10 Things I Just Won’t Do to Save Money

by Paul Michael on 11 June 2012 56 comments
Photo: beachgirlnbay

Hi, I’m Paul, and I have a confession. I’m frugal. Sometimes, really, really frugal. You only have to ask my long-suffering wife and kids for confirmation. But although I have been known to buy only items on clearance, with coupons, I am also someone who has frugal morals as well. I won’t steal; I have yet to pop a grape in my mouth from the produce section, although I see many people doing that. I won’t con people, or do any kind of “severe bending of the rules.” All in all, I keep my frugality above board, even if it means I spend a few extra dollars here and there. Here’s my top 10 sins that I won’t commit in the name of being a money-saver. (See also: The Ethics of Free: Is It Wrong to Get Free Stuff?)

1. I Won’t Ask For a Cup of Water and Then Get Soda

Well, these days I’m almost completely off soda anyway, but even when I was a sodaholic I would cringe when I’d see people ask for water, then fill up at the soda fountain. OK, so the restaurant does make a very sizeable profit from selling sodas, which means some people think they have the right to rip-off the restaurants. That’s just wrong though. In fact, when the restaurant gives you a free cup for your water, they’re losing money — those cups aren’t free to them. So when you add insult to injury, and start filling those free cups with whatever you like, it’s just not very sporting at all. Some restaurants have had to resort to putting in a big WATER button instead of the usual small water switch under the lemonade, because it was way too easy for people to get away with the stealthy “free drink” switch. Don't do it. But please, just drink water anyway. It saves you money, it’s better for you, and your conscience will be clean.

2. I Won’t Cram Hundreds of Free Ketchup Packets Into My Pockets

Staying on the restaurant/fast food theme, I overheard two people in line talking about how they never have to buy ketchup any more. “I just grab a few handfuls of those ketchup packets every time I’m in here, and squeeze them into the bottle at home!” Well, yayee for you! Although these packets are there to be taken, and thus “free,” they are not supposed to be there to help skinflints save a few bucks on a bottle of ketchup. If people continue to do that, we’ll soon be at point where “would you like to add ketchup to your order for five cents?” will be a standard question at the checkout.

3. I Won’t Take Home Toilet Paper From Work

Or lotion. Or coffee filters. Or plastic knives and forks. I won’t do it because it is literally stealing from your employer, which is wrong on so many levels. But it also makes everyone else pay the price for your own selfishness. When things start being “liberated” from work, the company takes notice. And they can take measures that remove those privileges from the rest of the staff. Nice toilet paper is replaced with the nasty waxy stuff that’s about as effective as a sheet of aluminum. Coffee is no longer supplied. Hand lotions and sanitizers must be provided by the staff. And all because a few rotten apples are too cheap to get their household supplies. Don’t be a work thief, please.

4. I Won’t Be An Extreme Couponer

I’ve written a whole article on this to explain my reasoning, but in a nutshell I think it’s a horrid mixture of greed and obsession. I’m not going to clip coupons for eight hours a day and spend four hours checking out. I’m also not going to clear the shelves of hundreds of items I don’t really need, or will ever use, just to save some money or see $1.24 on the register after ringing up 100 bottles of shampoo. The sooner these coupon manufacturers put limits on these things, the better.

5. I Won’t Under-Tip at a Restaurant

I have never been a server or worked behind the bar. I never want to do either. It has to be one of the toughest jobs out there for the money. Most of the time, these people are run off their feet all night and get paid less than minimum wage, because the tips will make up for the shortfall. Well, not if really cheap people don’t tip. I’ve heard stories and seen photographic evidence of people leaving tiny tips, like $1 on a $50 check, or even worse, leaving advice. That’s nasty, and it’s completely unfair. I will tip a minimum of 20% on the check, more if the server is really good. And if I have a Groupon or coupon, I always tip on the amount before that is deducted. Only if I get really, really awful service do I reevaluate. So far, in my 11+ years in the USA, I have yet to tip below 15%, and on the few occasions I did go that low, the service was pretty lousy. But who knows if that person was having a crappy day and has kids to feed.

6. I Won’t Use My House as a Piggy Bank

I have seen way too many people get burned in the refinancing and home equity traps. They get a little bit of equity in their homes, and they instantly refi and pull out that cash. Of course, when the market crashed, so many people got in real trouble due to their refinancing mistakes. Well, I won't do it. I will refi to get a better rate, of course, or to use the equity my home has built to eliminate mortgage insurance. But I won’t dip into the home equity fund. My only exception to that rule would be to do something that would add that equity back into the house, like a basement remodel. However, most of the time, those projects do not put back into the home what you have taken out.

