50+ Crazy Things People Have Done To Save Money

It’s been five years since I published the blog post 8 Ways To Be An Extreme Cheapskate, which was inspired by a TV show called Extreme Cheapskates – there were some even too extreme for me! That post made me want to hear what frugal living tips other people had for saving money. So, I…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: November 2, 2023

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

It’s been five years since I published the blog post 8 Ways To Be An Extreme Cheapskate, which was inspired by a TV show called Extreme Cheapskates – there were some even too extreme for me! That post made me want to hear what frugal living tips other people had for saving money.

So, I asked my readers to share some of the craziest things they’ve done to save money, and I was able to put together a list of 60+ Extreme Things People Have Done To Save Money.

I loved everything on that list and wanted to hear more, so I asked readers in my Making Sense of Cents Facebook Group about their extreme frugal living tips and got even more amazing tips to share with you.

Now, some of these things are going to sound crazy, but remember that saving money often means going to great lengths. You might feel embarrassed or ashamed by what you’re doing to save money, but when we share the extreme things we’ve done, maybe we can all feel a little less embarrassed.

These frugal living tips are all real things that real people have done!

Saving money and paying off debt can be difficult, but finding ways to make that happen are great no matter what they are – as long as they’re legal, haha!

I hope these frugal living tips help you feel less embarrassed about what you’re doing and give you even more ideas that will help you pay off your debt faster, improve your financial life, reach your dreams, and more!

Related money saving tips blog posts:

Here are the best, funniest, and most embarrassing frugal living tips.

Extreme ways to save money on clothing

If you’re wanting to change your look while doing so on a budget, it’s completely possible. These frugal living tips will show you exactly how to save money on your looks, and some of them are very extreme!

Wear a garbage bag for a costume. “Growing up, money was tight and we didn’t have enough for costumes, so my mom put a garbage bag over my brother and told him he was a Raisin. It worked for him and didn’t cost us anything extra. Looking back now, how embarrassing but funny. Those were the days!” – Whitney at triedandtruemomjobs.com

I didn’t buy clothing for a year. “To help save money for college, I decided to do the no new clothing challenge for a year. This meant I didn’t buy any new clothes, shoes, or accessories for an entire year. In the beginning, it was a little embarrassing to re-wear outfits to different parties and events. But all the money I saved by not shopping for year was worth it!” – Eden from Mint Notion

I found a free haircut on Craigslist. “In grad school, I found a hair stylist student on Craigslist who was giving away free haircuts. I figured ‘how could this go wrong’ and went in. My hair was long and I asked for a simple trim of the dead ends. She ended up creating two different layers of my hair (think Mrs. Brady when she had a short style on top with longer hair layering out) and it was a disaster. I paid for another stylist to fix it up, which basically involved cutting off most of my hair.” – Julia from The Traveling Traveler

I once wore “hand-me-down” weave. “Lil sis was going to throw them out, but I called dibs. It saved me $300 and I figured, it came from someone else’s’ head anyway!” – Aja from Principles of Increase

The Kohl’s Drive Through. “I shop at Kohls frequently and have created something I call the ‘Kohl’s Drive Through.’ What I do is shop the Kohl’s app from home, in search of awesome online deals. If I find an amazing deal I can’t live without (for example, an extremely discounted holiday item, or off-season sports jersey, etc.) I’ll drive to a Kohl’s store. I’m too cheap to pay for shipping and my order is typically far less than the $75 minimum to receive free shipping. So, I found a loophole. I’ll find the closest parking stall to the physical building. Then I’ll connect to the Kohl’s Wi-Fi from my car. Yes, I park close, stay in the car, and connect to the store’s Wi-Fi. If you’re shopping in-store and log into Kohl’s Wi-Fi, the store will offer a promotion or deal exclusively for those using the app in store. If you park close enough to the store, you can connect to the Wi-Fi from your car and still get the deal! I found out that my local store was offering free shipping on any order (no minimum) if you’re logged into the Kohl’s Wi-Fi and check out using the Kohl’s store app. I’ll use the free shipping offer from the app because I’m connected to their WI-FI, although I haven’t technically left my car. I’ll place my order on the Kohl’s app and drive away. I’m getting my amazing deal, I got free shipping, and the order will arrive on my doorstep a few days later. Hence the ‘Kohl’s Drive Through.’ It’s a bit embarrassing but my favorite way to get free shipping on a Kohl’s order.” – Stephanie from Wynning in Life

I saved $4,000 with a no spend challenge. “For some reason I was weirdly drawn to the idea of a No Spending Challenge. After buying the world’s largest amount of underwear, I proceeded to stop shopping for anything that adorned the body for a year. No shoes, no coats, no new clothing at all. And, I started that challenge on April 1, 2013. I saved almost $4,000, freed-up a ridiculous amount of time by not shopping, and still had a ridiculous amount of nice new lingerie left after that challenge.” – Michelle from Michelle is Money Hungry

I dumpster dive. “Ok, so no judgement, but there were several stores going out of business on the Atlantic City boardwalk and they were basically giving away free items. The problem was they we throwing them into the dumpster. 😳So there I was preggo and picking out the dumpster for clothes and items.” – Darla Lee from Famlee of Four

Related tip: Sign up for a website like Ebates where you can earn free CASH BACK for just spending like how you normally would online. All you do is click on a store that you want to shop through (they have TONS of stores such as Kohls, REI, etc.), and shop how you normally would. Ebates makes a commission for referring you to the store you just shopped at, and they give you some of that money back as a thank you. Plus, when you sign up through my link, you receive a free $10 cash back! 

