Daily Frugality

by Katy on July 4, 2023 · 55 comments


Although some of my frugality is impressive, most of it is just a series of small rather dull actions. Repeated ad infinitum. Drinking tap water instead of canned sparkling water or soda, cooking from scratch or listening to audiobooks instead of paying for an Audible subscription.

It’s not news worthy. It’s the stuff that usually doesn’t even make it into a Five Frugal Things blog post.

But put all together, these tiny actions add up to a something sizable. I look back on the past couple of days and I like what I see. Nothing spectacular, but still worthy as a whole.

• I walked to the library to return a book that was due that day. I picked up a pony tail elastic along the route, which I later put through the dishwasher.
• My daughter stopped by on her way home from work and gifted me with two bakery muffins, a quart of skim milk, a container of fresh pasta and a bag of ginger snaps.
• I picked (and ate) raspberries from my yard. I planted them after a neighbor put out some free canes maybe ten years ago.
• I made sure to stop by Safeway to pick up a pair of two-pound Tillamook cheese loaves that were on sale for $6.67 apiece. These last forever if you’re careful to only open just one at a time.
• I finished listening to Willa Cather’s O, Pioneers and then started listening to My Antonia through the library’s free Libby app.
• I took some ground beef leftover from a hamburger night and used it to make Cottage Pie Baked Potatoes. I saw the recipe on Instagram reels and amended it to conform with the ingredients I had on hand. Instead of the beef being enough for two hamburgers, it now made enough for six meals. (By the way, I added a can of tomato paste, plus a lot more herbs and spices. I also didn’t bother oiling and salting the potatoes.) I served these on the evening of my husband and son’s soccer game so no one would be tempted to splurge on takeout.
• We washed our filthy cars in the driveway instead of driving them through an automated carwash.
• I mended my son’s sweater and got a couple stains out of a shirt.
• I defrosted a packet of fancy hotdogs that my daughter gave me a couple months ago from her schwanky grocery store.
• I drew calendar pages into the blank book that I’m currently using as a daily planner. I started doing this a couple years ago and it works great, plus I get much more than 365 days out of each book. It ain’t pretty, but it’s functional and cheap.
• I texted my friend Lise, to let her know I was stopping by Trader Joe’s for 19¢ bananas and hummus. She asked for a can of coconut milk, which saved her a trip. I also let her know that Winco’s coconut milk was $1.18 vs. $2.50 at Trader Joe’s. (She’s like me and also tracks prices.)
• I accepted a free plum at Trader Joe’s, but waited until I was home to enjoy it properly.
• I’m letting a couple of backyard flowerpots sit empty as I patiently wait for some cuttings to root enough to plant.
• I made dinner for a neighbor going through hard times, but kept it simple. (Curry lime chicken satay with rice and a Caesar salad) I also picked up sale priced $2.77 Tillamook ice cream sandwiches for the dessert, but stashed them in the basement freezer so they wouldn’t get gobbled.
• I didn’t buy any fireworks.

None of these mini frugal actions will draw the attention of The Today Show, but they add up so much more than a kicky new frugal hack. Every day, under the wire, drinking my tap water out of a thrifted water bottle.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 55 comments… read them below or add one }

Cindy in the South July 4, 2023 at 3:14 pm

I love to wash my filthy car in my driveway. Currently, the rain is doing the job for me! Since it is raining and has cooled down to about 80, I have cut off my newly fixed air conditioner. I am sitting on my front porch e joying my day off and the moderate shower. I figure I pay for my porch, might as well enjoy it. I walked an hour in my neighbor early this morning. at the butt crack of dawn. I do not buy fireworks. I just watch everyone else shooting them. I will pack my lunch and my breakfast for work tomorrow.


Cindy in the South July 4, 2023 at 3:16 pm

It would not be a post from me if my fat fingers and lack of wearing my glasses didn’t cause me to have multiple errors… lol


Katy July 4, 2023 at 3:28 pm

I’m happy to hear that you finally got air conditioning!


Cindy in the South July 4, 2023 at 5:28 pm

I don’t have it in my work house since lightning zapped it in 2022. I am only at work house late at night during work week. The air went out at eventual retirement house, where I am on weekends, and that is the one I fixed… lol.


