People who are seriously in the game of reaching Financial Independence will all tell you: half the victory is in saving on everything. Sure, everyone starts by reducing their expenses on the big tickets that are housing, transportation, and food. But you’ll then find yourself saving on less expensive stuff such as your entertainment costs, communication costs,… and then things can escalate quickly.
The path to early retirement has cranked up my frugality power to the max. In general it’s good, but sometimes I realize I’ve been saving on crazy, sometimes stupid (as in, does not actually save me money), stuff. Most of my friends agree that they don’t see the point, or would never go as low as to do this. Here it goes:
1. I charge my smartphone at the office
Woohoo, stick it to the man, I’m not paying any electricity to charge my smartphone!
Savings: I probably save a huge $0.47 a year thanks to that. Yay?
2. I use less toothpaste than what you see on TV ads. Much less!
Ever realized how much toothpaste they put on the brush, in those ads? A lot.
I’ve realized that I have had the same tube of toothpaste for almost a year now. I used to put a huge amount of that thing on my toothbrush, maybe not ass much as what they show in the ads, but close enough. I checked, at my former pace I would burn through the same tube of paste within about 50 days. That’s 7.3 times more than my actual consumption. And, I should mention, there’s no perceptible change in the freshness of my breath, ha 🙂
Savings: about $25 a year. Hey wait, it’s not that bad.
Extra bonus: I use the cheapest toothpaste I can find, which currently happens to be some basic thing from Colgate. a Tube of toothpaste can easily range from $2 to $30 a tube in your local grocery store, and really they’re all the same stuff unless you have very specific medical needs!
3. I turn the lights off, all the time
This is driving my wife crazy, especially since I’m the one who used to say it was ok to keep the lights on. If nobody’s in a room, I turn the lights off. Does not matter if they were away for only 5 seconds and intend to come back, I can’t guess that so I turn the lights off.
I’m also very aware of the consumption of each lightbulb in the house. Whenever I can, I will turn on the “low consumption” ones rather than the huge “8 old school light bulbs chandelier”.
Savings: given the price of electricity around here, I’d say I save at most $3 a year with this. But hey, I guess it’s a good habit to have anyway, amirite?
4. I get as much free food as I can from my company. Sometimes people must think I’m homeless or something
This is also reaching borderline mental-health-issue type of savings. Ever been at a team lunch where they bring pizza, and for some unknown reason they also bring lettuce, so that people don’t feel guilty eating so much carbs? Well, nobody really eats the lettuce, and even when they do, there’s a huge amount of leftovers.
That lettuce typically end up in the trash can. But not under my watch! I put the leftovers in the fridge, and bring them home in the evenings. I sometimes even keep the leftover pizza, and reheat it (really, reheated pizza is gross, but I derive pleasure from the fact that it’s free)
Also ever wondered what happened to those cans of soda that nobody drinks at company parties? Somebody will put them in the common area fridge once the party is over, then nobody ever drinks them because everyone assumes they’re somebody else’s. At the end of company parties, I stick around to scavenge some of the cans of soda.
Colleagues sometimes see me do that, and really, I shouldn’t be ashamed of salvaging good food from its fate in the trash can, but really I do feel awkward doing this when I’m seen 🙂
Savings: Probably close to $100 a year thanks to free meals & drinks.
5. We reuse trash bags
My wife feels that trash bags are super expensive in the US compared to Japan. I checked, at the lowest we get them at approx $0.10 a bag, independently of their size. With 8 trash cans in the condo, and most of them filling up pretty much every week, that’s an approximate cost of $40 a year in trash bags. We reuse some of them, when they’re not too gross. Yes, it means I go down to the dumpster, and empty the content of, say, our trash bag for recyclable items, then bring back the trash bag. This of course only works for those bags that are not too gross, the ones containing reyclable items mostly.
Savings: approx $20 a year
Note: we could reuse other plastic bags instead of buying trash bags. One of the side effect of being frugal and/or minimalist is that we don’t buy remotely enough stuff to have 8 fresh plastic bags every week.
6. I don’t insist too much on paying the bill at bars and restaurants
My team has recently started the bad habit of going out on “team building” events. Those are not officially endorsed by the company (read: I can’t expense it), but I feel I have to show up once in a while to show I have the team spirit raging in me. A couple drinks at the bar, or lunch out, can become expensive pretty fast.
Luckily, for some reason, there’s always someone to say “this one’s on me”. I’ll politely push back once, not more. Usually, someone insists that they pay for me, and I don’t insist.
Savings: The best way would be for me to not go to these events, plus I kind of feel like a douche for doing this. But, yeah, overall I’d say I’m saving close to $100 a year with this.
7. I shave my hair myself with clippers
I haven’t gone to a hairdresser in more than 15 years. Friends of mine would shave my hair for me back in college, and now I do it myself. I bought some clippers 10 years ago for about $20, and have been using them since then. For the tiny details, my wife does the finish. My 1 year old daughter cried when I shaved my hair last time. Not sure if it’s because she didn’t recognize me afterwards, or if she thinks it hurts.
Doing it myself is faster than going to the hairdresser, plus I don’t have to endure the chit chat that always happens. And it’s much, much cheaper.
Savings: I have no clue how much a hairdresser cut costs. $20? Maybe I’m saving $100 a year this way.
What are the crazy, sometimes completely pointless things you do to be frugal?