I was recently interviewed by a television program and the producer asked an interesting question, “What’s the craziest thing you have ever done to save money.” Well, crazy is a relative term. Some people think the idea of clipping coupons and budgeting is crazy! I knew other extreme frugal followers would be unimpressed with tales of washing our own cars or meal planning. So, I reached back into the recesses of my frugal memories and came up with the following examples. Some are more amusing than crazy, but all of them saved quite a bit of money.
Painted the Roof of My Car. This seemed less crazy at the time, but looking back this move represented a level of extreme frugality I have not been able to duplicate since. Besides the aesthetic risk I was taking in a DIY auto paint job, it was back breaking work and wound up costing nearly an entire vacation day worth of time. Oh well, I saved a ton of money and the paint job didn’t turn out half bad. Rust-O-leum Auto gray looks quite nice in the afternoon sun.
Bicycle Home from Work. I personally don’t consider this move very crazy, but my friends and family seem to think it qualifies. It is probably because I have never been much of a cyclist, and I am what they classify a “heavy rider.” I’ve still got some work to do to maximize this effort such as adding some panniers to my bike, and finding some better road tires. Still, with the rising cost of gas I’m saving nearly $60 a month by not driving our second vehicle four or five days out of the week.
Cut My Own Hair (with a little help from Mrs. Frugal). Back in high school and college this would have been much easier to pull off because I “buzzed” my own hair with clippers from a home haircutting kit every couple weeks. I like short hair, especially in the summer, and find few things better than towel drying in 10 seconds of head-scrubbing and calling your hair “styled.” My hair grows fast, so I figure this move alone saves me roughly $200 a year in a dozen trips to the local walk-ins-welcome haircutting salon. Now if I could just figure out how to even my neckline in the mirror I would be totally self-sufficient with haircuts.
An (Almost) All-Day Fast. I recently set out on a blogging marathon well before breakfast. I was “in the zone” while writing at a local cafe and spent several hours there without purchasing a single item of food (I did buy a water bottle when I first arrived as to not appear a complete cheapskate!). When the hunger really started to settle in I walked up to the counter and could not find one single sandwich item for less than $7.00. I returned to my table, wrote a little longer and then went home to have dinner. My wife told me I was cheap, stubborn and just plain silly for not ordering a sandwich. I reminded her of the difference between being frugal and being cheap, and I promised to sneak in an energy bar or two during my next marathon.
Watering Down Drinks. Okay, so this is probably the least crazy of all, but I promised you five things. Nearly all of us have been impacted by rising food prices, and our family is no exception. With a little one that chugs apple juice and milk like they are going out of style, our grocery budget’s largest category was quickly becoming “drinks.” I started “thinning” the already thin skim milk with water, and did the same with my son’s apple juice. It worked fine in the beginning, but I got a little over-zealous and started adding too much water. One day he took a sip of juice and tossed the sippy cup in the floor sounding off, “Dad, I don’t like that apple juice! Yucky!” Oops, I guess we should stick to untampered juice formulas and just let him have less of it.