Do You Find Inspiration From The Cheapest People Ever?

by Katy on March 22, 2017 · 66 comments

This article first appeared over at

Are you tired on clicking articles that promise you the “ten best frugal tips!” but are disappointingly just the same tired suggestions to “skip that morning latte” or “pack your work lunch?” Yeah, me too. I crave outside the box frugal ideas when I read an article. I want to know what the cheapest of the cheap are doing to save money! I may not employ very single one of their ideas, but I can certainly find inspiration within their creative and dedicated frugality.

Linda: We’ve had a drought here in California for the last 5 years. I always catch the clean shower water while I wait for the water to heat up, and then I use it for my vegetable garden. And if I take a bath, I scoop that water out bucket by bucket to water my non-edible plants and flowers.

Lesley: I ate the same two meals for lunch and dinner pretty much every day for three years while in college: lentil-vegetable chili with rice, or rice with pintos and salsa. I still eat both of those things, but not quite so much.

Phyllis: I painted a nasty old toilet seat. I already had paint and the toilet seat, so no cost!

Daena: I use white vinegar and/or baking soda to clean everything – except windows, I have some special cloth that does that with only water – but I never spend money on cleaning supplies.

Tammi: I get souvenirs ahead of time before we go to a theme park like Disney, by asking friends and family if they have items they no longer get want or need. This way my son can get “stuff” at the park and we don’t spend extra money.

Adela: About ten years ago, after my divorce, I lived without living room furniture for about a year and was quite alright with it; then my friend decided to put a dent in my spartan ways by gifting me the desk and bookshelves from his first time in college. They’re now going on 30 years, and have survived a few moves. I still have them with no plans to replace.

Kim: I know they say not to grocery shop when you’re hungry, but sometimes I luck into stores that are sampling and I end up with a small meal.

Kristi: I cut into my hygiene items such as toothpaste, lotion, and shampoo and conditioner and use every last drop.

Lisa: I dumpster dived for my couch, chair, and table. I’ve also used to get a toilet, shower and sink. I get a lot of hand me downs from friends and family for myself and for my kids. We also have a small group where we trade for things we need for things we no longer need.

Mary: I picked up a plastic travel mug off the road, because Shipley’s Donuts will refill them for 50 cents a cup.

CJ: We collected rainwater for using in the greenhouse, (which was made out of scrounged materials) for the garden, to fill the waterfowl pools, water all the farm animals, truck washing and flushing. In a pinch I’ve also used it in the washing machine.

MJ: I reuse baking paper, (parchment) wash out ziplock bags and use powdered milk for all my baking. We grow all our own herbs and some of our own veggies and fruit.

David: I picked up a free desk left on the side of the road while between jobs on a night shift.

Kristy: I once found a dumpster full of bread and bagels behind a bakery. It was winter, so all of it was frozen in clean bags. I took those bags home and ate bread forever. Lol.

Sandy: All of our furniture and kitchen supplies are from deceased grandparents and garage sales. Most of my clothing and jewelry come from garage sales. My produce comes from gardening and foraging, which I then freeze for winter.

Lynn: When we were kids our town had an annual “large stuff/household items” trash pick-up. People would put their stuff out at the curb, and we kids would ride our bikes around the neighborhood and freely and unabashedly scavenge. And – adults did it too, just not in their own neighborhoods!

Korina: We live in a historic art deco house (115 years old now) and when my dad sees another such house being renovated/demolished in our town, he goes dumpster diving. Saved amazing wooden doors, metal locks, furniture . . . repaired a lot of it and used it here.

Kris: I’d have to thank a college roommate for this story. My roommates and I were having a tough time at a school without a cafeteria and we couldn’t find jobs. The neighbors below were kicked out of the dorm and the stuff they left was bagged and thrown out. We went in while the cleaning crew wasn’t there and took all their nasty, dirty dishes from the sink, refrigerator, and counter tops (the cupboards were bare.) We soaked, scrubbed, bleached, washed the dishes, pots and pans, silverware, etc. We finally had something to cook and eat with!

