Living the frugal life by mooching off friends, an idea whose time has come

Having recently lost my job due to budget cuts, I have been searching online for ways to live on the cheap. I figured as long as I am looking for a new job, why not also look for ways to save a little money? Turns out there are tons of blogs and articles about how to live/retire with not much money, with titles such as "Moneyless man reveals how to live a cashless life" (he forages for free food in the wild and maybe dumpsters, and suggested a video by The Roadkill Chef) and "How to live without money, THE SECRET REVEALED" (a confusing 11 minute youtube video by and about a very young British man who apparently lives in a park and who held up a pound note and asked what do you think about this?")  and "The man who quit money" (he lives in an actual cave). Living as a forager in a park or cave, no matter how cheap that might be is a hard no. I also read blogs with such tantalizing tag lines as 'how can I get rich and not work' (winning the lottery was one suggestion) and "where can I live rent free" (in your parents' house) and one article promising to explain how the author makes a good living without working full time. Her suggestions ranged from 'diversify your income' to 'have only good debt' to 'always have money in the bank'. That's about as helpful as an article written by money guru, Suze Orman, who advised me to switch money from one investment account to another that would pay a larger dividend.

45 minutes and countless blog posts later I came to the conclusion that a lot of the information about living a frugal life falls into two basic categories. The first is the Well, duh! category.  Information here included such original advice as sell stuff you don't want or need (apparently if, aside from your furniture, you own more stuff than will fit in your car, you don't need it), buy your clothes at Goodwill, don't eat out, clip coupons. Is there really anyone on the planet for whom this advice is ground breaking? If so, there are plenty of websites devoted to this topic.

The 2nd category I call Pilfering and/or Mooching Off Your Friends. Advice in the petty larceny portion ranged from swiping extra packets of ketchup and sugar, to taking empty bottles to your workplace to fill up with 'free' bottled water. I was reminded of the movie Where the Boys Are when the college girls ordered hot water at a diner into which they dunked their own, many times used, tea bags and ate the free crackers. One gal chortled (I don't know if she actually chortled, but the voice I heard in my head definitely did) that she hadn't bought soap or shampoo for years as she always takes extras at hotels she stays in. She suggested you find out when the housekeeping cart will be in your hallway and help yourself to all the "free stuff" when the housekeeper is otherwise occupied. She warned that taking washcloths and towels might be a little harder as they count those. I'd hate to be in line behind her at the complimentary breakfast buffet.

The Mooching Off Your Friends posts had such helpful advice as find a friend who has a good DVD collection and save money by inviting yourself over for movie night. But be careful not to fall into the trap of bringing food or wine to the event or it defeats the purpose. It's ok if the DVD friend puts out treats. If you find yourself invited for dinner, make sure and take more than you will eat, then ask if you can take the rest home. Borrow a friend's car in lieu of owning (and paying) for one of your own. I would assume here, that you also 'borrow' their gas, insurance, wear and tear. Another suggestion was see if anyone you know has room for you to stay in exchange for light housework. We used to call that couch surfing. I am all in favor of helping out friends or even asking for help myself, but as a lifestyle?

So, friends who might be reading this and unsuspecting ones who aren't, I give you fair warning. I might be showing up at your house sometime soon to sit on your couch, drink your wine (I really don't need snacks and I like Sauvignon Blanc), and watch a movie on your DVR (I prefer Netflix). Don't be alarmed at the shopping bag I bring with me, it's just to shop your pantry.



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