Five Frugal Things

by Katy on March 27, 2016 · 35 comments

Free pile

  1. I brought home an armload of stuff that some neighbors had piled on top of their retaining wall. This included a dish drain, (nicer than my rusty one) two tins, a Cuisinart toaster, two full bags of sugar, a vintage pepper shaker, a bulk bottle of Windex and a stainless steel pasta server. Score!
  2. My older son broke the zipper on his Jansport backpack, so I printed out the form to get it fixed for free. Yes, we’ll pay the postage, but it’s worth it to keep this otherwise sturdy and functional item in circulation. I’m pretty sure that my husband bought this backpack at Costco when my son was a fourth grader, but they do have lifetime warranties on their items!
  3. My younger son ended up not activating his driver’s license, as there was a surprise test he needed to take as an under eighteen-year-old driver. This is actually good, as it turns out it was going to cost an additional $186-per-month to add him onto our USAA insurance as a secondary driver. He was going to pay this himself, but holy moly, that is an enormous amount of money!!! We can now take the time to shop around for a better rate.
  4. My twenty-year-old son and I sat down last night to take care of random business before he headed back to college this morning. It wasn’t what he was in the mood for, but he can now cross filing his taxes and applying for summer employment from his to-do list. It would easy for me to do all this for him, but it’s very important to me that he hones these important adult life skills. (He’s been working as a lifeguard since age fifteen, but has to reapply each year.) He’s being rewarded with a generous tax refund as his reward.
  5. My older son and I had a conversation about which college meal plan is the best for him. We’ve been paying for the full meal plan, but he’s hardly ever getting to breakfast. We’re switching him to a lower plan which will provide lunch and dinner, plus an additional ten breakfasts per term, and will save us $270.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest.


{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine March 27, 2016 at 7:08 pm

1. Played Easter Bunny very inexpensively this year. I wanted to scale back, especially since we’d like to buy our older son his first two-wheeler (hopefully 2nd hand) but didn’t want to set that as an Easter gift expectation going forward. I bought two high quality stuffed animals at the thrift store ($0.95/each) and ran them through the wash. These were the “anchor” gifts to bulk out the baskets, but if they don’t become favourites they can be re-donated (so far the kids have been loving on them all day). Added toothbrushes, sidewalk chalk (bought on Fall clearance), a couple other minor items, and a bag of foil wrapped chocolate eggs to hide. Definitely under $20 for the two kids, and I think it was the right amount of stuff. For me it’s not as much about the money, but not setting a huge expectation of merchandise for each holiday.

2. Stocked up on some low cost grocery items according to the “pantry principle” – mainly cheese & tomato sauce.

3. Made a batch of cupcakes and decorated them with my older son, using supplies on hand (Thanks, Pinterest!) – this doubled as both a weekend craft activity and dessert/gifts for extended family.

4. Invited my parents over yesterday for a pretty gourmet dinner cooked by my husband. He loves braised beef short ribs, so whenever I find short ribs 50% off I buy them. These ones were frozen a couple of weeks ago, but we have been trying to clear out the freezer.

5. I really wanted some chicken breasts but they haven’t been on sale. Bought a whole chicken much cheaper (small, but still cheaper than 2 breasts), and made several meals of it (Maple curry penne with chicken, salad and chicken thighs, and chicken soup that covered 2 meals for 4 people).

6. Bonus – snapped and emailed a few Easter morning pics to extended family (grandparents & great-grandparents). It’s free, and taking the time to send a pic or two makes them so happy!


