Wild Ways To Save For The Seriously Thrifty

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-01-1643

Some wild ways to save for those who are determined to live the thrifty and frugal lifestyle.

I’ve tried to be a serious saver and there were times when I’ve been successful, and other times, not as much, such as these days with less income coming in and more members of the family to take care of. Many years ago, when I was on the fast track towards “wealth accumulation” through constant work and combined money preservation and investment strategies that I was able to execute freely, I had developed enviable saving habits. Things have changed since then, with the ebbs and flows of life, but never have I been as radical as some of the things I will be listing here.

Let’s put your saving skills to the test and see where you stand.

The Mild

Right off the top of my head, these are all the saving schemes I’ve tried out myself and perform regularly.

  • I don’t buy items that need dry cleaning. At least I limit them. I go for all cotton so I can save on dry cleaning bills.
  • I go au naturel. Ok it’s not what you think! Here’s what I mean: I don’t buy cosmetics or fancy cleaning agents for my face or body, hence I sport the natural look at all times. Whether or not this scares anyone is not something I’m concerned with as I rejoice in the fact that I don’t have to spend mountains of money on Maybelline.
  • I use coupons sometimes, particularly those from department stores which come ready to use in the mail so I find them very convenient to use. I don’t cut coupons though — too much trouble.
  • I use rebates sometimes, but only if they coincidentally come with the item I intend to purchase and I only deal with those with liberal policies. In other words, I don’t buy an item because of the rebate. I buy the item and if there’s a rebate, then great, if not, then I don’t sweat it.
  • I recycle as much as I can. If I can reuse an item then I will, within reason of course. Think: hand-me-downs, gifts, paper, food, etc.
  • I limit or completely forego spending. That is, I’d rather do without than be half-baked about a purchase. If something grabs me in a big way and it’s a bit costly, I won’t buy it on installment, which implies that I always pay my credit cards in full. I will wait till I can completely afford it before acting. Or I forget about the purchase altogether if it’s taking too long to afford it.
  • I buy in bulk where possible. Thanks to Costco for making this happen.
  • I buy when things are on sale. Duh. Who doesn’t? But unfortunately it’s not always a habit: I also buy when things aren’t on sale; however, the good news is that I only get stuff I absolutely need.
  • I buy stuff on consignment. There are some really neat, affordable things out there in some high end consignment stores as well as Craigslist. I’ve been fortunate to acquire a few things I’m very proud of from these places.

Now there are savers in a class all their own, who are considered extreme savers. This sounds like a sport and in a way, it is! Some folks I know who have practiced this sport have done the following things, so try this at your own risk! While some of these tips should just be avoided completely. Get ready for…

cow bank

The Wild

Here’s what they do to qualify:

  • They cut paper towel rolls in half or peel off double ply tissue, if you know what I mean.
  • They keep expired medications in the medicine cabinet, for actual use beyond expiration dates. I suppose the placebo effect can be counted upon during those days of migraine and malaise.
  • They make food out of anything they find. They don’t waste what nature offers up. Hmmm….let’s just call it creative cooking, but don’t ask for details as I don’t want to go there.
  • They make regular hiking trips to the meadows to pick up exquisitely tasty wild mushrooms. Almost like truffles, they say, but for free! They know about the killer kind and have a way of identifying which ones these are. Snip a truly minuscule little piece of and ingest it — if nothing happens to you, then the shrooms are good to go! Ahem….sure, it tastes like heaven but no matter how experienced you are, I still think this is a dreadful idea.
  • They reuse cooking oil who knows how many times over. Now you know what those scary yellow orange jars are.
  • They limit the potty flushing even when there’s no drought. All together now: If it’s yellow, let it mellow….
  • They limit the use of anything disposable, such as paper products, contact lenses, toothpaste, heck you name it!
  • They wait for people to feel sorry for their look or their wardrobe so they can get free clothes from kind-hearted kin. Hey wait, does this tie in with the au naturel strategy?