Selena July 4, 2023 at 3:24 pm

I had no idea what a cheese loaf was. So googled it and it is just a block of/bulk cheese (or as I call it, chunk). Terminology varies by geographic area – no one buys chubs of hamburger in my area!


Katy July 4, 2023 at 3:28 pm

We Oregonians take our Tillamook cheese leaves very seriously.


mary in maryland July 4, 2023 at 3:44 pm

1. At the farm stand I found a 2-pound very oddly shaped eggplant on the bargain bench for only 1.50. Made it into enough pasta sauce for three meals for the two of us.
2. The foam padding under my miracle ironing board cover disintegrated. Wool ironing pads are a big thing in quilting but very expensive. I deduced that wool could make a good pad under the cover. Found a wool blanket 72×60 for 5.50 at the thrift store. I only used a third of it for the ironing board. The blanket was red. I washed it before using and threw in some of the Mister’s briefs. He’s now wearing hot pink underpants.
3. I alerted the Mister that the insulation around the pipes to the AC unit was falling apart. He replaced it and even wrapped the new black insulation in silver tape to decrease heat gain. He bought the “wrong” insulation on his first trip to the hardware store but was able to use it on the hot water pipes in the basement.
4. Temptations resisted—I read an article about how fabulous waffle towels are—flat in the linen closet, quick-drying, less lint in the washer. I priced them, slapped myself upside the head, and realized that there is nothing wrong with the towels we have. I will watch for waffle towels at the thrift shop and on Buy Nothing, but there is no need and no urgency.
5. Also tempted to buy three of the six-packs of Ghiradelli brownie mix. I bought a single mix. We ate the brownies. I was so jazzed (chocolate is a caffeine relative) I couldn’t sleep and woke up with a migraine. Making brownies from scratch very occasionally seems like a safer idea than having 18 packets of mix in the house. Alas.
6. MATURE CONTENT We use personal lubricant and had a spectacular accident when the plastic bottle was squeezed too hard while being warmed in a manly armpit. Wanting to take some on a trip I put a single dose in each side of an empty contact lens container. Usage was so neat that I now use the same system at home.


A. Marie July 4, 2023 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for the laughs your #6 provided. I’m unlikely ever again to be in a situation where personal lubricant is required, but the “being warmed in a manly armpit” line almost did me in. (In a good way.)


Christine July 4, 2023 at 5:14 pm

Ha ha! Loved your MATURE CONTENT warning!
I once made a Crazy Chocolate cake which used powdered cocoa in the recipe. Ate a piece before bedtime and was up until 3 am. Chocolate is coffee’s sneaky cousin.


Ecoteri July 4, 2023 at 9:18 pm

@mary in maryland although your #6 was funny, it was your #2 that had me literally snorting out loud. Been there, done that, got the (pink) tee-shirt. However, now that I am thinking out loud, did the “hot pink underpants” have any bearing on the timing of the “manly armpit” warming accident? Curious minds wanna know.


mary in maryland July 5, 2023 at 4:58 am

Manly armpit disaster was 20 years ago. Pink underpants just this week.


Anne July 5, 2023 at 6:09 am

I personally related to number five. We try to rarely bring junk food in the house because neither one of us has any self control. But for our barbecue on the Fourth we had potato chips, apple pie and ice cream. I won’t even put into print how much pie and ice cream we each put away, but by evening I felt like a gluttonous six year old who just left a birthday party.


mary in maryland July 5, 2023 at 9:19 am

I was the gluttonous sort of child who most often vomited after birthday parties. Also a born introvert who found spending a couple hours with my peers overwhelming.


MB in MN July 5, 2023 at 5:02 pm

From hot pink underpants to personal lubricant – so unexpected and funny.


