What’s The Cheapest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

by Katy on June 3, 2015 · 165 comments

Garbage picked toilet seat

I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts lately and loving the fresh inspiration. I enjoy the listener phone calls, but I really like when people come into the studio and do their “debt free screams.” Specifically when Dave interviews them and asks what was the key to their debt free status, and what were their most difficult moments.

I’ll admit, I get a bit misty eyed sometimes.

It makes me think about what I’ve done to stay on top of my family’s finances. And what are some of the craziest things I’ve done in the name of frugality? Of course the answer is when I garbage picked a toilet seat! 

But today I want to know:

What’s the cheapest, most extreme thing you’ve done in the name of frugality?

Please don’t hold back. I want to know about your wackiest, cheapest most insane frugal hack. (Even if it’s not as extreme as a garbage picked toilet seat.) 😉

Please write your stories in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 164 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn June 3, 2015 at 8:23 am

My glasses have been repaired with the wire from inside a bread twist tie for over a year. At first, it was an emergency fix, but now its only because the kit to fix them is something I’d have to buy.

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Rose June 3, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Every time my eye glasses broke, I glued them back together with superglue over and over until finally there was no fixing them.They were prescription sunglasses and I made them last from 2007 until this past May!

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:45 pm

Good job!

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Erica June 4, 2015 at 6:56 pm

I did this until my prescription changed and I needed a new pair of glasses! Super glue is pretty amazing on plastic frames, when I had metal frames they became far two twisted when broken to fix.

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:21 am

I hear that! I fell while running and cracked my glasses completely through (also snapped a bone in my hand). I wore them broken for another two years until I needed a prescription upgrade.

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Laura Loew June 3, 2015 at 8:24 am

I’ve done a lot of cheap things so it’s hard to pick one. Perhaps it’s the time when my neighbors set out a vintage bouncy horse in good shape for the trash. . the night before my garage sale. Yes, I trashpicked it and sold it for $40. Not sure if they noticed!

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sandy June 3, 2015 at 8:47 am

Back about 20 years ago we moved into a house where the dining room rug was a very stained baby blue monstrosity that no matter how many times I cleaned it just looked terrible. To say we didn’t have the funds to replace it is an understatement. So, I went out and bought navy blue liquid Rit dye, took a toothbrush and spent evenings on my knees working the full strength dye into the rug fibers with the toothbrush. It took a lot of time but that I could afford.
I am pleased to say that it looked quite nice and rich when I was done and held up for over 5 years, even in the traffic pattern areas, until we could afford to replace it.
I have also contact papered my kitchen floor with wood grained contact paper and it held up to frequent washings for the three years we lived there before we moved.
Necessity is the mother of looking outside the box.

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Lynn June 9, 2015 at 5:09 am

I’ve been debating painting my ugly kitchen vinyl, and/or the high traffic areas of my wood floors elsewhere. I had no idea contact paper was a viable option! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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Queen Lucia June 3, 2015 at 8:51 am

Speaking of toilet seats, a couple of years ago my parents got a new, fancy toilet and my dad saved the old toilet seat for me, knowing it was better quality than ours. It was the weirdest and most thoughtful gift I ever got! And that reminds me of another Dad-ism: I persuaded him to give me his “broken” carpet shampoo-er rather than take it to the dump. Because, as I suspected, it wasn’t really broken at all, just had a small, easily fixed leak. I guess it pays to be my dad’s daughter!

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Nathalie June 3, 2015 at 7:21 pm

Yeah, a couple of months ago I needed to replace one of our toilet seats so I bought one at the thrift store for just $4. It looked brand new. I wiped it down with a Lysol wipe and it was good to go! I don’t understand why people would be that’s “gross”. No biggie.

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Amy June 3, 2015 at 8:55 am

I’ve trash picked pumpkins after Halloween and used them to make pumpkin puree.

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Anna June 3, 2015 at 11:42 am

me too!

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A. Marie June 3, 2015 at 12:17 pm

I no longer buy or grow pumpkins or squash. The post-Halloween discards are sufficient for our modest needs in this department. (Tip: Some of the fancier/more exotic-looking “pumpkins” are actually various types of squash and are much tastier than the typical jack-o-lantern. It’s worth doing a little research.)

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Michele Hoyt June 5, 2015 at 1:26 am

I do this too! I work at a college, and the girls throw out so many pumpkins 🙂

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Panorama June 3, 2015 at 9:02 am

I had a good black tote that perfectly fit my everyday use. It was so functional that even when the zipper was gone, I sewed up and mended it and put to use again. I must have used it for 4+ years straight.

The same thing goes for a good sandals I had. The buckle wore off and I mended it to make it work as long as possible.

I also used my sister’s hand me down school uniforms during my high school. It was slightly different style from what my peers wore. I hated it but I now feel that it had an old fashioned charm to it.

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Kathy June 3, 2015 at 9:09 am

I have my 6 month dental appointment in July. One of my molar crowns fell out 2 months ago, and continues to fall out occasionally. I pop it back in and eat on the opposite side of my mouth. I will wait for my semi-annual appointment to deal with it at one appointment.

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John June 3, 2015 at 10:51 am

I may have you beat… I glued my own crown back on:

http://www.amazon.com/Dental-Ionomer-Permanent-Bridge-Cement/dp/B00AKFYQ3M

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:53 pm

What?! You do have me beat!

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Linda June 3, 2015 at 7:02 pm

I flossed the crown off of my implant. The dentist reglued it for free. While she was working on me she told about a client who superglued a crown.

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Holly June 3, 2015 at 9:12 am

After losing my stove to unfortunate events, I cooked meals with a single electric hotplate and a toaster oven for 18 months — before finding the exact same model of stove as a sidewalk giveaway because the knob to the clock was broken off (and of course, it was “old-fashioned” with coil burners, not a flattop!)

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Betty Winslow June 3, 2015 at 9:21 am

Let’s see – hung the valance over the kitchen sink with string run through the casing and attached with thumbtacks; diapered a child with a dishtowel when we ran out of clean diapers; contact papered the ugly kitchen counter with printed contact paper and then a layer of clear, which held up for almost 10 yrs, with only one small tomato stain and one small knife cut. I’m sure there are more…. 🙂

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Meredith P. June 3, 2015 at 2:21 pm

You are awesome! I’ve been trying to find a no-buy way to hang curtains in my new bedroom!!!! Wish I could hug you. (If you’re a hugger…a good high five if not. 😉 )

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Sue June 4, 2015 at 1:58 pm

Try a bungee cord, stretched between two nails! Or if you want sheers under drapes, stretch two bungees. From the center of a rod if it has a center bracket to hold up a long one… I have rods, but showed a few people how to do this.

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Lea June 3, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Your diapering with a dishtowel story made me laugh! My mom has this great story about her aunt diapering cousin Wally with a pink flowered kitchen curtain because it had rained for a week and the wash wouldn’t dry! No dry towels of any kind and certainly no dry diapers. They couldn’t afford to buy more so they used what they had! And, of course, cousin Wally never lived that one down (even now at almost 80!).

Thanks for the laugh,
Lea

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 7:27 pm

I can totally picture this!

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Vickie June 4, 2015 at 6:26 am

You sound like my Aunt with the diaper story!
My Mom said they were out shopping once and went by a construction site where some of those red cloth flags were used to caution people to slow down. My Aunt told her daughter to “grab that flag, Virginia, it’ll make a good diaper”. Although they laughed about it, I know my Aunt well enough she likely meant it! 🙂

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Patricia June 3, 2015 at 9:24 am

My clothes dresser was next to the dumpster at my apt. and the drawers were thrown in the dumpster, but thankfully still at the top, so I pulled them out, put the dresser on a sheet and pulled it over the dirt road to my apt. I took the whole thing apart, bleach cleaned it, then painted it, varnished it, and my Dad made new drawer glides for the broken ones. I also replaced all the hardware with some I had been saving (that I had trash picked a couple years ago). Now I have a 9 drawer dresser in a lovely gray blue (yes it was OOPS paint), that holds my stuff and it is a low boy, my favorite style. All for free.

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Do you have pictures!

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Patricia June 4, 2015 at 4:11 pm

I do, but do not know how to share?

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Erica June 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm

Oh that’s awesome! I built my dresser from a free Expedit that was left in my apartment and some Uhaul “small” boxes plus contact paper. It’s really pretty and colorful and I spent about $8 on it.

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Reba June 3, 2015 at 9:43 am

We had a car which a friend who was an airplane mechanic helped us out with when we were stranded. He sat in the gas station parking lot for several evenings trying to figure it out. When all was said and done, he told us a cast metal piece in the steering column had broken off. It was replaceable, but cost a fortune because of the labor and you actually had to replace a larger section rather than the actual piece. His fix? We manually pulled on a pair of vice grips which did the job of the broken mechanism. Technically, we could drive it without a key, but he couldn’t guarantee if it would lock up or not. So we would stick the key in and pull on the vice grips. We had that car for several more years. I hated taking it in as I always had to take the mechanic and show him how to start it. But it worked!!

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Love it!

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Rebecca June 3, 2015 at 9:44 am

Oven broke in 2010, still using toaster oven today. Dryer broke 8 months ago, been hanging dry clothes ever since. Dishwasher broke 3 months ago and we are still hand washing. It ticks me off that appliances are no longer built to last. The parts to fix all three on our own will be almost $500. BONUS my outrageous utilities have been decreasing!

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JD June 3, 2015 at 9:54 am

I hear you. Our stainless tub, three-arm spray, fancy dan dishwasher had the rollers on the top rack break, first one side then the other, and then the pump and motor died — all in less than 3 years. I’m still washing by hand, too. The seller and the manufacturer steadfastly insist there was no fault in their manufacturing or design. We replaced the rollers, but all told, the parts to fix all of it are over $300, and the labor to replace the pump and motor — $200. I wish they would stand by their products.

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:59 pm

You can often get kitchen appliances for free due to people tearing out non-stainless steel ones for remodels. Perfectly good ones! I bought my $50 dishwasher from Craigslist, and it’s been so much better than the brand new one that it replaced!

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Su Mama June 3, 2015 at 6:44 pm

And Katy’s mother bought her own dishwasher through Craigslist for, I think, $45. Cost a bit to have it installed, but STILL. And coincidentally the same model as Katy’s. It’s going strong at least five years later. Need I mention that the woman selling it was, ahem, updating her kitchen with that wretched stainless steel? I find the latter really stoopid, what with the relentless fingerprints.

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 6:50 pm

I remember that you paid $40, $10 less than I did. Of course, my husband installed ours for free. 😀

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Patricia June 4, 2015 at 4:17 pm

When I had my little single wide mobile home (1996-2005), it didn’t have a dishwasher, and I worked, so I wanted one badly. Found an ad in the paper, a homeowner had brought her fancy dishwasher from NY to FL, and took out the one in her brand new house, and sold it to me for $75. My father and I sawed open a lower cupboard to fit it, and I had it installed by a plumber for $50. Not bad for brand new. I learned how to install them myself in the meantime, so next time I won’t be hiring a plumber!

JD June 3, 2015 at 9:46 am

Hmmmm…. when our electricity goes out –and we’re on a well– it means no water. We have the option to drive to a motel and rent a room, but that costs too much. Usually we “sweat it out” with our emergency water and dirty hair, but during a couple of long hurricanes, my husband bathed in a nearby sinkhole (while amused youngsters looked on) and I have bathed in my swimsuit by standing under the water pouring off of our roof during the heaviest rains. My hair was rainwater soft!
We have also climbed into dumpsters to retrieve a pretty pot with a dried out houseplant which we revived, a stone bird bath base, and an assortment of roll down world maps, the kind they used to hang over blackboards in schools (this makes me think of Katy!). And I repaired the toilets of two friends by using a pull tie to replace the broken chains on the flappers. They were impressed.
What great ideas the other commenters have had, here!

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:58 pm

You know, those vintage classroom maps sell for bundle these days. I got mine for $5 apiece (I think) but eBay sells them for much much more!

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JD June 4, 2015 at 8:41 am

Ooo, good idea! Thanks!

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Michelle June 3, 2015 at 9:49 am

Years ago, my husband stitched up his own arm with quilting cotton and an embroidery needle instead of going to the doctor. (There’s a fine line between “frugal” and “recklessly stupid” and I think he may have crossed it with that one!)

When our oven died, we took one that my uncle had removed from his own kitchen when he remodeled. It was that special shade of 1970s brown and supposed to be a built in, so it sat on cinderblocks and we used it happily until we sold the house and had to put in a respectable one.

When we moved into this house, the previous owner’s ferrets had chewed a hole in the middle of the dining room carpet. I covered it with a throw rug and, ten years later, the hole is still there. We’ve got small children and they’re just as hard on carpet as small animals…. if I’d bought new carpet when we moved in, I’d be replacing it by now.

But the cheapest thing I’ve ever done? Exclusively breastfeeding my four kids. No formula or bottles or nipples to buy….no water to wash the bottles…. not sure if that balances out the disposable diapers we used, but every frugal non-wasteful decision has to help at least a little.

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Breastfeeding is the best! I nursed my sons for years and I can’t even imagine how much money we saved. Not to mention all the countless other benefits.

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Sheila June 4, 2015 at 9:56 pm

Katy,
I’m a lactation consultant at a big hospital and when i am talking to new parents about the benefits if breastfeeding I always throw in how much money they will save. For some reason, the dads’ eyes always light up. Lol

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Sandy June 3, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Michelle! Thanks for mentioning breastfeeding! Neither of our children ever had a bottle or pacifier for their first two years. This was at a time when breastfeeding was not very popular. But, I was determined and it went very well. Used cloth diapers, too. These are both so common now, that I’d forgotten how frugal we were.
My husband’s cousin and his wife had a baby one week before our first was born. The new dads were talking one day and the cousin was bemoaning the high cost of formula and asked my husband where we got ours. My sweet husband just smiled and told him we didn’t need any. I think that put me on a higher pedestal in my husband’s mind. Still there 30+ years later!

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Anne June 3, 2015 at 5:16 pm

I’m actually a little faint thinking of your husband stitching up his own arm.

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Amy W June 4, 2015 at 4:59 am

Michelle, your husband is what we’d call a tough cookie! Stitching up his own arm. Wow. That takes guts, and certainly a steady hand!

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Gina (aka crafttealady) June 3, 2015 at 10:06 am

Contact papered a bathroom counter (was flaming 1980s orange).

Home cooked everything. Including meals for a roadtrip to Disney with my kids. Cooking at home, freezing, and then heating at the hotel with the microwave was far cheaper than eating out for a family of 6.

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marie June 3, 2015 at 10:19 am

wow, I love all the frugal aka cheap ways we have to spend our money on what’s important sometimes.
So, here goes.
I stopped on 1-5 to pick up a bale of hay that had dropped off someone’s truck. Hey, that’s about 2 days entertainment for my hens.
When I husband was remodeling a duplex,I went in and scavenged tons of crap out of a attic. It was sad, christmas ornaments and such, but the tenants had skipped out on the rent. I sold some, and gave some as christmas presents.
In the same duplex they wanted all the screen doors updated. So, since I needed a new one for my side door, we hauled it home. It was from the 70’s silver colored.I scrubbed it, spray painted it white, and it looks new.
And this week my thing is all the little volunteer plants springing up in my yard.Since we really had no winter, I’ve had volunteer spinach, purple mustard, and lots of annual flowers. So I scoop them up and replant in pots. I think I’ve only spent maybe $15 on flowers this year, and flowers are my weakness

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:55 pm

We need a screen door, and I think I need to steal this idea!

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Monica June 3, 2015 at 10:20 am

I love reading everyone’s stories today! Fun blog today!

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:54 pm

I agree! I’m having a blast reading through everyone’s comments.

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Kelly Sangree June 3, 2015 at 11:02 am

Hard to say… I’ve garbage picked all sorts of things, but I think the one I was proudest of was the bike trailer. I found a child hauler bike trailer on the side of the road – it was filthy, worn out, and there were (non-structural) holes in the fabric. I grabbed my stack of old jeans legs left over from other projects and proceeded to recover the worst areas. Then I took a large piece of bright yellow vinyl, put it across the back, and painted the word SLOW in big red and black letters. And while I had the paint out, I painted ladybugs, caterpillars and snails all over the denim. My kids loved it until they were just too big to fit it anymore!

