Research on the impact money has on your physical and mental health is well documented. An Associated Press-AOL Health Poll found that nearly 40% of people with high levels of debt experience insomnia, compared to just 17% with low debt and 27% of those debtors had stomach ulcers or digestive issues, compared to just 8% in the low stress group.
When Time magazine covered a 2010 Princeton University study that pinpointed $75,000 a year as the income level to achieve happiness, it raised many insights on the ways money impacts our lives.
Beyond putting a dollar figure on happiness, the study found that people who earn more than $75,000 annually aren’t happier, and that lower earners weren’t sad because they don’t. (They are however, more impacted by financially stressful events, like divorce).
So, while it’s no surprise that people are highly motivated to better their lives by saving money — there’s a fine line between being coin-conscious and just plain crazed about saving!
Here are some of the wilder financial moves people have made to save money — and some that really paid off!
Taking a stand on student loans.
The rising amount of student debt gets plenty of press, but for Jonathan Harchick, 23, it took on a far greater meaning. During his senior year of college, he lived on his University’s campus — but didn’t pay for a dorm room.
Thanks to massive amounts of student loan debt and a refusal to rack up more, Harchick spent an entire school year sleeping in computer labs, the library, and many other places on campus, while storing his clothes and books in University gym lockers. (Yes, he maintained his hygiene — at the school’s gym).
Throughout the year, he never got caught or was questioned by anyone. While this is certainly an extreme way to save, it may be a case of being “crazy like a fox.” He says that the end result was a savings of about $6,000, as well as earning grades that were higher than any other previous school year.
He graduated in the spring of 2011 and says that thanks to his crazy money move, he has already paid off all of his student loan debt.
Better than brown bagging.
Money-saving advice commonly includes skipping out on pricey coffee house drinks and restaurant meals, but Paula Pant, founder of Afford-Anything.com, says she shaved her dining budget by “eating free samples at the grocery store instead of buying lunch — not just once, but on at least two dozen occasions.”
Vicki Chelf, author of Vicki’s Vegan Kitchen, and her fiancé were undecided about where, when and how to get married, as the proverbial clock was ticking on the 90-day validity date for the marriage license she and her then-fiancé paid $90 to obtain.
Unwilling to let the $90 go to waste, the couple pulled the trigger on the afternoon of day 89. Chelf bought a consignment dress for less than $10, called a friend to act as a witness, and then “drove to the courthouse and got married outside in the rain– just before the courthouse closed for the day,” shares Chelf.
Barb Best, an award-winner humorist, refuses to pay the high fees airlines charge for in-flight entertainment — but that doesn’t mean she’s missing the show! “On frequent coast-to-coast flights, I book an aisle seat and watch the other passenger’s screens (in front of me and sideways) that are fully visible. This way, the movie doesn’t run smack in my face — it has more of a feel of a drive-in theatre. More importantly, this saves me at least $7.99 one-way,” shares Best.
Keeping it in the family.
“Paying yourself first” is a mantra that all savers know, whether it’s done with an automatic savings plan, direct deposit of a paycheck into a savings account, or, as in Kevin Raposo’s case, with the help of your mom.
In his early 20’s, Raposo, a Boston-based writer, knew he was spending more than he was saving but needed some help pulling in the reins. To discipline his saving, he began handing $200 dollars a week over to his mom for safekeeping.
“There would be times I would need some of that money, but it was like trying to break into Fort Knox. She would deny all my requests! Imagine going to your bank and trying to withdraw money from you account and the teller just says ‘no’,” says Raposo.
His mother’s refusals certainly paid off. Two years later, Raposo was able to purchase a new car (paid in full) with the $12,000 he had saved — thanks to mom!
Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer based in Columbus, OH. The founder of Wellness On Less, she also writes on small business, consumer interest, wellness, career and personal finance topics.