The problem is, once you’ve cut back on restaurant visits, transferred your debt to a lower-interest credit card and gotten that latte habit under control, where else can you cut? At some point you get the absolute necessities, and you can’t cut those. Can you?
You can get by with a lot less than you think you need and manage the things you can’t cut (food, transportation to work) for much less than you’re paying right now. Serious frugality, however, can get tricky. Not every plan to save money works out. If you’ve got a few tools and know what you’re doing, changing your own oil can save you $10 to $15 every few months. If not, you might be better off having it done professionally — especially if your mechanical ineptitude might damage your car.
What are the best ways to save money? And what are the most efficient methods to accomplish this level of extreme budget cutting? Let’s start by putting our green thumbs to work.
5. Grow Your Own Food
You can stop ordering takeout and use grocery coupons, but you’ll still need to visit the supermarket to keep your family fed. You want to buy healthy food, but the produce section is often the most expensive part of the store. One way to save cash is to grow vegetables in your own yard.
This isn’t a fool-proof plan, however. The problems with growing vegetables include:
- Initial costs. Your first year, you’ll probably lose money due to buying tools and supplies.
- Labor intensity. Plan on a day or two to plant (depending on the size of your garden) and several hours each week for maintenance.
- No guarantees. Bad weather, plant disease, insects and other factors could keep you from getting a useful return out of your gardening efforts.
- Abundance of seasonal foods. You’ll have more tomatoes and cucumbers than you could possibly eat in August, and none the rest of the year unless you learn to can or pickle your veggies.
To mitigate these problems, focus on growing expensive foods, like tomatoes. Composting also reduces costs: A double or triple layer of newspaper will block weeds most of the growing season and decompose into the soil by next spring. Cover the newspaper with a thin layer of wood mulch to weigh it down. Make sure you use regular newsprint (no glossy ads or magazines), and ensure that your newspaper uses soy-based inks.
One-hundred square feet of garden will roughly double an initial investment of $50 in a given year (not counting startup or labor costs) . You can increase the profit by planting a larger area, but this increases the amount of time you’ll spend on the garden.