Julie: We don’t have a heating system in our home other than a wood burning stove. We’re in Pennsylvania and spent $0 on wood this year. This is because we had some leftover from last year, as well as a few dead trees in our property that my husband cut up.

Alexa: At one point we cancelled the phone/internet/tv subscription and just used our pay as you go track phones ($200/year for 2 phones), and paid $15/month for a small data plan for internet (just so my husband could check his Etsy sales.) We ended up saving about $100/month and we felt so free from that constant internet pull.

Joy: In Alaska you can get on a roadkill list. The state troopers call you when a moose gets hit and you can claim it if it’s your turn.

Marcie: I’ve moved several times and I think paying for new boxes is absurd. I drive behind strip malls and dumpster dive for boxes. They even have dumpsters for cardboard only, so no ick factor!

Randall: I worked on the crew that built a huge log cabin for a client. He only used it in the Winter. He couldn’t, and didn’t want to shovel the snow off the wraparound deck we built around his house. None of the neighbors that lived nearby would do it either, so I took on the task. Turned out it was quite relaxing. Put on headphones and shovel. We had an arrangement based on how many inches of snow. From November to March I would bring in between $200 to $400 a month.

Patricia: I work two jobs, and after the office parties I always volunteer to stay and clean up. People think I’m so nice, but in reality, I’m packaging up the leftover food to take home. My weekend job is security at a banquet hall, and after the weddings and such, the chef always says to “take whatever you want, we’re only going to toss it.” Many times I get a week’s worth of high end food already cooked. I take what I can carry, and freeze what I can’t.

Korina: When I was about 16, my dad saw a mobile phone in the middle of a busy crossroad, so he stopped and picked it up. We had no way of identifying who it belonged to (busy tourist spot, no info in the phone.) It looked like someone probably left it on the top of their car and it fell off when they turned. We got a prepaid sim card . . . and lil’ teenager me had my first mobile phone!

Nicole:  The garbage in my apartment complex had a large snapware container in it with some moldy muffins. It was on top of some stuff toward the bottom of a fairly clean bin. So, before dumping my stuff, I reached my whole self in so I could grab the container (like the size of a casserole, so I know it was expensive new.) I opened it and dumped out the moldy muffins in the food/yard waste bin, and then cleaned the container at home.

Catherine: My bathroom walls (floor to ceiling) have unique tile designs composed of the cheapest plain square white tiles interspersed with compositions of broken china, some accidentally smashed at home, some bought at thrift stores or auctions, or from a high end antique store that scorns to sell chipped china. (But you can scavenge their discard box in the basement if you ask nicely.)

Najia: I fed my family and numerous other families (all military) from the thrown away food at the commissary for months. I actually started an unofficial food bank from their incredible wastefulness.

Cat: I am a traveling RN and plan my grocery, gasoline, and other stops around where I’m seeing patients. Once home, I rarely leave unless absolutely necessary.

Cindy: Didn’t have a washing machine when we were first married. Did all laundry, including diapers, by hand in the bathtub.


Whether you find inspiration from frugal folk who save their bath water or those who dumpster dive for still usable items, these ideas are still a thousand times more useful than yet another barista-themed frugality article. You may not be ready to seek out your state’s “roadkill list,” but you can certainly set aside your “ick factor” and scavenge a perfectly good snapware dish or a freezer full of delicious wedding leftovers. I know I’m freshly inspired to find new ways to work frugality into my daily routine.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

Beth March 22, 2017 at 5:48 am

I hate articles that are generic on being frugal. That’s part of why I like this blog so much-it’s practical, everyday frugality in ways I don’t always think of.

I am really wanting to try dumpster diving…it just seems to have such a stigma to it-I’m still working up the courage.


Jessica March 23, 2017 at 9:21 am

Beth – I don’t “dumpster dive” perse, but I absolutely pick things up along the road — a set of shelves for our garage, a small end table, a broken screendoor that I spraypainted and turned into a yard decoration for halloween, a pair of nightstands that I need to refinish, etc. Also, if you have a freecycle or buy nothing list in your community, you can get some of the benefit without the ick factor.


