Sometimes no matter how much we think we are cutting back on spending, it’s not enough. Cutting back on things like gym memberships and Starbucks might be a good way to save money, but sometimes we need more. Instead, we need to resort to living on an extreme budget and finding extreme ways to save money.
I remember my family went through a tough time one year and we ate nothing but chicken and rice for a full year. Why? Because my mom found a really good deal on chicken from a local farmer. I couldn’t eat chicken for years after that but my mom’s ingenuity helped keep food on the table even when money was tight.
If you’re looking for some ideas for extreme money savers, we’ve got you covered. Keep in mind that it doesn't have to be forever but over the short term, this approach can be very helpful for your finances.
Why would you want to find extreme ways to save money?
There are many reasons why you might want to find extreme ways to save money. Maybe you lost your job and have to live on your savings while you look for another job. Or maybe you want to finally pay off your credit card or other debt.
Living on an extreme budget can even be a good way to build up your emergency savings or build up your retirement fund. You might even find that some of these ideas not only save you money but simplify your life as well.
If you’ve fallen on hard times, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, 37 million people were in poverty in the U.S. just in 2020. But hopefully, these extreme money saving ideas can help you save a bit, even when times get tough.
Extreme ways to save money: 21 Ideas
1. Make your own toothpaste and deodorant
Did you know that you don’t need a lot of fancy ingredients to make your own toiletries? It’s very easy to make your own toothpaste and deodorant. All you need is some coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oil.
It can also be better for you, especially if you have sensitive skin and gums. Not to mention the environmental benefits. You can find out some toothpaste and deodorant recipes on The Zero Waste Collective, as well as some other DIY skincare ideas.
2. Become vegetarian
Meat is expensive. Especially red meat. A quick way to save some money is to cut meat out of your life and become a vegetarian. There are plenty of delicious vegetarian recipes so you don’t need to cut down on taste either.
Keep in mind that a vegetarian diet can be expensive if you’re buying out of season or are eating specialty products. And you’ll need to make sure you are getting enough protein through foods like nuts and chickpeas. However, cutting meat can be beneficial if you are living on an extreme budget!
3. Turn off the A/C
It makes sense too. A/C takes up a lot of energy and can really drive up your electric bill. While turning off the A/C might not make sense everywhere in the U.S., at the very least you can raise the temperature a little bit than normal. Or consider a hand fan or good old-fashioned cold water clothes.
4. Lower the heating
On a similar note to the idea above, another extreme way to save money is to lower the heating. Like A/C, heating takes up a lot of energy and the bill can be crazy, depending on the type of heating you have.
You can also try to insulate your house or apartment, which will help keep your home warmer. Put up plastic sheeting on your windows and make a door draft stopper with rice and an old pair of jeans or pants. Keep the doors of rooms closed as well, so your heating system doesn’t have to work as hard to heat up each room.
5. Mend your clothes and darn your socks
I started darning my socks as a way to be more sustainable and I find it very relaxing. I usually darn socks while I am watching Netflix. Best of all, I haven’t had to buy new socks in nearly four years thanks to darning.
You can use the same darning method to fix holes in your sweaters. Not only does this make your clothes look better but it also helps keep them in shape and lasting longer.
6. Make your own cleaning supplies
Just like with toiletries, you don’t need expensive products to clean. The most effective cleaning supplies are lemon, white vinegar, and baking soda. In fact, baking soda is good for so many things around the house, I always try to have at least two packets around.
Just mix up one part white vinegar, one part water, add in a lemon, and let it infuse for a week. Then put it in a spray bottle and you’re good to go! It cleans just about anything. You can sprinkle some baking soda for tougher stains and dirt.
7. Freeze your food
Your freezer can hold just about anything and is the best resource when you’re living on an extreme budget. You can freeze fresh herbs in olive oil, freeze old bananas to use in shakes or bread, and even freeze leftovers so nothing goes to waste.
About 30-40 percent of the food supply in the U.S. is estimated to be food waste. Freezing your food before it goes bad not only saves you money but also keeps it from sitting in landfills. Just make sure you keep track of what you have and eat it before it gets freezer burn!
8. Buy in bulk
This one might seem counterintuitive at first, but buying in bulk can save you money in the long run. The only downside to this strategy is that you might need more money upfront to buy in bulk.
