Four Frugal Fails

by Katy on July 2, 2023 · 57 comments

  1. I checked out a “Lucky Day” book from the library and excitedly saved it for the end of a long and productive day. I picked out a pretty bookmark and then settled in to be immediately overwhelmed by the stench of cigarette smoke. Like the book had been used as an ashtray.

    I returned it to the library, but brought it to the information desk to make sure it didn’t automatically get reshelved. I asked the librarian if they had a trick to remove cigarette odor and she said they they did, which was to put it “in the garbage.”

    I’ve had this happen maybe three times over the years, which I suppose is a small percentage of all the books I’ve checked out through the years. But still, gross. Also, a sad waste.

  2. Our free subscription to Peacock streaming TV which came with our Xfinity internet came to an end. We still have Xfinity, but this freebie is sadly over. Oh well, at least I got the most of it by sharing it with my sister and my friend Lise. I will miss The Office.

    I’d be tempted to start paying for it, but we already pay for HBO Max and Apple TV. We get Hulu, Prime Video  and Disney+ through friends and are getting a year of Netflix for free at the moment. At some point it becomes an excess of riches.

  3. I’m normally really skilled with my ability to find amazing restaurants while traveling, but we ate in the absolutely worst Middle Eastern restaurant while in Nebraska last month. It had amazing Yelp reviews, but everything was absolutely dry and flavorless. Seriously, we couldn’t come close to finishing our meals and we easily spent $75 with tip. I’m still mad about it.

  4. I bought the Lear Jet.

Now your turn. What “frugal fails” have snuck into your life lately?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

mary in maryland July 2, 2023 at 5:45 am

We once ate in a Greek restaurant in Williamsburg, VA where the food had absolutely no spices. I called the waiter’s attention to the total lack of garlic in the hummous and baba ganoush. He said that a lot of people don’t like garlic. I countered that they mostly don’t stop in Greek restaurants. Still annoyed (but very mildly) six years later.


A. Marie July 2, 2023 at 8:17 am

No garlic in “Greek” food? My late SIL (DH’s sister, who married into a Greek family and absolutely rocked the cuisine) would be rolling over in her grave.


JDinNM July 2, 2023 at 10:01 am

And I’m thinking that just maybe Nebraskans aren’t the best source of reviews for Middle Eastern cuisine. No offense to Nebraskans intended! Honest!


Katy July 2, 2023 at 10:46 am

All the other customers were of Middle Eastern heritage, which is usually a sign of an excellent foreign restaurant.

My cousin recommended a Vietnamese restaurant (Vung Tau) for having the very best bahn mi sandwiches. We ended up going three times (once to get travel day food) and their bahn mi was better than any I’d ever eaten!


Kim July 2, 2023 at 6:16 am

Have you read “The Library Book” by Susan Orleans? It’s a really fantastic book/love letter about the history of books and libraries, set around the burning of the Los Angeles Library in the 80s. After the fire, some of the books that had water and smoke damage were put into industrial freezers owned by a local company. I love your blog and Instagram, thank you for sharing with us and encouraging us to be more frugal.


Katy July 2, 2023 at 8:01 am

I did read that book absolutely loved it!


Ruby July 2, 2023 at 8:07 am

We have learned not to go to lunch at our favorite independent Tex-Mex restaurant because the less skilled cooks are on the lunch shift and the meal, while cheaper than dinner, can be definitely not worth it.

Years ago, I received a copy of American Gods by Neil Gaiman off Paperback Swap that was not readable due to overwhelming cigarette reek. I put some lightly scented dryer sheets between very thin sections of pages and moved the sheets every few days until the whole book was deodorized. Then I covered the cover with clear Contac paper so no smoke residue would transfer to my hands. It read just fine after that and had no smell at all. It was donated to the library when we finished reading it.


A. Marie July 2, 2023 at 8:19 am

Ruby, a long-since-departed bibliophile acquaintance used to swear by putting sticks of Juicy Fruit gum between pages of books to remove musty odors. It might take a lot of Juicy Fruit to get cigarette reek out, but who knows?


Kathy Sell July 2, 2023 at 12:27 pm

Would burying the book in (clean) cheap kitty litter work? I hope never to have the opportunity to try it!


Coral Clarke July 2, 2023 at 5:25 pm

My library stopped accepting donations, during the time of Covid, and haven’t started again.Other than that, here in Australia, we’re pretending Covid has gone away( despite figures to the contrary) I still mask in situations where social distancing is impossible, buses, trains etc.


