frugal living horror stories


A few weeks ago, I had a good friend tell me about her father in law who is a successful surgeon and crazy frugal. When I asked her what “crazy frugal” meant, she shared some amazing examples. She explained that when their family goes out to the movies, the father in law will rummage through the movie theater’s trash for clean-ish looking popcorn buckets and go get free (or cheap) refills with them. I took that to my Instagram stories and asked what YOUR frugal living horror stories were– what things you’ve done or frugal living horror stories you’ve heard from the people in your life. They were SO GOOD. We’ve been trying our best to live frugally ever since we decided to get serious about paying off $650k of student loan debt as aggressively as possible. But none of our stories hold a candle to these frugal living horror stories which I’m sharing in honor of Halloween next week.

Free Food at the Fair.

One friend shared that his dad routinely picked half eaten corn dogs out of the trash at the fair. He’d collect several, break off the tops where a stranger had taken his or her last bite, and pass them out to his kids. (I went to a fair recently and corn dogs were $7.00 each so as horrified I am by this story I actually totally get it).

Almost Couch Surfing.

This guy who slept *behind* his friends’ couch for 9 months. His friends needed the couch for studying and watching TV, but they allowed him to crash behind the couch for 9 months. He estimated he saved about $14,000 by doing so! I’ll try to remember this story when I’m complaining about living in our small house where we all share a bathroom. At least I’m not living behind a couch?

The Commuter.

One man actually commutes 4 hours a day to avoid paying San Francisco’s outrageously high rent. This frugal living horror story is genuinely my worst nightmare– it legitimately makes me feel sad! But, he avoids paying a median rent of $4,500 per month, so there’s that. Honestly a four hour commute wouldn’t be so bad if you could jump on a train with wifi and work both ways but I’d probably just do everything I could to work from home.

The Moneyless Man. 

I guess there are people who purposely live without money which I can honestly deeply respect. One guy has been living completely without money for 18 months. He does so mainly by eating from the earth aka, foraging. I’d take that over commuting 4 hours. And definitely over eating someone else’s garbage corn dog.

The Water Conservationists.

One of our Instagram followers told us that her mom used to reuse her bath water to take a bath when her daughter was finished. I thought that seemed like a good idea at first but then I remembered that my son purposely pees in his bath so I can officially add this to the “horrifying” list. Another person said that his dad would reuse his bathwater to water the lawn (actually that is pretty brilliant– helping the environment and saving some bucks!)

The Shameless Compost Eater.

One reader said that her dad would pull strawberry tops out of the compost bin, wash off the coffee grinds and other dirt, and then eat them! If that is not commitment to frugal living I don’t know what is.

The Partier.

One of the responders to our Insta story shared that she had a classmate who brought used (but washed) yogurt cups as glasses for soda for a class party. I guess they’re a good size? My mind can’t even comprehend why this happened but I love it.

The Instagram Mom. 

One of my personal favorite stories (because it reminds me so much of Beverly Goldberg) was a friend who shared that her mom would purchase outfits for each family member for family photos and then return the outfits after each photo shoot. I feel like if she could keep multiple children from destroying said outfits during the photo shoot then she deserves to be able to return them.

Garage Dwellers.

Another reader told us that as a college student, she and her boyfriend lived in her friend’s garage for an entire summer so that she wouldn’t have to pay rent. I’m not sure where exactly they lived, but if it was anywhere other than like Alaska, northern Canada, or Russia, I feel like that would be pretty miserable.

The Bus Boy.

A grandfather of one of our Insta followers refused to buy his own meal when his family went out to eat. As in, he would never purchase his own meal. Rather, he would wait until everyone was finished, and eat whatever was left over. Every time. Mad props.

The Cereal Killer.

Apparently there is a mother out there who keeps all of the crumbs from old cereal boxes and collects them in a mason jar for an epic mixed cereal bowl. This reminded me of being a kid at the softball fields and ordering a “suicide” drink — a splash of all of the different kinds of soda. Suicide cereal.

Want to add to the list? What are some frugal living horror stories that you have heard? 
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frugal living horror stories



  1. My grandmother would purchase extremely cheap bolts of fabric. Having said this it was the 70’s. I can still feel the polyester and see the garish patterns, it’s burned into my memory. My siblings, cousins and I would all all wear matching jumpsuits. My grandmother and grandfather would also purchase extremely cheap rolls of carpeting. We all had the same carpet in my house and my cousins, cut with a steak knife to fit and laid over the carpet padding that was already there.

    1. So awesome! Thanks for sharing Carrie! What I wouldn’t give for a homemade polyester matching jump suit! 🙂

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