MommaL March 25, 2017 at 4:50 am

I would love to try dumpster diving, but I live in a small gossipy town. Worried my photo will end up in social media . Plus, does anyone know the laws regarding this?


janine March 22, 2017 at 6:07 am

Specific examples of frugality are the best! In our community we don’t have a whole lot of curb side trash picking but one day I found a really nice small lamp and a poster I liked in another neighborhood. I brought it home and it still adorns a corner in my dining room. Works perfectly. My only regret was that I didn’t have the means to haul away a nice bookcase that was also available.


Kathleen in Kansas March 22, 2017 at 1:56 pm

You’d be surprised what you can bungee on top of a car. I’ve hauled some pretty big stuff on top of my Ford Escort sedan, including an armoire my son still uses, and good sized bookshelves, all free from trash picking. I keep an old thick blanket in the trunk, and a bag off assorted bungee cords. You sure get funny looks from other drivers!


Vickie March 23, 2017 at 6:41 am

That’s genius! I’m going to find an old blanket and some bungee cords for my trunk, thanks Kathleen!!


Lorraine March 22, 2017 at 6:27 am

Interesting reading. I’ve done several of these things, but have no desire to be on the roadkill list… But good for them! This article reminded me of Amy Dacyczyn – and I’m an Amy D fan. Thanks


Chris March 22, 2017 at 7:40 am

All great ideas! I’ve been line and rack drying laundry forever – free, and the sweaters don’t pill!


WilliamB March 22, 2017 at 7:51 am

Lorraine – I, too, was thinking that the Tightwad Gazette was a great source of these less-common, very frugal tips. After reading one of her books, I realized that her basic technique is: scrounge just about everything whether you think you’ll need it or not; keep it in the barn; look there first when you want to make, buy, or repair anything. IIRC her husband built a bike for one of the kids, out of parts they scrounged and kept on hand “just in case.”

Emergency Water:
I use scavenged water for my emergency water supply. It’s tedious but efficient: whenever I run water to get it hot, I catch it in old 1/2 gal juice bottles, then write the date on it. Milk jugs aren’t durable enough to last/be reused for years, but the juice bottles are much sturdier. I also fill the watering can for my indoor plants this way. Half empty water bottles (including the ones abandoned at the gym) and ice that dropped on the floor, also go to water the plants.

I used scavenged materials for my compost bin, use the shreds from the office shredder for the browns, and kitchen scraps for the greens. When I had bigger piles, I used to take other people’s grass clippings and haul away produce trash from farmers markets (ideally negotiating for some free elderly produce as well) and I got my browns from the county’s free mulch pile. Presto! Compost for $0. I mean, have you priced compost recently?

SO MUCH goes into my stock and soup pot. I take bones and skin home from the restaurant; Chinese roast duck trimmings are da bomb! I save the scrapings from the roasting pan. I (sometimes) save the onion, celery, and carrot trimmings for stock; instead of using a whole, fresh, new onion that I could have eaten.

SO MUCH can go into scrambled eggs. Any veggie or meat scrap that is leftover or getting a bit elderly, can be put in an omelet. Veggies’ lifespans can be extended by cooking them now, and using them in scrambled eggs later. Dried-out edges of cheese can be grated or minced, ditto.

Working for a caterer is a fantastic way to get food and flowers. Waitstaff yields more food than cook, but both have their advantages. After a while I learned to bring large containers with me to the job, the better to haul away unused food. Sometimes I got inputs for my compost piles or straw bales as well, especially during the holiday season. So many events decorate with pumpkins, or serve soup from hard squashes. Any flower arrangements (but usually not the vases) are fair game for the staff as well.

Sometimes the catering job included coat check. If you need the cash, try to get coat check-out – that’s when guests leave the tips. Most caterers call for the tips be shared amongst the staff who did check-in as well, but sometimes… During one enormous, understaffed Christmas party where much of the waitstaff cut out early (caterers scrape the bottom of the barrel during the holidays), the manager decreed the tips went only to those who stayed their full shift. My tip that day was in the hundreds of dollars.


