I have a secret to share with you … I secretly fantasize about being an extreme cheapskate. The thing is I’m not, and you probably aren’t either.
In our society, throwing away money is a common and even accepted way of living. Racking up debt, living from pay-check to pay-check, paying off horrendous mortgages, buying multiple cars, consuming expensive and unnecessary food, and buying over-priced non-essentials is our typical way of living. We argue that all the money we make is to support our “lifestyles” (family, clothes, beauty products, techno gadgets, shopping sprees etc.) But few of us stop to question why our “lifestyles” cost so much, and even whether they’re truly beneficial to us in the long run.
My love affair with the cheapskate way of living began when I asked myself “do I really want to be working 5 days a week until the age of 65?” The answer? Hell no.
Do I really want to suffer the pain of constant bills flooding in that I can’t pay? Or what about the thousands of dollars of racked up interest that I’m forced to constantly pay back? The countless hours of lost time spent working, rather than cultivating interests and passions?
You would do well to ask yourself these questions as well.
So if you’re an open-minded person willing to try out new ways of living, read the list of suggestions I’ve compiled below. Your life could change for the better.
21 Ways to Live Like a Cheapskate
From what I’ve learned so far, living cheaply is a mindset that takes practice to reinforce.
Here’s a quick test. You’re setting out to buy a T-shirt to wear out casually. How much money are you willing to pay for it? Picture the amount in your head for a moment. If your response was above $10, you probably don’t have a cheapskate mindset.
This could also mean that you don’t really value the importance of money, which can limit the amount of freedom, peace of mind and happiness within your life.
If you’re interested in living differently, I hope the following large and small cheapskate tips tickle your fancy and provoke some kind of change in your life.
1# Forage for food.
Chives, mint, basil, acorns … depending on where you live, foraging for food may be an excellent way to save a few dollars on meals. Note: to find the edible treasures that grow in your neighborhood, you really need to possess knowledge of what you can and can’t eat.
It’s also good to forage for food off the beaten track, as it may have been urinated on by wild animals. You may like to refer to the following food foraging website for more info.
2# Clean your behind with water rather than toilet paper.
Why pay good money for something that you’ll just end up throwing away after one use? Little by little, the items we purchase every week add up across the year, eating away at our savings slowly and steadily. Replacing toilet paper with water (hose, spray bottle, the installation of a bidet) can save you from flushing good money down the loo.
3# Make your own wrapping paper and cards.
$4 for a birthday card? $5 for wrapping paper? No thank you. Why pay such money for items that will quickly be torn up, or thrown away without a thought?
I’ve always been against spending such exorbitant money on such transient items … so, I prefer to make them instead. Whether by re-purposing old cards and wrapping paper, or starting afresh, I find that making your own paper and cards is much more thoughtful, and much less expensive in the long run.
4# Shop at discount stores.
Look out for stores that advertise expired food, or crazy low prices. Although this may take you out of your usual shopping regime, it’s a very easy way to save on your shopping bills.
5# Bulk buy.
Lots of money can be saved by bulk-buying items like sanitary pads, toilet paper, pasta, toothbrushes and razors. Research what you use a lot of and consider buying in bulk. It’s common to save more than 20% on the total cost of household items if you opt for this alternative.
6# Re-use teabags.
I was surprised to discover that tea can be reused up to 3 times before losing its flavour. If you’re a big tea drinker like me, consider re-using your teabags. Every dollar counts in the end.
7# Make your own shampoo and conditioner.
I’m currently experimenting with this, and am liking the results so far. Not only do manufacturers of hair care products tend to include harmful chemicals in their items, but also charge a bloody lot of money as well.
After doing some research, I collected a variety of ingredients which I mixed together to create my own custom-made shampoo and conditioner. Note that the quantities of each ingredient vary for each person, so I recommend experimenting with the following:
- Extra virgin olive oil (hydrates hair).
- Baking power (strips away excess oil).
- Distilled water (for diluting).
- Tea tree oil (for dandruff).
- Lavender essential oil.
Also consider experimenting with natural coconut oil, liquid Castille soap and natural honey.