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Amanda June 3, 2015 at 11:26 am

1. For the first time today I garbage-picked two items — a dog crate and brand new saddlebags for a bike. I already sold the dog crate. Researching the saddlebags (still have their tags!)
2. Gotten bags of free clothes from friends in a variety of sizes. Took a shirt that was a size too big and took in the sides (by hand!), cut out the inner “shirt” to a shirt/cardigan combo shirt and wore the cardigan alone, and wear used shoes.
3. When cleaning out the fridge, I use the safe items to supplement and stretch my dog food. Most of the time, leftovers are eaten by us, but sometimes something is just too ripe, old, or unliked for us to eat it. But the dogs? They will eat almost anything 😉
4. Made 6 Christmas gifts this year by buying nothing but binder rings and cutting, punching, and hand making “books” or “journals” with quotes and verses and pictures inside of them! They will be given to my sisters, cousin, mom and mother in law.
5. I hate my kitchen light. I am string beads into a chandelier style “shade” that will hang from a hoop that is wider around that the light and affixed to the ceiling. Unless you look close, you won’t know there is another light underneath!

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Okay, I NEED to see a picture of your kitchen light when you’re done with it! Seriously.

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marie June 3, 2015 at 5:17 pm

I do the same for my dogs, even the 4 month old puppy. Any leftover meat or bones get cooked down with veggies . Boy, when 7:30 a.m. comes around and they hear the refridgerator door open step back!!
Though I have to admit good quality dogfood is all i’ll buy. The puppy food is $50 for a 40 lb bag. But they deserve the best I can give them, they’re my best friends

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Amanda June 4, 2015 at 11:52 am

I feed my dogs well too Marie. I didn’t initially with our first pup, but he was in the vet’s with food allergies and reactions within 2 months. High quality stuff from then on!

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Amanda June 4, 2015 at 11:51 am

I will put pictures up! I need to thrift/scavenge some more beads, but I am going home, and my mom has a huge craft closet, so I’m not worried 😉

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Lynn June 9, 2015 at 5:16 am

Truly! I have no light over my kitchen table (no dining room, tiny house, so this is my only work table), but an outlet within reach, so I’m always on the look out for ideas for things I can make and mount that wouldn’t be super obviously a kluge.

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Ruby June 3, 2015 at 11:31 am

Oh, gosh, there have been so many over the years. Probably the most recent was last week when I saved a 33 cent nylon dish scrubby from the trash bin by getting out a needle and sewing up where it had unraveled. Before that, one of my friends about hit the roof when she found out I’d been using model paint to touch up chips in our everyday plates. Hey, it was only on the underside and the paint is lead-free!

We had to get wickedly clever-cheap back in the early poverty days of our marriage when we moved into a house that all our curtains were too short for the windows. So I made some valances out of leftover fabric and then hung the curtains underneath using kitchen twine so that the valances hid the gap between the window frame and where the curtains started.

We also papered one wall of the bathroom in that house with Contact Paper to cover the holes. The house had no stove and we cooked for nearly a year in an electric skillet and electric wok balanced on top of the dryer. I have made spaghetti in an electric wok! My husband’s parents took pity on us and bought us a toaster oven and two-eye hot plate, but they tended to blow out the fuses if we used them both at once.

We were SO glad to finally be able to afford to move out of that place.

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cathy June 3, 2015 at 11:41 am

I’m not sure what it says about me that it took me a couple of hours to think of something I thought was somewhat “wacky.” I do so much that’s frugal, but none of it strikes me as unusual. But… several years ago we hosted a large-ish party for our son’s bar mitzvah. He didn’t want a DJ (thank goodness!) or anything fancy. The only thing he wanted was to play Beatles Rock Band with his friends. We finally found a nearly-new one for an awesome price but the seller was in another city–300 miles away! Cousins were in the process of moving from our city to the seller’s city and were willing to pick up the game and the instruments. Once we had it, though, we discovered that the seller forgot to include two critical connectors. Amazingly, I had another cousin headed to that city for a conference, so she agreed to pick up the connectors. Win-win for the seller, who didn’t have to ship, and for us because it turns out this stuff is heavy! I guess it takes a village…

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cathy June 3, 2015 at 11:45 am

This experience sounds so entitled–especially when there are so many frugal things people do just to be able to eat. But it was somewhat crazy and I think it’s frugal living that allows us to sometimes do something really special.

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Nathalie June 3, 2015 at 8:21 pm

LOL, I didn’t realize at first that you were replying to your own post, thinking that someone else was telling you that you sounded entitled, and I was annoyed on your behalf by the judgmental busy-body, hahaha. I don’t think it sounded entitled at all! You got something reasonable that you son wanted (I think we’ve all heard of certain people going way overboard for birthday parties, weddings, or other celebrations), got it used at a good price, arranged for free delivery (twice) that didn’t inconvenience anyone and everyone had a good time. You’re right, living frugally is what “entitles” you (allows you) to be able to “splurge” once in a while without having to feel guilty. I think that was a great story and frugal victory and I’m sure your son appreciated his party just as much as if you had bought it brand new with overnight shipping!

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Patricia June 4, 2015 at 4:37 pm

It is great fun to get your child something that brings them happiness, and getting it for less just makes it more fun! When my daughter was 10, she was “into” the old 1980s My Little Pony. We found bags of them for 50 cents each at our local Goodwill (this was 16 years ago), and bought all of them for $10. I cleaned them, combed hair, and then we put them all in the Christmas tree for her to find. When she finally tired of them, I sold them all on E-Bay, for a lot more than I paid. Woot!

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:51 pm

Mazel tov!

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Stephanie June 3, 2015 at 11:57 am

i supplied my kids eater and Christmas gifts from our local buy nothing group and saved clearance items spending less tha $20 on all 4 kids. I also just exchanged 2 gallons of milk today that a friend gave me but that are fat free. Husband won’t drink fat free so I took back to the store to exchange for whole

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Holly June 3, 2015 at 11:57 am

Whenever someone at work brings in a veggie tray and there’s sad, dried up broccoli or cauliflower left at the end of the day, I’ll take it home and either cook it up for dinner or toss it in my soup fixins’ bag in the freezer. I’ve even been known to “rescue” food tossed out by my co-workers (who are very food wasteful). I’ve taken home countless bags of mini-carrots, perfectly good fruit cups, slightly expired yogurt, many overripe bananas, slightly bruised apples, etc. I’ve made many a yummy banana bread with those tossed out bananas and various apple desserts (apple pie, apple crisp, apple kuchen) with the unwanted apples.

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judy June 4, 2015 at 3:00 pm

I do that too, but I tell people it’s for my chickens. People are always happy to give their leftovers for the chickens, but a lot of times my family and I eat them ourselves!

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Diane June 3, 2015 at 12:06 pm

I don’t do extremes…just slow and steady for the past 10 years to pay down debt. I only shop for groceries, stay out of stores otherwise, don’t use my credit card and find enjoyable fun things to do that cost nothing.

Right now homemade cinnamon rolls are baking because I had a craving. Living large on little!

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Gladys (The Pinay Mom) June 3, 2015 at 12:11 pm

I reuse aluminum foil over and over again until it’s time to be tossed.

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marie June 3, 2015 at 5:20 pm

I save mine to clean the grill

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Beth June 3, 2015 at 12:53 pm

My bathroom light takes five light bulbs – all but one have burned out. Tell myself I am saving on electricity 😉 Truth be told I never think about changing it since I’m gone all day until night when I am going to bed and to tired to mess with it.

Used one roll of white duct tape to – one help insulate my old porch windows AND keep/hold them in place. Taped my white counter top piece that’s flapping in place. I just change out the worn tape when company is coming, lol.

Dishwasher broke over a year ago and it now holds my odd and end pots and pans, cookie sheets, etc., since I only have a small galley kitchen. I would love to replace but can’t see changing until I get the counter top replaced and the sink faucet which needs replacing as well so I just make do.

I need a new car battery – managed to get through the winter without replacing it by parking it in the garage and turning off the radio and heat so it doesn’t drain the battery. Also need a new muffler but I am nursing that until I can’t stand the sound anymore.

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Rose June 3, 2015 at 1:28 pm

Same here with he light bulbs. I have some of those flameless candles from QVC and I put them in the bathroom to help with lighting. When the batteries die, I recharge the batteries over and over with my solar battery recharger until the batteries start to degrade!

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Nathalie June 3, 2015 at 8:15 pm

Duct tape FTW! Last Fall one of the window panes in our upstairs hallways fell off our ancient windows. I covered the opening with roofing felt and held it in place with duct tape. We got the windows replaced in March but if we hadn’t decided to replace the windows, the fix would have remained in place probably permanently. The black felt actually provided more privacy so I could walk from my bedroom to my bathroom naked without feeling like I was flashing the whole neighborhood!

The over the range microwave has been on the fritz for 4 years and usually doesn’t heat up at all, but I’m keeping it because the hood part of it still works (light, exhaust fan, timer…). I bought a cheap countertop microwave for the actual cooking/warming up to be done.

When the digital conversion first took place, I put in for the 2 free converter vouchers from the government and I built my own digital antenna with a piece of 2×4, wire hangers, an old length of optical cable and a cheap part (less than $5) from Radio Shack. Oh and I used pieces of cardboard as insulators. It worked great (better than my cheap rabbit ears) until more people moved into the neighborhood and an amped outdoor antenna became necessary to be able to catch the signals. I had found the instructions on YouTube.

The shelves in my husband’s shed are wooden clementines boxes. His nail and screw containers are recycled metal coffee cans. He used one of our old kitchen chairs whose legs had broken, replaced them with pieces of old 2 x 4’s to make himself a chair for the shed.

I bought a plastic wagon over 15 years ago when the kids were little, to go to the beach, take them to theme parks, etc. When they grew too big for it, I used it to cart my boxes and bags when I moved from my apartment into our house, alone and pregnant (I carted the stuff from the apartment building’s staircase to my trunk). I moved my whole apartment like this on my own. Now I use the same wagon in my garden to cart heavy bags of soil from one end to the other. This is also how we unloaded the car when we had tiles or pavers. The poor wagon’s wheel assembly is about to give in!

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Betsey June 5, 2015 at 6:29 am

Tip my mechanic gave me….be sure to turn off your car’s lights manually when you shut it off. This will prevent the lights from draining on the battery.

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Lindsey June 3, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Like one of y our other readers, I am shameless about taking the remains of food from work potlucks and workshops home. I always offer them to others, but unless it is donuts usually I end up with bags of cut up veggies, bread and condiments. One year we raised a pig and I asked co-workers to bring in leftovers or to dump lunch leftovers into a white bucket that I took home every night. My pig and my chickens ate almost completely for free that summer. But the sort of shaming part is that for Christmas my co-workers got together and bought me a huge Safeway gift card–apparently one of them thought I was bringing the food home for me and the kids (because, really who would bother with a pig and chickens in this day??) and they wanted to make sure we ate fresh food for the holidays. I ended up using a good part of the card to make a large ethnic meal for our whole group, just to feel better (still home those leftovers, though) and to thank them for their misplaced thoughtfulness…it was a very sweet thing for them to do.

My worst experience with dumpster diving was an employee who got all her clothes that way, literally from climbing into the dumpsters at our transfer sit—legal in Alaska. I admired her thriftiness but she wore them to work without washing them first, so as her supervisor we had to have a very uncomfortable discussion about hygiene and interacting with the public and fellow staff smelling tolerable. I still do admire her dumpster shopping though…

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:48 pm

Yeah, I bet that was an uncomfortable conversation!

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Stormy June 3, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Road kill vegetables.  I live in an area where they grow cauliflower and look forward to harvest.  I drive down the road and pick up the cauliflower that bounces off the top of the farm  trucks.  One fall, I never bought a single cauliflower and we eat a lot of it!

Although I live in Oregon, I fear that soon water will become everyone’s most precious resource.   I gave up my beloved baths and now shower outside with a allocation of three gallons of water. ( I live in a remote area)  My shower is next to an herb bed the appreciates the extra water.  There was quite a learning curve for that one.  By becoming the water police in our household, I have reduced our electricity bill by $25 a month.

Cut out weekly garbage service.  I have will call service and recycle religiously.  It saves me $250 per year.

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Anne June 3, 2015 at 5:19 pm

“Road kill vegetables” – absolutely classic. 😀

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Tracy June 3, 2015 at 9:34 pm

I can just imagine you following the trucks hoping for that cauliflower to fall out and become “road kill”. I literally laughed out loud. Thanks. 🙂

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Patricia June 4, 2015 at 4:42 pm

We are in FL, and rent now. To save on my water bill, we have a bucket (from the $1 store) in each tub/shower. When we run the water to make it warm, we catch the water and use it for the plants. If the plants don’t need it, we dump it in the washer. We have a plastic tub in the washer, and have been doing this for years without harm.

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Joy June 16, 2015 at 6:16 pm

This reminded me of when I was in high school. I live in rural NC and a farmer had just loaded up his trucks with fresh dug sweet potatoes. A HUGE container of them fell off one of the trucks and the farmer didn’t want to be bothered with stopping and picking them up (my mom pulled over as we witnessed it and I jumped out to help him). When my mom realized that he was just going to leave them, she started looking in the car for any bags/boxes/containers to put them in (I am the youngest of 10 kids so that would help feed us good for quite a while). Well, she ended up popping her hatchback and filling it up with sweet taters! THEN, we got home, unloaded, and she sent me back with dad for another load….I was dying of embarrassment because it was one of the roads leading from my high school and my friends were riding by honking at me! lol

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Rose June 3, 2015 at 1:22 pm

I wash out ziplock bags and use them over and over again. Oh and I haven’t washed my car but once so far this year. When it rains, I pull my car out of the garage and let the rain do it’s thing.

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Nathalie June 3, 2015 at 7:54 pm

Same here both for the bags and the car washing. We don’t have a garage so the car is outside all the time. I call it my “protective layer of dust” (if you saw the movie “Mother” with Albert Brooks, the mother in the movie calls the hard layer of ice on top of the old bucket of ice cream in the freezer a “protective layer of ice”). I did get my husband and son to wash it for me several weeks ago, though, because it was covered in pollen and my seasonal allergies are getting worse every year.

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Jackie June 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm

This is soooooo much fun! Thanks for brightening my day!

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Amanda June 3, 2015 at 2:48 pm

My husband and I did a 90 mile (one way) daily commute for five years so we could live in the free house on my parent’s property rather than pay rent or a mortgage in the city. It allowed us to save a ton of cash, enough that when we did settle down, buy a house, and have kids, we have had the freedom to start businesses and quit jobs as needed.

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Donna June 3, 2015 at 2:51 pm

I can relate to many of the above posts and have done several myself. For me frugality has been both a choice and necessity. Back 10 years ago when I was newly married and a mother of only 2 we were super tight on money. Poorer than I think many Americans would choose (we are a one income family by choice as I stay home to care for and homeschool our kids). But we were determined to make it work! A wealthier family live around the corner and had an annual yard sale with their high end goods. One year in particular they put out their massive pile of leftovers and I carted it all home to sort through and keep or re-home. In this pile were pretty designer undies in just my size- used but in like new condition. We were so “poor” that I truly couldn’t pay the bills and buy new underwear- which I surely could use. So I washed them and wore them for years. I am not in a position now where I can’t afford new undies and I do prefer them, it taught me to humble myself and I can honestly look back with satisfaction! Of course this wasn’t the biggest money saver, but it’s the dedication represented I think to living out my values. It upsets me when I see younger relatives constantly bailed out by richer family members never letting them learn this necessary life skill, they see it as a type of depression instead of a beautiful simplicity. Having to live simply made me be able to appreciate and be grateful for
even used undies!

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:43 pm

I love this story. My sister left a pair of underwear at my house after visiting from the east coast, and I simply added them to my stash. And they were far from a new pair of undies to begin with!

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Michele June 3, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Ok, true confession time…I, too, was thrilled with ‘like new’ (even a few new) undies. Here’s the thing…a made an online friend. HER friend shopped ALL the time and was trying to minimize and purge her stuff. She bought all high end stuff and she gave a ton (about 50 pair) of undies to my online friend. She offered to share with me. I accepted. She mailed me about 15 pair of undies and a few bras (for my daughter…I am boob-challenged myself) and I washed them twice, dried in the dryer, and still wear them. I am also a SAHM/homeschooler cash flowing 2 older kids in college….so yeah….I get it. lol Undie Sharers, UNITE! 😉

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Nathalie June 3, 2015 at 7:51 pm

“It upsets me when I see younger relatives constantly bailed out by richer family members never letting them learn this necessary life skill, they see it as a type of depression instead of a beautiful simplicity.” That’s the constant battle I wage with my ex-husband who is always pushing money and things like cars, phones, expensive hobbies, etc, on our 2 older boys (21 and 19) while complaining about how much they take him for granted and telling everyone that I’m a bad mother and that without him our kids would “live under a bridge” because I expect them to earn their keep, pay their own bills (so they decided to live at their dad’s for free while they’re going to college since he is letting them) and take responsibility for their lives (also known as “growing up!” instead of having everything handed to them. He is doing them SUCH a disservice. My daughter excitedly told him that I had gotten 14 boxes of cereal for free recently, and his reply was “Why? No one is going to be eating them!”. Hmmm, sure we will! You enjoy your $4.99 a box Cocoa Puffs while we enjoy our $0 a box Lucky Charms! The thing is, he and his wife work a lot, spend a lot, complain a lot… we’re frugal, my husband works hard, I’m a homemaker, we spend way below our income level, we have no debt save for our mortgage and our house will be hopefully paid off in 5 years, maybe even sooner. They can’t be bothered to use coupons (“we work, we’re tired, it’s not worth it!”) and have to have the latest gadgets. We shop at thrift stores, reuse/recycle/do without. Thankfully my daughter sees through all of that and she and our youngest son appreciate frugality and are quite frugal themselves. I can only hope that my 2 oldest realize soon that they’re being kept in an artificial state of dependency as a way for their dad to retain control over their lives. I know my oldest is starting to chafe under the yoke.

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Vickie June 4, 2015 at 7:30 am

Good for you letting your boys learn from the experience, Nathalie!
I love my brother, but my parents coddled him growing up and he’s never been good with money. They bailed him out all the time and now he’s 53 and lives for free with his oldest son and his family, in the house we grew up in.
I helped him a few times, when he lost jobs twice, but he took advantage one too many times. I quit worrying about him and just pray for him now.
You are doing the right thing by not feeding into their Dad’s way of handling things. I’m glad your youngest kids have learned the lessons you’re teaching them. They will be the survivors!!

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Marilyn June 3, 2015 at 2:59 pm

I keep a Rag Bag in the garage. When an item of clothing is too tattered to be worn it goes in the Rag Bag. My neighbors now give me their old clothes for the Rag Bag. Rags are useful for so many chores. No need to buy fancy things like paper towels or sponges when you have a supply of rags.

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:44 am

I do this as well, only they go under the sink. I cut up old t-shirt, pants, socks, anything worn out to use as clean-up rags. I’ll wash them and use them again, or if they become unwashable (oil, totally nasty cleanup), I just toss them. Socks are really good for dusting too. Just put them on your hand and go!

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Tammy June 3, 2015 at 3:07 pm

After washing and drying my hands at work, I took the damp paper towels home dried and reused them.

I reused tissues as toilet paper. I put a clean sheet of TP over the used tissue. Maybe gross, but frugal!

I had a leak in my washing machine. I took it apart and replaced the pump. When that didn’t fix the leak, I had to take it completely apart and replace a center ring. That did the trick! My husband couldn’t believe it! I had to show him the old parts in the trash. Well, believe it buster!!

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 3:39 pm

Color me impressed!

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Nancy June 3, 2015 at 4:50 pm

I do the same thing with paper towels. I work at a luxury resort hotel with very nice and sturdy paper towels in the ladies room. After drying my hands, I put them in my purse and take them home to use as rags and for cleaning. They are so durable that one ended up in the laundry and was still in perfect shape after going through the washer and dryer.

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:43 am

Good for you! I have made it a personal quest to see if I can keep my 12-year-old Kenmore front loading washer and dryer alive forever. They still make all the parts, and we have been able to fix then every time so far.

The best was when the dryer stopped heating. A 50 cent fuse, a Youtube video, and our time got it working again. We were so proud of ourselves!

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Tammy June 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

I thought I was so clever with the reuse of the paper towels but then I saw a man on Oprah talk about doing the same thing. Oprah gave him a little bit of a hard time which embarrassed him and I think he promised not to do it any more.

If I was still working, I would still be doing it!

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Tammy June 3, 2015 at 3:36 pm

Its a good thing I wasn’t on the show and shared my TP money saving tip. She would have been mortified!

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Heidi June 3, 2015 at 3:50 pm

I’ve loved reading this today!

We do a lot of trading and bartering. My favourites have been my husband installing a garage door for our lawyer in exchange for having our wills done and doing roof repairs in exchange for veterinary services. My farm boy/former contractor husband can fix or build anything and has saved us a fortune over the years.

Every piece of furniture in our house (except for two chairs) has either been handmade, thrifted or bought at auction.

We reuse everything we can. In Ontario, our milk comes in bags instead of jugs- we cut open the empty litre bags afterwards, wash them and use them instead of ziplock bags.

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Sara June 3, 2015 at 4:44 pm

I was planning on selling my van which had a cracked engine block and was leaking coolant and it had a broken tailpipe/muffler too. I took it in for the muffler and while they had it up on the lift I had them find the crack. They said it would be a ton of money to weld or more to replace it because they’d have to disassemble and rebuild the whole engine, but I suggested JB Weld, which is a metallic based glue type thing. They were able to clean the surface of the crack with a grinder and JB weld the cracked head for only an extra $5 on the muffler weld, so $45 for both and my junker is back to being worth $5000 again!!! It isn’t the “right” way to do it but the mechanic expects it to never be a problem again!

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Katie July 24, 2015 at 11:18 am

I just used the marine version of JB Weld to patch up a rusted out section of the metal basket in our washing machine. It doesn’t look pretty, but works great! I still have enough to do a couple other projects, it only cost $6, and I was able to patronize a local, independent business! All wins!

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Mary June 3, 2015 at 5:13 pm

We share garbage services with my sister. She won’t accept money from us, so I bring her home cooked food on occasion. She is single and doesn’t cook much, and I am a SAHM who cooks a lot from scratch. Win-win!
When the legs fell off our grill, my DH dug a hole and sunk the kettle below ground. Presto- a fire pit! We lined it with flat rocks from our creek in our ravine. We use it all the time.
We have also used flat rocks to border all of our flower beds. It’s hard work dragging them up and out of the woods, but they look soooo nice. Most of our plants are perennials that we have either gotten free and/or have divided as they have grown.

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cathy June 4, 2015 at 8:57 am

We did the exact same thing with our old grill. Even lined the outside with flat rocks. I only had enough to go about halfway up, but every now and again I add another layer. Actually, if I buried it halfway instead of having it all above ground, I could finish disguising it now! Thanks for the idea.

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Erin June 3, 2015 at 5:15 pm

I started using the Diva Cup today, and I am feeling pretty darn frugal. It’s WAY beyond what most people in my life would consider in the range in of “normal!”

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Patti June 3, 2015 at 5:21 pm

Not sure what the most frugal thing I’ve done is, but I recycle the inside paper from cereal boxes to use as wax paper – usually when I am baking or when I need to cover something in the microwave. I save the butter wrappers in the freezer to use when I need to grease a pan. I cut open bottles and tubes to get every drop out. I use water to get out every drop of spaghetti sauce or ketchup or salad dressing= if I don’t have a meal to put it in, I add it to my soup container in the freezer. And I have learned to save all kinds of bits and pieces of things in the freezer instead of letting them go bad in the refrigerator, say a little bit of celery or a few mushrooms or black olives. We put some on pizza or add the others to casseroles, etc.
This is a fun topic today!!

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Nathalie June 3, 2015 at 7:30 pm

I don’t save the wrappers from the butter because my wrappers are never greasy at all (I keep my butter in the fridge), but I keep the margarine stick wrappers and freeze them. They work great to grease my pie pans!

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Sarah June 3, 2015 at 5:39 pm

I’ve done so much “curb shopping” over the years, I’m having problem getting my brain to release a single solid example! I recently realised I can stop buying magazines as I walk my dog before the recycling is picked up, and a few of my neighbours read some interesting stuff! Last week I picked up three Chatelaines and today I picked up two copies of This England – from 1999! Beautiful pictures, though.

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Lee June 3, 2015 at 7:32 pm

This! When I lived in a place without curbside recycling I would root through the giant dumpster full of old magazines to find ones I liked. The advantage of the dumpster is the huge variety. I did make sure to wash my hands *really* well afterwards, though.

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:39 am

No one in our neighborhood ever throws anything good out on the curb! I wish they did – I think there may be an ordinance or something. I did get a cool, retro garden glider bench that a neighbor was tossing several years ago. I am finally getting around to repainting it!

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Maureen June 3, 2015 at 5:42 pm

My husband used to cart our garbage to his work and put it in the dumpster. He was the manager and could do those kinds of things. That saved us $35. a month. Then I refinanced the mortgages and saved money. Then I changed who my insurance carrier was and saved money then too. But I’ve also grieved my taxes and finally won after 3 years and a court appearance.

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Joy June 16, 2015 at 6:58 pm

We do this now! My hubby is GM of an oil company…he takes our trash to work a couple of times a week. 🙂

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Melanie June 3, 2015 at 6:30 pm

So fun! I installed a very heavy hitch (with the help of my son) on my van and saved myself $75 that the shop would charge. I put water and gateraid bottles in the dishwasher and fill them with koolaid, I bought a box of books at a yard sale and took them to Second and Charles and got $20 for them, I got a mattress from beside the dumpster at my apartments (it was in excellent condition and I checked it real well for bedbugs). I think my prize goes to; I had a missing tooth on the side that showed a gap when I smiled so I used filmo clay to make a tooth to fit the hole. It’s fixed now but yep, I did that.

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Fimo clay tooth? <----- We have another winner!

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susanna June 3, 2015 at 6:40 pm

I love this thread- so inspirational! I am so fired up to wake up and do better at conscious frugality. I am forwarding this to my mom, who is very good at stuff like this. I aspire…

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Kim from Philadelphia June 3, 2015 at 7:16 pm

Frugal in a bizarre, desperate to make some money type of way…years ago, post professional school and pre- employment, I donated bone marrow for money. A large bore needle in my pelvic crest for $300. It helped to keep me financially solvent.
I actually did it multiple times!

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Michele June 3, 2015 at 7:25 pm

I “borrowed” my dad’s contact lenses. I couldn’t afford to buy a replacement lense for myself.

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Katy June 3, 2015 at 7:32 pm

Yikes!

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Nathalie June 3, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Hmm, I asked my husband what he thought the cheapest thing that I had ever done was and his first answer was “There have been so many!” but then he suggested I post about my visit at Kohl’s today… I was buying 2 items for $9.98 and using a $10 Reward. The cashier asked me if I wanted my 2 cents back and after a slight hesitation I told her “I pick pennies up in the parking lot so you betcha, I want my 2 cents back! I might be coming with my husband this weekend to buy some pants and 2 cents is 2 cents!”.

Personally, I think that one of my cheapest hacks was fixing the pair of (free) flip-flops that I used as garden shoes for a year, first with pieces of plastic cut out from used cat litter jugs and then with bread bag plastic tabs (a suggestion from a reader… either from my blog or maybe even from here!) until they fell apart and I just couldn’t fix them anymore. The Dollar Tree sells flip-flops for $1 but I just couldn’t see the need to spend $1 when I could just keep on fixing mine for free. Eventually I had to let them go (but found a pair that one of my sons had worn only once and that I had kept “just in case”. I’ll be fixing those with bread bag tabs when the time comes too!).

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Lisa June 3, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Sometimes the cheapest thing you do is what you don’t do or buy. We still have my husband’s ex-girlfriend’s couch. She had moved out a couple of years before DH and I met and we have been together since 1991.

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:37 am

That’s very true. I still play my ex-boyfriend’s (expensive) bass that he left at my apartment when we broke up, in 1991. (Hey, he said he didn’t want to see me when I asked him to come pick it up, so …) It’s now “vintage”, sounds awesome, and I always get compliments.

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Linda June 3, 2015 at 7:55 pm

Like others it’s hard to think of the craziest thing because to me frugal is not crazy.
When I wanted to create raised beds in my yard, rather than pay for top soil I answered a craigslist ad for Free fill dirt, Free delivery. The next day I came home to find 12 yards of very rocky, poor quality dirt in my driveway. I work next door to a Starbucks so every day I brought home a bag of “grounds for the garden” and sifted them into the fill dirt. I now have organic material in my flower beds and no rocks. I think there were 4 yards of rocks in that 12 yards of dirt.

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Isabelle June 3, 2015 at 8:33 pm

Reading all of this, I don’t feel really frugal…
I don’t have anything big…
Picking up stuff at the curb or on freecycle, buying used clothes, using coupons and price matching, cutting my husband hairs, having a 2004 car, showering every second day, using the library, etc. All classics, nothing special.

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Debbie June 3, 2015 at 8:59 pm

I walk my son to school and on recycling days, I like to keep an eye out for our neighbors’ recycling bins that have cardboard boxes that have BoxTops for Education (10 cents each for my son’s school…they add up quick!) and Coke products (bottle caps or 12 pack boxes) that have Coke Rewards codes. I have earned enough rewards for free items, like Shutterfly photo books, that normally cost $30 upwards.

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Patricia June 4, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Oh, me too! Coke points are great, I “buy” 2 magazines for my mother every year with points. I don’t drink soda at all, my wonderful co-workers save their points for me if they are not interested in using them. I have 2 shoe boxes full.

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Bobbi June 3, 2015 at 9:37 pm

This thread is super fun to read!

My absolute cheapest things I’ve done were during my graduate school days, out of necessity. My then-husband and I furnished lots of our house by dumpster diving. During one university department’s remodel, they put used (but perfectly functional) student chairs and tables in dumpsters! They worked great for us as side tables, dining chairs and side chairs for many years. I had a baby during grad school, and got lots of hand-me-downs from my siblings, so free baby clothes. To help pay for diapers, I sold baby clothes to a consignment store as she outgrew them, as well as a hand-me-down bassinet when she got too big for it. I nursed and never paid for baby clothes, so it was a super cheap-o babyhood!

I know there are things I do now that look super cheap to lots of people, like I use squares of thrifted sheets instead of buying paper towels. I do this as much for the environment as I do to save money, but still! Why spend money on paper towels?! I also use a Diva cup, again to be more environmentally responsible as well as to save money on tampons. I don’t think it’s extreme, but many people do.

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Marcella June 3, 2015 at 9:53 pm

All these stories have been awesome today. A classic frugal memory from my childhood was when my older brother had broken his arm. It was time to get the cast removed, but my Dad decided that a doctor’s visit would be a waste of money and just cut the cast off with a pair of tin-cutters from the garage. To this day I can’t believe my Mum (who is a nurse) let it happen!

My own ridiculous frugal thing relates to my toaster. It was only $20 and would probably cost the same, or even less from a thrift store, to replace. The centre element broke years ago, so bread is only toasted on one side. I’ve kept it all for about four years and simply let the toast pop up, then flip the bread around and push it back down so the other side toasts. I’ve almost forgotten that normal people don’t make toast this way.

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Lynn June 9, 2015 at 5:25 am

My mom told me once about taking out her own (and our) stitches. She had gone to the doctor, and all he did was wiggle them loose and then snip, saying, “$5, $10, $15,” as he went along. From then on, we have always taken out our own stitches!

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Mand01 June 4, 2015 at 12:45 am

A la the Frugal Zealot, we reuse ziploc bags (wash and reuse). Almost my entire work and casual wardrobe is secondhand, with the exception of a couple of items I can count on one hand. I don’t need a price book because I can actually remember the price of everything at each store and compare them in my head. It’s a gift

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Elaine N June 4, 2015 at 2:54 am

My sisters and I were bridesmaids in my cousin’s wedding and my mother made our dresses. Several years later when I was planning my wedding, I asked my mother about dresses for my bridesmaids. Her reply was “I’m not doing that again!” So, my sisters wore the same dresses and my dress from my cousin’s wedding was altered for my step-daughter.

Several relatives made comments to the effect that I “deserved” new dresses for my wedding. They implied that mine was a second rate wedding because of the recycled dresses.

Since my mom was happy, I decided to go with it. Now I’m so glad I did. My stash of old formal dresses, no longer needed, which is in a box in my basement labeled “Dress Up Clothes” is a bit smaller. My kids enjoyed playing in them when they were little, but otherwise they had no use. I’m glad I didn’t go with the opinions of others but did the right thing.

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Meredith in SA June 17, 2015 at 1:32 pm

I think you are super smart to have done this! People get so crazy about weddings, when what’s important is the marriage itself. You helped your marriage by not over-extending your finances for one special wedding day. Bravo! When my husband and I got married, I saved money by making all the decorations and invitations and programs, etc. myself, by hosting the ceremony at the same (inexpensive) location as the reception, and by asking our friends to donate art or services in lieu of gifts. The officiant, the cake, the music, the flowers, the photographs – they were all gifted to us by friends. My husband worked at a local restaurant at the time, and the owner catered our wedding at cost. We had turkey and mole, and a tortillera hand-pressed tortillas on the porch! Everyone came together for our homemade wedding, and it was a true community event! 11 years later, people still talk about how fun it was.

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Vickie June 4, 2015 at 6:03 am

After my seat belt got stuck in the car door and my new pup chewed it in two, I didn’t have the money to get it fixed. So, I went to Harbor Freight and bought a long, nylon tie down. I rigged it into a seat belt.
It’s screaming neon yellow and when my mechanic saw it, he laughed his butt off and told me that was one of the best redneck seat belts he’d ever seen. It’s been like that for over six months now. I’ll get around to fixing it eventually…maybe.

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:34 am

This is not really a frugal thing, so much as a cool seatbelt thing. I play bass, and I use these guitar straps that are made from recycled seatbelts. They are crazy strong, and really comfortable, plus recycling = smiley face.

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marybeth June 4, 2015 at 7:54 am

I think the “cheapest” thing I’ve done is potty train my son when we were almost out of diapers, and out of $$$ until payday in five days. I took off his diaper in the morning and after his bath let him run around “au natural” for a bit . When he need “to go” he went into the bathroom like he had seen the rest of do. I realized that as long as he didn’t have pants on he would go into the bathroom. We had a fail when we went to the store with him wearing his older sister’s training pants under his jeans, so we went home, stripped him back to a shirt, and stayed home until he had the toilet thing down pat. My last five diapers helped us make it through the nights, and he stayed in them at night for a bit more, until I realized he was waking up dry. Twenty-five years later, he’s still staying dry!

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:32 am

LOL! Twenty-five years later … hehe

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AnnDenee June 4, 2015 at 11:54 am

I’ve been cutting my own hair for the last 7 years or so. Start out one day when it was long, past my shoulders and decided it was time to go short. So I grabbed the clippers and gave myself a #4 clipping. It’s gone back and forth between long and short quite a few times since then. Just this week, I cut it from shoulder length up to chin length. It helps that as, either A) I am getting older; or B) I am washing it less often; it is becoming curlier, so I can cut it when it’s dry and a little bit of unevenness doesn’t show because of the curls.

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Bonnie June 4, 2015 at 2:14 pm

My garage sale hair blower finally died and since I don’t always dry my hair, I didn’t want to run out and buy another; I figured one would eventually drop in my lap. So in the mean time, if I needed to dry my hair I listened for the furnace to kick on and ran to the closest heat register and hung my head over it.
It’s amazing how well that works, just takes a bit longer, but works great. Granted it was winter and I live in northern Wisconsin. 🙂

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Karen June 4, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Wow did this bring back memories. When we were children that is how the girls dried our hair. Can’t remember what we did in the summer time, probably went outside if it was hot.

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:31 am

We finally just gave away our hair dryer on Freecycle. My hair does a pretty wavy thing when I air dry, as opposed to the haystack thing when I blow dry, so when I cleaned out the bathroom, it went in “the box”. The downside is that sometimes here in the humid South, it takes my hair hours to completely dry, but I don’t care.

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Elaine in Ark June 16, 2015 at 9:56 am

I’m from Wisconsin, too, and that’s how we used to dry our hair in the winter. We had coal burning furnaces in the basement, so the heat was always rising, and we didn’t have to wait for a blower to go on.

In the summer, we used to stand on the back porch in the sunshine and dry our hair. I was always expecting my dark brown hair to turn blonde, like my older sisters’ hair. Now that we’re older, we’re all platinum blondes!

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Lynn D. June 4, 2015 at 2:37 pm

1.A friend was iterviewing for a job hostessing at a fancy restaurant. She had no clothes for the interview, so she bought a dress at K-Mart. She got the job, wore the dress her first night on the job and then exchanged it for another one. She did that a couple of times until payday and then finally bought the dresses!
2. My father had a used Jaguar and he liked to take it into European Motors in San Francisco for service. One time he managed to sweet talk them into giving him a Rolls Royce for a loaner. We went out in the Rolls for Saturday errands: grass seed and some charcoal. He was running low on gas so pulled into a station and asked for $2 worth of gas (this was long ago!). The attendant snarkily said “I don’t suppose you’d like Green Stamps with that?” My father said, “Of course, that’s how I got the car!”

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Karen June 4, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Sharpied my worn black shoes before a client meeting! Black sharpie, super glue, and duct tape will get you through a lot.

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Kristin June 4, 2015 at 3:30 pm

I made myself a wallet out of duct tape. I got the idea from my sister, whose BFF made one in high school and is still using it 15-plus years later. I needed a new wallet and the idea of shopping for one was unappealing at best, so I made one.

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Kim June 4, 2015 at 3:54 pm

Wow, which cheap thing should I choose?
~ I got a toilet seat from Freecycle. It’s the kind that closes silently and I love it! The former owner said it wasn’t the right size for her toilet.
~ Got lightly used underwear from my sister since they didn’t fit her right!
~Dumpster dived exterior plywood from a store that had closed and was finally being gutted for another venture. I’d been in the store once and really liked the wall treatment of whitewashed exterior plywood which was stenciled at the top of the wall. Once the store closed I kept an eye out for something new to move in and after months of waiting, I was driving by late at night and saw that there was a demolition dumpster next to the store. I pulled in to the parking lot to look in the dumpster and there was my much desired plywood. I drove home the 6 miles and told my husband he had to go right then to rescue it. He made 2 trips and got most of it. We stored it in my in-laws garage until we were ready to do something with it. We now have a shed and a tool shed in our back yard built from that plywood and Freecycle shingles. The stenciling was cut off since it didn’t make the cut!
~ I rescued “road kill” candy. I was sitting at an intersection when a delivery truck came from the left and made a left turn. As he did I noticed his back door was open and suddenly several boxes fell off the truck and rolled to the shoulder. One of the boxes broke open and I saw small objects go flying. Being curious, when the light changed I pulled over and found 2 5 lb. wholesale bags of Jelly Bellies, Jelly Belly Spicy hot bears and a box of coconut bonbons. I scooped them up and tried to catch u with the truck to no avail. We shared the Jelly Bellies with everyone we knew!

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Hayley June 4, 2015 at 7:03 pm

The cheapest thing we’ve ever done is aggressively pay down our mortgage. We live well below our means so that we can put almost 50% of our take home pay as an additional payment on our mortgage every month. We cut a lot of corners and do many frugal things every day to help facilitate this. We’ll actually own our home in December and we’ve literally saved ourselves tens of thousands of dollars!!!