Florencia March 27, 2016 at 7:21 pm

1. Went to the food bank today. Such a blessing! They had a lot of fresh food. We were doing to buy tomatoes today to take advantage of a sale, but they gave us a bunch. Among some of the things they gave us were Jerusalem artichokes, croutons, Arizona tea packets, sour cream, chicken, cream cheese won tons, bread, orange juice, milk, chocolate milk, hummus, pastries, canned salmon, fresh veggies. Definitely sharing the surplus by having people over for dinner and giving some away.
2. Worked today. Ate breakfast and lunch for free and brought some things I left there but haven’t been going through. By having them at home I should consume them more easily.
3. Went to Kohl’s yesterday. A coupon for $10 off a $10 purchase came in the mail. As I looked at store hours online, I discovered a 20% off coupon I could use as well. We found some jeans that originally cost $44 at $17.60 on clearance. Minus the $10 and 20% off, I only paid $6.50, a perfectly frugal gift for my dad’s birthday on Thursday.
4. Found $0.91 at work. At the food bank and old man found a nickel and, telling me it was lucky, gave it to me. ^_^
5. I had left my wallet in my friend’s car on Thursday, which kept me from going to the grocery store on Friday, definitely saving money because there wasn’t anything I needed.
6. Went to get said wallet last night at my friend’s work. Since there was a Kohl’s in the same mall, it wasn’t an extra trip and he was able to change the nosepads on my glasses for free.


Beth March 27, 2016 at 7:30 pm

1. Simple Easter breakfast, made monkey bread all with items I already had.

2. Bought Easter dessert with returnable bottles money.

3. Watched 2nd MOCKINGJAY movie for 80 cents with a Redbox code and made air popper popcorn.

4. Only thing I bought for Easter dinner was the ham at 1.17 per pd., was excellent and a spiral, had everything else on hand. Listened to Pandora for free all day while cooking.

5. Swagbucked all weekend long and halfway there to 25 dollar PayPal, want to earn by the end of the month.


Kim March 27, 2016 at 10:07 pm

1. Easter dinner was yummy! Ham, scalloped potatoes, carrots, fresh pineapple, popovers and key lime pie. Ham bought after Christmas when Aldi’s marked $5 off so $3.50 for 9.5 lb. ham. Carrots I canned last summer, potatoes were 10 lbs/$1.69 and pineapple was $1.29. Ingredients for popovers and pie came from the pantry. Now I’m making red beans and rice in the crockpot with the ham bone.
2. Got to use my new to me popover pan. I’ve wanted one for years and found one at a church sale for $1in the fall. They turned out great!
3. Planted snow peas in my big flower pot I got last weekend for 50¢. I painted it a bright yellow so it looks new. Put an old tomato cage in the pot for the peas to grow on.
4. Weeded my raised beds so I can plant lettuce, spinach and peas. Free exercise!
5. Filled DS#1’s Easter basket with chocolate bought on sale and with coupons. Also a baseball book bought at the charity shop. Using his Easter basket I bought when he was a baby. DS#2’s treats were sent to him at college. Packed his treats in a new dop kit bought for $1 at the charity shop.


K D March 28, 2016 at 1:55 am

1. I made Blueberry Buckle for Easter breakfast/dessert. One dish, two uses.

2. We bought twine. We are doing major trimming of some tall bushes/shrubs and tying the branches is a legitimate way to put them at the curb for yard waste pick-up. Much cheaper than buying bags.

3. Rented Daddy’s Home using a Redbox code. It cost $.34 after the discount.

4. I stopped by Safeway to stock up on frozen dinners, on sale. I’ll be away in a few weeks so my husband likes to just heat one up when he gets home from work. Cheap-ish and easy.

5. We Skyped with family yesterday. We were unable to travel to attend a family dinner so after dinner we Skyped.


Elizabeth March 28, 2016 at 3:02 am

My goodness that’s a ridiculous price on the insurance. Highway robbery.

Nice save on the stuff your neighbors threw out. I wish I had neighbors so kind.

1. No grocery spending this week, except for a few staples. I’m doing a pantry/fridge cleanup.

2. While on our way to Aldi, my husband spotted something in the brush along the edge of the road. Pulled over and it was a nice like new Walgreens shopping bag. Came in handy, since most of our shopping bags were back at home.

3. I put a pair of new Minnetonka flip flops on Ebay yesterday. I bought them a couple years ago for half price, but didn’t try them on in the store. Turned out they were much too narrow for my duck feet, but I hope someone gets to enjoy them soon. The box has been collecting dust in the closet for a while now. Later today I’m going to post a vintage Aigner purse and hope both items sell soon.

