Charlotte forwarded a great article from Mother Earth News. (When did they go online? It seems so antithetical to their nature!) In “Live on Less and Love It!”, Craig Idlebrook describes 75 ways that his family enjoys life while spending and consuming less. And he should know. He’s a practitioner of extreme personal finance:

On paper, my wife and I are poor. How poor? In 2005 we made $4,303.84 combined; in 2004 we made half that. We’re in such a low tax bracket that I have trouble convincing the government of our tax return’s accuracy; they simply can’t believe Americans can live on that kind of money.

[...]

We’ve arrived where we are now through a decade of daily financial decisions. Because we didn’t want to spend our time earning money at jobs we didn’t like, we instead focused on how to stretch our money. We found that by controlling our day-to-day expenses, we could save a lot of money without sacrificing our quality of life. Neither my wife nor I will ever be confused for financial wizards; there’s nothing we’ve done that you can’t do if you’re serious about saving money.

The 75 tips are grouped into categories such as “good cheap food”, “how to avoid rent”, “creative transportation”, and “when you can’t avoid shopping”. Many of these suggestions will be familiar to veteran cheapskates, but there are some gems that even I hadn’t considered before. Become a caretaker? Hmmm…

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Buy raw ingredients instead of prepackaged foods. If you don’t know how to cook, learn. You’ll save on food bills, and your body will thank you for it in the long run.”
  • “For long-term stays, become a caretaker. A good place to find such caretaking jobs is The Caretaker Gazette.”
  • Salvage materials for your new home. There are lots of possible sources: Look for someone who’s renovating a house and might let you cart away old materials; check the yellow pages for used building materials; or look for online groups, such as Freecycle, where people trade all kinds of unwanted items.”
  • Switch off your water heater when you’re not going to use it for extended periods of time.”
  • Ask if your city has a carshare program or start one with people you trust.”
  • Don’t go into stores unless you need something. Always carry a shopping list. Remember, stores are designed to get you to buy things you didn’t know you needed.”
  • Buy clothing used whenever possible. You may have good luck finding clothes at garage sales, or find a wider selection at thrift stores, consignment shops and on eBay.”
  • Rediscover the radical notion of the library. Imagine Internet access and thousands of books, CDs and DVDs for free!”
  • Trade your home with friends around the country and enjoy free lodging in a new location.”

My father loved Mother Earth News. He was a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, but he embraced the magazine’s do-it-yourself ethic, despite all the “liberal hippie” talk of recycling and sustainability. Me? I like it because it’s all about making the most of what you have, and about removing yourself from consumer culture. (And I like the articles on recycling and sustainability!)

[Mother Earth News: Live on Less and Love It!]