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Isabelle June 5, 2015 at 5:33 pm

Same here! We have paid 100 000$ on our small town house mortgage in the last 6 years, by being frugal and putting the extra money on the house instead of silly stuff. We are now upgrading to a bigger/more expensive house in a month and should have a down payment of at least 120 000$, which brings down the mortgage a lot!

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Isabelle June 5, 2015 at 5:34 pm

And we plan on doing the same for the new house and hopefully have it paid all by the 10 years mark,

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Melissa June 4, 2015 at 8:08 pm

I love hearing all these things people will do to save money!! I work next to a University and when people leave at the end of each year the amount of stuff that is thrown out in the dumpsters is amazing!! Perfectly good furniture and appliances – sometimes I think they should call one of the charities to collect it but I’m sure the people dumpster diving would hate this!! I also take home from my work any “expired” medical dressings and hand wash – I mean this stuff doesn’t exactly go “off” but we can’t use it anymore. When you have a very accident prone partner these dressings are very handy 🙂

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Jean June 4, 2015 at 8:40 pm

This has been a most inspiring post!
I live in a town with three universities, and the best curb picking is when school lets out in May. Best finds for me have been houseplants, and planters that I knew had been purchased at Lowes for around $20 apiece.
About 25 years ago, I bought a Sunbeam self-lowering toaster at our church rummage sale for $3, lovely old chrome number, built like a tank. A few months back it quit working, and I was crushed–they are no longer made, and the ones on Ebay cost a fortune. And new toasters seem so flimsy in comparison. My husband took it to his shop, took it apart, repaired a wire and it’s once again working like a champ! Best $3 I ever spent!

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Cindy June 11, 2015 at 4:22 pm

My mom and dad have a toaster like that. They received it for a bridal shower gift and it still works 55 years later!!

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Sophia June 5, 2015 at 3:40 am

I am a long time reader but never posted. I love these comments. Thanks for the inspiration. My most extreme frugality was literally roadkill finds. We live in rural Rhode Island (lots of deer). I’ve seen too many deer be hit by cars. Twice now, we’ve been driving behind someone that hit a deer. Both times, the people were okay but the deer died. We took it home and cut it up and ate 100-200 pounds of meat over the winter (as long as the deer died quickly- you can cut the adrenaline out of meat). We didn’t even have to waste bullets. Also a lot of people cut wood in our area. I’ve been known to scavenge road side wood that falls off peoples trucks. I also take home food for my “chickens” (thats when my husband makes chicken noises). Some of that food really goes to my chickens.

Thanks for these stories. Glad we are not alone!

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Anne June 5, 2015 at 6:57 am

“We didn’t even have to waste bullets.” Another absolute classic.

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Betty Winslow June 5, 2015 at 5:58 am

Oh, I forgot my frugal baby tips: breastfed all four, used cloth diapers and plastic pants almost exclusively, thrift store and hand-me-down clothes and toys. But the best? I bought a roll of 3M white plastic tape and repaired all the eventual holes and tears in the plastic pants by putting tape on the inside and outside of the hole and then rubbing the tape hard to make it adhere. They lasted for years and through several kids, even with machine washing and line drying (and the occasional accidental machine drying!)
And my best frugal repair tip? Our upstairs toilet kept running, because the rubber plug wasn’t seating itself after flushing. Sometimes, even jiggling the handle didn’t help, and you had to take the lid off and seat it by hand. Hubby promised to fix it, but something more important always seemed to come up.
So – I cut a 6″ piece of 12g copper wire, coiled it around the plug rod right near the plug part, and voila! Extra weight made it seat itself and after several months, still working great!

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Nathalie June 5, 2015 at 7:20 am

Ah Betty, thanks for sharing that tip about the toilet plug, I’ll have to try that. We have a toilet that sometimes has that problem (but not always).

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Kim June 5, 2015 at 9:08 am

Anyone remember pukka shells from the 70’s? I was a teen back then and could not afford them, but had a creative streak. I used a paper hole punch on a coffee stained Styrofoam cup, strung them up on fishing line and attached a hook thingy and there you go. (But you have to appreciate the smell of coffee).
My BIL and his former wife were in the process of landscaping their new gigantic house and had a son who is about a year younger than my son, but their son was larger than my boy. Because there was a lot of mud and sand around the area, the boy’s new high end sneakers were caked in this stuff, and I saw my SIL place them in the dumpster, she could not be bothered to hose them off I guess. Because I was sure my son could use them, I dumpster dived, slipped them into a bag and cleaned them off when we got home. My son wore those suckers for 6 months!

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Barbara H. June 5, 2015 at 10:17 am

My son-in-law had a great little business going when he was in college. He was a RA in the dorm, so had to stay until everyone else had moved out. Many people left behind carpet pieces and rugs that they had used during the year but didn’t want to haul home for the summer. SIL purchased a used steam cleaner, and rented a storage unit for the summer. He pulled all those rugs out of the dumpster, steam-cleaned them, and stored them for the summer. In the fall, he brought them out and sold them to incoming students.

I love a good trash pick myself. In my old neighborhood, people put the best stuff out by the curb. I used to drive around and clean up. I took things to consignment (Barbie dream house and furniture, kids bicycles – yes, I checked to make sure they were really discarded). Plus things I used myself: an antique rocker with one broken stretcher – some wood glue and new fabric cover and it’s on my daughter’s screened porch. Wire shelf units that were the perfect size for my pantry, a Step II roller coaster (sell for over $100) that the grandkids love, beautiful big ceramic pots (the $75 kind, owner didn’t like the color…I did!).

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Nathalie June 5, 2015 at 10:41 am

“free” is pretty much my favorite color, hahaha. Wow, so many people turn around and resell things that they find. I think that’s great! I usually only pick up things I would actually use but why not make some money and prevent things from going to the landfill? I need to be better about this.

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Katy June 5, 2015 at 10:48 am

If I weren’t already married, I might steal your son-in-law away from his wife! 😉

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Jill June 5, 2015 at 11:26 am

Well, recently our washer broke. The water inlet value doesn’t cut off and it keeps filling with water, when the water should cut off. I have the replacement part, but need my husband’s help to get to it, and he was busy with final exams. So in the meantime rather than paying money at the laundromat, I just set a timer on my phone and then cut the water off. Then a set another timer to turn it back on for the rinse cycle. I did about 10 loads of laundry last week this way. We do plan to get it fixed this weekend.

Also, we our water heater was uninstalled last week during remodeling, we just took cold showers.

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carol June 5, 2015 at 3:12 pm

Ugly tile bathroom. Free wallpaper sample books. Cut out all blue patterns. Papered bathroom wall like a patchwork quilt. No shower so no steam . Lasted years.
This has been so much fun to read. First time coffee date with my now husband he stopped to look through someone’s trash. I knew he was a keeper.

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Charli June 5, 2015 at 8:29 pm

My husband travelled around Australia for 3 months with a friend as a college student. They could only afford to sleep on stretchers beside the car and eat one meal a day. They met up with a group of indigenous Australians. They travelled with them in a van somewhere. The van came screeching to a halt and these guys got out and pulled some Rd kill into the van to eat that night.

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Charli June 5, 2015 at 8:51 pm

Needless to say my husband returned from that trip very skinny and quite unwell, but still raves about the adventures they had.

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Emma June 6, 2015 at 2:11 am

We went travelling around Malaysia for our honeymoon. We stayed three nights in This amazing rainforest in a lovely cottage. Seeing we were staying a few days I asked for a discount. Later worked out I got the price dropped from $6 to $4 a night. Tipped well out of shame!

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Jen June 9, 2015 at 7:16 pm

This one gets an eye roll every time from the husband so it must be cheap: I love ramen noodles. Not the seasoning, just the noodles. They’re bouncy and I make delish noodle soup bowls with some kind of protein and lots of veggies for lunch most days. I only use a sprinkle of the seasoning packet each time. I felt wasteful throwing it out so I now have a small jar in my pantry into which I dump the rest of the seasoning. I figure it’s just bouillon so I use it for seasoning rice, quinoa, etc. And it’s my own special blend of flavors no one else has 🙂

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