4. Our kitchen drain was getting a severe clog that nothing would break, so my husband got underneath and took the drain apart to clean it up, and viola, no more clog and no plumbing charges.
5. Call me crazy, but I was in the mood to color yesterday. So instead of buying a coloring book I went to and printed a couple of Easter pictures. I’ve had a box of crayons stored away that I had bought to make my own shades of lipstick a long time ago. It worked great, but had all those extra crayons I didn’t know what to do with. Anyway, coloring was fun and I’ll probably do it again sometime.


Mand01 March 28, 2016 at 3:28 am

1. I’m not crafty, but I am a cook and kitchen person. I saw an Instagram from a restaurant of bunny biscuits for Easter. I’m sure they were charging at least $2 each for them, but I was sure they were very simple. I had my niece and nephew over, and they and my kids made bunny face biscuits on Easter Sunday. We had lots left over for Easter Monday dessert at my mother’s.
2. Made strawberry and rhubarb jam. Cost was about the same as storebought, but the taste is far superior. Plus it is so much fun to make, and I have given away three jars to family and my neighbour. I’ll keep the rest now as I have some everyday for breakfast.
3. Made vegetable stock from trimmings of onions, celery and carrots as I was making other things. This is about the most NCA thing you can make. Half our household is vegetarian, so it is very handy to have in the freezer.
4. We got our garden beds built and planted with vegetables on Easter Sunday. Today my mother gave me Parma violets to plant in memory of my grandmother, and this evening I sat on a rock and watered them in and felt very happy. We moved in a year ago and it has taken us this long to clear the garden that was there (a tangle of weeds, ferns and weird plants), remove trees and shrubs, and start over. I can see the shape it will grow to be now and it is wonderful.
5. We had Easter Monday at my parents’ and aside from a few things, I made most things to bring – Hot Cross Buns, Mustard and Ham Scrolls, and Bunny Face Biscuits.


Bellen March 28, 2016 at 3:45 am

Typical week for me:
Froze the last batch of loquats – can’t fit any more in my freezer. Now have 118 ind servings frozen plus 12 ind servings of strawberries – won’t have to buy fruit until middle of June. Still have fresh loquats to eat – tree has produced prodigiously this year. Being diabetic I have to portion my fruit for blood control so it’s easier to freeze in portions and I wash and reuse the bags until they leak.

Have been harvesting lots of greens from the garden – kale, lettuces, asian greens, radishes, etc. The cukes are coming along as are the zucchini but the worms are getting to those just as they are reaching the 4″ length. Will have to pick earlier so I’ll be having gourmet baby zucchinis!!

Did not do ANY shopping this week.

Hubby is taking advantage of a free month of HBO. Will not subscribe.

Caught up on favorite mags offered thru library at Zinio and a couple of movies thru Hoopla.


Amy S March 28, 2016 at 6:13 am

I had no idea about the Jansport warranty. I have put way too much time into trying to fix my daughter’s zipper on her not so old backpack (less than a year!) I will get that in the mail ASAP! Thanks!


Katy March 28, 2016 at 9:57 am

You’re welcome!


Krystal March 28, 2016 at 6:45 am

1. Relisted a Brita pitcher and filters for sale on Craigslist
2. Ate leftovers all weekend, we are finally fresh out.
3. Harvested oregano from our garden, drying it and will use it in the future.
4. Did a ton of yard work and ended up decorating the house with cherry branches ready to blossom and hyacinths. I won’t be tempted to buy tulips at the market!
5. I didn’t buy a new car!


Barbara March 28, 2016 at 7:11 am

My personal experience after a lifetime with USAA is that only GEICO comes close on a regular basis and they tend to raise rates after a short time. So all of my kids have kept usaa. I’m one of the 90 percent who will never leave……but I also bank nwith them.


stacy March 28, 2016 at 10:22 am

I have found the same! Either USAA or Geico have worked for us, including through 3 teenage boys who drive!!


