27 Frugal Ideas: Which Ones Stayed, Which Ones Didn’t?

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Since it’s still more or less still the “New Year” I figured it would be interesting to look back and reflect on those frugal ideas I’ve tried in the past, keeping in mind those which have stuck as well as those that didn’t. I can say that changing your way of live is hard, particularly, when you feel like you “must” do so… seems that can be said for many areas in life the older I get. 😉

In no particular order:

  1. In Say Goodbye to Paper Goods we gave up on using paper plates, napkins, paper towels and the like. By and large we’ve done fairly well here. We rarely use paper plates, napkins or silverware unless there’s a really special reason. Paper towels have begun to creep back into our lives but really only to clean things like mirrors. Seeing as though we wash dish towels almost everyday I’d say we’re still minimizing our use of paper towels. We still use facial tissue and toilet paper… I can’t find a good reason to stop using those. 😉
  2. In 5 Body Lotion Alternatives I attempted to find something to replace our body lotion. I settled on coconut oil but, to be honest, we’ve reverted back to using the body lotion we’ve used for years. That said, coconut oil would certainly work but even that’s getting rather expensive so I’m not very interested in trying it again.
  3. Plastics, Difficult to Live Without was about giving up things like garbage bags, ziploc bags, disposable water bottles, and straws. We rarely use straws–though the kids get into them on occasion–and we only use reusable water bottles like the Kleen Kanteen (our favorite reusable water bottle by far) and though we don’t use ziplocs too often we are still using them for things like storing homemade bread. I can say that I attempt to wash out our ziploc bags when they’re not too gross and we certainly use plenty of tupperware for leftovers and whatnot; one of these days I’ll start trying to use mason jars in place of tupperware but haven’t done so yet. Garbage bags are still something we use regularly.
  4. The article 5 Silly Things I’ve Stopped Doing Now That I’m Broke was one of my first frugal Friday articles. In it, I talked about not letting the water run or reaching for the hot tap water, both of which have seemed to creep back into my habits. I also talked about running full dishwasher and laundry loads both of which we do, as well as using only cold water for laundry which, by and large, we do as well. Last, I spoke about turning off lights and the television when not in use and, sadly, we’re still bad about this… these days it’s the computers that get left on, especially overnight, which drives me a little nuts.
  5. Saving 70% or More on Printer Ink was solely about buying printer in online. It’s easy to do and something I’ve stuck with. If you’re still buying ink at the local store you’re getting screwed… stop doing that!
  6. In 10 Ways to Use Less of Stuff We Use Everyday I was really into making my own homemade supplies, particularly for the laundry and dishes but also toothpaste, lotions, and shaving cream to name a few others. While some of these homemade ideas lasted longer than others, for the most part we’ve gone back to store-bought supplies. Some of this had to do with the homemade versions purportedly (according to my wife) not working as well such as the laundry detergent and dishwasher soaps. I felt they worked “good enough” but she has veto power so back we went.
  7. When I wrote Maximizing the Use of Local Library Resources I tried to offer solutions for those who didn’t have other options. Personally, we still use the library for books, occasionally for digital books, but rarely for anything else. Mostly we just use the internet to learn most everything else.
  8. When I wrote I’ve Recently Re-Discovered The Frugality of Using a Washrag With Soap I was REALLY trying to be frugal! This idea has generally stuck and I do feel it’s helped reduce the amount of soap I use each day in the shower but I haven’t done any sort of testing.
  9. In How I Saved a Thousand Dollars or More Buying a Car I offered up a way to buy a vehicle for less. For the most part I’d say this is still good advice but I haven’t purchased any more vehicles so I can’t speak to the advice working a second time.
  10. Just Because They Send You a New Credit or Debit Card Doesn’t Mean You Have to Use It is, obviously, about NOT using those tempting credit card offers they like to send you in the mail. And I’m willing to bet that nearly every American is (or soon will be) receiving plenty of offers in the mail now that the Holiday season is over. My advice? Don’t do it! Shred them and tighten the belt.
