The best way to save money is not to buy anything. If you can, move under a rock, eat moss, and bathe in the river. While probably fun for an afternoon (or if you're a toddler, that's called livin'), it just won't fly. Sometimes I want a side of rice to go with my lichen.
But after all the basics are out of the way (to recap, the basics are: food, shelter, and entertainment), how does one minimalize?
Here are some examples of things that I don't buy, don't own, and don't need. Some of them make me think I should rename this blog The Luddite, but remember, I have high-speed Internet, a mobile phone, and a laptop that will smoke yours!
1) Microwave: Completely extraneous. Food heats up wonderfully on the stove, and while quick is nice, the therms burned on your stove to reheat your leftovers (remember to always have leftovers! See previous post) cost less in energy and micropennies than the nukerwave oven. Also, some foods just don't microwave well. Lastly, you've just cleaned space on your counter for a KitchenAid Mixer, a much more worthy appliance.
2) Cable television. Ten-thousand channels and nothing on. Between Netflix and Hulu, there is nothing I can't watch. And I just discovered ESPN online, so I can watch World Cup Live too! Our television is old, donated, and the picture lousy. The DVD player is much the same shape. But it fits nicely in our fireplace, so it's out of the way and fills the brick void endemic to 1950's suburban architecture.
3) A fireplace. Put a TV in it. None in our burbs were designed to actually heat the house. They leak most of their energy to the garage or to the aether. Seal it or re-purpose it. Don't put wood or gas in it in the hopes that it will add ambiance or somehow heat your home (This doesn't apply if you have a real fireplace. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you don't have a real fireplace.)
4) Kitchen gadgets. Simpler is better. You don't need a Slap n' Chop taking up space when a good sharp knife will do. Every extra tool sold as an infomericial or looks like a candidate for one is out of bounds. You don't need it if it's made of plastic. It's probably dull, and if it isn't will dull before you decide you don't need it. Own one or two sharp knives, an electric mixer, and some nice mixing spoons. Justify everything else to your Id.
5) New clothing. I buy everything I need used or on sale. I'm so good at this I just had to clean out my closet because I had too much (and I lost weight).
6) Processed food. I lose more weight and feel better about myself by eating high fat and high protein food that I've made myself. The price difference is worth it even if the health benefits don't appeal to you. Regardless, eat less sugar, and you're save on gas (less meat to haul around).
7) Meat. Eat a lot less of it. Veggies are cheaper and healthier. This pretty much goes without saying, but the meat lobby has been very successful convincing everyone that chicken tastes good (it's disgusting) and that pork and beef should be at every meal (this correlates with the rise of heart disease in this country). Cut back even if you're not a vegetarian. It's burning a hole inyour pocketbook as well as your gut.
8) Books. As an avid reader, I used to buy all my books. But the library has so many more than I could possibly ever collect. Checking books out saves me lots of money and I get to read the same amount and discover more just browsing the stacks!
9) Gasoline. Driving less means less money spent on fuel. Viola and I enjoy many activities that are within walking distance of the house (the backyard, the park, Mitch's house with the chickens, etc.) When we drive, we try to stay local. Also, working from home (i.e. taking care of Viola) has saved me lots and lots of money just because I don't have to commute to San Mateo everyday anymore (conversely, it's offset by the lack of income).
10) Tools. Make friends with people who have what you're missing. I might have a drill press, but Mitch doesn't. But if he needs one, it's here. Mitch has the miter saw, which comes in very handy. I don't need all the tools, and now that I have a carpenter friend, I don't think I'll be buying a new tool for a while (thanks Tim!)
Next up, how to vacation with all that money you've been socking away!