(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)
By the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and The Flat Broke Cookbook
If you are having some difficulty with money right now, let me share one very valuable truth with you: It is a whole lot easier to save money than to make more money. Once you apply this theory, you have the keys to the kingdom, no matter what your budget looks like.
Of all the things that you can do to better prepare your family for the future, making the switch to a frugal lifestyle is the most important. But there’s a lot more to living the cheapskate dream than simply buying generic instead of name brand at the store.
You need to bring your frugal ways into your everyday activity. Find things for free (or at least a lot cheaper than other people pay), make it yourself, repair things instead of replacing them – make it a creative game and you’ll discover that a frugal score may become just as thrilling for you as scoring a designer purse is for some people.
You have at least some control over your personal situation. While we can’t always make MORE money, we can almost always spend less.
25 Unusual Ways to Save Money
Recently, I asked you, the readers, to give me your most creative and unusual ways to save money. Each idea won’t work for every family, but you’re sure to glean at least a couple of ideas from these suggestions.
- – Kate: I don’t know if it’s unique, but we use family cloths to save money. As a family we go through crazy amounts of toilet paper, and so I cut up old t-shirts and I crocheted squares. We only use it for number 1….haven’t quite had the guts (or the need) to use it for both yet, but, it has cut back so much on the TP that we use. We don’t use them during that time of the month and boy is there a difference.
- – Blue: Several years ago I stopped in at a few restaurants near my home and asked them to save glass jars for me. Some let me leave a plastic bin in an out of the way corner for collection points and I made sure to stop by frequently to keep up with the supply. Since then, I have gathered up over 8 dozen gallon size bottles (new lids are available) and several dozen quart size, all for the asking. They make great intermediate-term storage containers (a step-down size from 5-gallon buckets), don’t take on any odors, you can tell what they contain, and they can be made airtight. I always get a smile on my face when I look over my own little storehouse of FREE glass preserved foods.
- – Sherri: I buy clear, heavy duty, shower liners and put them on the windows. Light still gets in, cold stays out. If I want to see out more clearly it moves.
- – Rhonda: I save money by never buying fertilizer, for garden or fields. Nothing goes to waste here, so I don’t need to! Of course, animal manure (in my case, horses, chickens, a pack of foxhounds and another of sled dogs) is composted, along with the usual kitchen and garden waste. Lawn clippings are allowed to dry and are used for winter chicken bedding before composting (the chickens eagerly eat the tender dried clippings). We use a “humanure toilet” which goes to compost (check out “The Humanure Handbook“–it explains how to do this safely!) Urine, high in nitrogen, is diluted and goes on the garden, backyard orchard, or lawn. Wood ashes (friends save them for me) are spread out on the fields all winter, adding minerals to the soil. Leaves are composted by many–I shred ours and use it as the cover material for the humanure toilet first. Even eggshells don’t go to waste–some are fed back to the chickens for calcium, but the rest are dug into whatever bed will have tomatoes that year. Waste not, want not!
- – Kathy: Save your stained, holey T-shirts. Cut out napkin and paper towel sized pieces and use them instead of costly paper products, then just throw in the wash and use again and again.
- – Mary: I’m a knitter & when I get a hole in anything knitted that can’t be repaired I unravel the damaged sweater & reuse the yarn for a new garment or socks, etc.
- – Doug: Don’t shop the 1s & the 15th. They raise most of the prices. Pay cash when you can. Use the library. You can get books, movies, & many other services for free. Find your self an older person who has been through a lot & has wisdom. Then help them & learn all you can.
- – Diana: Groceries are the place where most families spend a large share of their paycheck. One thing I’ve found that saves money is this simple tip–prepare all those delicious veggies you bought when you get home from the store. Right now. They will be ready to quickly add to your meal instead being something unrecognizable in the back of the fridge that gets wasted. Plus you are more apt to eat more healthy foods if you don’t have to make a mess at each meal getting them ready. Added: all those trimmings except the smelly broccoli/cauliflower can go in a bag for making veggie broth lately. Easy and free.
- – Carrie: We use a reel mower to mow our lawn. No gas needed! It stays sharp for a while and it’s a great work out 🙂 The company also sent us a free handle replacement when ours was bent after a tornado hit our house.
- – Jan: I use rubber gloves all the time with my hands in water a lot washing dishes, etc. Being right handed, the right glove wears out way faster than the left one. When I have a few extra lefties, I just turn one inside out. Now it is a rightie! I tap a little powder or cornstarch in the inside-out new rightie so it will slip on easily. Makes a pair of rubber gloves last twice as long.