Okay, so now that we’ve tackled The Mild and The Wild, we can get into The Truly Outrageous Ways To Save. But you’ll need to stay tuned for the rest of it….tomorrow! If you’ve got anything to rival these methods, I’d love to hear it. Ta-ta for now.

Part 2: 22 Outrageous Ways To Save has now been published!

< Credit: AnimalDen.com >

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Hope January 16, 2007 at 4:53 pm

I’ve stopped coloring my gray hair. I HATE the gray, and it looks even worse as the old color grows out (I’ve colored it for about 12 years). But, I just hated spending money on coloring it all the time, particularly since the color wrecked my hair to some extent anyway.

Ugh. I think letting it gray is the best of two horrible options.

And, I suppose I’ll get used to it (??). But, I’m only 36!

Silicon Valley Blogger January 16, 2007 at 8:03 pm

Michelle, I’m going to have to worry about that sometime! I’ll need to figure out how to deal with it myself.

Just a quick note though about the title of this post: I meant it to say that I was “describing” some wild ways to save, but not necessarily endorsing them. Some of those listed can certainly be applied to one’s lifestyle, however those that put your health at risk would be something I’d totally avoid. Even the money saved isn’t worth compromising your health.

Daniel January 17, 2007 at 5:48 am

I guess the Wild measures could be harmful to your health as well, and you might spend more money in the hospital later

John Wesley January 17, 2007 at 8:01 am

If you spend all your time cutting coupons, you’ll be doing it forever. My attitude is to spend intelligently, but not worry too much about it because I expect to earn a lot of money over my lifetime.

What is a drop in the bucket here and there?

Andy January 18, 2007 at 10:05 pm

I’m continually amazed at the lengths some people will go to to save money. I for one believe in the point of diminishing returns and not being penny wise and pound foolish. There’s a lot of gray (and hotly-debated) territory, but there’s also just good common sense.

Some people make it a game to see how much they can save. In our marriage we each get a monthly allowance to spend as we see fit with no accountability for that money; it can go to whatever we want. Since my wife does a lot of the shopping and bill paying, we setup an incentive program where she gets a percentage of the amount she saves us. Everybody wins!

Silicon Valley Blogger January 18, 2007 at 10:25 pm

Yes, I am also from the camp of trying not to be penny-wise but pound foolish. But I have close ties to people who ARE unfortunately penny-wise and pound foolish. There’s just too many examples for me to draw upon. No wonder I stay anonymous on here!

Nerd Mom January 19, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Very amusing 🙂 .. . the wild ways to save, that is.

Only I don’t understand why resort to those if you could save many thousands of $$$ by simply not paying taxes :):)…

On a serious note, just utilizing flex spending accounts that many employers offer, one could realize tax savings of at least 25% (15% (up to 35%) federal tax + 7.65% SS tax & medicare + 4% state tax)… for an amount of $5000 this would mean $1250… and this is not counting any potential phaseouts:

Trent January 20, 2007 at 10:20 pm

The mushroom thing is far from disgusting. Morel mushrooms are considered a delicacy and they’re quite easy to identify and find in the woods in the Midwest in early spring. In fact, if others find it interesting, I could produce a photo diary of the process of finding them in the woods and preparing them.

Silicon Valley Blogger January 20, 2007 at 10:38 pm

Hi Nerd Mom, Definitely the most overlooked area for saving the most money is in tax management! We need to invest more time in dealing with this.

Trent – over here in California we have what you call the death cap mushrooms. It looks identical to harmless ones that are absolutely delicious and found in the woods here. Some members of my family have trudged the meadows for the edible kind but many who don’t know what they’re doing have made fatal mistakes by picking up the death caps. Every year we have cases of people dying from the stuff. It messes up the liver with built up toxins. Just a few weeks ago an entire family ended up hospitalized and one died from such a mishap…. So in California, best to buy the store bought kind!

Kaycee January 22, 2007 at 12:27 am

… I have a family member who is a pharmacist and she and her colleagues will all tell you that the expiration dates on labels are, well, to get you to buy more! Occasionally — no, but that’s rare and a “dead” pill doesn’t hurt anything.