7. I Won’t Risk “Dodgy” Food

Sell-by dates are not all they’re cracked up to be. Usually they err on the side of extreme caution, and you have several days as a buffer. There are other ways to detect the quality of the food, and if I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be off, I bin it. I have risked it before and have suffered some nasty food-poisoning episodes because I refused to throw out a few bucks worth of chicken or ground beef. Honestly, if in any doubt, throw it out. Bad smells, strange colors or hues — they are big danger signs.

8. I Won’t Avoid Flushing the Toilet

I’ve heard that you can save a bunch of money by not flushing your toilet after every use. What’s the old saying? Ah yes — “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Well, I did a little digging, and yes, not flushing every time can save you money. According to The Simple Dollar, it’s roughly $7.66 per year! Now, that is a savings, but I’d rather give that up than have to live with the nasty odors emanating from the smelly toilets in my home.

9. I Won’t Wash My Own Car

What?!! Is this really coming from someone as frugal as myself? Well, yes. Here’s the thing. I have to figure the cost of washing the car and the time it takes, and then figure out what kind of money I can earn by doing freelance writing. It takes me at least 45 minutes to wash the car. A car wash is roughly $10-$15. I earn considerably more than that when I freelance. And when I’m not working, which isn’t often these days, I like to spend time doing stuff with my family (and sometimes, dare I say it, on my own). I’d rather be out playing in the park, or at a movie, or coloring, or anything other than washing the car. Now, if the family actually wants to spend time together soaping the car down, fine. But usually, we have better things to do. I do mow the lawn. That takes me 10 minutes, and it’s not anywhere near the same kind of hassle.

10. I Won’t Underuse My A/C and Heating

I find it so odd that people pay thousands to have A/C installed, and then never turn it on. Or they set it to some silly temperature like 79 degrees because it saves money, and then put fans all over the house. In winter, I have visited friends who have a cold house and wear sweaters and two pairs of socks. When I ask them to turn the heat up for the sake of my kids, it’s like I asked them to hand over their first-born. Now, I know when money is tight, you have to take some tough measures. If I were living alone, I would probably have no problem using a fan instead of A/C, or wrapping up warm in winter. But when the family — my family — is involved, I am not going to cut corners in those areas. I definitely monitor the A/C and heating use, but I will not deprive them of a comfortable home environment.

So, that’s my list. Are there some things you just will not do to save money? Do other people mock you for these beliefs? Let us know.

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Guest's picture
Julia

This list cracked me up. I didn't even know some of these where frugality strategies (people actually bring tp home from work? how would one manage this? hide a roll under your shirt, or is it a larger, covert operation?) But I DO coupon, though not to the extreme and, sadly, we don't use our A/C very much. We save it for the dog-days of summer. However, I may use your argument here to justify switching it on more often! Thanks for the post.

Guest's picture
James

I won't always settle for the cheapest products. Most of the time, cheap = low quality = gets broken easily = you need to buy a new one again.

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't have a problem "thrifting" most of my wardrobe, but I draw the line at used undies and socks. Mocked for it? AFAIK, no one knows where I shop for clothes.

Guest's picture
Hannah

I buy mostly used clothing as well (except like you, I buy new socks and underwear, yuck!). No one knows! In fact, a lot of my clothes are designer and it looks like I paid big bucks for them.

Guest's picture
Hannah

I agree wholeheartedly with this article. I won't do any of these except #10, but we personally don't mind it and don't have kids so it works for us.

I also won't eat cheap, processed food for the sake of saving money in the short term. Feeling good and long-term health benefits are worth the extra up-front cost of "real" food to me.

Guest's picture

It doesn't bother me when people grab a handful of ketchup to use at the restaurant, and then bring home whatever they didn't use, but are you really going to use these little packets at home instead of buying your own bottle? In Europe they give each person 2 packets and make you pay for extra- this made my friends and I so mad. And I'm sure if the U.S. started charging for these little guys, there would be an uproar! The one thing you should never skimp on, even when trying to save money, is tipping at a restaurant. Those servers go through hell everyday dealing with obnoxious people, and still manage to put a smile on their face when they get to your table. I'm glad you included this one!

