9 weird things I did to save money in my 20’s

Believe it or not, back in my 20’s I knew nothing 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.

Here are nine 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 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 years, I continued living like a poor student, paid no rent, ate food for free, and spent very little money. I definitely have to thank my parents for allowing me to do that.

Occasionally I would find excuses not to go out with friends. While living at home, I could achieve a very high savings rate, which certainly helped to set me up well financially.

savings rate at home

I will fully admit being able to move back with my parents while working full time was one of the many privileges that I had.

Sleeping in airports and train stations

During university, I had the chance to work in Germany for eight months. I was earning €800 per month as a Co-op student. But after rent and the monthly tram pass, I was left with only €390 to live on and for travelling.

Camping in an industrial area in Breman to save money…

This was a case of living on an extreme budget. So, while I was living in Germany, I was very careful with my everyday expenses. I wanted to spend as little money on everyday expenses so I could afford to travel around Europe. While travelling, I was extremely frugal as well.

Frequently, 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.

Checking out Tour de France

Sleeping in airports wasn’t that unusual but let’s just say that I had received many odd looks from other people for sleeping in a train station.

When it came to safety, sleeping in the airport was pretty safe. Sleeping in train stations could be a bit iffy so I typically wasn’t sound asleep while sleeping overnight in a train station.

Drying clothes on a drying rack in the 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.

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.

brew hut
I may have walked around in my apartment room dressed like this a few times…

Vancouver winters can get cold (near 0 degrees Celsius or below occasionally). To combat the cold, I would wear a 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 was 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 saved over $2,500 for all my outdoor gear.

MEC gear swap
Waking up in front after a night of camping out in front of MEC in Vancouver.

“Borrowing” wifi

During my university days, I “borrowed” a neighbour’s unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot, so I didn’t have to pay for the internet. The neighbour’s Wi-Fi was very reliable though – the said neighbour would unplug the wifi router at exactly 11 PM every night.

As a result, I had to make sure I got all the work done that required internet before 11 PM.

Sampling at Costco

I have been a frequent shopper at Costco because Costco offers some of the cheapest groceries in Canada. By signing up for the Costco Executive membership, we can earn 2% on almost everything we purchase.

In my 20’s, I would frequently go to Costco after work so I can get the free samples. I would walk around the Costco warehouse a few times, visiting the sample stands at least a few times. Often after visiting these sample stands a few times, I wouldn’t need to buy dinner. That also meant I put money toward investing.

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 of 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 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, occasionally I would leave my wallet at home and only bring my IDs so I couldn’t spend any money even if I wanted to.

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

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72 thoughts on “9 weird things I did to save money in my 20’s”

  1. I’m not sure I did wierd stuff. I did save money or at least survived because my parents bought a 2nd house and rented out to a family for lst 2 floors and then for their 2 children, we paid super low rent to parents. Probably under $150.00 every 2 months or something like that. Since they lived in a city, we were required to shovel and at least be landlord eyes for parents living 100 km. west of Toronto for a decade.

    When one is young and living so simply away from home as a student, then one carries over such habits after university for a few years onward.

  2. Is using a drying rack that weird? I still use one since it reduces wear on my clothes. It’s especially great in the winter, when our indoor air is so dry.

    Bacardi 151, now that brings back memories (or does it..). Glad you dodged friends from Alberta bringing over Everclear – now THAT’s what I call getting drunk on a budget.

    • We still use a drying rack too. In fact, Mrs. T grew up without a dryer so using a drying rack is pretty standard for her.

      Never had Everclear, don’t think I’d want to try now. 🙂

  3. I did this as more of an experiment, but it just happened to also be a way to save money and time. I stopped eating food for a month just to see if I could do it.

    Backstory: I was chatting with my family at a holiday gathering, the topic of “cleanses” came up and I joked about wishing to just be put into a medically induced coma, be put on a feeding tube and wake up “cleansed”. This really would be more of a mono-diet than a cleanse, but a mono-diet is supposed to be efficient for your body too. This lead to the topic of “Soylent” an all in one food replacement, basically you could just drink this drink and get everything your body needs. It had recently just come out so I decided I wanted to see if I could give up eating food for a month and only drink Soylent for all my food. I choose to do this in February since it’s the shortest month and I’m glad I did because I was yearning for food by the end. But meals took me less than 5 minutes to prepare, drink and clean up, and daily food costs were probably less than $5. I really enjoyed not having to think of what I was going to eat, I felt like I had a lot more time by simply not dealing with food or food shopping.

    I also did not lose weight on this diet, in fact I gained weight because I was consistently getting the same amount of calories. And I probably had the worst smelling farts of my life during that time. For a while after that, I kept supplementing food with Soylent because of some of these benefits, but they kept changing the recipe and it got grosser and grosser to eat so I eventually couldn’t take the changes anymore and stopped.

    Now I eat much healthier, and because of workouts I have protein shakes (not food replacement shakes). But that’s how I gave up eating food and it had a side effect of saving a lot of money and time.

  4. Tawcan,

    Thanks for the thread.

    I used many of the same tricks that you listed.

    Travels. I took overnight planes, trains, and buses around Canada, Asia, and Europe. When traveling alone, I typically rented a room with a kitchenette or shared amenities. I often bought food at grocery stores and used public transport to go around the city.

    Home. I still air-dry most of my clothes. We play board games and don’t have a TV. I cook most of our meals.

    Twenties. I lived with roommates, walked or rode my bike everywhere, and didn’t have a cell phone. I use to go out sober so that I could dance more. I would tip the bartender for water bottles. I often stayed home and had cooking parties with roommates and friends. They taught me to make so many delicious dishes from around the world.

  5. 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!

  6. 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 🙂

  7. 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

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

  9. 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.

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

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

  12. 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. 🙂

  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. 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.



  15. 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?


  16. 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. 🙂

    • 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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

  19. 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.

  20. 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. 🙂

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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. 🙂

  24. 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.

  25. 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.


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