A Never Ending Quest For Frugal Hacks

by Katy on February 27, 2014 · 34 comments

Ponytail holder shopping

As a frugality writer and longtime cheap-o lady frugalista, you’d think I would eventually reach a saturation point where there’d be nothing new to learn. Luckily, such is not the case. Yes, it comes in fits and spurts, but there are always new frugal hacks to incorporate into my daily life.

Just recently I figured these these new tricks:

  • I mostly wear my hair down, but occasionally do put it up. I was doing fine with two elastic ponytail holders until I suddenly had none. Inspired by Bea from Zero Waste Home, I decided to move past the eww factor and shop from the turf at my son’s soccer field. (A rich supply of ponytail holders, if ever there was one.)  I am now the proud owner of a single functional ponytail holder. And nothing had to be bought, manufactured, packaged or thrown away.
  • I recently washed our bed pillows using a Pinterest tutorial, (I wasn’t pleased with the results, so I’m not sharing the link) which included putting sock covered tennis balls in the dryer. I liked how the tennis balls give the laundry an extra bounce of movement in the dryer, so I’m now using them for each and every load. The clothes seem to be drying faster, and I finally found a use for my father’s spent tennis balls plus those sad single socks. (New idea . . . a match.com site for socks that are missing their mates!)
  • I am a prolific tea drinker, and am very fussy about the strength. (Too strong and it might as well be coffee, too weak and what’s the point?) However, I recently picked up an adorable small $2 vintage teapot (looks a bit like a small Brown Betty) which is the perfect size for two cups of tea. Actually, it’s the perfect size for 2-1/2 cups of tea, yet is still the perfect strength! People, that is a free half cup of tea! Multiply that by 365 and that’s 182 free cups of tea per year! (Math, yo!) And since my kids also drink tea, the savings are actually worth writing home about.

Have you recently incorporated any new frugal hacks into your life? Please share in the comments section below.

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.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Carolyn February 28, 2014 at 11:04 am

My oldest collects ponytail holders from the swimming school showers to use as bracelets. I try not to think of the eww factor, as the child is simply delighted. Yesterday, two were collected.


patti February 28, 2014 at 11:15 am

Katy, I tried your shower cleaning trick today and was so excited! It was super easy after I bought the scrubber with the chamber for the cleaner. I previously had tried it with a spray bottle and it just wasn’t the same. So yes, new tricks learned every day!


Tracy February 28, 2014 at 4:58 pm

What is this shower cleaning trick? I’d love to know.


Emily S. February 28, 2014 at 11:27 am

I have to ask a dumb (or feels dumb) question about the tennis balls in the dryer, much like the wool dryer balls that lots of people rave about.

I keep envisioning it sounding incredibly loud and annoying like someone intentionally slamming a tennis ball against a metal wall right next to my head? I go crazy from the noise of all of our kids zippers and snaps from onesies, etc that go through the dryer, and the noise is makes from that.

I would love to try something like that because I get tired of our laundry coming out in one big dry lump, but I can’t help but wonder.

Thanks in advance!


Maggie February 28, 2014 at 2:16 pm

We use wool dryer balls I made from an old sweater of my mom’s, and I’ve never really noticed extra laundry noise. It’s entirely possible that I just tune it out really well, since we do a LOT of laundry (we cloth diaper), but I can’t remember any extra noises coming from my laundry room!


Melissa February 28, 2014 at 5:00 pm

I bought wool dryer balls that have golf balls in the center. They are better than any dryer sheet, as well as better than the ones I’ve used that are all wool. However, they are not quiet. Doesn’t bother me, but if I had an apartment with a shared wall by the dryer, I would be careful when I used them.


Lee February 28, 2014 at 5:45 pm

I’ve used the tennis ball in the dryer, not even wrapped in a sock (!), for drying big fluffy comforters. If the zippers drive you crazy you will HATE HATE HATE the tennis ball. It is definitely loud.


Katy February 28, 2014 at 7:24 pm

It’s barely noticeable for me, although our washer and dryer are in the basement.


Tina S. March 3, 2014 at 12:27 pm

I’ve used the plastic dryer balls and those are really noisy.


Katy March 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm

Maybe put them in old socks?


Megg February 28, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Ew I could never reuse a ponytail holder from someone else. I know it’s probably fine after sitting on the grass for a while, but that’s just gross to me.
A package of ponytail holders costs like, $3.99 and lasts me forever. In fact I can’t remember the last time I bought some!


