Frugal Living 

Four Extreme Lifestyle Choices That Save Money

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Money in handMany of us don’t realize that our every day habits and pleasures cost us. Some of our lifestyle choices end up costing us in the long run.

In order to save money at all costs, there are some rather extreme (at least in our society) things that you can resort to. Consider your situation, and what might work best for you. And remember, that there are some things that are better than having money:

1. Avoid Having Kids

It’s a bit late for this one for me. I already have one. The cost of having kids continues to go up. According to the USDA, it costs more than $200,000 to raise a child from birth to age 18. Of course, there are plenty of people that dispute that. The USDA’s calculator estimates that my son should cost me more than $26,000 a year. But I’ve run the numbers, and he doesn’t cost me that much.

However, he does cost enough that it would make a significant difference in my budget. But I love my son, and enjoy him. Even though there are studies that say people are more miserable when they have kids, I’m not sure that’s the case for me. I know I’m supposed to say that my son makes me happy. Sometimes he doesn’t, though. Sometimes, he’s a pain in the butt. But I still think he’s worth the cost, especially as he gets older and more interesting. I think parenting has long-term joy factors, even if you are miserable in the short run.

That said, though, if you are really serious about saving money, and you aren’t into the long-term sentimental stuff, cutting out the kids can be one way to do it.

2. Stay Away from Pets

I’ve seen how much my parents spend on their two dogs. They are medium-sized dogs, but the costs of caring for them really start to add up. When you have a pet, it will cost you in terms of food and care, as well as medical attention. Some pets require a little less expense than others. We have fish. These are relatively inexpensive. My husband’s cousin has rats. They aren’t too bad, but still cost more than the fish. And I have a cousin with horses. Now there’s an expensive pet.

Even with the pet costs, though, some people really like their animals. And that’s fine, as long as you don’t mind spending the money on them. But be prepared to pay a lot if you kids and pets!

3. Don’t Go to College

One of the big debates right now is whether or not college is worth the cost. The cost of college continues to rise, but you might not need a degree to succeed. There are professions that just require some training, and you can benefit from a decent salary. The cost of college includes tuition, books, fees, room, and board. In fact, it costs so much that few people — even with some scholarship money — can afford to attend college without debt.

Starting out life with crushing debt seems like a poor way to begin, even with a college degree. It makes sense to carefully consider a career path, and the possibilities, before plunging into college. Be realistic about the salary from a college degree, and whether or not it is worth the cost you pay.

4. Never Buy a House

We often think of buying a home as one of those financial milestones that amounts, basically, to a requirement. The conventional wisdom is that you should buy a home because renting is just throwing money away. But could it actually save you money to rent forever?

Housing costs go beyond just your mortgage payment and interest. You also have to consider maintenance and repair costs, as well as property taxes and other costs. Once you add everything up, over the course of decades, there’s a real possibility that you won’t even break even, despite tax deductions for interest and appreciation. This is especially true during a market crash. You could save money each month by renting, and then invest the difference. You might come out ahead.

What do you think? Would you try any of these extreme money saving ideas?

(Photo: darrenleno)

{ 38 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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38 Responses to “Four Extreme Lifestyle Choices That Save Money”

  1. JamesV says:

    Avoid having kids? This is an extreme example that I’m offended is mentioned in this posting. I understand your financial ideal, although children are a gift and should not be on the same level as pets, etc.

    Aside from irresponsibility of parents in terms of having too many kids when your situation cannot afford it, is another topic. Example being income <$18,000 year and you have 10 kids. Though, even in these situations, God can provide.

    • DMoney says:

      Yes, God can provide by calling Child Services and putting those 10 kids in the homes of responsible people.

      As for this article in general, I guess it lives up to the “extreme” headline, but I think avoiding kids solely to save a few bucks borders on insane.

      Now, holding off on having kids until you’re more financially able is much more practical advice.

