Broken Things I Own that Still Work (and Save me Money!)

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The idea for this article came one day when I was searching for inspiration and thought, “Why don’t I look around my eco-cabin for something unique to write about?” When I started looking around my house, I was amazed at all the broken things I have that still work (and therefore save me money from not replacing them).

When I reflected on this on a deeper level, I wondered if I had found an element of the Frugalite spirit. The old saying goes, “It is ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A Frugalite might add to this, “If it IS broke and it still works, why the heck would you replace it?” Well, in this disposable, fast-fashion society with all of its materialistic glory, I think it takes guts to hang on to broken things and well, frankly, rock them! I hope this article inspires you to take a moment to appreciate your own Frugalite spirit and the ways we swim against the tide of society. 

My Car, Lucky

Back in 2021, I shared the story of how I found a great deal on my used car, Lucky, in a city about 2 hours from where I live. When I first met Lucky, however, I was a bit concerned. You see, she had a bunch of little dings and dents that didn’t show in the online photos I had seen. When I asked her previous owner about them, he told me that it was part of city living. People would run into him in parking lots and drive off without leaving their information. 

Now, these weren’t huge dents, mind you! Her other issue was that some of these fender benders had broken her plastic front bumper. I wish they didn’t make such cheap plastic bumpers like these now! When the front plastic piece split, the previous owner just taped it up. So, the front of my car is held together by duct tape (at least it’s black and sort of blends in). I still fell in love with Lucky and bought her, despite her city life “battle scars.”  

If I thought that the car I drive reflects my value as a person, however, I may have turned down this great deal or decided to spend hundreds on a replacement bumper or thousands on trying to get the dents out. I’m so glad my Frugalite spirit allows me to get from A to B without sweating the small stuff! 

My High-End Scissors

I absolutely love thrift shopping and have stocked my kitchen with high-end knives and accessories. One of these accessories that I use all the time is my pair of high-end scissors. They have black plastic handles. One of the handles is actually broken right through. Somehow, the plastic is so strong that it doesn’t even matter. So, although these are broken, I haven’t even needed to tape them together. I’m pretty sure this is why they ended up in the thrift shop in the first place, and it doesn’t even matter to me. Ca Ching!

My Kefir Cooling Bowl

I do not have air conditioning in my eco-cabin, and it can get pretty hot in here on the hottest of our summer days. In order to slow down the culturing of my homemade kefir, I put the jar in a bowl of cold water. When it gets hotter, I add an ice pack, using a plastic lid to separate the ice pack from the kefir jar. The large metal bowl that I use to do this has a huge dent in it. How did that happen? Could the author of this article have dropped it in a moment of distraction? I will never tell. Ya, it looks pretty ugly, but it still does its job. 

My TV Tables

I don’t have a lot of furniture in my small eco-cabin. I find that my two wooden TV tables are great because they can be folded and put out of the way when they aren’t being used. I rescued both of these from thrift shops for a fraction of what they cost new. I had to fix both of them and refinished the top of one. Now, a supporting bar on the bottom of one of them keeps popping out. I know I should just get out my carpenter’s glue and fix it…and I will… when I get around to it.

If you want to refinish furniture on the cheap, check this out!

Some of My Favourite Clothing

If you ever met me in person, I might be wearing a really nice shirt…with a small rip in it or a grease stain. A few weeks ago, I was bleaching something in the bathtub, and a few drops happened to splash on my shirt near the bottom. When I was younger, I would have gotten all upset and thrown the shirt away. Now, it’s a story to tell. 

My Treasured Knick Knacks

It’s possible I’m a bit of a collector. I’m in the process of trying to downsize my huge collection of farm memorabilia and antiques. When I look around the eco-cabin at the knick-knacks I treasure, most of them are broken. Holly the Cow is a hand-painted folk art cow with a twisted string tail. One of her legs had broken off and was glued back on. She was like that when I found her. I can still love her even though she’s broken.

My great-grandmother’s butter dish broke several years ago when something happened to fall on it from a shelf above. I saved the pieces to glue back together. However, I found that it now fits flush against the back of the counter, saving me some counter space. So, even though I could “fix” it, it sorta works better for me this way. 

Why Does This Matter?

When I looked around my eco-cabin and my life, I was amazed at how many of my things are “broken.” Am I just cheap? Lazy? Naw, I don’t think so! When I reflected more deeply on this, I concluded that there is freedom in the capacity to love broken things. I’m able to appreciate that function and even beauty can co-exist with imperfection. Plus, broken stuff can save you money!

