Crazy things people do to save money

fistful of dollarsWhile many of us clip grocery coupons, buy generic medication and combine shopping trips to conserve gas, a smaller number of Americans take extreme steps when it comes to saving money. How extreme? Well, this article lists five categories of unusual, sometimes shocking steps people have taken to lower their expenses or earn a bit more cash. But do you really need to invite a renter to crash in your spare room, sell your car, turn off the thermostat in wintertime or even restrict your eating to save a few bucks?

The short answer is "probably not," according to Peter Dunn, author of the book 60 Days to Change: A Daily How-To Guide With Actionable Tips for Improving Your Financial Life. "To me that seems pretty extreme," he said when WalletPop got him on the phone to ask what he thought about taking a boarder or going on a starvation diet. For these two examples, he points out that you could literally be putting not only your own health and safety at risk, but that of your family as well. Some ideas, such as getting rid of your car, will only work if you have reliable public transportation that can get you to work, to school and to the store.

Even moving in with family members to cut costs needs to be carefully thought through before you pack up your toothbrushes and move in with Grandma. "You don't want to make your money problems your family's money problems," he points out. Spell out in writing how much you'll pay for rent or toward utilities, who pays for groceries, laundry detergent and other consumables.

Dunn says he recently spoke with a family that planned to rent out their house, then move into an apartment to save money. The complicated endeavor only saved them $150 or so a month, and Dunn points out that there are plenty of other places in a household budget you can cut if you're feeling that desperate. Likewise, the article suggests taking a babysitting gig just so you can raid the parents' fridge. That's freeloading, not being frugal.

Where can people cut instead? Dunn says the grocery store is an economic black hole for many of us. The answer, though, isn't to necessarily eat less. Rather, cut back on the processed and prepared, packaged foods: Instead of cold cereal, start the day with house-brand instant oatmeal, and substitute a vegetarian main dish like red beans and rice for a pricey pre-made rotisserie chicken. Dunn says another area many of us could cut back if we were in dire straits is our technological connectivity. "I think when people examine how many means of communication they have, by reducing that down to one, means they can save money," he says."It sounds extreme to not have a cell phone, but a lot of people do."

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