Living beneath your means – for fun and profit

Living beneath your means – for fun and profit

By Barbara Weinstein and Eitan Fenson, Transition Palo Alto

How are you making ends meet during these tough economic times?

Local Transitioners shared their ideas at the March 9 Transition Palo Alto 100 Mile Potluck. Cecile Andrews kicked off the discussion by asking folks to consider what they’re doing in three different areas:

  1. Transportation, travel,  food, and leisure
  2. Housing, furniture, clothing, cleaning, maintenance
  3. Kids, education, health and work

We then split into smaller groups to discuss each area in term, mixing up the groups each time before returning to the full group to share ideas that came up in the small group discussions.

So many creative ideas! Here are some of them.


  • Biking and walking
  • Mass transit
  • Keeping cars a long time (though there is a trade-off, older cars tend to use more gas)
  • Renting cars for long trips to save wear and tear and lengthen the life of your car


  • Not traveling
  • WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) – can travel to places around the world, get free room/board in exchange for working on a farm


  • Cooking together
  • Meatless Mondays
  • Growing your own food
  • Having front yard gardens for food and social interaction
  • Composting, sharing seeds
  • Raising chickens


  • Turn off or get rid of TV
  • Visiting with other people instead of paying for meals out, movies, etc.
  • Group movie nights
  • Working vacations
  • Singing and playing music with others


  • Living in subsidized or group housing
  • Living in a smaller house or trailer park
  • Renting out rooms to others to help pay the mortgage
  • Buy a house with a friend or partner
  • Renting instead of buying

Heating and cooling

  • Insulating for lower energy costs
  • Using programmable thermostats with timers
  • Keeping the temperature low and wearing warmer clothes


  • Making your own furniture
  • Taking care of furniture


  • Getting clothes from Goodwill
  • Wearing clothes longer
  • Mending clothes
  • Passing clothes to friends
  • Reusing fabric from clothes


  • Using Freecycle
  • Passing stuff on to others
  • Remaking, reusing, refurbishing stuff
  • Using stuff that people have thrown out or given away

Cleaning and maintenance

  • Using fewer cleaning products, making cleaning products yourself
  • Hiring day workers for needed household/maintenance jobs (St. Joseph’s Day Worker Center in Mountain View)


  • There’s lots of pressure for kids to get material things – don’t succumb


  • Use the library
  • Getting education informally, not in college
  • Free lectures and programs (Stanford and elsewhere)
  • Going to community college
  • Joining 4H as a low-cost way for great education
  • Instead of enrolling for a class, just buying and reading the books
  • Using free LiveMocha ( to learn languages
  • Volunteer to work with people, animals
  • Internet sources for legal and other help


  • Getting teeth cleaned at school (you can if you take classes at Foothill)
  • Be an advocate for your own health
  • Yoga and other options for improving health and well-being


This entry was posted in Economics, Events, Local, Waste by bart. Bookmark the permalink.

About bart

I live in a small condominium in the San Francisco Bay Area. From 2004-2009, I was the main editor for the Energy Bulletin website ( In previous lives I was a technical writer for Hewlett-Packard, a high school teacher and a newspaper reporter and editor.

One thought on “Living beneath your means – for fun and profit

  1. Well thought out summary of an exciting and fruitful gathering!
    More ideas than time to share with a creative group.
    One not mentioned above was “barter” for goods and service.
    College towns like Ithaca, New York and Burlington,Vt. do a brisk amount of exchange through barter. Does not seem as popular or practiced here in our Stanford college area. I once got Mother’s Day flowers from a local florist earned by my daughter’s exchange with a florist in Michigan! That’s an inter-state exchange across the miles. She has even received eyeglasses and piano lessons in barter. Wish we did more of that here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s