Frankly, I think a lot of people would replace half the stuff I own. Do you think that Frugalites appreciate function over perfection? Do you have your own story of a “broken” item you own and use that you can share with us?

Please tell us in the comments below.

About Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, “Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture.” Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

Picture of Colette


Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, "Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture." Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

36 thoughts on “Broken Things I Own that Still Work (and Save me Money!)”

  1. Betty B in Texas

    Colette, thank you for affirming me in my habit of keeping broken things that still work fine. Why toss them? My soup ladle, which used to have a long handle, now has half a handle but it does its job. I have a lot of very upscale polo shirts and blouses that I got at thrift shops in upper crust neighborhoods, some of them for a mere $2 like Lands End and Pottery Barn. They were practically new. Then there are the dishes with a chip on the bottom. A treasured coffee mug that needed its handle glued back on. My landline digital phone whose antenna broke off and I taped it back into its slot. You are correct in this enlightening article telling us there is no need to toss and replace broken things that still work fine. If we replaced everything that was broken, we would end up having to replace ourselves, as most of us are broken in some way or another.

    1. Hi Betty, Wow! I think our stuff is so similar. When I wrote this article, I have to admit, I was a little concerned: is this a bit too far out there, even for Frugalites? However, I thought that the message was too important not to try, given the times we are in. Thank you so kindly for taking the time to comment and now I can exhale my breath in relief! Ahhhhhh!

      What I found quite insightful about your comment, Betty, was that you had picked up on the underlying theme that I had been thinking of: brokenness does apply to us humans as well. There simply often isn’t enough space to delve into these deeper ideas in every article. Yes, as I have gotten older, I have grown to accept my own “brokenness” not as a weakness, but as a real strength. I think that my ability to accept the brokenness of the things around me reflects my ability to accept my own brokenness.

      By the age of 54, I have survived many things: trauma, significant loss, physical injuries and disabilities. I am still here. I have learned from all of these difficulties. They have shaped me into who I am. The greatest gift that I can see from all of this in myself is my compassion. I “have been there” so to speak and so can put myself in someone else’s shoes and feel compassion for whatever trauma, loss or illness they might be dealing with. I am grateful for that gift. I used to wish my life had been “easier” especially in my childhood. I now accept it and walk my journey, hoping to inspire others who might be struggling silently in any way that I might.

      Thanks so much for your comment and for your reflections! Wishing you the best!

  2. Colette, thank you for another excellent article. I wish it were possible that I could actually meet you in person someday. I think we have so many things in common. I really liked this article and I agree with the concept entirely.
    Along the same thought line is the idea of upcycling and repurposing. You have already spoken before about how you do that too. It always gives me joy when I can take something (broken or otherwise) that seems to be unusable and give it a new purpose in life.
    On a different level, I have often had the opportunity to participate in that process while teaching school. Sadly, in our world today there are many children with broken hearts or broken spirits. I always saw addressing that as one of my primary goals in addition to teaching basic skills. I think that is why I went into teaching in the first place.
    And, most of all, regarding using “broken” things I must use myself as a prime example. Over the years, God has seen fit to use and repurpose my broken life along with many, many other people. In fact, I believe He does His very best work with people who are broken. I am so thankful for that.
    I hope you are continuing to heal. I have thought of you often in the past few weeks and hope that you are making progress.
    Best wishes, Trish

    1. Hi Trish, Thank you for a lovely message. Who knows, we may find a way to meet in the future and enjoy a Frugalite coffee or tea together! I appreciate your feedback and kind words about the article. It is great to hear that there are like minds in the Frugalites!

      Yes, regarding school, I do think that we are similar. I worked in the school system for a short time before I began my career in adult education many years ago. I somehow found that I was able through some kind of unknown “radar” to identify the children who were hurting and needed assistance. That was so long ago and I can only imagine the numbers of those children have increased exponentially. They would be lucky to have you as their teacher, I would say.

      All is moving along well on the homestead and with me. I hope to send out a blog post in the next couple of weeks with an update. Thanks so much. Wishing you the best!

