Weird things I did to save money in my 20’s

Believe it or not, back in my 20’s I didn’t know anything about budgeting and very little about investing. The only thing I knew was that I needed to spend less than I learn. Whatever money I earned from working, I’d make sure that I spent less than that amount, often a lot less. To save as much money as I could, I often did some very weird things. Below are some weird things I did to save money in my 20’s.


Moving back with parents

When I graduated from university, my parents convinced me to move back home with them. It wasn’t because I had no job. In fact, I found a full time job very quickly after graduation. Because my work was just about 20 minutes from my parents’ place, it made some sense to move back home to save commute time. Furthermore, after some quick calculation, I quickly realized how much money I could save by living at home. So for 1.5 year I continued living like a poor student, paid no rent, ate food for free, and spent very little money. Occasionally I would find excuses to not to go out with friends. During the period of a year, I was able to achieve very high savings rate which certainly helped setting me up well financially.

savings rate at home


Sleeping in airports and train stations

During university I had the chance to work in Germany for 8 months. During this time I was very careful with my everyday expenses as I was saving money so I could travel around Europe. While traveling, I was extremely frugal as well. On many occasions I would purchase very cheap airfares from Ryanair or EasyJet so I could explore different European cities. To save as much money as possible, I occasionally skipped hostels and slept in airports and train stations. Let’s just say that I had received many odd looks from other people for sleeping in a train station.


Drying clothes on drying rack in midst of winter

When I finally moved out from my parents’ place and shared an apartment with a friend, I was trying to save money whenever I could. Instead of paying $2.50 for each dryer load, I would dry my clothes on a drying rack. Typically to speed up the drying time, I would open my bedroom windows. Perhaps a surprise to some, I would do this in the winter too. I would turn off the heat and open my bedroom windows. Vancouver winters can get cold (near 0 degree Celsius or below occasionally). To combat the cold, I would wear thick jacket in my room. At night I would sleep in my -12C down sleeping bag. My roommate must have thought I was crazy. 🙂


Camping out on the street for deals

If you’re a Canadian, you’re probably heard of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). If you haven’t, it’s one of the biggest outdoor stores here in Canada (REI equivalent if you’re an American). MEC used to have semi-annual sales called Gear Swap. At Gear Swap, people could sell their used outdoor gear and MEC would often sell their rental gear. The outdoor gear were heavily discounted, often as high as 90%. Because the deals were so good, to get the highly desired gear (i.e. skis, canoes, etc), many people would camp out in front of the store the night before. Yours truly did the same as well. I must have camped out in front of the Vancouver MEC store 4 or 5 times so I could be the first 15 people in line to get what I wanted. Just how crazy were the discounts? I purchased a pair of MSR snowshoes for $20, regularly priced about $300; I purchased a tent for $20, regularly priced for $400. Thanks to Gear Swap I was able to save over $2,500 for all my outdoor gear.

gear swap
waking up in front of MEC


“Borrowing” wifi

During my university days, I “borrowed” a neighbour’s unsecured wifi hot-spot so I didn’t have to pay for the internet. The neighbour’s wifi was very reliable though – the said neighbour would unplug the wifi router at exactly 11 PM every night. So I had to make sure I got all the work done that required internet before 11 PM.


Sampling at Costco

If you’ve been to Costco, you know that there are usually have free samples around lunch and dinner time. Who do you think went around Costco before lunch or/and dinner time, to take advantage of the free samples? Yup, yours truly. 🙂 I would walk around the Costco warehouse a few times, visiting the sample stands at least couple of times.


Calculating the most efficient way to get drunk

Needed to get drunk fast and cheap? What’s the most cost efficient way? Easy, by consuming the highest percentage liquor available. Say hello to Barcadi 151! Boy that stuff burned but it sure was effective! (It’s 75.5% alcohol in case you’re wondering).


Wearing clothes for multiple days

Yes it sounds a bit weird. However, since we don’t sweat that much during winter, why changing clothes every day? If it still looked clean, continue wearing it. When in doubt, I would smell the clothing item. If it still smelled “fresh,” continue wearing it. This weird practice certainly reduced the amount of laundry I needed to do.


Whenever I went out with friends, I would pre-drink. At bars or nightclubs, I would either order the cheapest drink available or nothing at all. I have to confess, as a way to save money, on a few occasions I would leave my wallet at home so I had no money to spend. I would convince my friends to buy me drink. Talk about being cheap. 🙂


Dear readers, what are some weird things you’ve done to save money?

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62 thoughts on “Weird things I did to save money in my 20’s”

  1. Haha, this is good. I have done a few of these for sure! Pre-drink is a must in college!

    Pretty impressive you saved so much so young! Most people I know that move back in with their parents blow all their money going out.

