How far would you go to save money, or to utilize your cash to its utmost capacity? The tips below, all recommended by various financial “gurus” out there, are some of the strangest and most extreme we’ve come across over the years. The suggested strategies—which may push the boundaries of comfort and common sense—are possibly insane. Then again, they’re possibly ingenious. Or they’re quite possibly both at the same time.
Check them out and decide for yourself which category each tip falls into. Or just enjoy them for a laugh.
Ask for a More Expensive Traffic Ticket
As nonsensical as it might sound, there are instances when it’s in your best financial interest to ask a police officer or the court system to give you a pricier citation. How could this be? Well, tickets for infractions like speeding or rolling through a stop sign can add points against your driver’s license. And these points can be used by your insurance company as justification to hike your premiums through the roof for several years.
The trick, then, is to plea-bargain in court or simply ask the officer who pulled you over to consider issuing a citation that costs more upfront but doesn’t come with points. Municipalities are often amenable to this because the change brings more revenues their way, and it likely saves you money over the long haul. Of course, getting the courts to lower your fine and eliminate points from any citations is the best of both worlds.
Potty Train Your Cat
In “Meet the Parents,” Robert De Niro’s character brags about how he potty trained the family cat, Jinx, so that no one had to smell kitty litter anymore. The concept, however odd it may seem, has actually been promoted by more than one financial guru out there as a way to save money. A year’s worth of kitty litter runs over $100, and the savings from a potty-trained cat can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of the pet’s life.
Inevitably, there are many products for sale to help you toilet train your kitty. But note that some veterinarians and cat behavior experts warn against cat toilet training because it’s unnatural and potentially dangerous, and can leave the pets confused and stressed out.
Pee in the Shower
Finally, vindication for George Costanza! Seinfeld’s buddy was hilariously stigmatized as “The Urinator” for peeing in the shower at the gym. But George was persecuted for an act that many people say will help the earth—and also help save a little money. College students in England have embraced the so-called “Go with the Flow” movement, and an environmental group in Brazil has also endorsed the idea of peeing in the shower to reduce the need to flush toilets, thereby minimizing water usage and saving money in the process.
Change the Font Before You Print
Everyone knows about the absurdity of home printing pricing—often, it costs less to buy a brand-new printer than it does to buy the replacement ink when the ink cartridge runs dry. A few years ago, one professor in Wisconsin figured out a way to make the most of printer ink, not only for himself his entire university (UW-Green Bay). With the help of the school’s computer technicians, he concluded that printing things in the thin Century Gothic font used up 30% less ink than more typical fonts. Printing in draft mode can save ink too.
The point is that less ink equates to less money spent on ink. Of course, you’d use up the least ink of all by refraining from printing things unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Maximize Your Chipotle Haul
Last summer, one mad data scientist at Apartment List embarked on a series of highly detailed, carefully analyzed experiments to find out which orders at Chipotle yielded the most amount of food. Turns out, to get the most burrito for the buck you shouldn’t order a burrito at all, but a bowl. There was 15% more food with bowl orders as opposed to burritos, and Chipotle is willing to give not one but two tortillas on the side, free of charge. These and other hacks can wind up increasing your burrito size by 86% at no extra cost.
Buy 365 Different Starbucks Cards
OK, so this strategy might net the schemer free Starbucks every day of the year, but it requires an especially “morally casual attitude,” to quote Animal House. In other words, you need to lie, and to be utterly shameless about it. The “brilliant” tactic, as detailed by Business Insider and reportedly used by an actual human being, involves the purchasing of 365 different Starbucks cards—each one registered with a different birthday. Each customer gets a free beverage on his or her birthday, so all this individual needs to do is bring the right card in on the right day to snag a latte or whatever free of charge.
It should go without saying that such an act is fraudulent and we do not endorse it in any way. But man, it’s diabolical!
Join a No-Heat Challenge
Turning the thermostat down by a few degrees in winter and using a programmable thermostat to lower the temperature when everyone is asleep or out of the house are classic no-brainers when it comes to trimming heat bills. But in some cases, the quest to lower heating bills is taken to extremes, particularly in hardy (and stubborn!) New England, where some people refuse to turn on the heat until Thanksgiving, or even Christmas. As one New England blogger explained it, “Frugality + stubbornness = an unwillingness to turn on the heat until it’s deemed absolutely necessary. And by absolutely necessary I mean someone loses a finger due to exposure.”
Because misery loves company, friends and neighbors have been occasionally known to compete in “no-heat challenges,” especially during the Great Recession era, when pinching pennies was en vogue. One year, for instance, a New Jersey family “won” their local contest by outlasting the neighbors and not turning the heat until New Year’s Eve. And what do people win? Usually nothing more than bragging rights, as well as cheap or nonexistent heating bills—and the right to finally turn on the damn heat, without an ounce of guilt.
Buy Only Very Expensive Clothes
How could purchasing expensive clothes exclusively be a smart money move? Well, a fashion writer at Quartz makes the case that in the era of cheap fast fashion, it’s much too easy to go overboard on throwaway $15 jeans and the like. The wiser, far less wasteful and more environmentally friendly approach is to focus on long-lasting, timeless apparel, and to “consume” sparingly. The idea is that clothing should be “an investment, rather than the cheap buzz of getting something new,” Marc Bain wrote at Quartz.
Bain instituted a $150 rule for himself, meaning that he only purchased an article of clothing if it cost $150 or more. The point “isn’t just to buy less, but also to buy better,” he wrote. “By forcing myself to seriously consider my purchases, I’ve been more likely to buy clothes I genuinely like and appreciate, rather than accumulating low-cost impulse buys.”
Wear All Your Clothes Onto Flights
The airlines collect billions in fees annually, and few fees irk passengers more than being charged for traveling with a piece of luggage. To get around the fees, which start around $25 per bag but can go much higher, entrepreneurs have come up with completely ridiculous-looking wearable luggage—basically, oversized coats and skirts that can be stuffed with other clothes. Many others have simply worn all of the clothes they’re bringing on the trip to avoid the need to pack them.
This strategy is not without risk, however. James McElvar, who apparently is a member of a Scottish boy band, passed out on an easyJet flight last summer after suffering from heat exhaustion. He was reportedly wearing “six t-shirts, four jumpers, three pairs of jeans, two pairs of jogging bottoms, a pair of jackets and two hats” at the time in order to avoid checking luggage and paying a baggage fee of about $70.
Pay Your Spouse to Do Chores
There’s nothing like adding a little game theory and behavioral economics to make for marital bliss. That’s at least the argument made by one couple from (of course) Portland, Ore., who were featured in an NBC News story because of their unique practice of having mini auctions and then paying each other to handle undesirable household tasks. “It might be $20 to put the kids to bed, $4 to go fetch tacos in the rain, or $400 to make travel plans,” the story explained. “Whoever has the lowest bid does the job and gets paid their bid to do it.”
The couple, Danny Reeves and Bethany Soule, founded a self-tracking service startup called Beeminder together, and their unusual bidding practice has even extended to having kids (he paid her about $30,000 so she could take time off from work for their first-born) and the naming of their two children (named Faire and Cantor, per the winning bids). “Normal people have good approximations of this,” Reeves told NBC, referring to how decisions are made and duties are distributed in their household. “This is just nerd turned up to 11.”