  3. I agree, people throw away things all too readily. I have many things that I love and I actually look at it as a challenge to save something! My favorite fixing help is milliput, it’s a non toxic resin that fixes a multitude of items, I have a running box of things that need fixing ranging from China to Christmas ornaments, I even take chipped crystal wine glasses from the restaurant I work at and simply smooth out the chip with a nail file, that gives me a high quality glass I wouldn’t readily buy for myself.

    1. Hi Pamela, Thank you so much for your helpful and practical comment! I had no idea what milliput was. I think I need a few of these! I checked out the website and saw that users can contribute photos of what they’ve used it for. I am looking forward to checking that out. I love that you give those wine glasses some TLC and then enjoy them. I’m sure the wine glasses would thank you if they could! Much appreciated. Wishing you the best!

  4. Many years ago, I worked part time for a Musical Instrument Repair Shop in High School. I learned a lot from the old boy that owned it, but decided upon a different career path. After I retired, while looking for something to keep my sanity, I picked up doing some repairs again. Now, I search the thrift shops for broken instruments, violins, guitars, brass and woodwinds. A little time, a few parts,, and some fine work, and pretty soon, there’s a restored violin, guitar, trumpet or flute, perfect for a beginner, and I send these to a Children’s Home in New Mexico for the kids, One of the local churches does a drive every year for clothing, household goods, and so forth. It’s usually only 3 or 4 a year, and a little out of pocket expense, but it feels right to do that. Who knows, the next Chuck Mangione, Maynard Ferguson or Eric Clapton might come from that Home.
    Some of what I pick up is too broken to restore, but I scavenge those for parts, and try not to throw very much out. Even then, if it can be recycled, that’s where it goes.

    1. Hi Chuck, Your story brought a tear to my eye. How beautiful to think about those children experiencing the joy of music and the kindness of a stranger at the same time. It’s nice to also think about how the work of the old boy who owned that musical instrument repair shop is now continuing on. What a heartwarming story that runs counter to our throwaway society. Thanks so much for sharing this. Wishing you and all your instruments and their parts the best!

  5. I loved this article. Wooden chairs waiting for a bit of glue … check. Laptop with a cracked-open case but still works … check (two of them!). Desk missing a drawer because I haven’t yet glued that back together either … check. Shirts with bleach-spots and/or little cat-claw holes … check. Hybrid car with a charging port door that needs a fingernail to pry it open … check. Cellphone with a massively cracked screen protector … check. And half the buttons on the 10-year-old car’s dashboard … I don’t even know if those are broken, because I still haven’t bothered to learn what they’re supposed to do. 🙂 Self, spouse, kid, dog, cat all surviving without that stuff … check!

    1. Hi Mike, What a hilarious comment you made! You had me laughing (in total recognition of myself, I might add) at every single item. ha ha ha! I especially appreciate the punchline….all surviving quite fine, thank you very much! Too bad we can’t all have a big broken jamboree together somewhere! I’m sure it would be a lot of fun! Thanks so much for the laughs today. Wishing you the best!

    2. All the shirts here that get spots/bleach/tears….become my work shirts…I have a special rod in the closet for these.
      Then, they become rags for spills, like the time I lowered the garage door onto a pan of oil my husband placed there—I misjudged the distance….and he said…why are you so calm??
      Uh, this is my life!!! I’m used to it!!!

      1. Hi Judy, Thanks for sharing your shirt to work shirt to rag graduation system. I am convinced that ideas like these save tons over the years. Good for you for keeping your calm during the oil spill. You were prepared, so no need to worry! Wishing you the best!

  6. Much as I get a chuckle from such duel use verbal examples as Holly the Cow versus Holy Cow… I also get some satisfaction by re-purposing part or all of someone’s discards. Some examples:

    When my late neighbor remodeled his house and placed a sliding glass door in the alley for trash pickup, I asked him if I could have it instead. He happily agreed. I already had an ebook (Kindle) example of Sharon Buyden’s book (via Amazon) on how to build a solar distiller that looks a bit like a pool table with a slightly slanted glass top. I already knew from her book that entire families along the US border with Mexico were using such DIY projects to provide super clean cooking and drinking water — where local politicians would not cooperate. This is her book title:

    DIY: How to Build a Solar Water Distiller: Do It Yourself – Make a Solar Still to Purify H20 Without Electricity or Water Pressure, by Sharon Buydens, Sep 4, 2015

    Another such re-purposing of a neighbor’s discard was a dead rear projection TV set. Again he had set it out for trash pickup, but fortunately I spotted it in time to ask him for it instead — to which he agreed. The part I happily extracted was the giant Fresnel lens which is perfect to make a solar cooker to boil water, cook foods, heat water for washing dishes, etc.

