After months of reading all the threads on how bad the economy is / will be, I thought we all might start to contribute some practical ways to help others get by on a much lower income.
I'm over 50, and was raised by two parents who both grew up in the depression. My parents and both sets of grandparents helped instill in me many ways to economize, and I've continued to use many - even though society has been laughing at people who aren't into the "spend-spend-spend" mindset.
As there are so many on this board who are young enough to have never gotten this kind of real-life tutoring, I though we older members could help! Some of these may seem fairly basic, but for many they may be new information:
1) Keep your furnace turned down as low as you can tolerate. Wear layers of clothes, and keep your feet warm! You can even wear a hat in the house - nobody will know except your family! Invest in blankets.
2) Close off any rooms you don't use (not those that have plumbing). If you have an open stairway, you can hang multiple blankets over the opening at the top or bottom to form an insulated barrier. You can also close off any room you're in and have a small electric space heater supplement the heat for that one room. The idea is to keep the amount of house you're heating to the smallest area practical.
3) Go to the hardware store and get a selection of weatherizing supplies. You can easily weatherize doors and windows and electric outlets on the exterior walls of your home. You can buy plastic to go over your windows which can be "shrink-wrapped" to fit with a hair dryer. You lose a lot of heat/cooling in those areas.
4) Use insulated curtains, or hang blankets over windows at night. During winter, remove them during the day if it's sunny, and not too cold. This will let you get some benefit from solar heating.
5) Take care of everything you own! You may not be able to afford or even find replacements. So... read instruction manuals and keep things in good working order. It may be to your benefit to make friends with an older gentleman who is a good "fix-it" guy. (My dad could fix anything! )
6) Learn to change your own oil, cut your own hair, etc. We can do many more of these simple tasks than we give ourselves credit for, and save lots of $$$ in the process. Get some how-to books from your library.
7) Get a couple of good "Depression Cooking" cookbooks. You can find them on Amazon, or in your library. (I can make an "apple" pie out of saltine crackers, a "pecan" pie out of white beans, and a cake that doesn't use flour or sugar, not to mention a slection of "meatless meals" - and they all taste good!!) Everyone will be eating out much, much less, and needing to know how to cook economically.
8) Learn how to sew (yeah, you too, guys!) Even if you never learn enough to make clothes from scratch, you'll need to learn how to mend /alter clothes you already have, or those you can pick up cheaply. Learn to darn socks, hem, take in or let out seams.
9) In the summer, keep your air conditioning OFF. If you get used to the warmer days over time, it won't seem so bad. Open windows at night to create a cross-breeze in your home (west to east, north to south, etc.) After you've gathered in that nice cool air, when the sun comes up - pull your drapes to close off the solar heat and keep that nice shady cool air in your home as long as possible. (An attic fan would be a blessing here.)
10) Invest in some electric fans you can move from room to room to keep yourselves cool. Moving air across your skin can make the temperature seem 10 degrees cooler. Mist your skin occasionally with a regular spray bottle, and you'll feel even cooler! My mom told stories of misting her sheets at night before they went to bed.
11) Learn to use the smallest amount possible of any product. For example, start lowering the amount of shampoo you use each time. Keep lowering the amount until you reach a level where it's not doing the job anymore, then take it back up one level. This goes for toothpaste, dishwashing soap, laundry soap, etc. You'll be amazed at how much less will still do a good job, and the savings will add up over the months.
These are just a few hints, and I'm sure members of this board can come up with lots more..................