JaneUlness February 28, 2014 at 12:44 pm

My husband taught me this trick. He buys his sox in bulk at an outlet mall. He gets the same kind every time. Never a odd sock. There is a sock company that makes mismatched sox on purpose. They are the same color family or a combination of colors. I found some socks that were the same colour family at rite aid for a quarter a pair. Score!


Diane C February 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Katie – this post was all wonky yesterday. Glad it’s fixed.

Emily – I have those hard plastic balls and love them. Yes, they do make noise. I call it the sound of saving money.

Meg – Amy Dacycyzn of Tightwad Gazette reknown introduced the concept of “selective squeamishness”. Anyone trying to earn a blackbelt in frugality must master this concept. If Katie’s brilliant idea (Insert sound of palm smacking forehead, plus “Why didn’t I think of that?” moan here.) makes you squeamish, you could always either hand wash them or slip them into a lingerie bag and toss them in with a wash load. I wouldn’t recommend drying them, though many’s the time I left one in a pocket and it came through the laundry process looking brand new. Finally, if you are in a situation where you must buy more, I’d try a dollar store, as $3.99 sounds like highway robbery to me.

Jane – you make me green with envy! I thought I was doing well to score eight pair of new-looking men’s heavy duty socks for $1/pair at a rummage sale last week. Oh well, at least the money went to support a good cause.


Diane C February 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Whoops! I forgot to include my newest frugal hack. Our family eats tacos every Tuesday, plus every other day we feel like it. I finally learned to make refried black beans in the crockpot. An onion, some chopped jalapenos, vegetable stock, and two pounds of soaked black beans go into the crock pot. Four hours later, I use my stick blender to smush it all up and I get 8 canning jars of lovely, healthy refried beans. It costs less than half the price of what I used to pay at Costco just for the canned beans. I know you advocate the pressure cooker method, but I haven’t found a good one at a garage sale yet ;-).


K D February 28, 2014 at 2:02 pm

They sound delicious. Too bad I am the only one that eats that kind of thing in my family.


Diane C February 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Ooh, that is so sad! My bonus kid would eat them every day of the week. I make ground beef, chicken, pork, turkey and vegetarian tacos plus tostadas and burritos frequently. I use shredded cabbage to add more vitamins, plus it’s cheaper and hardier than lettuce. So sorry your family is not on board!
Cooking for a family is new for me. I’m a 25+ year vegetarian, so cooking for three meat-eaters every day has been a real challenge. I’m beginning to develop a repertoire of meals where I can serve the meat on the side. Tonight’s Pad Thai made with eggs and tofu, plus a little chicken on the side.


Jenny February 28, 2014 at 2:08 pm

The cute barrette my daughter used to pull back her bangs this morning was found on a bench at Disney World. I don’t recommend a trip to Disney to save on hair clips though.


Maggie February 28, 2014 at 2:21 pm

I buy Typhoo teabags, and reuse the teabags two or three times. I just leave them in the cup. It’s a little pricey, but it makes a REALLY good cup of tea.
I also reuse the envelopes that come in junk mail. My husband brings home almost empty bottles of WiteOut, I add a little water, and I white out all the business reply stuff. I haven’t bought envelopes in almost two years, and I have pen pals so I use a lot of envelopes!


WilliamB March 1, 2014 at 6:38 am

I reuse envelopes, too, but I use labels rather than write-out. I get enough with stamps included that I haven’t needed to reuse unstamped ones in a long time (although I need to buy some more one-cent stamps).


Lisa January 17, 2023 at 12:47 pm

I don’t know if this is still true – but Hallmark used to send unsold seasonal cards back but not envelopes. I asked once if I could have the envelopes that were being discarded and they were enthusiastic about savaging them for me.
I finally ran out but all the Hallmark stores in my area have closed, so I don’t know if anything has changed.


pat February 28, 2014 at 3:49 pm

4 years ago I adopted my two young granddaughters(now 5 & 8) and they are amazed at the stuff I make. We have all become addicted to the new sour popsicles on the market. But they are not cheap. I figured out it was just citric acid that made them sour, so we are now making our own with juice and citric acid. You also could use unflavored kool aid.


Anne Weber-Falk February 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm

I work at a fitness center and that’s where I pick up ponytail holders for my daughter. They’re all over the women’s locker room. I just put a couple handfuls in a knee hi stocking with the top tied and wash them with the whites.


