I’ve been called a frugal weirdo. I’ve been called an extreme saver. But let me tell you what, the readers of Frugalwoods make me look like the tamest frugalista that ever walked around in a coat she found in a trash heap.
I mean, I do have an entire section of Frugalwoods devoted to the amazing stuff I’ve picked out of the trash… But I must say, per usual, I am humbled by the intense frugality on display by Frugalwoods readers. If you think you’ve done weird things in the name of frugality? Read on, my friends.
Welcome to my monthly Reader Suggestions feature! Every month I post a question to our Frugalwoods Facebook group and share the best responses here. The questions are topics I’ve received multiple queries on and my hope is that by leveraging the braintrust of Frugalwoods nation, you’ll find helpful advice and insight. Join the Frugalwoods Facebook group to participate in next month’s Reader Suggestions.
Oh yeah, also, Happy Valentine’s Day and here’s stuff about V-Day The Frugal Way:
- Crowdsourced Ideas For A Unique And Thrifty Valentine’s Day
- A Frugal Valentine’s Day: Do Instead Of Buy
- A Frugal Weirdo’s Anti-Valentine’s Day Manifesto
Ok back to the odd topic at hand…
The Weirdest Things Frugalwoods Readers Have Done To Save Money
Live In A Construction Zone
Mary Grace wrote, “We bought a house that needed lots of TLC, it had a makeshift kitchen.. as it had plywood floors, no walls or partial walls, same with the ceiling, no cabinets or cupboards, it had a temporary sink and an old stove. We lived with this mess for over 20 years .. now we have a beautiful kitchen that we did ourselves! We learned how to hang drywall, texture, lay tile, .. all of it!”
Go Old School
Carrington said, “We bought a VCR for about $8. Now, we can get the classic Disney movies for about 35 cents at Goodwill. If the tape doesn’t work great, then we can just buy a new one. It’s a lot cheaper than dvd or blu-ray.”
When Life Gives You Lemons
Yuliya said, “The most recent re-discovery – preserving lemons. 🍋 My lemons always went moldy, I’d use some and the rest would get forgotten in the fridge until it’s too late. Then I remembered that my grandmother used to cut up lemons into small wedges and layered them with sugar in a jar and kept the jar in the refrigerator. It’s perfect for tea and no lemons wasted!”
When Life Gives You Vegetable Oil
Julie said, “My husband recycled used vegetable oil and turned it into biodiesel.”
When Life Gives You Coconuts
Natasha shared, “I live on Guam I’m always on the lookout for Coconuts that fall from trees. I pick them up off the side of the road I get usually 5-6 a week. I use the husk to line my chicken boxes, I also use it as topcover in my veggie pots to retain moisture and to keep the Chickens out. Then the coconut itself I crack open and shred it I use it in a chicken salad dish called Kelaguen, I also make Coconut candy as gifts, I then take the coconut nut halves and make little bowls or decorative ladels as gifts.”
Let No Toiletry Go Unused
Carolanne shared, “I made up some washing soap by dissolving endy bits of soap bars in boiling water. I stored it in a jar – where it sets to a kind of gel.”
Laurel reports, “I accidentally discovered that my body lotion works as well for my face as the expensive face lotion I’d been buying for years. I forgot to pack the latter on a trip then just started using it full time, no difference.”
Julie said, “I always put water in dish soap or laundry soap bottles and save it for hand washing or light loads. Filling a dirty pot with water and dish soap and then pouring part of it into another dirty pan and so on.”
Meghan said, “We paid for the food at our wedding by returning cans and bottles collected from the restaurants we worked at, I made my own wedding dress and we “borrowed” the flowers from our neighbor’s yards. But I think that’s all perfectly reasonable and not strange at all, the weirdos are the ones who take out loans to pay for a party.”
Adastra wrote, “I participate with foodsharing. I think it is just in Germany available. Shops like grocery shops, bakery, restaurants participate and let us know if they have leftovers, packages near the “best before date”, not so pretty fruits. We collect the food, use it for ourself and share what we are unable to consume. Reduced my grocery bill under 50 $ per month and the food is not wasted. Most shops sell organic food, so it is high quality.”
Annie said, “When I was fresh out of law school and very broke I still wanted to attend my out of state friends’ wedding and support them. So I packed oatmeal and tuna packets for the whole weekend other than the wedding night when I knew I’d be fed so I wouldn’t spend any money on food. I was sharing an Air Bnb with several buddies and they all thought I was nuts 😂.”
Kellie shared, “We go to 3 supermarkets, a fruit and veg store, and a discount grocery (plus Asian grocery and various outlets of the same supermarket as we go by) to find the best prices. I take photos of products in one store and check the cents/100 grams in each. Sometimes we have to walk back to one of the other stores if it’s cheaper (we’re lucky that we have 3 supermarkets in one small shopping centre so it doesn’t cost to travel between them). The discount grocery we go to, sells products close to (or over) use by dates sometimes we get some great bargains there. Lately as petrol prices have been rising by 40-50 cents overnight, we’ve been topping up the tank when they’re low. As we drive by, we see the price is low and pop in . Sometimes the top up to make the tank full is only $10-15 But when prices rise by so much per litre, that’s a big saving.”
