Ten Unorthodox Ways to Save Money and Reduce Debt

Back when I was 3 billion dollars in debt I had to use all the tricks in the book to get my bank account to positive.  My family and I clipped coupons, stopped eating out, and even moved our “family fun night” from a strip club to a bar.  It wasn’t enough.  We had to go even deeper.

I spent countless hours pouring over our budget, carefully checking every expenditure, every dollar.  I talked to numerous financial planners and read dozens of blogs.  They all said it was impossible, that I would never make up the 3,233,422,030 dollars that I owed. Their negativity pushed me even harder.

Like a Crossfit champion trying to finish one more WOD I persevered.  Through a combination of “Goodwill Hunting” level math skills and ancient Amish wisdom I crafted a list of money saving techniques that helped us save even more.  I’m going to share that list with you today.

You won’t find these techniques on any other list of “tips” or “tricks”.  Not only are they original, they are also revolutionary.  They are so clever, so “outside the box” that you need to be careful.  Careful not to break your jaw when it drops to the floor.

1. Buy Cheaper Meat

No, not chicken livers or pork perineum, cat food.  It’s the ultimate cheap protein.  We mix it with hamburger helper, make Fancy Feast tacos, and put it in smoothies.  When our kid’s friends come over for dinner they can’t tell the difference!  Super Saver: Instead of paying for meat pick it up for free at the humane society puppy giveaway.  

2. Find a Cheaper School

Obviously private school is off the menu, but you can do better than public or charter.  We found a school that actually paid us to look after our kids.  Sure, it’s in a sketchy warehouse, and our kids come home exhausted after 12 hours of “learning”,  but as long as the money keeps coming in we don’t mind.

3. Cancel Netflix and Amazon Prime

Just kidding.  This is a list about saving money, not descending into barbarism.  I always pay the Netflix bill first, after which comes (in order) groceries, cat food, veterinary expenses, and children’s medical.  

4. Cancel Cable

Well duh.  Cable is like Netflix, except you have to wade through crappy shows and commercials to find the programming you want.  First call your cable company and tell them to go to hell.  Then write a long rambling letter to Netflix CEO and founder Reed Hastings telling him how much you love his company.  Offer to include a notarized copy of your soul in the next DVD you return if they add “The Wire” to streaming.

5. Stop Paying for Pest Control (and Cat Food)

If you have cats you should not be paying for pest control.  Simply stop feeding them and the number of rodents (as well as birds, insects, and neighbors dogs) in and around your house will fall to zero.  Be careful though, after a few weeks our noticeably leaner tabbies started staring at our youngest in an unnatural way.

6. Candy For Dinner

Saving money is about math, and nothing makes more mathematical sense than candy.  Candy bars and other sweets are what is known as calorie rich, meaning that you get more food  for your dollar.  In the same vein, fruits and vegetables are a caloric wasteland.  Simply put, it’s a lot cheaper to fill up your family with candy.   

A “Whatchamacallit” wedged between two Snickers is tastier and cheaper than a sandwich.  Try substituting a chopped up “Milky Way” bar for fish in tacos, or microwave two Reese’s peanut butter cups to get a burger patty.

7. Never Go Into Whole Foods Again

Don’t even browse the tasteful seasonal display outside the store.  You don’t need a holiday wreath made out of kale, or flax seed firewood.  From now on you buy in bulk at Costco.  No, they don’t have a tapenade bar, or anything resembling a vegetable at their snack counter, but you can get a dump truck full of mouthwash for two dollars.  Super Saver: That extra mouthwash can be used for antiseptic, potpourri, and mixed drinks.  

8. Stop Giving Conventional Gifts

Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, the cash you need for those special occasions really adds up.  Instead of gifts we now give out task coupons, like “Good for one backrub”, or “I will mow your lawn”.  We do the same for our kids, only they get coupons like “Get out of the basement free”, and “Get dinner tonight”.  Super Saver: Give them a 30 day expiration date.

