25 extreme ways to save money


The frugal ways of past generations seem alien to many of us now. But still, amidst all the crazy over consumption and wastefulness of current times some people are willing to adopt extreme ways to save money.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and if you are really broke, or if you simply can’t bear unnecessary waste, you might be willing to try some of these suggestions. Perhaps you do some already?

I can’t say I have tried them all!

25 extreme ways to save money

1. Adopt a wartime mentality

I was thinking about how I spend my money in comparison to how my grandparents did. They were working class people with very little spare cash. My grandparents lived through two world wars and were naturally thrifty.

They would have been amazed and appalled at the amount of ‘stuff’ people buy nowadays and how much they waste. Everything was rationed, from food to fabric, fuel to furniture.

To save lots of money, adopt the WW2 mentality of your grandparents or great-grandparents. Grow your own food, make do and mend, buy less and waste nothing.

2. Cut and colour your own hair

extreme ways to save money

I have given up my own DIY hair cutting now as I have layers and it’s too difficult. However, I still cut my daughter’s very long hair from time to time. Mr Shoestring gets his hair cut by his sister for free.

I always dye my own hair, though. This is easy enough with a kit from somewhere cheap like Home Bargains or B&M. Of course, even more extreme money saving would be to stop dying my hair and just grow it!

3. Buy only yellow stickers

Ilona from Mean Queen pretty much lives off reduced price food. She knows exactly when to go into each supermarket to find yellow stickers when prices have been reduced as low as they can go.

Ilona doesn’t plan her meals as they generally depend on the bargains she finds.

This might not work if you are shopping for a family, but you can still find some reduced items and it stops this food going to landfill.

4. Skip diving

There is a whole movement of people who go skip diving at night. Some look for food items, some for beauty items like this US vlogger  and others hunt for anything really! It is probably illegal, but no one is likely to prosecute you, as explained here. Skipping is definitely one of the more extreme ways to save money.

We once found a whole load of top quality china, some of it still boxed, in a skip outside a restaurant that was closing down. We took a few things and once other people spotted us they were all over it like a plague of locusts! Better than wasting perfectly good, usable items.

I can rarely resist a peep at the skips outside people’s houses too. Always ask permission before you remove anything though.

5. Share bath water

I tend to have a quick shower rather than a bath nowadays, but have been known to share bath water with Mr S or my daughters. It saves on water and also on the energy used to heat more. Eco-friendly as well as thrifty!

6. Wear boys’ pants

This is another tip from Mean Queen, Ilona. She says: “I have been a fan of pants, some of them teenage boys’ pants, for, oh, around 15 years now. The reason is that they last a lot longer than flimsy ladies knickers. They are more robust, thicker fabric, well made, hug my hips, and will wash millions of times without falling apart.” There is logic there, but not sure what Mr S would think if I started wearing Y fronts!

7. Buy only second hand

We buy so few things new these days. There is a thriving second hand market on almost everything. The internet, and eBay in particular, has made it much easier to find even quite obscure and rare items second hand. Many charities rely on our love for a second hand bargain too. Clothes, furniture, cars, electrical items – you can buy anything second hand and save yourself a ton of money.

8. Reuse plastic containers

Ice cream, butter and yogurt containers don’t have to be single use items. In fact, they have so many potential uses. I make a lot of home made soup and find all of these invaluable. A colleague at work has been using the same ice cream container as his lunch box for about two years! Yogurt pots of various sizes are also great as plant pots.

9. Wash and reuse old plastic bags

It’s hard to avoid plastic bags when you shop in the supermarket.  But many plastic bags can be used again. Not if you have had meat, fish or dairy in them, but bread bags, fruit and veg bags, etc can all be reused. Cut the tops off rather than rip them open, give them a rinse and dry them.

I have a box of zip lock bags that have lasted ages because I have done this. I have some pegs on hooks in the kitchen where I hang them to dry.

10. Clean and reuse the cereal bags in boxes

These are particularly strong and useful, so deserve a mention in their own right. You could also cut the box up to use for you shopping lists.

11. Reuse cards and wrapping paper

Carefully unwrap presents to reuse the gift wrap. Use old cards as gift tags. When you need to purchase new wrapping paper buy cheap plain parcel wrap and tie with colourful raffia or string.

12.  Don’t throw away old envelopes

Keep old envelopes to write notes and shopping lists. Reuse them by sticking a label over the address and taping them shut. You can buy labels specifically for this purpose from the Centre for Alternative Technology, here.

