3 of the most extreme things I’ve ever done to save money

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To some extent, I’m not proud of these…but to another extent, I am.


Key points

  • There have been times in my life when money was tight.
  • I’ve done some pretty wacky things to spend less, like stocking up on samples and picking up extra napkins from my college cafeteria.

Saving money has always been important to me. But because I have a decent amount of money in my savings account, at this point in my life, I don’t go to extremes to earn a little more.

Of course, I might decide to cut back on takeout meals to spend less on food. And I can decide to take a road trip instead of flying to spend less on vacation. But none of these decisions are really that well known.

Back in the day, though, I did some pretty…let’s call ’em interesting things to save money. And while I’m not necessarily proud of these moves, I’m not too ashamed to share them either.

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1. Steal lunch napkins from college and use them as toilet paper.

College was a tough time for me financially. Money was perpetually tight because I was paying for my education and not earning much in the various part-time jobs I had. As such, there were times when I had to get creative to keep my credit card bills to a minimum. And one habit I picked up was to grab extra napkins from the dining room and bring them home so I didn’t have to buy my own.

Only I didn’t just use them as towels. Sometimes they doubled as toilet paper when I felt a little too frugal for my own good.

2. Lunch at Costco while stocking up on free samples

When I first moved to the suburbs to live with my husband, I quit my full-time job and went freelance. I had a fair amount of savings, but I also didn’t have the most stable job roster. And because we weren’t married yet, I was paying a lot for health insurance since I couldn’t get his company’s plan.

One day we were shopping at Costco when I realized I was very hungry. Only instead of spending a few bucks at the Costco food court, I loaded up on free samples until I was full. And the next time I went to Costco, I intentionally skipped lunch and fell back on the samples instead.

3. Travel with strangers to save on a rental car

Before meeting my husband, I lived in a big city and didn’t have a car. A friend and I were desperate to get away for a weekend vacation, but we were both strapped for cash and couldn’t swing a rental. Instead, we decided to accept an invitation to go on a nine-hour road trip with two strangers we had met while kayaking the week before.

Now, to be fair, these strangers were friends of friends, so I didn’t think we were risking our safety by accepting their offer. But if money had been less tight, I would have preferred to rent our own car rather than ride in someone’s we’d only known for about 90 minutes.

We’ve all no doubt done things these days to boost our personal finances. And while I don’t think I’m ready to repeat them, I can at least congratulate myself for thinking outside the box.

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