Jennifer March 28, 2016 at 8:13 am

1. Kids are out of school so I’m staying home today puttering around doing housework which saves money. We were on vacation last weekend and I left my house kinda messy. It seemed to stay messy the whole week. Today will be catch up day since we worked most of the weekend. Don’t know about you all but when my house is disgusting I feel disgusting as well.
2. I have avoided going to to grocery store for several days and just throwing together whatever I can from the freezer.
3. My kids breakfast this morning was leftovers from when we are out last night. Eating out is not frugal but when you stretch out the take home box of food to one or two more meals it’s almost worth it.
4. Lunch will be hamburger helper. My husband can’t stand hamburger helper but since it’s just the kids and I home for lunch it will work out great.I got it free from Kroger as a Friday download some months ago. It will be perfect for lunch for the kids and I paired with some roasted carrots.
5. I highlighted my hair at home a week ago and it’s a little orangey. I’m going try to lighten up those spots a little more this afternoon to hopefully avoid going to buy a bottle of toner.


amanda March 28, 2016 at 9:29 am

I cringed when you mentioned your son is being ‘rewarded with a generous tax refund’. I look at refunds as money you gave the government to hold onto interest free. Try to adjust his form to bring home more and owe zero while getting nothing back. I’m sure he can invest it and get something in return!

My frugals:
1. Visited my SIL in the big city and went shopping. We took lunches and fruit with us from home. For dinner we got takeout teriyaki and split up the boxes, so instead of the usual 6 meals, we got away with 3. She sneaked a nice bottle of wine into a shopping bag when I wasn’t looking.

2. We homeschool our children and we do it extremely frugally. My husband and I have discussed getting computers for them, but instead opted for kindle fire tablets instead. We spent extra to get the ‘kids’ version, but it has a 2 year no questions asked guarantee, which I’m sure we’ll take advantage.

3. Cleaned out and planted my greenhouse. I grow herbs, spinach, lettuce, onions, and strawberries.

4. Went frugal on the Easter gifts, no surprise since Christmas is also frugal.

5. Spent Easter with family friends, who totally spoiled my kids with gifts. They now have enough candy to last for months!


Allison March 28, 2016 at 9:31 am

I’m surprised that USAA is so high to add your son. I hope you find something cheaper.

We had our kids (now 22 & 20) added to our USAA policy when they started driving, and we thought it was high until we checked other companies! I still shop around every year or so and USAA is always the cheapest. Try calling back and ask what they can do. They moved around some drivers for us to make it the cheapest they could. For example, my hubby is listed as the primary driver on the car my son drives, while son is only listed as a secondary driver. We are not “cheating” on this; the agent suggested it and said it was OK.

Good luck!


PaperCraneFarm March 28, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Had family visiting from out of town and spent Easter visiting local family

1) Saved as many plastic eggs as I could before the kiddos broke them. Will reuse them next year or maybe even sooner since toddlers (once they catch on to what a holiday means) don’t understand why every day can’t involve (finding hidden eggs, dressing in costume and saying “trick or treat” etc). Luckily our kiddos only cared about finding the eggs and not about having stuff in them.

2) I bought a large container of salad mix and brought the same container to two family events over the weekend (with the same family members at each event). Sure it was the same greens but it felt like a different salad, first with a tomato and cucumber and the second time with pears and craisins. Still a little left over greens for this week.

3) I made two pans of lasagna that used lots of garden veggies stored from last year in the freezer. I served that twice over the weekend as well and have leftovers for lunch this week. No-boil noodles made it pretty easy along with a discounted container of ricotta (discounted because the lid must have broken). Since the seal on the ricotta was still intact and the expiration date was a few months out, I had bought it in February and squirreled it away with this weekend in mind.

4) Created a new posting for Craigslist. Creating a new ad can be time consuming but once it is created, renewing it week to week is quick.