Guest's picture
NJJ

Well written article I agree especially with the first few points. In my area restaurants have the right to call the police for customers stealing soda when they asked for water. In fact here, some restaurants have moved their soda machines behind the register to ensure that customers only leave the drink with the drink they paid for.

I agree with you I'm also tired of Extreme Couponers too. Some of them are so ignorant they make it hard for the rest of us that use only a few coupons. I was in the check out lane just yesterday behind a woman who an extreme couponer and refused to leave the register so she argue with the cashier over a lousy 25 off coupon and she was WRONG about the coupon too. Most grocery stores in my area have already done a major crack down on their coupon policies as well as the manufacturers. Here a few stores limit the number of transactions couponers can do nowadays. I can't wait for other stores here to jump on board. I don't see why extreme couponers don't just use a self-check out so the rest of us don't have to endure their self-absorbed and greedy ways

Other things I won't do to save money: using a grocery store as a personal atm. The change I get from the cashier is the change I'll gladly take. I don't mind taking a trip to the bank if I want certain bills back. I hate when I see people just walk up to the cashier and demand certain bills from the register when they aren't buying anything because they admit they don't want to make an extra trip to the bank.

I also won't make skip my annual physicals. I have health insurance for a reason and refuse to put my health at risk for the sake of not wanting to pay co-pays. The same for the dentist and eye doctor too.

I also refuse to be gas and AC cheap. I refuse to ride around on only a 1/4 tank of gas all day just to save money on filling the tank. My tank gets filled to the brim once at least once a week and I combine errands to save money. I'll also use the AC when its hot having medical issues make the AC a necessity for me not a luxury.

I also refuse to diaper and clothes stretch to save a few bucks. I'm sorry but a clean baby is a happy baby to me. I hate when I see other parents out there that refuse to change their babies soggy brick filled diaper to save a few bucks on diapers and wipes but are choosing to buy make up and/or cigarettes instead. I'm sorry but diaper banks and dollar stores exist for a reason.

Guest's picture
Guest

I so agree with this!!! A clean baby, saving .5 or .10 cents a gallon on gas, running the AC and to stretch out clothing!! Oh and there are ppl at work who steal ALL FORMS OF paper & cleaning products, hand soaps, personal food-drinks out of the fridge/freezer AND beg for handouts! I have witnessed this first hand! Pathetic to beg, borrow and steal only to go out for a night on the town the same day/night. SMDH!! Gotta laugh about it to keep from crying.

Guest's picture
Amanda

If you want free condiments, try Arby's. I went through their drive-thru not too long ago, and yes it was a sizable order, but they literally handed me a medium-sized take-out bag FULL of condiments. When they first asked me if I wanted sauce I said, "just some Arby's sauce please." I ended up with enough of that, horseradish, and ketchup to fill a small bottle of each. By the same token, McDonald's I've been in offer a set # of dipping sauces with chicken nugget orders and charge for anything more than that - which is not to say that occasionally a cashier won't toss in extras for some reason. In contrast, your example above of, "Would you like ketchup with that?" is surely not that far off. I went to England in 1994 and way back then McDonald's we found there were in fact charging 4-6 pence for each packet of ketchup.

Guest's picture
Rez

I like most of these strategies, yet for # 8. I actually go by that old mantra and its not to save money, but mostly to save water. I mean, you need to factor how much water is used every time you flush the toilet. Depending on the toilet, it can be anywhere from 1 gallon to 3 gallons. The smell doesn't start to creep unless it has been sitting there for more than 8 hours.

Guest's picture
Guest

The reason behind not flushing for "yellow" was basically with OLD septic tanks! Most septic tanks today are well over 700 gallons with 1200 ft of field.....but back in the day and in many rural areas today, many tanks are less than 100 gallons.....hence "If it's yellow, let it....."! But I agree, if you have sewers or modern septic....it's makes absolutely NO sense at all! And it is really gross!

Guest's picture
Lisa

I won't drive around looking for cheap gas! Better to consolidate trips than worry about a few cents' difference between gas stations.

Guest's picture
Jackie

For the time being, we run the dishwasher every other day... sometimes 2 days if possible to save on electric bills. We hand wash the pots and pans and load plates, cups, utensils, and plastic ware in the washer.

Unless we have guests - then we will run it when it's full.

Mind you, it's just me and my husband right now. Once the kids start rolling, that will have to change. :)

Guest's picture
Adam

Great article! Being frugal doesn't mean losing one's dignity. I really liked how you showed that there's a sort of law of diminishing returns in the extreme frugal moves. Saving money by eating terrible food that makes you sick, might actually cost you more time, trips to the doctor etc. than buying a good meal. Same goes for cheap clothes as many have pointed out.