13. Dump the hand wash

I love soap! You can buy so many wonderful natural soaps very inexpensively nowadays. Why has hand wash in plastic bottles become the norm? Get rid of it and go back to solid soap. Do the same with your shower gel to save even more money.

14. Freeze your credit

This is for those people who need to stop spending but don’t want to completely get rid of their credit cards. Try placing your card in a container full of water and freezing it. It will be there if you really need it, but the effort involved in defrosting it can help to prevent impulse buying.

15. Cut your cleaning products

The marketers have convinced us that we need a different product for every cleaning job. One for the kitchen, one for the bathroom, another for the floor, one for the shower, a different one for the oven, a spray for glass….the list is almost endless.

Frugal types looking at extreme ways to save money soon realise that they can get rid of almost all of these. White vinegar cleans pretty much everything, especially if combines with bicarbonate of soda. Even if you prefer to stick to a commercial product, one general purpose cleaner will be good enough for most jobs.

16. Go low tech

Use manually driven devices – whisks, graters, choppers, brooms, carpet cleaners, lawnmowers and more. They are cheaper to buy, there are fewer components to go wrong and they cost nothing to use.

17. Flush your loo less

Have you heard that phrase ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow, but if it’s brown flush it down’? It may sound gross, but we are talking about extreme ways to save money! This will definitely save on your water bill.

18. Grey water

This is especially good after the heat wave we had this summer. Save on your water bills by using your grey water. This is waste water from your shower, bath or washing up. You can use it to water your plants! Not recommended if you have strong detergent in the water, obviously.

19. Shave with steel

Instead of spending loads of money buying disposables, how about investing in a steel safety razor? They last for years if you look after them. I remember my dad having one of these when I was a child and just replacing the blades every now and again.

This is a great eco-friendly alternative too. If your safety razor does break, you can put it in the metal recycling.

20. Dilute it!

My girls used to guzzle juice as though it was squash if I let them. So I diluted it a bit to make it last for longer. You can also water down milk a little bit, although this doesn’t work as well if you drink skimmed.

21. Reuse teabags

There was a time when I always made two cups of tea from one bag. My daughters liked weak tea when they were young so it made sense. Now I tend to use decaff teabags and they are weak enough to start with! However, if you are looking for extreme ways to save money it makes sense to use your tea bags more than once.

Alternatively, use small amounts of leaf tea in a teapot and leave it to brew for longer.

22. Ditch the disposable dishcloths

Buy reusable rather than disposable washcloths – they last for years. Or cut up old towels and use those instead.

23. Road kill

OK, this is the most extreme of my list of extreme ways to wave money. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recommended it years ago. If you can face scraping some poor dead animal off the road and putting it in a stew, good for you. I think I will stick to the home grown veggies!

24. Go to bed earlier

Going to bed earlier will save money on the heating, lighting and running the TV. It will probably also save you cash on snacks and cups of tea!  Since we seem to be pretty sleep deprived as a nation, this tip may also be good for your health.

Alternatively, have a bit of family time. Get everyone to sit in one room all together so you only have to heat and light that one.

25. Give up alcohol

Alcohol is expensive, especially if you drink it in pubs and clubs. I am restricting my alcohol consumption to one day a week currently. It saves money and is good for my health!

Maybe you can think of other extreme ways to save money? What do you do to save cash that other people would consider weird?

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16 thoughts on “25 extreme ways to save money

  1. A good list. Your comment about war time frugality reminded me about something I have started doing ever since watching a BBC TV program about farm life during WW II. Soap was a luxury item so all the little bits of soap left over as the bar soap dwindles with use were collected. Then when you have a good amount, put them in a wash cloth and immerse in a pot of boiling water until all soft then shape up into a new ball or bar of soap.

    The other extreme thing I have started doing too is cutting open the empty toothpaste tube and also the empty plastic bottles of lotion. It is amazing how much toothpaste and lotion is still in there to use.

  2. You don’t need to give up cutting your own hair to get layers! check out Youtube and see how it’s done. Basically you stand with your head upside down and brush all your hair over and then tie a ponytail along your front mid hairline, on your forehead! Then, cut straight across. You’ll have amazing layers. Please check out youtube to see what I mean. I have cut my own hair for years and the layers are great. My hair grows fast so I learned at what point on the ponytail to cut across. Some people cut right up to the band holding the hair, others like me cut 2″ away from the band for longer hair and layers. It works a charm.