So heck, its worth something. We have eye drops and other generic multi-use drugs hanging around (if they last…)

Lisa Knight January 23, 2007 at 10:22 am

Just surfing the festival.

I can say that wild mushrooming is an art, one I don’t feel comfortable with trying. However, my Grandparents used to do it & they were the best mushrooms ever (fried with onion & butter, Thanksgiving staple). Now that Grandma is 83, she doesn’t get out in the woods much & I’d be afraid to take her so she can show me…

sfmoneygal January 23, 2007 at 11:00 am

My grandparents do a couple of those wild cost saving ways. They seriously reuse oil and cut down on paper towels (think starbucks napkins). As for the flushing, they use the cold water while they wait for the hot to flush the toilet! it’s crazy!

Leo January 23, 2007 at 11:49 pm

Good post. I like the mild ways, but the outrageous ways are just plain funny.

I recently posted about frugality in my post,

What is truly necessary? A guide to living frugal

Chester White January 30, 2007 at 6:05 am

Buy “discount postage” from stamp dealers. You can get all your stamps at 85-90% of face value or so, from dealers who have excess or slightly damaged inventory, which is no good to collectors.

Google or check ebay regularly.

call me wild June 6, 2007 at 2:54 pm

i’m not an expert on this, but i had a doctor friend tell me once that when drugs “expire” it generally means they’ve fallen to 80% potency. this past season i had some cold medicine that had “expired”, so i took 1.5 times the dosage, and it worked like a charm. in any case, i don’t think it could be harmful. drugs don’t “expire” in the same way as, say, milk.

also, what’s so wild about limiting disposable products? i think that’s pretty responsible and admirable. and limiting toilet flushes? what’s bad about that? tons of water is wasted with each flush!

Kimberly November 15, 2007 at 7:04 am

I have worked in the pharmaceutical industry, specifically medication packaging design and engineering. Contrary to what Kaycee wrote about her pharmacist, PLEASE do not continue using expired medication.

When a pharmaceutical company manufactures a medication, it is required by law to conduct stability tests. These tests involve producing a full, production packaged/labeled batch and putting them in an oven to “bake” at a controlled temperature and humidity for a specific period of time. After the batch has sat for the required time, it is removed and subjected to tests to determine if the medication is still viable. In the US, most pharmaceutical companies aim for 2-year expiration stability testing, since that is standard (it is possible to formulate and test for longer expiration periods, but these can delay medication launch times or increase medication expenses). This means that the medication MUST remain viable for 2 years on the shelf *in its original packaging.*

The note about the original packaging is extremely important: in almost all cases, only your pharmacist stores the medication in original packaging, which is controlled by the pharmaceutical company for UV light filtration and no/negligible leeching of the plastic into the medication. The medication provided to you is dispensed in mass-produced, clear amber bottles that WERE NOT TESTED FOR STABILITY.

Please, PLEASE dispose of your expired medications. Humidity, light, temperature, time, and even the plastic of the storage container all contribute to the chemical degradation of the medication. Medications WILL lose their efficacy over time, and some may become toxic.

Expiration dates are not imposed to encourage you to purchase more product. Expiration dates are required by law.

Joanna December 23, 2007 at 9:33 am

Michelle, you are the luckiest person alive!! I wish I had gray hair (I am 30 yrs old). The only way for me to get it, is to go through an extensive bleaching process to make it white, after which a grayish toner can be deposited. But that would most likely get my hair to fall out!! (All the hair people I have talked to refuse to do anything). 🙁

Jim@toner, ink, recycle September 13, 2008 at 1:11 pm

Now let’s talk about the planet.
Remember to recycle your ink and toner cartridges as well as your old cell phones. It takes 2 quarts of oil to make one new cartridge so recycle them so companies like mine can refill them and sell them again.

Never pay to recycle your cartridges make sure you use programs that also benefit the environment like ours http://www.thinkofgreen.com/websiteinfo.asp?fc=12, we plan trees in your name with the Arbor Day Foundation. We also donate 1% of your yearly purchases to an environmental charity of your choice.