Jennifer Holder's picture

I refuse to listen to concerts from afar, even if it's for free. Might as well just listen to a live album in my living room.

Meg Favreau's picture

Likewise! I once saw Jon Stewart live, which was awesome, but we were so far back that he was smaller than he is on TV.

I also find that as I get older, I value venues that let you sit so much more -- both for the sake of comfort and because I'm short. I've gone to too many shows where I've paid good money to stare at a man's shoulder blades.

Guest's picture
Jenni

I have been to many concerts, with people standing up in front of me, since I use a wheelchair, I see a lot of backsides. Yuck! Or I sit where the seats are, thinking people will sit, and then they stand on their chairs. Then when they holler at each other, and throw beer. I don't see the concert, yet come out smelling like beer and smoke. :) I don't do either, but enjoy being with others who enjoy the same music. Sometimes! I am glad there are now accessible seating, after years of being seated in the back. Binoculars are a great help, if you can see through the people. Ditto, on the other reply on being short, add to that being in a wheelchair. I am still planning to go see Heart, they have accessible seating, so I will be able to see them!!! Not just hear them. Being frugal is a good thing, since you can get free tickets by calling into the radio station.

Guest's picture

Ha! This was a very fun post. I especially love #3 - "I Won’t Take Home Toilet Paper From Work. Or lotion. Or coffee filters. Or plastic knives and forks." That made me giggle at my desk.

Oh, and would you mind talking to my wife about #10? I'm always freezing in the winter and sweating in the summer. Seriously, I would appreciate that. Thanks!

Guest's picture

I will wash my own car, only because I really haven't found a place that gets it clean to my expectations. Sometimes it's just easier to do it myself.

Other than that, this is exactly what I meant when I wrote http://www.dollarversity.com/being-frugal-is-one-thing-but-these-are-jus...

I absolutely cannot understand #10. Your home is the one place you should be absolutely and totally comfortable, but if you refuse to use heating/cooling and suffer without it, then what's the point?

I also don't understand the deal with buying used clothes. Guess what people, all of the clothes are cleaned in the same manner, so if you refuse to wear someone else's underwear or socks, or whatever, then you should have the same problem with other articles. The all touched another person's skin, and you don't know where those people have been or their habits. No matter what article of clothing it is, it's essentially the same. Especially if those people had a habit of not wearing any underwear...something to think about, huh?

I'll never starve myself in order to save a couple bucks.
I'll never skip showering so I can save on electric or water bills
I'll never become a hermit
I'll never wear clothes that are falling apart because I'm too cheap to buy new ones
Or Drive a car that barely functions just because I can "get a few more miles out of it"

Guest's picture
quignewton

Eric, I largly agree with most of what you said, but if you are ever on a fixed income, decisions must be made that can be tough. It's very easy today to run out of money with 20 days left till payday. You slowly sink into a hole that can wipe you out at any time. I try to make decisions that will have the best or least impact on my well being in the short term. Unless you are blessed with a large bank account or a solid retirement, it gets dicey. Lots of folks are in that position. We can argue the reasons why, or they shoulda done this or that. But the fact is: events can change that we didn't see coming that can affect us to the end. I respectfully wish you the best in your effort to never deny yourself creature comforts. But do not look disdainfully at those who must, lest you painfully walk in their shoes. But after all thats no big deal, right? Just not in their used socks and underwear---that would be disgusting.

Guest's picture

The idea of shorting someone on a tip is awful, I have to totally agree. That's not even a question!

Actually, I totally agree with all of these, as I look through the list again. The worst offense is the tipping one, the next one might be the flushing one or dodgy food. And I guess I have to say the buy water get soda one is bad too, as that's clearly cheating.

I knew a guy in college who would fill up gas to one or two pennies over a whole dollar amount (say, $10.02), and then pay cash while taking 2 cents out of the penny jar. He did this on purpose. What do you think of that? Would it fit on this list?

Guest's picture
Guest

Okay, you made me chuckle with your pennypinching friend. I have to assume you've been out of college for awhile, s $0.02 in gas is such a negligible amount now...

Guest's picture
Kate

The only thing I will hoard packets of is soy sauce. I use it so rarely (sodium issues) but sometimes run into a recipe that calls for a tiny amount so I don't want to buy a whole bottle.

