The 29 Most Frugal Things I Have Done

I got to thinking this weekend when I saw half a tablet of the dishwasher detergent (the kind that comes in the “concentrated pacs”) left in the bucket and thought I’d toss it in and get the extra $0.04 out of the jumbo bucket of 60 I got at Costco. I had plenty more to use in there, and could have just wound up throwing that one away, but no, it crossed my mind that I could still use it, save a few pennies, and not feel so wasteful.

Is that going too far? I hardly think so, I’ve done PLENTY of other frugal, penny pinching, money saving ideas over the years. It is not that I HAVE to. I think I live a pretty comfortable life, but it goes back to how I was raised that I have this mindset. Here are just a handful of them that I can recall from recent memory…


Saving half a dishwasher detergent pac that was broken open, but still useful for just 1 more load.


Food is a big one for me. My job (as I’ve given it to myself) is to eat the food that is left in the fridge near or past the expiration date so I don’t have to throw it away and waste that $. My wife refuses to, but my upbringing doesn’t seem to let it go.


I’ve saved garbage bags that I haven’t thrown anything wet into and just dumped the trash directly into the garbage; freeing up a bag for another round. Ridiculous, yes.


I was trained early to only use 3 squares at most in the restroom, and I consciously still do that today. In the public restrooms, I even guesstimate what 3 would equate to in their gigantic roll of actually paper (or so it seems). I’m all for saving trees when I can! Gosh, that one is embarrassing… oh boy…


Cardboard boxes – Criminy, if I had a dime for every large cardboard box I’ve kept that I could possibly save something later in, I’d be a rich man. About once or twice a month I’ll catch myself doing it and toss them in the recycle bin.


My shoes. I have worn the same shoes until I have visible holes in them and my feet are actually touching the sidewalk when outside. Again, no need to do so, and I’m not as hard on them anymore, but I do wear them for a long time still.


I remember one time growing up, I must have been about 9 and my lightbulb burned out. I kid you not, I tried to take it apart and fix the filament and glue it back together. Clearly I didn’t know how they worked, but I wanted to keep it going longer.


I don’t know whether it’s frugal or laziness that I don’t change the oil in my car regularly. I personally think I can go 5000 miles instead of 3000 per change, but it really turns out to be closer to 6000 before I go in.


Matchbooks – I’ll be at a restaurant or bar and see matchbooks with 2 or 3 more matches left that the bartender is taking away. Yes, I admit it, I ask to have them. That one is kinda sad. ugh…


Picking up pennies on the sidewalk. I still do this regularly when I see one. What can you buy for a single penny these days? Not much, but I still do it.


“Thermostating” – Before I had kids I would sleep in freezing temperatures to not have to turn it on. That’s what they invented blankets for, right? Now that the kids are around I figure I should give them that “luxury” or having it warm in the house. πŸ™‚


Water bottles – I still have one I use regularly that I kept from college 10+ years ago – cheap? Or just a good use of product? πŸ™‚


Playing cards. They cost about $1.00 per pack, but I have about 3 full decks composed of 8 other decks I’ve had in the past. Hey, they’re still good!


I will still find myself washing some of my clothes under the sink instead of wasting a load of laundry detergent on clothes that I “could” clean up with a little water. To be worn again for a bit o’ bar soap.


My mom always used to keep the ketchup and sweet and sour packets from McDonalds to be used for home use later. I am much better than her at that now, but I still occasionally find myself stashing those in my desk drawer to be used later. Honestly, if I am going to use them later, I’m going to use them on french fries or burgers and where am I going to get them? McDonalds, where I can get more if I need them. Go figure that one out.


Arguing over a few cents or dollars on a monthly bill. I’ve done this more than I care to admit. Maybe it is more a matter of principal, but still arguing over a few cents is a fairly frugal move. Comcast cable/internet comes to mind…


Coupons, coupons, coupons – I’ve clipped them for 5 or 10 cent savings in the past. I’m getting better at this, but again, seems like a mindset.


Drive 10 miles out of my way to save 8 cents per gallon on gas. A good deal? Well, not really when my gas tank is only 15 gallons total, saving me $1.20, but that 20 miles to and fro costs more per gallon than it is worth. I’ve learned to deal with this one, I find no benefit in driving the extra distance anymore.


Ziplock bags – yes, I admit it. I’ve washed them out and used them again much like the garbage bags above. I even used to save the brown paper bags from lunch growing up because that was the “cool thing to have” at one point in school. It was that or my “Kiss” rockband lunchbox; which got unpopular about as fast as it got popular.


Ever want to use the last of that toothpaste? Ever wanted to make sure you got all of it? How about going so far as to scissor it open and swab out the rest? Yep, guilty! Sad, isn’t it? πŸ™‚


How about combining shoes and shoelaces? I’ve had worn out shoes that have had good shoelaces, and I’ve had good shoes that have broken shoelaces. Granted they didn’t match, but I’ve done that a time or 2 also.