5) Decided I’m going to cut prices on a few items on Craigslist. They haven’t even gotten a nibble in the months they’ve been posted and I think I need to accept that they’re just not going to move at their current prices. Better to sell them and move on.


auntiali March 28, 2016 at 12:43 pm

Love, love, love Jansport. Both my kids have sent at least one back and got a new one in return. They used Jansport from 5th grade – all through college and into real life.


Lynda March 28, 2016 at 2:58 pm

i love Jansport too! My kids used them through college and we got a new one when zipper broke on one. The other day I bought a full-size b Jansport on clearance for $14.99 at Staples. I think my granddaughter will get many years of use from it. She has been wearing out one cheap back back per school year. No more!


JennC March 28, 2016 at 1:30 pm

1. Made a call to the hospital where my husband recently had surgery and got a 30% prompt pay discount on our portion of the bill.

2. My tall husband doesn’t find most seating comfortable so I did an unfrugal thing by buying new dining chairs when we have perfectly functional free to us ones. However, it was pretty frugal to opt for the 70% off discontinued color floor models of the chairs we did find that fit him well. The bonus will be when I hopefully sell our old chairs, including a wooden adjustable height kid chair, and cover the cost of the new chairs.

3. Ground pork and ground turkey were marked down about 75% due to being close to their sale by dates. I bought all the packs as we enjoy a lot of recipes using both of these meats.

4. Posted many things we are no longer using on craigslist. Most of these were thrifted/sale purchased/gift items so we’re coming out even or ahead on most items.

5. We decided not to throw all of our money into a down payment on a house and even the most conservative calculations of saving/investing the money instead say this was a wise choice.


Nancy March 28, 2016 at 2:45 pm

Today I paid a $2500.00 bill to the hospital for an emergency room visit my husband had. I asked if I paid the bill in full today, if I could get a discount. She said no because we have insurance. So I paid the bill in full, but I’d like to have gotten a discount. Did you have insurance? What did you say to get a discount? Thank you. 🙂


janine March 28, 2016 at 3:57 pm

Our son has a high deductible and co/pay on his insurance. I will advise him to negotiate with the hospital for a discount for cash. I have heard of folks without insurance getting their bills lowered but never those with insurance but high co-pays and/or deductibles. Thanks for the tip.


JennC March 28, 2016 at 4:05 pm

In this case it was just a discount they offer from the surgery center. I only knew about it because I had asked something about billing when he was being prepped for surgery. I was very thankful to run across the info card yesterday and to have the reminder within the 30 day period.


Sarah G. March 28, 2016 at 1:40 pm

1. Made pinto beans in the crockpot using some bacon my mom had given me.
2. Started getting raw milk for my kids again. We’re fairly health conscious, and the organic milk here costs $7/gallon. It’s insane, so I’m glad the farmer we get the milk from now has milk available again (the cow was dry for a while). The raw milk is only $3 per gallon!
3. I was tempted to make several fancy concoctions for our family Easter dinner, but it wasn’t in the budget. I made a simple dish of glazed carrots instead. It was delicious and I didn’t have to do as much work.
4. I wanted a new outfit for Easter but remained level headed and just wore a pretty Spring dress I purchased last year for my uncle’s wake.
5. I’m proud of myself for doing well with our new cash budget. The end of the month is only three days away, and I still have $25 left in my household allotment! I am a spender by nature, not a saver. So this does NOT come easily to me!


Ruby March 28, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Katy, when I was in college, I opted for a meal plan that didn’t provide lunch. A hearty breakfast in the morning and a small snack at mid-day would keep me going and saved money.

