Want some entertainment + inspiration? I’ve curated some crazy, inspiring, and unbelievable stories of extreme frugality.

Extreme frugality stories can be fun, inspirational, and…a bit strange.

What I love about reading them – besides the entertainment – is that they stretch your imagination for how you can save money in your own life.

Most people are uncomfortable living within limits, whether self-imposed or those imposed upon us.

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If we know that there is a maximum then we want to surpass it, not necessarily because more of something is better, but because the limit itself leaves us feeling edgy. Yet I’ve discussed before a certain freedom that comes with limits.

When you set a budget for your household, you are free to spend as you please within that budget knowing full well that your other savings goals are being met. Isn’t that a freeing feeling?

Not only have the people below embraced somewhat harsh monetary limits, but by doing so they have found freedoms beyond spending from a bottomless wallet. While all of these examples were partially brought on by the Recession over the last four years, they were truly self-imposed. Let me share with you some examples of others who have embraced extreme frugality.

Note: I am not suggesting that we should all live the way that these people have chosen to live. Rather, I am fascinated by their choices and hope that it provides both entertainment and ideas for the rest of us.

Examples of People Living in Extreme Frugality

The following is a collection of extreme frugality stories from people just like you and me, making the impossible an actual reality, and saving a bundle in the meantime.

Even if you've never dreamed of recycling enough cans to pay for your wedding (could you imagine how many you would have to recycle to pay for the royal wedding?), or use a paperclip to barter your way up to a home, it’s worth reading these articles in order to stretch your own frugal limits and comfort levels, and to know that there are simpler ways to live life than to hand over a credit card.

This is why I’d like to list out the extreme frugality experiments + stories that have fascinated me over the last several years:

Extreme Frugality Story #1: Man and Family Go on a Money Strike

Raphael Fellmer decided to embark on a two+ year money strike to show the world how bad our excessive consumption has gotten.

It should be noted that his wife used the equivalent of $280 per month for child care, healthcare, and transportation (they live in Berlin, Germany) during their experiment.

So, how did they survive? The couple relied heavily on bartering, such as living in a non-profit house in exchange for fix-it jobs.

Extreme Frugality Story #2: This Man Lives on $7,000 a Year

Jacob from Early Retirement Extreme has lived on just $7,000 for the last decade.

And he doesn’t live in a cheap area; he and his wife (who spend just $14,000/year combined, though they keep their finances separate) live in the “cheaper side” of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Extreme Frugality Story #3: Family creates only 1 quart of trash per year

While Bea Johnson and her family do this strictly for environmental reasons, the monetary savings are tremendous.

For example, her children only have four bottoms and eight tops per season.

They bring their own jars to the grocery store to fill with meat, cheeses, and dairy products.

They refill wine bottles, and the wife even makes her own eye liner out of burned and powdered almonds.

Extreme Frugality Story #4: Writer’s Family Embraces Extreme Frugality

W. Hodding Carter, a successful writer, looked over his and his wife’s social security statements from the last ten years and saw that while he had been living as if he was going to have a new bestseller, in reality, his family of six had averaged a $41,000 annual income.

When he realized that after paying all of their bills their family had just $550 leftover to spend each month (on things like food, entertainment, clothes, etc.), he immediately started down the extreme frugality path. His family grows a lot of their food now and has even eaten road kill.

You can catch up by perusing his archived articles.

Extreme Frugality Story #5: Man Lives on Groupon Coupons Alone

There is one man who was slated to live one year of his life on coupons alone while living away from his family, job, and worldly possessions. And if he could do it, he would win a prize of $100,000.

Update: This must have been too difficult, as the article no longer exists on MSN and no updates have been provided.

Extreme Frugality Story #6: Couple Recycles 400,000 to Pay for Wedding

If only my husband and I had thought to recycle 400,000 cans in order to pay for our wedding like this couple did (ha!).

And what exactly will 400,000 cans get you? Approximately $3,800 (depending on market fluctuations).

Extreme Frugality Story #7: Woman Wears Only Six Items of Clothing for One Month

You've likely heard of capsule wardrobes. The basic idea is to pare down your clothing to a few dozen pieces of clothing, and create an entire wardrobe out of it.

This woman took this concept to the extreme (though only for a month) by choosing to wear just six items of clothing for one month.

Her husband didn't even notice until the experiment was almost over!

One of the best lessons she took away from this? She really lost her desire to spend.

Maybe we should all try it out…I think I could at least give it one week.

Extreme Frugality Story #8: Man lives in cave and has not spent a dime in 9 years

Just…woah.

I mean, can you imagine living in a cave (let alone not spending one single piece of money in over 9 years)?

I originally found this man and his story about a decade ago. Naturally, I wanted to get an update.

According to Suelo's blog, he had to give up his cave and money-less existence in order to take care of his aging parents as of 2015.

Extreme Frugality Story #9: Man Barters from One Red Paper Clip All the way Up to a House

I was so inspired when I first found this guy's crazy frugal experiment (that actually worked). In fact, I read his book many years ago about it!

He literally took one red paper clip, and kept bartering and trading for something that was better each time. All the way to owning his first house.

With no money exchanging hands.

What an amazing feat!

Every so often a person’s crazy frugal experiment makes it to the spotlight and the world gets to read their life experience on one of the larger media outlets before returning to articles on the latest crisis.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve collected over the years!

I love reading extreme frugality stories, and I used to love that TLC show, Extreme Cheapskates! People who live with extreme budgeting, or extreme frugal living, and know extreme couponing. It’s entertaining, but also inspiring for ways I can take our budget to the next level. I’m always look for ways to save money! Tightwad | frugal | how to save money | #extremecouponing #frugalliving #cheapliving

11 replies
    • FruGal
      FruGal says:

      It would be difficult for many of us! I think they are inspiration for outside-of-the-box ideas on how we can save in our lives.

  1. Matt
    Matt says:

    Thanks Amanda for pointing out these stories. It’s always helpful to expand our own minds by seeing things from the perspective of others. Now I’m not sure my mind could be expanded to the point of eating road kill, but there are some great ideas in those stories.

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