6 Unusual Ways to Save Money (Without Dumpster Diving)

Image: Dumpster Diving. Photo by Jared Eberhardt
Jared Eberhardt/Flickr

Maybe you already use coupons, shop sales and make a budget — all good ways to save money. But there are other, less common methods you can use to reduce your spending.

And you don’t have to be like the guy on “Extreme Cheapskates” who digs through the trash at the movies for used popcorn and drink containers to get free refills (yikes!), or the woman who goes dumpster-diving at cemeteries to save money on artificial flowers for craft projects. The unusual ways to save money listed here are ones you might actually want to try.

1. Get Permanent Makeup

In a recent survey about makeup and how much women buy, more than half of the respondents said they spend more than $250 per year. That adds up to thousands of dollars over the years. One way to cut that cost is to have permanent makeup.

The process is essentially just like having a tattoo done. The most common parts that are permanently colored are lips, around the eyes, and eyebrows. But cosmetic tattooing, as this procedure is sometimes called, can also be used to hide scars and redefine facial features. Basic procedures start at around $200, and although follow-up visits are sometimes needed, these are usually included in the price.

Your new lip color will never smear or wear off. You’ll never have to buy lipstick again, which could mean recouping your investment in less than two years. Of course, you’ll want to choose your color carefully, since your lips will be that shade for the rest of your life.

2. Complete College Faster

A recent news report says that more and more college students are deciding to complete their degree in three years instead of four, by going year-round and taking a heavier class load. The primary way they save money is avoiding the cost of room and board, but they also spend less on annual university fees and possible tuition hikes. Some schools even offer special three-year programs that can save a student up to $10,000.

Depending on the college you attend and whether you’re able to live at home, your savings might be less. But another financial advantage of this strategy is that you can start earning money from your career sooner. In fact, it means you’ll have one entire year’s worth of additional income in your life (or you might retire a year earlier).

3. Stop Shampooing Your Hair

Okay, this one isn’t as bad as it sounds, and I’m not suggesting that you never wash your hair. But most people use more shampoo than they need to, and more often than they need to. A woman who now shampoos only once weekly says her stylist suggested the change, and notes that “My hair is so much healthier now, less dry and I save an hour a day.” I’m not sure how anyone could spend an hour washing and drying hair, but I do understand that cutting shampoo use by about 80% can save a lot of money over the years.

Another way to save money and time is to cut your hair shorter. With shorter hair, you’ll need less time to wash it and you’ll use less shampoo.

4. Become a Vegetarian

Beans and rice and fruits and vegetables are cheaper than meat. Cooking with these kinds of staples can save you money. It is only if you go for the fancier foods that a vegetarian diet becomes expensive.

But there’s another way that you save money when you stop eating animals, too. One study on medical costs attributable to meat consumption found there are billions of dollars in additional expenses and concluded: “Health care costs attributable to meat consumption are quantifiable and substantial.” Yes, you might be healthier if you skip the meat.

There is one way in which being a vegetarian could add to your expenditures, but it’s a cost you might be willing to pay. You see, since a plant-based diet extends life eight years on average, that’s eight more years of bills you’ll need to be prepared for.

5. Get Things for Free

My wife and I used to go to a small casino that gave us $5 each when we walked in the door and put out a free dinner at 5:00 every afternoon. We got there at 4:40 and played the nickel slots until dinner was served. We never had a losing day… ever.

There are free outdoor “movies on the lawn” at a local shopping center near our home, and many stores that hand out food samples. Some free seminars provide lunch. Why not make a list of all the free activities, events and giveaways near you, and start taking advantage of them?

6. Brew Your Own Beer

Whether or not brewing your own beer will save enough money depends on what your time is worth, how much you drink, and what kind of beer you normally buy. The time factor is mostly about setting up and doing this the first time, since once you have the routine down you’ll be quickly throwing together the next batches. But the other questions are important if this about the savings.

One online comparison of home-brewed versus store-bought beer estimates that once you have the equipment (which runs from $30 to $100) you’ll spend about $4 for each six-pack of beer you make. Now, this can be a high-quality beer if you make it right, so if you normally drink beers that cost $7.99 per six-pack, you’ll be doing well.

If you drink a couple six-packs weekly, you’ll save more than $200 per year. On the other hand, if you normally buy beer that costs $3.99, there isn’t much of a reason to start brewing your own.

Your Turn: What unusual things have you done to save money? Tell us all about it in the comment section below…

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