Five Frugal Activities

by Katy on November 11, 2011 · 19 comments

Kathy Sager, reading from her book, "Suzies' Sourdough Circus," which is based on my sister and father's love of sourdough bread.

My recent frugal activities have ranged from hanging out at home and reading library books while hanging out with my kids, (super frugal) to finding coins on the ground wherever I go. (Coin Girl to the rescue!) Here’s a little peek at five of my recent frugal activities:

  1. I went to a reading at a local children’s bookstore for Suzie’s Sourdough Circus. It was super fun, plus my father came and bought a copy of The Hunger Games for my son, which I plan on borrowing as soon as he’s finished.
  2. I’ve been motoring through DVDs of Big Bang Theory, which I borrowed from my mother. At 22 minutes, they’re the perfect length for distraction while folding and putting away laundry. (I gotta say — I ♥ Sheldon!)
  3. My husband and son are wanting to turn the one finished room in our basement into a “Man Cave.” However, it’s currently filled with musical equipment, odds and ends and storage for the local soccer club. We’re starting the process of decluttering this space to create a TV-centric destination. However, I highly doubt it will will cost us more than the cost of drywall mud and a bucket of paint. It’s fun to have a project that isn’t a financial burden. And of course, I will sell as many of the odds and ends as possible, which will actually net us a profit from the project!
  4. I was highly unmotivated for dinner last night, but was able to pull together a meal without involving the takeout gods. I used my George Foreman Grill to cook up a single frozen chicken breast, which then got cut up to go on top of a green salad. I also boiled up a box of orzo pasta, which was topped by marinara sauce gleaned from the freezer. Super easy, healthy enough and (here’s my favorite part) minimal clean up.
  5. I do not give an allowance to my kids. If they want money, they they can do something to earn it. (You know, like an adult!) And in the past week, my younger son took care of the neighbor’s cat, which earned him $20, and my older son babysat for a neighbor’s three-year-old son, which earned him $30. Because they earned the money themselves, they’re less likely to blow it on crap and frankly, it’s far more than they would have earned from an allowance.

Frugality is not the same as deprivation. We go out and do stuff, and we hang out at home and do stuff. Just like everyone else. Minus of course the first-run movies, restaurant meals, recreational shopping, expensive personal grooming and pricey home projects. We pay for a single destination membership, (the zoo) which means that when we have out of town guests, we go to the zoo. (Something Japanese people seem to really like.) We think twice about attending events that require too much driving and are perfectly happy to putter around the house.

Yup, frugal. Now, how about you, what frugal activities have you been working on?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura November 11, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’m totally with you that frugality does not equal deprivation. I could have written that last paragraph to describe our family’s similar outlook on money, spending and enjoying life.

We also do not give our girls an allowance. They babysit or take on extra duties to earn money. We do pay for their cell phones (with unlimited texting) but they each do a major chore for us each week to cover the expense.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land November 11, 2011 at 11:43 am

I think being frugal without feeling deprived is an attitude you can choose. Some feel the need to splurge, but I wait for what I consider a “free splurge,” such as getting the bench I really wanted, only I was patient enough to find it in the trash instead of at a store. If you choose to really enjoy the free and cheap things you do and find, and get away from the attitude that if it’s free or cheap it doesn’t count, then all of a sudden you realize your life is just as wonderful as the next person’s. Only, yours is probably better, because they’re broke, and you’re not.


Indigo November 11, 2011 at 11:53 am

A stone’s throw from my house is a huge mowed open space speckled with groves of trees and a little pond. I take my dogs over there daily, bring a snack sometimes, and enjoy the gently tamed outdoors there.

The closest I get to recreational shipping is the local scrap exchange where you can find the oddest things on the cheap. I pop in whenever I’m near it since you never know what they will have in stock from buckets of milk glass shards for mosaics to old comics, vintage fabrics, and palletes of table legs. It keeps things from winding up in the dump and for just a few dollars you can fill up a huge bag of project materials.


Laura's Last Ditch--Adventures in Thrift Land November 11, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Wow! I think I’d really like that shopping opportunity! Sounds fun.


Lily November 11, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Read 2 borrowed novels, rewatched one of my fave movies, walked in the park, plaid Jenga with friends, surfed real estate sites to see pics of nice houses in my town… Yeah, I love that. 😀
And decluttered! I love decluttering.


Sara Tetreault November 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Your list is excellent and I agree with all except the allowance for kids. I pay my kids a monthly allowance but they’re learning the difference between wants and needs at very early ages. We don’t pay for gifts, clothing, treats, and fees under $10. Kids pay for it all. (To clarify, I do buy shoes when needed but only a certain agreed upon amount. If a child would like a more expensive shoe, they pay the difference.) Our kids also donate money every week at church. Learning to budget, save, buy used clothing, give to those in need, and say no to things you can’t afford are important life lessons. And, yes, they earn the money at home with regular weekly chores but kids need to learn to cook, clean, and do laundry as well.