- Extra virgin olive oil (or Jojoba or Avocado oil).
- Distilled water.
- Essential oil (lavender, peppermint, rosemary etc.)
8# Dumpster dive.
I love reading people’s responses to dumpster diving: “eww!”, “gross, pathetic losers!”, “this is completely unsanitary and unhygienic!” (it’s almost a form of free entertainment). The truth is, huge department stores often toss out tons of food each day that have reached their expiry dates (which doesn’t actually mean that they’re not fit for consumption), or simply can’t be sold the next day (as in the case of pastries, bread, etc.)
Dumpster diving is an excellent way to obtain perfectly good food for free, that would otherwise end up going to waste in a trash heap. According to freegan.com (a US website), “when a person throws something out, that item is now (in) the public domain”.
Ensure you research how legal dumpster diving is before you give it a try (to avoid getting arrested). It’s also recommended that only sealed foods be taken from commercial trash bins for obvious reasons.
9# Don’t buy weed killer.
Use boiling water. Weed killer is just another ridiculously over-priced household item. Opt for boiling water instead – it does the job just as well.
10# Unplug all power appliances before leaving the house.
If you’re not using it, unplug it. Power companies still charge money for appliances that are turned on, but not necessarily used.
11# Enter competitions and take advantage of free samples.
I’m starting to get really enthusiastic about this. My most recent grab was a pack of 8 free high-quality sample cards from an Australian card company (originally priced at $4 each … for a single sample!) I also recently ordered sample laundry detergent, sanitary liners, toothpaste and organic snack bars.
You’ll be surprised at how much free stuff, or the possibility to win free stuff, there is online these days. Go have a look!
12# Purchase 2 ply toilet paper.
For those not keen on using water, 2 ply toilet paper can provide you the opportunity to get two toilet roles out of one. Just split the paper down the middle and hey presto!
13# Use baking soda and vinegar instead of cleaning products.
This simple concoction will allow you to clean the sink, toilet and shower with surprising results … and all at a fraction of the conventional price!
14# Use coupons.
Coupons can usually be found online, or on the back of typical shopping dockets. Half priced haircuts, two-for-one deals, 50% store-wide discounts … there are many joys to be discovered in the coupon world.
Making a habit of using coupons can benefit your bank account significantly.
15# Ditch the car.
Not long ago, I read an article that said the typical cost of running and maintaining a car for a single year (in the US) was about $8,000 a year.
If you’re interested in saving up for an early retirement, it may be a better idea to consider public transport which in the long run costs far less, saving you much more.
16# Garage sales, second-hand stores, flea markets … make friends with them.
I felt like weeping when I realized how much money I could have saved by buying second-hand last year. Gumtree.com, craigslist.com, freecycle.org, ebay.com – there are many websites that host second-hand items at a fraction of their original cost. Gumtree.com even has a “free” section, which you would do well to check out.
17# Live a minimalistic life.
Adopting a minimalist lifestyle can not only save you tons of shmackos, but it can enhance your peace of mind as well. Read more about minimalism here.
18# Cancel your credit card.
Using money you don’t have? Nuh-uh. Not if you want to live like a cheapskate. Get rid of the temptation and stick to a debit card instead.
19# Stop eating out so much.
$2,000+ is the average amount of money people spend every year eating out. Cooking your own food is not only much cheaper, but usually much healthier as well.
20# Avoid large shopping malls. Just do it.
Temptation, temptation, temptation. Don’t do it. Try to look for stand-alone shops instead.
21# Find cheaper ways of entertaining yourself.
Theme parks, video games, techno gadgets, movies, membership clubs … If you’re serious about gaining freedom in your life, it’s essential that you find ways to entertain yourself cheaply.
If you love reading for instance, use the library instead of buying your own books (which you only read once, and clutter your house). If you love adventure, go hike or ride your bike to some new, unexplored place, rather than spending money to sit on your ass playing video games all day.
By using your imagination, you can come up with hundreds of creative alternatives that will save you money.
Have any of your own cheapskate recommendations? Please share them below!