During college my husband had a roommate who was experiencing some extraordinary financial challenges. One quarter, he saved money by foregoing the cafeteria meal plan and coming to school with an enormous bag of rice and a tub of powdered hot chocolate mix. He ate nothing but rice and hot chocolate for ten weeks. In addition to losing a great deal of weight (which he really did not need to lose) he saved a huge amount of money.
I would never advise anyone to go to this level of malnutrition in the quest to save money, but it did get me wondering about extreme but doable ways to save money. Since housing, transportation and food are the three biggest components to any budget, here are some extreme ways to cut those costs:
Sharing space and housing costs is a tried-and-true method for reducing the bite that housing takes out of your monthly budget. Many people feel like there’s a point when you’re “too old” for roommates. Nonsense!
If you own a home take on a boarder. Graduate students and young professionals who are just starting out are both good candidates for boarding. Even if all you have to offer is a spare bedroom and shared space, you can likely find someone who is willing to rent that room. Though it might be difficult to think about carrying a renter and sharing your space, think about the bottom line: you’ll be able to pay off your mortgage earlier if you are just willing to open your home.
A bonus is that you will be eligible for several tax deductions if you have renters.
If you don’t already own a home, it’s possible to pay absolutely nothing in housing costs. This is an especially good deal if you live in an expensive area. In exchange for basic home maintenance duties you can live in the house rent-free while the owners are away. Imagine how much you could save if you didn’t have to pay rent! It could be enough to save for a down payment for a house or to knock out a huge student loan weighing your finances down.
It’s almost sacrilegious to say this in America, but you can live without a car and free yourself from the high cost of car ownership. To determine how much your car is costing you visit this car cost calculator.
Okay, so you’re interested in ditching the car lifestyle, but how do you get around especially in the suburbs? Explore your public transportation options, walk, bike, or carpool. And if you ever really need a car for the day you can always rent one. The belief that each of us must have a car to function is both incorrect and costly.
As my husband’s roommate recognized, the cheapest food options are the bulk non-perishables like rice and hot cocoa mix. It may not be as healthy as eating fresh food, but sticking to items such as dried beans, rice, lentils, oats and pasta, frozen fruits and vegetables, and jars of peanut butter will save you a great deal of money. Making up large batches of lentil soup or beans and rice will provide you with the nutrients you need while slashing your grocery costs.
Can’t stand the idea of giving up fresh produce, dairy, and meats? Consider growing your own. Having a small kitchen garden can keep you stocked up on tasty fresh produce all summer. Learning to can and freeze your haul will provide you with delicious produce over the winter. Additionally, many municipalities will allow you to raise your own chickens for eggs and meat in your back yard. It may seem a little odd to grow your own chickens, but it will be cheaper (and sometimes healthier) than getting everything prepackaged in the store.