Find ways to save money at home

It’s easy to spend a ton of money at home, from rent, your car, household items, and more. With the frugal living tips below, you’ll be able to save money at home in many different, and sometimes extreme, ways.

I copied a whole textbook. “I didn’t feel like buying a textbook so instead, I borrowed one from a classmate and copied the entire thing at work using the copy machine. It may or may not have taken a few hours but I saved $120 and as a broke college student, that was a lot!” – Athena from Money Smart Latina

I made my own cloth diapers. “After realizing how insanely expensive diapers were with our first child (there’s also the environmental impact), we decided to try cloth ones with our next child. The problem was that the initial investment, which you do earn back in the long run, was around $300 for a couple dozen diapers, adjustable so they can fit newborn to toddler. To cut my costs, I found a free pattern online for sewing your own, bought fabric from Goodwill (used fleece and flannel blankets), and made them on my own. I ended up spending about $.50 per diaper, and from the fabric scraps, I also made reusable wipes. The real bonus was reusing those diapers on our next child.” – Ariel from Ariel Gardner Editing

Potty train your cat. “Kitty litter is a never-ending cost that will set you back a couple hundred dollars every year the cat is alive. By potty-training your cat with a $20 potty-trainer, you will be able to avoid the cost (and hassle) of having to buy kitty litter for life. Plus, it’s always funny to see your cat on the toilet. Bonus points if you teach them how to flush!” – Dustyn from Dime Will Tell

We went without diapers. “The most extreme thing our family did to save money was to forgo diapers for a while. After my second baby was born, I was so upset about leaving him to go back to work. Leaving my first was hard enough, doing it again was just too much. My husband encouraged me to make the jump and leave my job as a nurse. We were transitioning from a two income home to one income and were barely making it. After bills were paid, I had to choose between food and diapers. So we just didn’t buy diapers. I let both my baby and toddler run around without diaper or pants for a few months at home (except to sleep.) It saved us $100 a month, which was huge at the time. I just had to be ready with floor cleaner and a towel most the day.” – Stormy from Pregnant Mama Baby Life

We rented a room from a stranger and put our whole family in it. “I am not a frugal person at all, but I do like to save money when I can. My partner is extremely frugal and he will do anything to save money. To save money for our new house, he went on Craigslist and found a person renting a room! My family and I moved into one room in a three bedroom house for one year (dad, mum and baby) and paid only $350 a month. We did it for one year, and although we saved a lot of money, it was the worst time of my life. The room was an en-suite which was okay as it was big enough, but baby needs room. It was insane but we pulled through.” – Divine from Ladies Make Money

Taking toilet paper from work. “At my office, the cleaning lady was throwing halfs and less full toilet paper rolls in the garbage bin. I was taking it out and bringing home for years. Never had to buy toilet paper, but also never had one new full roll in my house.” – Mary from MoCashForYou.com

Getting the most out of your job, and more! “As a single mom with a ‘permanent part-time’ job (newsroom clerk at The Philadelphia Inquirer), I did all our laundry – even the cloth diapers – on a scrub-board in the kitchen sink and hung everything on racks to dry. Hope none of you are ever that hard up. Sometimes the business editor would ask me to run down to the cafeteria and pick up coffee for him and his staff, always adding, ‘And get yourself something, too.’ I’d keep out 35 cents’ worth of change (the cost of an orange drink) and when he asked why I hadn’t bought myself a beverage I’d reply, ‘Oh, I had something there.’ And I had: I’d had the thought that this 35 cents, combined with other instances of 35 cents, would mean I could buy milk before payday without dipping into the baby’s piggy bank. Oh, and I’d scavenge the napkins and sugar packets that the reporters left behind. The sugar went into a jar in my very, very small pantry. It made my every Thursday dinner of cornmeal mush more palatable. The rest of the time we lived mostly on soup made from Great Northern beans and neck bones, and on meatless spaghetti, oatmeal, eggs, and whatever fruits and vegetables were cheapest from the street vendors. (The best deal I can recall was ‘tangerines, 30 for a dolla!’ It was a *long* time ago.). I’d also clip the weekly GNC coupon for 9-cent yogurt to send, along with a banana, for the baby’s lunch at day care. Fortunately a neighborhood drugstore had double coupons every Wednesday; when coupons for things like toothpaste or shampoo were in the paper I’d get several of each (I worked at a newspaper!) and be covered for months. Sometimes I’d go to a nearby delicatessen that sold whole and cut-up chicken and buy ONE leg quarter. The guy behind the counter used to tease me: ‘Aw, come on, live it up — buy two!’ He’d never know how I had to count pennies to be able to buy ONE. Which, of course, I’d cook, break into pieces and feed to the baby. Then I’d suck the bones clean and eat more bean soup. I didn’t have a lot. But you know what I *did* have? An emergency fund. Every week I had the workplace credit union siphon off a bit of my paycheck. I knew that if anything went wrong – the baby got sick and needed a prescription, or my shoes finally gave way – then it was on me to cover it. So I saved.” – Donna at Surviving and Thriving