Guest's picture

I keep the soy sauce packets that I get from Chinese restaurants and the like, but I would never take more than I needed from a serve-yourself bar like they have at fast food restaurants. That's just unconscionable.

Guest's picture

The water/soda thing is flat out stealing and sad. As far as tipping goes I won't under-tip either but if the service was bad or nonexistent expect to get a similar sized tip. I have been a waiter before and I know it is hard work but I did it so they can too.

Guest's picture
Guest

In general, I'm with you on these...BUT (and there's always a but, isn't there, or I wouldn't be commenting?)

I would never dream of insisting that someone heat or cool their home to my specifications when I'm the guest. And, yes, I have kids. They have the ability to layer up in the cold and fan themselves in the heat. Again, to me, number 10 just struck me as the height of arrogance, in that you are demanding how others spend their own money in order to satisfy your own standards.

Guest's picture
Guest

I partially agree. No, I am not comfortable telling people how to heat their homes, but if they invited me and did not tell me that we would need to bundle up, how are we supposed to stay warm? When my BIL invited us to visit with a newborn and had his heat off because it didn't bother him to be in a 52F home, he was asked to turn up the heat because the baby couldn't maintain her temperature.

As a hostess I attempt to make sure my guests are comfortable. That includes letting guests know in advance that the guest room gets very cool at night so they should plan accordingly.

Guest's picture
Guest

There is definitely more than a wisp of arrogance in the idea that because it's 'my family', your preferences for your children determine what other people should do in their own homes. My grandmother, who lived to 101, hated air conditioning, and visiting her every Sunday in the summer meant we sat in a very warm house, but it was ok. She made lemonade, set up fans, and we played cards. Can you even imagine kids doing that with grown ups now? She was a big believer in fresh air, and we all more or less respected that she must be doing something right to have reached the age she did. Funny, what I remember most about that time was how peaceful it was to play cards and hear the birds singing...which you definitely don't hear when you've got the AC going.

Guest's picture
SADie

dude makes too much sense....sometimes SOME companies aren't so security conscious...they trust their employees...an oversize purse or lunch pail CAN be useful
...it's nice to see SOME ppl care what others think of them...like do you respect an extreme couponer...they use valuable time, theirs & others...it's just nice to see someone respects the "rights" or feelings of other ppl

Guest's picture
Stockmonkeymom

I won't scrimp on cheap toilet paper! Charmin Ultra all the way, baby! But I do load up on it when Costco has a coupon on it.

I do wash my own car, paint my own nails, clean my own house, wash my own dog, and buy used clothing (designer types so I can resell them when I get bored) - but I don't buy used undies, socks, shoes or swimsuits.

Guest's picture
Guest

Very interesting article. I agree with all, but for #10 (to some degree). Here's something to consider: in the winter, you may find that keeping your house cooler than you normally do can help you be healthier. One of my friends who is quite extreme in keeping his house cold challenged me to try keeping my house cooler a little bit at a time. I was very surprised to find that making small adjustments (sweaters, etc.) made it easy to adjust to a lower temperature. In addition, I no longer get colds each winter. My friend said it's because the hot-to-cold-to-hot changes we go through in the winter with overheated houses stresses the body out and can lower our ability to fight off germs. Not sure if that's how it works, but I'm happier and healthier now.

Guest's picture
Edward

Good article, Erik! It needed to be said. I'm not a big fan of all the PF articles, "How to Eat Out and Save Money". They make me cringe with tips like, "Order an appetizer to share as a main and then order water with your meal." Ersh... Just do the world and the restaurant a favour and stay home. Obviously you can't afford to eat out properly anyway.

Guest's picture

1, 2, and 3 are stealing, not saving money. (I think that's obvious, but if not, then consider you are not saving anything; you're transferring your costs to an unwilling other party.)

5 could be considered stealing, too, by the same reasoning. If you *under*-tip, then you're not paying your server the value of services provided.

By what definition is 6 saving?

7 and 8 are stupid. Do you also pat yourself on the back for not recycling Band-aids and toilet paper?

4 and 10 are really the only items in the entire article worth arguing, and it seems you've covered #4 previously and in greater depth.

Guest's picture

Great list...I agree with pretty much everything you say. I'm all for saving money when you can but some people take frugality to the extreme and that's just not for me.

"If it's yellow let it mellow..." LOL...never heard that before!

Guest's picture

I whole-heartedly agree with points 1-4. If it's stealing, I won't do it. Period.