      • David S says:

        I wouldn’t say that they are irresponsible based on just knowing their annual income and family size, they could perhaps be doing quite well as a family. Perhaps they are a farming family that grows/harvests all their food and they actually own the land they are on. (Yes I know this is a fictional family)

        The thing about your comment is that without knowing additional facts about expenses and care of the family it is wrong to just come in and condemn the family.

      • huskervolleyball1 says:

        Would you ever feel really financially able? Really able. I think not.

    • Lee says:

      You’re offended??? Was this article written directly to you? Why is it that so many people think they have a right to be offended by what someone does that doesn’t pertain to them personally? I’m offended that you take offense at this article.

      The inclusion of not having kids is on the mark. Many people are doing it. Right now. Not considering it, but doing it. We are not an agrarian society where having extra kids is a good thing.

      Here’s an article concerning it, but try not to be offended as you read it.

      • DMoney says:


        I think you’re missing the point here.

        Not being financially prepared to have kids and not having kids as some form of extreme frugality are two totally different frames of mind. The article you linked to refers to the former and this Bargaineering article seems to posit the latter, which is, honestly, a pretty silly notion, especially to just be “frugal”.

        So yes, I could see someone being “offended” by the notion of forgoing kids simply to be a “savvy saver” or some other silly frugal term.

        • Texas Wahoo says:

          I could obviously see someone being offended too. In fact, I just saw it a few posts above. I’m still not sure why anyone would be offended that someone would decide to forgo children in order to save money. Would they be just as offended if they did it because they do not like kids?

          I suppose I could also see someone being offended about being vegetarian as a sort of extreme frugality.

          Someone will get offended at almost anything you do. It all seems silly to me.

        • PhilW says:

          I don’t see why. It’s just a matter of saving money. I don’t buy expensive things to save money, I don’t have kids to save money, what’s the difference? I’d say not wanting kids to save money is a great idea actually.

  2. Matt K says:

    take out a life insurance policy (make sure to read the fine print), and then go commit suicide.

    is this a serious article or is this just more garbage to fill the internet with?

  3. Yes they are extreme, but they are realistic. I know people who have done 1 or more of these 4 ideas.

    Not sure what the deal is with the previous comments… The article makes sense, but the ideas aren’t for everyone as there is more valuable things in life than saving money.

  4. Shorebreak says:

    “EXTREME” is right on the mark. I wouldn’t consider any of the above choices except for possibly #4) Never Buy a House. Only if I couldn’t find a home I liked or can’t afford the payments.

    • govenar says:

      I don’t think it’s EXTREME to not have a pet.
      (Actually the others don’t seem that extreme either.)

  5. jlynn says:

    I don’t feel any of the choices above extreme. It’s all about choices. I am retired, came from nothing but did ok financially. Many young people are choosing to have a dog/dogs rather than take on the responsiblity of children. The economy has made it difficult to get into the housing market, but many today are choosing not to sacrifice dinner out, new cars, vacations, and expensive clothing to save a small down payment needed. As for college,it’s all about choices. It might not mean a better job, but it usually opens a few more doors for you. We all make choices, sometimes those choices might seem extreme to others.

  6. Frank says:

    Finally, someone said it! I’m vindicated!

    I’ve been promoting these 4 bullet points to my friends and family for years.

    I just forwarded this article to them ALL!

    Thank you!

  7. I think going to college is good for some people. For example, I like my white-collar office work in the IT industry. I know people that are in the IT industry without a degree and they are the ones that end up driving white vans to customer sites all over the state daily to run cable in the hot/cold/rain. That is not fun for me.

    • govenar says:

      Yeah, you can’t do anything in IT without a degree; just look at people like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs.

  8. I know some people may feel incomplete without a pet, but they don’t only cost a lot of money, they are a lot of work! When is the right time to get a dog so that they aren’t home alone during the day? Small dogs may cost less, but still. Theres their upfront cost, shots and vaccines, food, crates and leashes, grooming, and then medical costs once they get older. Maybe its better to get a fish or bird and if you want to play with a furry little critter, visit a friend with a dog or cat.