Kate P. March 22, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Years ago I worked at a historic site that hosted quite a few elegant events. Half-empty bottles of wine and used candles often came home with me along with leftover food. My husband quite knew what to expect when I came home those evenings!


MommaL March 25, 2017 at 11:02 am

I love it when frugality and living well meet. 🙂


Vickie March 23, 2017 at 10:14 am



Katherine in AL March 22, 2017 at 8:13 am

I loved all the stories in this post. I guess the most extreme thing we’ve done is paying cash for our 1940 fixer-upper home and living in one room at at time while we rehabbed the rest of the house. We also used recycled, upcycled. dumpster dived and hand me down materials to complete the project. People let us pick through trash piles from their remodeling projects and clean out their garages for leftover supplies.


Cindy in the South March 22, 2017 at 8:30 am

That is so awesome! I love in very rural central southwest Alabama and while I did not pay cash, my 1950 house cost me $25,000, and I am renovating it slowly.I did put a white metal roof on it for $2,000, and it cut my air conditioning bill to $45 in the summer. I have lived without kitchen cabinets the whole time and finally bought two unfinished oak for $238 from Margins bc I have no way to haul my finds, and that delivered for free. Now I cannot decide what color to paint them so they are just sitting there….lol. I sort of want to paint them up like 1959 style green or turquoise, but I just do not know yet. I may just do white.


Cindy in the South March 22, 2017 at 8:40 am

God…my typos…1950…Marvins is where I bought cabinets and they have me free delivery….geez


Katherine in AL March 22, 2017 at 10:02 am

Cindy, I love frugal home renovations!!!! I absolutely cannot relate to the fixer-upper shows where the couples always have a budget of 500k or more. It blows my mind.

My homemade kitchen sink cabinet is turquoise and it gets a lot of compliments. We don’t have traditional kitchen cabinets just open shelves on antique wrought iron brackets and our counter is a 150+ general store counter that is beautiful oak and extremely heavy.


Cindy in the South I March 23, 2017 at 4:58 am

That sounds wonderful Katherine! Did you put the oak counter on a table to hold it up, or or build supports for it?

Vickie March 23, 2017 at 10:17 am

Oh wow, that’s sounds beautiful. I love the descriptions both of you have given. Too awesome!!!

Katherine in AL March 24, 2017 at 10:27 am

Cindy, our counter is more of an oak display cabinet thing with two shelves underneath with ornate ends.


Kim from Philadelphia March 22, 2017 at 8:22 am

These are all really great!


Ruby March 22, 2017 at 9:07 am

Being able to sew has saved me so much money over the years. My favorite extreme frugality sewing story was buying an adorable sundress from a thrift store for $1 because it had a few tiny holes in the fabric. I mended the holes and wore the dress until the smocked top of it was worn out, then cut the skirt into cloth napkins that we used another ten years. One of the napkins had the tiny mends in it, and it made me smile to see it.

The Mister and I lived for almost a year in a rental house without a stove, as our slumlord landlord didn’t provide one. We cooked on top of the dryer in an electric skillet and wok. I learned how to make all kinds of things in those two small appliances.


kathleen March 22, 2017 at 5:38 pm

LOL, we had a rent house with no stove too! Electric skillet and toaster oven saved us. Ah, the good old pre-microwave era. 🙂


Susie's Daughter March 22, 2017 at 10:13 am

I loved the note from Mary about rescuing the coffee cup. I had forgotten that I had done the same thing – found it abandoned on the sidewalk in DC when we lived there. Put it through the diswasher and voila! Dunkin Donuts had free refills for a portion of the year and I used it often. I then gave it to a friend who needed a travel mug when we moved.

At the town recycling center this week, I found a glass hurricane lamp (no candle, but I have plenty) and a lovely Christmas tin both in great shape. Our free exchange area was closed by the town last year after someone dumped a bunch of junk instead of paying to use the trash service. Huge bummer, but people are still getting rid of good stuff!