    An inherited surprise were a couple of oblong metal boiling tubs (with well-fitting metal lids) that had been used by my ancestors to fill with water and then lay over two burners simultaneously on a wood-fired stove from the days before rural electrification. I had been using them for storage of miscellaneous stuff until I recently saw a YouTube video on building a Faraday Cage. I was stunned to suddenly realize that those two ancient metal boiling tubs with tight fitting metal lids would be perfect for use as Faraday cages — without the need of modification. That is a use that my ancestors back in the pre-electrification era could never have imagined.


    1. Hi Lewis, Aha! I had never put that together….Holy Cow, Holly Cow! How could I have missed that!?! You are light years ahead of me in your solar capabilities. I will take down the references and continue to aspire to these wonderful applications and repurposing of items. Had to admit a wave of jealousy passed through me when I read about your perfect Faraday cages (no modifications needed!). My goodness, while your ancestors could never have imagined such an application, I am certain they would be proud to have them still in use! Thanks so much for sharing these great stories with us all. As always, wishing you the best!

  7. Hi!
    This is my first time here, and I am definitely one of those people who don’t like to throw things away either! I will wear a pair of shoes out until they won’t stay on my feet any longer. I hate buying anything new! My mother used to do the same. She had a coffee pot that she got for a wedding present that she would use to serve coffee to guests even though the heating element wore out on it!

    1. Hi Cygnet, Welcome to you! I enjoyed reading your thrifty stories. I would be proud to be served from your mother’s coffee pot! Much appreciated. Wishing you the best!

  8. I love it when items are durable enough to last a long time, but also sturdy enough to still use when something goes wrong. A metal bowl is fine with a dent, not so a plastic one.

    My oven is very old and still going strong after I replaced the element.

    My pickup has one of those fancy adjustable mirrors on it- unfortunately I damaged the passenger side one recently. Even though I intend to replace it at some point, a good application of silicone glue reattached it surprisingly firmly and it looks fine.

    My fridge has a problem with holding temperature – it likes to randomly freeze things. I could get another one but this one is old enough to still have replaceable parts. So, like the stove, it’s staying for now!

    One last thought: If you get a bleach stain on something, and the article of clothing isn’t too formal, it might be worth considering spattering a bunch more bleach on it to make it look like a decorative pattern!

    Great article. 🙂

    1. Hi Redbranch, A great list of “broken” but still usable items. Thanks so much. My goodness, a fridge that still has replaceable parts: I think that is worth its weight in gold (well, almost!). I like to tie dyed bleach idea! Go big or go home, Frugalites! Wishing you the best!

  9. You can glue some cracks in a plastic bumper. We “kissed” a deer one night, just a crack in the bumper. Insurance companies not longer “cash out” – aka give you the money without proof of fixing at a body shop but at the time they did. No way were we going to put $2500 into 12+ year old car with 200K+ miles. Glue did the trick and the cash out went into savings for the new vehicle we purchased 3-4 years later.
    Cosmetic issues are a nit in life for those secure in his/her own skin.

    1. Hi Selena, That is a great suggestion regarding the bumper. If you happen to see my response, what kind of glue did you use? I am more familiar with bondo and doing bodywork on the metal parts of the car than dealing with plastic! I can’t believe how much of my 11 year old car is plastic. My 20+ year old car was mostly metal and I loved that about her. I agree about being secure in our skin. Good for us Frugalites! Thanks so much. Wishing you the best!

      1. I asked the better half and he doesn’t remember the particular glue. I do remember it was orange in color (maybe Gorilla glue?). Had someone not rear-ended the buyer of my beloved car (I have good knees/small feet, better half has neither), I’d take a picture for you. Regardless, the glue held up 7-8 years.

        1. Hi Selena, I very much appreciate your taking the time to look into this and reply. Thanks so much! 7-8 years is impressive! Kind regards, Colette

      2. Better half doesn’t remember but I suspect it was some variety of Gorilla glue. The cracks were not large and we didn’t care what color the glue was (bumper was dark so the color was visible but not “hey, look at me” visible. Google glue for bumper repair? Whatever was used held up during cold and hot weather.

