51 Unusual Money-Saving Tips from Readers

By Paul Michael on 21 September 2009

As a writer for Wise Bread, I get a fair number of emails that actually offer advice, rather that asking for it. Most of the time that advice is sound. Usually, I will either already know about it, or feature it in an upcoming article. But occasionally I get stuff that makes me scratch my head. (See also: Frugal Uses for a Camera)

“Are they serious?” I wonder, “or are they playing with me?” Well, rather than let these nuggets go to waste, I thought I’d share them with you all. Maybe you can help sort the good eggs from the bad. Some are obviously more absurd than others though, and remember, these didn’t come from me. They’re from some of the more “inventive” readers of Wise Bread (you’ll soon see what I mean…No. 3 is a perfect example). I have put my own notes in parentheses on some of these — I just had to comment.

1. Use furniture wax on your car.

Just spray it on and shine it to a quick buff! Much quicker than car wax and it’s just as effective!! (Hmm, just as effective? Somehow I doubt that…)

2. Marry someone frugal.

If you’re having trouble with money, seek out a partner that has a great financial head on their shoulders. If you’re in debt, they’ll help you get out of it. If you throw money away, they’ll help you save.

3. Don’t waste money on toilet paper. Use newspaper, junk mail, bills and more!

There is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from wiping your butt on a credit card mailing or an electricity bill. And it helps the environment as well as your pocket!

4. Unplug everything In your home when you’re not using it. Even clocks!

Before I go to bed at night, I spend 10 minutes walking around the home unplugging everything that isn’t in use. That includes the TV, the DVD player, the toaster, the computer and even the alarm clock on my nightstand if I’m not at work the next day. Saves me a bunch of money every month as these items all drain power.

5. Turn your old wine into vinegar.

If you’ve got some old wine laying around that isn’t drinkable, you can turn it into vinegar. Just pour it into a container, preferably a barrel, and let it age. Voila, fine vinegar!

6. Top-up your condiments with packets from fast-food restaurants.

You always get a bunch of extra ketchups, mustards, mayos and other condiments when you eat at a fast-food joint. Don’t throw them away. Open them up and pour them into your bottled condiments at home. You’ll be surprised how much longer your bottle of ketchup will last.

7. Ladies, order LARGE meals on dates!

Hey, when you’re taken out to dinner make the most of it. I know I do. Just order a large meal and take half of it home in a box or doggy bag. Two free meals for the price of one.

8. Spend less money than you make.

Need I say more? (Nope, and this is shortest tip I’ve ever received.)

9. Double your toilet paper by separating it.

Buy 2-ply paper and pull it apart to make 1-ply. You can get four rolls out of one double-roll. (Is this even worth the time and effort?)

10. Limit toilet paper usage to two sheets per wipe.

Put a sign above the toilet at home reminding people exactly how much to use each time. (There’s frugal. There’s cheap. This one needs a new category.)

11. Cut your own hair.

It’s not difficult. Also cut the hair of your children and the rest of your family. You’ll save a small fortune.

12. Use the free envelopes you get with bills and junk mail.

Cover the company’s address with a label, put on your own stamp and use it for whatever you want.

13. Get free lemonade whenever you eat out.

Order a glass of water with extra lemons, pour in some sweetener from the beverage holder and hey presto, lemonade for free! (I know for a fact that some people actually do this and most waiters hate it.)

14. Free umbrellas are always available.

Just pop along to your local library and tell them you lost one. They usually have a stash in the lost and found section — say yours is black and small and they’ll almost always have one. Score! It also works for sunglasses. (I’d say this one is stealing. But some people disagree.)

15. Buy something for $1. Sell it for $2. Repeat.

(More money-making than money-saving.This one actually came from a friend of mine. It was a joke at the time, but to be honest I think he’s right on. Buy low, sell high, repeat, retire. It should be taught in every school.)

16. Plant fake flowers in your garden.

They last for years, require no maintenance and are in full bloom in winter.

17. Use old toilets as flower planters.

They look bold and attractive (??) and are usually available for free onCraigslist.

18. Use your employer’s resources.

It’s not stealing if you use them at work. Don’t bring your own headache pills, tissues or drinks. Your employer should provide them all and you should take full advantage, including the endless supply of free coffee and tea!

19. Turn off your car engine at red lights.

You will save a bunch of gas over time instead of leaving the engine idling.

20. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

There’s no shame in going through the neighbors’ trash once it has been placed outside for collection. It’s public domain, and you can pick up some great things that other people just don’t want or need any more.

21. Free food from the grocery stores.

They throw away perfectly good food every night. You can eat like a king for free on the bags of food they throw away at the end of the day.

22. Take a “vacation” at Christmas to save money on gifts.

Just let everyone know you’re going away for the holidays and will exchange gifts when you return. Then lay low, buy all of your presents in the after-Christmas sales for way less money and have a very happy New Year!

23. Keep one cup from every fast-food restaurant you visit.

Whenever you go back, just take the cup in with you and refill it at the fountain. You’ll never have to pay for a drink again! (I’m sure this one is stealing.)

24. Cover your floors with carpet samples.

You can pick them up very cheap, and sometimes free, from most carpet and hardware stores. Just arrange them in squares and glue them down. Great for a basement, playroom or even a hobby room. Also works with wallpaper samples.

25. Spill your drink at a bar or restaurant.

Wait until your beer is around one-third full, then get in the way of a member of the wait staff and make sure they “make” you spill your drink. They’ll usually offer to get you a free replacement, and it will be FULL!(Yep, this one is really dishonest.)

