How to be an Extreme Saver – A Quick Primer

Although I’ve written a couple of posts already about Extreme Frugality [see: Is Extreme Frugality for You? and 3 Types of Extreme Savers], I thought I’d write a brief primer on how to be an extreme saver for anyone curious about this way of living. I define Extreme Saver here as someone who sets aside 60%-90% of their income for a specific period of time for some other purpose (savings, investments, debt payoff, etc). These tips are written assuming you are single with no children, so adjust accordingly if that assumption does not fit you.

Extreme moniker aside, my points are actually somewhat moderate. I don’t have anything here about being voluntarily homeless or dumpster diving. I advocate a life re-design that is based on simplicity, not on risk-taking.


1. [YOUR PLAN] Before you begin your foray into extreme saving, you must have a plan and a goal/time limit for ending this lifestyle. Know why you are doing this. Is it to get out of extreme debt, to retire early, or for a personal challenge? This will help you explain your actions to those you care about. If they understand that this way of life is for a specific period of time and for a specific goal, the more support you can get from others.  If your goals frequently change, then set a time limit of between 1 – 10 years to do this. Regardless of your goals, you should not do this for more than 10 years. Beyond that, you are on what Dave Ramsey calls a ‘Deferred Life Plan’. Remember that life is for living. You want to have plenty to time for fun while you can enjoy it.


2. [YOUR HOUSING] Rent a Room – That’s right. You don’t need to own a house. You don’t need to rent an apartment – at least not by yourself. If you want to be an extreme saver, you must cut down drastically on your major expenses.  Rent a room in someone else’s house – the smaller the better. Save a ton on housing. Eliminate the hassle having to deal with utilities by having that built into the rent. The next best option is to rent a room in an apartment with multiple roommates. You don’t need to be comfortable in this small space because you should be living (working/playing) outside anyway. You may be able to get free or low room rent in exchange for part-time cleaning, handyman, or care-giving work.


3. [YOUR STUFF] Become a Minimalist – No furniture. No storage. No property insurance. Get a room that is already furnished in someone’s home. The less stuff you have, the smaller (and cheaper) of a room you can get. It is very freeing to be so mobile. Do some serious de-cluttering, selling, and donating. There are many sources online that will walk you through the process. Read up on minimalism first to make sure that you are prepared for the journey. It’s not just about getting rid of stuff, but its about making room in your life (physically, emotionally, financially, time-wise) for only what is important to you so that you live with purpose. Less is more. This includes removing people and situations from your life that are not adding to it.

Read This:  How to Become a Minimalist – This article boils it all down and doesn’t mince words. (Warning: Contains a sprinkling of four-letter words.)

It would be an easy assumption that the vast majority of extreme savers practice some combination of minimalism and simplicity, so there is a lot of overlap here.


4. [YOUR SOCIAL LIFE] Live life cheaply. The best things in life are free. Hang out with your friends and plan activities, not events ($). If you live in a large town or city, it is likely that you have access to Meetup groups, where you can do a lot of free activities. If you have a hobby that requires gear you can access them through groups like these for a small fee.


5. [YOUR FOOD & HEALTH] Eat simply but NOT cheaply. Eat a diet high in fresh organic vegetables and low in sugar. Stay away from anything in a package. Food is a budget item that most of us struggle to keep under control – including me.  Stay healthy and exercise to avoid medical expenses. Unexpected medical bills are the #1 cause of bankruptcy. If you have insurance, go get those annual checkups (physical, eye, dental). Don’t let an illness take a bite out of your wallet.


6. [YOUR TRANSIT] Take public transit and walk where you need to go. Rent your room within walking/biking distance from work. Public transit is possible if you live in a medium to large city. Take advantage of it. Ditch the car completely. They are a money pit.  You can rent a car by the week, day or even by the hour (ZipCar) if you really need wheels.


7. [YOUR INCOME] Make more money and tell it what to do.  You should always be working at least two jobs. Preferably you should have one full-time job, one part-time job, and an additional intermittent side hustle that focuses on generating passive income. Make sure that you have a spending plan for your income. Automate your monthly investments and bill pay where ever possible.


8. [YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM] Find others online or IRL (in real life) who understand what extreme saving is about, yet can give you a sanity check every now and then. Communicate with these people to make sure that you aren’t going off the deep end and sacrificing too much or losing relationships because of your choices.  There are extreme saver bloggers out here (myself included) who are supportive and eager to help others.


