52 cheapskate tips to help you save money

Editor-at-Large · 12 July 2021
Want to hear what other Aussies do to save some cash? We asked a number of people for their tips. Here’s what they had to say.

I’m always keen to hear about the things that people do to save money. So, I put a call out on my social media asking people for their best ‘cheapskate’ tip – what was the ‘craziest’ thing they had done to save or make money. I posed the same question to some friends, colleagues and even a few of our regular expert contributors. You’ll find their answers below.

Of course, I couldn’t ask everyone else to reveal their hacks and not share some of my own. For the record, here are some of the ‘crazy’ things I have done to save some cash:

  • Visit food courts in the arvo (around 4pm is good) to pick up half-priced meals. Double saving whammy – save the plastic containers and plate the meals up for dinner as your own.
  • ‘Encourage’ my children to work in stores that I regularly shop at so that I can enjoy staff discounts.
  • Plant fake flowers in your garden … this tip is from my mum so please don’t judge!

Now, let’s take a look at the responses I received. Some people divulged things they have done while others revealed money-saving tactics they have observed. Some of the tips will help you save money and some might make you laugh…

Cheapskate tips from our regular experts

I don’t like paying more than I need to for petrol so I’ve downloaded the ‘My 7-Eleven’ App. It allows me to look for the cheapest petrol prices near me and then lock in those prices for seven days and fill up any time I’m ready. And usually, there’s an additional bonus offer in-store when I buy petrol. Recently I bought three big blocks of chocolate for $10 – virtually half price. I’m a sucker for this type of offer.
Michael Yardney, Director, Metropole Property Strategists

Not mine, but family legend maintains that my great aunt used to wash and re-use toothpicks! Yes, really.
Scott Phillips, Chief Investment Officer, The Motley Fool

I am usually not crazy when it comes to money but once I did buy some wine as an investment. Personally, I knew nothing about wine but I listened to my brother-in-law, who had successfully done this type of thing before. To cut a long story short, it worked because, with the profits, I was able to take my two eldest children to the Sydney Olympics!
Peter Koulizos, Program Director of the Master of Property at The University of Adelaide

Not sure this is crazy, but it certainly isn’t sensible! In the past, I’ve driven halfway across Melbourne to fill up on petrol at some filling station that is advertising cheap fuel. So, to save 20 cents per litre, I end up burning $10 in petrol!
Mark Chapman, Director of Tax Communications, H&R Block

My best cheapskate tip was taking some very old kitchen cupboard doors to the local panel beater and getting him to spray paint them. The cupboard carcasses were still in pretty good condition, but the doors were very worn. They came up a treat, and so after adding a cheap Bunnings benchtop and new bulk buy cupboard door handles, it looked like a new kitchen for the grand sum of $900!
Margaret Lomas, Director, Destiny Financial Solutions

When I was a kid my dad would get me to try on deeply discounted women’s tennis shoes at Rebel since they were cheaper than kids’ tennis shoes. One time a shop assistant stopped to politely inform us that they were women’s shoes I was trying on, to which dad quickly snapped back that he knew, but since shoes don’t have female anatomy, it was fine. The savings weren’t worth my embarrassment at Rebel or years of torment on the tennis court that followed.
Chris Brycki, Founder and CEO, Stockspot


Pizza in box
Image source: Dima Sikorsky/Shutterstock.com

Cheapskate tips from my call out

We used to buy pizzas on sale with vouchers and freeze them.

I buy one-litre bottles of conditioner and when it is half empty, I add 250ml of water. It does the same job – just don’t tell my hairdresser daughter who will say that supermarket conditioner is rubbish.

  • My dad (who would now be 99 and was a child of the depression) had a mark drawn on the kettle that showed where we were allowed to fill it to.
  • He soldered up every other hole in the shower rose to save water (1960s water-saving method).
  • The children were never allowed to use the house phone (let alone a mobile!) so we rode our bikes down the road to use a public phone rather than try to convince him of the need to chat to our friends.
  • No big house for us. At times it was three girls to one-bedroom – depending on who was arguing with the fourth girl.
  • My mother bought tinned champignons for a special recipe and swore us to secrecy (such extravagance!).
  • I thought ice blocks (water ones for cold drinks from your own tap and freezer) were a luxury item all my childhood.

