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Craziest Ways People Save Money

October 17, 2011 · 46 comments

in Personal Finance

Being frugal is a concept that has waxed and waned in popularity over the years.  I wasn’t around for the Great Depression, but I imagine people did all they could to save money, or to make a dollar stretch as far as possible.  I know that during my lifetime I have seen times of prosperity and times of economic despair.

When times are desperate, people do tend to think about their habits and how they can save money.  Some people might start packing their lunch and bringing it to work.  Others might hop on their bike to save money on gas.  Some might even move their whole business to a virtual office to save on rent and leasing costs.

I knew someone though that took frugality to new levels.

The Strangest Way I Ever Saw Someone Save Money

I grew up in a small suburb of Detroit during the 70s.  Our neighborhood was filled with unique individuals, but one of the most unique I ever met was someone I will call “Mildred”.

Mildred was probably around 48 years old when I met her.  I was around 10 years old when she moved in, and I remember how shocked I was when she talked because she had a Boston accent.  I had never heard a Boston accent before, so I found her way of talking quite unusual, and I had the hardest time understanding her for awhile.

One day shortly after Mildred moved in, I heard a knock on the door.  When I answered, I saw Mildred there, and she asked me if we had any cigarette butts she could have.  I found this quite puzzling and I thought she was asking for ‘whole’ cigarettes.  She then repeated herself and asked if she could have any leftover cigarette butts we had.  I was a little kid and had no idea what to do, so I went and got the ashtray, and she took out the butts she wanted and left.

Even as a youngster, I knew this was quite strange.  This woman loved smoking so much she went begging for leftovers from people, and quite often could be seen picking up cigarette butts on the ground and pocketing them for later.  How awful is that?  I never knew for sure if her husband wouldn’t give her money for her habit or if she didn’t want to spend money on cigarettes, but I knew even then that I never wanted to be so short on cash that I needed to go begging for every day items from other people. I also knew that I wanted to be able to make my own income as an adult so that I could buy things for myself without getting permission from anyone else.

Your Turn:

So, enlighten me.  Tell me the most unique way YOU have ever seen someone save money.

 

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{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Niki October 17, 2011 at 7:33 am

Oh, wow. That just took cigarette smoking to a whole new level of yuck!

I had a friend on high school whose parents would always pull over onto the side of the road to pick up things people had left like coat hangers and sunglasses. I’m not talking about residential areas but multi-lane highways. They were/are really frugal/cheap.

This kind of reminds me of Fabulously Broke’s post today. King of Cheap

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 7:56 am

I will have to check out the link.

I will never, ever forget Mildred as long as I live. It is pretty bad when a little kid realizes how screwed up something is and a middle aged person does not.

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Jon - Free Money Wisdom October 18, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Yeah, Mildred definitely had a problem. Cigarette butts? Seriously? Wouldn’t it have been easier for her to have just quit? Gross.

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:51 pm

I have often thought it would be easier to just quit smoking instead of going through everything smokers go through. I especially thought that today when people were standing outside a building in the rain and wind and smoking. Looked absolutely miserable.

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Jacq October 17, 2011 at 10:04 am

Homeless guys in my city do the cigarette butt thing all the time. They pull out the remaining tobacco and roll their own I think, not smoke the butts themselves.

My dad said that during the depression, people would “double up” in houses to save money on utilities. For years, we’d freak out when he would put an inch of fat on bread and eat it – high calorie stuff like that keeps the food costs down I guess. He also lived in a granary for 3 years too to get his farm established. I don’t think we can really compare what people had to do back then to just survive with our concept of impoverished or super-frugal today.

The craziest thing I do nowadays is leave the skins on the potatoes when I mash them – well, maybe that’s because I’m too lazy to peel them. 🙂

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm

Jacq, I am going to have to guess the latter as to why you mash your potatoes with the skins on them. 🙂

I remember eating miracle whip sandwiches, I loved those things.

Pretty creative to pull out the tobacco. That seems a bit ‘healthier’ I suppose, but still awful.

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Jason@LiveRealNow October 17, 2011 at 11:11 am

Ewww! Picking up a old cigarette butt(roll your own or not) is like kissing a stranger who has poo on his face.

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter October 17, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Agreed but I have seen this happen time and time again. I really feel for people in this situation; it’s like they have no other option. It is really sad.

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm

It is really sad for sure, and really strange. I wonder if people ever drink the swill from the bottom of beer bottles?

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Dave October 18, 2011 at 8:43 am

Yes, I am know a group of former teenagers that used to sneak into bars and drink what ever was left of any glass that was left behind when someone got up to dance or use the restroom.

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 8:05 pm

You just watched those teens from afar and judged them, right?

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm

What about kissing someone you know with poo on their face? 🙂

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Jacq October 18, 2011 at 8:15 am

I kiss my cat even though I have concerns about where his face has been. 😛

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Oh that is interesting, and I am sure very common amongst pet owners!

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Money Reasons October 17, 2011 at 11:48 am

My grandparents has a store in a rougher part of the area for a while when I was younger. I’ve see people pick up cigarette butts from the ground, but I never heard of them going house to house to collect cigarette butts!

I have to wonder if the freegans pick up cigarette butts too?

The cheapest thing I’ve even seen anyone do is pick out the daily newspaper from the trash can (again at my grandparent’s store).

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Picking them up from the ground is pretty awful too.

Do you think Freegans smoke? For some reason, I figure they are too ‘green’ for that? I don’t know, good question. Freegans of the world do you smoke?

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc October 18, 2011 at 12:15 am

This is all kinds of nasty!!!!

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm

So where is your story Shawn?

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retirebyforty@retireby40.org October 17, 2011 at 1:58 pm

My dad did a home neutering procedure on our dogs….

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Oh boy RB40, that is a good one. What did he do with the ‘remnants’?

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First Gen American October 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Okay, Rb40’s has got to be the grossest one yet. My mom has used urine as a disinfectant. My uncle has eaten roadkill. I guess I have too many to list to pick the most frugalest one. My mom used to wash my hair with boraxo soap. She’d also use my bath water to take her own bath and used washing machine water to mop the floor. When she grew up, she didn’t have running water in her house, so she would always reuse her water multiple times.

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Oh I can totally see Babci doing all those things. Well, maybe not the urine, but the other things.

I did not reuse bathwater for my kids, but sometimes they would share a bath when they were little ones. Stepping into a bathtub of cold, dirty water sounds so awful. Babci has been through so much!

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Linda October 18, 2011 at 4:35 pm

I understand that urine is sterile, so that sort of makes sense to me. As for the road kill, while I haven’t actually eaten it (that I know of), for Christmas one year my dad gave me a mounted deer head he had made in a taxidermy class. Where did he get the deer? Road kill. I’m not sure if he ate the meat. He did eat the meet from the enormous rooster he stuffed/mounted and gave to my sister as her gift that year. Yeah, I have pretty odd relatives.

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:58 pm

I think I would stop exchanging gifts with dad!

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager October 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm

That is one of the grossest things I’ve ever heard.

I find it amusing when people drive around town to save a couple cents on their gas. Just doesn’t seem worth it to me.

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm

I love when people drive all over for the best price on gas too, or drive to many stores to save on groceries that are far apart.

Mildred is just the tip of the iceberg my friend…

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Linda October 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm

I think this blog post I wrote a few years ago outlines some pretty crazy and overly frugal/stupid behavior: http://awindycitygal.wordpress.com/2006/02/18/an-honorary-darwin-award/

Don’t read it if you’re easily offended, though.

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101 Centavos October 17, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Now that right there is a funny story!

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

It was funny, and I can picture it like it happened yesterday. I remember when Mildred’s husband was hauled away by the ATF, but that is a story for another day.