  2. Saving money is something you seem to be born with! Some impressive things you have done…

    There are no real weird things I have done. Before my budget was under control, I have skipped a haircut here and there and needed to limit my drive as my car was running out of gaz. I am happy I took these actions rather than going on credit debt or blowing savings.

    • Thanks, being raised in a frugal family definitely helps.

      Great stuff on skipping haircut and not driving. Avoid credit debt and blowing savings are great.

  3. I think the only ‘weird’ thing I did was not getting a cell phone till my 3rd year of university. And even then it was just a Nokia flip-phone, using pay as you go with text-only. It was something like $5-10 a month 🙂

    • Also, pre-drinking is totally normal(least to me) and a good way to save cash. And clean cloths, worn once or twice is fine so long as it isnt smelly or super wrinkled/stained.

    • I didn’t have a “smartphone” until work gave me one. I was using the same flip type dumb phone for over 5 years I think. 🙂

  4. Ha, a great list! We still air dry some of our clothes. The pre-drink is a great idea. We just drink at home when we do drink, much cheaper and don’t have to worry about who’s driving.

    • We still air dry most of our clothes. Only use dryer when it’s necessary. We do dry the cloth diapers that we have so they’re a bit softer for kiddos’ bottoms. We don’t drink regularly so have been saving some money on that aspect.

  5. Here’s the worst one. Back in the day, Subway restaurants use to have stamps – every time you buy a sandwich you’d get a stamp. Collect 6 stamps and you get a free sub. One of my friends who used to work for Subway knew I was broke, and he hooked me up with some stamps that I could use to buy food on the go. So, for about a month or so my diet was mostly Subway. I think I tried all of their sanwiches.

    It was awful. I still can’t stand the smell of Subway because mentally it takes me back to my broke and desperate days of saving every penny to pay off my loans. It’s like smell of poverty.

    So, to this day I can’t eat Subway 🙂

    • I used to collect those stamps when I was in high school. 🙂

      Totally understand why you can’t stand Subway today.

  6. Hey Tawcan, funny list. Was the MEC sleeping bag the thing you were swapping? lol

    My wife cuts my hair.
    Water has been my go-to (and pretty much only drink) for a very long time.
    We dilute sauces and shampoo to make them last longer.
    We only use lamps in our house (with LED bulbs) so there’s only a max of 4 bulbs on in the entire house in the evening. – very cheap electricity.
    We leave some of Xmas decorations up so we don’t have to take them down and put them up each year.



    • LOL, no as a “shopper” you don’t swap anything. :p

      My wife cuts my hair too, have been doing that for years.
      We also drink primarily water. No soda at home.
      Interesting point about dilute sauces and shampoo… might need to look into that.
      We also use LED bulbs too.
      Haha, we, like you, still have some Xmas decorations up as well.

      Sounds like we’re very similar. 🙂

  7. Pregaming was a MUST up until I was probably like 28. I tend to drink pretty hard so if I had to do it all at the bar I would have been BROKE. On that topic, I always get odd looks for saving all my bottles and cans to return (or at least trade it so not to get hit with the deposit again). Is it the money? At this point obviously not, but why the hell should someone make that off of me.

    • Haha, predrinking is totally a good way to save some money in the long run. I’ve also returned cans and bottles to get the refunds back.

  8. Awesome work, Mr Tawcan Sir! 🙂

    Loving those saving rates whilst living with the parents. I was too determined to get my independence, so missed out! I know quite a few people who moved back in with the parents and took it as an opportunity to spend freely on the basis ‘they wouldn’t get the chance again’. Living with your parents and saving 80% = cool. Living with your parents and driving an Audi = idiot. 😀

    You look pretty happy to have slept outside haha. I used to do similar to save money, on travel. Sleep in airports on long haul. Once I slept in my car three weeks to keep the costs down on a surf trip, it worked 🙂

    I still wear clothes for multiple days. On cool days you can easy get a couple of days out of a t-shirt

  9. We have made not paying for parking a bit of a sport to save money (when we visit friends and family in big cities). Let me say that the investment into a pair of good hiking shoes has paid off handsomely.

    • Well if you consider passing out in parks as sleeping in parks then I’e done that. 🙂

      Never done eating left over fruits… that’s a bit extreme for me.

  10. Tawcan,

    I’ve done most of those. I laughed the hardest at sleeping in an airport (did that once in Frankfurt) and your drinking mentions. I still do a $ per alcohol measure and the pre-drinking. It just makes sense. And I work at a brewery on the side, so double happiness.

    – Gremlin

    • Sleeping in airports is actually a lot more common than sleeping in train stations. It’s also a lot safer I would say. 🙂

  11. Tawcan,

    I definitely remember a LOT of those days. I one time placed a trip together with friends and traveled to 5 major cities for $20 total for transportation costs. I don’t own a laundry machine or dryer at my house (moreso because when I first bought my house life was so busy I never bought a washer/dryer) and I now do laundry at friends/family/hotel when working – for friends/family I typically do buy them a nice detergent to keep after I’m finished, which pays for their next 10-15 rounds of laundry – but – it beats having my utility cost and having to own them.

    In the winter towards the last part, I will keep the heat at a lower temperature, enough to keep the pipes just fine, but I just layer up on the clothes and blankets. In the summer I typically refuse until it’s at least mid-June, even if Cleveland gives you shocks of nice weather. For instance – two weeks ago it snowed, but currently its 76 degrees outside. WTF.

    Those are ways that I still save some $$. My utility bills are tightly in check. Only items plugged in right now are: 1 TV, 1 internet box, microwave, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, A/C unit. That is all… wild, right?


  12. You made me laugh today 🙂 Good job one being able to save so much, so young! I envy you 🙂
    I just seem to find a good reason to spend money! During my 20’s I did exactly the opposite; I’ve tried many ways to make more money, but it was always to buy more stuff. It’s a good thing I’ve stopped my lifestyle inflation in my 30’s.



  13. Love it! I’ve definitely done plenty of these! Sleeping in airports — check. I’ve spent several nights napping around the baggage claim of an airport to catch a cheaper morning flight the next day. I never hit up an MEC Gear Swap, but I did once camp out to buy a Nintendo Wii (which I sold on eBay for 3x the purchase price; not a bad return). In my first adult apartment, I went two years without home internet service. Part of that time, I was bumming off the neighbor in exchange for an occasional six-pack of beer. And pre-drinking (or pre-gaming, as we call it)… well that’s just common sense 😉

    • Your Nintendo Wii camp out seems like an excellent return! Makes a lot of sense to use neighbor’s internet in exchange for beer. Good call on that.

  14. I still do most of the above.

    1. Yes, I am living with parents but until I paid off my debt then they told me to stick around so I can save up money faster to buy a house. I do pay them room and board and buy groceries every now and then and do chores as well. But, I need to get out of there. I’m really missing my space!

    2. Re-using clothes. I still do this to this day. If it’s clean and doesn’t smell, I wear it again. My clothes last a lot longer this way. This doesn’t work too well in the summer though. It’s wicked humid here!

    3. I try to air-dry as many of my clothes as I can. This is not an option in the winter as it’s just too damp in the basement. It takes 3 days to dry! I just make sure that I have a full load in dryer and it works just fine. When I was in my own apartment, I rarely used the dryer even in the winter as it used to cost me $3.50 per load and they were tiny. Ouch! Washing machine was dirt cheap at $1/load.

    4. Pre-drink. I never really did that as I’m not much of a drinker but I did it a couple of times if I knew that we were going to an expensive place.

    5. Staying in cheap hotels out of downtown in most cities. My employer says that I’m their cheapest employee when it comes to reimbursements! LOL. Well, if it means that I can get out of downtown in 30min by taking transit to the outlying city vs 2 hours trying to drive in grid-locked traffic out of the city, count me in!

    I draw the line at sleeping on the street just to snag deals at the store though!

    • Totally awesome that you still do most of them. Air-dry clothes is good way to get clothes to last longer too. 🙂

  15. I take ‘navy showers.’ Get wet, turn the water off, wash, turn the water on, rinse. Saves energy and water!

  16. I “donated” bone marrow for stem cell research six time at $50 a pop in the 1990’s. It kinda hurt.

  17. This is an incredible list, Tawcan. I still re-wear clothing and air dry much of my wardrobe when possible. Both come with the added benefit of making your clothing last even longer; I still have button down shirts from Banana Republic that look brand-new despite being over 5 years old.

    • I do the same as well, re-wear clothing and air dry most of the clothes. We do use the dryer for the cloth diapers so they feel better on Baby T2.0’s bum.

  18. I definitely re-wear clothes. I also go very long stretches before dry-cleaning. If it looks and smells nice, I’m fine.

  19. Hey buddy, you adopted the best strategy ever for the guys in 20s, am in college and already doing some of the things your doing

  20. T, I did most of these things back in uni, and still do. I don’t like that you’ve called them weird, because that’s a bit discouraging for people. For instance: do people really launder their shirts after wearing them *once*!? That’s absurd.

    So much of what is “normal” is based on what is marketed to us by people trying to shame us into buying more crap!

    Thanks for sharing. I hope you help encourage others to be “weird”. Maybe weird can be the new normal 🙂

  21. At 41 I still like to have a couple drinks at home before going out, air dry everything except for towels and undergarments, and definitely have to wear something a few times before washing. Luckily I have an office job and I change immediately after getting home from work so work things can be worn several times between washings. I don’t find any of the things you mentioned “weird”, personally. Maybe that just means I’m weird…? I’m totally OK with that!


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