Three Extreme Ways To Save Money This Year

Owen Winkelmolen

Advice-only financial planner, CFP, and founder of

Work With Owen

In this post we’re talking about extreme ways to save money. We are NOT talking about reusing your paper towels, or squeezing ketchup packs back into the bottle. That’s might save money, but that’s not extreme enough.

What we’re talking about here is extreme frugality. The level of frugality that allows you to live off half your income of less. Frugal living like this doesn’t come easy.

If you want to save big you have to go extreme.

These extreme ways to save money will require a little more commitment and determination than squeezing ketchup packs back into the bottle.

These aren’t easy ways to save money. Oh no. These three ways to save money require some serious lifestyle changes but if you can do them you’ll be on your way to living on just a fraction of a regular household’s budget.

House Hacking

Definitely extreme, housing hacking can help you eliminate your housing costs completely but you have to be willing to do things a little bit differently.

If you’re truly interested in getting your housing costs close to zero (or even make some money!) there are different ways to go about doing this.

Less Extreme: Living small

Live in a studio apartment or a small house. This is boring but it’s one way to save money on housing costs.

Slightly Extreme: Rent an entire home and sublet the rooms

Now you’re sharing your space with other people, so this is a bit more extreme than just living small.

The positive thing with renting a house is you’re not tied down by a mortgage. The negative thing with subletting rooms is that now you run the risk of having vacancies.

The benefit is that your roommates could cover the entire cost of the rental, making your portion ZERO! You might be going against your agreement with the landlord though, so read the fine print.

Extreme: Buy a home and rent out rooms

Similar to the one above you’re now living with other people and subletting rooms. It’s a bit more extreme because unlike simply sharing an apartment you take on more management duties.

This house hacking method can be even more lucrative though. Instead of your rent cheques going to the landlord they now go towards increasing your home equity. If you can rent enough rooms to cover the mortgage you’re now living for free AND increasing your net worth! Nice!

Super Extreme: Live in a van

Van dwelling seems to be trendy but I would consider it super extreme. I must admit, there are some awesome van conversions out there but unless you’re living a completely counter-culture lifestyle van dwelling is super extreme.

Even though van dwelling is super extreme I’ve considered it. At my previous employer there was a gym with showers, it would have been entirely feasible for me to live in a van. I even considered living in a houseboat at one point but my wife quickly said ‘no’ to that one, probably for the best.

Van Dwelling Conversion - Three Extreme Ways To Save Money This Year

Outright Crazy: Build your own hobbit hole

This one is downright silly but it’s been done. Build your own hobbit hole in the country side and do away with all those modern conveniences. Just live life simply with nature (and the cold, wet dirt).

Source materials for free from Craigslist, find a sympathetic farmer with lots of land to place your hobbit hole, and your home will be entirely free! (But still wet and cold).

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Ditch The Car:

Owning a car can easily cost over $5,000 per year. Ditching the car may sound extreme but it’s a super effective way to save money.

Before ditching the car it’s important to find alternatives. In more extreme cases it might even mean moving to a better location that is more conducive to other forms of transportation.

Instead of owning a car you could…

  • Walk – Walking is great but your distance will be limited to 2-5km. Unless you already live in a walkable area this will be difficult (or you might need to move to a better area)
  • Bike – Biking will greatly increase your range. Biking 10-20km one way is easily doable.
  • Take public transit – Pairing walking/biking with public transit increases your range even further.
  • Car pool – Catch a ride with a co-worker or someone who works in the same location (and not necessarily at the same business).
  • Work from home – Avoid commuting all together and look for a “work from home” arrangement.
  • Find a better area to live – Sometimes an area is just too car-friendly and the only choice is to move to a better area that is more conducive to alternative forms of transit.

Stop Buying “Stuff”:

Just stop buying stuff. Period. In our culture, this is an extreme way to save.

You don’t have to go cold turkey. You could start out slowly by doing a no spend month, then escalate to a no spend year and then just stop buying stuff altogether.

Think of it as minimalism meets asceticism. Doing away with all material possessions and materialistic experiences all together. The goal is to experience life without the distraction of “stuff”.

There is a whole movement around simple living. On the extreme end, you have people who live in self-imposed poverty, sometimes living off as little as $5,000 per year.

These people are living with basic shelter, food, clothing and very little else.

Strangely I see the attraction. I like the idea of simple living. There is a certain freedom that comes from owning less stuff.

The whole idea of living on less reminds me of this quote…


“The greatest wealth is a poverty of desires”

― Seneca

What extreme things have you done to save money?

“To save a lot of money you have to be willing to do things a bit differently”

Owen Winkelmolen

Advice-only financial planner, CFP, and founder of

Work With Owen


Join over 250,000 people reading each year. New blog posts weekly!

Tax planning, benefit optimization, budgeting, family planning, retirement planning and more...



Join over 250,000 people reading each year. New blog posts weekly!

Tax planning, benefit optimization, budgeting, family planning, retirement planning and more...



  1. Abigail @ipickuppennies

    I’ve actually been a landlord renting out rooms. I was broke myself at the time, so it was pretty harrowing every time something broke or otherwise went wrong. Also, it was Seattle, so I was still paying about $600 a month. But for a house I figured that wasn’t bad. Still, three years later (when health problems forced me to give up) I sold the house for $60,000 more than I bought it for. So overall I suppose it was a successful endeavor.

    The one caution I’d say about subletting rooms is that you have to clear it with the landlord or risk getting kicked out. If you don’t check with the landlord, you’re letting people into their house without his/her say-so and any vetting he/she normally does. Most landlords wouldn’t be okay with that.

    • Owen

      That’s great advice Abigail. Checking with the landlord is an important step. Sounds like your house hacking worked out very well for you.

  2. Sarah De Diego

    Dear Owen,

    Great points. Each of them can definitely have a significant impact on ones finances.

    HOME. In December 2017, we sold our 900 square foot home and have no plans to own again. From May to November, we will be a caretaker for my uncles (extra) farmhouse. We will pay no rent in exchange for basic maintenance. We will pay for utilities. From November to May, we will do what we’ve done for the past 13 years and leave Canada for Mexico. Note that while living in Mexico for three years, we rented out rooms in our house to single women and that worked out well. We’d like to get back to doing that again. Not so much for the money but the socialization aspect.

    CAR. We drive to Mexico (3,100mi) so that is some wear and tear on our vehicle but the 5 months that we’re here, we drive less than 100 miles. Our insurance is local and minimal. We walk everywhere, take public transport or a taxi.

    STUFF. Since other people rent “our house in Canada” from November to May, we purchased a shipping container (that we installed on my uncles property) and everything we own has to fit in it. We’re still in the process of getting rid of unnecessary things (it took us 45 years to collect and will take a few to get rid of).

    For the past 13 years, my husband, I and our two young kids have lived life on our own terms. Successfully and happily. We have all made concessions to live this lifestyle, however, life is too short to live someone elses life.

    P.S. Reusable towels are the way to go for some many reasons 😉

    Besos, Sarah.

    • Owen

      Hi Sarah, thanks for the comment! That sounds like an amazing lifestyle. You’ve definitely got the “house-hacking” thing down, that is pretty unique.


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