Bee March 22, 2017 at 10:41 am

These are truly inspirational. I must be frugal at heart, because I don’t find anything written here odd. I find almost everyone of them smart. I too have dragged home things that were put on the curb. I have taken things from a dumpster and accepted hand-me-downs. I have bought things at estate sales, thrift shops, garage sales, flea markets, and auctions. I have restored furniture and upcycled junk. I hate wastefulness.
However, I become frugal-weary from time to time, and I slip up. When I read what others are doing and why, it keeps me focused. Frugality is only successful when it is accompanied by a positive attitude. Katy and NCA community, thank you for being there. I am not alone in my pursuits,


A. Marie March 22, 2017 at 2:34 pm

I agree with Bee and various others that nothing in the list seems too far out there–but I suppose this is because I’m right out there with the rest of you. I also agree with Lorraine and WilliamB that Amy Dacyczyn really got the ball rolling on a lot of this stuff. (Amy, if you’re out there and reading this, your fans salute you!)

And I’m truly glad today that Katy and the NCA community are out there, because this post has shored up my spirits on a hard day: rough first day on a new project at work, bumpy times with DH, and bad news from other sources. Thanks to you all.


WilliamB March 22, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Bee, I like the way you phrased that “frugal-weary.” I’m going to appropriate it, if you don’t mind. That happens to me also. My response is to forgive myself and carry on best I can, knowing that I don’t have to be 100% frugal to benefit from the frugality I do manage.

A. Marie – I’m sorry there are so many hard things in your life right now. I hope you and they can be worked out soon / pass soon.. If you haven’t already, consider reading The Frugal Girl’s post from Monday: It won’t solve long-term problems but it might provide a bit of a lift.


Vickie March 23, 2017 at 10:40 am

I’ve gotten frugal weary too. My husband is not on board with recycling, he’s very wasteful and I get exhausted trying to do everything. Some days I give up on recycling and composting. It’s beyond me how one person can create so much trash – those are my weary days!! LOL!


Bee March 23, 2017 at 11:40 am

I think we all feel frugal-weary from time to time. It’s ok not to do everything. I agree with WilliamB sometimes you just have to let it go. The benefits will still add up over time.

It is interesting that so many mention Amy D. She really changed my life. Thirty years ago, I was a young bride with a beautiful baby boy, and I was married to a man I adored. We didn’t have very much, but we had eachother.
However, I was rather spoiled. I had grown up with everything that I needed and most of what I wanted. I had no idea how to run a household and neither did he. That was something that you PAID someone else to do. My family was no help, because they were just like me. They felt sorry for me, and I was totally overwhelmed.

Then I saw Amy D on Oprah and in Parade Magazine. I went to the library and check out The Tightwad Gazette. My life changed! I made a price book, learned to cook, and started buying secondhand. But most importantly, I learned that I could have everything I needed. It just took a little ingenuity and elbow grease. Amy D looked at frugality from a place of abundance not deprivation. This was a brand-new idea!

I have practiced some level of frugality ever since. Some days are harder than others, but living frugally and simply has allowed me to live well. IThank you all for continuing to encourage this lifestyle.


Katy March 22, 2017 at 2:31 pm

I love these frugal stories! I took some notes for some new ideas to try. It is easy for me to feel like the odd man out with some of my frugal ways in my everyday life, so it is nice to hear stories from other folks who care about saving money, and not being wasteful.


Deb March 22, 2017 at 3:25 pm

I just have to comment on “cutting into” items like toothpaste. I do this with not only toothpaste but also moisturizer, body lotion, shampoo, conditioner, concealer and foundation. I can literally go an extra month or more by cutting into packaging and scooping out the amount that sticks to the sides of the containers!


Jackie B. March 22, 2017 at 3:45 pm

I cut into packaging so often that I keep a small pair of scissors in the bathroom.