So save the environment while saving money…

Dana October 14, 2008 at 3:03 pm

I don’t understand why flushing a toilet is “wasting” water. We have water treatment, so where’s it go after that? Frankly, the amount of clearcutting that goes on all over the world is doing more to diminish the freshwater supplies than almost anything else. So if you’re living in a ‘burb, especially the newer ones, you’re doing more damage than someone who flushes.

Besides, leaving stuff sitting in the pot means you spend more on cleaning supplies, even if you limit yourself to stuff like vinegar and baking soda (the latter of which has to be mined!).

There are other things you can find out in the wild besides mushrooms. Mulberries are very easy to identify and look like nothing that is poisonous. Once someone has pointed out burdock to you, you’ll always remember it; same with wild chicory. Contrary to popular myth, wild strawberries are also edible. They have yellow flowers instead of white, but otherwise they look like miniature versions of domestic strawberries. And rose bushes make rose hips if you don’t snip the flowers. Those have way more vitamin C in them than oranges do, and last a lot longer in storage. Clover blossoms and violets are also edible. I haven’t tried violets but clover’s pretty nommy. It would go well on salads.

Yes, I am a plant geek. 🙂

Silicon Valley Blogger October 14, 2008 at 3:08 pm


I appreciate the imagery!

“Besides, leaving stuff sitting in the pot means you spend more on cleaning supplies, even if you limit yourself to stuff like vinegar and baking soda (the latter of which has to be mined!).”

You definitely think outside the box, and you’ve given me food for thought. 🙂 My mum-in-law is a plant geek and loves the wild stuff. She’s the one I based this article on (sorry Mum…) — you’d probably get along quite well with her! 😉

Dave March 12, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I’ve always saved a ton on generic drugs. Always ask your doctor if they can specify generic drugs on your prescription when you get it.

Adrianne March 12, 2009 at 4:33 pm

In college.. I was starving; I would occasionally eat ketchup out of packets for a meals.
My employer would constantly knock off hours and demand time but no pay… so I would occasionally take wads of toilet paper and bring a bag for filling up on soap from the bathroom.
When I see kids spending $50.00 for a video game I want to yell out “NO DON”T DO IT” because one day you might have to scrounge for toilet paper. That was a long time ago and pretty extreme but lately I’ve been:
donating Plasma it’s like over $200.00 a month, there are things one can do to shorten the process .
eating out of the garden during the summer. ( I have an artesian well)
exchanging kids clothing with the local Kid 2 Kid,
Using cloth diapers and wipes on babies.
I tried using homemade laundry soap… Don’t do it. It destroys clothing by fading them and making exchanging almost impossible. It makes more sense to buy cheap laundry detergent delude it down and add baking soda; that way exchanging clothing is easier.
line dry rather then use the dryer.
vinegar and backing soda for cleaners, and vinegar for conditioning my hair.
My car.. the state is almost going to pay me to register it… the taxes are like nothing because It’s so old.. and still gets great gas mileage.
using cloth bags at the grocery store.. My store knocks off .05 per bag.
In the summer I’ll take trips to the grocery store on my bike. But since everything is far away I usually just try to drive the speed limit or 55 MPH to save gas.. Break less gas less.
My latest thing. Powdered milk.
My secrete confession lately has been going clothing shopping finding what I like and what size I am then buying it off ebay… I’m addicted to designer jeans! I need to stop.
My next quest.. Jumbo Quail. Everything I need out of the garden to make an omelet.
Good luck all!

Dog-Medic March 17, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Forget it, i’ve never been so tight on money that i would like to “split” my toilet paper, and i’ve got lousy income.

Dave May 18, 2009 at 8:10 am

In an economy like we have now, you have to learn to cut corners as much as possible. Discount medication over name brand always helps quite a bit. We need to learn the ways of our depression era parents/grandparents with being frugal and living without!