Point #5 I agree with because I have been a server. I have tipped below 15% (my average is 18%, but I've tipped as much as 25%) when server was truly rude or neglectful for no reason I can discern. (This has happened twice. Ever.) The "upside" to having worked in restaurants is that I can judge pretty well if there's anything happening in the restaurant that would lead to bad service beyond the server's control. I also always tip on the price of a meal *before* any coupons or discounts. Doing otherwise just sucks (from a servers perspective).

#8 I have done while in the mountains (I live in Colorado), becuase water is a scarce resource, and it's part of the culture up there.

#9 I disagree with, but only because my dad (a clean car fanatic) taught me his method for cleaning cars at the DIY car wash places. I can clean my car well in 10-15 minutes for around $4. (If I don't dry it off after, it only takes 7 minutes.)

I go back and forth on #10. My family has *always* used fans instead of the A/C, but we've always lived in houses where the A/C was installed when we moved in. Another upside to living in Colorado: with a very few exceptions, it cools down considerably at night. Even living on the 3rd floor of an apartment building with west-facing windows, we can run the A/C for only an hour or two in the late afternoon and be perfectly comfortable.

Guest's picture

I agree with many of these things, but I disagree on a few. For example, I love washing my car, but that is because it's a great way to enjoy the outdoors, spend time with my family, and the car wash is quite a drive away. It would cost me much more time and money to go out and get it washed than to do it myself.

Also, we generally keep the heat and A/C use under control. This is not only to help save a lot of money over the year (we notice the difference very clearly) but also because we have a wood stove to give us extra heat in the winter and we have a pool to keep us cool in the summer. Yes, we might turn on the A/C if it's a very hot night and we can't get a comfortable rest, but for the most part a few fans and a dip in the pool do the trick.

One thing I won't do to save money is go generic on my favorite products. Sure, they cost a little more, but you can really tell the difference with things like specialty hair products and certain articles of clothing. If I buy the cheap stuff just to save money, I'll just be uncomfortable and unhappy - I would rather have bought nothing at all!

Guest's picture

Great article! Many consumers today will do almost anything to save a buck! I don't agree with compromising your honor and ethics for a dollar. I've seen many people order a water and get a soda and many things like that and in my experience short changing businesses and unethically cutting corners to save money rarely helps in the long run. I found many great personal finance tips at http://consumerfinancetips.com

Guest's picture
Guest

Oh I wish I could agree with you on all points! But I am going to be the bad guy and say that I will not leave a good tip just because. I do not feel it is my responsibility to pay the restaurant’s employees just because I eat there. It's not because I'm cheap, either. I will certainly tip well if I get reasonable service! I worked as a server and I know how hard it is. I also know how bad it sucks when you bust your ass and get stiffed. Don't do that. But if I'm at a restaurant and have no refill on my drink and haven't seen my server since they brought my food 30 minutes ago.... Nope, sorry, not going to pay you to flirt with the busboy....

I also kind of disagree with the Heating/Air point. We didn't have it installed; it came with the house when we bought it. My spouse and I have different views on this subject. One of us works at home and turns it up and down to suit them and the other will come home and freeze (or roast, depending on the season!). One of us has the view of be comfortable in the room you are in, but no need to cool/heat the entire house. The other thinks it should be comfortable throughout the house, even if nobody is home. Guess which one I am!

Guest's picture
Icy Hot

Wow, it's like the author and I are leading parallel frugal lives...

...except for maybe the last one, "I won't Underuse My A/C and Heating." I live in SoCal, and I've gone entire YEARS without using A/C or Heat (in one apartment, I blew out the pilot light on the heater the day I moved in and never lit it again). Admittedly, I live in a temperate climate...

...but it also became something of a game to me to see how long I could go without climate control of any kind.

This was years ago, and I've gotten less "frugal" (older?) about the whole thing. Besides, it probably didn't save me that much money.

Still, it was a weird kind of frugal fun to play Urban Survivorman!

Meg Favreau's picture

I know what you mean! I'm also in SoCal, and I discovered this winter that the pilot light in my apartment's heater wasn't lit. There were several days when I thought about fixing it...but instead, it served as good impetus to just put on a sweater.

Guest's picture
Jae

Something to think about for y'all that wash your cars at home .... not very environmentally friendly. Commercial car washes are required by law to dispose of the car wash fluids properly. What happens to yours?

