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15 Ways to Save Money During the Recession
1. Get better at re-using your stuff

It's the kind of stuff that fueled your grandparents' stories about hard times: Stretching supposedly disposable, used items further than most consumer companies want you to; Using your mind—and your hands—to solve problems without jumping in the car and busting out the wallet. We suggest finding inspiration from how Lifehacker readers creatively reuse disposable items. Re-purposing isn't all about balled-up tinfoil and grimacing, of course. Our most popular re-purposing posts of 2008 show that a little thought and some creative tinkering usually pays off with a one-of-a-kind solution to household needs.

2. Cut your food costs

Other than shelter (rent) and water (also rent, or municipal bills), food is the one thing you have to spend money on every day. If you really want to hack down your bills, carnivores can save money by buying whole animals—a process that's easier than they might think. For a weekend kick, you can make your favorite chain restaurant recipe at home. Stay away from the high-fat cruft on dollar menus and switch to a cheaper, healthier Mediterranean diet or these twenty health foods for $1 or less. And for those nights when cooking a full, healthy meal just isn't in the cards, a "Microwave Diet" is a surprisingly nutritious fall-back.

3. Dress and look sharp with less cash

Let's not pretend you can look like a million bucks with $7 and change. What you can do is focus on taking a clean, elegant style and maintain and extend it without hitting the malls at all. The thrift-conscious J.D. at the Get Rich Slowly blog has 18 tips on smarter used clothing buys, whether as a staple or just a complement to your wardrobe. And, while the political hook is a bit, er, dated, we did consult with style-conscious types to help dress like a honcho with humble means. For everything else that isn't soap and a haircut, try taking on easy ways to look sharp, like de-cheap-ifying a suit, shaving with a straight razor, and using coat hangers to prove to yourself that, yes, you really do have something to wear.

4. Start working for yourself (crazy as it sounds)

Even if you've invested in your paid-by-someone-else career, the layoffs just keep happening, leaving hard workers looking for their next gig. Assuming one's money is locked down, it can be surprising how much cheaper it is to start working for yourself—if the conditions are right. The self-employed route is one of the most common suggestions from our readers in response to post-layoff confusion, and if you don't have to pay for a commute, parking, lunch-on-the-go, daycare, or many other costs, freelance work might help you stem the losses, at least until you can land back on your feet. Everyone's situation is different, of course, and self-secured healthcare isn't getting cheaper, but we happen to know at least one certain blogger/developer who's taking a chance on working totally off the grid for 2009.

5. Cut the cable and get your TV free

When the nation-wide transition to all-digital, over-the-air television happens (be it Feb. 17 or later), anyone with an antenna will get digital channels for free (in fact, you may even get more channels than you were before). If you don't get great reception, or you like your television a bit more on-demand, there's never been more free programming on the web. Start with our six ways to catch your favorite TV shows, which covers the free market in all its forms, from official sites to BitTorrent. Next, check out Lifehacker readers' five favorite sites to stream TV for more inspiration. Looking for something that doesn't tie up your computer? Our ooh-shiny-savvy sibling Gizmodo has posted a great tutorial on taking a relatively cheap Apple cast-off, the AppleTV, and using the free Boxee software to spin it into a TV-streaming, download-playing, multi-media powerhouse.

6. Trim your cell phone costs

The economy stinks for you, but it really stinks for providers of services that can easily be scaled back—like cell phone providers. On the one hand, they may fight harder to keep you paying for data plans, text messages, and other "value added" items, but they really, truly don't want to lose you as a customer. If you can't re-negotiate a better deal, though, take a tip from PC Magazine columnist Sascha Segan and cut your phone bill by actually jumping ship (to a pay-as-you-go phone), then let them come crawling back with a package pitch. Stuck in a contract with a huge cancellation fee? Check out contract-swapping sites like and, which make use of (legal!) trade clauses and might just help you escape your monthly vig.

7. Invest in your career

Financial guru Warren Buffett, as he so often does, said it best back in April, before the market fell: Unless you're going to make investment analysis a nearly full-time gig, you're better off spending your discretionary time in furthering your main career and honing your skills than surrounded by earnings reports and endlessly changing charts. It's the same reasoning SmartMoney's Jack Hough uses in explaining why renting might make more sense than buying, especially if you're not partial to putting work, time, and money into a place right now. Neither is a call to yank all your hard investments out and start a blacksmith shop (as appealing as some might find the idea), but they reason that the revenue-generating asset you might have the most control over is your career.

8. Trick yourself into spending less, saving more

Curbing spending, like cutting back on calories, is something any self-help-ish expert can and will tell you to do, with few details given. So you're left, just as with dieting, to come up with your tricks and techniques for teaching yourself to do and not do certain things. When it comes to tricking yourself into saving money, we like the kind that you don't need much to start out doing, like Merlin Mann's Crap I Just Don't Need.txt file, in which he captures all his do-wants and must-haves, as if it were a wish list, but ends up checking it every so often to see just how well he's gotten along without all those things. High-speed, low-drag spending psychology.

