(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 online course Build a Better Pantry on a Budget.
Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. While I’m not really a gadget person (no egg-boiler for me, thanks), there are a few thrifty purchases I’ve made in this department over the years that have saved me countless dollars. Anything I can do to extend the life of what I purchase is a bargain.
I have praised the virtues of the humble rubber spatula many times, but I want to talk about this item in a little more depth. I have a set of rubber spatulas that work for pretty much any money-saving occasion. I have used them to scrape out enough peanut butter for several more pb&js, to get the last bit of honey in the jar for my tea, and to scrape an extra muffin or pancake’s worth of batter from many a bow.
But the kitchen is not the only place for a rubber spatula. I have a set of very small ones in a different color (so they don’t get mixed up), which I keep in the bathroom. I use these to scrape out the last bit of moisturizer, lotion, and bath products from their containers, so I use every single drop of these sometimes-pricey elixirs and potions.
First, if you aren’t hanging your laundry to dry, why aren’t you? That’s probably the number one money-saving use for the clothespin and goes without further explanation.
But that’s not all you can use clothespins for in your money-saving endeavors. I prefer simple wooden clothespins like this because they’re longer-lasting than plastic ones.
First of all, forget those “chip clips.” They are basically just colorful clothespins with a magnet on them. You can easily make your own by getting some craft magnets to stick on the back of your clothespins. (I like the kind of magnets with the self-adhesive for the sake of ease.) I keep at least half a dozen of these on my fridge at all times.
I use them to close up bags of frozen veggies in the freezer after I’ve removed a serving, to keep crackers fresh by closing up the bag, and to keep bags of pasta shut tight. You can also use a clothespin as a “toothpaste squeezer” instead of the storebought version. (Here’s how.)
This is a slightly bigger investment, but it’ll pay for itself FAST. How many times have you woefully thrown out fresh fruits or veggies that didn’t get eaten in time? It’s devasting, especially with food prices as high as they are right now.
I introduce to you the produce keeper. These little containers are designed to control the humidity within, helping your fruits and veggies to last longer in your refrigerator. I hardly ever end up throwing out fruits or veggies these days, and it’s all because of these little gems. You can even use the insert as a colander when washing your produce. If you regularly end up throwing out spoiled produce, this $30 purchase will pay for itself within two weeks.
I love cloth napkins. They make your dinner table look more elegant, they feel nicer than dabbing your mouth with a paper towel ripped off the roll, and they’re big enough to protect your lap from falling food.
But the best thing about cloth napkins is the money they save. No more will you go through a disposable napkin or paper towel with each meal. You just throw your napkins in the wash, and afterward, they’re ready to be used again.
I like black cloth napkins because no matter what you’re eating, they don’t show stains. I prefer a cotton-poly blend that doesn’t need ironing but still has the feel of cotton. These are a great deal. I’ve had mine for probably a decade, and they’re still going strong.
Bar mop towels
Speaking of paper towels, I don’t use them anymore. I use bar mop towels instead and toss them in the wash. Just like my napkins, I use black ones exactly like these so I don’t have to deal with pesky stains. Once you’ve used it to clean your counters or soak up a spill, toss them in the wash with the rest of your darks.
Wide-mouth Mason jars
Jars aren’t as inexpensive as they used to be, but you probably already have some kicking around.
Forget the Tupperware and Rubbermaid containers. And for goodness sake, don’t waste your money on eco-friendly glass containers that don’t close properly. The humble Mason jar is the original leftover container, and it’s still a great choice.
I use Mason jars to store all my leftovers, for homemade iced tea concentrate, and as canisters. I use them as drinking glasses and as candle holders. I was using jars before it was trendy to use jars. They’re one of the most versatile items I own.I prefer wide-mouth jars for food storage because they make access easier. (Of course, you can always use your rubber spatula.) I found that for leftovers, it was worthwhile to grab some of these reusable jar lids.
You can find a variety of brands and sizes of wide-mouth jars here. If you aren’t matchy-matchy, you can also just save any jars that happen to come along with the food you’ve purchased.
Dryer sheets will become a thing of the past if you grab yourself some dryer balls. These come in all different kinds of materials, but I prefer the wool ones or the plastic ones. For anything you don’t want to hang dry, these reduce static and soften clothing naturally. If you miss the fragrance from dryer sheets, simply add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the woolen balls before tossing them into the dryer.
Bonus hack: you can also use clean tennis balls in place of dryer balls. Emphasis on clean.
Small savings add up.
Invest in one item per week (or month, depending on your budget) to net some massive long-run savings. I’ve been using all of these things for years, and rarely have I had to replace them.
Do you have any money-saving gadgets you’d recommend to your fellow Frugalites? Have you ever tried the items listed here? If so, what did you think? Let’s discuss thrifty purchases that will save you money in the long run.
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.
12 thoughts on “7 Thrifty Purchases That Will Save You Money in the Long Run”
I use wash cloths as napkins. They do not stain, do not need to be ironed, and do the job really well. Use different colors for family members.
I use old fashioned dish tubs for well…most everything. They are easier to clean than your sink.
Put a package of glass wipes in your car. When stuck by a train, a few wipes keeps your dash board clean.
I love my dryer balls, I bought silicone ones. They work great!
Speaking of silicone, and also on the subject of spatulas, I found a very interesting tool that is very similar but combines the function of a spatula, a mixing spoon, and a scraper all in one. It’s made of dense silicone and has a straight side and a curved side. Stiff enough to scrape, soft enough to grab the last bits of something and yet the handle is rigid enough you can mix dough with it. Honestly I love this thing and I paid only five dollars for it at my grocery store. If you are looking for one, they called it an ultimate spatula or an all purpose spatula – mine is also heatproof and I already use it more than five other kitchen tools combined.
As a toothpaste squeezer, you can just use a thick office-supply rubber band: squeeze the bottom, turn it up, then wrap the thick rubber band around it; for me, that’s two wraps. Every so often the rubber band is removed and more of the toothpaste tube is flattened and the bottom is folded over again, and the heavy-heavy-duty rubber band is wrapped twice around the bottom.
Clothes pins: I’ve been able to find them at the local WalMart. They’re used for so much here. Here’s just a few ways: use 1-2 to keep a book or pamphlet open on the desk. When washing by hand & hanging things up indoors, clothes pins helps you place several items on the same hanger – including wash cloths and ‘family cloth’. Using sturdier pins you can clip slacks or skirts to a hanger (alternative: use an office Binder Clip instead of clothes pins for heavier items & use a heavier hanger). All around the house, they keep all kinds of bags closed. You’re only limited by your imagination.
There is a type of unwise purchase not yet addressed here — that being the product that fails long before its expected lifetime in a ways that forces its complete replacement instead of something as simply as swapping out a dead battery. The book “Poorly Made in China” suggests part of the problem.
I’ve had multiple devices (like rechargeable flashlights, electronic generating fire sparking starters, electronic kitchen timers, etc) all die after a couple of years. Either the rechargeable battery died with no way to change it out and no way to order a replacement rechargeable battery, OR the single use battery was neither rechargeable NOR replaceable. In such case your only choice is to trash the device and buy a replacement. Your only defense is to learn IF the battery is replaceable before you make your purchase decision. The odds are that any warranty offered will be designed to expire before such unreplaceable batteries expire. Try to find devices with replaceable batteries — whether rechargeable or not.
Some mechanical gadgets have similar issues. MainStay mechanical windup kitchen timers from WalMart have had the quality “WalMarted” out of them and go bad on me in only a few months. In contrast, a 1973 Swiss-made windup timer is still working perfectly for me after all those years.
Similarly, MainStay brand side-cutting manual can openers from WalMart have died on me after only a few months when the cranking knob’s plastic broke into multiple pieces. However “Good Cook” and “Farberware” brand side cutting can openers have proven their “built to last” capability for me. Side cutting can openers (all manual to my knowledge) are typically labeled as “Safe Cutting” by the marketeers which conceals their wonderful benefits of yielding reusable can lids, reusable cans for zillions of uses, and smooth cut can rims that don’t rip your fingers to pieces.
Yard sale customers will find cloth napkins at every other sale. I have a big stack. I can get several uses out of one before it goes in the wash. I try to stay away from the slick ones. They won’t stay on your lap and aren’t as absorbent.
I have cloth paper towels that snap together that I use. I only use paper when it’s grease or pet goo. I don’t use fabric softener on them as it’s cuts their absorbency.
If you cut open those empty containers, you’ll be surprised how much product is still inside. Usually, I get another week from a toothpaste tube and a bottle of conditioner scraped out will be good for a few weeks.
I use a retractable clothesline that hooked to my house and I pull it out to hook on the fence. You’ll need a prop for the middle to raise the line up in the air so things catch the breeze and dry quicker. My prop is a one by one that has a nail pounded part way in on an angle. It’s about 6-1/2 feet tall (maybe taller) and it helps especially when you have heavy things on the line.