  11. DIY Dishwasher Detergent Tabs or Powder at HALF the Cost of Store-Bought stuck for a while but, as I said before, we went back to store-bought liquid detergent. Honestly, I didn’t really like making them so I’m not that sad about it.
  12. Let Dishes Air Dry to Save Even More Money? didn’t stick either…. what’s my problem? There’s really no reason NOT do this seeing as though the dishwasher tends to run after dinner most of the time. I’ll have to get back to this one.
  13. 3 Ingredient Homemade Deodorant My Wife Approves Of did stick. In fact, “the boss” prefers it and so do I.
  14. How to Make 4-Ingredient DIY Sink Scrub has also stuck with us and I think it works just fine.
  15. Regrettably, The Easiest DIY Toilet Bowl Cleaner did NOT stick, even though it’s the same recipe as the sink scrub. I think it worked fine, my wife preferred something else.
  16. Ditch the Gym Membership, Save $1000 a Year or More! is still a great idea. If you recently started going to the local gym like everyone else in America, stop! Workout at home. Personally, I’m far more likely to do get my workout in when I don’t have to spend time and effort going somewhere else to workout.
  17. We still Use Discount Cards to Buy Gas. It doesn’t save a ton of money but why not when you’re already at Costco or Safeway?
  18. Be Your Own Handyman… When You Can is always a good idea if you’re capable (and safe). I always prefer to tackle a project on my own not just to save money but to get experience too. Of course, there are things I can’t or won’t do but at least I can say… “I really thought about doing it.” 🙂
  19. The Homemade Goo Gone Recipe, Only TWO Ingredients is fine if you’re trying to remove residue from surfaces that won’t scratch easily but I rarely find need for it and since the liquid goo gone I have seems to last forever… I’m sticking with the store-bought.
  20. Get Fewer Haircuts, Cut Your Own… Potentially Save $1000 per Year Seeing as though I shave my head–I surely wouldn’t pay anyone to do this to me–and that my niece still cuts my kids hair once a month… this one’s a keeper.
  21. Collect Pocket Change… You’d be Surprised at How Much You Can Collect I still do this but I think my kids “borrow” my change more than I realize because it tends to disappear.
  22. When I wrote Cancel Monthly, Yearly Subscriptions: Save Hundreds to Thousands of Dollars I was really trying to cut back on bills, everything from television to cell service was on the table. Things haven’t changed much since then. We don’t have cable as the over-the-air is good enough considering that we still use Netflix and Hulu. I almost dropped Amazon Prime and probably should have since I despise their television offerings and we don’t seem to order as much as we used to. Nothing else on the list in the article has changed
  23. 3-Ingredient DIY Liquid Laundry Soap That Works was a winner for quite a long while but my felt it didn’t do quite as good a job as the store-bought so we’ve recently gone away from it… but I am waiting… for the return of my homemade laundry soap. Personally, if you’re just washing clothes because you wore them that day but they’re not super dirty or smell then this stuff works fine…. maybe you don’t even need laundry soap in that case? I can say that we’ve been adding distilled white vinegar to our laundry and that helps too.
  24. We’ve recently revisited Turn Down That Thermostat… Put on Some Darn Clothing here at home and my wife and I are at a stalemate. She prefers it warmer (high 60’s to low 70’s) whereas I’d prefer lower (upper 50’s to low 60’s); we’ve compromised and settled on mid 60’s which, if I’m honest, is about as low as I’m comfortable but since we’re on electric heat the bills really add up when we’re also running electric blankets and the occasional space heater.
  25. Enter Giveaways Regularly: Win Big, Save Money was an attempt to “win” free stuff. I’ve occasionally looked for giveaways online but I really don’t like entering them, it seems.
  26. Trick Your Kids and Stockpile Their Candy… I think my kids at all their candy this past Halloween so I didn’t even have a chance to steal it!
  27. Free Admission Spots – we still look for places nearby that are free or relatively cheap, even visiting the same places again but this is getting “old hat” if you will.

When I first started writing this I “felt” like we were doing relatively well but looking back on it all I’d say we’re NOT doing quite as well as I had expected. I can see, too, that there are some areas we can work on and get back to (such as letting dishes air dry) but most frugal ideas I tried which we’ve gone away from seem to be preferences…. preferences that we’re probably not going to go away from if we don’t absolutely have to.