Christine July 4, 2023 at 6:04 pm

I love the idea of using a blank book for a planner Katy. I love reading about other’s every day frugal routines. There’s always something new to learn or be reminded about. Here’s a few of mine:
~Doing laundry in cold water and hanging it outside to dry, weather permitting. If there is snow on the ground, I draw the line and use the dryer after 9 pm (when rates go down in our area).
~Running the dishwasher after 9 pm.
~ Making use of my town’s library for reading and entertainment. Upcoming Johnny Cash tribute concert with accompanying stories about his life told by the musician. Yeah!
~Doing a “big” grocery shopping once a month at the cheapest store in my area and trying to stay on track by avoiding convenience foods. I do spring for a bag of frozen French fries and a bag of frozen battered fish or chicken and sometimes a frozen pizza to have on hand for nights when I’m tired or don’t feel well or one or both of us is craving “junk” food. I buy store brand products when I can. I have to go back to the store about halfway through the month to restock milk, half and half, fresh fruit and cat food. While I’m there I sometimes pick up their loss leaders too.
~Staying home and enjoying our home, yard and deck.
~Walking the neighborhood or nearby wooded trails for exercise.
~ I bought some card stock on sale at Michaels and am making greeting cards from old calendar pages. Anybody ever hear of Effin’ Birds? I bought myself an Effin’ Birds calendar for Christmas last year since DH and I don’t exchange gifts anymore. Effin’ Birds are beautifully drawn birds but they are very naughty and very funny and spew swears. I decided I will send the cards I’m making to a friend in a nursing home who needs some laughs. She loves them! Check them out online if you want some laughs too. Andrews McMeel Publishing.
~Batching errands to save time and money.
~Happy to not have to buy shoes or clothes anytime soon.
~I never go for manis or pedis.
~Went to a friend’s house for the 4th. We sat on her deck overlooking a lake and was pleasantly surprised to hear the neighbor’s son’s band play outside about 50 feet away. All 60s, 70s and 80s hits. I brought a homemade potato salad and a sour cream coffee cake made from scratch. Got to go swimming for the for first time this year as the weather’s been rainy and unpredictable. More free exercise.
~ I use so many of my parent’s, grandparent’s and great-grandparent’s household items and furniture. I love it.
~We keep the heat set at 64 in the winter when we’re home during the day and 60 at night. Our monthly budget payment at the oil company is 188.00 for 1700 square feet.
~I make my own bread in the cooler weather and try to buy it at the Dollar Store in the summer. Also, I will buy store brand bread or BOGO deals. If I have to bring a dessert anywhere, I always bake it myself.
~I shop at the Salvation Army store in town and my church’s thrift shop for clothes and seldom buy new.
~So far, DH and I take care of our yard which is not big. We realize that may change in future years.
Just some things I’m sure a lot of you already do. Happy 4th of July!


Katy July 4, 2023 at 7:57 pm

You’re going to like this story about Johnny Cash. He was in Portland for a concert on the day my husband and I got married in 1993. I walked into the fancy downtown hotel lobby in my wedding dress and there was Johnny Cash! He walked up and congratulated us and was super nice. WE DIDN’T HAVE A CAMERA ON US, SO THERE’S NO DOCUMENTATION OF JOHNNY CASH STANDING NEXT TO ME IN MY WEDDING DRESS!

It’s such a shame.


Loretta July 4, 2023 at 11:57 pm

I am picturing the the photo in my head Katie. How amazing!!


Christine July 5, 2023 at 4:27 am

Oh, that is a great memory of your wedding day! Thanks so much for sharing this wonderful story. Not many people can say they met Johnny Cash on their wedding day.


Marc July 5, 2023 at 5:03 am

Coolest story every Katie about Jonny Cash


Katy July 5, 2023 at 8:27 am

It’s a fun part of our wedding memories.


Lindsey July 5, 2023 at 9:27 am

What a great story. One of the few times I would have lamented cell phone photography had not yet been invented.


Lindsey July 5, 2023 at 10:48 am

After reading this, I saw an article in the Washington Post where readers had sent in “fleeting encounters” with celebs. Your Johnny Cash one would fit right in.


A. Marie July 5, 2023 at 11:56 am

Although I was once kissed on either cheek by the late great Paddy Moloney and Derek Bell of the legendary Irish traditional group The Chieftains, it doesn’t compare to being congratulated on my wedding day by Johnny Cash!


susanna d July 5, 2023 at 1:37 pm

I love your wedding day Johnny Cash memory so much!


Katy July 5, 2023 at 2:01 pm

Me too!


Martha Kathleen Sell July 5, 2023 at 2:39 pm

This is where photoshop would be great! Use your favorite wedding photo and add Johnny Cash. Why not? Please do it.