  9. Dwight Johnson says:

    As one who has a BA & MBA along with huge student debt…avoid college unless you can pay as you go. Regarding the house, I’d still buy one, but buy a small house. Renting will always stink. Kids have long-term benefits and teach us more about life than dollars can quantify. Dogs have shown to lower blood pressure & have owners that get more exercise–thus, lower health-care costs. Think about how your dog benefits you at the next vet visit.

  10. Yana says:

    I like this post and the idea of doing things differently. Some things are worth having, but not worth working for, and others are not accurately valued in my opinion. We decided to continue renting, because we see the financial difference as great. We still watch the market, but may never own a home. We’d do it only if it made sense financially and otherwise, and only if we would be paying outright.

    Having one child is not something I consider overly expensive. It’s a matter of what you think is necessary as far as expenditures. I would not have had more children, though, because our society does not value home, family and children.

    The dog has been the best value ever. She’s had only necessary veterinary care, meaning minimal, and I think it’s contributed to her living a long and healthy life (also genes). She is 17 years old now.

    We upgraded our rental in February to a more country-type place. We got a bird feeder and the birds are what may break us. Haha. Really, they eat more than the dog and quickly!

  11. Ben says:

    You are either buying a house for yourself or buying one for someone else. House payments are always cheaper than renting otherwise no one would own rentals. Taxes and upkeep are included in the rent. Real property is still a good way to build wealth. The only exceptions are the super-inflated markets like California that recently burst and went upside down.

    • Jim says:

      You are absolutely right. I said pretty much the same thing a couple of posts down, but was viciously attacked for what I said.

    • James Moore says:

      Ben, no, you’re not thinking this through. Rentals as investments often (always, where I’ve lived) depend on future appreciation. The rental income doesn’t come close to covering current costs.

      If you live in major metropolitan areas, buying is _much_ more expensive than renting. And yes, the prices in many places have declined substantially, but not enough to make buying cheaper than renting.

      (And don’t forget that those places tend to be areas where you can get good salaries. Here in Seattle, for example, if you’re in software you’re almost certainly making > 100k. And yes, renting is less than buying.)

  12. Bren says:

    Another “extreme” could be not buying a car.

    Especially if you are in a city with a decent public transportation. You save what you would owe each month, and probably even on gas; or if you buy used and don’t have monthly payments, you would save on maintenance of the car.

    Also, if you are a frequent user, sometimes you get a discount.

  13. Dragonflower says:

    It’s all about choices. Most decent jobs nowadays require some education beyond high school – but it can be a 1-2 year trade school program. I hold 6 college diplomas and they were ALL necessary in order for me to eventually obtain the positions I desired. (Some jobs require certain “pedigrees” behind one’s name.) Certainly LIMITING the number of children to 2-3 per family as well as the number of pets is financially and ethically “prudent.” I’ve been both a renter as well as a homeowner and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. However, if you buy a fixer-upper and pay-as-you-go, you do have the satisfaction of eventually getting the home you want with the satisfaction of sweat equity. The bigger financial drains are the “extras” that people think they cannot live without – 5 vehicles, vacation condo, cable service, exotic vacations, expensive dinners out, etc. If all of these non-essentials were pared from one’s household budget, a person would likely discover that they can actually afford to raise 2 children, have 2 dogs and buy a modest house. It’s all about priorities and self-discipline.

  14. jim says:

    Another article telling how to save money by not buying a house by a member of Generation x, y, z (or is it the Millenials?) who still lives in her parent’s basement. This is well written for your first article, but do some research, lay out both side of the argument and you will find that if one wants to save money, buying a house is almost always a necessity.

    • DMoney says:

      Yea, so, um, you might want to actually *click* the link about renting forever before you start to generalize and insult the writer.

      Just sayin’, gramps.