Ingunn July 2, 2023 at 8:27 am

Loved the last listing! Looking forward to hearing where the Lear Jet will take you But firstly, frugal fuel alternatives…


Katy July 2, 2023 at 10:47 am

Stay tuned for fun DIY jet fuel hacks!


Kathy Sell July 2, 2023 at 12:28 pm

Would it run on recycled kitchen oil? haha


Marie-Josée July 2, 2023 at 1:13 pm

Actually, I think it would.


A. Marie July 2, 2023 at 8:32 am

I don’t have five, but here’s my latest: I asked the owner of our HVAC service company (an old colleague of DH’s) to stop by Friday to give me an idea of whether any of DH’s HVAC testing equipment would be worth anything. This stuff cost a few thousand $$ back in the day.

Sadly, the colleague confirmed my fears that, as most of it is 10+ years old, it’s mostly Antiques Roadshow material. (He said that one or two pieces might sell for a few bucks on Facebook Marketplace, but I don’t do FB, let alone the Marketplace.) So I will probably just put all this in with the donations I plan to make to our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore later this year, in case any rehabbers/tinkerers are interested. Sigh.


JC July 2, 2023 at 8:36 am

That sucks dishwater about the smokey book! I have used charcoal to get smoke smell out. Just don’t use the matchlite type. Cheap charcoal. I used trays of charcoal to get some truly nasty smells out of my free to me camper. The original owners were amazed at how well it worked.
I hate walking into stores that have had people standing outside smoking, and this is coming from someone that used to smoke!


Amy July 2, 2023 at 9:57 am

My dad was a smoker and my mom was able to get the smell out of some of her more precious books by putting them outside in the sun for a few hours. I have used activated charcoal in a sweater box to draw out the smell. But yeah it sucks to get a smelly library book.


K D July 2, 2023 at 11:09 am

Frugal Fails:

We rented an expensive beach house and were ready to go home before the rental period ended. We left a day early. Adult daughter and her significant other followed suit despite our encouraging them to stay. They also were away one night (almost 24 hours) during the stay as they drove home to take care of their many critters. The house was big enough that we could have invited friends or relatives to join us but we did not.

While at the beach we ate at a “Jewish Deli”. The food was pretty good the first time. DH had a chicken noodle soup that was to die for (loaded with large chicken chunks and vegetables). We returned another day and my bowl of chicken noodle soup contained a couple of carrot slices and one small piece of chicken amongst a large amount of broth. DD did not want any complaints made.

Last year DH bought a high-end Ryobi battery powered lawn mower despite better reviews for the EGO mowers. This year the mower quits running while in use. DH just sent an email to Ryobi, we’ll see what they say.

Yesterday we stopped at Joann’s to buy buttons to replace one missing from a blazer. I pulled up a 40% off coupon to use for the buttons. We happened upon clearance priced yarn and I bought eleven skeins despite the fact that I have a stash and I have access to yarn for charity crafting, which is 99% of what I knit/crochet. I hadn’t seen a good price on yarn in a long time and I impulse purchased.


Kym July 2, 2023 at 12:06 pm

Never mind the book, tell me about the jet. Inquiring minds and all want to know!


Katy July 2, 2023 at 12:08 pm

It’s a fixer upper, but I think I can make it shine in due time. I just need to garbage pick a jet engine.


Penny July 2, 2023 at 4:48 pm

how much Barkeepers Friend will it take to make it shine?! 😀


Lindsey July 2, 2023 at 12:31 pm

I have a failure of frugality that stares at me every single day, an extremely expensive (as in $3800) stove I bought when we moved into this home. I am loathe to admit it but I was seduced by the fact that the interior of the oven was robin’s egg blue. I can barely admit that to myself. Turns out I detest everything about the stove, from the jet plane control board that literally takes three steps to turn on a burner, to how hard it is to take out the oven racks, to the fact that the blue turned dark after a few years…I could go on and on. It was on sale and still cost $3800. I thought it was the oven of my dreams and at a sale price. And the husband thought it was not the best buy but indulged me anyway. I pray for it to break down. It even drove me to entering a contest one day because the prize was a new stove, so I could pass this one on in good conscience. My other frugal fails seem like nothing compared to this stupid stove.

