As a gal who’s never even had a credit card, I sometimes feel like a dummy when it comes to personal finance. Like, I can’t write those great articles you see all over the blogosphere on how to get out of debt, or the best way to use credit cards, because I don’t know anything about those.
My entire life has been built on a cash budget. Some of you may remember that my husband’s cattle business went into debt at one point, but being so far removed from that whole process, I don’t feel like a.) I learned anything from it, or b.) that it really counts as being in debt personally.
But what I can tell you is that I have learned some really hard core tactics for saving money over the years.
When I was ten, my dad left a job that he’d always hated, and ended up becoming a farrier in an Amish community. (Yes, we went Amish – it’s long story).
Suffice to say, farrier work – shoeing horses – is highly seasonal work, and there were some really lean times. I remember one time asking mom if I could bake something, and she said no, because we couldn’t afford to buy sugar.
We couldn’t afford ingredients to make food from scratch.
In case you’re wondering, most of our dinners during that time consisted of beans, which we’d grown and dried ourselves during the spring and early summer, either rice or potatoes, and green beans, canned that spring or fall, again from our garden.
Not all the things we did to save money apply to most modern Americans – for instance, we had a water tank on the back of our wood burning cookstove that heated all our water. (I loved that stove! Carrying hot water for baths, not so much).
But there really are a lot of hard core ways you can save money when the need arises, or when you want to squeeze every penny for what it’s worth.
14 Hardcore Ways To save More Money
1. Use less water
This is really pretty easy!
Brushing your teeth: wet your tooth brush, then turn the water off until you’re ready to rinse your mouth out
Taking a shower: Get wet, turn the water off, soap up, rinse, etc. The average shower uses 15 gallons of water. That’s 105 gallons a week for each person if they shower every day. You could cut that to half or less!
2. Stop driving
In fact, sell your car. Not only will you then have a little cash upfront, you’ll likely save more than enough money on insurance and maintenance to pay someone to take you places that you can’t walk or bike to. You never think about how expensive car ownership is until you eliminate the expense.
3. Make all your meals from scratch
We tend to get overwhelmed at the thought of making all of our own meals with just ingredients, but I think that it’s the creative energy that goes into meal planning that does us in, rather than the actual cooking. So don’t get creative. Keep meal time simple. It doesn’t have to be fancy to be tasty! And it definitely saves a lot of money.
4. Grow your own vegetables
For the best vegetables, most of the work is in preparing your soil. After that, it’s just a matter of keeping everything watered sufficiently! In my experience, all kinds of beans and squashes are ridiculously prolific, and are good at shading out the weeds for minimum maintenance.
5. Hunt Your Meat
Rabbits and squirrels are prolific little creatures, and though I can’t really speak from experience with squirrels, I can tell you that rabbits are both tasty, and easy to clean. And of course, during deer season, there’s always that. While I don’t want to ever have to kill an animal, I know that I could process a squirrel (or chicken, but they’re not really wild game) by myself if I had to.
6. Dumpster Dive
It may sound like a gross idea, but I challenge you to try it at least once. Stores often throw away a bag of apples because one is bad, or a bucketful of yogurt cups because today is their sell date, to say nothing of all the tomatoes, bell peppers, bananas, and perfectly good bread stuff that goes in the trash. If you pay attention, you can usually figure out when a store throws out its under-par groceries – usually sometime before lunch. Sadly, you could feed a small army with the stuff one grocery store throws away.
7. Go Meatless at least one meal a day
During those lean times as a kid, you can probably imagine that we didn’t have a lot of meat. Not even every day. Looking back, that’s kind of sad, considering that we lived on a farm. But I digress.
Legumes really do contain a lot of protein, and paired with rice, they make a complete protein. The best part is, they’re cheap!
Some of my favorite ways to serve legumes are
8. Never throw away leftovers
Freeze food before it goes bad, use your bones, peelings, celery leaves, etc. to make broth, dehydrate or freeze fruit. Start paying attention to food waste, and make it a thing of the past.
9. Hang your laundry up
Yes, even in the winter, you can dry clothes on a line. Porches are great for keeping your clothes out of the weather, or any well-ventilated place in your house. The air gets so dry here in the winter, that the evaporating moisture from the drying clothes is actually a bonus. It does take longer for your laundry to dry in colder weather, so be sure to wash before you run out of clothes!
10. Use half the recommended laundry detergent
Surprisingly, cutting back on detergent can be just as effective, because it’s primary job is breaking the surface tension in the water, allowing to it penetrate the clothing and wash out the dirt. Cool, huh?
11. Don’t buy clothes…
Unless they’re on sale at the thrift store. Let’s be honest, we don’t really need as many clothes as we think we do, so make a deal with yourself, and only buy thrifted clothes – when they’re on sale.
12. Give up paper towels and napkins
With micro fiber cleaning cloths, you’ll find that you don’t need them for cleaning, and with cloth napkins at meal time, you’ll eventually start to wonder why you ever bought them in the first place! Except maybe when you’re deep frying. In that case, the best practice is to transfer your fried food into a mesh strainer, suspended over another bowl to drip.
13. Give up toilet paper
Yeah, never mind. Not going there. If this interests you, here’s the place to read up on it. For me, it’s not worth the hassle, potential grossness, and hooking my washing machine up to hot water (yeah, it’s not even hooked up to the hot water). On the other hand, I’m more than happy to use sustainable means for aunt Flo’s visits.
14. Stop using Paper sanitary pads/tampons
I’m serious, just stop. This is definitely considered a hard core way to save money, but for me, money has nothing to do with it – my concern is health, and putting chemicals on one of the most sensitive, and absorptive parts of your body. Many ladies are happy with cloth menstrual pads, but I’m a huge fan of the menstrual up. It’s not as icky, or as difficult as it sounds. Read up on it here!
Clearly, some of these are pretty impractical, but that’s what they’re supposed to be – hardcore ways to save more money. They’re not for everyone – at least not all of them counts. But if you can’t even afford to cook from scratch, every penny counts.
I’m glad we grew out of those lean times, but I know very well that we can’t control everything, and who knows? We could end up right back there. So I don’t regret having it hard now and then growing up.
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