9. Counterfeit Allowance

Give your kids fake money for their allowance.  Kids are so stupid they couldn’t even spot a bad forgery.  You could literally photocopy a couple five dollar bills and cut them out with scissors; your kids would be none the wiser.  Don’t worry about spending them, nobody checks low denomination bills.  If somehow your kids  do get caught claim ignorance, and blame their grandparents.  Super Saver: black and white copies are cheaper, and just as effective at night.

10. Santa is Dead

As I mentioned previously, we told our kids that Santa was dead to save money during the holidays.  However, we didn’t exactly “tell” them.  Using a stolen Santa suit and a paintball gun we re-enacted Santa’s tragic and bloody death at the hands of a terrorist.  We killed two birds with one stone by explaining to our kids that the terrorist broke in because they have been doing a bad job cleaning the dishes and mowing the lawn.  Super Saver: Use cow entrails to enhance the realism of Santa’s demise.

BONUS: Replace the Tooth Fairy

Instead of the tooth fairy, introduce your kids to her evil cousin: the Tooth Devil.  This nefarious little gremlin visits bad boys and girls who have not been brushing their teeth.  He punishes them by smashing toys and stealing allowance money.  Once you instill the fear of the Tooth Devil in them, your kids will be saintly about their brushing, and you will never need to take them to the dentist again.

10 Reasons to hold your wedding at the summit of K2

K2, nicknamed “The Savage Mountain”, is the second tallest mountain in the world.  Despite being shorter than Mt. Everest, it is vastly more dangerous to climb.  On average, for every four people who summit K2, one perishes.  That makes it the perfect place to hold your wedding!

1. Easy Invite List

Couples spend a lot of time laboring over their invite list, carefully selecting each person and often making hard decisions about who to exclude.  With K2 it’s easy: invite everyone you know!  The climb is so unforgiving that even if you invite a thousand people, only a few will make the summit, and many more will perish along the way.

2. Affordable Venue

Finding an affordable wedding venue is hard.  The wedding industrial complex has spread its tendrils everywhere, and as soon as you say the word “wedding” the price of anything triples.  Luckily K2 doesn’t have that problem.  Its rugged terrain is so unforgiving that nobody has thought to have a wedding there before.  If you mention you are getting married to the public official who issues your climbing pass he will probably only laugh at you.

3. The Date

Choosing a wedding date is another flash point for couples.  Working in all of the various family engagements means that even your own preferences often go out the window.  Once again K2 solves this problem with ease.  Because the climb is so long, and the window for good weather so narrow, there are only a few summer months when you can climb.  In fact, it’s never even been climbed in the winter.

4. No Dress Needed

With a K2 wedding you don’t need a dress.  If you wear a dress to the summit of K2, where temperatures regularly reach -50 below in the summer, you will die.  In fact, you will probably die even with the right clothing.  Theoretically you could wear a dress under your half dozen parkas, but nobody will notice.  Due to the limited oxygen and sub zero temperatures, your guests will be struggling to remember their own names.

5. The Ceremony

Should it be long?  Short?  An officiant?  A rabbi?  When planning a wedding the specifics of the ceremony can bring out some of the worst differences between a couple, especially religious ones.  On the summit of K2 you don’t need to worry about the length of the ceremony because you have only a few minutes.  Dangerous weather can set in at any moment, so if you are lucky enough to reach the summit you want to head down quick.  You still might want to bring a priest for all the casualties the expedition is bound to experience.

6. Hassle Free Reception

Planning a reception can be a maze of possibilities.  You have to decide on food, music, venue, and more.  On K2 you have none of those worries.  The only option for a reception is at Camp IV at 25000 feet.  Due to the effects of altitude, one bottle of champagne will be enough to get everyone smashed.  In fact, many in your party might already be dazed and confused from hypoxia.  Loud music is also out, since it could trigger an avalanche.  That, and nobody will want to dance anyway after a 20 hour summit push.  

7.  One Item Gift Registry  

Forget Bed Bath & Beyond or Target, there will be only one item on your gift registry: bottled oxygen, and lots of it. The air is so thin near the summit of K2 that most people get delusional and confused without supplemental oxygen.  There have been documented cases of hypoxic climbers walking off cliffs, or going the wrong way down a mountain.  Your one item registry will be a breath of fresh air, literally.   