Saving money on toys. “When our family dropped down to one income after our 2nd child was born, money was very tight. With an active toddler in the house we were constantly looking for creative ways to entertain our busy son. Because we couldn’t afford new toys, I’d always purchase his toys second hand at garage sales and consignment shops. After he lost interest in these gently used treasures, I started reselling them on eBay and not only was I getting 100% of the money back I’d spent, I was making a huge profit from resell. Basically, this meant we were paying zero for kids toys and clothes since we were reselling most of our purchases. This clever way to save on kids toys and clothes, led to an easy $1000/mo side hustle flipping toys on eBay.” – Jen from Hairs Out of Place

We have tried so many ways to save money. Here are some of the more embarrassing ways. “1) My husband and I help cut each other’s hair. The last time we cut mine, it was OBVIOUSLY uneven, but I was too nervous to try and fix it because of how short my hair is. So now I’m just waiting for my hair to grow before I try and make it even myself. 2) I bought a huge comforter for cheap at a yard sale. I thought it was a ‘win’ until I went to wash it. I didn’t realize it wouldn’t fit in our washer, so I had to wash it in the bathtub. It made a huge mess, and it was extremely heavy once it soaked up the water! Next time, I’ll splurge and go to a laundromat! 3) One Easter I bought a dress for $1 at a thrift store. I didn’t have any shoes to match, so I took old flip flops and added beads from an old necklace. I thought they looked okay until I arrived at church. They were obviously homemade– and worse, they looked like a child made them!” – Mary from The Creative Saver

Get rid of your cell phone completely.I actually went one whole year without a cell phone to avoid paying the bill. It felt like I was back in the 90’s when cell phones were too expensive for everyone to have one. It saved me a ton of money and allowed me to get things in order. This was like 10 years ago but it really worked.” – Sa from Simply Insurance

I take freezing cold showers. “One of the extreme things I love to do is to take freezing cold showers in the morning! Not only do I save money since I’m not using hot water, I also take much faster showers, reducing the time I’m in the shower, and reducing my overall water usage. It is also a great way to wake me up in the morning! I live in Michigan, so mornings like this morning when wind chills are -25° or lower can be pretty brutal!” – Robert from Real Money Robert

I turn the heat off. “Instead of heating my entire home, on the days where I’m working from home and no one is around, I’ll turn the thermostat down and use a space heater to heat my office. Of course, more often than not, I’ll forget to turn the temperature back up in the afternoon and my family ends up returning to a home set to 58 degrees.” – R.J. from The Ways To Wealth

Grabbing and gifting hand-me-downs. “Not only did I ask my husband to grab a homemade train table that was set out on the curb for free, but then I gifted it to my 1-year-old son for Christmas (with some hand-me-down trains someone else gave us). He loved it. A relative even complimented how cool the table was and said her friend paid over $300 for a new train table that wasn’t nearly as nice. She was shocked to learn I got it on the curb for free-ninety-free. Merry Christmas, buddy!” – Val from The Common Cents Club

I got rid of my car. “I weaseled my way out of my car lease and shared a car with my boyfriend for three years. This ended up saving me over $400 per month (no gas, no insurance, no car payment). Yes, it left me stranded at home sometimes, or it meant that I needed to drop him off at school/work in order to have the car, but the savings were too good to pass up.” – Eden from edenfried

DIYing isn’t always cheaper. “I stopped my wife from buying a chest of drawers. Why waste money when I can make it cheaper. So I bought tools, lumber, and everything. After two hours I realized I could not do it and quit. Went to Ikea and bought a chest of drawers for $80. Does anyone want to buy some lumber?” – Peter from Seller at Heart

Instead of AC, I would sleep with ice packs in bed. “When my husband and I were first married we were poor college students. Our apartment was on the top floor of our building and it was so hot in the summers but we couldn’t afford to crank up the air conditioning, so at night we would sleep with ice packs in our bed. It kept us cool and our electric bill manageable during the summer months.” – McKinzie from Moms Make Cents

I lived with 30+ other people. “In college, I decided to live in a house that could fit up to 36 people to cut costs. We even had debates as to whether the heat in the winter should be 66, 67, or 68 F. We also didn’t purchase paper towels because of how expensive that would be for so many people. The best part (and saving grace) was that it was only a 1-mile commute to work/class in my car, so I consistently spent a total of $30-$40 on gas per month.” – Drew from Drew DuBoff