Selena July 5, 2023 at 6:19 pm

I had no idea utility rates still changed at night. I remember when long distance phone calls were cheaper.
I got my laundry done last week before it got hot (and good old humid). Heat wave is over so I’ll do laundry tomorrow.


Christine July 8, 2023 at 2:56 pm

Every area is different so check with your electric company for times and days.


Ruby July 4, 2023 at 8:21 pm

There are so many little frugalities woven into every day around my house that I would find it hard to not do them.

1. Cut my husband’s hair and trimmed his eyebrows for him.
2. Cut my own hair and only had to go back to the mirror twice to trim up too long stragglers noticed later in the day. This is pretty good!
3. Realized while buying cat food that two 10-packs were cheaper than one 20-pack, but just did not have as much variety in flavors. The cats do not care that much. I saved a couple of dollars.
4. Finally picking some tomatoes from the container gardener. They are so good. We used big pots we already had and reusable stakes to keep the sunk cost down.
5. Bought 160 pounds of cat litter at Ollie’s Outlet during a 15% off sale to refill the empty buckets in the garage. This saved $32 over the usual cost of buying litter.
Bonus: Also did not buy fireworks and wish I had all the money our neighbors blew up the past few nights.


A. Marie July 5, 2023 at 1:17 am

Ruby, I’m with you and Katy re: fireworks–not only the waste of money, but the annoyance to the rest of the neighborhood (and the terror of our poor cats and dogs).


Ruby July 5, 2023 at 7:07 am

They are illegal here outside of professional shows, but the state allows sales, so last night was just awful. The police can’t go to every report of a noise disturbance. Our dogs were actually sick from stress. Next year we’re going on some very long quiet car rides with them.


Vickey August 14, 2023 at 6:01 am

It’s also an issue for many veterans with PTSD. And for people who are “sonically sensitive”.

And closer to home, for my mother-in-law, who was an adolescent and a refugee in Poland during WWII. The fireworks make her flinch still. She’s in her 90’s.


Juhli July 5, 2023 at 4:23 am

I’ve only ever bought sparklers and that was over 40 years ago. I was intensely grateful this year that fireworks are illegal where I have moved so the only ones going off the last two nights were from the official fireworks shows of two cities. The dog slept through it because it wasn’t very loud.


MB in MN July 5, 2023 at 4:52 pm

Also did not buy fireworks (lifelong habit) but our neighbors made up for it. Started at 9:00 a.m. on the 4th (with a few on each of the four nights leading up to it) and went intermittently throughout the day, finally ending at 11:00 p.m. We gave our terrified dog sedatives and she is still wary of any type of noise today. My thoughts are unprintable.


Katy July 5, 2023 at 4:57 pm

I felt so bad for the dogs yesterday.


mary in maryland July 6, 2023 at 7:58 am

Sometimes having adopted an older, deaf dog is a blessing.


Loretta July 4, 2023 at 11:53 pm

I swing between being super frugal and spendy (the frugality is so I can justify buying luxurious locally-made wool for projects, going on mini breaks, occasional dinners out with friends)
1. Today I had my regular ocean dip with friends (air temp 4C) and had lots of laughs over our flasks of hot tea/coffee.
2. Went to a new friend’s house to work on a community craft project and brought last night’s leftovers for our lunch. We talked about how we can find joy in life without spending much/any money and planned future fun things to do together.
3. Sold some of my daughter’s expensive manga books on FB Marketplace. She was prepared to just donate them but I knew I’d get her some $ to go towards her living expenses!
4. Read a new library book (Upgrade by Blake Couch) while sitting on the couch:-)
5. Dropped off a wok we no longer use to the local op shop and, importantly, did NOT go in for a browse (aka buy random crap I do not need), yay me.

All of which which ‘allowed’ me to buy some more of the aforementioned wool, as I’m crocheting my adult son a blanket for when he moves out later this year, whether he wants it or not!


