Living on Less!

If you're on a quest to reduce your day-to-day and long range costs, you'll want to have a look at our best tips for living on less.

| August/September 2010

  • Garden Harvest
    Save some money by starting (or expanding) your backyard garden. It's amazing how much all that homegrown produce is worth. We recently estimated the total market value of all the produce grown by MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers each year. Our rough calculation was $1 billion!
  • country road
    Simple living is all about slowing down and enjoying life more. Another key is to learn strategies for self-reliant living, such as planting a vegetable garden or raising a few livestock animals to produce some of your own food.
  • Best Homestead Chicken Breeds
    Why not raise backyard chickens and enjoy fresh eggs?
  • cow and calf
    How much could you save by keeping a family milk cow? By breeding the cow each year and raising the calf for beef, you could net between $4,000 and $6,000 worth of milk and meat!
  • Bread mill
    You can’t beat great-tasting homemade bread at 50 cents a loaf!
  • Helen and John Taylor
    By using fuel-efficient driving techniques, John and Helen Taylor set a Guinness world record for mileage. On their 9,000 mile trip they averaged 58.82 mpg.
  • living on less - Spacious Little House
    Living on less doesn't automatically mean living in a small house, but this Arkansas couple decided it was a perfect fit for them. They're quite happy together in a 480-square-foot cabin.
  • living on less - maxwell's handmade house
    Contributing editor Steve Maxwell, and his wife Mary, built this stone and timber house by hand and without a mortgage!
  • living on less - solar shed
    Gary Reysa designed and built this solar heating system for his Montana home. It saves him the equivalent of 340 gallons of propane each year.
  • 217-044-PassiveSolar-4-CMYK.jpg
    This house was designed to utilize a simple passive cooling technique. In the summer, the vines on the trellis provide welcome shade. In the winter, they die back and let in additional sunlight.
  • living on less - Grow More Food
    Grow more of your own food and save!

  • Garden Harvest
  • country road
  • Best Homestead Chicken Breeds
  • cow and calf
  • Bread mill
  • Helen and John Taylor
  • living on less - Spacious Little House
  • living on less - maxwell's handmade house
  • living on less - solar shed
  • 217-044-PassiveSolar-4-CMYK.jpg
  • living on less - Grow More Food

These days, many people are getting inspired by the ideas of simple living, self-reliance, and living on less. Not only are more people looking for ways to go green, but in these uncertain economic times, it just makes sense to try to stretch every dollar as far as possible. Here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we believe that saving money, protecting the environment, and living a satisfying life all go together. It’s all about making the most of the resources you already have and finding joy and satisfaction in “doing it yourself.” Below you’ll find a collection of our best advice for simple living, including ideas for how to trim your budget and, in the process, enjoy better food, consume less, and be healthier and happier, too!

A Thrifty, DIY Lifestyle

First, let’s consider some general strategies for simpler living. Much of living on less is figuring out what you really need and want, and what you’re better off doing without. And when there is something you need, it’s worth shopping around to find the best deal! Comparison shopping is always a good idea, whether you’re buying groceries, gas, or general household items. It’s even more crucial when you start looking at services such as insurance, banking, or a cell phone plan, because there can be so many optional extras and such a wide range of prices. Make sure you’re not paying for services you don’t really want or need.

It also pays to discover your handy side. Before spending, get in the habit of asking the question, could I do or make this myself? Many frequently purchased items are surprisingly easy and inexpensive to make at home — including most household cleaning supplies and toiletries. Consider mending your own clothes, changing the oil in your car, fixing plumbing problems, and cutting hair for yourself or any willing family members (especially kids).

Another good idea is to ask yourself whether you really need to buy something new, or whether you can get it secondhand — especially furniture, clothing or tools. Buying secondhand at thrift shops, consignment stores and yard sales saves money and conserves resources, too. For online scavenging try eBay, Craigslist and Freecycle. These days there are more options than ever to buy used or nearly new and save big bucks!

Look for opportunities to borrow, barter, or rent instead of buying. For example, you may need a pickup truck a few times a year, but do you really need to own a truck? If you can borrow or rent a truck for those few occasions you can save a bundle! Many tools can be rented, too. Where available, take advantage of tool-sharing programs, or even consider organizing a tool co-op. Visit your local library to borrow books, movies and music. The library is also a good place to get free Internet access, as are coffeehouses and other businesses that offer free Wi-Fi. And finally, when you do decide to buy something new, keep an eye open for sales, coupons, and rebates.

Cut Your Food Bills

Let’s look at some specific areas of household budgets. This Department of Labor chart breaks down the typical American budget by category. While food isn’t the largest item on this list of expenses, it’s a good place to start thinking about cutting costs, because you can actually save money while improving the quality of your food. How is this possible? Because eating healthy, homemade, and homegrown foods is cheaper than eating out or purchasing processed foods.

7/21/2017 9:38:31 AM

Tiny houses are the way to go, if you can grow accustomed to living with little space. If you're someone who likes to spend most of your time outdoors, it's a great option. Also, getting your home windows tinted can be an upfront expense that will pay off in a major way in the long run. Check out

2/18/2014 10:46:06 PM

I have gone from living on 140k a year to almost nothing and am doing very nicely with it. Money does not buy happiness. Having no money makes you sit up and take notice. I grow all my own vegies and fruit.What I can't grow I forage for in the vermont woods. My freezer is full of venison, home grown chickens and fresh caught fish.I love living like this and when I do go to the grocery store I am spending under 50 dollars.I use lots of candle light and the fireplace. My books come from the free bin at the thrift shops.I also write my own when I cant find one that fits how I feel or where I would like to be at the moment. I don't shop at dept stores to decorate my home .The forest has given me most everything I need to put in my house.Living like this is a choice and for me its great.

12/31/2013 7:45:09 AM

Nice article. I would suggest that people do a lot more research before basing their family's diet around grains. The negative health consequences associated with grain consumption may not be worth it. Autoimmune disease, migraine, chronic joint pain, cognitive problems, etc. etc. are associated with eating grains. Start with search terms such as "grains and autoimmune disease," "grains and anti nutrients." Cheers!

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