8.  No Makeup or Nail Styling

On K2 black is in style, blackened toes and fingers that is.  Most of the wedding party will probably have serious frostbite by the time they make it to the summit, meaning that there is no need for complicated and expensive nail painting before the ceremony.  In fact, you will be so bundled up that the only person who sees the bride’s nails is the doctor, when he has to amputate a toe.

9.  Simple Honeymoon

After braving the savage conditions on top of K2, you won’t need to spend extra money on a honeymoon.  That’s because your house, with its soft beds and normal levels of oxygen, will seem like paradise in comparison!  Just being able to walk to the bathroom without tripping over the frozen corpse of your great aunt will seem like a small miracle.

10. Free Videography

When you inform major news organizations that you will be bringing a group of inexperienced hikers up the slopes of the world’s most dangerous mountain, they will be paying you for coverage!  In the very likely event of a serious accident or catastrophic loss of life you could also end up with a book about your wedding, and maybe even a movie!  

How I Paid off 3,233,422,030 in Debt

It might be hard to believe, but several years ago I struggled with debt.  Through maxed out credit cards, hospital bills, and car payments my wife and I owed over 3,233,422,030 dollars.  The sad thing is that anyone can fall into the debt trap, and end up owing billions of dollars.

With planning, saving, and a little luck, it is possible to reverse the bad fortune and get yourself out of debt.  I did it, and you can too.  I will show you how.

My Story

My story is one that many can relate too.  I worked full time at the mill, but with two kids and a wife at home my paycheck was just barely enough.  We scraped by as best we could, but it was hard.  We only bought generic ketchup.  Our kids only played on “discount” sports teams that mostly manufactured counterfeit handbags in a dimly lit basement.  Even Netflix was too expensive for our budget.  Yes, we lived like animals.

Soon after my daughter was born we started fudging the numbers.  It started small.  Buying an extra box of cereal at the store, or buying cat food instead of just bringing home roadkill.  We even threw away extra smelly diapers instead of trying to re-use them.

These extra expenses were small, but they began to add up.  We started paying bills late, or not at all.  Our credit cards began to carry a monthly balance.  Unfortunately, we ignored the warning signs and kept spending.  

Name brand soda, fancy clumping litter, and vaccinations for the entire family.  No expense was too much.  We finally bought seat-belts for our car, and a subscription to “Wetflix”, a cheaper alternative to Netflix that only shows ocean documentaries and adult films.

We kept living beyond our means and the bills kept piling up.  By Christmas 2006 the pile of bills in my office became so tall that my wife decorated it with ornaments and topped it with a little gold star.  It was then, staring at the little “debt-mas” tree that it hit me: we were in financial trouble.  

When I added up all the bills I was shocked.  We owed over 3 billion dollars, all from normal stuff like hospital bills, maxed out credit cards, and utilities.  You don’t have to be a mind reader to know it was not a merry Christmas.  We had so little money for gifts that we had to tell our kids that Santa was dead.

Escaping Debt: The Plan

The first thing I did to escape the debt was formulate a plan for how we would pay off every cent.  By carefully looking over a year’s worth of receipts I determined how much money we could spend each month on payments.  Then, using that number, I calculated how long it would take us to become debt free.

Monthly Debt Payment Total Debt Years Until Debt Free
$78 $3,233,422,030 3,454,510 years

Obviously I was a little concerned.  In 3 million years the human race will have transcended to another dimension. I didn’t want to be stuck on earth still paying off stupid hospital bills.  I asked my oldest, Micheal (5) whether he would be okay inheriting billions of dollars of debt, but he didn’t seem to understand the question.

Based on the initial math it was pretty clear we needed to do more.  Three million years was just not an acceptable target.  We tightened our belt and poured over all of our expenses for the last decade.  No potential cost saving tip was ignored, everything was on the table.

After slashing our monthly budget to the bone and finding new innovative ways to make a little extra, we found a way to pay off our debt in a fraction of the time.

Monthly Debt Payment Total Debt Years Until Debt Free
$135 Million $3,233,422,030 2 years!