      • mannymacho says:

        Gee, this article sure brought out the hate. Yeah, tell all the people in this country with homes that are $50K underwater how much money they saved. And, professor, since this is her “first article,” I’d like to see how a real professional treats these things – can you show me some of the gems you’ve written? I am sure the research is mind-blowing…

  15. GREG says:

    I think if you have an interest in a trade or if you have a skill which you can use to make a living then college may not be necessary. But i am guiding my kids toward college cause i think it opens up alot more doors to sucess.Education should not be detered. We have enough people walking around without basic knowledge because the lack of education.With the correct education and guidence from a caring parent we can educate our children to grow, learn, have respect, and be a contributer to society in a positive way. So i do not care for anybody advocationg less education in this country.

  16. Mary says:

    These are definitely extreme, but not unrealistic.

    I always knew I wanted children, so the first one is out for me (though they are grown now). However, I did what I could to manage the cost of having them (to the tune of about $8k a year per child). Yet, I don’t see choosing not to have children as extreme. I have a few friends who have chosen to be childless. They all have their reasons, but it shouldn’t matter. Life isn’t all about making babies, after all.

    As for the college one, I agree and disagree. I agree that if you have to borrow, it will hurt you in the long term. I am a victim of this, though I knew what I was getting into. However, I will counter that by saying that I’ve made 3-4 times what I could make without my degrees as a result of having them. They also pay off in other ways, such as building confidence in a particular skill or knowledge set. Without going to college, I might never have had the courage or confidence to do many of the things I have done in my life.

    Homeownership…I’m on the fence. I can see both sides of that argument all too well.

    As for pets, they can get expensive. We had a dog with serious allergy issues. Not cheap – special food, meds, vet visits….but I wouldn’t have traded that money for the love and affection of my pets.

    Of course, it’s always a trade-off. You have to decide which is more valuable to you – money or these other things. I wouldn’t take money over my children. Nor would I over my pets. But the other two are negotiable. 🙂

    Interesting post. Lots of strong emotion in the feedback.

    But the title did say “extreme” didn’t it?

  17. M Sandra says:

    silly overly-serious peeps. This article just points out some of the MAJOR money-consuming items in our lives that we have control over (more or less).

    My only comment on the last item, owning a home, is that, while it may likely be more expensive in the long run, there’s an element of security and control that shouldn’t be overlooked. As long as I’m paying my mortgage, no one can kick me out of my own home. A Landlord can give me notice and away I go, packing boxes.

    Plus I can put nail holes in any wall I want.

    It’s a trade off.

  18. Kids are super expensive. I have a couple friends with no kids and good jobs, all they do is travel, eat out, drive nice cars, etc haha If you want kinds that’s fine, but know that they’re going to cost a lot.

    I want to have kids though 🙂

  19. stellamarina says:

    In Italy it is rare to see a family with more than one child.

    If you love pets but do not want the cost you can always volunteer at the Humane Society. During kitten season they are always needing someone to look after kittens at home and socialize them ready for new homes. Food is usually provided.

  20. xbalance says:

    I consider my wife and I pretty frugal people, and we have violated all 4 of these. By age of 50 we have paid off our mortgage in Seattle, paid cash for a major home remodel in 2010, haven’t had a car payment since 1989, no creidt card debt, etc… We have maxed our 401k (when working), saved significantly for our 2 kids college education, paid for our two MBAs and so on and so forth. We have done all this while never achieving any kind of leadership title or receiving significant financial support. Oh yes, we have a dog, and he is a velvet ball and chain. My point, frugal living can be successful with or without following those 4 lifestyle choices.

  21. Interpertation varies from person to person. says:

    I don’t believe that he is saying all of these shouldn’t happen. He’s saying that regardless of your place in life, these will be the largest investments you’ll make and to always plan for them. Coupon cutting and bringing your lunch to work wont save you that much money, when you’re busy jam packed handling the above four situations. He’s saying be smart. Don’t jump into situations without considering the costs. For example, buying a house and viewing the lower mortgage as saving money from paying a higher rent. You have to consider taxes, repairs, etc. And if you don’t like his article, click on another page.

  22. Momof4 says:

    What is the meaning you are searching for in your life?

