My husband and I are paying off $117,000 of student loan debt in just three years – on entry-level salaries.  This goal is nearly impossible, and it requires an extreme approach to frugality.  As Dave Ramsey says, “When you find yourself in a radical mess, you need to make a radical change.”

While some of my money saving methods may seem crazy to others, it will be well worth it when our debt is paid off in just three short years.  Here are three ways to be a frugal weirdo and save over $2,000 per year.

Limiting haircuts to once per year

The last time my hair looked amazing was at my wedding.  It was a rich, shiny “cherry coke” color (that was dyed by a talented and very expensive professional) and it was the perfect length – not too long and not too short.  My hair has always been the one thing I love to splurge on.

When I decided to pay off my student loans in three years, I chose to stop dyeing my hair altogether (not even with boxed dye) and to limit my haircuts to once per year.  I’ve never been a fan of my natural hair color – it’s a dark ash blonde that resembles the color of dishwater.  I now grow my hair out until it’s fairly long, and then I get it cut super short, and then I let it grow out again – this allows me to get my hair cut only once per year without having ridiculously long hair.  When I do get my hair cut, I go to a cheap salon instead of the super expensive one I used to go to.  I may not like the way my hair looks, but paying off my debt is way more important than having nice hair.

Skipping dental insurance

Health insurance is a necessity – I would never recommend to ANYONE that they go without health insurance.  Even a young, healthy person could get in a serious car accident or break a leg.  This could cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Going without health insurance isn’t worth the risk.

Dental insurance, on the other hand, is a different story.  Going without dental insurance carries much less risk.  If you have great teeth and you haven’t had a cavity in many years, you may not need to go the dentist at all for a year or two.  And let’s say you decide to get your teeth cleaned even though you don’t have dental insurance – this typically costs $100.  The cleaning itself would cost less if you have insurance, but the total cost to you would be higher with insurance.  The premiums on my prior dental plan, and on many private insurance plans, are $30/month (which is $360/year).

You are not saving money with dental insurance if you only get one cleaning per year!  (You paid $360 for premiums plus a copay instead of paying only $100 for a cleaning).

(Obviously, if you are able to get dental insurance through your employer with premiums of $5/month, then enrolling in dental insurance is a good idea).

Now, let’s say you go to the dentist and it turns out you have a cavity and you need a filling.  A typical filling can cost anywhere from $75-$250.  If you get the most expensive type of filling and you had to pay for one cleaning, that’s a total of $350 – still less than you would’ve paid for insurance premiums for the year.

This goes without saying, but if you decide to ditch your dental insurance, be diligent about brushing your teeth 2-3 times per day, limiting your sugar intake, and flossing daily.

Complete spending ban on outings with friends

Many people try to find cheap things to do with friends, but a complete spending ban on outings with friends seems to be rare.  A lot of people think I’m crazy when I mention my spending ban, and when I first told my friends about my plan, they still kept inviting me to things that involved spending money.

The problem is that we live in a society that teaches us that having fun requires spending money.  Typical outings with friends include going out to dinner, going to movies, bar hopping – all things that aren’t cheap.  There are a surprising number of things that can be done for free – you just need to be willing to spend the time looking for them.  Here are just some of the free things I’ve done with friends since I started my crazy debt payoff journey.

  • Outdoor yoga
  • Indoor yoga at a yoga studio (the first seven days at the studio are free)
  • Relaxing in a hot tub at a friend’s parents’ house
  • Movie/Netflix nights
  • Board game nights
  • Going for a walk at a park
  • Having a photo shoot
  • Visiting a free art museum
  • Participating in a scavenger hunt (my friend won a free gift basket)
  • Watching an acrobatics show at a local park
  • Having dinner at a friend’s house
  • Walking around antique stores without buying anything
  • Visiting a free zoo

Limiting haircuts, skipping dental insurance, and implementing a total spending ban on outings with friends may seem like crazy ideas, but these things are allowing me to pay off mountains of debt in just three years and that is what truly matters.

What are some unconventional ways that you save money?

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