The key was to spend approximately 134 million more dollars each month on payments.  This would allow us to reach our goal of having no debt 3,454,508 years sooner than expected.

Escaping Debt: In Action

After creating a plan we launched into action.  Every month we scrimped and saved to make up the 135 million we needed to stay on target.  If we found a little extra money, whether it be coins in the couch or proceeds from making our kids panhandle on the sidewalk, it went to payments, no questions asked.  

Debt Tip: Every bit helps, no matter how small.  It only took 540 million quarters to reach our monthly target.

At first it was hard to break out lavish spending habit.  Gone were the glory days of name brand ketchup and odor eliminating litter.  We still bought fancy cat food, but it was for the kids.  Our cats only got what they could kill, plus whatever we hit with the car.  

After a month or so of tightening our belts things got easier.  We adjusted to living with less, and the whole family started to enjoy the challenge of living frugally.  The cold showers we took to save heat were an invigorating badge of pride.  Our son stopped crying when we made him hitchhike to kindergarten to save on gas.  

Debt Tip: forcing your children to do your taxes is a great way to teach life skills.  You can also save tons of money from their inevitable mistakes.

In addition to being frugal, everyone took part in finding new ways to make money.  My wife held a bake sale with old bread she found behind a bakery.  Our kids spent their free time rooting through trash for aluminum cans.  They loved it because they got to miss school, and we loved it because those coins added up.  At five cents a can, it only took 2.7 billion cans to hit an entire monthly payment goal of 135 million.  

In the end, we hit our goal of repaying our 3 billion dollar debt in two years.  In fact, through extra saving and very frugal spending we paid back our debt a full month early!  All of those spare coins, bags full of cans, and strategic tax errors netted us an additional 135 million dollars in savings.  After mailing the final check in we celebrated with a lavish dinner: Fancy Feast tacos topped with name brand ketchup.

The best part was we didn’t stop saving when we hit our goal.  The whole family liked it so much that we decided to keep living frugally, albeit with a few exceptions.  Hot showers were back in, and no expense was spared for condiments.  We all agreed that the cats could keep using gravel from our neighbors driveway for litter, and the kids liked using the “bathroom bucket” instead of the toilet.       

Debt Elimination Tips

Here are a few of the many methods my family used to pay back the 3 billion dollars we owed.  Whether you need to pay back $100 or 100 million, these tips can help you save or even make money.

  1. Quit smoking, unless you use it for meditation.
  2. Teach your kids to repair damaged clothing instead of throwing it away.  If they get good at it, have them to manufacture clothing on the weekends, mornings, nights, and after school.   
  3. Check vending machines for loose change.  Shake the machine vigorously to release any “stuck” coins.  If that doesn’t work, prying it open with a crowbar can help.       
  4. Recycle!  Look through trash cans and dumpsters around town to find valuable aluminum.  Even better, have your kids do it for you!
  5. A hole in your backyard can function just as well as a septic system at a fraction of the cost.  No backyard?  Just use a bucket instead.
  6. “Borrow” gravel from your neighbors driveway for kitty litter.  When the cats are done using it, put it back.
  7. The cost of Christmas presents can really add up.  Tell your kids that Santa is dead, and that there will no presents this year.
  8. Cat food is cheaper than store bought meat, and if you add enough cheese nobody can tell.
  9. Borrow as much stuff as you can from friends, family, neighbors, then have a yard sale with it.  
  10. School can be expensive.  By forcing your children to panhandle instead you will not only make money, but introduce them to the greatest teacher of all: the streets.

Helping Your Cat Go Vegan

Has your cat ever vomited?  Does he sometimes sit at the window staring out at nothing?  Does he hide when somebody rings the doorbell?  These could be signs of Meat Intolerance (MI), a very dangerous condition.

The problem stems from genetically modified horses, or GMHO’s.  All cat food (including catnip) is made by grinding up dead horses into a paste, then adding “natural” flavorings.  Food made from genetically modified horses irritates the feline stomach lining.  Eventually the stomach becomes so irritated that it rejects all food, and your cat develops MI.  