Save money at the movies. “As a single mom and nursing student when the kids were younger. I would go to the dollar store or Rite Aid, have them pick out the box candy ($1.00 box) like they have at the movies, then smuggle it in along with juice boxes!! by using my big purse. Then, I would buy the large refillable popcorn, then I would go to the candy station and grab small plastic bags to divided the popcorn and everyone had their own. And, I didn’t have to give up my kidney to take them to the movies.” – Belinda from Down This Life Road

We played into the low income assumption. “We bought a smaller house last year and it needed new rain gutters. The contractor we hired for the job assumed we were a lower income family because we’re in our 20’s with two little kids living in a small 70-year-old house. He came right out and said because he knew we were low income and money was tight, he would give us a nice discount. His price saved us almost $1000 versus the other quotes we got. We played right into his assumption and saved a ton of money even though we’re close to a 6-figure dual income household!! It sure was nice of him to assume differently though!” – Cassie from Living Low Key

I collect other people’s bottle waste. “I collect/pick bottles (and sell them at Bottle Depot) from recycling bins, sidewalks or just about anywhere where people leave their drinks and not recycling them. It is not that much but it makes you humble and patient to earn a little bit extra. The biggest impact though is that you help the environment from preventing plastic bottles ending in a trash can or even worse when they get to bodies of water.” – Darwin from Darwin Ayson

I got rid of my car, my cell phone, and moved in with my stepdad. “The most extreme things I’ve done to save money is to 1# get rid of a car, 2# get rid of my cell phone, and 3# move in with my stepdad. I have upwards of $50k in a debt, including some back pay in taxes, so I’m trying to pinch my pennies right now. I’m an online college student, as well as a blogger, so I don’t leave the house to go to a regular 9-5 job. If I need to use a car to go somewhere, my step dad lets me use his. When I had a car lease, I was paying a little over $500 a month between my payment and car insurance. And considering I never went anywhere, it seemed like a wasteful payment to have. So when my lease was due to be returned, I just returned it and never got another car. When you don’t have a cell phone, it’s really no big deal. I used Google Voice as my main number and called back people on the landline. I lasted for over two years before I got another cell phone. And even now, I mostly use it for texting and Pinterest. And as for living with my stepdad, it’s just a lot cheaper and it also helps him out. I put gas in his car, do all the errands, help him with bills, etc. There are times I am paying rent, and there are times when I’m rent-free. We have it all coincide with my earnings, so it makes it a little easier on me while I build up a new blog business.” – Lisa Pfeffer

We rent rooms out in our house to save money on the mortgage. “My wife and I shared our house with a few strangers to try and save some money. We didn’t vet the tenants (big mistake!) and we ended up with some ‘interesting’ characters. One woman went into psychosis and filled our 2000ft townhouse with gas from the stove. I don’t have a sense of smell so it was extremely dangerous! Luckily, my wife could smell the gas when we arrived home and called the fire department. We are definitely more careful now when trying to save some money on a mortgage payment!” – Russell from Unconventional Prosperity

I’ve had my kids use their own coupons to take advantage of sales. “I’ve stood in the checkout line with me and my two kids and all of us had coupons to use. It was one coupon per customer so my kiddos had to be customers that day on their own.” – Thena from Hodge Podge Hippie

I turned trash into a toy. “When my kids were toddlers, I spotted a plastic playhouse out for the trash. It was too big to fit in my car, so I pulled it down the street, dragging it and making enough noise to bring all the old ladies to their windows! We power washed it and the kids loved it. When they outgrew it a few years later, I sold it for $40 on Craigslist!” – Cindy from Smart Family Money

I’ll check to see if stores will honor expired coupons (not in a deceptive way). “Brands will frequently honor recently expired or even super old coupons. Got a pair of $300 headphones for $179 because the company honored an expired Black Friday coupon in January. The worst that can happen is they say no or bring up that it’s expired. In many circumstances they’ll find you a promo or deal that’s going on as an acceptable substitute that you may have not known about otherwise.” – Ben from Dollar Sprout

I slept on a couch and shared a studio apartment. “I moved out of my expensive one bedroom apartment which was taking a big chunk of my salary. I moved in with somebody who had a studio apartment, had to throw out most of my belongings except clothes, slept on the couch for months just to have a roof over my head. Paying half-half with my roommate saved us thousands in rent!” – Pearl from Certified Hustler

We found so many ways to save on our wedding. “We had to pay for our wedding ourselves so we had paper plates, silverware and cups, reused wedding decor from other peoples’ weddings. We ordered fried chicken and asked some ladies to make mashed potatoes and green beans. We fed 250 people! Our photographer was a super old guy who had to be instructed on poses we should do (pictures turned out awful), but he was CHEAP. I found a discount on the cake from a friend who ‘knows someone; and ended up with the leaning tower of pisa. We did one of those timeshare things for our honeymoon so we paid $99 for 3 nights and 4 days in a resort in Orlando, just had to sit through a 2 hour spiel… that is the one thing I WOULD recommend from the whole experience.” – Virginia from Just Life and Coffee