Anyway, how about you? What frugal ideas have you stuck with? Or those that you didn’t stick with and why?

I’d be grateful to hear them.

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Author: Damian Brindle

Blogging about all things survival and emergency preparedness, including experiences with DIY projects and ideas, gear reviews, living frugally, cooking in unconventional ways, and more! Take a tour to better understand the many tools and resources you can find here as well as what to expect in the future. Learn from my experiences and share your own in the comments below. Have a blessed day. :)

8 thoughts on “27 Frugal Ideas: Which Ones Stayed, Which Ones Didn’t?”

  1. I am lucky, I have a guy who is as frugal if not more so than me. He does a lot of his own repairs at home, plumbing, electrical and carpentry. Says tools are an investment not a cost. Changes the oil in cars, spark plugs, lawnmower and snowblower as well.
    We have an antenna on the roof that gets 23 local channels, no cable TV, Internet only.
    Did a garden again this year, kale was the best producer and biggest money saver. Had greens from May through December.
    He sharpens the blades on the mower with an angle grinder and has a lansky sharpening set to sharpen knives and scissors. I have heard people throw them out when they are dull, why???
    And this smart lady stepped up the home hair craziness this year by adding color to the list. I was seeing too many silver streaks multiplying on my head and decided I needed to color them. My frugal guy told me they were beautiful natural highlights. I told him nice try, that’s not going to work. So we researched home color and henna was the best choice. While your wife won’t let you near her locks ( really can’t blame her as you use a razor to do your own), my guy has been cutting my hair since we first met. I have him do a full hair application and root touch up at the six week mark with leftover I freeze. Bought the henna online and even though I need two kits for my hair, it cost me only $35 for the year! My neighbor who used to work in a salon stopped over to chat last weekend when I was scheduled for my trim and root touch up. I told my guy proceed as we had plans that afternoon. Well she watched as he caped me, sectioned, pinned up my hair and then proceeded to give me my bimonthly trim. She commented my hair was getting quite long and he was barely taking off anything. Umm, that is why he cuts my hair, because he does it as I ask, not scissor happy. He applied the henna to my roots, sectioning and applying it with the brush to ensure he colored the roots well. My neighbor is high maintenance, she had just spent $130 to get her hair trimmed and root touch up the day before. She goes every 6 weeks. She said at my length, her stylist would charge $175! And she did tell me I was lucky to have my own personal stylist. At the $175 rate, I would be paying nearly $1600 a year versus the $40 for henna and FREE haircuts. I could buy groceries for three months for that. My children’s haircuts would not be that expensive, but being my guy cuts my hair, I got him to takeover the barbering chore each month. That saves me hundreds a year, and he gives a really good haircut.
    We rarely eat out because we each know how to cook well, and why pay $80 for a meal out, when I can put one on the dinner table for less than $10? I don’t think of my frugal mindset as being cheap, I see it as we work hard to bring home pay checks, why engage in wasteful spending with my money?

    1. Yes, Cheryl, you really are purposely working to save money. 🙂 And I agree that items like tools are an investment, I know I have plenty of my own. You husband being more frugal than you seems to be a blessing as he seems happy to do a lot around the house even cutting your hair and highlights… that’s something I’m positive my wife would NEVER allow me to do and, besides, I wouldn’t want to… have you see my head? Completely shaved! I, however, would have been happy to cut my kids hair so long as I can use one setting on my head trimmer… low.

      Eating out is something we’ve really learned to cut back on in recent years and I think it’s a good thing no matter what; we probably eat healthier and tend to spend more time together as a family. Of course, it is fun to occasionally go out but not make it a regular habit.

      The more I continue to learn about being prepared I find that I can actually save more money, from making homemade cleaners to foods, like I said in my post. Thing is there’s always more I can learn and do and that’s half the fun.

      Take care.