Kristi said, “Well, I’m not sure it’s that weird or if anyone has done it, but I guess it might be. We are trying our hand at composting. Instead of buying a kit or a bucket made for composting, we decided to use a long Tupperware piece with a tight seal to see how it goes. We stuck it on the balcony.”
Elizabeth wrote, “I buy bulk vegetables and fruit and share with my sister, especially seasonal fruit is cheaper and also very ripe fruit i chop up and freeze for smoothies.”
Cindy says she, “Saved the butter packets from take out. I really like them and put them in a ziploc in the fridge-they are the perfect serving size for the kids toast!”
Chickens Like Mexican Food (as do people)
Anna reports, “I still get a kick out of getting plate scrapings from the Mexican restaurant for free and not buying as much chicken food! We also are turning a clay pit into garden soil with free coffee grounds! Saving landfill and money!”
Ellen said she once, “…carried leftovers home in my coat pocket for 2 miles on foot… It was half a quesadilla and leftover guac… GUAC IS EXTRA OK IM NOT GONNA WASTE IT.”
From Trash to Treasure
Mary-Ellen said, “In this age of reusing, repurposing and recycling, I don’t think trash-picking is strange. I think it should be encouraged and applauded! However, others may think we are strange for doing it. My husband recently trash-picked an antique steamer trunk that I use for my Halloween displays. 👻”
Kathryn’s favorite is, “Literal dumpster diving! Most notably, nice apartment complex’s when the college kids move out and for my wedding looking for wine bottles to paint for center pieces!! My best friend and I were both deep in dumpsters holding each other ankles!!!”
Sophie said, “Not that strange (to me), but dumpster diving to salvage perfectly-edible and delicious food!”
Rachel admits, “Trash pick in the swanky neighborhood across town. With a red station wagon. In broad daylight.”
Mandy reports, “I had a job that would throw out trash bags of food, mostly unopened, from different vendors; I would collect it and take it home in my backpack. I got fancy cheeses, granola, pastas, frozen entrees, snack foods, etc.”
Lynn wrote, “I saw 8 foot posts left for the trash when I was out for my 4am run. I dragged them to my house, two at a time and used them in my landscaping project.”
Reduce Your Water Use
Caitlynn said, “What started out as frugality and turned into better for our skin and hair: we go as far between baths as possible and all use the same bath water. For my husband and I that’s weekly. I like it screaming hot so I get the tub first. For my girls (7 and 3), that’s about once a month and go in together after us. They have sensitive skin so less washing is best. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!”
Melissa said, “I don’t think any of it is strange! I’m sure I looked like I’d lost it last night when I was ladling potato water into the house plants though. (Plants like the starch water….) 😂”
Joan shared, “We had a hurricane in our pre-generator days, so since we are on a well, we had no water. I was desperate for a shower but refused to find a hotel and pay for a room. When a new band of rain moved in, I put on my swimsuit and showered and washed my hair under the run off from our roof. We live in the country with no near neighbors, but my teen was still embarrassed by me.”
Go ALL IN To Make It Work
Kathryn reports, “We’ve done a lot. Both our cars broke down and instead of going into debt we went carless while saving up to fix them. I would walk a mile with three kids and a little red wagon to buy produce. Then when my husband got home from work at night he would take the little red wagon on the light rail to the cheapest grocery store and stock up on other goods. I even had someone stop me and the kids on the road with our wagon full of produce and ask to take a picture!
- We redid our kitchen ourselves a little at a time on cash, so there was a stretch when I did dishes in our front yard with the garden hose.
- We spent six months without any fridge and then almost a year with a dorm sized fridge for our then family of five to save electricity.
- I’ve made my own sandals out of cardboard and duct tape.
- I took Amtrak to visit family instead of flying. By myself. With a four year old, two year old and six week old. It was a two day train ride.
- I used to work at night after the kids went to bed doing transcription but we didn’t pay to heat the house so I would type on my computer bundled up in a hat, winter coat, and fingerless gloves.
We successfully weathered several periods of unemployment/underemployment, started a profitable family business and purchased a home with cash because we were willing to be extreme.”
The Case Of The Run-Over Sandwich
Aimee said, “I found a takeout sandwich in a parking lot that had been run over by a car (like tire tread marks on the bag). Who knows how long it had been there. I figured it was cold enough that it probably hadn’t spoiled (Michigan winter), grabbed it, brought it home and ate it. My friends still make fun of me, but it was a good sandwich! #ihatewastingfood”
Reuse, Reuse, Then Reuse Again
Brandy reports, “I don’t find them strange but I have been teased by friends for: reusing aluminum foil multiple times, current pans come from a dumpster (it was an eviction 😭 and the garbage truck was on the way and the people had not returned in weeks), seed saving from flowers, my kids take sailor showers (turn the water off when soaping), saving their milk/juice not consumed from breakfast for afternoon smoothies, finding out the drink being served at beach happy hour and bringing our own of that brand (the beach is free but you are supposed to buy the overpriced drinks of the local hut).”
