Ridiculous Things We've Done to Save Money

July 3, 2013

Sometimes common sense takes a back seat to saving a few dollars. Here are our ridiculous money-saving moments.

Common Cents

My husband and I had just purchased our first house, and after years of apartment living, we were ill-prepared for all the additional expenses that come with home ownership, specifically yard work. Spring had arrived, and we needed to fertilize the grass.

Rather than heading to a reputable lawn and garden store, we decided to take advantage of a fabulous sale on a lawn spreader at the local chain drug store. It was priced at only $9.99 – a big relief to our budget! When my husband picked it up, all the spreaders were packaged in cardboard boxes – some assembly required.

Since the box wasn’t too big, it was no problem for him to load it in the car. When we opened the box, we soon discovered the reason for the deeply discounted price. Painted a bright mustard yellow, the spreader appeared to be a slightly (very slightly) overgrown Tonka toy. The handle was a suitable height for a vertically challenged twelve-year-old “driver,” the wheels were 4 inches in diameter, and the bin held precisely enough fertilizer to make one round trip across our small suburban front lawn.

Oh well, the whole experience made for some good laughs with friends in the back yard over several bottles of beer.

Legal Tender
I was 22 years old, pretty much broke and sitting at a sushi bar in Las Vegas.  As all of you know, sushi is not cheap with two pieces of raw fish costing between $8 and $15.

I was there with a buddy and sitting next to us was a complete stranger.  We finished our meal at around the same time, but I was still hungry and I wanted to order more.  But I did not want to spend another $12 on two small pieces of raw tuna.

The stranger next to us gets up from the sushi bar to leave and I see that he has left three pieces of untouched, perfect looking pieces of raw tuna.  So what do I do? I eat off the stranger’s plate. I take my chop sticks and discretely take all three pieces of tuna and put them on my plate.  I saved at least $15.

To this day I still cannot believe I ate off a stranger’s plate to save $15 but at the time it definitely seemed worth it.

Monet Bags

When I was nineteen and fresh out of my parents house, I was over-the-top concerned about spending too much money. So in my head the most logical place to cut expenses was in the food that I purchased. Instead of just going the low-cost route I went the virtually no-cost route and purchased a large quantity of spaghetti noodles and proceeded to eat them for almost every meal.

Starving and clearly protein deficient, my mom dragged me to the grocery store and convinced me that surviving on noodles was ridiculous and not the way to save money. (Apparently I didn't think about how costly creating health issues could be in the long run. Duh.). Surprisingly I'm still a sucker for any kind of pasta -- although now I know a little more about how to eat a balanced meal.

 Lucy Change
One of my friends (honestly this isn’t me) is one of the most frugal people I know. And “frugal” for him is just really borderline cheap to me. I’ll call my friend “Stan” in order to preserve our friendship. All of us probably know someone just like my friend Stan. For Stan, it all boils down to coupons, coupons, coupons. Two-for-one dinner deal? Perfect for a birthday outing since it celebrates an event and you get a free meal. Ten items for $5? Good opportunity to stock up no matter if it’s an off-brand that you’d never seek out to purchase in the first place.

My friend Stan had to have been the inspiration for The Krazy Coupon Lady. Really. He’s been a coupon clipper and redeemer since the 1980s and that was before the KCLs (Heather and Joanie) were born. Before grocery shopping was computerized, he’d pass off coupons for things he didn’t even buy. And watch out if a supermarket chain offered Triple Value Coupon Day. He’d be there with a stack of $1-off coupons for products that men don’t use.

One of the reasons why I don’t use coupons is because of Stan. It seems awkward to me to take a friend to dinner and then plop down a coupon and gloat about how much you saved. I also never seem to get coupons for stuff I purchase regularly. Every now and then I’ll get a coupon for a product I do buy, but it usually gets left at home when I go shopping. Eventually when I do remember I have a coupon for an item, it’s expired.

I know there are many people who are devotees of couponing like my friend Stan. It’s just not for me.

Thrifty Thelma
I don’t like going downtown, specifically because I don’t want to deal with meters and parking in general. I am not a fan of parking tickets and they always seem to find me.

Recently, I had a friend ask to meet me at a coffee shop around 9pm on a weekday downtown. I was apprehensive but I went. I found the perfect parking spot right in front of the coffee shop. I had the exact amount of change to pay up to the last minute that the meter would be running, and then I had a quarter. I like to save my quarters for laundry and for when I really need the time in a meter.

Rather than waste a quarter in the meter, I just paid it up to the minute. Perfect, right? Well, actually I was a complete idiot. Not only was I cheap, I apparently couldn’t read that the meter doesn’t stop charging at 10pm, it just charges less.

Of course the meter maid was leaving the ticket on my car as I walked out of the coffee shop right at 10:06pm. At first I was shouting at her then promptly pulled my foot out of my mouth when I re-examined the meter. I ended up paying for a $25 parking ticket. So much for the quarter!

Dollar Bill
“Nothing” is the one word that comes sadly to mind.  Tragically, this question gives me great pause.  I sat staring at the computer screen without one thing coming to mind to list about what I’ve done to save money.  By now you’re rolling on the floor laughing at me. So maybe I fulfilled the “funny” requirement for this blog post.

Then, it dawned on me.  I am hardly a stupid person for not trying to save money nor am I just giving money away to the asker.  There are plenty of reasons to explain my behavior.

Remember my contribution to the “What My Parents Taught Me About Finances” post about learning the value of saving?  Some of it has to do with childhood influences.  “Save, save, save;” then buy, was the governing principle for my learning about money.  Buy what the money will afford.  I get disconnected from combining the lesson of saving with the lesson about hunting down the best price.

Hunting is a perfect metaphor.  I find all forms of clipping, storing, sorting, and fumbling through coupons is just too much hassle.  My behavior isn’t a result of having too much money.  Nor do I act out of altruism for sellers.  Nor does it mean that I haven’t researched my purchases thoroughly.  As a matter of fact, it’s that research that leads me to my determination of value.  Value in my estimation is the sweet spot between quality and cost in buying decisions.

What is the most ridiculous thing you've done to save money?