Note: Only cats are affected by MI.  Cat food is still a safe and affordable option for your toddler.  

Symptoms of Meat Intolerance (MI)

  1. Does not want to be petted.
  2. Wants to be petted too much.
  3. Sheds hair all over the house.
  4. Scratches the ground after going to the litter box.
  5. Show little interest in playing.
  6. Sleeps all day, but is restless at night.
  7. Refuses to eat a new type of food.
  8. Eats too much, or too little food.
  9. Uncontrollable shitting.  Your cat becomes a fire-hose of feces, propelled forward by diarrhea blasts like a model rocket.  He appears to be hovering peacefully in place, like an incarnation of the poop god Shitavi.  If you’re not sure, ask yourself this: have you ever been sitting peacefully on the couch, watching the game, only to have cat shit drip down on you from the ceiling?  If so, it could be MI.

We first noticed MI in our cat Fluffer.  He was acting strange, like hiding under the couch when we vacuumed, or sitting in the middle of the the floor and licking himself.  Our vet tried to claim that this was “normal behavior”, but after a search through some internet forums of dubious authorship, we found the truth.    

The sad thing is that most vets will deny that MI is even a real issue.  They pretend that carefully researched reports like this one are fake, which is insulting.  If your vet is an MI denier, send them to this article to read the truth.  Make sure they buy my book to get the platinum plus preferred version of the truth.

Going Vegan

The solution to MI is to switch your cat to a vegan diet.  All of their food should be made out of plants, preferably from your own garden.  It will be a hard progression, cats are natural carnivores, but with a little hard work you can beat MI.  Fluffer lived for several weeks on a vegan diet before succumbing to natural causes.

Because the GMHO lobby controls the industry it can be hard to find vegan cat food, so you have to make your own.  I recommend starting with a simple entree I call “Fun Feast”.  Add cooked quinoa, spring mix, carrots, and almond milk to your blender and mix until liquid.  Pour into ice cube trays and freeze for one hour.  Viola, you now have individual cubes of dry food that your cat (and toddler) will love.

If your cat refuses to eat the new food have patience.  Like our children eventually realized, the alternative to going vegan is starvation.  Your picky Persian will eventually come around and start eating your delicious meals.  They might get a little skinny, but that’s a symptom being healthier.

Enjoying a Healthy Lifestyle

Once your cat goes vegan, and the symptoms of MI subside, they might start to act funny.  For example, Fluffer started gnawing on my leather boots and digging through the trash.  At dinner he would stare at us, with a vacant look in his eye and drool dribbling down his chin.  If this happens to you, relax, it’s a natural reaction to finally feeling healthy.  

As your cuddly carnivorous tabby is transformed into a lean vegan tiger, you might notice an increase in aggressiveness.  He might go after birds and rodents with more determination, or even start to stalk your other pets.  This is perfectly natural.  In his final days we noticed Fluffer stalking our youngest child, carefully creeping around the house like an emaciated lion, desperate for a meal during the dry season.  What a silly cat.

Reader Tip: Put a bell on your hungry cat so you know when he might be trying to ambush you.

Getting your cat to go vegan can be challenging.  They might refuse to eat your organic plant based meals, or vomit up what they do eat.  You might find yourself having to defend your own dinner, guarding every shred of meat like a hawk.  Even your own trusted veterinarian might object, throwing around terms like “animal cruelty” and “gross negligence”.  It was a hard transition, but when I looked deep into the eyes of my beloved cat as he gnawed on my toe, I knew it was worth it.

Editor’s Note: Julian is not a veterinarian and has never consulted any veterinary resources.  His knowledge of cat healthcare is derived exclusively from comments on a model train message board and a drunken “conversation” he had with a feral cat outside Chipotle.  In fact it was only a squirrel that was interested in the burrito he was spilling all over his pants.

Decluttering: Your Guide to a Paper Free House

You are enslaved by paper.  It covers your walls, gets piled in giant stacks, and fills up drawers. Paper is the true enemy of Minimalism, and every letter, page, and scrap needs to go.  I will show you how.

