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How do you save money and live a simple life?
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Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 11:55:47 MDT Print View

Hey all. I am a firm believer that Americans work far too much of their lives compared to workers around the world in other developed countries, we work more for less. Working for the majority of my life does not appeal to me. I don’t want to look back with any regrets. This is one of the many reasons why I want to be a teacher, to have a lot of vacation time to be with the family and enjoy my pursuits. However, as well all know, teachers are not paid very well (sad state of society, be an NBA player make millions, raise the next generation make enough to get by). In the state I live, I can expect to start at 25-30K if im public, and 35K or so if im government(military).

So I am thinking about ways to save money. This includes not buying things you don’t need, substituting DIY stuff for store-bought stuff, and finding energy alternatives. Some of the plans I have for the future and things I have adopted thus far:

****Have a garden-the price of fresh fruits and veggies has skyrocketed in recent years.
****Cheapest cell phone plan possible.
****I make my own detergent(quite simple and effective, most people use way too much detergent than is needed-the manufactures list the recommended dosage at way higher levels than you need. I wonder why?)
****No cable Television service – pretty much everything is available online nowadays, via hulu, other sites, etc.
****Initial capital investment in a hybrid/gas efficient car that will pay for itself over time, same with solar panels/rain water collecting.
****Shopping at thrift stores.
****Learning to fix household problems yourself such as plumbing, electrical, etc. Just DIY’ing in general (I firmly believe this is one of the biggest cost savers).
- Examples:
Homemade laundry detergent
Homemade dog leashes
Homemade furniture
Homemade window curtains
(just a few examples of things I’ve made recently)
*buying things in Bulk.
*Leach your neighbors wireless(just kidding!) Seriously though, use free wireless areas such as restaurants.

So lets hear your ideas from people who are trying to work less and live simple lives to compensate for the lack of funds.

But then again, you could get a health condition or have a bad accident-assuming you don't have bullet proof health insurance(i have crappy health insurance)-and be completely wiped out financially in this country anyway.

Edited by isaac.mouser on 07/22/2010 12:00:27 MDT.

adam blanton
(adamallstar) - MLife

Locale: Central Texas
ideas on 07/22/2010 12:17:24 MDT Print View

*Ditch the car, ride a bike or use public transit
*Join a co-op for food needs
*Utilize freecycle
*Think, rethink and pre-plan whenever you need to make a big purchase
*Don't pay interest on loans, pay for big purchases upfront
*Setup your savings to be automatic so interest will work in your favor

Solar panels will take quite a while to pay themselves off unless you get a pretty good rebate and have a permanent residence.

Another way to save more money would be to get a part time job while you're teaching. Earn more money to save!

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
public transport on 07/22/2010 12:28:14 MDT Print View

there is no public transportation here.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 12:32:05 MDT Print View

I'm a teacher, 11 years now.

As for not getting paid "well", that's relative...Our sick culture stresses only looking up to those with more stuff. But if you measure teaching by other criteria such as fostering compassion, healthy relationships...

Personally, I think the key is in plugging the gaping hole of "needs" and "wants" first.

This culture survives by hollowing people out so that they may be filled with cheap goods, cheap food, cheap entertainment, and ultimately a material-based sense of identity.

Healthy friendships, relationships, companionship, physical activity, time spent in the outdoors...I think all these things prevent that ugly hole without getting into material stuff.

Sorry, I know my response has nothing to do with saving money. But I firmly think that as soon as people start measuring in money, whether it's in having a lot or a little, the material neurosis starts creeping in...

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
Heating and Air conditioning on 07/22/2010 12:34:23 MDT Print View

It was only about 60 years ago or so that air conditioning was developed. If you can do without then you can save a lot on electricity. I can't down here but in cooler climates it's a possibility. This leads to the ability to run off of solar power.

I'm not sure about the price difference between heating with wood stoves versus other methods. However if you have land with plenty of timber or can get the wood cheap you'd be in good shape. My dad gets plenty of firewood to burn and some to sell just off of storms and lightning strikes each year. Another option might be offering to do clean up after storms if you're equipped for it.