  10. My latest salvage project is my straw hat!! This hat was very expensive and gifted to me by my former husband 28 years ago!! I wear it all the time gardening. It has started coming unwoven and the band is faded black and the sweat band is filthy! I love this hat!! I have other hats but it’s not THIS one! I always get compliments on it. So…..I contacted the company and explained I wanted to repair my hat. They loved that I wanted to rehab my hat rather than toss it. For a few bucks they sent me a new sweat band and hat band and a roll of rafia so I can sew it back together. She looks good as new and I am a happy hatter!!
    P.S. My truck is 25 years old and I love it and put a lot of engine work into her to keep her going. I could care less about a new vehicle. Your article is spot on!!

    1. Hi Rhonda, My goodness! You are an enterprising Frugalite! This is a fantastic comment to remind all of us to TRY something and see what happens. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined the response you got from the straw hat company: HURRAY!!!! Kudos to you! I, too, have an old straw hat that I use for gardening. It is broken on the front, and I have been thinking about repairing it. You are truly an inspiration. And your truck, too! Thanks for your kind words. Wishing you the best!

  11. I’m sure that if I were to look around my home I’d see many things around that fit this bill, but the very first thing that comes to mind is an outrageously expensive Vitamix blender we got as a gift. (It’s now been passed down to my daughter.) The blender itself was in great condition, and all the parts were warranteed. Somehow, we lost one of the four legs the blender stood on during a move. Well, it turned out that THIS particular part was not covered. I had a 500-dollar, three-legged kitchen appliance on my hands.

    Imagine my delight to discover it was exactly the same height as the top of a 500 mL soda pop bottle. Every time I moved after that, I would laugh and “splurge” on a soda with a black lid, then pop it under that expensive blender. We’ve now been propping this blender up like this for 13 years. It makes me smile to see the same blender in my daughter’s kitchen with a soda pop bottle lid under it.

    1. Hi Daisy, Hee hee! In my mind’s eye, I can see that high quality blender standing on the soda pop bottle lid! I can also imagine that moment when you realized the fix. Perfection! That’s a great image of being a Frugalite, as is passing it along to your daughter. Thanks so much for sharing this great example of the Frugalite spirit, Daisy. Wishing you the best!

  12. Omgoodness you made me laugh out loud – your car is held together with DUCT TAPE!!! That is hilarious!! Duct tape to the rescue…LOL I am probably going to laugh about this all day!

    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hi Lisa, Thank goodness it’s just a plastic part, but yes, duct tape did the trick! Thanks so much for stopping by. Wishing you a great day!

  13. My freezer defrost pipe was clogged and water dripped down the back into the crispers—I caught the water for 6 months….the roofing company I was waiting for didn’t have me on the list(duh) so I got another company and saved 900 dollars and finally, yesterday, got my new fridge.
    It feels like I doubled the space since the catchers are removed.

    1. Hi Judy, YAY!!! Congratulations on your new fridge AND saving 900 dollars (wowweeeeee!). That is a fantastic double play on your part and you can enjoy your crispers to their full potential. Thank you for sharing your Frugalite successes with us. Wishing you the best!

  14. If it can still be used, it’s not broken. If it’s ugly, but can still be used, it’s not broken. If you love it, despite dents and dings, it’s not broken. Kinda the story of my life. Only our pride and narcissism prevents us from appreciating the worth of something that isn’t “perfect”. My car has all kinds of scratches and dings, needs a new muffler, a headlight is shorted out and my previous dog completely “redecorated” the upholstery, but it is not broken and I love it.

    My body doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to and hurts all the time, my hair was red and now it’s white, I’m more than a little overweight and my husband still loves me. I am not broken. All the things you mentioned are just a “work in progress”! Great perspective!

    1. Hi Sita, Yes! I agree! I especially like what you said about “pride and narcissism” being what prevents us from appreciating something that isn’t “perfect.” I know people who need perfect things and I feel badly for them. Thank you for sharing about your own “work in progress.” I am sure that many other Frugalites will see themselves in your comments and smile. Thanks so much! Wishing you the best!

  15. I have a patio rug, cost $80 a few years ago.
    I turned it over to expose the other side.
    No one knows but me, and even I forget I turned it over!!!

    1. Hi Judy, Ha ha ha! I promise I won’t tell anyone! Thanks for sharing “the other side” of how to save like a true Frugalite. The sun does really fade things. I hope you’re enjoying your *new* patio rug in style this summer. Wishing you the best!

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