I use my mason jars for drinking glasses too. I have some of the blue, green, purple, and pink pint ones.
I’m in a Tightwad group on FB and they have lots of frugal ideas.
I save water from water bath canning or other large water uses where the water isn’t dirty to water the outside plants. Since I live in a dry area where daily watering is common and the water usage is metered, this saves me some money.
It’s more expensive to use electricity from 5-8 p.m. so I don’t use the washer/dryer or dishwasher during those times. I do still allow myself to cook and use the air conditioning.
Diane, you and Daisy are absolutely right about cutting containers open to get every bit of the product out of them. I have arthritis and use Voltaren every night on my joints. The 3 pk. at Sam’s is about $37, so I don’t want to throw any of it in the trash. Even when I think I’ve squeezed everything possible out of the tubes, I cut the bottom 3/4 off and get enough for 2-3 more applications. Same thing with toothpaste. I keep a screwdriver in the bathroom (for popping the top off of a powder container) and scissors (for cutting tubes).
For shampoo bottles, I just add about 1/4 c. water, shake it and use it up. I do it once more, too.
My mother saved jars and re-used them and so do I. I soak the labels off (just for esthetics; it just makes it look so much nicer) and I’ve found that some jars have labels that are easy to soak off, and some are really difficult. It seems best to soak the jars in a bowl of hot water first, if it’s a paper label. However, if it’s a plastic one, don’t soak it! They need to be pulled off dry. Residue can then be scraped off; sometimes I use a paring knife. Sometimes I use a plastic scratcher immediately after soaking (which is simply a former produce bag; or the best one I’ve found had been the outer packaging on a Thanksgiving turkey. I use it for washing my non-stick skillet, then toss it onto the upper rack in the dishwasher) or an sos pad if all the paper is gone and you’re just working on the glue. On really stubborn glue, I’ll use a spot of Goo-Gone on a dry rag.
All sizes of jars have found uses at our house. The largest ones hold flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, oats and macaroni. The smallest ones hold 1/2 a can of tomato sauce or a smidgen of anything I don’t want to throw out. And the medium sized ones hold everything else.
Our recycling center forbids glass, so I try to find as many uses as I can for them, and have been know to pay more for a food item if it comes in a particularly pretty or unusual jar.own
The only Tupperware I own is well over 50 years old and was my mother’s. My husband loves ziplocs, but I’m trying to eliminate them in our kitchen and just re-use free stuff.
I’ve never needed produce keepers as I make sure we use up everything – if there is a bad spot as in an apple, it just gets cut out and that piece will go into the compost.
Bar mop towels sound like a good idea but I just buy flat weave, not terry cloth, dish towels at the thrift store for 50 cents and use those.
Dryer balls will never have a place in my home. I use the dryer with heat twice a month for 30 minutes to dry my t-shirt tops. Everything gets dried on drying racks in the house or hangers in the garage (can’t have outside clotheslines). Twice a month I use the dryer WITHOUT heat for 15 minutes to fluff up towels.
We have a large wheelie bin for recyclables that is picked up every week. If ours is more than 1/4 full I feel we’ve failed at reusing, repurposing.
All the other things mentioned I’ve been using for the 55 years of marriage and my Mom did before that.
We all need to pass that info on to our children, grandkids and anyone else who will listen and learn
Thank goodness we have a community of prepper type people on here. A lot of great ideas!
I buy a pack or 6 or 8 binder clips for $1 to use in the kitchen. I fold down cereal bags, snack bags, lettuce, whatever I need to close securely. They work when a clothes pin just isn’t strong enough.
One word for why I will not hang my clothes outside to dry:
The nastiest, most disgusting , chinese made creature ever to be brought into this country. And they have no natural predators.
They will crawl into your clothes and no matter how much you shake the piece of fabric they won’t come off.
Do you know how gross it is to put on a pair of pants and sit on one of those disgusting things? EW!
I wish I could hang my clothes outside. I love the smell. And the different seasons have their own distinct smell. Its wonderful but not until something is found to kill those creatures.
Y’all… what is the catch with the dryer balls? I have tried using them multiple times & in multiple ways, and my clothes is still static-y when I take it out the dryer. They recommended using 2-3 per load – I tried that and had no good results and eventually upped it one by one, until I was at 6 per load. Please tell me how y’all get good results! I’ve tried cheap ones and more expensive ones. They’re now collecting dust on my dryer because I can’t stand the static.