“As a 21-year-old single mom, I was a clerk at a big-city newspaper, where an editor would ask me to run to the cafeteria for coffee for reporters, ‘and get something for myself, too.’
I would pocket the 35 cents it cost to buy an orange drink and purposely get more sugar packets than necessary; that way, I’d get an extra buck or so a week (these were 1979 dollars) plus sugar to take home for my oatmeal.
“I don’t know about ‘weird,’ but it’s certainly sad. … Just one more reminder that since I had very few resources, I’d better be creative about meeting needs for myself and my baby. My various hand-to-mouth coping strategies were pretty useful much later, when I was a mid-life college student and broke divorcee.”
Edited for clarity: I would get two or three sugars per cup of coffee. Some reporters used that much, others didn’t. At times certain writers would cut back to zero sugars for a while (maybe because they wanted to lose weight). No matter what, most weeks I brought at least a few sugar packets home.
The other answers can be seen at “The weirdest thing I did to save money.” In my opinion only a few of them are truly weird.
My favorite? “I scrounged in the Lost and Found for a free swimsuit.”
That was from Jeff Yeager, aka “the Ultimate Cheapskate,” and no, he didn’t actually go out shopping in this way. The incident took place on the road and he’d forgotten to pack swim trunks. Yeager thought he was asking for a one-time use, but the clerk told him he could keep the suit because it had gone unclaimed for more than a month.
“It’s still my favorite suit,” Yeager says.
Late holidays, toted trash
Some (or lots) of you are thinking “eeewww!” right about now, and I have to say I agree. Fortunately the suit’s previous wearer didn’t have any kind of fungal infection. (Still: Eeewww!)
Some other offbeat money-saving tips:
I bought secondhand ski lift passes. Maria Nedeva of The Money Principle stood at the foot of a ski slope to ask folks who were done for the day if they’d like to unload their passes. Hey, it worked – and the folks who were ready for an après-ski drink (or some Advil) got a little money back.
I celebrated Christmas late. William Charles of the Doctor Of Credit blog said his family has sometimes had the big blowout after Dec. 25. Gifts and travel are cheaper that way. Besides, Dec. 25 probably isn’t really the day Jesus was born.
I took my trash to work. Andrew Schrage of Moneycrashers recycled and composted as much as he could, then put the rest – with permission – in the company dumpster.
Some of the other tips sounded uncomfortable, which the authors readily admit: going without air conditioning during a Texas summer, a five-person family living in an unfinished (but rent-free!) basement, sleeping in the car instead of paying for a hotel room.
Some of the others seemed fairly ordinary to me: grabbing extra mustard packets, canceling cable, earning cash taking surveys. Or maybe I’m just jaded.
Retirement or college?
A couple of other places to read me:
“9 ways to turn garbage into supper,” on Money Talks News – Regular readers know that DF and I are all about extracting maximum nutrition.
“Essential money moves to make in your 40s,” also from Money Talks News – If you’re in near or in your fifth decade, give yourself a financial checkup. Hint: Your retirement should be prioritized over your child’s college plan.
Speaking of higher ed: Get creative about payment with help from “13 tips for a free college education,” on H&R Block’s “Block Talk” blog. You’ll learn about everything from CLEP tests to schools that let you attend for free. (Well, you might have to clean out a barn or something, but still: Free tuition!)