It is wonderful to read a new entry from you every day. Don’t know what prompted it but glad for as long as it lasts.


Katy July 2, 2023 at 9:15 pm

I can only imagine that the stove used some kind of magic to draw you in and you had no choice in the matter.


Karen B July 2, 2023 at 2:11 pm

Mine would be UAS (Ukulele Acquisition Syndome, wanting to buy many ukuleles, a semi-joking name for it in ukulele groups). I’m generally pretty frugal, but I’ve fallen for the charms of different sounds, different woods, different sizes, and bargain used ukuleles needing new homes. At least playing ukulele is good for me. I’ve been a nail biter and picker as long as I can remember and when I started playing, my nails started growing. I actually have to trim them now. Ukulele makes me happy.

Small frugal fail. On the way home from driving practice with my teen, we stopped at Dairy Queen (ice cream store) for a treat. One Dilly Bar and one Blizzard was over $8. We did enjoy it, but I also used it for budgeting education. I’d just seen a coupon for ice cream at the grocery store for $4 per gallon. We could have imitated the Blizzard at home for a lot less.

My son bought an awful lot of sports cars over the years even though he’s still working on getting his license. He’s got quite the collection of Hot Wheels (small toy cars). I hope you find the Lear jet of your dreams in one of those free boxes! 🙂


Katy July 2, 2023 at 9:13 pm

That’s so funny! The ukelele is the only instrument I actually play.


Marty July 2, 2023 at 2:29 pm

Lol that Lear jet will be flipped for triple the price in less than a month!


Katy July 2, 2023 at 3:37 pm

Yes, I just need to garbage pick a jet engine.


One of God's July 2, 2023 at 3:24 pm

Once, when a friend loaned me a very smoky book I sprinkled a fair amount of baking soda in it between pages and sealed it in a plastic bag for a couple of weeks. When I shook it out, it was better, so I did it again. A third such treatment made it quite usable.


texasilver July 2, 2023 at 6:43 pm

My frugal failure but I loved it!
When I was 28 I bought my 1st new car. I saved for 5 years & paid cash. It was a 2 door BMW 318i. How I loved that car. I kept it for 10 years. German cars are reliable, but the service & parts are expensive. I sold the car to an individual & got another car. Four years later I got married to a mechanic. If I could have predicted the future, I could have kept my car & let the husband repair it as needed. I still miss my little beige car.


Whitney Archer July 2, 2023 at 6:47 pm

It is a shame about a smokey library book, but as a public librarian, I know the staff really appreciated you showing them before they put in a pile with others. It’s a reality every library has – and it’s part of the budget.

Tip: if you really want to discover something about your community, ask a librarian what the oddest thing they’ve ever found in a book. The answer might astound you. I think mine might be an asparagus spear as a bookmark, but I have a coworker who found cocaine! She called the cops, of course, and later the patron came back trying to subtly ask for their stuff back. LOL


Katy July 2, 2023 at 9:12 pm

I need to go ask this! I’ll report back.


BettafrmdaVille July 2, 2023 at 7:08 pm

In the last week:
1. Partner offered to go to a higher-end grocery store to pick up a specialty item that I needed. He came home with $27 worth of burrata (it was not the specialty item).
2. My carpool-mate decided to go in far earlier, so no carpool for 2 days.
3. I offered to make dinner at a friend’s house. I realized that I had to stop at the grocery to pick up 2 items that I could have brought from home.
4. Ran out of cat food (I’ve been away for 2 weeks) and had to buy it at the grocery store/for more than online order.
5. Could not convince partner that the free cheese that we had already was special enough to serve for dinner guests.


Ruth July 2, 2023 at 8:24 pm

I’m having a week off work purely because I wasn’t coping with a toxic person who has a contract toll the end of the month .
I’ve decided to have a frugal week at home, relax, go through cupboards, cook from food I already have and just relax.


Katy July 2, 2023 at 9:11 pm

That sounds like a lovely week and I applaud your decision!


Ecoteri July 4, 2023 at 9:54 pm

@ Ruth, so sorry you have had to take time off work, and I am curious about what “person who has a contract toll the end of the month” means?
I trust you will find your week restful!


Jen July 2, 2023 at 9:46 pm

Katy, I have one that will make you feel a bit better about that bad and expensive dinner. A month ago my husband wanted to watch some sport thing and he told me he was signing up for a month of Peacock streaming. I nodded and happily saw him write a note on our wall calendar to remind himself to cancel it before the month was up. Then, a couple of days ago I got an email from Comcast saying that our Peacock was ending! I totally forgot that we even had it for free with our Internet. I think it was $6 only, but I am still kicking myself for missing out on the freebie.