    • That’s exactly the technique I use for my daughter. However it doesn’t work with shorter hair. I did use You Tube when I cut my own and it was ok. But I was too scared to take more than a little off!

  3. Great list, some tips I do use like the old towels for wash cloths, looking out for yellow labels (although I don’t only buy those!) and I do cut and colour my own hair. Mine is a short bob longer at the front, I clip it at the base of my head and cut straight across leaving the sides out, I then angle the front sections towards the back. It works for me you can buy the clip on ebay for £4 but a pony tail band would work too, I used that at first. I also cut both my sons hair.

  4. Some great tips there, thank you. My hair is ready for a cut in the next few weeks. Maybe I won’t colour it just yet, only an inch of roots showing, will last a bit longer.

    I like instant coffee, medium to strongish. I mix the run of the mill cheaper Nescafe or Maxwell house with a more expensive one. Saving a few £1’s over a year.

  5. We have a mutual online friend who once scraped up a newly hit pheasant from the road for the pot. Her daughters happily helped pluck and eat it while her sons were too squeamish! Do you remember? 😀

    My Nan was always very frugal and my dad used to tease her about it . One thing she used to do was cut those tiny saccharine sweetener tablets in half as she said a whole one was too sweet, so one Christmas my dad made her a gift of a half tablet tied to some string and suspended from a jar lid, so she could dunk the blooming thing instead!!! 😀 😀

    Thanks for reminding me of those fun memories! 🙂

  6. Loved this list! When I first joined Instagram I followed a ‘dumpster diver’/skip diver living in LA and it was eye-opening! This girl would regularly get £100s worth of free make-up. Once, a huge haul of Soap and Glory products (which I didn’t know were sold in the USA, but maybe they were being trialled) were dumped at a roadside and she collected them all.

    She actually made a decent living out of it by selling on the products that were intact, easily enough to live on. Anything that was used or a tester she would post to her followers for free. I loved this idea but don’t know if I’d be brave enough myself!

  7. A lot of my furniture is pieces that I have collected over the years from skips or kerbside; my best ever find was definately a double bed frame, heavy(!) iron metal, complete with the wooden slats and a bag of joining screws. It took me an entire afternoon to carry home bit by bit from about 15 minutes walk-away. Wiped me out for most of the weekend afterwards but it was definately worth it!

  8. I too cut open “empty” toothpaste and other tubes. I find that I can often get a whole week’s worth of cleanser by doing that. And I also add a bit of oil to “empty” containers of body lotion, shake, then tip upside down to get the tail end out. I usually get a lot of extra body lotion, and just keep upending it until I can get no more. I recently got 100 mls of palmers cocoa body lotion (not tested on animals) by doing that.

    My hair is very fine, so I don’t know about layers, however if I ever do, I know where to look to get all the info!!

    I often save tail ends of vegetables and skins, and any “iffy” bits, to make vegetable stock. I just cover with water, add a touch of salt, and I used to add black peppercorns and a bayleaf. Bring to the boil. Cover, and leave for at least 15 minutes. Strain.

  9. I always turn rapeseed (or olive) oil bottles upside down for a day or two, to get the last drops out. Doesn’t everyone invert bottles and jars is this way? It doesn’t seem a particularly frugal thing to do, just common sense.
    Also, the white card insert in a packet of ‘ankle highs’ (short nylon ‘socks’ for wearing with boots or shoes when wearing trousers or jeans) is ideal for a shopping list.
    I keep a couple of small empty mustard jars, well washed out and kept in the fridge, for using to make salad dressing: 3 parts oil to 1 part wine vinegar with a dash of mustard, into the jar and well shaken.

  10. Pingback: 13 UK Money Bloggers Talk Extreme Frugal Living | Looking After Your Pennies

  11. I was born a few months after the end of WW2 and raised by parents who had lived through US war rationing and the Depression. The only things on this list that seem extreme to me are eating road kill and–in some quarters–skip or dumpster diving. The rest are just Standard Operating Procedure. None of them save much, but together they are dynamite!

    The only one I disagree with is soap. The reason people use shower gel is to prevent soap scum which then has to be cleaned. I prefer soap, but after we moved, I switched to cheap shower gel and I haven’t looked back.

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