The readers of Consumerist and other personal finance blogs sometimes enjoy rounds of competitive frugality. Sure, you can mend your own clothes, make your own coffee at home, re-use plastic bags, change your own oil. But is it possible to take frugality too far, to the point that it harms your life?
Uber-couponer Kathy Spencer isn’t satisfied with just having a low grocery bill. She only considers it a success if she gets everything for almost free, or even make money off the transaction. She does this by looking for loopholes in the system, like “rolling.” This is where say toilet paper is on sale for $1 but buying it generates a $1 store credit coupon. Use that to buy another roll, get another coupon, buy another roll and pretty soon, you’ve got yourself a year’s supply of toilet paper and you’re handing it out to strangers in the parking lot.
Who needs a Craigslist gym or any kind of gym at all? They certainly didn’t have the list of Craig back in 1904 when Danish fitness master J.P. MÃ¼ller invented his 15-minute workout called “My System.” It requires no equipment at all, took Europe by storm, and is still effective to this day, reports Slate.
When life gives you lemons, clean your microwave. That’s one of the 55 different ways you can use a lemon that don’t involve a food recipe detailed over at Coupon Sherpa. I also like the idea of using it to fend off roaches and fleas. Just add the juice and rinds to a 1/2 gallon of water and wash your floors with it. The little buggers hate the smell of lemons! Who knew?
You can spend a lot on fancy cleaners to get the scum out of your dishwasher, or you can just pop in two 10-cent bags of lemonade Kool-Aid in the soap dispenser.
Kiplinger’s has released their rankings of the 100 best values for public colleges and universities — and the winner is… the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
You get on the Netflix plan thinking you’ve scored such a great deal. Unlimited movies per month! By the time I’m done plundering the cinema archives, I’ll be only paying cents a film! Take that, movie theater and rental store! But then slowly your interest wanes as the novelty wears off. Soon that early Bergman flick is collecting dust and you realize you’re paying a monthly fee for a red and white coffee coaster…
Here’s a potentially even better idea for protecting your lunch from thieves in the office than the fake moldy ziploc bags. Commenter Snaptastic suggests that you stash it inside a box of “healthy,” i.e. “gross,” food like a Weight Watchers, or, as commenter Murph1908 recommended, a Hot Pockets.
You’ve gone to the trouble of being frugal and making your brown bag sandwich at home, then you open the fridge to discover some scoundrel has snatched it. Now thieves will pass over your food if you put it inside an Anti-Theft Lunch Bag, a ziplock bag with green splotches printed on the side. The bandits will think you sandwich is moldy and move on to the next prey. The website says they’re out of stock, but they don’t look too hard to make at home.
Tis the season for weddings, and if you’re reading Consumerist you’re probably not the type to shell out the “average of $19,581” that people claim we spend on weddings.
Bryan over at Consumerism Commentary says he “felt a little dirty paying a monthly bill and watching advertisements at the same time.” So he canceled his cable TV and put together a Mac Mini-based system to watch “99%” of all the shows he and his wife liked, online, for free. This is video describing how he did. Like with all good nerdy projects, it begins with a spreadsheet.
Earlier this week we asked you for the worst things you’ve ever tried to do in order to save money that really didn’t work out, and you bowled us over with your responses! Over 190 comments poured in, some utilitarian, some hilarious, others, poignant. My favorite is the grandma who bought two caskets and used them to store linens because she didn’t like the idea of buying something so expensive only to use it once. So here they are, the 28 best of the worst money-saving ideas you’ve ever had:
(pictured: some folks who don’t like the cheap haircuts they got from beauty-school students)
Some money-saving hacks you think up are awesome, but others can be categorized under “foolish frugality.” While they sound good at first, these hassle of these pyrites of personal finance can just end up not being worth the small savings. They can even cost you more in the long run, or even be hazardous. Here’s a few bad ideas gleaned from FatWallet:
Stuck in a $14,300 debt hole, reader Trixare4kids was dug herself out using tips she learned about on Consumerist. Let’s learn how she went on a personal finance rampage, learned to live frugally, did it all in 20 months, and how you can do it too!
Pledge Fabric Sweeper seems cool for picking up pet hair from sofas and other surfaces. Basically it’s two sets of rollers with a hair catcher. Pledge admonishes consumers to simply toss it when you’re done, and presumably buy another one, but Jim found that it’s not that hard to empty and reuse them instead.
Store brand is the new black. Nielesen says that buying of generic brands has increased 8% since 2007. Name brand purchases have dropped ~4%. But here’s a question: what’s what’s never okay to get as a store brand? For me, it’s tomato sauce. It’s like pouring ketchup on your spaghetti. [Boston Globe via NYT Bucks Blog] (Thanks to James!)