9. [YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES] Don’t have children – at least not now. This is not for the faint of heart, but remember that you will only be in extreme mode for a limited amount of time. If you are fairly young, early 30’s and younger, you still have time to wait. The rest of us will have to make some tough decisions. Some may choose not to have pets during this time.


10. [YOUR SPENDING]  Stop buying crap. Your spending should be very limited at this time. If you haven’t already, get rid of your television (also known as the Idiot Box or the Electronic Pacifier). This will remove a LOT of advertising and materialist messaging from your day-to-day life.  You will be spending according to your spending plan, so make sure that you are only buying things that serve a truly needed purpose (nutritious food, a winter coat etc.). Stay away from any stores and malls unless you are going there to get one or two needed items. No more shopping as a past-time. You should be working instead.

That’s it.

This was my super quick 10 point primer on extreme saving. MUCH much more information is available on each of these areas. Perhaps I will dedicate some future posts to examining them in more detail.


“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)

14 People You See When You Ride the Bus


First let me say that I greatly appreciate having access to a bus to get to work and around town.  However, with a 45 minute bus commute between home and work, when I’m too tired to be productive, I have some time to observe my fellow passengers.

Here are 14 people that I have identified on my bus ride. These labels are not mutually exclusive, so one person may embody several of them simultaneously. Now that’s something to see. Here we go.

#1 – The Talker – That person who sits or stands at the front of the bus and talks the driver to death and distraction. ‘Hey driver! You missed my stop!’

#2 – The Ashtray – Sorry smokers, but you guys really don’t know what you smell like. I’ll tell you. You smell like an ashtray.  ‘Damn. Why did this person sit next to me? Cough, cough. Let’s see. 45 minute bus ride. Packed bus with no other available seats. [Tries to hold breath.] Cough cough. Sigh.’

#3 – The Petri Dish – The sick person who gets into a sealed compartment full of people and insists on coughing and sneezing on everybody and everything. This person somehow thinks that the ‘stay-at-home-when-sick’ etiquette applies to everyone except her. ‘Nice. Yeah, don’t bother covering your mouth. We all want to share your virus.’

#4 – The Eco Professional – This person usually works in a creative or high tech field like web design, makes good money and owns a car, but takes the bus to spare the environment. In some cities with good public transit, it’s hip to take the bus when you don’t have to.

#5 – The College Student – The backpacks and mentions of ‘Professor’ are usually the giveaway.

#6 – The Mentally Ill / Homeless / Drug Addict – The person who is having a much harder time at life than you are, and it shows.

#7 – The Drama King / Queen – This person talks way too loudly or is always having an argument with another passenger or with their phone.

bus fight

#8 – The Rich Person -This is the random high powered professional who is  well-dressed and obviously well-off, likely owns multiple cars, and has absolutely no business on a public bus.  You might overhear them talking about their law practice or patients.

#9 – The Annoying PDA Couple – I think they purposefully target the most single looking person on the bus to sit in front of.  ‘OMG! Get a room already. Really?! Sigh.’

#10 – The Face Starer – This person refuses to sit facing the way that the seat is meant for him to face. He proceeds to stare at the people sitting behind or across from him depending on how  he has positioned himself.  ‘Why?’

#11 – The Couch Sitter  (often also the Face Starer, but not always) – The Couch Sitter sits lengthwise on the row of seats with his legs propped up, apparently without regard for the fact that this is called PUBLIC transit and that others might want a place to sit. ‘Go ahead. Put your feet up. Make yourself at home. That pregnant woman and her elderly grandma standing next to you enjoy exercising their calves during long bus rides.’

#12 – The Diner – The Diner pulls out a meal, complete with fork, and proceeds to enjoy dinner in the middle of a crowded bus. Listen, after a long day at work I’m tired and hungry too, but this is not an Amtrak dining car, so either eat before you get on the bus or hold out until you get home. We don’t want to smell your garlic spaghetti on an airtight bus.

#13 – The Backdoor Blocker – This person will get on the bus and stand in next to the back exit door when there are other empty seats available. Is he planning to jump off at the next stop? No. He just plans to stand there and force people to maneuver around him when they need to get off the bus.

#14 – Broke Debt Slaves and Other Poor People – We are the ones on our way to work or coming back from work. We often have long commutes and set up camp with a book or headphones. Otherwise we stare out of the window with a resigned look of quiet desperation in our eyes.

There you have it.  These are 14 types of people you’ll see on the bus.  Now sing along everybody! “The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round, all through the town.”

Hey, you bus surfers out there, did I forget anyone? Who would you add?


“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)