A guy I know once tried to cut his hair at home to save the $15 he paid each month at Fantastic Sams. He bought an electric razor at Walgreens for, oh, like $9.
He stripped to his unmentionables, got into the bathtub and asked his then-girlfriend to run this state-of-the-art piece of machinery over his head.
The first clue that this wasn't going to go well should have been that the razor didn't really sound like a razor so much as an old man gargling.
The razor didn't cut hair, it tore hair. It resulted in screams and tears. Not to mention tufts of hair and pieces of scalp all over the bathroom.
So don't do that.
For the past year, I've edited the Here's the Deal feature that runs on the front of the Local section each Monday. In that time, we've learned some great money-saving tips while researching ideas for the weekly feature.
We've also come across ideas that are flat-out dumb. They waste hours of your time for pennies. They sometimes cost you more money. Or in the case of the dipstick mentioned above, they cause great bodily harm.
I searched the Web and polled colleagues in search of the worst money-saving ideas. Here are some to avoid:
THE PROS CAN BE CHEAPER
We all think we can fix that leak. Or silence that rattling under the hood.
But if we've learned one thing in the last year, it is to know your limits. Take this story from a colleague.
"I decided a year ago to cut down a dead tree in my yard myself rather than hire a professional who wanted to charge about $150 or so. I bought a cheap chain saw, but it was too small for the job. I bought a second, better chain saw, but it was not powerful enough to finish the job.
"With half the tree remaining to be cut, I bought a third chain saw that finally finished the job. Can't remember what I paid for all three, but it was far more expensive than it would have been to hire someone."
Oh, wow, you can get free Disney tickets and all you have to do is attend a timeshare pitch meeting? Good deal, right? All you have to do is say no a few times and you're off to the Magic Kingdom.
Several withering hours later, your neck stiff from shaking your head no, trust us, it won't seem like such a good deal.
BE PICKY WITH GROUPON
Listen, you're never going to use those belly dancing lessons, okay? So don't buy them — even if it is a smoking price on an online deal site like Groupon.
And unless you're really going to use it a lot, beware of those entertainment books. They're easy to forget in a drawer until all the deals have expired.
Less government in the bathroom, please
This from a colleague: "My dad once tried to enforce a one-square limit on toilet paper. You can imagine how that was problematic, not to mention unenforceable."
There also are those who believe splitting your two-ply paper is a good way to extend its use and save money.
Several co-workers wondered how backyard chickens could save money considering eggs are so cheap at the store — sometimes just 99 cents a dozen.
Well, I have backyard chickens. And I agree they are not money savers, so that is not a singular reason to get them.
You have to buy or build a coop. Feed isn't cheap. You have to buy the chickens, which are cheap if you get them as chicks, but more expensive if they're young adults poised to start laying.
You'll get enough eggs for you and your family, maybe your friends or neighbors. It's a neat feeling to pick a couple eggs from a nest and have them in your frying pan minutes later. And I enjoy knowing my eggs didn't come from a factory farm where birds are stuffed in small cages for all of their wretched lives.
But is it purely a money saver? No.
Maybe if a vampire lives next door
The Consumerist website polled readers for terrible money-saving ideas a couple of years ago and got a bunch.
One of my favorites involved a grandmother who was appalled that people would pay so much money for a casket, especially considering it is a product of one-time use.
So she bought two caskets — one for her, one for her husband — and used them to store linens.
When the couple had to move years later, she didn't want her new neighbors to know she had two caskets in the house, so she had family members sneak the caskets into the new house during the middle of the night. She later sold the caskets after she and her husband decided they wanted to donate their bodies to science.
Cheaper is not always better
Another good one from the Consumerist: "Dollar store trash bags when I was fresh out of college. I could put, like, a paper cup in the bag before it tore."
Make at your own risk
So the guy I know from the hair-cutting disaster above made another knuckle-headed move when he decided to make his own dish soap.
He looked up a few recipes online, all of which said these soaps would not only be cheaper, but have the added benefit of being all natural and environmentally friendly.
He chose one and gathered the ingredients, unaware that he was apparently allergic to one of them.
He erupted into a violent sneezing fit while mixing the ingredients in his kitchen, but plowed ahead and finished the recipe — only to realize that the soap didn't wash very well at all. Flat kegs of beer have produced more suds.
So don't do that.