Juhli July 5, 2023 at 4:36 am

Like Loretta at this stage in our life we are both frugal and spendy depending on the area of focus. Routine frugality includes cooking, cleaning and other chores done by ourselves. Careful food shopping, library use (love libraries!), mending clothes, driving an old car, and fixing other things and so on. Spendy is my Hubby’s drumming hobby, buying a sweet puppy after our last rescue dog died and we couldn’t find a rescue that fit our age and lifestyle, moving to a way more expensive housing market to be able to be hands on grandparents to young grandkids and fixing everything in this new house quickly because we are old and don’t have decades to do it lol. That being said we are doing the small repairs ourselves as possible, getting things from our Buy Nothing group and using what we already have as much as possible. There were many years earlier on my life where there was no spendy part of life.


Heidi Louise July 5, 2023 at 6:29 am

This might not do a lot in money saving, but it makes things a bit more comfortable: When using the oven in hot weather, put a pan of water on the rear right stove burner, where the oven vents hot air out. (Your oven may vary. It is pretty easy to recognize).
The water will catch some of the hot air and keep the kitchen a tad bit cooler. The water heats up much more quickly than you might expect, and works well for rinsing dishes, etc.


Cynthia July 5, 2023 at 10:09 am

Heidi Louise: I LOVE this idea. Thank you!


Heidi Louise July 5, 2023 at 10:25 am

My Mom used a decorated tea kettle, which she kept on the stove all the time anyway.


A. Marie July 5, 2023 at 11:39 am

Heidi Louise, thanks for this tip. I had no idea.


K D July 5, 2023 at 8:12 am

I too have a lot of daily frugality.

I wear the same clothes over and over again. I rarely get new clothes unless they are other’s discards. That includes clothes for yoga and Pilates classes. I don’t have much in the way of traditional exercise clothes. I like knowing that I am not contributing environmental damage by being a clothes horse.

We eat at home unless it is a social outing. We mostly buy foods when they are on sale and cook with what we have (the Pantry Method). I buy produce when it is on sale and I spend time cutting melons and/or pineapples making the price per pound is low.

Many of the items in my kitchen are from the 1980s, pot and pans, knives, cookie sheets, etc. They are good enough.

As a rule we don’t buy books or DVDs, we borrow them from the library. Like Katy, I also borrow audio books from the library. I just finished listening to The Postcard.

Many of my “social” outing are meeting friends for walks or just a chat at home.


Lindsey July 5, 2023 at 9:45 am

Something that I don’t do to be frugal but it has yielded huge financial dividends, is to be kind to service providers. I cannot tell you the number of times this has paid off: the vegetable guy at the grocery store saving castoffs for our chickens, the mechanic calling me to tell me that he knew I was about to replace a part and he found a second hand one and did I want because the repair would be $400 cheaper with a used part, the grocery store clerk who knows my name after all these years and will sometimes ask me if I knew, for example, that one of the unadvertised markdowns today is King Arthur flour. All of these happened because the husband and I are polite, try to make a funny remark or give a deserved compliment, or just act cheerful and commiserate about how hard it must be to stand for hours at a cash register (and why are cashiers allowed to sit on stools in the UK but not here?!) My father came to this country and worked as a bricklayer until he learned enough English to be able to use his engineering degree for a job in his field. I was quite young but I remember how rude people were to someone who was a manual laborer and did not speak English, and I see him in people who serve members of the public who often act entitled and rude to them.

The other thing that has saved us a ton of money is using our tool library instead of buying infrequently needed tools, and our seed saving section of our regular library for spring seeds. Not sure who in our community started these enterprises but they are worth their weight in gold, to be trite. They also make a great place to donate tools and seeds.


Heidi Louise July 5, 2023 at 10:34 am

Absolutely agree with your first point.


MB in MN July 5, 2023 at 5:07 pm

Me too. Kindness and relationships make the world go round.


LizFitz July 5, 2023 at 11:56 am

First time commentator but long time reader. I have absolutely loved your extra writing over the last week and wanted to say how much your website helped me when I found it c.5 years ago. I read it from the start! Thanks to the types of actions on this list I was able to take a career break to become a local politician and move into a health related field for my main work because I could manage on a much lower salary. You’re absolutely right that it’s in the small things. But not just so the money goes further but because I now have focus on what matters and not what I can buy. Thanks so much.


MB in MN July 5, 2023 at 5:08 pm

That’s fabulous!


