best.
Emily @ Urban Departures says
Thanks for sharing; your antics are funny and I’m glad it worked for you. I tried washing my hair with baking soda and apple cider vinegar (no ‘poo method) once; apparently it works wonders on other people’s hair (and saves them lots of money!), but it just made mine all brittle and I had to spend good money on a good conditioner. Not for me!
Jaime Brown says
My most frugal moment was keeping all the ketchup, salt and pepper that you get in little packages from restaurants and I would fill my ketchup bottle, salt and pepper shakers with them. It prob only saved me a few dollars, but savings of any kind is worth it:)
Haha I do the food thing also! I hate letting food spoil.
I have taken my lunches to work for 40+ years. My weirdest frugal habit is I save plastic utensils from take out food and sometimes collect ketchup and mustard packets. It is more for convenience than frugality.
I would love to live in a small cottage. I think all of the things you are doing are pretty normal. I’m glad that great minds think alike- LOL. I bring my lunch, make my coffee at home and work, don’t own a car (have a free bus pass from work), I stopped going to the hair stylist, and a number of other things that I won’t mention in this comment. Keep up the good work.
Michelle Blackmore says
I follow your every post…everyday you come up with some awesome tips and real life experience…
I leave the nail clipping to our doctor, but I do bathe my dog myself. It’s not that difficult and it surely saves money. Packing lunch is also a HUGE saver, I used to waste a lot of money when I wasn’t working from home with the food I’d other at work.
Michelle's Finance Journal says
My hair is pretty unruly and several years ago, I tried to straighten my hair chemically at home. I damaged it so badly that I had to chop my hair off like 20 inches. So that was a hard lesson of what not to do myself.
Very interesting situation with the house sitting arrangement. Great way to reduce accommodation costs!
KK @ Student Debt Survivor says
When I was in college, my college roommate and I used to go to Chilis and order the unlimited chips and salsa, glasses of water, and one meal. We’d eat the chips and salsa until we were full then share the meal. I’m sure we looked pretty weird (we did tip well of course).