Debbie from Delaware July 5, 2023 at 9:37 am

Jen, Xfinity Comcast has recently announced that Peacock Premium will be offered as an Xfinity Reward if you are a platinum or diamond member. Xfinity Rewards Membership is free if you have Xfinity. Your membership level is determined by the number of years you have had Xfinity.


Hawaii Planner July 3, 2023 at 6:35 am

I always have quite a supply of fails! For example, I recently sold a pair of really nice workout pants on eBay. I found a similar listing, did the “sell one like this” to make the job of listing easier, and made adjustments for my item. Of course, forgot to change one of the fields, & had the price wrong. In the end, I paid money vs made money, due to shipping costs & refunds. So irritated with myself.

Not really my frugal fail, but unexpected work trip & long passport delays mean that I had to pay rush fees to get my passport renewed. I wasn’t expecting to need to renew before my trip with my sister, but I realized I was out of pages! Who knew? Also, all of the trips but two have been for work, so it’s definitely not as glamorous as it sounds.


Katy July 3, 2023 at 11:47 am

I am there with you on the passport fail. I sent in my passport renewal application in May and am thinking my travel to Canada might not happen. They’ve cashed my application check, but have no record of my application being processed.


Roberta July 4, 2023 at 9:07 pm

Hang in there, Katy. They’re really slow to update the processing info. My son paid the extra to expedite his passport for school, and was informed it was processed the day before it was in the mailbox.

His sister did not pay to expedite and received hers first.

And thank you for the info on the $1 tacos ending. We ate in our Air B&B that night, and we’re happy.


Anne July 3, 2023 at 6:46 am

I just love frugal fails.
I have a lot of flowers and do a lot of gardening to keep things looking nice. All of a sudden, I could not find my small clippers. My husband also searched. I use them almost everyday so this was a disaster. Husband jumped in the car, drove to a hardware store and bought new ones. The next day I found the original clippers under a paper on my mini desk in the living room. Husband refuses to take back newly purchase clippers because he tore up the wrapping.

I realize the way to avoid this kind of error is to always put things away properly, and I usually do, but I’m 74 and live where there is great heat and sometimes I am suddenly overwhelmed with heat and weariness and just set my tools down to go rest.

I’m consoling myself that it wasn’t my car I misplaced.


Katy July 3, 2023 at 11:42 am

I think it can be good to have a “backup” of important items.


mary in maryland July 3, 2023 at 7:19 am

I cleaned out the sewing area of a deceased, chain-smoking quilter. I washed the fabric before donating it but feared no one would want the books. I advertised them on Quilter’s Flea Market as free to smokers willing to pay the postage. Moved them all on within a week.


Katy July 3, 2023 at 11:40 am

That was smart to offer up the books as “free to smokers.”


susanna d July 3, 2023 at 7:22 am

My homegrown tomatoes look to be mostly a frugal fail this year. I went with mainly plants for short growing seasons with cool summers. Because historically, that’s been our climate. Hello, climate change or whatever I can blame – June was hot – way hotter than normal – and painfully dry. My cool summer plants are spindly, with very few tomatoes (last year’s plants of those varieties were filled to bursting with little fruits at this time). The silver lining is that I took a chance and bought two seedlings that were actually for a warmer climate zone. Those are doing very well, so we’ll at least have some fresh tomatoes. But the cost per tomato will definitely be higher than last year.

Another frugal fail would be the grocery store strawberries that I was once again seduced into buying. Not only were they tasteless, but one day later they were growing mold. A lot of mold. However, a nearby farm had strawberries for sale this past weekend. Three times the price of the grocery store ones, but these berries were sweet. Juicy. Actually tasted like strawberries. Definitely not frugal at that price, but also definitely worth the splurge.


Katy July 3, 2023 at 11:41 am

I am vicariously upset with your strawberries.