We rehabbed the apartment we were renting. “We saved a ton of money in 2016 by renting an apartment that wasn’t quite finished. The landlord, who had fallen on really hard times, agreed to let us rent the unfinished apartment for 1/3 of the monthly rental cost, and in exchange, we were required to complete the improvements. My partner did this since he is good with plumbing, electrical work, and maintenance. We were able to save over $12,000 dollars in rent that year which was great since that year was also a tough one for us.” – Yandra from Meraadi

I buy my furniture on Craigslist. “I enjoy having quality furniture, but the budget doesn’t always allow for it. When we’re in the market to buy, I keep watch on Craigslist for Ethan Allen items within a couple hours drive. We’ve found a beautiful bedroom set for less than $1000 (that was still in stores!), chairs for our living room, and a sectional for our family room…all Ethan Allen, at a fraction of their original price.” – Jamie Ann from Like A Bubbling Brook

I gave birth with just my husband there. “I freebirthed my first son because I didn;t want to pay a midwife $3,500 to watch me give birth. Yes, this means that no one was there except my husband. I loved it so much, I freebirthed my second son, too!” – Amanda from Crunchy Hippie Life

We slept on an air mattress for three months. “When we bought our first apartment we had to do some extensive work. We removed all the floors and remodeled the kitchen and bathroom, plus replastered every wall. We didn’t want to spend any extra money to rent another place so we lived for three months in a small corner, sleeping on a air mattress on the floor. All our clothes were in bin bags to try to protect them from the dust! Every morning I looked like a builder going into work, with dust all over my shoes and some paint in my hair that wouldn’t come out! It was quite an adventure but we saved at least $4,000 in rent! Not sure I’ll do it again.” – Sara from Gathering Dreams

We bundled up instead of turning on the heat. “One of the embarrassing ways we managed to save money was by not turning the heat on when it was snowing outside and freezing cold in our apartment! When we used to live up north in New Jersey, our electric bill every month would be so high during the winter. So to save extra money, we decided to not turn the heat on as much as we could. We would wear thick layers of clothing and socks at home instead of turning on the heat to save money. It worked because that allowed us to save hundreds of dollars each month in our utility bills.” – Amira from A Self Guru

I regift gifts. “One of the biggest things I have done to save money involves regifting gifts and reusing gift bags! For example, for Christmas in 2017 I received a gas gift card for $25. My boyfriend’s birthday was two months later. He drove over two hours each way to work so I gave him the gas gift card for his birthday. He was appreciative and it saved me money! I’ve done this with friends, family, and coworkers. It especially works when needing a gift bag as they can be pretty pricey.” – Tia from Financially Fit and Fab

I haven’t had a car in five years. “When I was just graduating college, money was tight and I knew it was going to be that way for the immediate future as I navigated an entry level position, student loan debt, credit card debt, and still learning the 101 of personal finance. As a way to cut monthly overhead costs, I decided I would live in a (much) smaller and affordable apartment closer to work in the downtown core so that I would not need a vehicle. I walked to get groceries, walked to visit friends and family, walked to appointments, walked to work… I walked everywhere. Rain, snow, freezing winter winds or summer humidity, I walk. That was over five years ago and I still don’t have a vehicle. I’ll rent one at times when it’s needed for road trips or bigger shopping trips. Otherwise, my feet are my mode of transportation and means to saving money. Is it an annoyance at times? Yes. However, it’s saved me tens of thousands of dollars plus provided me other benefits in terms and health and wellness. The money saved has helped me eliminate my student loan debt, purchase another condo and focus my finances on areas that provide me the most fulfillment.” – Scott from Making Momentum

Get rid of paid TV completely to save money. The average monthly cable bill is around $120! By the year 2020, the average cable bill is expected to be around $200 a month. If you want to save money, you may want to think about getting rid of cable, satellite, Netflix, and anything else you are paying for, and just switch to a digital antenna. I highly recommend doing this! Related money saving tip: You can also ditch cable and get Hulu instead. It’s as low as $5.99 and a great way to save loads of money each month on cable.

Grocery money saving tips

Food is a necessity, but buying groceries can be extremely expensive if you’re not smart about it. With these money saving tips, you’ll be able to cut your grocery bill in no time!

Reusing, making food fancier, and be willing to wait in line. “I reuse tea bags to make 2-3 cups of tea. I can’t toss zip lock bags if they’re still usable and I’ll wash them out and use them again. I ‘dress up’ Aldi pizza to make it not taste like cardboard as much. I waited in line at the cable company for 4+ hours to get my cable bill down by $20 per month.” – Suzi from Start A Mom Blog

I’d take extra food from the school cafeteria for the weekend. “Here’s something I did in college. I only had 10 meals a week at the dining hall, so I was always trying to find ways to get more food without having to actually buy it. I’d pack Tupperware containers in my backpack and take extra food from the cafeteria, especially on Friday to get me through the weekend. I’d also go to basically any club meeting that offered free food, including language clubs for languages I’d never taken! I spent some awkward time at Japanese club for pizza, stopped by the Jewish Studies Center on days when they were celebrating holidays with food, attended Atheist/Humanist Alliance meetings, campus Catholic meetings, and more just to get a meal.” – Natasha from The Artisan Life

I took a survey for free cake mix. “I had signed up for a couple of survey sites and qualified for an in-home test of cake mix and frosting. It just happened to fall around my daughter’s birthday, so I used the test cake mix and frosting for her birthday cake. Cheapest cake we’ve ever gotten, and everyone enjoyed it! It’s a small savings, but it’s a definitely bizarre – and I can vouch that not everyone is as impressed with free cake as I am!” – Tana from Debt Free Forties

Take as many online surveys as you can. There are tons of survey companies that you can sign up for and make a little bit of side cash. If you sign up for them all, you may be able to earn anywhere from $25-$100+ a month by taking surveys online. Survey companies I recommend include Swagbucks, Survey Junkie, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.

I attended free events for free food. “As a college student I have done many crazy things to save money! In order to save money on food, I have gone to dozens of random events that offer free lunches: club meetings, info sessions, seminars, networking, events, etc. One time I even attended what ended up being a sales pitch for a multi-leveling marketing scheme but it was worth it for the free pizza. I’ve also been known to lurk around after the events end and grab some leftovers to go!” – Dale from Blogging Her Way

I pick and freeze fruit. “In Portland we have a ton of fruit that is wasted every summer, especially blackberries. I’ve been picking and freezing fruit for years, which allows me to use fruit all winter for free versus buying berries in the store for outrageous winter prices.” – Tawnya from Money Saved Money Earned

I worked at a restaurant just for the free food to bring home. I once took on a second evening job at a pub, cooking chicken wings for hours on end (I was a vegetarian at the time!), just so I could bring home extra food after work for my husband and I. It really did cut down on the grocery bill, and the extra cash was nice, but I still can’t stand the smell of deep fried chicken wings!” – Kristal from Money Dot Calm

We would spend just $40 per week on food. “When my husband and I were trying to pay off credit cards, we would basically pay all of our bills, leave $75 out for groceries and gas for two cars (every two weeks) and pay everything extra on the focus card we were working towards paying off. We lived like this for about a year. $40 per week for groceries did not get very far. It was a lot of pasta, rice, cereal, eggs, and bananas. Every time we paid off a card, we would treat ourselves to a meal out to somewhere within reason. We would then put 10% of whatever we were paying towards the card we’d just paid off into savings each month before starting on the next one. We didn’t do anything during the year. No movies, no nights out (unless we’d just paid something off), no buying anything extra. It was difficult but worth it. We paid off all of our credit cards and it opened up so much for us. We have the freedom to do more without guilt and don’t get anything unless we can buy it without charging it.” – Ashley from Unveiled Tales

I have an alert for giveaways on Twitter. “So if there is anything I use (or might use to gift someone else), I participate in them. I remember once Cafe Coffee Day tweeted on Women’s Day and wanted the audience to tell them ‘why is your wife special.’ My husband participated in it and we won a gift basket with coffee mugs and lots (and, lots) of coffee. I think we did not have to buy coffee for quite a while.” – Chhavi from Mrs. Daaku Studio

Vacation money saving tips.

Even when you are trying to save money, it’s still possible to go on vacation, especially when you are frugal about it. Here are some ways you can save money on your next vacation.

I slept in a car for a week while on vacation. “On vacation in New Zealand, my girlfriend Lauren and I didn’t want to spend money on accommodation and as little as possible on food, so we slept in a cramped Mazda 3 in 35 degree weather and ate only PB&J, tuna and beans for an entire week. Total cost was under $300! – Cody from Fly to FI

We sleep at Walmarts for free on vacation. “My wife and I take her Jeep on road trips and will bring an air mattress with us and sleep in the back. We bring snacks from home to save on going out to eat as well as cards for things to do. We’ll find the side of a road and sleep there or in a Walmart parking lot. We’ll usually be out and about checking out the city til late and then wake up early. We also did this in Iceland. There we didn’t have blankets so we used extra clothes and turned the heat on full and had to start the car multiple times throughout the night.” – Tim from Life For The Better

On our honeymoon, we ate extremely cheaply – only spent $40! “We planned the perfect $1000 Hawaiian honeymoon: A kayaking trip to a secluded waterfall, inner-tubing through sugar-cane irrigation canals, a helicopter tour of the island, and dinner every night. Except nothing ever goes as planned, I guess. When we arrived to the island and went to pick up our rent-a-car, it turned out we hadn’t booked the car correctly. Since we were both under the age of 25, the rental car actually cost more than double what we had planned, wrecking our budget. It sucked. So we created a new budget which left us with a decision: we either had to cut one of our three Hawaiian excursions or have less than $40 to buy food for the week. Since we had no plans of going back to Hawaii any time soon, we elected to starve. For breakfast we ate an apple, lunch a PBJ sandwich, and for dinner we ate one of those $0.99 microwavable cheese-wheel dinners. That’s all we ate every day on our honeymoon. But no regrets, we had the best trip of our lives, along with a funny story to tell.” – Nikayla from Budgeting Couple