Rebecca B. A. R. November 12, 2011 at 10:54 am

This is a lot how my brother and I were brought up with an allowance. From age 10 we were given $10 a week. We also had to save 10% and give 10% back to God. The only time our parents bought something extra for us was at Christmas (only $100 spent), Birthday (only $50 spent), new school clothes (only $100 spent), one pair of nice shoes a year, and one music lesson a week. Everything else we had to buy ourselves. It taught us saving, giving back and how to budget. How I look at it is, parents spend money on their kids for clothing, shoes, activities, etc., anyway, but this made us learn how to budget that money, not our parents.


Robin November 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm

Let’s see…
1. Made Thanksgiving a potluck this year
2. Eating out of the freezer and saving grocery money for buying organic, free-range turkeys for Thanksgiving
3. Going to make my friends frozen quiche for their holiday gifts
4. Been having a lot of play dates for my son at the park. Not necessarily frugal but it didn’t cost me anything 😉
5. I’m baking goodies for various get together rather than buying something at the store
6. I’m going to make my mil’s birthday cake rather than pay $31 for an 8″ one from the bakery. $31! That felt like a ripoff.


JustAddCloth November 11, 2011 at 3:58 pm


I made dinner from scratch every day. We skipped grocery shopping and worked our way through the fridge.

I made a batch of soap and will do another batch this weekend. I plan on handing them out as Christmas gifts.

I used our leftover chicken carcass to make stock in the crockpot overnight. The stock made a great stew!

I made dishwasher detergent and used the same ingredients to wash my cloth diapers!

No car during the day so my errand running doubles as exercise. Haha.


Practical Parsimony November 11, 2011 at 4:31 pm

Today, I was a secret shopper at a fast food place that isnew to our area. I ate free and will get paid $7.
Brought in free produce:
5 pumpkins
6 lbs potatoes
30 bananas
2 loaves wheat bread
1 package of 9 Nooks and Crannies, cinnamon and raisin
1 bag sandwich rounds
4 salads in bag
3 Ensure–chocolate!!

I helped a young man to finish his university degree by showing him the ropes, finding the way to get financial help.

Washed pants and blouses and hung them in the doorway.

Fed my three hens without buying food–eggshells, tuna, whole wheat bagel, oats, salad greens, corn, banana, apple cores, pumpkin skin with plenty of the pulp left on for them. Plus, they had about 6 hours of free ranging. I know I fed them more. However, the get no commercial feed and none of the food is paid for.

Now, I am not going to pay a maid to unload and load the dishwasher or clean the bathroom sink. I will wash a load of clothes for the clothesline tomorrow. I don’t pay a cook, either. Three boneless, skinless chicken breasts and nine sweet potatoes are going into the oven for the next few days’ meals. Tomorrow, the apples will be dehydrated or made into pie mix and frozen, maybe some of both.

Ooops, forgot:
All 30 of the bananas will be sliced and go into the dehydrator tonight. Eighteen bananas makes two quarts of dried banana chips. Two cans of pineapple will go into the dehydrator. I am working on a healthy snack mix that I will give to grandchildren at Christmas. I don’t have a fresh pineapple and probably could not cut it!

Tomorrow: pick up shoes from cobbler instead of buying new shoes, freeze all the pumpkins I have baked–four pumpkins.

Someone please tie me down and remind me I have fibromyalgia and three surgeries ahead of me.


Jenni November 11, 2011 at 10:16 pm

1) Cooked from scratch this week.
2) Preserved pumpkins that I grew organically this year. Homemade pumpkin pie will take on a new meaning this year at Thanksgiving.
3) Went to the zoo today for free, got a membership for a Christmas gift last year.
4) Cut most of my herbs around the yard so I can dry them and package up for Christmas gifts. Thyme, Tarragon, Oregano and Rosemary.
5) Sorted the kids’ too small clothing to be stored, then sold at next year’s Pass it On sales.

I appreciate your words about frugality not being about deprivation. Well said.


Shelley November 12, 2011 at 12:33 am

I am lucky enough to live a five minute walk from the North Sea, the Tyne River and a 17-acre park, not to mention a 12th century castle and loads of Victorian and older houses. I walk around looking at all this a lot, which of course if free. We have a vegetable garden; eat meals from scratch; buy clothes at thrift shops; run, walk or cycle for exercise. My husband being over 60 has a bus/metro pass for only £24 a year and so what veg our garden doesn’t provide (the North of England doesn’t support tomatoes and such) he goes into town to the green market to buy. Staying home most of the time is what saves us the most and we like puttering around and taking care of our home. I retired at 51 with this in mind. What we do save by staying at home, we spend on travel with our new-to-us (bought with cash) motorhome, though we’ve just put it away for winter.


