The Frugal Lifestyle (AKA Ridiculously Cheap)
Have you ever stopped in your tracks and thought, “why am I doing this? How cheap am I?”
Do you wash out butter containers, save tin foil or reuse Zip-lock bags?
Do you cut your own hair or water-down your soap?
If so, you might be slightly ridiculous, and we could be friends!
I’ve thought many times about the weird, sometimes bizarre things I grew up doing to save money. My parents were raised by the generation that survived the Great Depression, so there are lots of fun “trickle down” type stories that you can find when you dig into all that. The things I now do to save money are nothing like what my grandparents experienced, but they can be pretty quirky!
This has got me thinking, what kinds of money saving habits do I have that I assume are common sense, but other people may not have thought of them? And vice versa; what tips are other people using that I’m missing out on?
From My Readers
I put out the call to my readers to answer the question; “What are some of the craziest things you’ve done to save money?”
Here are their answers…
- “I RIT dye everything! Faded black pants; dye them black again. Washed my favorite navy shirt with a chap-stick; dye it black. Want new curtains, tablecloths, etc. dye them!” -April
- “I cut the bottoms off of my Bath n Body Works body cream containers. There’s so much left in there that won’t come out. I use it all before I toss it.” -Josephine
- “Buy make-a-size paper towels and still rip them in half. Mod Podge glitter on the toes of scuffed kid shoes to cover the scuffs.” -Elizabeth
- “Rice and beans every other night for a year. It sucked but it worked. Debt free ever since.” -Jessica
- “I use q-tips to get every bit of my base makeup out of the bottle.” -Kristin
- “When we find a good deal on non-perishable food we buy it in bulk. We still have chili we bought years ago! I rip baby wipes in half. We have a Magic Jack for our home phone.” -Jillian
- “The first thing that comes to my mind is how I cut my St.Ives face wash tube in half to make sure I use every last bit.” -Bonnie
- “We took our kids to the free, Downtown Disney area when they were 3 and 1 and told them it was Disney World because we knew they wouldn’t remember it.” -Julia
Read: Tips for flying cheap
Crazy Things I’ve Done to Save Money
OK, so some of these things are crazier than others. Some are common sense and some are down right ridiculous. Here are all the things I could think of that I’ve done over the years to save money.
- FILL A NAME BRAND CEREAL BOX WITH GENERIC CEREAL This one’s just for fun! I have never done this, but my mom did it when we were little!! Now, that was back in the day when store brand cereal was in an all white box with the word “Generic” written across it in big letters. Generic has come a long way, my friends.
- WASH ZIP-LOCK BAGS I don’t do this with every little bag, but the big gallon size ones or the ones that come with fancy zippers? You bet!
- OWNING ONE CAR For the entirety of our 15 year marriage, we have only ever owned one car. This has been challenging during different seasons of life, but we always seem to find something else we’d rather spend the money on than extra car insurance, gas and upkeep of a second car.
- NO CABLE This is becoming an increasingly common thing in our internet age. But back when we first decided to cut cable, it made waves in our home. With a husband that was used to watching ESPN almost constantly all day as background noise, he wasn’t sure how this would work out. But we’ve never looked back. A quality antenna, good internet connection and Netflix is all we need.
- MAGIC JACK This is also something that has become more and more common. Many people now-a-days are fine without a LAN line, but before we could cut out the phone bill completely, we went to using Magic Jack, which basically gives you long distance phone service through your internet connection for 14.99 for the entire year.
- DUMPSTER DIVE From stopping on the side of the road to pick up a treasure that someone threw out with their trash, to literally climbing into a dumpster to rescue [fill in the blank], we’ve done it. #sorrynotsorry
- GARAGE SALES Shopping at garage sales is where it’s at.
- THRIFT STORES Also great. Just be sure to handle your items with care until they can be properly disinfected, washed or debugged (ew).
- SPLIT MEALS While our kids were young and small eaters, we always had them split their kid’s meals. Quite often, Jay and I will also split a meal if we know we’re eating at a restaurant with large portion sizes. If eating at an expensive restaurant, we’ll often split a meal and then eat something else at home if we’re still hungry!
- WATER DOWN SOAP This one is slightly ridiculous, but kids use a ridiculous amount of soap! And soap aint cheap! Foaming soap from Bath and Body is easy to stretch. When the bottle gets about half way empty, add water to the top and mix. After the bottle is empty you can make your own using cheap, bulk soap from a large bottle. Just fill the bottle about 1/4 of the way with soap and the rest with water.
- BUY GENERIC Unless I catch a sale, I always go for the store brand or generic brand of everything.
- SHOP AT ALDI Hands down, one of the least expensive places to buy groceries! We love Aldi.
- SHOP A SALVAGED FOOD STORE I love me a good salvaged food store. They are a little hard to find around us, but worth a stop if you ever come across one! You’ll find all kinds of items that have been dented or crushed, but still perfectly edible at a fraction of the cost.
- KIDS EAT FREE We’re pretty strategic about eating out as a family of 7. We only frequent the places that offer cheap kids meals or even better, FREE! Kidseatfree.com is a good place to start.
- ONLY ORDER WATER This is something my family always did growing up, and we pretty much stick with it now. If the kids meal don’t include a drink, our kids drink water. Ordering drinks at a restaurant is a hidden cost that adds up quicker than you think.
- DRINK ONLY WATER AT HOME Not only do the cost of drinks add up at a restaurant, they also add up at home! Kids don’t need to be drinking sugary juice or soda, and they really don’t need to be drinking extra milk (contrary to popular opinion). Water is free and better for you. My kids use milk on their cereal, but we don’t generally drink it in a glass (unless it’s with cookies!).
- COFFEE AT HOME Buying coffee from a Starbucks or coffee shop is a treat, not the norm. We splurge on quality beans to make our own coffee or buy K-cups in bulk.
- LIMIT EATING OUT This is kind of a no-brainer, but when it’s time for us to tighten up our budget, we always limit the amount of time we spend eating out or grabbing fast food. Any time we can make food at home or pack a sandwich for the road is a money saver.
- PACK FOOD IN CHECKED BAGS When going on a trip, we have often packed peanut butter and jelly or even Ramen noodles!
- BOONDOCK When traveling across country on a road trip, why spend money on a hotel you’re only going to enjoy for a few hours? Not only that, but we’ve picked up bed bugs from hotels before and it’s not fun! If we’re traveling in an RV or have room to stretch in the car, we’ll opt for parking at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel that allow overnight parking.
- UTILIZE FREE BABYSITTING AT THE GYM If you have a gym membership that includes childcare, why not go on a date with your spouse at the gym?!
- DRIVE THROUGH THE NIGHT On plenty of occasions, we have pushed ourselves to keep driving instead of stopping, just to save money on a hotel stay and extra meals. I’m not advocating for this if tiredness is a factor! Multiple drivers that can do shifts is ideal.
- VACATION NEAR FRIENDS AND FAMILY If you’ve got family that are out of state or friends that have extended an invite, take them up on it! Vacations don’t always have to be big and expensive. Sometimes just a change of scenery is nice. Don’t stay past your welcome and be considerate of your hosts. Even if you’re not staying WITH your friends, camping or staying at a hotel near by may still be cheaper. Local friends may have money saving secrets to local attractions or if nothing else, eating in with them will cut down on the cost of food. We are able to do day trips into New York City because my in-laws all live near by. We would never be able to afford a plane trip into the city and lodging there for multiple days. Work within your means!
- FLY SPIRIT WITH ONLY A BACKPACK We are big Spirit Air fans. Yes, it does feel more like packing in to an over-crowded city bus, but it’s so cheap. Yes, they do charge you for everything extra including water and luggage. But, if you can go without water or luggage and pack what you need in a backpack, you’re all set (don’t forget to layer-up with as many outfits as you can stand to wear!).
- CAMP Even at a higher end campground like Disney World’s Fort Wilderness, campgrounds will almost always be the cheaper way to travel with a large family. The average price per night for a campground is $30 compared with the cost of a $120 hotel room.
- CUT MY FAMILY’S HAIR I learned how to cut hair in high school, while watching a friend’s mom cut her family’s hair. I’m not sure why I was so interested in it at that point, but I had plenty of willing volunteers and I’ve been cutting my family’s hair ever since. When all else fails, visit Sally’s Beauty and watch YouTube videos!
- COLOR AND CUT MY OWN HAIR This one might be a little more ridiculous. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but it does save me a butt load of money!
- DIY ALMOST EVERYTHING There aren’t many things that after pausing and googling, I won’t try to DIY. There are a few things that have intimidated me or I’ve attempted and failed, but I’ll usually try it first.
- TEACH MY KIDS TO SWIM I know a lot of people pay to send their kids to swim school, and that’s not a bad idea. I’ve considered it, believe me. But with multiple kids, swimming lessons are expensive! Every single one of my kids has learned to swim while we were visiting my in-laws and swimming in their pool every day. I have found that a week straight of swimming and working with them was the best way to learn.
- PACK PB&J Basically anywhere we go, weather it’s to the zoo or into Disney World for the day, we take PB&J sandwiches and snacks with us.
- BUY AND SELL ON FACEBOOK MARKETPLACE Before buying anything new, we always check the marketplace!
- BUY GIFTS FOR BIRTHDAYS AND CHRISTMAS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR When I see things on sale throughout the year, I buy it and store it in my “gift closet”
- USE THE “HONEY” APP Install the Honey app on your browser and it will automatically check for coupons and the best prices from around the web!
Practical Tips for Saving Money
- Only go shopping when you’re prepared to spend money! I don’t even set myself up. Let’s be real, “window shopping” is fictional. If I’m out shopping, it’s because I want or need to buy something.
- Pay off credit card bills right away! If you’re using a credit card to earn points, pay it off right away. We are careful not to run up a bill we can’t pay off in the foreseeable future.
Things We Do to Make Extra Money
- Sell items on craigslist or Facebook marketplace
- Pick up pennies/save change
- Save cans – if you’re in a state that pays back a deposit
- Use cash – you’re less likely to over-spend
- Sell things at a garage sale
- Pick up side jobs
What about you? What quirky things do you do to save money?
What practical advice have you picked up over the years? I’d love to hear your ideas!