We stayed in a tent and ate PB&Js for a week. “My friends and I went on a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. To save money we stayed in a tent and ate nothing but peanut butter and cheese sandwiches for every meal for a week. We didn’t have much money but it was one of my most memorable vacations.” – Cara from Cara Palmer

I have hotels hold my luggage for free, even when I’m not staying there. “I am a regular budget traveler, currently traveling around USA for one year. I often take overnight buses to save on accommodation and transport. After FinCon 2018, rather than take a flight between Orlando and Memphis, I took overnight buses Orlando-Atlanta + Atlanta-Memphis, with 12 hours to explore Atlanta in between. Not wanting to carry my luggage all day, I stopped by a hotel after arriving in Atlanta and asked them to hold my bags before hotel check-in time… failing to say that I wasn’t actually booked in to stay there. No questions asked. I then collected my bags that evening to take the next overnight bus. Success. I also occasionally sleep in airports the night before early flights, overnighting in Denver, Miami and New Orleans in the last few months. I check sleepinginairports.net for crowdsourced reviews on the best places to sleep, then find myself a choice bench, couch or area of floor to get some shuteye with eye mask and earplugs in place.” – Michelle from Frugality and Freedom

I avoid luggage fees by “trying” to be sneaky. “Last April we were going on a family vacation to Hilton Head. I decided that I wanted to try and avoid the $25 baggage fee by trying to get past TSA with an oversized carry-on. Luckily, I made it through security, barely, as it just fit through the scan machine. I thought I was in the clear until we got to the gate and the worker immediately saw the luggage and said ‘Yup, nope, there is NO WAY that is fitting on the plane. You need to check that immediate sir.’ I was busted and once again Brittany was right. I went to the desk to check my bag and talked them into storing it below at no extra charge. So we ended up saving $25 but I learned my lesson to never try it again.” – Kelan & Brittany Kline from The Savvy Couple

I slept in a sleeping bag in a dorm room for Spring Break. “As a college student at The University of Minnesota, I didn’t have a lot of spending money. When most people were contemplating trips to Florida, Texas, or Mexico for spring break, a couple of friends and I set our sights on Iowa. The three of us had been teammates on our high school wrestling team, and we wanted to attend the NCAA Championships in Iowa City. The University of Iowa’s spring break coincided with ours, and I had a friend living in the dorms, which would be pretty much empty that week. My Hawkeye friend hid a key, and my buddies and I packed sleeping bags and camped out for the long weekend in my friend’s dorm room. It was a very frugal (and frigid) spring break.” – Physician on FIRE

I almost slept with snakes to save money on hotels. “When I was in college my buddies and I would always camp as opposed to getting a hotel room when we went out of town for overnight trips. Of course, this helped tremendously considering a college student’s budget. However, it developed a habit that was hard to break and it carried over into adulthood. We went on a weekend guys trip one time in our mid-twenties and of course loaded up the sleeping bags and didn’t make any attempt to pre-scout a sleeping spot. When it was time to go to bed that night the only secluded spots we could find looked very snake friendly (south Louisiana). After an hour or two of nervously lying on the ground we decided that we were in fact grown men with jobs and respectable incomes and that we didn’t have to do this. We packed up, got a hotel, and slept like babies. We’ve never looked back!” – Brandon from Brandon Renfro

What other frugal living tips do you have to share? What embarrassing things have you done to save money?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. Lynn

    I lived in Florida. I was trying to get some newly-planted roses established. They started rationing water so you could only water twice a week. That would kill the roses. So I started taking baths with no bath oil or bubble bath products — and bailing out the bathwater into the backyard. That took care of the roses AND gave me a good workout — buckets full of water are heavy! Very little water went down the drain; it got reused.

    1. I LOVE THIS! Thank you for sharing.

    2. Florida is definitely a beautiful place to live and to start a business. Especially South Florida. 🙂

  2. Lynn

    I packed clothing into a box and shipped it to my relatives, where I would be visiting. This saved the luggage fee on the aircraft. It was cheaper to “mail” it than to carry it to the airport.At trip’s end, I packed and my relatives sent it back after dropping me off at the airport. No lugging luggage through the terminal.

    1. Kermit

      I always travel with 3 outfits, wear one, pack two. I find hotel laundry to be cheaper than luggage fees. But that is just a preference. One athletic, one casual and one I can eat out in.

  3. I don’t know that part about where in a garbage bag for costume and efforts of saving $ gUaP $. I know at times people go to desperate measures, but on this and, that’s not one of them. L 🙂 L

  4. Thanks for the shout-out, ma’am.

  5. Potty training your cat…sleeping at Walmart…PB & Cheese for a week…some of these are hilarious! Awesome roundup of frugal tips! 🙂

  6. This reminds me of your other post! It’s like some of these are really genius but then others can borderline on unethical I think. I’m definitely frugal at heart and will add water to the shampoo bottle to get more but you have to draw some personal lines!