My frugal five:
1. Cut my DH’s hair, saving us $15 plus a tip. I also got to wear the $2 rubber lab apron bought at the humane society thrift shop to protect my clothes from hair clippings.
2. Bought DH another beautiful $4 dress shirt at the HS thrift shop. I also bought myself a pair of solid silver hoop earrings there for $1. They were black with tarnish, but cleaned up beautifully with a little Barkeeper’s Friend.
3. Used a 20 percent off coupon at CVS to purchase a few little Easter chocolate items, a pair of reading glasses and a Contigo insulated bottle, which I’d had my eye on because it’s guaranteed not to leak. It went on sale for $15 and I jumped in with the coupon.
4. I bought too much fruit last week and had more oranges and pears than we could eat before they went bad. I peeled them, added an apple and a handful of strawberries, and juiced the whole lot. It made really beautiful and delicious fresh juice.
5. Continued my project to save a wild-type rosebush from our next-door neighbor’s weed whacker. The base of it is on her side of the chain link fence, but I weave the runners through the fence to our side so that they don’t stick out and motivate her to cut it down. So far so good. I was horrified last year when she cut it down while it was blooming, since it’s an old fashioned rose that’s especially frugal to have, as it requires no spraying for pests or black spot.


Jennifer March 28, 2016 at 4:18 pm

1. and 2. It’s the ability to find high quality stuff that just needs a little cleaning that really stands out here. Great job!


janine March 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm

1. Purchased clearance socks with JC Penney Coupon; net cost was 79 cents.
2. Invited to friend’s house for leftover holiday wine plus gourmet goodies from upscale ethnic market . Yum!
3. Made dinner today from Easter leftovers including potato pancakes which turned out quite well.
4. Meal planned for remainder of week – may use “eggroll in a bowl” recipe suggestion found on this blog to use up excess cabbage. Checked freezer for “lost and hidden items” I may have forgotten .
5. Hope it’s frugal category: Friend and I will do some calling for our favorite presidential candidate instead of driving to neighboring state to help out – thus saving gas and time.


Isabelle March 28, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Ah, my daughter’s backpack zipper broke last week. I was about to throw it out since I don’t have the receipt anymore. But it’s from Walmart, so I’ll bring it back and see if they can exchange or reimburse. Same thing happened to her lunch box, also bought at Walmart…. cheap stuff.


Chris March 28, 2016 at 4:59 pm

1. Easter dinner was an Aldi’s ham and everything else from food on hand. Made enough to send plenty home with guests.
2. Cleaned up a brunch for the choir and church and brought home leftover fruit, yogurt and some candy. Distributed much to other volunteers – leaving plenty for staff who return to work on Tuesday.
3. Spent the day cleaning up the last of the dishes, putting ham in the freezer, washing table linens, walking the dog – not shopping for 1/2 off Easter candy.
4. Decided rather than buying a ton of new plants to have the yard ready for our daughter’s September wedding we would transplant a slew of hostas and sedum and use pots of flowers to add bursts of color to the front gardens.
5. Dog day care was full for this coming Wednesday when I am scheduled to work. My day is short enough that he can stay home alone but I wanted to get a nail trim in- instead will save the day care cost and go to the local pet store for a nail trim at the same price. The neighbor is caring for her “grand dog” so he will have a playmate this week.


Lea Gysan March 29, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Thank you for mentioning your Jansport zipper return. I’ve been holding on to my son’s (also with a broken zipper) and using it from time to time to return library books, hoping it doesn’t pop open. Now I’ll send it in for an official repair. Thanks for inspiring and useful “frugal things!”


Katy March 29, 2016 at 4:28 pm

I’m excited to be giving fresh life to this old backpack!


LisaC March 31, 2016 at 12:20 pm

An insurance agent once told me (too late for my own kids) to insure the car yourself, and just list the teenager as a driver. That is cheaper than listing them as the primary driver of a car.


Katy March 31, 2016 at 1:40 pm

That awful thing is that we were listing our son as a “secondary driver.”


Mary April 11, 2016 at 11:47 am

We too live in PDX and had a younger driver added to our Liberty Mutual insurance….which we compared the rates yearly. It skyrocketed when we added our 20 year old. Good thing I whined about it to friends. Even before I could search the net for better rates a friend suggested Farmers. Wow…not only were they a fraction of the cost….we moved our car, homeowners, and umbrella policy to them and have a great agent to deal with (No specific agents assigned to you at the time we bailed on Liberty Mutual)……plus better coverage!


Melanie B April 14, 2016 at 12:03 pm

Thanks for the Jansport warranty tip! Mailing in my broken strap pack now!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: