Monday, September 29, 2008

8 extreme ways to save some scratch

From reusing sandwich bags to moving back in with the parents, consumers can get quite creative when times are tight.

With food inflation up more than 8% for the year and gas close to $4 a gallon, some consumers are going to extreme measures to stay within their budgets.

Though some ideas might sound crazy -- car-engine fried eggs, anyone? -- others contain clever solutions to the everyday challenges of stretching a dollar. Here are eight of the best extreme-saving techniques, culled from some of the top minds on the Web:

Turn your car off -- while it's moving
Though AAA warns against this technique, some bloggers promote 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 with less 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; it's too dangerous.

Savings: You can shave a few dollars off your gas bill each month.

Reuse plastic sandwich bags
Sandwich bags can be easily rinsed out and dried, and used again the next day. As long as the bags don't touch raw meat, it's a hygienic and environmentally friendly way to save.

Savings: With a pack of 100 bags going for around $3, a family of four can save about $30 a year.

Stop saving money
All personal-finance experts harp on the need to create an emergency fund and funnel away money for retirement, but sometimes saving just isn't possible. In fact, it may make sense to forget about one or all of your savings accounts in order to meet your other responsibilities while avoiding credit card debt.

If you suddenly have an added expense, such as a new child (see "Raising your $290,000 baby"), then 401(k) contributions may need to go on hold.

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.

Savings: up to $10 a month on cleaning supplies.

Stop drinking soda (or another beverage of choice)
Tricia at Blogging Away Debt recently 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 quitting fizzy drinks, they'll save about $50 a month. Going cold turkey with other drinks, from lattes to bottled water, can produce similar effects.

Savings: If you're used to two or three sodas a day, the change could save you $30 or more a month.

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 own costs.

Savings: up to $3,000 a month in avoided housing costs.

Get rid of your carpet
The blogger at Clever Dude points out that having and caring for a carpet requires regular shampooing and steaming, electricity to vacuum, and even medical costs from embedded allergens such as pet dander and molds.

Savings: around $200 a year.

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 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.

Savings: as much as $1,000 a month, depending on your spending habits.

This story was reported and written by Kimberly Palmer for U.S. News & World Report.

More from MSN Money and U.S. News
More extreme-savings tips
4 easy ways to be a 'freegan'
Why is it so easy to throw things away?
Smart money-saving ideas
Save money by giving up grooming and underwear
How to live the simple life

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