Novel money-saving tips for tough times

Who can afford a new calendar every 365 days? (Almost anyone, but stay with me.)

We’re all looking for ways to make ends meet during these tough times, but there are only so many coupons you can clip or charitable organizations you can defraud with an elaborate Ponzi scheme. What follows are some less traditional ideas for saving money, each of which has actually been recommended on the actual Internet.

Well, you can scavenge. We might as well start there. The Scavenger’s Manifesto is a new guide to “discovering how salvaging, swapping [and] repurposing can save the Earth, your money and your soul.” Wow. I for one did not realize that a trash can full of maggot-infested ham could do all that. I also didn’t realize that saving my soul would require me to finish eating some dude’s pizza crust. Church never mentioned that.

Still, there’s no denying the growth of “dumpster diving,” which is on the fast track to becoming a featured medal sport in the Hobolympics. And remember as you rummage: one man’s discarded syringe is another man’s source of hepatitis!

But maybe you’d be more comfortable with a less drastic change in lifestyle. Why not start small and save on a barber by trying a home haircut? Sure, your hair will look terrible—but at least you’ll potentially injure yourself. A blogger named Frugal Dad notes: “Guys, you will need someone to help you with the neckline, unless you are good with mirrors”—or, failing that, good with staunching arterial bleeding.

While it’s true that the recession is a joy-snuffing abyss of bleakness and despair, thank God we still have our kids to hold, cherish and shake down for loose change. Remember: a penny regurgitated is a penny earned.

For many advice-givers, children are our most precious resource—and should be mined for savings accordingly. One mother says she’s taken to sewing fake designer labels into her daughter’s bargain-bin clothing. A dad boasts of cutting his son’s allowance to “help him understand” what a recession is. And one blogger suggests forcing your children to shower with you to save water. (Who knew traumatic memories could be so environment-friendly?)

Bottom line: your children will hate you. But you can win them back. One fun thing to do as a family during hard times is to closely track the precise duration of the mind-numbing tedium that defines your shared misery. But who can afford a new calendar every 365 days? (Answer: almost everyone, but stick with me here.) Why not do what the folks at Walletpop.com recommend and reuse your old calendars? “There are only seven permutations . . . so why buy a new one for 2009 when you can pick up an old one on eBay from years that match?” I knew I should have listened to my broker when he recommended a portfolio weighted heavily in Leif Garrett calendars.

But saving serious money requires more ambitious measures. For instance, you could save big on eggs by raising your own chickens. Websites like Backyardchickens.com will help you along. And don’t worry—the people on these sites are just like you and me. They’re totally normal. For instance, when the topic turned to whether to eat your hens after their egg-laying days are behind them, one woman sensibly responded: “If we were all starving to death I would chop off an arm or leg and feed it to my kids before I would eat one of my laying hens!!!” (Awww, Mom—arm sandwiches again?)

Which brings us to death. All things being equal, it would be best if you didn’t die during the recession. But if you must die, the least you can do before you go is build your own coffin. There are a number of books that can help, including Do-It-Yourself Coffins For Pets and People—which touts itself as “a joy for the experienced craftsman,” especially if the experienced craftsman happened to have hated his recently deceased mother-in-law or cocker spaniel.

Looking for an even cheaper option for the dead? Burial at sea. It doesn’t cost a penny and it lends itself to a serene ceremony. That said, you may wish to learn from my mistake and ensure you use a body of water larger than a wave pool. As I told the staff and, later, the authorities, I was as surprised as anyone that my pony floated.

Finally, there’s the whole matter of wooing and sex. In a time of crisis, only a monocled madman would consider paying as much as $10 for flowers, candy or a hooker.

So why not do what a man in Michigan’s Thomas Township did and have sex with a car wash vacuum hose? All you need are four quarters and, according to the Saginaw County Circuit Court, 90 days to spend in prison after pleading no contest to charges of indecent exposure. Vacuum sex and three square meals a day? Now that’s making the recession work for you.

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