- – Terri: My tip is this: to truly get a grip on your finances first you have to know exactly where your money is going. Set up a spreadsheet with categories that list every penny you spend. Break it down so that you can see exactly how much you spend on each thing. On the second sheet of the spreadsheet, I take each of my grocery receipts and rewrite it for that day, including size of product, cost, coupons, and total for that item. The total of the receipt is then posted on the first sheet under groceries. This allows you to see if you can get that item cheaper somewhere else. I total each month’s categories and compare it to that month’s income.Since starting the spreadsheet, my husband and I became much more conscious of how much money we were spending. We now constantly look for more ways to save money.
- – Wandakate: Instead of using fluoride toothpaste, just mix regular baking soda with hydrogen peroxide. It works just as well, last a whole lot longer and isn’t expensive either.
- – Karen: We set up a drying room in our basement. There is a dehumidifier running constantly down there as well as a ceiling fan. We hung sturdy clothes lines through one entire area of the basement and can hang-dry 3 loads at once. That way, we don’t have to use the dryer all the time, saving electricity, and line-drying makes your clothes last longer.
- – Maggie: If you or your spouse is a veteran, look into the local discounts that may be available to you. Check if you can get a veteran’s discount on your property taxes. Check if your grocery store offers a veteran’s discount (and if not, suggest it). Movie theaters may offer a veteran’s discount. Some beaches and parks with access fees offer a veteran’s discount. Everywhere I spend money, I first ask if there’s a veteran’s discount. Be patient, as the youngster manning the cash register is sure to not know, so politely ask him to call the manager. Also, even when the shop’s veteran’s discount is plainly advertised, the youngster at the cash register will most likely not recognize the proof you offer of your veteran status. If your state will print the word “veteran” on your driver’s license, get that done.
- – Doug: Change your attitude. If your having a really bad day just look around. You will find someone who has it much harder.
And like the old song says. ” Count your blessings, name them 1 by 1. Count your many blessings & see what God has done.
- – Tina: I sell my daughter’s and my used clothes, shoes, toys, housewares etc., on eBay or Facebook local groups. Sometimes I find thrift store finds to flip. It helps to supplement the expenses of a growing child and allows us to save up for other things we need that don’t fall in our normal budget!
- – Guy: Buy your gold and silver coins at coin shows, the premium will likely be lower. Shop around at the show too because the table next to the door is frequently a little higher. Bring cash as coin dealers don’t accept checks or credit cards! Besides, cash makes your purchase anonymous.
- – Beverly: Here is my tip – if you pay for trash pick-up in your area (w/o being included in your taxes) see if you and a neighbor would like to split the bill. We have a compost pile and we take our recycling to the dump (this is free in my area) so the leftover trash is very little so I just add to my neighbor’s can. save about $200 a year. [Note from Daisy: When our trash pick-up bill went up to $45 per month, we stopped the service and went to the dump every two weeks for only $8 per trip.]
- – Dawn: We’ve used dryer lint to help insulate the attic.
- – Beth W.: I catch the rinse water from my washer in the laundry sink (move the drain hose), then siphon it back into the washer to re-use as the wash water for the next load…unless it’s real murky. I use HALF the water!
- – Beth M.: I got rid of my car. I ride my bicycle everywhere. Saves me over $100 a month. I bought a trailer for it so I can do grocery shopping. I live in a rural area but the stores I need for fresh, refrigerated and frozen foods are within three miles. Most of the rest I order online.
- – Doug: Buy your gas when it’s the coldest. This way you get more because when liquid is cold its condensed. Coast when you can . Saves gas
- – Antoinette: Make own liquid hand wash soap saving about $100 annually, replant veg scraps, grow your own fruits, herbs and vegetables. Can everything and have water tank with a five filter water filtration system. Saves buying bottled water. Download free books from the Internet and have WiFi contract of 20 gigs data per month for home which we all use and saves on cost of separate data.
- – Ken: Before I throw anything out, I remove the hardware. Hinges, screws, nuts, bolts – anything that might be useful in the future. I keep them in little baby food jars that my daughter in law gives me so that they stay organized. I also keep rubber bands and paperclips from the mail.
- – Toni: We put curtains up to separate rooms we don’t use all time so we don’t have to heat them. I also put one in my hallway near the front door so the cold stays out in the entry and top of the stairs too so the bedrooms don’t have to be heated as much.
Do you have some unusual ideas for saving money?