Household items that you use often, like toilet paper, and even pantry staples like rice and pasta are cheaper in the long run when you buy a lot of them. Just plan your bulk spending in your budget.
9. Get free cosmetics samples
Do you have a lot of points on your Sephora card? You can get free samples of makeup and other beauty products. In fact, my favorite lipgloss lasted me three years and was from a Sephora sample I received.
On top of that, you can actually request free samples in store, except for a few products like mascara and lipstick. Big department store beauty counters also offer free samples too!
10. Dumpster dive
You never know what you might find in the dumpster. This one isn’t for the faint of heart but if you’re an extreme money saver, you can find a lot of things that people throw away. That can include everything from clothes to furniture and even food. Just be careful about dumpster diving on private property.
11. Live with roommates
Living with others is a good way to save on big costs like rent and utilities. In fact, if you want to go really extreme you can even share a bedroom. I did this one summer during a college internship in D.C. because as an intern I couldn’t afford the outrageous cost of living.
12. Use coupons
Coupons are still a thing and can really help you save money if you are living on an extreme budget. You can find coupon codes online these days, so do a quick google search if you’re shopping online. You can also watch for sales and only buy things you need like new clothes or electronics when they go on sale.
13. Attend networking events for free food
One extreme money saving hack I used during college was to go to opening events and networking parties. Why? For the free food. Those days that would often be my dinner. And I was able to network and meet some interesting people as well.
14. Stop using paper towels
Not only are paper towels bad for the environment, but they cost so much money. I always feel like the more paper towels I have the more I need to use. A really great and cheap alternative is to use towels or even rags.
You can even reuse clothes that are falling apart and cut them up into rags, extending their life even more. Ditching paper towels is an excellent idea for those wanting to be extreme money savers!
15. Use restaurant condiment packages instead of buying them
Every time I go to McDonald's or Taco Bell I feel like they give me so many condiment packages. So much so that I don’t even feel the need sometimes to buy ketchup bottles at home.
Another extreme and easy way to save money is to keep all the condiment packages and even ask for extras. You can even store them in your condiment bottles so you don’t have to worry about an overflow of small packages in your fridge. This simple tip is one of those extreme money savers that don't take much effort.
16. Save restaurant napkins
Getting extra napkins from restaurants is another one of those extreme ways to save money without much effort! I always ask for extras and carry a few in my purse. You never know when you’ll need them. And why buy paper napkins when you can get them for free (well, minus the cost of the meal).
17. Brew your coffee or tea twice
This extreme money saving hack is a trick from my great-grandmother, who lived during the Great Depression. According to my dad, she would brew coffee in the morning and save the grounds to brew coffee again in the afternoon.
I’ve tried this hack and while I find it difficult to brew my coffee twice, it’s a good trick to use with tea.
18. Always shop in the sale section
Whenever I need a new pair of jeans or jacket, I always wait for sale season and then head to the sales section. I don’t even bother looking at the front of the store, but always head for the back. You might have to dig a little but you’ll find what you need and save big bucks while you’re at it.
19. Take online surveys
While it might seem like everyone has an opinion on the internet, some people will actually pay you to give them your opinion. Places like Swagbucks and Survey Junkie pay you to answer surveys and sometimes even test products. It’s an easy way to earn some cashback.
20. Rent out a spare room in your home
If you have a spare room in your place you can earn extra income by renting it out through Airbnb. The site has a calculator on its website to make it easy to figure out how much you can earn a week by renting.
Keep in mind though that you may have extra costs like cleaning. Plus you will need to be okay with having strangers living in your house for a few days or weeks.
21. Sell your old clothes
Have an old pair of boots you thought were really cute but you never wear because the heels hurt too much? Instead of throwing them away or keeping them to collect dust at the back of your closet, you can sell them through marketplace apps like Vinted or Poshmark.
It’s very easy to set up and takes very little time to maintain. Just snap a few well-lit photos, decide on your price, upload, and wait for someone to snatch up your old clothes.
Use these extreme ways to save money to bulk your savings!
If you’re looking for extreme ways to save money there are lots of ways to save a bit of cash. From dumpster diving to clothes mending, to taking surveys, with a bit of creativity and luck you can easily save a few extra dollars every month.
And while it might not seem like a lot, after a few months it will definitely add up. Get even more extreme frugality ideas here!