There’s no shame—in fact, many would say it’s financially wise—to live an inexpensive lifestyle. Clipping coupons, buying items on sale, cooking food at home, bringing the leftovers to eat for lunch at work the next day, and shopping at secondhand stores are all simple and unobtrusive ways to save a lot of money in the long run. The line that differentiates “frugal” from “cheap,” is a thin one, however, and you’d be surprised at just how far people are willing to go to save a few dollars. Here’s a list of especially ridiculous ways people try to save money:
• Eating food out of the dumpster. Many people try to justify this by explaining that groceries throw out unsold food products the moment they hit their expiration date, and the dates themselves are quite liberally set so that there is absolutely no chance of consumers eating old food. True as this might be, there are other risks with dumpster-diving that people neglect to consider. The foremost risk is that dumpster divers don’t have any way of knowing the true reason why those food items were discarded. For example, that chicken may have been sitting on the counter at room temperature overnight, and is now no longer safe to consume.
• Not turning on the heat in the winter. In the face of skyrocketing fuel prices, many consumers are opting to limit how much they heat their home in the winter. Setting the temperature just cold enough so that you have to wear warm socks and a sweater around the house is reasonable, but a winter jacket and snow pants? Not as much.
• Showering only once a week to save soap. No one wants to smell a person who doesn’t regularly shower. Furthermore, the savings are only substantial if you were using expensive soap in the first place. Frugal (and nice-smelling) consumers know to purchase inexpensive shampoos and soaps, and to only use a small amount at a time.
• Stocking napkins, toilet paper, and condiments from fast food restaurants. Not only is it stingy, but also it’s theft.
• Spending 40 hours a week clipping coupons. Coupon-clipping was mentioned above as a sensible way to save money, and this still holds true, if consumers are spending only a few minutes each day doing so. Spending 40 hours a week, however, is hardly sensible. Assuming you save $100 clipping coupons over 40 hours, that averages out to $2.50 savings per hour. You’d make more money earning minimum wage at a fast food restaurant.
• Eating only oatmeal. Or eating only Ramen. Oatmeal, Ramen, and other similar foods are extremely inexpensive meals (Ramen can be purchased for around 10 cents per pack, depending on a consumer’s geographic location). However, they do not provide nearly enough nutritional value to justify surviving on these foods alone. College students, for example, who subsisted on a Ramen-only diet contracted scurvy because the meal lacked necessary vitamins. Consider instead purchasing inexpensive yet nutritious foods, including fruits and vegetables.
Not using toilet paper at all. You’ll technically save money, but the smell will be infernal.
• Spending the whole night searching for a lost stamp. Many consumers fail to consider the opportunity cost of their time; the opportunity cost is the value to a consumer had he or she done something else with his or time, such as working. Hetty Green, one of the first women on Wall Street and known for her extreme miserliness, once spent nearly the entire night looking through her carriage for a lost stamp. She also once traveled thousands of miles to collect a payment of only several hundred dollars.
Mitchell Gavillion recently graduated with a degree in journalism and is currently writing regularly about topics related to saving money. Mitchell has also written about online shopping tips and advice. Some of his online shopping tips were featured on Savoo.co.uk, an online coupon site & blog.