We have a worm farm to recycle food scraps, in turn, worm juice to feed the garden, herbs, veg, etc. Saves loads of money.

  • I buy big-ticket grocery items like olive oil, honey, ice cream, cheese, laundry products and even alcohol when it’s on sale.
  • I reuse bread plastic, supermarket and shopping plastic bags as bin liners, although most of my rubbish now goes to food scrap recycling and I use my own bag which is great.
  • I shop for fresh food every three to four days, planning meals so that I use everything and nothing goes to waste.
  • I filter my own water and refill glass bottles for trips and the gym.
  • When I cook lamb shanks and other meat, I freeze the remaining sauce to use for a pasta meal down the track.
  • I shop for ‘new’ fashion pieces in my wardrobe, it’s amazing what you rediscover in your cupboard that feels like new.
  • I do my own facials, manicures and pedicures.
  • I dye my own hair.
  • I always buy great timeless accessories on sale that jazz up outfits.
  • I use The Fork when I book restaurants and use reward points that go towards a meal or wine.

I wash out plastic sandwich bags. Great for the environment and budget!

Someone I know would put their dirty kitchen cloths in the washing machine and then reuse them.

I cut the Aldi dishwasher tablets in half as my dishes are always rinsed before stacked in the dishwasher – it works out to 9 cents a wash.

I once worked at a company where one of the partners – who was a multi-millionaire – still came into work every day at almost 80 and brought his packed lunch from home with the sandwiches wrapped in the same plastic his newspaper had been delivered in that morning.

Cook split pea soup – it costs about $2 for 500gm and that makes heaps. Add 375gm marked-down vegetable mix at Coles or Woolies for about $3. Add curry flavour or soup mix flavour. Freeze some and eat some.

Reuse the kitchen sink sponge in the shower – once it’s done of course!

Whenever making a purchase online I do a google search for discount codes or I’ll try generic ones like WELCOME10, FIRST10 or SALE10 and it’s surprising how often they work.

I always hit up the seconds section of my fruit and veg store, and the produce is (usually) perfectly fine, especially if being used soon (like for meal prep). I also reuse the plastic wrap because I hate single-use plastic – it’s environmentally friendly and I haven’t had to buy Glad Wrap for a long time.

Here are some from my Uni days:

  • Adding canned tuna and corn to two-minute noodles for a cheap meal.
  • Catching a £2 bus to the airport which takes 1.5 hours instead of a £7.50 bus that took 30 mins (in Edinburgh).
  • Staying in a place that provides breakfast and taking enough food for lunch and maybe dinner.
  • Walking four kilometres (more than one hour) in heels home instead of a $7 uber (six minutes).
  • Catching two buses and then a short Uber to a destination (savings $20, time added on – one hour)
  • Walking around in darkness instead of turning on lights to save on electricity.

An ex-colleague of mine used his dishwasher to cook lasagne wrapped in foil.  He said it killed two birds with one stone as he did it when his dishwasher was relatively full and ready to go on. Next level tight-arsery or out-of-the-box culinary skills – you be the judge!

Things I’ve heard work well…

  • Never own a car.
  • Use two-for-one vouchers at Subway.
  • Live with your parents as long as possible/bearable.
  • Use your friends/family streaming services where it’s allowed.

I used to ‘borrow’ toilet rolls from Uni when I was a poor student living out of home – permanently borrow, of course.

I also know someone who would buy raw chicken in bulk, split it up into bags and freeze. They would then rinse out the bags and re-use them for the next lot of bulk meat they bought.

I make the most of ‘refer a friend’ promotions like those on Doordash or Uber. When my friends or family use my referral they get a discount and I also get a credit on my account. Win-win!

I like to leave things in my cart for a day or two rather than checking out straight away as I will sometimes get an email from the retailer offering some sort of special discount to proceed.

I am a fiend for the discounted gift cards that my financial provider offers through its ‘rewards’ program. The portal I use tells me I have saved over $500 by using them.


Cover image source: Cookie Studio/Shutterstock.com

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This content was reviewed by Editorial Campaigns Manager Maria Bekiaris as part of our fact-checking process.

Effie has more than two decades of experience helping Aussies make the most of their money. Prior to joining Canstar, Effie was the editor of Money Magazine She is an author and one of Australia’s leading personal finance commentators.

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