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7 extreme ways to save money

Tired of saving pennies but running out of ideas to save dollars? Here are seven suggestions that take saving money to a whole new level.

By MSN Money Partner Apr 25, 2014 1:34PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News. 

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyHere at Money Talks News, we spend a lot of time telling you how to save money.

We've explained how to save $1,000 by summer and how to save when you're living on minimum wage. Beyond that, we have articles about saving at Amazon, saving on guy stuff and saving on pet supplies, among other things.

Piggy banks standing row by row © Dimitri Vervitsiotis, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesBut what happens once you've cut the lattes, canceled the gym membership and are still burning a hole in your checking account each month? At that point it may be time to pull out the big guns -- time to get extreme.

Below are seven out-of-the-box ways to save big. These go beyond the frugal tips that save you pennies. I'm not going to tell you how to save soap shavings or make cloth toilet paper. No, these are ways to seriously cut your spending, but they may require you to dramatically change your lifestyle.

They're not for everyone, but they are something to consider if you're ready to get extreme.

1. Move to a tiny house -- really tiny

Imagine your whole family squeezed into a home the size of your living room. It may sound crazy, but the tiny house movement can be the ticket to big savings.

Tiny houses typically run from 250 to 600 square feet, and they may be permanent or mobile. It may seem unrealistic to pack four people into such a small space, but some families do it -- and quite happily too.

Small houses mean small bills. Plus, with minimal storage space, you may find you are forced to stop spending money on stuff you don't need.

For more information on tiny houses, see our profile of the movement.

Less extreme options: If a tiny house isn't for you, you could still cut your bills by moving to a smaller home. It costs a whole lot less to heat 1,000 square feet than it does to keep 2,500 square feet warm and toasty. Another option may be to move to an apartment. Sure, you're not building equity, but you're also eliminating all of your maintenance costs and possibly some utility bills too.

2. Embrace your neighbors with communal living

Another way to cut down your living expenses may be to live in a commune, or intentional community, as they are now often called.

These living arrangements can vary significantly from community to community but most involve shared work and shared expenses. In addition, many of these communities are based upon values such as conservation or voluntary simplicity.

This blog post has an overview from someone running a commune, and the Fellowship for Intentional Community maintains a searchable directory.

Less extreme options: Rather than moving to a commune, you could embrace communal living in your own home by renting out a room. A step above that may be buying a duplex or similar property to share with a friend's family.

3. Park the car permanently

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we spend anywhere from 14 to 18 percent of our annual budget on transportation. That equals out to about $8,500 per household.

You can save some serious money by selling your vehicle and relying on your feet, bicycle or public transportation instead. If you need a car for a longer trip, rent one through Zipcar, Getaround or Hertz 24/7.

When you're downsizing from your McMansion, look for a home in an affordable metro area with plenty of public transportation options.

Less extreme options: If you can't bear to be without a vehicle, at least drive it less. Carpool whenever possible and combine errands. You could also go in with a neighbor or friend and buy a car you could both share.

4. Find your own heating fuel

Pity the people who use heating oil for fuel. The price per gallon has jumped from about $1.50 a decade ago to nearly $4.25 today. The cost of propane is only slightly better.

The cheapest way to replace costly heating oil and propane may be to install a wood-burning stove. If you have trees on your property, cut your own wood for free heating. If not, you might need to spend a couple hundred a year to buy wood.

However, please be sure any stove is installed by a professional and inspected each year before use. Install carbon monoxide detectors too. Dying from an improperly vented stove may be one extreme way to save money, but we would prefer our Money Talks News readers stick around to enjoy more great articles for years to come.

Less extreme options: While a little more expensive than a wood-burning stove, a pellet stove is another inexpensive heating option. If you have a little money stored up in savings, you might want to see about converting to natural gas too. That might cost a bit upfront but will save money in the long run.

If you already have natural gas or none of these options will work, you can try the conventional advice of installing a programmable thermostat and lowering the temperature at night and when the house is empty during the day.

5. Unplug and live like it was 1949

We love our electronic toys, but using them costs us a pretty penny.

Cutting cable seems to be fairly standard money-saving advice. More extreme might be to not only cut cable but eliminate the Internet and mobile phones altogether.

Unless you have a legitimate need to have the Internet or a smartphone for work, you could probably get by with checking your email once or twice a week at the library. As for your cellphone, you probably don’t need to be accessible 24/7, right? Try carrying a prepaid phone for emergencies and then only use it for, well, emergencies.

Less extreme options: If you don't want to completely unplug at home, at least lower your bills. Read our articles on paying less for television, cellphones and Internet service.

6. Let the animals live and go veggie

Although inflation-adjusted prices for meat are lower now than they were 30 years ago, beef takes a bite out of many grocery budgets. According to an NPR report, we spend about a fifth of our grocery budget on meat.

With prices expected to climb in the coming year, extreme savers might want to eliminate meat altogether from their diet. Of course, vegetarian diets can be expensive too if you're buying out of season or loading up on specialty products.

Read this article for tips on keeping your vegetarian diet spending to a minimum.

Less extreme options: Maybe you aren't ready to give up meat completely. You could always have one or two meatless days a week or buy cheaper cuts to keep your costs down. We have a whole article dedicated to reducing meat costs.

7. Hold your breath and dumpster dive

Finally, I felt I had to mention dumpster diving because it's such a well-known strategy. Some folks curb surf for useful items, while others are actually climbing into dumpsters to retrieve overstock food  from restaurants and stores.

Although it's a popular, albeit extreme, way to score free stuff, I have a hard time recommending it. The law can be a bit hazy about the legality of dumpster diving, particularly when the trash is located on private property and not on the curbside.