  2. Back in the late ’50s, there was a particular model of television that had a high incidence of fire. Back then we had tubes in the tv and those tubes had to warm up before the picture came on. By constant ‘charge’ or having electricity run through them even when the set was off, it didn’t take quite as long to warm up. Problem was those tubes also created heat and in one old Motorola model, the heat broke tubes or something and spontaneously ignited. Some things don’t change that much. Entertainment equipment still has current running through when the power switch is off. Even prior to alternative energy, we unplugged every night and the first thing next evening plugged back in. Then the most wonderful invention … Power strips. In 1979 we used an electric blanket. One night I got up to go to the bathroom and when I came back I noticed a miniature light show going on in my bed, the next day I bought a down comforter. Still use it, hasn’t burned the house down yet.
    It’s amusing to us when people come to visit the first time and they exclaim, “You’re off grid? But you’re so normal!”. Yep, we have over 7,500 square feet of house and out buildings electrified with most of the modern amenities. BUT we don’t use them all at once. One problem with the convenience of the grid is you don’t turn off the things you aren’t using. The two biggest appliances we do without is a dishwasher and a clothes dryer, heat being the greatest consumption of electricity. Although we do have the ability to install a propane heated dryer, I have hung the laundry on the clothes line for most of my life because I actually prefer it. I’ve managed to ruin a number items in clothes dryers, ughhhh.
    Here’s the deal, self-sufficiency or preparedness is a mind-set, a way of life. Regardless of the goal, you have to put it INTO practice as a habit, not just practice it like a drill. Some things like making laundry detergent are skills worth learning and occasionally utilizing but once you know how, you can choose not to do it on a regular basis. Power usage is a whole ‘nother thing.

    I don’t mean to mislead you, we’ve had some pretty sharp spikes in our learning ‘curve’. And nobody wants what’s coming down the pike. What you need to decide is if you MUST make a change or if you really WANT to before you HAVE to.

    PS – Old t-shirts cut into 6 X 6 or 12 X 12 squares make a dandy substitute for paper towels and napkins, they even stack nice. Grungy t-shirts are easy to come by at Goodwill or Salvation Army and you don’t feel like you’ve wasted anything when the time comes to just throw it away.

    1. The idea about the t-shirts is a great idea. I was telling someone about it and they suggested instead of throwing the squares away using them to make char cloth.

      1. There are interesting articles on the web that talk about re-purposing old t-shirts to make all sorts of clothing and accessories, all of which I would NEVER do. That said, you could turn them into makeshift bandannas, rugs, as extra insulation… but really the best use IMO is as dish rags.

    2. Though I’ve never tried it they do apparently make devices that completely turn off entertainment centers and such to stop the “phantom” power drain when not in use. Seems that many devices use phantom power, even items like a toaster! Anyway, I do wonder how useful these really are and how much money they can really save a family over the year?

      You say you saw a “light show in your bed”… yikes!!! We’ve been using our electric blanket again this year because my wife just can’t get to sleep without being toasty warm. Personally, I’m not a fan because I get too hot and a simple comforter would suffice… ugh, the sacrifices one must make for the spouse. 😉

      I’ve yet to get on board with NOT using a clothes dryer. We seem to do laundry most days and it would really become a chore to put laundry up on a clothesline or umbrella stand each and everyday… plus I like the fluffiness and warmth when the clothes come out of the dryer… but at least we have the ability to use a clothesline if need be.

  3. In laundry, use Borax and if you can get your hands on it (contact a local distributor of dry cleaning supplies), Sodium Perborate. We use that to whiten whites, and when done properly, it’s striking the difference. I little heavy upfront cost, but it will last years and is shelf stable for a long time. At the same time, detergents like Trebon+ is 10x better than any store bought detergent. Universal stain removals can also be found from these suppliers. Most often, a friendly dry cleaner (if they exist) could order it for you as well.

    Also, buying in practical bulk works really well. You don’t have to sacrifice comfort for cost. Using companies like ULine, and whatnot which have online stores allows you to buy in bulk items that you ACTUALLY use!

  4. Laundry– We use: 1)our ‘homemade’ laundry soap except for our whites. 2) short loads 3) Cold Water

    Kitchen– We use: No paper products. I have tons of cloth napkins, also table cloths. In place of paper towels, I use old torn up regular towels, regular dish towels (terry cloth, light muslin type & ‘pretty’ cloth ones)

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