    Children teach us humility, how to make sacrifices and become less self-focused. There is a saying that “each child brings his/her own loaf of bread.”. Pets are therapeutic.
    I agree that higher education is not necessary for all careers and some people prefer to rent rather than buy.

    If you believe that once you close your eyes for the last time that all is over, I can understand your desire to seize the day. If, however, you believe in Heaven and Hell, you might consider life decisions through an eternal lense. Life is a precious gift. I know of many elderly who lived life to the fullest, traveled, etc and now regret having not become parents. My husband and I would be wealthy but incomplete without our precious gifts. God’s wisdom is so different from man’s.

  23. David says:

    Not having kids is not extreme, it’s the new normal thing to do. A kid actually costs over half a million dollars because instead of spending $8,000/yr on the kid you could have invested that same money compounded @ 12% and after 20 years you would have over half a million dollars.

    I’m surprised to see that you’ve said to never buy a house to save money. You can either buy a $100,000 house and pay it off in 10 years or you can keep paying rent increasing @ 2% for the rest of your 50 or 60 years of life.

    The mortgage on a $100,000 house is $1,000 per month or $12,000 a year. The rent of that same house is maybe like $800 or $9,600/yr.

    $12,000 X 10 years = $120,000 cost
    $9,600 X 60 years = $576,000 cost

    So actually buying a house saves you
    $576,000 – $120,000 = $456,000

  24. It'sme! says:

    First off, do I really have to defend the urge, need and or the desire to bear a child(ren) when, coincidentially, my littlest son just climbed up behind me in my chair and wrapped his tiny arms around my neck and then my daughter got me a creamsicle! Awwh, I know you say, but it’s the precious moments like this that reminds you how child(ren) give your life real meaning and purpose! So okay, granted, taking care of or raising child(ren) is all types of time consuming and expensive, however; the benefit(s) are bound to out weigh the cost(s) and I think the same can be said of rearing pets, having hobbies, investing in friendships, etc., etc., etc!

    I support the choice to attend college, it can be a life changing and life affirming experience to say the least. You may or may not be saddled with debt depending on how you approach it i.e your choice of study, career path, financial wherewithal. Don’t let the expense discourage you, heck you might get lucky!!!

    Owning a home is a bit of a responsibility determination, hardwork and patience is entirely possible in you meeting your financial and other obligations!

    People need to live a little!!!
    obligation(s) it is entirely possible.

  25. NkNp says:

    FINALLY a counter article to all the stay-at-home mommy blogs about how to be frugal! You REALLY want to be frugal – then don’t have kids or pets!! I have neither.
    I was stupid and bought a house about 10 seconds before the housing market crashed but have since got rid of it in a short sale and will never buy another house again! I LOVE the peace of mind of apartment living. I love being able to call up the office if anything breaks. My apartment complex is newly built – we were the first people to occupy our unit. The apartment complexes that they build these days are luxury apartments with better amenities then the average home. I have a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom apartment for $1100/ month with (get this!): stainless steel appliances, front load washer & dryer, tile floor in the kitchen & bathrooms, 9 foot ceilings, a fitness room, large lap pool, hot tub and 2 gas BBQ grills. When it comes to housing expenses I have 2 bills: rent & electricity. When I had the house I also had: property tax, homeowners ins, HOA, pool maintenance, pest control, weed control, a MUCH higher electricity bill, a much longer commute so more spent on gas for the cars, had to buy a new water heater, repair the A/C unit – NONE of which go towards paying off the mortgage !!! I think that most home-hope-to-be-some-day-owners are in denial about how much they spend on their house aside from the mortgage payment. And what percentage of the U.S. population ever actually finish paying off their mortgage anyway?
    As far as going to university I’m glad I did because I wouldn’t have got licensed to work in the countries I have worked if I had less than a degree. As long as you do it in 4 years and not drag it out to 6 or more years like some people do. And as long as it is not a bachelor of science degree – a BS degree is exactly that BS! what are going to do with that?! Bachelor of Science is not a career – nursing or engineering is a career – get a degree in a profession!

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