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm

Oh my gosh, I am not offended at all, but I am a bit squeamish. I did not expect the catheter part, I thought more along the line of ‘jars’. I can’t believe he didn’t get a raging infection.

Should not have read that right before bed! 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

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Sandy @ Journey To Our Home October 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I used to work on a plaza that had a ton of bums panhandling. It wasn’t uncommon to see them digging through the ashtray’s and taking the cigarette butts.

My parents did the same thing as First Gen- with the bathwater. My kids still bathe together, but it is more because they treat the bathtub like a swimming pool and play for hours. We definitely aren’t conserving water though- since they just add more hot when it gets cold instead of just getting out!

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Oh I remember the days of hearing the hot water running periodically and then splashing and laughing.

Mildred was the only person I ever saw who was so ‘green’ she would recycle cigarette butts.

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UltimateSmartMoney October 17, 2011 at 9:21 pm

Unfortunately, I have also seen other people picking up cigarette butts from the ground and reuse them. I guess it doesn’t matter to these people as long as they get the nicotine.

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm

It is so darn creepy. We had a park at the end of our street that was just full of cigarette butts to be collected too. I felt strange handing her the ashtray every now and then…

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101 Centavos October 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I think we’d have to go a long ways to top FGA’s relatives…

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Kris October 17, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Oh yeah, well go read the link that Windy City Gal provided. I dare you, and then report back.

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Little House October 18, 2011 at 10:01 am

Ewww. If she had to sink to picking up butts from the ground, I would think that would have been an indication to quit smoking! My parents had and have some strange habits, but the one I remember most is when our city was going through a drought in the late ’70’s, early ’80’s. My parent’s wouldn’t allow us to flush the toilets. Instead, they’d use the bathwater from the night before, and flush with that. Let me just say they took “if it’s yellow let it mellow” to a whole new level. As an adult, I’ve adopted a modified version and won’t flush in our bathroom if it’s “yellow”, but every other color gets flushed!

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Kris October 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm

I have never lived in a water crisis, but I would really struggle with using bathwater for alternate uses- seems like a lot of work. It’s funny how the habits have still affected you somewhat in your adult life, although I know that you are not surrounded by fresh water where you live like I am.

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Squirrelers October 20, 2011 at 1:26 pm

First of all, I’m not sure how I missed this post a few days ago. You know I get a kick out of this stuff!

That’s just crazy! And unfortunate, too. I’m all about individual responsibility, but I still can’t help but feel bad for this person, no matter how she actually was.

RB40’s example above is just horrific! That’s Extreme with a capital E.

For me….I’ve heard of a bunch of crazy things from different people. One comes to mind that I just can’t share (it’s too gross), but the next one is kind of harmless but still crazy. I posted on it before, but a guy I know would try to fill up a gas tank to a penny or two over a whole dollar amount – like $10.02, for example. He would then pay cash and take pennies from the “take a penny” dish. The thought was that when multiplying the effect of this out (many years ago), he could net a free gallon of gas annually in the process.

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Kris October 20, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Your friend could have starred in the ‘extreme frugality’ video we saw recently! (I guess all the examples posted here could not that I think about it.)

You will have to email me the gross story. 🙂

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Squirrelers October 20, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Oh, no…simply can’t share it, only because I don’t have the nerve to – even though I had no involvement whatsoever. It’s That bad.

As for the friend with the penny example, that was my first Squirreling Gone Wild story. I actually got 2 media calls after that one, asking about extreme frugality. Think I disappointed them when I told them that while I’ve tried a few goofy things, that wasn’t me with the penny idea:) Anyway, the calls happened when my blog was just a few months old, and opened me to the idea that people are actually reading!

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Kris October 20, 2011 at 10:09 pm

You have many fans Squirrel, that doesn’t surprise me at all.

Now I really need to hear that story, and I am serious!

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Forex Trader November 25, 2011 at 3:44 am

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