Elizabeth May 30, 2009 at 9:05 am

Yes, times are rough, but at least a few companies are out there and are willing and able to help. Access Solutions is a patient assistance program from Genentech providing patient prescription assistance.

Todd @ Personal Finance Playbook August 3, 2009 at 8:05 am

Love those wild ones. I’ve always known that I fell more into the mild category. I respect the hard core frugality movement though! Great post.

kosmo @ The Casual Observer August 3, 2009 at 9:20 am

Michelle and Joanna,
Hey, at least you have HAIR. Mine started receeding faster than the [insert losing faction] at [insert famous battle] when I was in college.

Within a few years, I just gave up the fight. Bought a clipper for $20 and started giving myself buzz cuts. 10 years later, the same clipper is still buzzing along (albeit in a manner than suggest that the clipper graveyard may be beckoning soon). Acceptance and adaptation was much cheaper than Rogaine 🙂

Suzie August 3, 2009 at 11:27 am

Hey we do some of these to save money! Less use of water and buying bogofs are an easy way. Walking instead of driving is another goodie. It makes you feel good to save the cash after a while you feel like you’re achieving something good!

Great post.

Kevin@OutOfYourRut August 3, 2009 at 4:22 pm

On the wild/outrageous side, I’ve seen people…

Not going to the doctor when deathly ill,
Eat at restaurants and not leave a tip, even if the service is good,
Bring food home from company functions to feed their families,
Not pay their income or sales taxes for their businesses,
Wash dishes by hand, using close to no water,
Staple scrap paper and junk mail together to make note pads.

More often than not, the people doing these things we’re either high income, high asset or both.

Larry August 3, 2009 at 8:06 pm

I bet that the Wild measures could be harmful too. however, maybe the effect will not be much.
To Kevin: i like you list, 🙂 . you’re right! I also see many people like that.
thanks for the nice post!

Mike August 3, 2009 at 11:05 pm

I think the wild measures are harmful to your health and could cause you to spend more money in the hospital later.

sisteme August 4, 2009 at 3:08 am

Health should be first. We all have bad periods, but each must realize that life is a staircase. You don’t want to spend more money later.

Goran Web Design August 4, 2009 at 4:16 am

Bwahahahahahaaaaah! If its yellow let it mellow…..oh my word, the half flush for a #1 and full flush for a #2 works better for me. Water borne sewage is a great guzzler of water, and that goes beyond saving money, this is about conserving scarce natural resources.

Tiffany May 3, 2011 at 3:22 pm

I came across your blog accidentally, and you sound like a true money snob.

I bet you could benefit from some of that makeup you’re putting down, if your appearance is as obnoxious as your writing.

Silicon Valley Blogger May 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm

I’m not sure if you are truly offended by what I’ve written or if you’re just kidding around, so do come back and clarify yourself. Not sure exactly what stuff seems to have offended you. I only describe the different tactics people do to save money. Also, what does “money snob” mean? Are you FOR or AGAINST extreme saving?

Here’s an example of what has transpired recently between my lovely mother-in-law and me. She is a lovely woman who enjoys saving to the extreme. So right after we have a wonderful dinner (in fact, a feast!) which she prepares, we’re left with chicken bones and empty corn husks on our plates. I proceed to clear the table and dump the bones and husks into the compost bin. My mother-in-law will quickly salvage the pieces thrown away and decide to save it. I would then have a little disagreement about where these bits should go. Her big thing is to save these “ingredients” for the soup pot she’ll make for another meal. She feels the need to avoid wasting any bit of food at all. But my argument here is that this may not be hygienic, and if they end up getting sick from preparing food in this manner, then the money spent at the hospital or putting your health at risk is NOT worth any of the savings you gain from salvaging leftovers from the compost bin.

Every time I remind her about this, she backs off, agrees and dumps the stuff back in the recycling bin. But it’s a hard habit to break! I just want to say though, that I love her (<3 <3 <3) so very much and enjoy these moments with her! 🙂 Our debates are always quite fun, entertaining and enjoyable.

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