Ecoteri July 4, 2023 at 10:01 pm

@susanna d, not sure if you prune your tomatoes, however you might be able to get yourself a few more end-of-season plants if you plant all the prunings. I get dozens more tomatoes from this Uber-thrifty method of avoiding waste. (I do have a lot of tomatoes due to the big greenhouse). Pruning is when you take all the suckers out- they grow at the join of a leaf to the stem. if you are like me and (ahem) take a bit of time to get to the suckers, they can be 4-5 (or 8-14) inches long. just tuck them into the ground around the plants you are already watering so you keep them moist, they should root within a couple of weeks. I find them to be more vigorous than my original Tomato starts (likely due to the warmer temps when the suckers are shoved in the ground) and they produce flowers and fruit quickly.


Vickey August 13, 2023 at 4:09 pm

Cool tip, Ecoterei, thanks! Too late for us to make use of it here this year, but we’ll try to keep it in mind for next year.


Jennifer July 3, 2023 at 5:39 pm

I definitely have some frugal fails lol

1. The vacation that I so carefully packed all the food for? Well, it wouldn’t fit in my downsized car so my son brought all the food in his car. And he got there at midnight. Also, it took us so long to get the packing figured out that I didn’t have time to make the birthday cake for my other son’s girlfriend. So dinner out and birthday cake store bought = $$

2. Also, the beer and wine I had bought a little at a time did not fit. We bought a couple of cases of beer and a bottle of wine there. We are not huge drinkers but 8 people + being on vacation = $$. And now I have a lot of beer here that it will take us all summer to get through lol

3. Night before vacation my crown fell off leaving an exposed root. Emergency trip to the dentist before leaving for vacation = $$

4. We went to the Red River Gorge area and everything was fairly spread out. And we ended up on some wild goose chases to find hiking trails with very little signage. With a father that owns his own sign company, poor signage has become a pet peeve of mine. Lots of gas and time wasted = $$

A long weekend with 3 of my children and their significant others = priceless


Katy July 3, 2023 at 7:23 pm

I too am massively irked by crappy signage!


Debbie from Delaware July 3, 2023 at 9:27 pm

Katy, they have recently announced that Peacock Premium is going to be offered for free if you are diamond or platinum member of Xfinity rewards. It’s free to become a member if you have xfinity. Your membership level is determined by how many years you’ve been a customer.


Katy July 4, 2023 at 10:18 am

THANK YOU!!!! Off to go look this up!


Katy July 4, 2023 at 10:31 am

Thank you! We’ve used Xfinity (Comcast) for our internet long enough to be “Platinum” members, so we’re back to getting Peacock streaming TV for free again. Plus, it’s the commercial-free version which is a plus!


Debbie from Delaware July 4, 2023 at 9:08 pm

You’re welcome! I’m happy I could help you bring your four frugal fails down to only three!!


Cindy in the South July 4, 2023 at 12:54 pm

800 repair to air conditioner at soon to be retirement home.
“Soon” is a debatable word since it may be in a month or it is more like sky to be in ten years… lol. 4,000 dollar repair to vehicle. A rapidly climbing vet bill for a dog with a poor prognosis but it is my son’s dog. So far we are sitting at almost $800 on that also as of late yesterday. I bought my daughter, when I flew to see her, $650 with of stuff at SAMS, paid $50 to renew her card there, $550 at regular grocery, but she should be stocked up on toiletries, dishwashing and laundry supplies etc, for at least six months. It was 70 bucks to leave my car in the economy parking at the Atlanta airport.


Kristen | The Frugal Girl July 5, 2023 at 11:31 am

I hope you canceled your flights to NYC because now you can just fly in your own jet. SO FRUGAL.


Vickey August 13, 2023 at 4:23 pm

Frugal fails:

1. Somebody *ahem* didn’t close the admittedly overstuffed freezer drawer all the way late one night, and I awoke the next morning to an over-frosted freezer drawer. The appliance ran for several hours defrosting itself. Not a *huge* cost, but still irksome.

2. That full bottle of laundry detergent seems to have magically emptied itself and
I’ll wind up having to make a special trip to the store in order to be able to keep up w/washing DH’s work clothes. Which can NOT be allowed to just sit, or they’ll become stinky rag stock.

3. Missed making a phone call to a dealer before the maybe-just-right replacement for DH’s work truck sold. We’re back to haunting all the online sites hoping to find something in our price and parameters range before his current, *27 y.o. work truck* (which he bought from a relative for $1) gives up the ghost.

4. Another somebody forgot to turn off something in the camper, and now we have to replace the engine battery.

5., 6., 7., etc.: I’m sure they exist, I’ve just buried them away in my sub-conscious.


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