Liz November 12, 2011 at 4:28 am

I have started switching the accessories around the house instead of going out into the retail world and buying others. It gives a fresh look to the house and I have not spent any additional money.

Also started decluttering the living areas of the house to make way for a few holiday decorations. Am gathering ingredients for holiday baking, hunting sales for them. I give out baked goods to some of my friends, and they appreciate that more than just one other trinket from the store.


Claudia November 12, 2011 at 7:33 am

I love decluttering! I do it slowly while listening to music I really enjoy or watching something trashy on TV that doesn’t take my full attention. I feel productive and relaxed at the same time.

I used to feel a need to plan constant activities for my young kids, but they’ve taught me by example just to head outside and see where the day takes you. We take a lot of walks now, stopping to look at caterpillars, gather leaves, watch dogs on walks, check out Halloween decorations, and see what freebies people have put on the curb.

My favorite frugal activities these days, though, are napping and yoga. I have very little time to myself, and napping in the middle of the day feels so deliciously decadent. Yoga (done by popping in a DVD at home) really helps me focus and reconnect with myself. Way better than fighting the crowds at a store, like I used to, for “retail therapy.”


Lynne November 12, 2011 at 7:40 am

After a tiring and tough week, I thought all day about taking my kids out for dinner or ice cream as a treat (my husband was out of town, so it was just the 3 of us). But when I asked them what they wanted to do for dinner, my daughter asked if I could make her favorite pasta dish. After rummaging through the fridge I found I had all the ingredients, plus enough odds and ends to make ice cream sundaes for dessert. We had a nice, relaxing dinner without leaving the house, plus I enjoyed a glass of Trader Joe’s 3 Wishes wine with mine, which is a recent frugal find I LOVE (clearly I’m not a wine snob if a bottle of $3 wine makes me happy 🙂 Afterwards we piled into my bed and rewatched a Harry Potter DVD my in-laws gave them for Christmas last year. Didn’t spend a penny and had a relaxing evening.


Jenzer November 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Thank you for the inspiration, Katy. I, too, am feeling unmotivated to cook dinner this evening, but reading your post inspired me to go root around in my freezer for something simple but effective. We’ll be having cheesy bread and green beans for dinner; for dessert, brownies made with clearance-shelf organic mix and a handful of need-to-use-them-up chocolate chips. With just two kids and no DH home this evening, it works — much better than $30 of restaurant meals for three people who don’t eat much.


pmhaas November 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm

The post from Robin about making a scratch birthday cake inspired me to share a tip…I have a tool from the craft store that helps make my cakes look very professional. It is a wire cake cutter that helps to shave off that lump of cake that rises up out of the middle during baking. After the baked layers are cool, I remove them from the pans, shave off the excess with this wire tool and frost as usual.The cakes always look better and more professional since they are actually flat!!! (This tool is made by Wilton.)


Mamie November 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm

1. Went to the local library to get new reading material for the next couple weeks.

2. Made homemade cookies using bulk ingredients and eggs from the neighbor’s chickens (which were free).

3. Washed laundry and hung a good portion of it to dry on indoor clotheslines.

4. Made homemade dinner rolls and froze them for Thanksgiving – much less expensive and far tastier than commercial bread rolls.

5. Stayed in and entertained ourselves with DVR’d programs, library books, etc. instead of going out.

Frugal is fun!


Cheapchick November 13, 2011 at 6:52 pm

Possibly the most frugal thing I have ever done was accomplished this week: purchasing a downsized house by over half where I truly want to live – actually thought about the space in terms of zero wasted space in a home rather than just looking at the shiny bells and whistles of home shopping. Going from over 3500 sq ft of living space to 1723! Our current home is paid for, the equity between our old home and new home will allow us to buy a rental property so we can work less!

Also this week – purchased gigantic piece of pork loin for $18 on sale and spent a half an hour cutting up porkchops for the freezer – 7 meals for two for $18 worth of meat (yes we are meat eaters). Also lugged home 20 lbs of potatoes as they were on sale rock bottom. Cooking from scratch saves money!

Had frozen pizza bought on sale for $3 rather than going out to dinner Friday night when there was little energy to cook. We add extra cheese and onions to vamp it up a little.

Wore all my clothes except underwear and socks twice every day this week (we were on holidays so no workmates to judge the repetitive wardrobe choices)


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