Have you looked at Mother Earth News? There's a lot of info in the magazine and the website for beginning homesteaders. Lots of DIY stuff like you mentioned.

Another tip is to not be picky on food. Instead just eat what is on sale or cheap. Another option on food is a greenhouse. And if you're a teacher you might get free meals in the cafeteria. Sure it's not the best food but it's a perk that can save some money. I work for a college and have befriended the cafeteria staff so while the cafeteria is open my grocery bill is really low.

If you calculate the cost of a new fuel efficient car versus even a mediocre efficiency used vehicle you may be surprised at the outcome. Also factor in how long the vehicle is expected to last and cost of maintenance. For example it's cheaper to put gas into a Cummins powered truck (at least the older ones) or old (think late 70's early 80's) Diesel Mercedes that's expected to go to around 500,000 miles minimum per rebuild if maintained properly than to buy multiple new/used vehicles. And if you're adventurous enough to go biodiesel then you can do even better. I need to get our old Merc back on the road actually now that I think about it....

Many ways to save money involve investing in other things first like tools or solar panels but the cost of tools and such over time is much less than paying someone else to do it. Just buy quality tools start with (try pawn shops for good deals).

And never pay full price for any major or semi-major purchase. For example I try not to pay full price for anything in the $50 or higher range. And if it's just a luxury item (like extra backpacking gear) I won't pay full price period.

EDIT: Craig, I couldn't agree more. I despise materialism and, in particular, loathe the iPhone. While it is nice and rather functional it seems like more of a status thing than anything else.

Edited by veriest1 on 07/22/2010 12:44:57 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 12:35:22 MDT Print View

If I ditch my car, I can't hike except on the paved sidewalks around my home. A car is essential to reach the trailheads in this area. Portland itself has excellent public transit, but there is absolutely no transit to Mt. Hood or most of the Columbia River Gorge.

Joe Cangelosi
(JoeFish) - F

Locale: All Over California
The Simpl[er] Life on 07/22/2010 12:41:51 MDT Print View

I'm self-employed, so I've been dealing with Feast or Famine for a long time.

Years ago, I lived high on the feasts and suffered through the famines. Now I live on less regardless and enjoy longer or more elaborate travel during the feast times, or put more away for retirement.

I have found that some of my favorite hobbies save money and are healthy: hiking obviously, but we also bake all of our own bread and any sweets that we eat (including Bob Gross's Logan Bread for hiking). Food co-ops that sell in bulk make this more fun and cheaper.

The biggest thing is just buying less crap, which you seem to have figured out already. How many cell phones/throw pillows/plastic tubs/knick knacks do you need?

Rainwater and graywater collecting are huge if you can. I live in an apartment now, but I used to use graywater for my garden. I would have used filtered rainwater for laundry and showering if I'd had a house in an area with significant rainfall. I have seen a great gravity-fed outdoor shower with collection device on top, coffee-type filter in-line and collector in the bottom where the water was saved for watering the garden (only using Dr B's soap, of course). That shower was pretty hot, too (in sunny weather). The best part was we built that shower for almost free using 99% recycled materials.

Not to sound corny, but lightweight backpacking has made me examine my off-trail habits as much as my on-trail.

Joe Cangelosi
(JoeFish) - F

Locale: All Over California
Fulfillment on 07/22/2010 12:47:27 MDT Print View

+1 to what craig said, even if it's slightly off-topic.

On the same line, however, be careful about saving money just for the sake of it, especially where food is concerned. Many things that are "cheap" cost a lot in terms of environmental damage and the cost to workers; you pay that bill, too, every week in your taxes.

L Miller
(LMiller) - F

Locale: Maryland
Re: How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 13:29:23 MDT Print View

This is more of a philosophical suggestion, but don't identify with your possessions. It's amazing how many less things you "need" if you don't associate what you have with who you are.

A lot of people will say this is obvious and that they aren't a material person. Then, for example, a tarp that weighs .05 g less than the one they have is announced and the same person can't give their money away quickly enough.

Is it going to make you a better person? A "better" backpacker?