How do you save money in unusual ways? What frugal thing do you do that nobody else is doing? Share them in the comments section below, and maybe you’ll inspire someone else!
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.
22 thoughts on “Frugal Reader Round-Up: 25 Unusual Ways to Save Money”
Most of these are great ideas but yikes(!!) filling your attic with something as highly flammable as dryer lint isn’t one of them. I use dryer lint to make fire starters for that reason. I hope they can get that out of their attic because if they ever have a fire it may spread so quickly they may not make it out in time. I’m sorry, it’s not my intent to be critical because I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I come from a firefighter family and maybe saying something will prevent a tragedy.
Thank you, Winnie, for that word of caution! My thoughts exactly!! I use my lint in my compost pile 🙂
WOW! YEAH! That one went up like a RED FLAG!!! DO.NOT.DO THIS!!! Drier lint is WILDLY combustible!!! Some may say the blow-in insulation is nothing more than shredded newspaper, which it is. Blow-in, however is treated so it WON’T burn!!!
While on this tack, eschew REAL Christmas trees in favor of an artificial one. Setting up a real Christmas tree is nothing different that putting a gallon of gas in your living room and wrapping it with electric lights! That is a FACT. Buying an artificial tree both keeps you safe AND saves you MONEY!!!
If you choose to smoke, look into rolling your own. Filter tip tubes cost about $2-$4 depending on brand and size as well as local taxes. Loose plain flavored pipe tobacco is usually cheaper than “cigarette” tobacco, menthol may cost more or be unavailable in your state. Devices for stuffing the tobacco into the tubes can be found many places selling smoking accessories and also online. In Massachusetts, I can buy a big pouch of tobacco and a box of 250 tubes for about $12 – a pack of Marlboro costs about $10.
It’s cheaper yet to quit, but for those of us who are not ready, this will save you quite a bit. You can also store the unopened packages and not have to worry about the tobacco getting stale unless the plastic bag has been punctured. This is good if you live in a place where you need to shop for several weeks at a time. Rolling your own will slow down the amount you smoke, too, as it takes a couple of minutes to stuff your tubes.
Even cheaper, a “rolling machine” costs less than five dollars and is a little handheld device that will help you get evenly rolled cigarettes with plain rolling papers, which cost maybe a dollar to a dollar fifty for a big pack. Still have to buy tobacco of course but shop around, many Indian Reservations offer tax free deals and bulk deals. Smoking’s still a luxury but you don’t have to be gouged quite as bad as the big tobacco companies want to.
Suggestions for anyone needing to use civilian US hospitals
Be aware that there are many articles about hospital over-billing problems. The claims are that a majority of hospital bills have serious issues of duplicate billing, billing for services not rendered, wildly inflated billing, etc. The average person does not have the knowledge to interpret such bills with cryptic abbreviations, and does not have the skills to negotiate the bill downward through such a mess. Be aware there are organizations that can either (1) do that negotiation for you, or (2) teach you have to do it yourself.
Consider also that “medical tourism” is all about getting medical care in other countries where the cost to you can be a small fraction of what US prices are. Just one example might be an uncomplicated birth. The average US charge for that runs around $10,000. In contrast, the charge in a Panama hospital these days is about $100.
But to take advantage of medical tourism, you must keep your US passport current. These days that’s less than easy — the US State Dept cut way back on their passport application work force (because of the Covid-19 issue, they say). So getting a new passport or even a renewal could take many months — if not years…)
There’s also the issue that some countries are blocking visitors from the US because of Covid-19 fears, so you’d have to check to see if that’s an issue in your unique situation — especially since it’s very unclear how long the Covid-19 mess might last.
For US veterans
The VA medical system has a rule that first time users know nothing about. It is that if the VA medical system isn’t given a first opportunity to either advise, diagnose or treat your ailment, it will refuse to pay your medical bill when you go to civilian medics or hospitals. Now that first opportunity might be as simple as a phone call to the VA’s telemedicine phone number for a recommendation — particularly if you live more than 30 miles away from a VA medical center.
Not knowing about that rule can mean the difference between a medical bill so monstrous that you can’t pay it off during your lifetime versus the VA picking up the entire bill for you.
I never buy paper napkins or paper towels. Old T shirts work well for towels. I hated laundering/ironing cloth napkins, so I went to the local dime store and bought different colored hand towels. Each member of our family had their very own color and we found out that the size of the towel (vs cloth napkins) really helped protect clothing especially when the kids were younger and we were older (haha). And they were so easy to launder with no ironing required!