    1. Susan G. Dwyer

      I agree. Being frugal is one thing-theft, in any way, from others is not acceptable.

  7. Let’s not forget the people who occasionally pee in a cup and throw it out the window (a friend of a friend has done it before, and it’s disgusting). And what do they end up saving? A whopping $5 if they’re lucky.

    Pretty interesting read, so thanks for putting it all together :p

    P.S. I saw your interview with Jeff Rose a few months back, great work!

    Take care,

    1. People do that to save money?

  8. Mary

    Funny and inspirational by the creativeness of people.
    I can add some – when someone brings leftover food from meetings or celebrations to the pantry in our office, I’m not shy to take some pizza for my kids, Indian food for my husband or cookies for the family. Same after the party at the kindergarten is over. Free food is … free!
    I always pick the pennies from the floor and also any receipts that I can scan into the apps I use. Actually, these receipts pay more than pennies. Garbage bean in the grocery store is full of these “golden” receipts.
    I always look what people put on the curb. Many treasures can be found, like furniture items, books, toys and more.
    Participate in mom’s forums on FB, as there are always gives and takes of kids items.

  9. Steve Hardaway

    Some of these are hilarious, but there are some real gems in there too. It’s surprising how frugal some people can be. I did have one question, though. The “peanut butter and cheese” sandwiches… is that two separate sandwiches, a PB&J and then a cheese sandwich? Or was it peanut butter and cheese on the same sandwich? Haha!

    1. I’m really hoping they area separate sandwiches haha!

      1. Martha Mc Cully

        Actually, peanut butter and cheese sandwiches are pretty good! I have them all the time when I don’t want to cook.

  10. Travis

    Great list…I can’t believe the creativity and determination some people have when it comes to saving money!

  11. Carolyn

    We do some pretty frugal things but the one most people cannot believe is I had my husband give me a haircut on our third date. I had gone about a year since my last haircut which was a horrible one from a salon, and my hair was looking rough. I also didn’t have the money in my budget for one either, groceries or a haircut was my options. He said he could cook, so I asked if he was going to cook for me and he invited me to dinner at his house and it was great, he is a better cook than me, I admit. After dinner while sipping some wine he was playing with my hair and I told him I knew it was bad, I needed a haircut but it’s not in my budget now. He told me he could cut my hair for me if I wanted him to. So I asked really, could you? He showed me he had the good shears and he explained how he would do it. So next morning I was at his house and I announced that I was there for my hair appointment. He poured me a cup of coffee and had me take a seat on a stool. He put a towel around my shoulders, combed my hair, sectioned it and pinned it up. I told him it needs a good chopping, take off at least four inches. He said that wasn’t necessary and began trimming. He let down each layer in increments and trimmed them very meticulously. He finished and I looked at the dust pan that he had just swept up my hair in, not much, good sign. I dashed to the bathroom mirror to inspect his work. I was impressed, he did a great job with my haircut. I told him he was now my stylist. Later that day at work, I kept checking my hair in the mirror. A friend I worked with knew I had mentioned that I needed a haircut and noticed my hair. She told me it looked great and asked what it cost me and where I had it done. When I told her it was free and my new boyfriend had cut my hair for me, she was very surprised, but told me he sounds like a keeper. He does my hair every other month and I have not paid for one since and never a bad haircut, saves me hundreds a year.

  12. Ha Ha Ha I like the Toilet Paper from work! I’ve defintely “liberated” some klennex boxes from work before. They buy the better boxes than I can afford.

    That money was definitely better spent elsewhere. =)

    -Andrew (formerly Wallet Squirrel)

    1. Ky. Gal

      Umm, I think you mean “stole,” not “liberated.” I’m all for frugality, but this is just plain theft….certainly nothing to be proud of!

      1. Mary L.


  13. I was foodie. I spend more money on eating different kind of dishes in restaurants . How can I avoid this habit.

  14. […] My story is one of the last among a few dozen tales of extreme frugality. It involves the NCAA Wrestling Championships, which just happens to have taken place this weekend. From Making Sense of Cents, 50+ Crazy Things People Have Done To Save Money. […]

  15. Jay

    Amazing article..! The taking toilet paper from work made me laugh but evey little helps when it comes to saving money!

  16. With a few of my friends, I went to marriage across another city. To save on hotel money, we slept at the empty chairs after the wedding was over in the night. That was pretty crazy at that time.

  17. Ankush Saurabh @ AnkushSaurabh

    Potty train your cat is so unusual job idea I have ever read, but I really liked it. You know I am a blogger, still time to time I look for some jobs which can help me with my bills.

    I love pets, so dog and cat stuff really attract me, thanks for giving me a really great idea today.

  18. Zimbola

    Sleeping with ice packs in bed is super funny. I can’t even imagine of this so very brilliant idea to cope with summer when you are broke.

    Great funny!