Obviously there are necessities and there's nothing wrong with some toys. But buying more things to make yourself happier is a dead end that never ends.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 13:31:48 MDT Print View

Listed in order of importance :

1. Very seriously reevaluate what is essential in your life.

2. Never buy on credit (except for a house)

3. yes to thrift stores and generally buying used stuff, except for electronics and hi tech, here newer is way better and often cheaper.

4. I always question the value of saving money with a backyard vegetable garden, unless you Love gardening. Your time and energy are worth something. Same goes for things like making your own soap, or making anything, unless you Love doing it. Buying used is much more efficient than making things.

Edited by asandh on 07/22/2010 13:34:35 MDT.

Paul Wozniak

Locale: Midwest
the simple life on 07/22/2010 13:37:12 MDT Print View

Smaaall house in a stable neighborhood, the smallest.
Learn how to repair your own home, buy from overstock housing depots.
Walking distance to farmers market or good produce store; buy small portions, fresh, often.
Coupons work.
Bars and restaurants are out. Cultivate friendships and socialize in free places; homes, parks, etc.
Brew beer (if you're of a mind). Great beer can be brewed (if you are meticulous) for less than $.50 / bottle.
Bus, bike, motorbike if you can.
Don't buy new, especially if it has a motor.
Skip TV and all the packages. Radio for sports, Pandora for music, downloads for video.
Save, save, save. Pay yourself first. Emergency savings, long-term savings.
Pay cash or don't buy.
Charity - volunteer your time.
Health insurance - don't underestimate it's importance.
If you grow your food, can your food.
Don't be cheap. You will be resented. Pay your share, control your share.
Don't become a vocal zealot - you will drive others away, just do your thing and otherwise be a normal doobie.

My dear departed Dad lived very simply. His garage didn't have a car in it for the past 40 years. He did put a wood burning stove in it (don't let the insurance company know) and did woodworking, played cribbage and pinochle with his buds, tipped a few, laughed, gave away veggies, repaired stuff for free. When he died at 92 you would think there would be few friends left. The church was packed.

Other generations have known how to do this and do it well. Good luck.

Andy Berner
(Berner9) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 13:49:29 MDT Print View

I bought a house when I turned 21 and have had 3 and sometimes 4 roommates living with me since. Its been 6 years and I have never made a house payment and only pay a little of the utilities. Ive saved a scary amount of money yet should of saved a lot more. My car payment its what I really need to get rid of.

Although being a land lord sucks.

Larry Dyer
(veriest1) - F

Locale: Texas
A quote on 07/22/2010 14:00:32 MDT Print View

Seeing the diversity of ideas in this thread just reminded me of a quote I saw a couple days ago that really applies the mindset we're talking about since a lot of it is really about self sufficiency.

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."
-- Heinlein

Ron Bell
(mountainlaureldesigns) - F - M

Locale: USA
Re: How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 14:01:30 MDT Print View

What would be the Big Three?

1: Relationships- Nothing saps money faster than incompatible or broken relationships - this include friends, spouse and family- especially in the long run.
2: Life Purpose
3: Housing + all associated housing costs

I wonder what pure economics would say- but those three have effected my life both good and bad.

A real close 4th is health , health costs and health insurance.

All the little individual financial things of day to day living do add up- but seem to me are usually driven by larger life choices- both good and bad.

Dont Wantto
(longhiker) - F
public transport and the environ on 07/22/2010 14:04:04 MDT Print View

a little off topic here but while cars are expensive, public transportation to places of natural beauty destroys them in my opinion. trains, cable cars and the like destroy that land for a long time to come, both by their construction but more because they bring in too many people.

this is why the lands of the western united states are so beautiful compared to the east and europe.

i'm not sure using cars occasionally to drive to a deserted place of natural beauty is so bad on the environment.. it is the everyday commute to work in oversized cars that's the problem.