Ava July 5, 2023 at 1:04 pm

Some of the frugal things I do all the time are use the library, mend clothing, check thrift stores before buying new, pay bills on time, eat ĺeftovers. My husband drinks lots of coffee which he makes at home. I make iced tea. The only thing I buy from grocery bakeries is bread. Any other baked item I can make better and healthier at home. We slow down to look at free piles. We are easily entertained. We don’t require anything new or fancy for clothing or grooming. Two things I see as frugal fails are that we eat out too much and take too many trips. These things make my husband happy and I like him to be happy . We have both compromised. He has become more thrifty and I have become more spendy.


susanna d July 5, 2023 at 2:11 pm

My #1 daily frugality for the past five days has been going nowhere that requires driving. I live in a tourist town that’s part of a bigger tourist area, and the fourth of July week is the worst of the worst when it comes to crowd craziness. Tons of people rushing here, there and everywhere which results in a big increase in waiting in line just about everywhere and worse, far more car accidents. Although we do seem to have a decrease in car/deer accidents because the deer wisely make themselves scarce too. There’s just as much gasoline in our vehicles today as there was when we parked them last Friday.

The walkability score where I live is ZERO, which means nothing worth buying is walking distance – despite our tendency to walk at least five miles most days. Again, we’re not going anywhere that requires driving. This has resulted in our having five zero-money-spent days so far, and tomorrow will make it six.

Not driving to any stores has made us get more creative in food substitutions. Like…celery. In the past few days, I’ve wanted (and made) a stir fry and a couple of main dish salads (tuna pasta, to name one) that I normally would put celery in. We have no celery. What we do have is a crap ton of cucumbers. Seeded and cut to size, cucumbers made a good substitution for anything I would have used celery in. And since I don’t grow celery but I do grow cucumbers, I can see carrying on this substitution over the next few months.


Katy July 5, 2023 at 2:39 pm

Nice little discovery then!


Ecoteri July 5, 2023 at 11:43 pm

@susanna d “Crap ton”. Love it. try growing celery – it is finicky to get started but remarkably satisfying to grow (just to say you did!). I currently have celery bolting in the garden, so am growing my own celery seeds (and with luck will have self-sown celery (say THAT 5 times) in the future.
I agree with you that the urge to go purchase that one ingredient is a bit foolish, and that is my current frugality challenge: what can I use that I am growing or that is in my pantry/freezer/fridge/basement? My challenge is also to learn to look at what I have and meal plan around that, rather than decide what I want and then try to find / purchase ingredients….


auntiali July 9, 2023 at 11:43 am

Every day frugal acivities:
cooking at home
keeping an eye on the AC temp. I like it cold at night and I turn it up to about 78 during the day.
Hubby retired and turned in his company car and company gas credit card so now we are sharing my 13 year old Honda CRV. So far it’s working out.
While not an everyday thing we are getting a new fridge that will be more energy efficient than our 19 year old one. Buying it now saved us money and the electric utility will give us a $50 check if we let them pick it up and recycle it.
Bought new ice cube trays as mine were about 30+ years old – some were moms. I hate ice makers. Nothin’ but trouble according to my sister and friends.
I buy clothes on line but make sure I return the ones that I do not like or do not fit well.
Hubby found me huge case of big bottles of akaline water. I love Smart Water but this is cheaper and tastes great.
I’ve met my out of pocket deductible for my medical insurance for the year so my stents that were put in my heart should be free to me.
Keeping lights off when not in the room.
Reading books from the library.
Hubby will fix the leaking toilet tomorrow. It’s nice to have someone with skillz in the house.


janine July 9, 2023 at 6:12 pm

1. Borrowed book from library to read. Bookclub selection.
2. Driving to another state for their much acclaimed summer opera. Bringing snacks and packed lunches to enjoy along the way.
3. Didn’t go out to eat this evening – instead stopped at an ice cream stand for a soft-serve and husband treated himself to a coney hot dog. Very enjoyable evening.
4. Cleaning out filing cabinets and reorganizing financial information.
5. Invited to join a committee advocating for health care reform.


Vickey August 14, 2023 at 6:24 am

Everyday frugality here is rooted in cooking bulk-purchased, homegrown, sale-sourced, and/or price-watched plant-based foods from scratch.

This is also and especially a longterm strategy for keeping our health costs down and extending our healthspan by reducing our risk of developing the leading causes of death – CVD, cancer, dementia, etc.


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