Irene reports, “I wash and repurpose tableware, styrofoam, Chinet plates if they are not to messed up after parties dinner events.”
Laura said she, “Made reusable sanitary products from an old flannel sheet. Use old washcloths for un-paper towels, use my dehumidifier water to water plants.”
Lea said, “Whenever we run our dehumidifier in the basement we will use the water collected in the basin to fill our toilet tank rather than letting it refill from the pipes.”
Rebecca said, “Well this is also to save on plastic, but I found out you can reuse disposable swimming diapers as long as there’s no obvious urine or poop. Just wash, dry and wear again until they get too haggard.”
Susan wrote, “My friends find it odd that I wash my zip lock bags (not those that have contained meat). Could be odd, but I haven’t bought a new box in several years.”
Barb “made swiffer replacement pads out of (reusable) flannel scraps of fabric!”
Terri shared, “In our first year of marriage, my husband’s work was very hard on jeans! I patched them so much that some of the patches had patches! We got to the point where he only had one pair and payday was a week away. I washed them at night when he got home, but we didn’t own a dryer. So I put them in the oven on low heat to dry!”
Buy It For Life
Janel wrote, “I believe in buying quality products that last. For instance, I purchase most of my furnishings from a well known retailer. My last sofa lasted 20+ years no sagging or creaking. We moved across the country and I bought a new one that should last as long. It cost a lot up front but it lasted with yearly steam cleanings and care. Over the years my friends and family would ask is that the same sofa, the answer was always yes. I also have a vacuum cleaner that someone was discarding. I had it repaired and it works well. I take it in for repairs periodically, mostly belts. I worry I won’t be able to find the filters one day but I wouldn’t want it in the landfill. I haven’t bought a new vacuum for over a decade.”
Vincent shares, “I bought ExOfficio underwear that I can wash by hand everyday. I have 2 pairs of underwear and they’ve lasted me 8 years.”
Barter & Trade
Sally wrote, “I love learning new things but didn’t want to pay for classes, so I scanned my friends and families Facebook posts to discover their hobbies and talents. It’s amazing the range of skills people have – photography, cartoon drawing, bird watching, keep fit, rambling, cooking, art, knitting etc. I then private messaged them to ask if they’d give me a free lesson in photography or take me on their favourite walk etc. I did it as part of my Happy New Month lifestyle (each month I do something to challenge or enhance my life and keep it interesting) – this was part of my Try something new in November month. It was great because I spent time catching up with friends and learning all about something they were passionate about. Highly recommend giving it a go!”
Monica said, “I have taught myself how to make very fancy baked goods because I am a sucker for them. Eclairs, macarons, cream puffs, fondant covered cakes, and any other finicky little sweet treat you can think of I have probably tried it at least once instead of going out and buying it. It takes me a while to make some of them but I enjoy baking too so it works out. I’ve also gotten really good at steak dinners and other things we would normally have gone out to eat in the past. Learning how to cook well saves us a ton of money even if there are a lot of dishes afterwards.”
Donna wrote, “The wooden frame of our couch broke – we decided to repair it! Took off the fabric, rebuilt the inside, put it back together again.”
Sara wrote, “My car had a broken knob that changed it from heat to cool. Twice a year, when the seasons changed, my husband would crawl under the dash and manually change the temp.”
Dryer Lint: It Has A Use, People
Elaine said she, “Saves dryer lint as fire starter. Asked my sister to save hers.”
Noel wrote, “Our family hates paying $8 for plastic wrapped fire wood for our chimney. So on nice winter days we go for “stick walks” on the nature trail near our house. We collect small-medium sticks and branches that will fit in our fireplace, enjoy a quick burning fire after dinner, and then the next day we always add the ashes to our compost. It’s frugal, fun, and offers a significant amount of toddler entertainment, but the passersby still look at us funny as we all rummage for good sticks.”
Angela said, “When we lived in a house with a fireplace, I would go to public forests to collect pinecones. Great Firestarters.”
Sew Your Way To Savings
Nicki credits, “Learning to sew at a young age, I have reclaimed many items. When my kids were little I always bought a size up. Tucked, hemmed etc. They weren’t particularly joyful about it, but now they are parents and they get it! Everything can be remade. Now, it’s a treat to buy new fabric.”
Sometimes, You Really Can Go TOO Far
Brooke wrote, “My ex-husband insisted I rinse dental floss and reuse it. Lol. I refused but he did it for years. That’s way too far in my opinion.”
The Overarching Message: You Do You (because it’s a lot cheaper than keeping up with the Joneses)
I think all of this boils down to living an authentic life. I think most of it relates to not caring about conforming to norms. I think the undercurrent here is that you’d better do you because no one else will and no one else actually cares what you’re doing. I think the subtext is that it’s better to do some potentially weird things than it is to wind up in soul-crushing debt. Frugality can be hilarious, it can be incorporated into every aspect of your life, and you’ll probably have more fun being frugal than not. After all, Aimee ate a run-over sandwich and Kathryn found herself head-over-heels in a dumpster with a friend. How many spendy people can claim that?!