I like to consider myself a savvy frugal person but, I can admit it’s been a long road to get here. I have made lots of weird decisions with my spending money, no doubt about it. I think I’ve made even weirder (and dumber) decisions to try and save money.
I thought I’d make a list of rather stupid and questionable things I have done to save some cash. None of them were really worth it and none are things I’d repeat. #younganddumb
1) Slept in an airport. When I was a junior in college, I slept in an airport chair in Cairns, Australia to save myself $25 on a hostel room. I had taken a vacation to the Great Barrier Reef during my semester abroad and was trying to save every penny. Definitely not worth it. I was freezing, exhausted and definitely looked super weird as the only person there at 3am when security came by.
2) Gone without food. I don’t mean just skipping a meal out and eating at home to save cash, I mean I have foregone entire days of eating to save cash. One such time: I was backpacking in New Zealand and I was leaving the next day. I didn’t want to spend on a meal out because I was at the end of my money (I literally had nothing except my credit card) and I didn’t want to buy groceries and have leftovers. I also wasn’t going to eat in an expensive restaurant, duh! So I just…didn’t eat for a day and a half.
3) Walked home. This past March during SXSW I worked a lot of catering hours. One shift ended at 9 pm, early for the festival. Kind of late for me- I’d worked two different events that day for 10 hours on my feet. I’d had my boyfriend drop me off in the morning because parking is 1)impossible to find or 2) insanely expensive. But that left me without a ride home after work, because clearly I wasn’t going to pay for a cab or an Uber. So after 10 hours on my feet, I walked three and a half miles home in the dark. Alone. Carrying a backpack full of leftovers. It took me almost an hour and a half and my feet were DYING at the end.
The common thread in all the decisions is the tiny amounts of money I saved myself and the extreme lengths I went to to save it. Yes, I did score $25 bucks by sleeping in that airport. I was also exhausted, freezing and sore in the airport and during my actual flight. So not worth it!
I am all for saving money and I am all for DIY or finding frugal solutions to problems, but there does come a limit. If it’s compromising your health or safety to save a few bucks, don’t do it. That was a surprisingly hard lesson for me to learn! I would just tell myself to suck it up. I always knew there would be an end to it: I would get on my plane, I would find some free food, I would make it home eventually.
But I didn’t have to suffer to get to those eventualities. I could have bought myself an apple or a sandwich at a grocery store and staved off hunger pains in New Zealand. It would have been frugal and smart. Instead I was cheap and dumb.
Rest assured that I have mostly overcome this line of thinking. Yes, it’s still hard for me to spend money on the non-essentials. When you make a tiny little salary, it’s hard to part with even a tiny little amount of it. My hope for myself is as I grow more secure in my money and start building a safety net for myself of savings and investments, is that I will grow even more comfortable making frugal but smart calls for my money. I definitely have some work left to do- but at least I’m not sleeping in airports any more.
What stupid thing have you done to save some cash?
Kara Perez is the original founder of From Frugal To Free. She is a money expert, speaker and founder of Bravely Go, a feminist financial education company. Her work has been featured on NPR, Business Insider, Forbes, and Elite Daily.
3 Replies to “Stupid Things I have Done to Save Money”
Ah, the sleeping out. A classic. I did way worse than you. I was 20 and in Paris and had very little money. I also had a night to cover without lodging booked. I bought a novel and figured I’d sit up all night in a train station. I picked the Gare du Nord, for reasons which now escape me (this was a long time ago; I’m sure I had some logic at the time.) What I didn’t realize was that train stations close in Paris around 1 or 2 am. So, I get kicked out of this station into one of the less savory neighborhoods in Paris in the middle of the night. There was NOBODY out there, just empty dark streets. What I should have done at this point was paid for a room in one of the downscale hotels by the train station. What I did do was sit in a bus shelter with another tourist who’d been trying to do the same thing as me, and read my book. It was cold, I was scared, it was a generally extremely unpleasant night, and I definitely, definitely should have spent some money at that time. I survived, but it’s definitely one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done period, let alone to save $$.
Ah! I have to say, I think I would have made the same call as you. I used to think that saving the cash was the best thing I could do for myself, putting health and safety to the side. To be young and dumb, right?
[…] though. Frugality aside, I personally have trouble spending money. I’ve done plenty of stupid things to avoid spending at all costs. I am perilously close to miserly at times. Opening up my wallet, even for things I […]