Guest's picture
oz44Guest

Lot of car washes recycle the car wash fluids to save money. How would you like to have your brand new car washed with recycled water?

Guest's picture
Samantha

I refuse to wash and dry out and reuse old plastic baggies. They are too cheap, it just doesn't make sense. And if its about the environment, put your potato chips in a tupperware container.

Guest's picture
Mikey

Not flushing the toilet stems from having a septic tank. I don't flush my toilet every time because it fills up my septic tank faster and I have to pay to have it pumped out to the tune of about $400.

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somebody

I suppose this might be accurately titled. When you have money, it's not hard to come up with a list of things you won't do to save money. It's a whole other story when you're faced with a situation of having to make the few dollars you have go a long, long way. 1, 2 and 3 are just plain stealing and shouldn't even make it to a discussion like this. To have the #5 issue, you have to go out to eat, which automatically puts you in the "don't REALLY need to save money" camp. #6 isn't about saving money, it's about avoiding stupid. The savings cited for letting the yellow mellow assume that the reader is using city water and sewer. For those using a tight septic tank (no leach field), avoiding filling that thing up with mostly water can save hundreds per year. Besides, peeing in a bottle and then resealing the bottle keeps the odor contained. #9 assumes that you have money to spend on getting your car clean before the rain will do it for you. #10 is just a sign of how spoiled we have become as a society. My house doesn't have AC, and I happen to like bundling up in the winter. This whole article begs the question -- what ARE you really willing to do to save money?

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I can say that I agree 100% with everything on this list. I will also add "my morning Starbucks" to the list. It's the small things that make life enjoyable. If you really need to stuff your pockets with ketchup packets then you have issues...

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Bronx Lad

Are you spying on me? I LOVED this list. I had a few of my own.

I will not take produce bags with me to the all-you-can-eat buffets and bring food home in my pocket book.

I will not recycle tea leaves throughout the week.

I will not take my vacuum cleaner bag and add it to my compost heap

I will not save wire hangers and claim that I can make art from them.

I will not buy on EBay with the notion that I can resell things at a better price... :)

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Guest

You are my wife's long lost brother, has to be.

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Guest

#10 made me laugh. We keep our AC at 79 because if it's any lower than that, everyone is griping about being cold and putting on sweaters. But, we do live in the desert so when it's 110+ degrees outside, 79 feels nice and cool.

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Anna

I realize this is an old post, but I enjoyed it and wanted to possibly add to the discussion.

In our house, we call being "frugal" -- "downsizing where we don't care to upsize where we do."

We do some so-called frugal items like making our own laundry soap. On the flip-side, we do what is frugal for us but probably not frugal by other standards such as buying gift certificates for ourselves around Christmas time.

Most blogs tell you to stop eating out. And I am sure good wine is considered a 'want' and not a need. But we try to save here buy buying gift certificates during the holidays because usually you'll get a bonus gift certificate with your purchase. We're going to make the purchases anyways, may as well let our dollars work as hard as possible.

Another bonus is the wine store we buy from has a large sale in February. We combine the savings here (usually percentage off all purchases) with the gift certificates to save even more. We do an entire year purchase in one month. We get to enjoy our lifestyle with good wine at approximately 40% off retail.

To really make the gift certificate idea work, you need to keep good track of what restaurants you regularly spend at and how much you spend in a year. Otherwise, you'll end up going out just because you have the cards.

I would add to the tip suggestion: When using gift certificates, always tip on the retail amount and not on what you paid after the gift certificate. Just because you are saving money is no reason to be cheap to the staff.

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Just a random smart aleck

I note that you post is entitled "..thing I just won't do.." which I can respect but I would add that for some people, some of these items are either about saving more than the immediate cost or have other benefits other than money. For instance, washing a care (which only takes me 20 to 25 minutes to do a job as good as a car wash does) has the benefit of activity and exercise. Plus there is the cost of driving to the car wash, and the time spent doing that. Also, is it that easy just to say "I'm not going to wash my own car, so I'll just pick up this freelance writing gig that appeared out of nowhere?" Even if that is the case for you, most people don't have the option to just 'work extra'. As far as the AC/Heating question, the human body has been spoiled by modern HVAC systems, and people are (or should be) more tolerant of larger temperature ranges than they are. That being said, most of these are good points and I like that you phrased it as your own personal decision.