I once had some pricey Clinique foundation that came in a squeeze tube. The way it was designed, you just could not squeeze it all out. I cut it open hoping to get another week out of it. To my shock I discovered that it still had about 1/3 of the product left! I think companies design their packaging so you can’t use it all then rebuy more often.


Deb March 27, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I agree Jackie! I am always amazed at how much there is really left in a container and I also keep a pair of small scissors in the bathroom just for that purpose!


WilliamB March 22, 2017 at 3:46 pm

I thought of another one, far wackier than my previous ones. Instead of buying very small containers of petroleum jelly and such, I buy *one* container, then refill it from the cheaper supersized pot.

BTW, you can melt petroleum jelly and pour it from one container to another. Melting it also lets you get the last little bit off the sides of the jar.


Vickie March 23, 2017 at 10:40 am



Michelle H. March 29, 2017 at 6:50 am

I keep a yogurt tub with lid in the bathroom to put the cut containers in, so I can use right from them until they’re empty instead of trying to scoop into another container. Amazing how much lotion is left inside a pump container!


Mrs. Picky Pincher March 22, 2017 at 3:42 pm

I love this! It just goes to show that frugality comes in many shapes and colors. 🙂


Katy March 22, 2017 at 3:58 pm

When I was a kid, 1950s, Wisconsin, during one very cold winter, my dad froze ice in coffee cans outside the back door to use in the icebox. He was very proud of saving $.50 per week.


Marybeth March 22, 2017 at 5:14 pm

I do so many “cheap things” I don’t even think about them. Here are a few I didn’t see listed.
-Pour milk into the chocolate syrup bottle and shake it to get the end of it
-Pour hot water into the honey bottle to get the last bit
– All old condiment bottles sit upside down before they are thrown out
-Creamy salad dressing get a little milk added at the end to clean them out
-All boxes and puffy envelopes are opened carefully to be reused for eBay sales
-All bows, gift bags, and gift boxes are keep for future presents
-Scrap paper and envelopes are keep for lists
-Plastic from toilet paper and paper towels are used to line garbage cans
-Empty dog food bags become garbage bags
-Mesh produce bags become scrubbies for pots
I’m always looking for ways to save. Thanks for the ideas.

My husband and I got married when I was 18. We had NOTHING! We let everyone know that we had no problems taking used furniture. We bought only a mattress. My parents friends gave us their old couch. We found a kitchen table on garbage night. We had mismatched chairs for the kitchen table from various sources. Living room chair came from my boss. My dresser was my childhood one. Our current couch and chair was our friends. They redo their living room every 5-10 years. We took their furniture last time because it was better then the stuff we had. The TV we won at an auction and the TV stand my husband built. We are debt free except for our mortgage.


Laura March 23, 2017 at 10:48 am

I must have been raised very “cheap” because I read your list and thought “but doesn’t everybody do these things?” I love it that you are debt free except your mortgage – it’s the best feeling, far better than the very temporary high from buying stuff on credit.


Diane C March 24, 2017 at 5:12 am

Ha! I thought the very same thing, Laura!

Another I’ll add is cleaning my plate. I’m careful about not to put too much on it and I rarely leave anything at the end of a meal. Happily, my family is the same way. I have friends who regularly leave food on their plates and it’s a constant internal struggle not to say or even think anything of it.

I also love that I can admit that here without fear of criticism.


Marybeth March 24, 2017 at 6:51 am

I’m ok being called cheap. I work with so many people who just think I’m crazy for doing some of the things I do, like bring lunch to work everyday. Eating out is a special occasion for us and actually means something to my family when we do it. Everyone at work complains how they have no money. My boss just the other day was complaining about his wife’s shopping habits and how she spends to much but he just got a new car at over $500 a month payment. CRAZY!


