Today's tough times have spawned a variety of creative money-saving strategies, from living in an RV to doing without a fridge. These tips might not be for everybody, but they can save hundreds of dollars a year for those brave enough to implement them. Here are 11 ideas from frugal bloggers:
[In Pictures: 10 Ways to Save on Food Costs]
Reuse plastic sandwich bags. Sandwich bags can be easily rinsed out, dried, and used again the next day. As long as the bags didn't touch raw meat, it's hygienic—and environmentally friendly. With a pack of 100 bags going for around $3, a family of four can save about $30 a year.
Make your own cleaning supplies. Martha Stewart has long recommended vinegar and lemons as kitchen cleaners. To absorb unpleasant smells, leave vinegar in a shallow bowl on a kitchen counter. To deodorize a garbage disposal, squeeze lemon juice down it.
Ignore expiration dates on food. While no one should take this recommendation too far, expiration dates on perishable items tend to be overly conservative. That's why food writer Jonathan Bloom suggests relying on your sense of smell and taste instead. Instead of tossing stale bread, for example, consider using it to make bread crumbs or French toast.
Stop drinking soda (or another beverage). Tricia at Blogging Away Debt tried giving up soda as a way of cutting back on grocery costs. She estimates that if both she and her husband are successful in giving up fizzy drinks, they'll save about $50 a month. Going cold turkey with other drinks, from lattes to bottled water, can produce similar effects.
Move back home with your parents, at any age. When writer Nan Mooney became a single mom in her 30s, she moved in with her parents, who also provide some child care. The arrangement allows her to afford motherhood, she says. Other grown kids say they also enjoy the arrangement, even if it means giving up some privacy. Parents can benefit, too—they get free pet sitters and help reducing their cost of living.
Get rid of your carpet. The blogger Clever Dude points out that having and caring for carpet requires regular shampooing and steaming, electricity to vacuum, and even potential medical costs stemming from embedded allergens such as pet dander and molds.
Hold a no-spend month. That's what Rachel at the Small Notebook blog did. Her family of three made it a goal to live on $250 or less for the entire month. That included gas, entertainment, food, and other everyday expenses. She says it helped make her more aware of the unnecessary items she had been buying.
Take cold showers. Andy Hough, author of the blog TightFistedMiser.com, argues that skipping hot water will reduce the expense of heating up the water as well as the water bill itself, since you'll likely take shorter showers.
Stop using a fridge. While ice cream and cheese lovers will resist this change, Hough insists it's entirely possible, although a few dietary changes might be necessary.
Replace your house with an RV. That's how Glenn Morrissette, 42, manages to live on just $11,000 per year. He pays no rent, needs no car, and can live wherever he wants. A professional musician, Morrissette can work by computer from any location.
Turn your car off—while it's still moving. While the American Automobile Association warns against this technique, some bloggers are promoting it as a way of saving gas. By using the car's momentum to glide into parking spaces or move downhill, you can get where you're trying to go without burning any fuel. Just make sure you practice driving without power steering and power brakes in an open space before experimenting near other cars—or people. And never try this at high speeds. Even though some blogs recommend it, it's too dangerous.
Do you have any extreme strategies of your own? If so, please share them below.