From reusing tea bags to collecting plastic cups at sports matches, people have some imaginative ways to cut costs.
- Drink water to reduce hunger-induced impulse buys and be sure to match your orphan socks.
- Reuse gift wrap, soap, candle ends, and get new life from sprouting vegetables.
- Adopting frugal habits can save money, but some people take it to extremes.
Spiraling living costs are taking their toll on millions of Americans. Indeed, 1 in 6 are behind on their utility bills, and millions are carrying significant credit card debt. If you’re looking for ways to shave a few dollars of your bills, we’ve collected some of the wackiest and most bizarre ideas around saving.
5 bizarre ways to save money
1. Drink a liter of water before you go out
Not only is drinking water good for your health, it can be good for your bank balance too. Avoid hunger pangs while grocery shopping by filling up on a couple of glasses of water before you head out. Cash back apps may also help you earn rewards on your grocery shopping too.
If you’re eating out, drinking water or eating bread beforehand can also reduce your consumption — though it may take some of the fun out of the meal. Always take leftovers home in a doggy bag. On that note, my Dad has been known to ask other restaurant diners for their leftovers. It doesn’t only happen on Seinfeld. Also, several people advocate taking restaurant mayo and ketchup packets home with them, but I’m not sure if that’s money saving or stealing.
2. Avoid a sock orphanage
Missing socks are one of the great mysteries of laundry and daily life. But the loss of a single sock doesn’t have to leave you wearing mismatched items. Buy several pairs of identical socks so you’ll always have a pair. If you lose or damage one, it won’t be so hard to find a match.
Don’t throw away old socks. Use them as dusters or cleaning rags, or if you’re a budding Martha Stewart, have a go at fixing the holes. Darning is beyond my patience, but I also use old socks to protect the floor when moving furniture — they fit nicely on the legs of our heavy sofa. Socks aside, if you haven’t tried shopping in a secondhand store, you may find it’s a great low-cost way to refresh your wardrobe.
3. Reuse everything
I once went camping with a friend who hung her tea bags out to dry each day so she could use them again later. As a Brit living abroad, the idea of reusing tea bags made more sense to me during the worst of lockdown when my daily drink suddenly became a lot more expensive and hard to sustain.
More relevant ways to save money by reusing things include keeping old gift wrap so you can give it a second (or third or fourth) life. Generate your own gift wrap by reusing the paper that sometimes pads out online shopping orders, or even large images from old newspapers. In another “my Dad” story, one person said his dad used to collect the plastic cups other people left behind at sports matches. He’d wash them and reuse them at home.
You can melt used candle wax into new candles, and grate old soap bars and a little warm water to form a new one. Breathe new life into cracked crockery, old jars, or even shoes by converting them into plant containers. Search online for a myriad of ways to use old plastic bottles and ice cream tubs. If you have garlic or potatoes that have started to sprout, put them in the ground — they could produce a whole crop of edible food.
4. Cut back on showers
Take shorter showers by switching the water off while you shampoo or wash. Some advocate taking fewer showers — one person I spoke to boasted of showering only once a week. One study showed that showers are the third-biggest water suck in most households, meaning changing your washing habits could save you cash. Once a week is a bit extreme though; taking shorter showers slightly less frequently may be more achievable.
Another water saving tip we’ve heard is to put a brick in the toilet cistern. The idea is to reduce the amount of water you use with each flush, but plumbers warn there are better ways to make your toilet more efficient, such as kits. Bricks can disintegrate and cause costly damage.
5. Hug pets to reduce your heating costs
Winter may seem a long way away right now, but it’s going to be a tough one cost wise. Probably the strangest idea for reducing heating costs is to hug your pet or loved one to keep warm. More practical tips include wearing more clothes and using more blankets at night. It may not be affordable to heat every room, so think about where you will spend time and heat accordingly.
It’s stressful seeing your everyday costs creeping upward, especially if your paycheck hasn’t taken a corresponding jump. Some of the ideas above may seem odd or extreme, and in truth the savings from reusing old tea bags or saving a few condiments is likely to be a drop in the ocean. However, developing a frugal mindset can make a huge difference to your bottom line.
Rather than indiscriminately cutting costs, sit down and make a budget to find out where your money goes each month. If you’re not sure where to start, you’re not alone — many people are nervous about making their first budget. A budgeting app might help you know what you spend and where you might make the biggest savings. Set aside 30 minutes next weekend to figure out how your outgoings stack up against your income. You’ll likely find ways to save without resorting to drastic personal hygiene measures.
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