If you had any doubt that this sinister material has spread its icy claws into the very core of your soul consider this: nearly everyday you go out of your way to visit a special metal box designed to hold, you guessed it, paper.  The mailbox is a harbinger of materialism, and it must be eliminated.

It may seem daunting, but I can help free you from the bondage of paper.  The good news?  It burns very well.

Step 1: Start at the Source

The first step in curing your paper problem is to stop it at the source: the mailbox.  Everyday more paper arrives from the nether: advertisements, special offers, and bills.  Lots of bills.  The only way to truly stem the tide is to cut it off, with an axe.

To stop the mail you must chop down your mailbox.  I recommend an axe, but you can use whatever you have lying around: a chainsaw, a sledgehammer, or even a baseball bat.  If you share a mailbox, or are concerned about breaking federal law, you might have to get creative.  Try filling it with cement, or simply changing the numbers on the side.  There are a million possibilities, and I’m excited to see what my readers come up with.

Reader Feedback: Share your creative method of stopping the mail.

Step 2: Letters, Bills, Children’s Artwork

With the mailbox out of commission the deluge of paper should abate, but you still need to deal with what is left.  Drawers full of letters, tax records, magazines, children’s artwork, and old family photos: it all needs to go.  

There really is no need to keep that stuff around.  You can access your bills online, tax documents too.  Old family photos that nobody cares about can be transferred to the computer through a speedy process known as “shredding.”

Sentimental stuff can be burned of course.  Everyone overestimates their attachment to artwork, but it’s not like your kid is a virtuoso artist.  If you can’t sell it, throw it in the fire.  You will be surprised at how happy you feel to see a stack of ugly, uncoordinated, and off-color finger paintings go up in flames.

Reader Tip: Put one of you kid’s “masterpieces” up on ebay, and see how much you get.  Hint: it rhymes with “Hero Scholars”.  

Step 3: Books

Books are Trojan horses.  They sneak into your house under the pretext of knowledge, but when your guard comes down the hidden soldiers of clutter escape.  Even a True Minimalist™  can be suckered into buying one, unaware that they will take up space forever.

To truly declutter you’ve got to get rid of your books.  All of them.  You could donate them to a local library, but they probably don’t want your shelf of sticky werewolf erotica.  In this case, you need to burn them.  Fire is the only true way to cleanse your house and soul.

Bookshelves, the monuments to your past oppression, also need to go.  They will continue to take up space, and their empty shelves will accumulate junk left by weak willed people looking for an easy place to drop something off.  I recommend the chop method of disposal.

Step 4: The Walls

Scour your walls and take down anything resembling paper.  Posters, calendars, artwork, canvas, rip it all down and throw it into a pile.  It goes without saying that this pile is destined for the fire pit.  

Ideally you would carry out your righteous crusade while any partners or roommates are away to avoid weak willed attachments, but this isn’t always possible.  If your partner has objections to your zealous decluttering, listen to what they have to say.  Put any posters or artwork they have a sentimental attachment too in a box for safekeeping.  

Minimalism is one of the most important things in life, but we need to be patient with loved ones who don’t yet understand The Truth.  The best way to handle their concerns is with feigned sincerity.  Wait a few days until they have forgotten about the box of sentimental junk, then burn it.

Step 5: Everything Else

Most of your paper should now be gone.  We are now left with a few documents and papers you hoped I wouldn’t notice.  Your passport, birth certificate, private journal, and an old photograph of your parents when they were younger.  

I’m going to make a deal with you.  You can keep the passport and the birth certificate, but the rest need to go.  Copy the journal into any one of the million online journal services, and take digital a picture of the photo.  Done, burn em.  If you don’t already have a passport forget about it, it’s just more paper tying you down.

Freedom

Congratulations, your house is paper free.  Your walls are beautifully bare, as God intended.  Your drawers hold only dust, and those old journals from high school have been put out of their misery.

The benefits to living without paper are endless: no more long walks to the mailbox, no more bills, and absolute certainty of where to put every new piece of art your kid brings home: the trash.

You should celebrate this important milestone, just just make sure to burn the confetti, streamers, and party hats when you’re done.