I drive like an old lady, with no sudden stops or quick starts. Gas goes farther.
I pay cash for cars that I can afford. I also put aside a small amount every month so when I do go car shopping I have the cash to pay for whatever I want. I take car of my cars and can usually drive them 6 or 7 years, trading them in only when they start nickel and diming me. Keep them clean inside and out. A bucket of soapy water costs a lot less than a car wash. Rinsing is easy.
I buy good clothes, not cheapies from the local store. I have had the same London Fog winter/rain coat for 30 years and it still looks good. I did pay around a hundred dollars for a good wool sweater, but I’ve had it for 20 years and wear it constantly. I restrict myself to 5 very nice work outfits that look good and flatter me. When I buy another, I get rid of one. This both cuts down on my shopping and closet space. Be sure to buy good shoes and polish them frequently. I wear boots into work and change to my good shoes there when it’s raining or snowing.
I have the same comforters for years because I bought good ones and take care of them.
I inherited 2 wool blankets from my parents. I have no idea how old they are, but as my mom used to tell me, “Take care of things and they will take care of you.” They are in excellent shape.
My husband does the cooking. He was raised by frugal Polish parents who lived through WW2 with very little food. Among his recipes were dill pickle soup, using the brine left over in the jar. He also cooks cheap cuts of meat using the slow cooker or low oven temps with lots of time. Our grocery list always included lots of fruits and vegies in season only. Desserts were home made. We had decided that we would consume only foods that could be hand made, so no store bought cookies/cakes/pies. Since making those would be time consuming, we seldom had them. We also cut the sugar in half and use brown sugar to add a different taste.
A tribute to his kitchen endeavors was on our son’s 12th birthday when we offered to take him to a restaurant of his choice. He requested his father’s pot roast and my cheesecake. My kids die not eat junk food then nor do they feed it to their own children. We are all healthier than most people our ages.
Entertainment is playing cards with friends, reading, long walks in the parks, or participating in church activities or clubs. We eschewed Hollywood movies a long time ago and do not miss them. TV is for news and an occasional show (I admit I do love shows like NCIS). I taught in a high school, so we saw a lot of sports/stage plays/concerts for free.
Frugality is fun. We would often challenge each other to see how long each member could go without spending a dime. The winner would get the dinner of choice and get out of doing dishes. At Christmas one year we all threw five dollars in a kitty. The challenge was to find the best deal at a consignment/second hand shop. The winner then got the kitty. For example, one year I received a designer blouse in wonderful shape that my daughter bought for $6. The retail price was over $80. Being our daughter, she put $15 of the $20 in her savings account and treated her friends to $5 worth of frugal fun (popcorn and a litre of soda).
We buy good furniture and keep it a long time. Our home is not dated nor frumpy. We only bought those things we loved, but only after we would go home from the furniture store and waited a week before purchasing. Never ever buy furniture on an impulse.
We are careful with our money but do not obsess about it. The idea is to spend on things that spark joy as Marie Kondo would say. We loved traveling, camping, and new adventures so we spent on those things. We seldom went shopping out of boredom. I think that’s the key. Stuff does not make you happy. Family does.
You have done your children a huge favour by showing them how to live well yet frugally. More importantly, you’ve shown them what is truly important in life.
My parents did not have money for many extras but our cultural life was rich. I was thrilled with hand-me-downs as my mother added bits of ribbon or lace to give them interest. One year, for my birthday, she made a set of clothes for my teddy bear and I was very content with that.
Your reply made me nostalgic. My father had failed in a business when I was about 7 and he chose to pay off his debt rather than declaring bankruptcy. We must have eaten oatmeal for dinner at least a million times(I never exaggerate). That Christmas my mom made doll clothes for my collection using old clothes of ours. She made a new set of sheets and knitted a bedspread for my doll bed, and I too was ecstatic. My brother received an art kit made from dime store finds and a box of “ammo” for his play gun. He was equally happy. He and my father went out and shot at tin cans, while Mom and I redressed our dolls. We all then went sledding on the back hill. We really put on the Ritz for dinner that day with spaghetti and apple pie. That Christmas, my brother and I remember, was the best ever!
Indeed; sometimes being frugal means spending MORE money. Buy the best quality you can afford! An old saying goes, “If you want good, clean oats, you’ll have to pay a fair price. On the other hand, if you don’t mind oats that have already been through the horse, well, they’ll a little cheaper…”
Use bubblewrap on the insides of windows to help insulate. There are usually large sheets of it in the dumpsters behind furniture stores. Cut to size, spritz water on the window from a spray bottle, apply bubblewrap. You may need to tape it in a couple of places at the top, but the mist of water usually does the trick!
