10 Creative Saving Strategies

No, you don't have to climb into a garbage bin. Here's how to save dough and enjoy luxuries for less.


Slide Show: 10 Inventive Ways to Save

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5. Crowd buying. When it comes to discretionary spending, the collective buying power of crowds can help you nab some great deals. The concept: Local businesses offer their products or services at a large discount—think $25 for $50 worth of salon services or $35 for a half-day rafting trip—but the deal is only good if enough people snap it up. The most well-known of the sites is Groupon.com, which lists daily deals in more than 40 metro markets. Other sites that operate on the group-buying model include Boston-based BuyWithMe.com, which lists deals in four cities, and DealOn.com, which services 10 cities.

6. Freeganism for non-extremists. You don't have to climb into a garbage bin. You don't even have to get your hands dirty. Instead of buying clay pots for your container garden, ask your local nursery for its unwanted plastic ones. Day trip to the woods—or park—to forage for fresh herbs, or check sites like VeggieTrader.com, where gardeners offer up their surplus. At FallenFruit.org, downloadable neighborhood foraging maps are available for finding fruits and vegetables on public land, where they are free. "It's completely legal, but there are ethics, like taking only what you actually can eat," says Massello, who once spent a week living as a freegan for research. During that time, she took advantage of community calendars, which list free events such as concerts and art gallery openings that offer free food and wine. She also interviewed other freegans: " I heard from expert Dumpster divers who worked with local bakeries to the point where food never actually touched Dumpster. They knew what time day to go."

7. Bartering for beginners. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of bartering but want to try it, take baby steps. Start by reaching out via social networks like Facebook or Twitter, recommends Massello. "If you're a writer, ask if anyone needs résumé help, and what they can offer in return," she says. Are you a yoga aficionado? A techie? Think about your skills to determine what you can offer. If you're bartering with friends, it's important to make sure the transaction is transparent, she adds: "Just be really clear about what the exchange will look like. Instead of saying that you'll paint their house in exchange for babysitting, say you'll paint 10 hours [for a set amount of time babysitting]."

[Check out our guide to swapping goods and services online.]

House-swapping is another form of bartering. The practice has exploded in popularity over the past decade, and plenty of websites now offer directories of available houses in cities throughout the world. There are even companies like KnowYourTrade.com that vet home-exchange agencies, but some people are still turned off by the idea. For the anxious, Gary Foreman of The Dollar Stretcher recommends simply swapping homes with friends who live in another city. "M ost of us are uncomfortable with having strangers in our homes, and we're seeing more people swap with old college friends, things like that," he says.

8. Get hitched on the cheap. Weddings need not be $20,000 affairs—roughly the average amount spent these days, according to theknot.com . Consider tying exchanging vows in a national park: A permit for a hillside amphitheater in Rocky Mountain National Park, for instance, costs between $50 and $200, depending on the size of the party. Follow the ceremony with a picnic, and recruit a friend or family member with a good camera—and a good eye—to take wedding photos. You might even consider asking a friend to get ordained online to become a marriage officiant; The Universal Life Church Monastery charges nothing.