Vickey March 22, 2017 at 6:26 pm

I used to take turns with a friend collecting boxes of produce discards from a local grocery store, which has since sadly gone out of business. We’d serve or can or dry or freeze anything edible, the rest went into our compost piles.
We also picked up bags and bags and bags of rejects from a tiny thrift store that didn’t sell their imperfects to rag dealers. We’d wash things, clean stains, mend items we could use, donate useful garments we didn’t need to someone collecting for villages in Central America, cut buttons and embellishments off garments that weren’t salvageable, and drop the rest at a thrift store that did rag out imperfects.
It actually got to be too much to keep up with, but fun while it lasted!
I’ve also trash picked curbside on bulk pick up day in the most expensive community at our end of the state. Dug a $300 antique commode out of the dumpster at a hotel renovation site. Turned out it’s made of chestnut.


Teri March 22, 2017 at 6:32 pm

I do several of the things mentioned today but could use some help on a project: we’d like to start growing (more of) our own vegetables. My DH thinks we need to buy cedar for grow boxes as they will last longer. Any of you have any experience building a grow box? Frugally?


Marybeth March 23, 2017 at 3:07 am

There are tons of plans online. Check craigslist to see if people are getting rid of wood. My sister asked if we could help her take down the swing set in her yard. It was there when she bought her house and all of my kids are teens now(she is single). My husband said no problem as long as we can have the wood. He wants to make another garden box. This time with blueberry bushes. The fort part is cedar. When we took our swing set down 2 years ago he reused 95% of the wood. My favorite part is the gate he made into my veggie garden. My daughter painted “Welcome “on it.


Teri March 23, 2017 at 9:03 am

Thank your for your the suggestions!


Jen A. March 23, 2017 at 7:45 am

Building soil is more important that building boxes. I recommend using your time the first year to read about compost and lasagna gardening and “soil food webs” and then your money to buy compost and manure and wood chips. You can just make piles in the yard, or even just cut open the sides off bags of compost and plant in those directly.

We built boxes out of redwood many years ago using the Shnset magazine “perfect raised bed” plans and they were nice but they are gone now. We found it easier to not have a permanent architecture in the yard. Among other things it makes you feel extra guilty in the “off season” or when things have gotten to weedy.


WilliamB March 23, 2017 at 8:55 am

I have some experience in this area. I recommend against expensive materials when you’re starting out. You may change your mind about doing it, or the configuration, or location, or… Start with inexpensive materials; you can switch to something pricier and long-lasting later. In the meantime, keep your eye open for these materials for free/cheap: Freecycle, (has local subblogs), neighborhood lists, Craigslist, or even ask at any construction site. One caveat – be sure what you get or buy, is foodsafe.

I also recommend starting your compost pile now (if you haven’t already). The most common “compressed space” methods call for very rich soil and while purchased compost is quite expensive, homemade is practically free. Even if you don’t make enough, having even some will reduce the cost.

The Square Foot Gardening forum on GardenWeb has a lot of info about SFG on the cheap. Or at least it used to, it’s been a while since I visited the site.


Teri March 23, 2017 at 9:04 am

Thank you !


Vickie March 23, 2017 at 10:47 am

You can use pallet wood in many different ways to create grow boxes. Look it up on Pinterest. I find pallets all over town in and around dumpsters.


Mary in Maryland March 23, 2017 at 11:30 am

Lots of plans online for self-watering containers. We made ours using five gallon white plastic containers from the Co-op. I also have five of the self-watering plastic grow boxes that I’ve trash-picked over the years.


Vickie March 23, 2017 at 6:31 am

I agree. I’m subscribed to a few forums where people are extremely frugal, with suggestions like the list above.
If you’re creative, you can look at an item and usually figure out a way to reuse it.
I work in an I.T. office. We use large spindles of CDs & DVDs. When we empty a spindle, I reuse it at home. I have the top cover of one in my bathroom turned upside down that holds all my hairbands, ties and clips.
The bottom “spindle” part can be reused by nailing the bottom to a wall and using the spindle to hang leashes or horse tack on it! 🙂


Mrs. Daisy @ Dirt Road Daisy March 23, 2017 at 7:14 am

This was such a fun list to read through. It definitely gives a reality check when you’re on your frugal high horse 🙂


Mary in Maryland March 23, 2017 at 11:34 am

When I was inducted into PBK, the spread included a fifty pound wheel of cheddar. Only about ten pounds got eaten at the event. The other forty improved meals at my group house for the rest of the semester. Once at the group house I cooked and served “Cornish game hens” for dinner–pigeons I had gotten from the roof. I’m vegan now.


