Saving money is something which we should all be doing no matter what the economy. During a recession it becomes even more important! I grew up with first generation American 'Depression era' grandparents who taught me a lot, these tips are here for you. Later, I went to live in Europe where Costco doesn't exist and there's a different lifestyle, one where we can borrow some tips. The below is my attempt to document all of these things i've learned.
Be warned, these tips are not for those looking for an easy ride, but if you can do them, they will definitely pay off, even if you only do them for a year. Doing the below tips for the past 10 years enabled me to have a nice lifestyle. Although once you start living the frugal way, you'll find it hard to go back...
Things You Will Need
Willingness to change
Entertainment - Cancel the cable, get rid of the television, and stop going to the movies.
When i first moved to Germany, I spoke no German so watching TV was terribly boring. I learned to turn off the TV and go outside for a walk or to read a book. Cable TV is expensive and we think that it's a necessity, but it's not, same with movies. OK, so you'll miss out on the latest TV gossip, but you'll survive, promise!
If you're not ready for such an extreme move, start slowly and cut off the cable first but save your TV for movies borrowed from the library. While you're there, pick up some books to read in place of the TV watching.
Transportation - Get out of the car or drive it less.
In America we think that we need to drive anywhere which is over three blocks. In Europe you see people over 80 years old walking and riding their bicycles every day, saving much cash in the process.
If you already have a car, limit your car usage--having a car and paying for car payments, gas and insurance are expensive. Learn to walk more or ride a bicycle. Not only will you save cash, you'll get fitter and look better in the process!
If you live in a rural or highway area, consider if you can go down to one car, and never go out for only one purpose; combine your trips to minimize miles driven.
Food - Eat seasonally and locally
The environmentalists and greenies will suggest that you eat seasonal or local items to save the environment, what you're really doing is saving your pocketbook. Shipping strawberries from California to New York is expensive and the supermarkets price them accordingly. Therefore, eat whatever is seasonal and/or local. If you can get potatoes in your part of the country, learn how to cook potatoes. Or if you're on a coast then try for fish. Maybe there's a chicken farm locally to get your eggs. Whatever you can get locally at a good cost, learn how to love it.
Food - Plant a garden
A garden is virtually free food, depending on how productive you make it. In 1943 Americans planted over 20 million Victory Gardens in yards, flower beds and parks and this harvest accounted for nearly a third of all the vegetables consumed in the country that year.
It's suggested that $50 in seeds and fertilizer can produce $1,250 worth of groceries purchased at a supermarket. Even the most northern states get a bit of summer which will allow for a little lettuce at least. If you live in a southern state, more power to you, as you can maximize your crops with that long warm growing season. The key to doing this is to plant things which you will eat, along with a few new things or items which grow well in your area (lettuce for cooler climates, tomatos and peppers in hot places, etc.)
Food - lay off the packaged and prepared food
Supermakets love to prepare food for us as we'll pay a premium for those already prepared meals when we're in a hurry for dinner on a weeknight. My grandparents cooked 'from scratch' and Europeans do a lot more than we do. Get ahead of the game by cooking on the weekends and freezing in advance. Then, you only need to remember to take dinner out of the freezer the night before you want to use it. Plus it gives you better control over what you are eating when you prepare it yourself.
Work - be a model employee
If you're lucky enough to have a job, do your best to keep it. Show up on time and work hard keep your attitude positive. I've seen many a case where when layoffs are coming, it's not the slowest or least competent worker who is let go first, it's the one with the bad attitude. If you don't have a job, keep at it to get one. Let everyone know you're looking and register for temp work in the meantime. Keep doing something--volunteer work even--just to get out of the house and to keep your skills sharp and to get new ones. Treat looking for work like a job in itself and keep your days busy applying for work for six hours a day and wrap it up with two hours of volunteer work.
Work - take a second job
If you have one job, take on a second if you can find one. It's always good to have a second source of income, and if you can live off of your first salary, the second can go completely for savings. Choose a flexible option like babysitting, doing yardwork, or anything short term which meets your time and schedule requirements. Who knows, it may be the beginning of a new career. Check places like craigslist for short term gigs.
Cash vs Credit - pay only cash
In Europe I know plenty of people who do not have a credit card, they only have a debit card. My grandparents always paid only cash (for everything but the mortgage). If you want to save money, only buy what you can afford to pay cash for, and if you cannot afford it then, don't buy it. That may mean that you need to wait for a little while to afford the ipod until a newer model comes out and the older one gets discounted, but life is sometimes about delayed gratification.
Saving money is a skill one needs to learn. It can be a complete lifestyle change to learn how to do it. But once you learn how to do it, it will provide you freedom to have money for the things you really want in life.
Tips & Warnings
Remember that it may sometimes be difficult to save money, so forgive youreself for any lapses in the beginning.