Less extreme options: Instead of dumpster diving, you could try Freecycle to find freebies in your area. Also, send out the word to family and friends that you are on the hunt for reclaimed items, and you may find you are the first person they call before sending their unwanted goods to the curb.

What other extreme money-saving strategies have you heard about?

More from Money Talks News

Apr 25, 2014 2:57PM
This story says to cut your trees for fuel - if it's a healthy tree, that is a stupid thing to do!  And spending a "couple hundred" on firewood for the heating season - well, maybe 20 yrs ago, but not today.  More like a thousand.  Whoever wrote this stupid story is out of touch with reality.  I heat with wood - and I know what it costs.
Apr 25, 2014 3:49PM
Apr 28, 2014 9:35AM

When Times are good, articles are about great places to eat and finding that dream home you’ve always wanted.   Now we’re reading about how a 300 Sq. ft. Home can be a good thing and Dumpster Diving aint all that bad…  I’m so glad we’re in a recovery..  

Apr 25, 2014 5:43PM
Apr 25, 2014 3:27PM
I already sold the house and got a small mobile home.  Way cheaper!  I seldom eat meat.
Apr 28, 2014 8:00AM
I can't stand having a mortgage so I've gone hardcore frugal to pay this house off asap.
My food budget is now $10.00 a week.  Is that extreme enough?
I came in under budget last week at $9.07 and saved the leftover 93 cents in a jar.
I even have some dried peas, lentils, beans, and 1/2 a cabbage I haven't used from last week's purchase--meaning this week I'll spend even less.
Apr 26, 2014 12:38AM

Forget Renting, Not only does it cost more,   You have nothing when you leave.  It is better to purchase a mobile home (newer, and if you own the lot),   Even if the tax advantages disappear it iw still a much better way to go. 

You can still get cell phone plans for around 10 dollars a month.  Much cheaper then a land line. 

Going vegan not only cheaper, but you save on doctors bills, in that it is healthier.  Just wish I didn't have to pay for health insurance, for the past 30 years for no benefit. 

I am sure a lot of apartments would love tenants making holes in their first story walls and roofs (the second and third floor tenants would love it even less, lol) for the wood burning stoves.

As for pooling why not do it with internet?  Four people pool for a high speed connection and connect their computers to it. 

Apr 25, 2014 10:46PM
Become a "activist", go to a big city with a bunch of like minded people, camp out on the streets, demand free food and at least 15$ a hour for any job. While camping out, don't take showers or change your clothes and try to get interviewed as many times as possible, but demand money for the interview. When the "camp  out"  is finished, demand a free trip home and money for food.
Apr 28, 2014 11:40AM
Isn't the 'textbook liberal's' first step in tough financial times to fake an injury, then sign up for every assistance program they qualify for?
Apr 28, 2014 10:31AM
I don't honestly know anybody that would do any of these things.  Be more realistic MSN.
Apr 28, 2014 10:04AM

6 days ago msn ran an rticle stating that the reason the income gap was increasing was because the 1% were saving their money and not spending it.


now msn is running a story telling everyone how to save more money? 


msn you make no sense!  you suck.

Apr 28, 2014 1:37PM
    Pallets, built my home with them. live on $1000 a month and i'm livin the life. got to go now cause the librarian says my hours up. bye, bye. 
Apr 28, 2014 9:43AM
Some good suggestion,cable bills can be cut buy buying an antennae to put inside on the window,or out side,people tell me you can get up to 40 channels .There is not that much on TV anyway,.they are becoming more popular .Something to look into ,if you qualify for the free phone  the Government gives out that could be a saving also,cable is getting to expense if your on a fix income it can hurt. Good Days 
Apr 28, 2014 12:23PM
You want extreme then go live under a bridge, don't shower, crap in the river, make  newspaper and duct tape clothes, cardboard shoes, wipe your as with leaves, hunt rats for food, light up your farts for heat, piss on you hands to wash them, never ever change your underwear, clean your teeth with dirt, use booger to mark your turf , then find this writer and sneak into bed with him or her for writing nothing worth printing which lead you to these extremes in the first place.  
Apr 28, 2014 11:23AM
Maybe MSN should seek medical advice, such as is mentioned with Viagra. Due to the fact that you've had a hard on for credit articles for over a week, there might be a problem..
Apr 29, 2014 8:08AM
Extreme ways of saving money pay off for those willing to make the sacrifice.  My 33 year old daughter is currently looking to buy her first home--she will be paying cash.  I bought my home a bit over a year ago and have less than two years to go until it is paid-in-full.  The sooner, the better...I'm willing to sacrifice to get 'er done.
Apr 25, 2014 2:32PM
Secret to saving money?....................give to the poor, it will be returned ten fold.
Apr 28, 2014 12:54PM

It's spring...if you know people who don't weed-n-feed their lawns--there are plenty of dandelions---free salad. The leaves can also be put in a frypan and cooked like you do spinach or mustard greens....or minced finely and added to soups, on top of potatoes, etc. (Actually, the entire dandelion can be eaten...the root can be dried, roasted, and ground for a coffee substitute--the flowers can be battered and pan-fried--or make some dandelion wine).

You can also eat plantain and purslane....just be sure the stuff hasn't been sprayed.

Apr 28, 2014 1:02PM

If you are able to and/or allowed to, put out a rainbarrel (be sure to put a piece of screen over it so bugs don't get inside).  Use the water to wash clothes by hand outside and hang them on a line to dry.

Apr 28, 2014 12:59PM
To those whining about the article--with a title of "7 extreme ways to save money" you should expect some unusual suggestions.  As for me, the suggestions in the article are lightweight as I have been even more extreme than most of the suggestions (and I'm diving back into extremism to get this #*!% mortgage of mine paid off).
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