9. Get serious about Craigslist

Craigslist is a website built for an economy that's scaling back to basics. People looking for extra cash divest themselves of stuff they don't really need, and those who need to spend less snatch up their stuff. If you're on either side, it helps to have the right tools. Get savvy with your selling by digesting Adam's seller's guide to Craigslist, and on the flip side with our Craigslist tips for power users. Hone down on exactly what you're looking for (time is money, after all) with the previously mentioned Craigslist Image Preview extension, or the image mashup (formerly It can feel harsh grabbing up deals when you know times are tough, but to many sellers, the buyer who actually pays is worth more than some future ideal of better times.

10. Reduce your bills by simply asking

One of the most effective means of shaving money off your monthly costs doesn't involve a website, coupon code, or any kind of hack, unless you count working up the small courage required to just, well, ask. Our weekend editor Jason found deals on his internet package, gas bills, household insurance, and even trash disposal, just by being persistent and, in most cases, simply asking if there was a deal he didn't know about. Read his tips on reducing by asking, then down the last of your coffee and get on the horn.

11. Becoming a Cosigner

Cosigning a loan can be a very risky thing to do even in flush economic times. After all, if the individual taking the loan doesn't make the scheduled payments, the cosigner could well be asked to make them.

However, during an economic downturn the risks associated with cosigning a note could be even greater as the person may be at greater risk of losing his or her job and the means to pay down the loan. Also, the cosigner is more likely to land in the unemployment line as well.

With all that in mind, there are times when you may find it necessary to cosign for a family member or close friend regardless of what's happening in the economy. In such cases, it pays to have some money set aside as a cushion.

12. Avoid Getting Into an Adjustable-Rate Mortgage

When purchasing a home, some individuals may choose to take out an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM). In some cases, this move might make sense. After all, as long as interest rates are low, the monthly payment will be low as well.

However, what if the individual were to be laid off and interest rates were to rise as the recession or slowdown started to abate? As rates rise, the monthly payment may go up. In such a case, the homeowner may find it extremely difficult to come up with the money to make the payments. Keep in mind that late payments or non-payment can have an adverse impact on the individual's credit rating, which can in turn make it more difficult for them to obtain a loan at a future date.

13. Stop Taking Loans

Taking on new debt (such as a car loan, home loan or similar obligation) may not be a problem in good times if the individual makes enough money to cover the monthly payments and still has extra funds to live on and to save for retirement. However, what happens if the individual's livelihood is adversely affected in the midst of the economic turmoil? What happens if the borrower is laid off?

In many cases, recently laid off individuals may have to take jobs that pay less than their previous salaries just to make ends meet and to keep money coming in the door. Unfortunately, the new income may not be anywhere near the amount they had previously earned. When this happens, savings can quickly dwindle away. (Don't let excuses prevent you from reaching your financial goals. Read Debunking 10 Budget Myths.)

In short, if you're considering adding monthly payments/debts to your financial equation, understand that this could complicate your financial situation if you are laid off or have your income cut for some reason. Taking on new debt in a recessionary environment is risky, and should be approached with caution.

Remember, over leveraging yourself at any point can lead to financial setbacks. This can prevent you from achieving your longer-term financial objectives. In a worst-case scenario, it could even contribute to bankruptcy.

14. Do Not Take Your Job for Granted

During an economic slowdown, it's important to understand that corporations, even large ones, may be under financial pressure. And when that happens, many companies will try to reduce expenses any way they can. In some instances, that may mean scaling back on company functions such as holiday parties, but in other cases, companies may cut the dividends they pay, and sometimes companies will cut jobs as a means of saving money. (Layoff rumors can run rampant, but if your company is required to give you two months' notice, you can plan for unemployment. See Layoffs: Know The WARNing Signs.)

Job cuts are targeted by many companies that are struggling because the cost of keeping an employee on board can be huge. Think about it. Sometimes in addition to salary, the employer may also have to contribute to healthcare costs and/or make retirement contributions.

Because the employment situation during a recession may be so fragile, employees should generally try to do all they can to make sure their employer has a favorable opinion of them. This may mean coming to work early, staying late and of course doing top-notch work at all times. While there is no guarantee this will save your job, it could make you important enough to your company to ensure you're kept on the payroll.

15. Take Zero Risks With Investments

Business owners should always be thinking about the future. They should always be thinking about new and exciting ways to grow their businesses. However, an economic slowdown may not be the best time to make risky bets.

For example, taking on a new loan to add physical floor space or to increase inventory, or otherwise add to the business may sound good. But what if the business was to slow down? Would the business owner or owners have enough left over at the end of the month to pay interest and principal back to the lender on time? Would they have enough left to live on? When making any sort of investment, it is important to be cognizant of the potential risks and rewards associated. This particularly true during a slowdown or a recession.
Nice, please also post 15 ways how do I earn money during a recession.

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