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Oh the awesomeness. Photo by Damian Gadal

(This is part 3 of the Frugal Hippie series. Read part 1, part 2 and part 4.)

There were a lot of changes made around our house when we decided to get out of debt. They were normal at first, like eating out less, but as time went by, they became more … weird. I didn’t care, though, as they made sense to me and lowered our budget significantly.

The less conventional our choices, the faster we were able to save money and pay off our debts.

Our methods aren’t for everyone (and some were temporary), but these changes went a long way in helping us establish our frugal, debt-free lifestyle.

1. Scratch Cooking

When I started monitoring our spending, I was shocked to see that we spent a lot of money on convenience foods and meals out.

Then I discovered that if I made my own food from scratch, I saved a lot of money and was also happy knowing exactly what was in my food.

(I discuss this more in depth in my book Simple Natural Health.)

2. Ditching Disposables

In addition to realizing how much convenient meals were costing us, I also saw that disposable items were taking a pretty chunk of our budget. Paper towels, diapers, pads/tampons, wipes; we were literally throwing money away on these items each month.

Instead, I switched the babies to cloth diapers, started using dish cloths and cloth napkins and bought a moon cup.

3. Drive Less

Better yet, sell your car (or one of them), especially if you have a car loan. Not only do cars require money for payments, upkeep, gas and insurance, but their convenience makes it easier to go on impulse shopping trips.

What did we do? Sold our car (that we owed money on), paid off the difference and purchased a cheap van with cash (that didn’t require full coverage insurance). Pearl sure wasn’t pretty (but she was awesome).

4. Relocate

Our house payment was too much. Like most people, we thought we needed a big house in a nice neighborhood, so we bought one. And slowly suffocated under the weight of the mortgage that took half our income.

But we finally realized that we could get out of debt much sooner if we sold the house.

Since we did (we did a short sale – the housing market was awful), we’ve lived with my parents, rented a house that used to be a church and lived in a small but cozy house in town. And then, we lived in a bus.

5. Mindful Consumption

Electricity. Water. Stuff. As I became more mindful of my budget, I became more mindful about how much we consumed. I lowered our thermostat, started washing dishes by hand and even went on a several-month stint of turning the water heater off during the day.

I became more conscientious about using water and how much garbage we were producing as a family. It opened my eyes to the fact that we consumed too much and gave no thought to others who didn’t have what we did. It was a great wake-up call, not to mention helpful in lowering our spending.

6. DIY

I was a novice do-it-yourselfer when we started getting out of debt, especially when it came to personal care items. Now, I make my own … everything.

I’m so blessed to have a husband who is willing to do it, too. I don’t know how much money we’ve saved thanks to his handy-ness.

7. Stop Shopping

Seems like a no-brainer, right? But what happens when you start trying to save money? You start looking for deals (at least I did) and end up buying stuff that you don’t need or wouldn’t have bought in the first place.

We got into debt because I liked to buy stuff. Getting that habit under control was difficult, but it was essential to staying out of debt once we got everything paid off.

Have you done anything radical to lower your budget?

p.s. Want more money-saving ideas? How about 60? Check them out here.