Diane C March 24, 2017 at 5:22 am

Pottery Barn Kids?
Premier Baths & Kitchens?
PBK Gene?


Joanie March 24, 2017 at 8:05 am

I’m guessing Phi Beta Kappa.


Mary W March 24, 2017 at 10:18 am

Phi Beta Kappa, I think.


MommaL March 25, 2017 at 10:59 am

Eating pigeons! That would definitely qualify under the whats the weirdest thing you’ve ever done. Did they know what they were eating?


John Benton March 23, 2017 at 2:13 pm

My neighbor gave me a starter marijuana plant which I grew in my garden. It is legal here in Oregon. Now I have a year supply and it didn’t cost me anything. It just took a few hours to trim the crop.


Chris March 23, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Sometimes when I’m really tempted to buy something I don’t desperately need, I ask myself:
“Would Non-Consumer Advocate buy this?”

Love your Blog!


Florencia March 23, 2017 at 9:03 pm

That’s what I though today when I took my parents out to eat. We went to try this Thai place that has a curry Thursday special: curry with rice for $6 instead of the regular $13. You know what we ordered. 🙂


Marianne March 24, 2017 at 7:29 am

When my son got married they did not want to purchase new furniture and a friend of mind who was cleaning out her boyfriends house gave us a bedroom set and some living room furniture for free all we had to do was move it out. Nice furniture too. Very much appreciated.

I recycle all I possibly can, my biggest beef is they need to ban plastic bags. Michigan had a horrible wind storm several weeks ago that happened (in my area) to be on garbage day. What a mess. At least the paper products will decay but those plastic bag are in tall trees, in creeks, everywhere. I have picked up many at our local park. Those bags will be in the trees for years…


Vickey March 24, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Wow! I’m in awe of the resourcefulness of the rooftop “game hens” hack! (I’m vegan now, too.)

Extreme frugality, clothing mods edition:
My MIL, a survivor of refugee camps during WWII, cuts the tops off worn out socks and sews them onto coat and jacket sleeves to lengthen the sleeves and add a wind block. She also adds them to the bottom of pajama pants for the same reason.
And today, sorting through many bags of my recently deceased FIL’s clothes that she’s getting rid of, I came across a pair of socks that had not only been darned, but she had crocheted an edge with a “channel” in it around the top of the sock to allow for running a piece of elastic through to hold the “darned” 😉 things up.

She amazes and inspires me, and reminds me by her story of my obligation to claim the minimum share of the planet’s resources so that others’ needs can be met.


Nancy/MPLS March 24, 2017 at 3:23 pm

WOW! Now here’s 2 things I’ve never thought of.


Tina March 25, 2017 at 11:59 am

Thank you for this post mostly because I feel so guilty about trying to cut corners all the time. I feel like veryone looks better and must make a million times more than my husband and I. I know it is probably not true, but hearing other people do what we do makes me feel more normal.


Adriana @MoneyJourney March 26, 2017 at 4:37 am

I loved your post! So many people do ‘weird’ things to save money, yet so few have the guts to admit it 🙂 It’s amazing how many frugal things you can do that would be considered “shameful” by most people.

I’ve never dumpster dived, but I always look for innovative ways to save.

I also prefer vinegar and baking soda to store bought cleaning products. It’s not just about the price tag though, it’s the chemicals we inhale or shower with or even sit on 😀

Vinegar is also sort of a replacement for fabric softener and it also protects the washing machine from limescale. Learned this ‘frugal trick’ quite recently actually. It works like a charm and saves lots of money!


Michelle H. March 29, 2017 at 6:55 am

Great article, and loved reading all the tips.

I used to volunteer to clean out the refrigerator at work because I could take home all the reusable containers.


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