Pencils. Well, back when people USED pencils. But yes, I used to run those suckers down to the nub before tossing them; and I’d collect ones I’d find that WEREN’T down to the nub also for further use. Some bad humor I have to use, “if number 2 pencils are so popular, why aren’t they #1 yet?”


This one could be one of the worst. I get Top Ramen 10 for $10. I actually remember when it was 10 for $5. If I wouldn’t eat it all, yes, it would get saved in the refrigerator until the following day. A little mushy by then, but yes, I did that.


Napkins from restaurants. Who needs to pay for them at home when they give you free napkins when you’re out to eat? πŸ™‚


I could have added this one to the above, but I figured it deserved its own line. Plastic silverware like sporks. You can buy these babies in silver form nowadays! Thanks Elaine for showing me the light!


Sticky notepads. I’ve got green/blue/yellow/used/pink/gray all in one giant memepad superplex. It’s tall, and I won’t have to buy another 30 cent pad of them for 4.6 years at my current calculations…


Socks. Unless they have 3 or more holes in them, they can still be used. Even mismatched and used. Not so much anymore, but there was a time…


I can’t even begin to state how many things I’ve duct taped for longer life. Pipes, shoes, cars, furniture… You name it, I’ve duct’d it.


I’ve not gone to the doctor on several occasions thinking that some much needed rest and water would fix. It didn’t, and I’ve always had insurance, but saving that $10 co-pay was enough of a deterrent to try toughing it out.

Photos by: wili, mamchenkov, mig, dnhoshor, toasty, randomidea

Filed Under: adviceDebtEmergency fundFrugal

  • kim

    After reading this list, I’m almost convinced that you are Asian.

  • Apparently I’m breaking down stereotypes with my blog too! πŸ™‚ I’m just a white guy that came from a fairly poor upbringing that apparently spans races… πŸ™‚

  • shnohead

    over kill

  • @shnohead – I didn’t grow up with a lot of $ so we had to stretch our dollar. I agree that it was overkill, but if we didn’t do it that way, the $ didn’t stretch as far as we wanted. Values and ideas stick with you growing up through life. I don’t do most of them anymore because I’m financially alright. However, I’d certainly do it again if I found my $ wasn’t stretching as far as I needed it to anymore…

  • sy wong

    hank, i am asian and i do almost all the things you do… although i would not go into details!! i do it partly because i care for the environment…. why not reuse the plastic bag or use recycled paper? i have gone one step further, but that is more for the environment. i stop buying shampoo, and instead use juice from a citric fruit grown in my own garden to wash my hair, and i use coconut oil/olive oil to comb it. by doing so, i am using sustainable materials, and also eliminate plastic bottles that came with shampoo. i think there is a close relationship with being frugal and caring for the environment!

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  • You remind me of my super cheap ex.. I wrote about him at my blog.

    thebaglady’s last blog post..Filling Out the Dreaded Self Evaluation

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  • Elaine

    You certainly can buy metal sporks. Check camping/outdoors stores.

  • @Sy – Thanks for stopping by! I’m always a big fan of saving the environment when I can, and I think you have a pretty good vision there! Congrats!

    @BagLady – I hope I just remind you of him in the fact that I’m cheap, not the bad husband part. πŸ™‚

    @Elaine – Good point, and the photo on the post is of a metal one also, I reckon I should change that… Thanks!

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  • That’s weird that Top Ramen is $1 apiece. Where I live it’s often 10 cents apiece… Reusing ziplocks seems extreme. But maybe if I used more of them I’d consider it. I definitely relate to never wanting to let food go to waste.

  • That one about the re-used water bottle is kinda gross. You do know that the plastic they use for those isn’t meant to be re-used and starts to break down around the 3rd time you refill it, right? You’re drinking broken down plastic…..blegh

  • @Amiyrah – I guess I should have clarified a bit more on the water bottle. It was one of those sports bottles that you can technically take anywhere and is meant to be used more than a few times, but still, it’s been around… πŸ™‚

  • Carole

    FYI: I read in the Tightwad Gazette that the money you make, per minute, by washing out plastic bags (don’t stop at ziplocks!) is likely far more than you make at work. I save just about EVERYTHING, and if I don’t have a current occupation for it, I put it in my “USEFUL” bin! I go there when I’m in a bind, and it usually helps me, or triggers a better idea for a solution. I also vermiculture (use worms to compost my food waste), so I’m nearly to the point, now, where I can quit my garbage service completely. I’m giving it one more quarter, but I’m already down to the smallest trash cans available, and they stay off the curb for several weeks at a time.