Even if you have double-pane glass, this helps insulate even more. And provides privacy.
This is a good idea, as is using plastic sheeting to make “storm windows.” Just be sure you don’t do this near possible sources of ignition. The curtains on those windows are made of fabric that won’t sustain ignition. In other words, it’ll burn or melt if you hold a match ti it, but will extinguish as soon as yo remove the ignition source. Plastic sheeting and bubble wrap DOES NOT do this and may very well continue to burn and even accelerate!
…My keyboard is obviously going bad…
inally, someone who wrote the same thoughts I have been thinking for years! Buying used underwear is disgusting, not frugal. Making your own soap is a waste of time, unless it’s something you genuinely enjoy. Extreme couponing and stockpiling can inspire you to buy more, not less.
there are some excellent ideas/attitudes here! but i have two warnings about #12 (brushing teeth with baking soda and peroxide). one, baking soda is much more abrasive than toothpaste, and if you use it for a few years it can scrape the enamel off your teeth. my mother grew up brushing with baking soda–she ended up with dentures in her early twenties, and most of her family fared no better. two, if you have high blood pressure and need to limit your sodium intake, you shouldn’t use baking soda because your gums can absorb the sodium and send it right into your bloodstream, making your blood pressure skyrocket. that happened to a co-worker of mine; when she stopped brushing with baking soda her blood pressure went back down right away.
I pay for internet, but I don’t pay for cable TV. I don’t have a TV set by choice. We use animal feed bags for trash bags. We are rural so our trash is either burned or hauled to the dump (free) which is on the way to town. Right now trash pickup would be $40 a month and I would still have to take it into town. I have two big compost piles to throw garden waste. We grow grapes and make grape juice rather than buy soda’s. Our $30 cell phone is a pay as you go and we only use it when we travel (grocery store, appointments, etc., all which is long distance). It is $2 a day on the days we use the phone.
I just received an ad via snail-mail today from these people in India. Looks like a fascinating way to save significantly on medication costs.
Here’s an excerpt from their home page:
“Global Pharmacy Plus provides you generic medications at a fraction of the cost through pharmacies in Europe, Asia and/or North America. We offer our customers quality prescription medications at discounts of up to 75% off United States prices. We are able to offer discounts on prescription drugs through pharmacies that meet strict online drug store standards.”
I use All Day Chemist, have for 11+ years now. They’re great. They ask for your doctor’s name and contact #, allergies, Rx you take, treatments you are on. Very good answering questions.You don’t need a prescription, even though in the check out process, there’s a place to load a copy of an Rx. I used them for some of my Rx before my husband’s Tricare kicked in. I still use them to build up a reserve supply of Rx for when SHTF. I’ve also used India Mart. It works by posting what you are looking for, and different licensed pharmacies give you bids. You can talk with them, and work some adjustments in prices. They are competive. I used them a couple times when we couldn’t afford a certain Rx after a big price increase, and my husband needed three more months on it. India will investigate a pharmacy if they play games, and will come down on them.
I bought a bidet that easily attaches to any toilet from Amazon for about $35. It washes your behind using adjustable stream of water. All is clean and i use a few squares to wipe off the water. My toilet paper usage has gone way down. I now use one fifth the amount of toilet paper as before. Much cleaner, too! I didnt need to stock up on toilet paper when covid appeared in the US.
Thank you, Cliff. I’m going to check your suggestion out!
stores raise prices on snap food stamp distribution days. instead of 1 and 15, some states have different dates and or 4 different times per month.
If you’re a “Frugalite,” there’s no need to tell you to patronize estate and yard sales. Often overlooked though, are non-bling necessities such as electrical and plumbing fittings, motor oil, and cleaning supplies. The plumbing fittings usually go for pennies on the dollar. I recently got a WHOLE BAG of 1/2″ PVC pipe joints for the cost of ONE 1/2″ joint at the hardware store. Things like motor oil, gear oil, paint, and cleaning supplies can often be gotten for free or near-free, as movers WILL NOT pack these kinds of things, and the trash man doesn’t want them either. I regularly get unopened quarts of motor oil for 25 or 50 cents; well over $4.00 at the store! I also recently got six bottles of synthetic gear oil for the tractor for $10.00. EACH BOTTLE cost around $14.00 in the store!