Ike Mouser
(isaac.mouser) - F
Great jobs so far on 07/22/2010 14:09:45 MDT Print View

I've only had the chance to skim a few comments, but i like what i see so far, will check back later.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 14:24:18 MDT Print View

Actually the answer is the question. You save money by living a simple life. In our case we live close enough to walk or bike to everything except the trail head. We have a large section with huge veggie patch, hens and a mushroom farm. Inside we sprout our own fresh sprouts, make our own cheese from locally sourced milk, bake bread in a breadmaker, cook as much as we can in a slow-cooker or microwave, only heat our living areas, and then only to ~15C/60F. No air con. We do almost all our own repairs to just about everything, buy mostly second hand, and buy most of our foods fresh, in season and locally grown. We have a campervan for trips out of town, but it stays in the driveway the rest of the time. We eat cheap foods. You can do a lot with rice, cabbage and chick peas :) Avoid bars and restaurants like the plague, no cosmetics or deodorants, no broadband, no digital subscription, our computer is 10 years old, prepaid cellphone for emergency use only. No overseas trips. We buy everything on our credit card to collect reward points, but pay it off in full every month so we don't pay interest. This lifestyle allows us to work a four day week and still have time to hike and pursue other fun activities aside from keeping the home running. We really like our lifestyle, and don't feel cheated in any way. Plus all that activity at home means you don't have time to miss all the electronic addictions that can suck away your time and money. Aside from that, we are lucky in that we live in a country with mostly socialised healthcare, so don't live in fear of injury or ill health as much as many Americans. We get 5 weeks per year paid vacation, and only work a 7.5 hour day. I live within an hours drive of fanatstic hiking, water and snow sports areas, and some of the finest scenery in the world. My American family are always trying to get me to move back to the US. They don't understand why I want to live somewhere where I "earn so little". They totally miss the point that I have so much! I even like my biggest weakness is gear :(

"If I ditch my car, I can't hike except on the paved sidewalks around my home. A car is essential to reach the trailheads in this area. Portland itself has excellent public transit, but there is absolutely no transit to Mt. Hood or most of the Columbia River Gorge."

Where there's a will, there's a way. We often go with friends and take just one car. In my younger days I joined backpacking clubs and shared rides with other members. I also met a lot of fun people ;) Just aim to use your vehicle as little as possible while in town, and ditch the guilt when you DO decide to go away. It's only in the last 10 years that I have owned a car (since I left the US 30 years ago).

Edited by retropump on 07/22/2010 14:25:58 MDT.

First Name
(SgtPepper) - F
Have we save $ on 07/22/2010 16:24:36 MDT Print View

1. We rent an apartment from friends for $425 a month
2. We both take our lunches to work.
3. We only eat out once a week usually. Portions are so big we usually order 1 appetizer and 1 meal and split it.
4. We ride together whenever possible in 1 car.
5. We have no cable tv.
6. We get dvds and movies from the library for free.
7. We have no boats, jet skis, motorcycles, and other toys.
8. We're thrifty, use coupons, and shop thrift/consignments.
9. We bargain and barter.
10. Mom and Dad have a big garden and produce too much so they share (in return, I do work around the house)
11. I don't buy $300+ tents.
12. I wear my clothes at least twice and shower every other day (if said clothing or I am funky, that rule is void)
13. Buy in bulk, consume in small portions.
14. We scour the internet/paper for free concerts, events, museums, libraries, etc.
15. We have no kids (they're wonderful and expensive at the same time!)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 17:40:48 MDT Print View

"Actually the answer is the question. You save money by living a simple life. In our case we live close enough to walk or bike to everything except the trail head. We have a large section with huge veggie patch......."

A big +1 We've followed pretty much the same model, while working and after retiring 20 years ago.

Money can be used to buy 2 things: Stuff and time. Choose wisely.

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: How do you save money and live a simple life? on 07/22/2010 17:42:22 MDT Print View

Fun topic. Great ideas. A lot I do:

No cable TV. Use broadcast TV.
No internet. I use community wireless.
Cheapest cell phone plan
Summer thermostat set to 83°. Shirt and shorts are comfortable.
Winter Thermostat set to 63°. Sweater and pants are comfortable.

Some of my neighbors turn up that heat in the winter and then wear tank tops and shorts. Then I wonder “who’s really paying that bill?”