Saving money is something almost everyone wants to do, or do better at. Living frugally is a great way to save, because it teaches you to spend less. But, frugality can go too far when extreme penny-pinching takes the joy out of life or makes things extremely awkward for those around you.
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1. Using Only Cold Water
One person shared an incredible story in an online forum of extreme frugality (and deceit) that stretched decades. They said, “After my husband’s grandfather died, the family discovered there IS hot water plumbing in the kitchen. He made grandma use cold water only for decades.”
You might have saved on heat, but probably wasted water trying to get dishes clean with only cold water.
2. Dumpster Diving for Coupons
One penny pincher searched every college dumpster for coupons from newspapers so he could get free sandwiches. According to his ex-girlfriend, he got free sandwiches for a year. That’s one way to save on expenses while in school.
A coupon app is much easier, and they don’t require you to dumpster dive.
3. Using Reusable Greeting Cards
Are you constantly wondering when it’s okay to throw out greeting cards and sometimes feel they waste resources? According to one individual, their family writes on post-it notes so the receiver can reuse the card as they like.
4. Taped up the Light Switches
One of the most misguided things on the forum was people attempting to prolong the life of things, such as taping up light switches and getting people to twist in the light bulbs by hand so that the buttons wouldn’t need to be replaced. Surely, this is dangerous.
5. Frugal Husband
This story appears in several forms on the forum — tales of someone who refused to pay for repairs and instead made his wife’s life harder.
For seven years, one poster’s great-grandma had to wash dishes in a tub and throw the dishwater out the back door because her husband refused to pay to fix the kitchen sink. They added, “Then she had it all repaired for $80 two weeks after he died.”
6. Plastic on the Couch
This was a common practice amongst older people. However, the idea of not enjoying the couch to make it last longer seems like an odd practice today.
7. Washing Ziplock Bags
Yes, we should all do our bit to save the environment but washing out ziplock bags might be going a bit far — depending on what’s in them. Perhaps reusable containers might be a better option.
8. Leaving Everything Unplugged
It’s common knowledge that leaving items you don’t use unplugged is a way to slightly reduce your electricity usage. But, it has a limited impact.
Some take that to an extreme. One commenter explains, saying “Nothing is plugged in at my parents’ house unless there’s a manufacturer warning to leave plugged in or it’s being used. He said he saw a significant amount of electricity being saved every month from this. I saw the bills of before and after, and it looks like he saves about $2 a month. So yeah, big win.”
That seems like an awful lot of effort for a very minor win.
9. Taking Condiments from Restaurants
My ex-father-in-law and his partner used to do this. As a result, her purse was always filled with sugar packets and ketchup, etc. And I see I’m not the only one with relatives like this. According to one person, their grandfather would take condiments home from the local diner.
Seeking to save money on groceries is one thing, theft is another.
10. Drying Used Paper Towels
This one is possibly the grossest on this list. The idea of rinsing out a dirty paper towel and drying it out for reuse is frugality at its best. One poster says, “I hang my paper towels to dry if I use them to dry my hands.” So where do the bacteria go?
35 Proven Ways to Save Money Every Month
Many people believe it’s impossible to save money. Or, they think saving $20 or $50 a month won’t amount to much. Both are incorrect. There are many simple money-saving tips that can amount to big savings. You just have to start one, then another, to increase your savings.
How to Create a Budget
Budgeting isn’t difficult, but it does allow you to spend your money as you wish. If you’re new to budgeting, read our beginner’s guide to budgeting and see just how easy it is.
How to Save Money on a Tight Budget
Saving money feels impossible when you’re struggling to make ends meet, but you can do it. Use these tips to save money each month, even on a tight budget.
Best Prepaid Phone Plans
Legacy carriers trick us into thinking we need a contract to get what we need. That’s a lie. A prepaid phone plan can give you the data you want for significantly less.
15 Best Coupon Apps to Save Money
Saving money at the store is as simple as using your phone. Better yet, you can redeem savings for free PayPal money or gift cards. That’s a win-win.
This thread inspired this post.
I’m John Schmoll, a former stockbroker, MBA-grad, published finance writer, and founder of Frugal Rules.
As a veteran of the financial services industry, I’ve worked as a mutual fund administrator, banker, and stockbroker and was Series 7 and 63-licensed, but I left all that behind in 2012 to help people learn how to manage their money.
My goal is to help you gain the knowledge you need to become financially independent with personally-tested financial tools and money-saving solutions.