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Great article -- very rarely do I come across one I could have written myself (from a values standpoint, not because I'm a fantastic writer or anything). Thanks! :)

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Halleycomet

Things I just won't do:

Buy "Cheapo" Mac n Cheese. Yep--I know Kraft is not exactly haute cuisine! But I refuse to buy the "off brands" for the once a month or so Blue Box Special at our house. .

I won't use fake butter. No way. No how. For any reason. Rather do without.

Won't buy the Shake N Pour pancake mix. 'Nuff said.

Won't give up my iced coffee. Doesn't really pay for me to buy and store and brew and chill and I am already exhausted. For a few cups a week it's either Dunks or Cumberland Farms $1 Ex Large Flavored Iced---actually pretty good!

I won't give up my dryer. I can't get to my washer dryer any more to hang up a lot of stuff--handicapped now--and if I asked the members of my family to do the shake it out hang it up clip it carefully---well they would probably toss the things in the recycle bin and I would never see them again! So we do spend a bit more. But as some have mentioned---sometimes it is NOT strictly a matter of "Choice".

I will NOT buy a new car. That drive off the lot lose thousands dealie just has no appeal for moi.

I won't get into a religious frenzy over paper towels. Sometimes a paper towel is the only thing that can really tackle a mess without inducing symptoms that might lead to more mess being created! With three dogs---one of them elderly--and two little kids paper towels available are a must not a "luxury". Don't use them for everything or even most things but when ya need 'em-=--ya NEED 'EM!!!

I won't buy weird off brand dog food.

OR razors

Or brake pads windshield washer fluid car care items

BUT---as a seller of used items on ebay--I HOPE people here and elsewhere DO buy used clothing and sporting goods! Why pay hundreds of dollars for things your kids will outgrow long before they wear them out? Skis skates snowboards helmets are all way too expensive to invest that kind of $$$ in . Even for most adults! As for the "Shoe Issue"---I DO sell used shoes altho I find lots and lots of UNUSED pairs of shoes at the places I shop for re-sale. And when I find a used pair that I offer for sale or give to friends and family I check them very carefully to make sure they have NOT molded to someones foot--this is WHY a lot of people get RID of shoes! They don't have the patience or interest sometimes to wear them for a few days to get them molded or they got them home and just didn't like them. Clothing is something everyone has to decide for themselves. Somethings are just not worth investing the money in for something that you will wear only a few times. Maternity clothing is one of those things. Going on a ski vacation if you are not an avid skier and spending more on the clothing than the tickets for the plane---not worth it!

I for one check all of the items I sell extremely carefully and most of the people I know who sell on venues such as ebay do also. I buy stuff we need that I haven't found locally and then if it is still in excellent shape we re-sell or consign.

And YES I WILL buy on ebay to re-sell--if I am smarter than the person listing the item for sale why SHOULDN'T I???? A lot of sellers don't know what they have and don't know how to promote what they have and refuse to learn HOW to do this. So just like you going to a garage sale and finding a 14k gold bracelet in the box of kids crayons and buying it for a quarter and re-selling it to the local gold scrap guy for $100.00---and bragging on it!!!!--I do the same thing using ebay as a giant garage sale.

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Linda Hutchings

I enjoyed reading your stuff. I have watched my daughter-in-law RIGHTEOUSLY do her couponing right down to getting many Sunday newspapers. I have also watched her be surprisingly wasteful with the stuff she buys. After thinking about it, I think she's wasteful because back in her head she doesn't value her purchases because they were BARGAINS. Also, I seldom find a coupon that is of any value to me. I prefer to buy basics rather than packaged foods Also, I have learned the INCREDIBLE versatility of baking soda which means I can eliminate a lot of expensive products. No, extreme couponing for me sounds like a form of slavery that only results in buying things that you probably don't already use, or in buying things that are too processed and too expensive to start with. No, couponing is not for all of us.

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David Heath

This is my view on tipping (as cruel as it may be). The fact that waiters/waitresses get paid less than min wage doesn't concern me. If I get lousy service I leave no tip. If I get good service, I leave a generous amount. By leaving a tip for bad service, you tell the person that they will get money even if they don't do a good job. Why would they be motivated to go the extra mile if they will still get something?

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Guest

I agree on everything but one.The thermostat is a off limits in my home its 78 during summer and 60 winter we do however have a fireplace and we cut and collect wood all summer long and it helps.Ceiling fans are only on when we are in that particular room.Our electric bill runs between $160-200 a month for a 2300 square foot home.We are comfortable with ceiling fans running keeps us cool.No sweating.