  • wait? are these things not normal? uh oh! i’m sooo guilty of most of these…and then some! how about taking a bucket in the shower to catch the water that goes down the drain while you wait for the shower to get hot and then using it to water the garden? :-O

    lpkitten’s last blog post..Day 21 of the 100 Day Buy Nothing (New) Challenge

  • I save the extra napkins and condiments from our occasional drive thru trips too. My hubby packs his lunch for work almost everyday (dinner leftovers) and those little ketchups and taco sauces come in handy.
    I wash out most ziplocks too as long as they aren’t too greasy.
    I haven’t cut open my toothpaste yet but might consider it.
    $1 for Top Ramen is expensive. I splurge on Sapporo Ichiban for .60 cents a packet because it’s better quality.
    Sometimes I will pick up a penny but only if it’s not really dirty looking. They get dropped into my children’s piggy banks.

    Jenny’s last blog post..Weekly Dinner Menu

  • Rick

    I travel a lot for work, and always bring back the hotel soaps and shampoos. Occasionally if I’m staying in a nicer place, I even get a sewing kit.

    Now that the new TSA requirements are in place, I also ask for a small tube of toothpaste and shaving cream each time I check in.

    I don’t wash out any ziploc bags, but if they were just used to hold something dry, like a sandwich, I definitely use them again.

    I darn socks — not too may people do that these days.

    I signed up as an affiliate on and whenever I buy anything there, I buy through that link and get 4% back. (the key is you have to use a different ID and e-mail to purchase than what you used to sign up as an affiliate or you won’t get credit).

    I use price grabber to search for any online purchase.

    But the most frugal thing of all, is that I ready online adds for 1 penny a piece at I ready them on my phone when I’m waiting in traffic on my way to work.

  • Carole

    The 10 cent ramen is the one in the packet, and the $1 ramen is in the styrofoam. considering the lack of nutritional value in those freeze-dried peas, you’d be better off just getting the 10 cent version and adding the veggies you have left over in the fridge. You can buy two CANS of veggies for the difference in price! I’m one of those people who empties condiment packets into the ketchup bottle, LOL. I don’t do fast food very often, but the extra ketchup always goes there. Sometimes people leave them behind at work after their lunches are done, too. Hey, it may sound excessive, but excessive is buying a _condiment_ when you’re trying to stretch a food dollar, too.

  • My little brother called yesterday to ask if I would like anything from a drive-thru place on his way home. I told him we were almost out of napkins. πŸ™‚

    Your post is like my life in bullet points. Frugality rocks!

  • This list cracks me up. Some of the things I’ve done and some of the things hubby does and drives me nuts. The ziplock bag thing makes me absolutely crazy. I throw them away and he gets mad at me.

    And yes I’ve saved the ketchup packets but it doesn’t make a ton of sense. You’re right there.

    That toilet paper thing KILLS me! ROFL =D No way for me though. I do not go frugal with toilet paper.

    But that cold air thing is the funniest. My mom used to tell us to put on another sweater if we complained about being cold. Ha! And I’m always telling hubby to turn off the heat and put on a sweater. =D

    castocreations’s last blog post..Sleepy Sunday

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  • Hi Hank,

    I though I was frugal/cheap but you really take the cake, man. I’m Asian & I don’t go the way you did. LOL :_) Just kidding.

    Whatever works for you right. I’ve seen some people who are really broke staying in squalid places. Goes to show, we might think we are broke, (well if you are reading this, at least u have a PC, you are not that broke), many others are worst off than us.

    The least we can do is to manage our finances well, that we can give some away to the needy.

  • Keep pennies at home. The metal is worth more than their face value πŸ™‚

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  • C

    I’m ashamed (or proud?) to say that I’ve done more than a few of these things in my time. of course, if you coupon and play the drugstore game then you can get toothpaste (and sometimes even generic Ziploc & trashbags) for free, so that has helped to curb my impulses… so perhaps you can use some of these frugal habits to eliminate others πŸ™‚

    C’s last blog post..Ways to Pay Down Your Mortgage Faster

  • Hi Hank

    My upbringing was quite frugal as well, as my parents lived through WW II in the UK with food rationing etc and tried to pass on these values to us. Strangely I rebelled against this and became a bit of a money spending fanatic – at least until I had a period of unemployment and my finances hit the buffers πŸ™

    I’m back to living my parents way now and reflecting on how much better my financial situation would be if I had followed their advice. It’s never too late to start being thrifty πŸ™‚


  • Ray

    I come from poor cotton farmers and read one off your list that made me laugh…….

    “you ate hot dogs and Macaroni and cheese”

    I would have given my seat in hell to have hot dogs sometimes. But you are right, it is our upbringing. I have become a successful oiltrader and I still live like what my friends call a “depression era baby”

    Great post!

    Ray’s last blog post..Crude Oil Market Headlines News

  • chris

    Wanting to save the environment and recycle is one thing. so is wanting to save money. but some of the things you do are downright dangerous to health. i cant imagine being your wife or kids! wearing shoes with three holes in them? Mismatched laces and shoes? Surprised you didnt get called in by the boss. And reusing plastic lunch bags – okay if it was dry stuff, but the bacteria is phenominal from things like sandwiches with mayo, cheese or fish. uggh.

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