Monday, February 25, 2008

Extreme Ways to Save, and Why

Here is a great way to save money: don't buy anything.

It sound oversimplistic, but it's really the next step in my life, one I have been working up to and even practicing on and off for a few years now. I already buy local, buy organic, buy used, as do most of my blog friends. But I'm still consuming. There was a parent swap show a year or so ago in which one of the families got almost everything free. They dumpster-dived, bartered, and collected leftovers from restaurants. America was appalled; I was inspired.

Buying absolutely nothing may be next to impossible in a modern economy, but having it as a goal leads you to buy very, very little. It's also led me to a few great resources. One is freecycle. If you don't belong to a freecycle group, you should. My dryer, microwave, and an embarrassing proportion of my furniture came from freecycle. Another buy-nothing strategy is bartering. I have a deal with a family member right now: I give her hand-me-downs for one child, and she gives me hand-me-downs for another.

I have reached a point in my life where all of the standard tips on saving money seem like child's play. Buy with coupons? That would mean doubling my grocery bill. Reuse baggies? I do, but only rarely because, instead of baggies, I usually store stuff either in permanent containers or in produce bags and whatever leftover packaging happens to be around. What I'm looking for are a few great tips. How do you slash the bottom out of your already low budget? How do you take your small carbon footprint and erase it altogether?

Here are a few extreme ways to save money:

  • Get all movies from the library. Make these movies one of the staples of your family entertainment.
  • Everything can be cleaned with diluted vinegar. I mean, EVERYTHING.
  • Put off grocery shopping as long as possible. This will inspire you to come up with interesting and highly frugal meals in the interim. Things like whole wheat carrot spice pancakes, and cornmeal empanadas filled with black bean and corn salsa.
  • Find a friend with similarly aged children and trade babysitting.
  • Instead of buying yarn, buy old sweaters at thrift stores and unravel them. I actually know someone who does this.
  • If you know someone who gardens or raised animals, offer to trade services for goods. I have housesat in exchange for vegetables and eggs.
  • You can crochet interesting things from cut-up strips of cloth, like from unwanted linens or outgrown clothing that even the Goodwill refuses.


The interesting thing about being an extreme environmentalist/tightwad/whatever-your-motivation-might-be is that you usually maintain what seems on the surface to be an upper middle class lifestyle. If you have an income, even one small income, and you spend almost nothing, there's bound to be leftover cash. If you maintain this balance, there will be a point in the near future when you have saved and invested an adequate amount and have money leftover for things like solar panels and hybrid cars, or private schools, or whatever your family feels is a worthwhile luxury. And everyone around you will whisper about why someone with so much money won't buy a lousy box of ziplocs. But you'll know.

There's a whole book on this:

Even if being a millionaire isn't one of your goals, there is no goal that cannot be helped along by financial security or completely derailed by the lack of it.


Kelly said...

Great post! I'm including it in my Saturday highlights post. I'm enjoying your blog too.
Small Cents