Sometimes, the best way to save money is to go big and do something unbelievable, something totally out-there, and maybe even downright crazy.
What if you tried to go an entire month without buying anything? What if you wore the same dress every day for an entire year? What if you made sure all your meals cost less than $5?
These examples are all real. They’re some of the many ways regular people have tried to lower their expenses. Once you see what these people have done to save money, you might be inspired to start an unbelievable project of your own.
Geoff and Julie Tried a Buy-Nothing Year
Geoff Szuszkiewicz and Julie Phillips are roommates living in Calgary, Alberta. On Aug. 3, 2013, they launched an ambitious plan: to buy nothing, for a year. They launched their Buy Nothing Year project in three phases:
- August to November: No buying household goods or consumer goods
- November to July: No buying household goods or consumer goods, no buying services of any kind (meals out, haircuts, taxis, etc.)
- July to August: No buying anything — no spending of any kind.
Geoff and Julie told Forbes in August 2014 that, between the two of them, they saved over $55,000 during their Buy Nothing Year.
Want to replicate their experiment? Here’s the advice Julie gave Forbes readers: “People ask Geoff and I all the time how to get started, and we always say, start with a week of no spending, or a month.”
Once you get started, it’ll be easy to see what you can live without. Even if you don’t want to do a full Buy Nothing Year, consciously trying to buy less, or doing a Buy Nothing Month, can save you a significant amount of money.
Trent Makes His Own Laundry Detergent
If you’re looking for unbelievable ways to save money, you can’t do much better than the tips at The Simple Dollar. Trent Hamm has been blogging about simple ways to save money since 2006 — although some of his methods of saving money, such as making his own laundry detergent, are anything but simple!
Trent is a huge do-it-yourself advocate, and he’s quick to explain exactly how much you can save by concocting a bucket of laundry detergent slime instead of buying detergent at the store:
For comparison’s sake, a jumbo container of Tide at Amazon.com costs $28.99 for 96 loads, or a cost of $0.30 a load. Thus, with each load of this stuff, I’m saving more than a quarter. Even better — I got to make a giant bucket of slime in the kitchen and my wife approved of it.
If you like saving money and science experiments, check out Trent’s laundry detergent recipe. Saving a quarter a load sounds like a great idea — especially because when you’re dealing with laundry, quarters are worth their weight in gold.
Kristy Wore the Same Dress for a Year
Kristy Powell didn’t start her One Dress Protest as a way to save money; instead, she thought of it as a fast from spending money, as well as a fast from the fashion industry. So from Jan. 3, 2011 to Jan. 3, 2012 (or from her 26th to 27th birthday), Kristy decided to wear just one dress, day in and day out.
As she wrote toward the end of her project:
When I cut out all the clothing and fashion consumption mess from my life at the beginning of this year, I found myself with lots of empty space and a void to fill. I actually remember thinking, What are you going to do on the weekend if you can’t shop? I’m actually embarrassed to share that with you at this point. But it is totally relevant, and the truth. The void, superficial or not, felt enormous.
You can go on a similar spending fast. If you don’t want to go so far as to wear the same dress for a year, try paring down your wardrobe to 10 favorite outfits.
Or find something else in your life that could inspire a spending fast: Maybe you could go to the library instead of buying books and DVDs, or take public transportation instead of driving.
Erin Won’t Make a Dinner That Costs More Than $5
Erin Chase is the $5 Dinner Mom. She only makes meals that cost less than $5 — and that’s not just for her. It’s for the entire family.
Check out Erin’s tips and recipes at $5 Dinners. Then, think about how much money you’re currently spending on food. Does using Erin’s recipes to never spend more than $15 a day for three meals sound appealing?
Will You Try a Similar Challenge?
The great thing about each of these projects is that you can see comparable results even without going to unbelievable extremes.
Don’t want to make a $5 dinner every night? Try making $5 dinners three times a week. Don’t want to wear the same dress every day? Decide you won’t buy new clothes for six months, and only wear what’s in your closet.
You won’t believe how you can save money.
Your Turn: Have you tried a similar spending or saving challenge? How did it go?
Nicole Dieker is a freelance writer focusing on personal finance and personal stories. Her work has appeared in The Billfold, The Toast, Yearbook Office, The Write Life and Boing Boing.