Craziest ways to save a buck
DoSomething.org's new contest offers a $4,000 scholarship for the wildest money-saving tip. What's yours?
What's the most bizarre thing you ever did to save a buck, or even a dime? If you're a student, DoSomething.org wants to know: The site is offering a $4,000 scholarship in its "the craziest thing I ever did to save money" contest.
It's part of a financial education campaign launched by the nonprofit, which focuses on young people and social change. Nearly seven out of 10 youths surveyed by DoSomething.org say that they’ve never had "a meaningful conversation" with their parents about personal finance, and that their top fears are about paying for college and having enough money.
DoSomething.org will be adding real tips and tools on saving money. Good thing: While some of the student-contributed tips are creative and useful, others are actually false economies.
A recurring one is "I keep extra napkins/condiments from restaurants." Um . . . if you're broke, what are you doing in restaurants? How much did you spend on food so you could get a few cents' worth of "free" ketchup or taco sauce?
Some of the best are the tips I mentally grouped under two general categories: "Points for creativity" and "Desperate times call for desperate measures."
And among those two groupings, my favorites are:
Desperate: "I once sold all my clothes but two outfits so I could save the money to pay for a class."
Creativity: "I told my friends and family . . . if they see me pull out a dollar or even talk about money, hit me as hard as they could right in the face. Boy, did they enjoy that!"
I bet they did.
Spare change, spare clothing
Some of the tips are standard frugal hacks: carpooling, washing and reusing plastic bags, getting CDs from the library instead of from Redbox. However, these are probably new to some students who get to school -- or get out of school -- and realize how expensive life can be.
Along with the inevitable "I go dumpster-diving" and "I eat ramen every day" tips are some that make for entertaining reading:
Good to the last drop. "I cut open toothpaste tubes -- there's always so much stuck inside!" one young person marveled. (Welcome to the world of the truly frugal. We have much to teach you.)
Green and profitable. One student cleans up after parties and then recycles the empty cans and bottles. Another one recycles plastic bottles from roommates and trades in the My Coke Rewards points for free sodas.
Keep the change. "I used to stop in the middle of the road to get pennies," one student wrote. (I still do!) Another searches parking lots for spare change, and a third walks to arcades to look for dropped quarters. (May I suggest the returned-change bin of the Coinstar machine?)
Designer duds: Turning old jeans into shorts. Turning mom's boyfriend's old jeans into shorts (with permission, I hope). Turning old T-shirts into tank tops and headbands. Going to campus events just for the free T-shirt: "I don't have to buy T-shirts or do laundry any more."
Consigning duds: A lot of students sold some of their clothes; one clever kid buys "vintage" clothes at thrift stores and sells them to consignment shops. Niiiice.
Food, and the aftermath
Small plates: A number of students say they fill up on free samples offered by warehouse stores. (Good idea, unless that means driving a lot -- gasoline isn't free!)
Faux food. Ramen, ramen and more ramen. Nothing but mayonnaise sandwiches, or chili, or peanut butter for a week. One student eats just two meals a day: Bread and milk for breakfast and rice and broccoli for dinner. Another suggests getting 70%-off candy after major holidays (not good for you, maybe, but a nice distraction from all that broccoli).
Free food. "Me and my roommates went door to door in our dorm and sang for groceries." One student found a restaurant where employees ate free: "I worked there two years and hardly ate anything else." Another volunteers at a food kitchen because they feed me, too."
Desperate times/measures. Asking for toilet paper as a 21st birthday present. (Well, at least you know it's a gift that will be used.)
A few of the tips, sadly, are questionable or downright illegal. A repeated motif is re-using cups from fast-food restaurants to get free refills for weeks or even months. There's a word for that -- and it isn't "frugal."
Another student displayed a photo of a large tub of movie popcorn: "I got it out of the trash to get the free refill." (Does it matter who paid if the refill is included in the purchase price? Discuss.)
"I walk to a public restroom whenever I have to go so I won't have to buy toilet paper for my own bathroom," one student wrote. (Define public: a store, a hotel, a state office building? Somebody somewhere is paying.)
"I slowly sell my son's Pokemon cards on eBay that his mother buys for him." (Seriously, Dad? Shame on you. Or maybe you're just a troll.)
"My boyfriend and I ran an extension cord secretly from the house next door and didn't get caught." (And again I say: Shame on you.)
Readers: What's the craziest thing you ever did/are currently doing to save money?
More on MSN Money:
Since I started following frugal nation - I have started to cut some corners - fresh vegetables are cheaper than frozen, if I want salad, I will buy a head of lettuce rather than buying pre-mix.
You can get a head of lettuce for $1, compared to speding $3 on ready mix.
I buy canned goods from Big Lots or Save-a-Lot grocery stores.
Men's clothing is quite a challenge for a professional male - especially if you don't have a mate that spends 24 hours a day shopping to find all the bargain basement deals - I'm too busy working to spend time shopping, so when I do find time - all the bargains are gone. So that is the next endeavor to try and conquer in the penny pinching wars.
Back in college, I had the cheapest roomates. I'd buy myself nice stuff when I could afford it only to have them use it and replace it with its generic counterpart. My roomate Dave was the best. Whenever it was his turn to restock toilet paper he'd always bring home gargantuan rolls of toilet paper. When I asked him where they came from he said he would open the commercial holders in the college bathrooms with his swiss army knife and slip the huge roll into his backback. Genius, stealing but genius.
Do you like to drink coffee, but creamer is expensive? Go to 7-Eleven, and fill up the largest coffee cup with creamer. Bring it home and store it in a washed out bottle from a previous creamer purchase. You basically get half priced creamer (like 20oz for $1.25)!
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
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Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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