6 Dirt-Cheap Money-Saving Tips from Urban Homesteaders
Whether you hang your hat at home in the plains or in the great urban jungle, you probably already have your fair share of expenses. If it’s not sky-high rent, then it’s new tires for the pickup. Anyway you slice it, running a household isn’t cheap.
Luckily, urban homesteading has got you covered. Urban homesteaders are those people who are as comfortable raising chickens as they are taking the city subway; as likely to be caught putting up preserves as they might sampling the fare from a trendy sidewalk bistro. The movement sprang up out of an urge to reconnect with our prairie forefathers, when life was simpler and hard work and survival were key.
And frugality and self-reliance are an essential part of the urban homesteading ethos. Most homesteaders subscribe heavily to the “waste not, want not” philosophy, and that means they have some cutthroat suggestions to save money around the home. Here are some of the best tips we’ve seen—log cabin or not!
Become Mr. (or Mrs.) Fix-It
The conventional wisdom holds that when something breaks, you just toss it and buy a new one. Not so in the urban homesteading household. These enterprising homeowners will try their hand at a broken toilet lever (unscrew the old lever, replace, connect to the chain) or a clogged drain (baking soda plus vinegar) before ever calling a plumber. They’ll patch a hole in their drywall using only some spackle, a sander, and a little elbow grease, making home improvement a learning process. A $10 replacement kit costs a lot less than a new toilet, so save some green by stretching those DIY muscles.
Cook a Feast and Then Freeze the Leftovers
Back in the days of the original homesteaders, food was much too precious to waste. Obviously, a lot has changed since then—namely, how we view the meals we eat. In fact, almost half of all the food the US produces ends up in the garbage, and along with it, all the money you spent on groceries. Instead of leaving leftovers to spoil in the fridge, dish them out into single-serving containers and pop them in the freezer for lunch later. Soups, chilis, and stews are all easy to cook in large quantities and will reheat readily in the microwave. No more pouring your money down the garbage disposal!
Don’t Buy What You Don’t Need
Our culture subtly (and not-so-subtly) reinforces the idea that money and objects can fix whatever ails you. We’re not necessarily advocating a return to a trade-based economy here, just saying that a lot of people purchase unnecessary stuff to solve problems you can’t really just throw money at. And it’s really hard to save money when you’re blowing your budget with impulse buys. Not to mention, when you buy things without considering what you’re purchasing, you may tend to go for inexpensive “disposable” goods—clothes that unravel in one or two washes, or home goods and electronics that fall apart after a few uses—stuff that winds up in the trash eventually. To save yourself from your inner spendthrift, try not to go shopping when you’re upset. Instead, take a bath, call a friend, or take a walk. Do something that will make you feel good without wrecking your bank account.
Grow Your Own Herbs and Vegetables
A love of the land informs the homesteader’s gospel, and for many modern urbanites this translates to a concern for the environment, too. One of the greenest ways to get some fresh fruits and veggies (and save some green in the process) is to turn your backyard, porch, or patio into a working farm. Cost-prohibitive favorites like organic vegetables, fresh herbs, and delicate greens all make good candidates for container gardening or raised beds, and they’ll cost lots less when you grow them on your own. Gardening also helps the environment since you can control exactly what pesticides get used, or how water-efficient your bed is—plus, there’s no truck or an airplane used to carry it to the grocery store, which is an energy win. You can even save seeds over for next year. Obviously, mother nature was the original urban homesteader!
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Remake
Homesteaders get a fourth “R” in the old recycling adage because they’ll transform just about any old thing into a new object of beauty or utilitarian simplicity. For instance, did you know you can make a rug from an old sheet or torn plastic bags cut into strips? Homesteaders do. Oxford shirt with frayed sleeves? Turn it into a stylish women’s top or a cute, one-of-a-kind accent pillow. Or how about this wine cork bath mat? Or this bottle-cap-bedecked coffee table? Chances are, no matter what kind of junk you have on your hands, the internet has plenty of recipes for a hand-crafted reinvention, so let those creative juices flow!
Learn the Four Main Ingredients of Natural Cleaning
Say it with me now: ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, lemon. These ingredients are all you need for a powerful clean in almost any room in your home. Baking soda and vinegar cuts through grease and de-clogs sinks for a home that sparkles naturally—and for a lot less than expensive name-brand cleaners. And baking soda plus a little salt makes for a top-notch scouring powder as well, that works just as well on the bathroom sink as it does on pots and pans. Ammonia works for your tougher stains and rust buildup. For about $10, you can have all the ingredients for a whole arsenal of cleaning supplies that would cost $50 or more if you purchased them individually. Hey, an extra $40 is nothing to sneeze at—even if you aren’t moving back to the prairie anytime soon.