26. Keep a pitcher close to the sink.

When you’re running the faucet waiting for the hot water to come through, let the pitcher catch the cold water. You can use it later to water plants, flowers or boil pasta.

27. Donate your clothes then buy them back.

The local charity will clean them for you, and you can just pop back in a week, buy the ones you want for a few bucks. It’s cheaper than a dry cleaner. (I think this is a joke…but the guy sounded as serious as a funeral.)

28. Train your cat to use the toilet.

It’s easy to train a cat to jump up onto the seat and go into the toilet. It will save you a fortune in cat litter. Getting him to flush is the hard part.

29. Get your paint at one quarter of the price.

So this one is sneaky but it works. Pick out the exact color you want and get it mixed in the quantity you want. Take it back the next day to the hardware store you got it from and say the shade is off. They’ll give you a full refund, and also put the “bad tint” on the sale shelf for $5 a can, roughly $15 less than the full price. Just go in the next day and buy all your paint back! Score!! (I’m sure it works, but man is that dishonest.)

30. Free flowers for birthdays, weddings and more!

Just go to a nearby cemetery and swipe some new flowers from a grave. The dead people won’t miss them and someone else will get a smile from them. (Karma anyone?)

31. Use Canadian coins in laundromats and soda machines.

The exchange rate will give you a saving. (This must be really old. Our currencies are now so close it would not be worth the effort.)

32. Old hair makes great stuffing for pillows.

If you don’t cut your own hair, the local barber shop or hair salon will gladly give you the cuttings from the floor. It’s soft, free and biodegradable.

33. Newspapers make great blankets.

They’re not just for homeless people. If you get chilly at nights, slip newspaper pages between the sheet and duvet. Newspaper is a tremendous insulator.

34. Shop at midnight.

Those late-night hours are great. You’ll have no lines at the checkout, no crowded aisles, and your pick of the bargains and markdowns that are being put out for the next day.

35. Flush with less water.

Place a common house brick inside a plastic bag and seal it. Repeat this seal with another bag, just to make it super water proof (you don’t want brick corrosion). Put this in your toilet’s tank and it will save you a lot of money on your water bill over the years.

36. Learn to speed read.

You’ll be amazed at how many new books you can read for free if you increase your reading speed. I spend an hour or two at Borders almost every evening and usually get through two brand new books every week. No charge.

37. Go through the trash at a college campus on move-out day.

College kids throw things out with no regard for their worth. They just want them gone, and they don’t want to move them. I have picked up refrigerators, microwaves, desks, chairs, shelves and even TVs!

38. Negotiate your hours at work.

Rush hour driving is a gas guzzling experience. Train tickets are also more expensive at rush hour. See if you can start early and leave early. You’ll work the same hours but save commuting cash!

39. Chop your veggies before you check out.

Most of the time, the real weight from your broccoli, beets and other veg comes from the thick stalks and stems. Cut them off, you’ll cut the price by at least half!

40. The ice cream con job.

To most kids, the sound of the ice cream truck is a sign to come inside and beg for money for an overpriced popsicle. But not in my house. I told my kids that when the ice cream truck plays a tune, he has ran out! Then, I give them a much less expensive popsicle from my own freezer. (But means that one…one day, they will find out!)

41. Drive at 55 mph on the highways.

It may take you a little longer to get where you’re going, but this is the optimal speed for good fuel consumption. You’ll get a way better mpg from your car.

42. Don’t throw away old, bruised and soft fruit.

They can be great for making smoothies, muffins and other snacks and drinks that require flavor without needing the fruit to be in perfect condition.

43. Use your electric oven wisely.

These things take so long to cool down that you can actually turn them off 5 minutes before the cooking time is up, and your dish will come out fine. Also works well with toaster ovens.

44. Dump your partner at the right time.

If you’re thinking of quitting a relationship, make sure you exit before any major anniversaries, birthdays or anything like that. The last thing you want to do is buy an expensive present right before you go your separate ways. (I’d call that one a bit mercenary.)

45. Go at least one year without buying clothes or shoes.

I’m serious! Usually, you’re just buying on impulse anyway. It’s been proven that most of us only use about 20% of the stuff in our closets, so why add more to that unused portion? After a year, you will have saved hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

46. Guys, don’t get married.

There may be tax breaks but when you’re single you’re rolling in money, even on a low salary. Get married and it will all go away. For a start, women need way more money than men, including toiletries, clothes, shoes, hair styling and more. Most women can’t go five days on one big batch of chili or spaghetti — they want variety. And salads cost a fortune too. Once you start having kids, kiss goodbye to any extra cash you did have. Seriously, stay single. It’s the best way to save money. (Have to point out as a happily married guy with two kids that I do not agree with this one at all. But I do like big batches of chili!)

47. Do the gift-giving lottery.

Simple premise but it saves all of us a fortune in my family. We put all the names in a hat at Christmas, and then each pick out one. Kinda like secret santa, but without the secret. And that way, you’re all not buying gifts for everyone. Big waste of money that holiday.

48. Become good friends with your neighbors.

They will always have things that you can borrow instead of buying them. My neighbor comes over to use my edger, and I use his cultivator. Works great.

49. Tear baby wipes, make-up wipes and all other wipes in half.

They’re just as effective in a smaller size and they will last you twice as long.

50. Go on a one-day-a-week fast.

That means only six days a week of meals instead of seven. Over 52 weeks, that’s over 150 combined breakfasts, lunches and dinners that you don’t have to buy. And you’ll lose weight too! (Umm…talk to your doc on that one. Sounds unhealthy to me.)

51. Shop with a friend.

All those BOGO offers are great, but only if you need two. Instead, split them with a buddy and split the bill. Score!


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