Jane F February 28, 2014 at 4:57 pm

I go to a women’s college and it took me ’til senior year to realize I had a lifetime supply of ponytail holders at my feet (pun intended). It was only after reading this list on trash backwards http://blog.trashbackwards.com/2013/05/15/100-things-you-never-need-to-buy/ that I got the idea


Laura February 28, 2014 at 7:24 pm

As for the ewww factor for the ponytail holders, just wash them in your washing machine (if need be, put in a lingerie bag). Towel load is good. Don’t dry. You can also soak in a vinegar and hot water solution, rinse and then air dry.


Linda February 28, 2014 at 9:54 pm

I didn’t know about putting tennis balls in socks. I just use the tennis balls as is. My collection of “dryer” balls is from walks in a local park where dogs didn’t retrieve them. To quote my favorite non-consumer “And nothing had to be bought, manufactured, packaged or thrown away.”


Katy March 2, 2014 at 3:56 pm

The sock is to keep the yellow fuzz from transferring.

Great tip on getting doggie tennis balls, since not everyone has tennis obsessed family members!


Lisa March 2, 2014 at 2:33 pm

If you have any reclaimed elastic and small bits of fabric, you can google for instructions on how to easily sew up hair scrunchies. 🙂


Monica March 3, 2014 at 6:27 am

Sorry, I think the used hair elastic method is utterly gross. You deserve better than that, Katy! You can get 2 dozen elastics in blonde tones for $1.00 at the Dollar Store. I’ll bet you have a dollar’s worth of found change you can use for that. You deserve better!!!


Katy March 3, 2014 at 9:09 am

I’m okay with it, so we’ll just have to agree to disagree! 🙂



barbara March 3, 2014 at 8:24 am

I no longer have those mis-matched socks! When I put my socks in the dirty clothes hamper, I pin them together with large safety pins. Not only do I not lose socks, but I don’t have to spend time “matching” them when I fold clean laundry. It’s truly a time-saver for me.


Tonya March 4, 2014 at 10:50 am

Katy, not a frugal hack, just wanted to say that you made me laugh out loud with “Math, yo!”, because I suddenly heard you saying that in Jesse Pinkman’s voice.


Katy March 4, 2014 at 11:15 am

“Fat stacks, yo!”


Lucy June 28, 2014 at 8:48 am

How about some more???
1) drop the smart phone and get a “dumb” one. Save about $50 per month. Get a low-priced tablet (e.g., Kindle Fire) or use your old iPhone as a wi-fi only device. Wi-fi is available everywhere; you really don’t need to pay for cell-based data plans
2) call your car and home insurance company and tell them you want to go through all your coverage because you found another carrier that is cheaper. They’ll probably help you “find” 10% off or more.
3) speaking of car insurance – An expensive policy from GEICO, Progressive, etc. is not needed. You can find one usually for around $25/month from Insurance Panda (4AutoInsuranceQuote also has good rates). If you spend too much on car insurance from one of those big companies, chances are you are simply funding their expensive TV ads with cute animals.
4) compare what your house is really worth to your assessment. Many assessments have never been properly adjusted down to reflect the market over the last 4 years. We cut our property taxes by about 20%.
5) re-finance your 30-year mortgage to a 15. The interest rate will drop by at least 50-75 bps, more depending on your current rate. The payment may go up slightly, but it is because you are paying off your loan faster. If it’s possible, get the mortgage paid off before the kids go to college. At a minimum, have it paid off before you retire.
6) review your credit card bills for all the things you are paying $10-20 per month for that you no longer need. I bet everybody has at least a couple
7) drop all magazine (paper and on-line) subscriptions. Sorry WSJ, but that includes you too. If you look around, you can find comparable content for free.
8) review your investment portfolio for ways to replace higher fee mutual funds or ETFs with lower fee ones. S&P500 funds/ETFs shouldn’t charge more than 0.10% in fees. Fees may be higher for specialty funds, but they are all coming down fast. If your company 401K uses high-fee funds, talk to the folks in charge. A difference of 25 bps in fees will mean a difference of about 5% in your portfolio value after 25 or 30 years.
9) and of course the most important — never carry a balance on a credit card. If you can’t resist, cut up the cards.

[WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘1294239638 which is not a hashcash value.


MELISSA ROHLFS January 17, 2023 at 3:25 pm

There’s a popular paved trail for walkers and runners near my home. I pick up hair ties/elastics ALL THE TIME. I just drop them in the dishwasher in the utensil basket. They don’t get lost and the hot water and soap cleans them thoroughly. One I let go through two cycles because it was extra gross. Ha!!!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: