Frugal Hacks Through The Years

by Katy on July 5, 2024 · 138 comments

I’ve been working the art (and science) of extreme frugality since 1998, when my youngest was born and I realized I needed to pull it together financially. It’s been an interesting 26 years, as many of the frugal hacks I used to employ have gone the way of the dodo bird. Luckily, new money saving methods do pop up with regularity. It mostly balances itself out, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a bummer when things change for the worse.

This lesson hit home last Monday when my husband and I drove over to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden for a picnic lunch. Mondays have been “pay what you will” for a number of years and Tuesdays used to be free. This I remember clearly as I’d often bring my kids there on Tuesdays when they were little and we were dead broke.

My husband and I walked up to the entry booth and were succinctly informed that Mondays were now full price admission at $8.95 apiece, (unless you qualify for their Community Access Program.) I sighed and said “I miss when it was free.” The volunteer lowered her voice, looked me straight in the eye and said “it was never free.” There was no point in responding to this misinformation, so my husband and I crossed the street to Reed College and found a lesser shady spot to enjoy our food.

This led to me ruminating on some of the frugal things that we used to do, most of which is in the rear view mirror.

For example:

• The Oregonian newspaper marked their 150th year of publication in the summer of 2000 by publishing a special coupon every Thursday, one of which was for a free Oaks Amusement Park ride bracelet. Oddly, the expiration date wasn’t until Labor Day of that year. I drove to Fred Meyer that morning and bought a huge stack of newspapers and clipped these precious coupons! We spent that summer enjoying the amusement park, which should’ve been out of our price range, as the ride bracelets were normally around $12 apiece.

• We live walking distance to an iconic Portland movie theater, operating since 1927. They used to exclusively play second run movies, which were priced at $3/adult and $1/youth. They’d also screen 3 P.M. kid’s movies on the weekends, which meant my husband or I could walk the kids to the movies and spent just $5. Sadly they refurbished the theater and now play first run movies at standard pricing. ($11.50/adult, $8.50 youth) I miss $3 movies.

• The Franz Bakery Outlet offers a frequent buyer punch card and they’d do double punches on Tuesdays, so of course that’s when I did my bread shopping.. They got a new manager a couple years ago and he put a stop to double punches.

• Krispy Kreme gave away glazed donuts with a Covid-19 vaccination card for the entirety of 2021. This was fun as the two Portland area locations are both located next to Goodwills.

• Portland has some great outdoor public pools. (Although a couple pools have since closed, which is a shame.) A summer pass was a significant expenditure for us at the time, so I’d always wait until July 1st to buy a prorated pass as the cost was significantly less. Until then we’d just attend the once a week free sessions or the $1 Tuesday sessions. I believe this frugal hack still works.

• The Multnomah County Library system used to have a small branch that sold “retired” library books. It was called “Title Wave” and it was magnificent as the books were priced at just a couple bucks apiece. (Magazines were 10¢ – 25¢!) It was located in an historic Carnegie library with antique oak detailing, which made the experience extra special. They switched it back to a neighborhood branch a couple years ago.

• We didn’t have cable TV when the kids were young, (and streaming services certainly didn’t exist.) Instead we’d rent movies from the library, making sure to keep a number on hold at all times, so we’d always have something to watch when the mood struck. We watched so many amazing movies and television shows this way and never once felt deprived. This frugal hack definitely still works!

 

Luckily, the internet makes it possible to search for new frugal things, which was certainly not the case in 1998. For every one thing that goes away, two things seem to take its place. I welcome the addition of Buy Nothing groups, free streaming services, digital coupons and so on, but that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the old ways. I guess that’s just the nature of the beast, as the only constant is change.

Have you noticed that the frugal hacks you used to rely on are no longer so  . . . reliable? Please share your thoughts and own personal hacks (both old and new) in the comments section below!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.

P.S. I miss the glorious few months when IKEA had a free café latte machine.

{ 138 comments… read them below or add one }

Janice July 5, 2024 at 5:09 am

Have you see the site Raise.com? You can buy gift cards from all kinds of companies at a discount. The discount amount varies, depending on how much money the person selling the card wants to recoup, but it can be a great source of an instant discount!
hugs,
Janice

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 5, 2024 at 5:51 am

Sam’s Club also sells gift cards at discounts. I used to have a card courtesy of a relative’s business account, and I got discount cards to Luby’s Cafeteria this way. I think I got 20% off, or maybe it was just 10%, but having a hot meal at a bargain price was a pretty good deal. Sadly, the relative, his business and Luby’s are all gone now.

Reply

K D July 5, 2024 at 9:40 am

Costco also sells gift cards at a discount. Some restaurant cards are 25% off or more. Southwest Airlines are 10% off.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:02 pm

My husband and I bought discounted “Instacart” gift cards for my late father-in-law from Costco.

Reply

Juhli July 5, 2024 at 5:19 am

Our library system offers passes to many cultural and outdoor venues that can be checked out. It makes it less spontaneous but perhaps yours does as well?

I agree that our frugal hacks have had to change over the year’s but there are still so many available as you show so well in your posts!

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 5, 2024 at 5:45 am

When I was a “woman of childbearing age” years ago, living in a ramshackle garage apartment and making very little pay on my very first job, I had to cut corners every way I could.

Once, a tampon company advertised that if you’d send them proof of purchase from whatever feminine protection product you currently used, they’d send you a free box of their product. Limit one per name or address, of course.

I got out my boxes of mini-pads, tampons, maxi-pads, you name it, cut those boxes up and sent them in. (Meanwhile, I had to store my feminine products in shoe boxes!)

To get around the one per name/address limit, I sent for one sample using my first name, and another using my middle name, and another using my initials and different spelling variations of my name and I also changed up the address so that one would come to, let us say, 123 Main, another to 123 Main St. and yet another to 123 Main Ave.; back then, they didn’t have computerized address databases.

My grandmothers, aunts, mother, dad at his business address (we feminized his name, LOL) and elderly neighbor agreed to help. So all of them got sample boxes of tampons, which they passed on to me with great merriment.

All in all, I think I ended up with almost a year’s supply. The joke was on me bc the product wasn’t all that good, but at least I had free tampons for my lower-flow days. ROTFL!

Now that I’ve gone through menopause, I walk past the feminine protection section of the store with a great big smile on my face. When I stopped having periods, I felt like I got my life back! Not to mention, it’s more frugal not to have to buy certain products every month…

Another frugal hack of days gone by: items contained in products. It wasn’t just the toy in the Cracker Jacks box, either. For example, they used to put glassware or towels in boxes of detergent. Every time you bought Brand X powdered laundry detergent, you either got a drinking glass with one brand or a bathroom towel with a rival brand. Different size boxes got you different size premiums: ie, the giant size was the bath towel; medium size got you a hand towel; the smallest size, the wash cloth.

From time to time, the grocery store would also do this with dishes, cutlery, encyclopedias and more: each week if you bought X amount of groceries you could buy (or be given) another piece to the set or another volume of Funk and Wagnall’s (I think it was) Encyclopedia. Mom got a set of “silverware” that had brown plastic handles from the Piggly-Wiggly this way. The kid down the street’s family collected the encyclopedia set; even though it was some obscure brand of encyclopedias, they still paid less than they would have paid for World Book!

Gasoline stations used to give out free roadmaps and everyone chose their gas station, grocery store and even department stores based on which trading stamp the business gave its customers. My mom preferred Green Stamps so we shopped accordingly. Many a Christmas gift came from the Green Stamp catalog.

Oh, and when we were little kids, every summer we made our daddies go buy Sinclair Gasoline so they could get enough points to buy us an inflatable Sinclair dinosaur swimming pool toy. Those things were almost as big as we were!

Reply

Barbara July 5, 2024 at 8:12 am

I remember that Dino the dinosaur inflatable toy! What fun we had with that at the lake! Until it floated too far away and we had to go into the “squishy” part of the lake to retrieve it.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 5, 2024 at 1:14 pm

The first year, Dino was a T-rex. I loved mine! Sadly, I went swimming at a neighbor girl’s house after they put up a Doughboy pool. They located it in a sunny part of their back yard right by her mom’s climbing rose trellis. One day the wind caught my Dino, slammed him into the roses and pffft! He got stuck by the thorns and (despite my dad’s trying to patch him up) that was pretty much the end of that.

Reply

A. Marie July 5, 2024 at 11:40 am

Thanks to Fru-gal Lisa for a walk down memory lane. I remember Dino the Dinosaur, as well as all the laundry detergent, grocery store, and gas station freebies. I’m still using steak knives with faux-Bakelite handles that my mother and grandmother got at their grocery stores.

And speaking of my grandmother, here’s my funniest story along these lines: When Mom and I were cleaning out Moma’s place, I found a solid brass Schlitz bottle opener in the “miscellaneous utensils” drawer. I did an eyeroll at Mom: “So what was my teetotaling Presbyterian grandmother doing with this?” She did an eyeroll back: “She got it for free at the gas station.” I still have the bottle opener.

And I’m also with Lisa re: the financial and other benefits of menopause. When I officially hit M-Day, I was so elated I considered handing out cigars!

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:59 pm

I think those cigars are a great business idea!

Reply

Selena July 5, 2024 at 7:06 pm

Except M-Day actually sucks the big one. Sad to say it there were too many post M-Days before my area got a doctor who was not anti-HRT.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 8:44 am

I made up my mind that mine was going to be a “mini-pause.” Luckily, I read that soy milk is a good remedy for hot flashes since it is a plant-based estrogen receptor. Back in the day, the stores had chocolate-flavored soy milk, which tasted just like the chocolate milk we used to get at the school cafeteria. I drank tons of both, at different times of my life! And the chocolate soy “milk” was a sure-fire cure for hot flashes: If I ran out of chocolate soy and didn’t go get some more ASAP, on the third day of not drinking it, those hot flashes would be back. Eventually, they went away for good. However, this summer’s bad heat brought on some more hot flashes after many years, and I can’t find the chocolate soy anywhere. So I’m glugging down plenty of original flavored soy milk from Aldi; it works just as well.

Lindsey July 5, 2024 at 3:48 pm

My grandma had an ashtray with some product logo on it; she had obviously gotten it for free. She did not smoke and did not allow smoking in the house. I asked her why she kept it and she said someday someone might stop by who was so important that she could not ask them to refrain from smoking. And who is that, I asked. “The President,” was her answer. This from a woman who could not speak English, who lived in the top floor of a three-story tenement apartment in Waterbury, Connecticut, wanting to make sure she had an ashtray if the President stopped by to visit. So I guess if he came by my grandmother’s house, he could smoke and if he stopped by to see your grandmother, she could pop open a beer for him.

Reply

Marilyn July 5, 2024 at 7:53 pm

Years ago, my mother had a savings account at a bank which gave away a set of dishes (dinner plate, salad plate, cup and saucer) every time you deposited $25 or more. The result was that eventually we had lots of free dinnerware for the whole family and then some. I still have a few pieces of the savings bank place settings.

Reply

Denise July 6, 2024 at 1:15 am

Oh, Lisa

Keep doing the Kegel exercises (or get started) or else you’ll be back down the “feminine products” aisle looking for the leaky bladder pads….

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 8:46 am

Nah, the Oxybutinin Rx pills work great for that, plus it’s a free medication on my Medicare Advantage plan. (3 cheers for Humana! And my lady doctor who listens and helps!)

Reply

Marie July 7, 2024 at 5:44 pm

Yes 100% right. Had surgery last fall for that!
Kegels are important at an age!

Reply

Dee in AZ July 6, 2024 at 6:53 am

When I was in grade school, we used to take driving vacations, usually camping in a tent, making our own meals, and if we were gone long enough, stopping at a laundromat so Mom could do laundry. Poor Mom, what a vacation!
Years later, my dad gave me a box of china, plain white with either a gold or silver stripe on the rims of the dishes. I asked him why the box said “Standard Oil China” and he told me that on those trips, we bought gas at Standard Oil whenever possible to get free pieces of china from them! I didn’t remember that and now I wonder how they packed it into the station wagon full of kids, camping gear and a dog to keep it from breaking.

Reply

MW July 5, 2024 at 6:44 am

Title Wave is gone (RIP), but Multnomah County Library has opened Rose City Reads on 122nd between Glisan & Burnside. No word if the $5 bag of books will return, but my kids were pleased at how far their allowances went during their first trip with their Dad.

Reply

Christine July 5, 2024 at 6:58 am

The cheap-o movie theater in our county closed a couple of months ago. It sadly just never recovered after the pandemic. It was all second run movies but who cares? As a frugalist, I don’t have to see a movie the second it hits the screens. I miss it.
I don’t miss making a special trip to the bank to fill out a slip to have money transferred from one account to another. Online banking has been a real plus for us.
I also enjoy the freedom of selling things on FB Marketplace instead of having to have a yearly yard sale, although every four or five years I’ll gather up enough stuff to pull one together.

Reply

Bee July 6, 2024 at 4:26 am

Our movie theatre closed during the Great Recession. When my kids were small, they showed kids movies every Wednesday morning in the summertime. It was $1 to get in and $1 for popcorn and a drink.

Reply

Heidi Louise July 5, 2024 at 7:11 am

Especially when my son was little, I ordered a number of items with UPC codes and proof of purchases and sometimes additional cash. I don’t see such offers much now. Maybe they are no longer profitable for advertising, or have moved online where I don’t see them? Or it might be that I used to find them in the coupon inserts in the Sunday papers, which are now just about non-existent. I miss clipping and making my shopping list from those, though I think my grocery’s online coupons pretty much match and even go beyond what those coupons used to be.

It has been quite a while since the regional grocery chain had a dishes offer, giving coupons with purchases to save up to buy pieces. The area college in a poorer community collected coupons for the people who use their food bank. I am happy with my yard sale mis-matched dishes, and sent my coupons to their ministry. Having new matching dishes would be a point of pride for some people.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:08 pm

Did you know that Fiestaware used to come for free in laundry detergent?

Reply

Heidi Louise July 5, 2024 at 2:33 pm

I did not! Not knowing what color the pieces would be could add to the fun of collecting.

I remember tall gold glasses with purchase from either Super America or Phillips 66, and if you got enough of them, you could get the pitcher as well.

Reply

maeve July 6, 2024 at 8:15 am

I think you’re thinking of Lu-Ray. Fiesta didn’t come for free.

Reply

Katy July 6, 2024 at 9:43 am

It did, but was a long time ago, maybe the 1930’s.

Reply

maeve July 6, 2024 at 10:28 am

Fiesta was always expensive and it was never given away as a premium in detergent or dish night at the movies or anything else.

Christine July 6, 2024 at 11:10 am

I have heard of Fiestaware being given away s a promotional, too. It wasn’t the hot ticket item it is now, back in the day. Still nice to get a freebie dish or cup now and then though.

Mary K July 7, 2024 at 8:02 am

I looked that up. It was given away in boxes of Quaker Oats.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 8:50 am

Oh, darn! I must’ve been a little kid then. I LOVE Fiestaware but don’t have any.

Reply

Ruby July 5, 2024 at 7:40 am

Our hometown veterinarian offered a multi-pet discount on office visits. I used to load up the car with the dogs and the cat carriers and take them all in at the same time for their annual check up and vaccines. It was a bit hard on my nerves, but knocking 10% per critter off the bill was worth it.

Our current veterinarian does a 10% discount for senior citizens, which does help.

Pizza Hut used to sponsor a summer reading club for children and my son earned a lot of free personal pizzas that way.

Reply

A. Marie July 5, 2024 at 12:10 pm

Ruby, as a former resident of your current hometown, I remember when the very first Pizza Hut in the area opened near Eastgate in 1970 or so. Before that, the ONLY “Italian” restaurant was a dive just east of the Ridge, where (so rumor had it) they served Chef Boyardee Pizza straight out of the box.

Reply

Ruby July 5, 2024 at 1:26 pm

The legend still lives on about that dive! There’s still a Pizza Hut on Brainerd, in the same block with a Radio Shack that hung on until just a few years ago. Which reminds me: did anyone here do the free battery from Radio Shack?

Reply

Liz B. July 5, 2024 at 3:32 pm

Ruby, yes! I used to get the free battery from Radio Shack all the time.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:07 pm

That must have been a hilarious car trip!

Reply

Ruby July 5, 2024 at 2:52 pm

For the few years that we had three dogs and three cats, it was something else! One of the cats we adopted when he was 10 years old and he weighed 22 very muscular pounds. He had a number of ear-shattering comments to make about being forced to ride with dogs, but he was always a good boy for the vet.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 6:11 pm

Cats are certainly verbal while in transit!

Reply

A. Marie July 6, 2024 at 9:22 am

MRRRROWWW!!!

Christine July 6, 2024 at 11:12 am

Especially on the way to the vet. It’s almost as if they know where they’re going and want to protest!

Marybeth from NY July 5, 2024 at 7:52 am

We have a local park/ecology site with a nice playground and walking/bike track. We would go twice a week when the kids were little. They would watch the animals, play with other kids, ride bakes, get a walk in and do a picnic lunch. About 8 years ago they started charging to park. But you can’t walk or bike in. They won’t allow it. We tried when they first switched.

1.Some frugal things we do know. We park on a side street and bike into our local state park avoiding the $10 parking fee.
2.We get certain museum passes from our library for free. I just booked 2 to take my little cousins in August.
3. Hubby and I go to music in the park. They have bands come play. We bring chairs, drinks and snacks. Sometimes friends come sometimes we go alone.
4. Hubby goes to lots of free car shows/meet and greets. I tag along sometimes.
5. My daughter and I like to wander farmer’s markets. There is no charge to get in . Sometimes we buy stuff sometimes we don’t.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 5, 2024 at 1:26 pm

Marybeth,
When I was a real little kid, my schoolteacher mom was required to attend local Friday night football games. The school stadium had tall chain link fences around it. Neighborhood kids would ride their bikes to the game and stand at the fences behind the end zones. They could view the action but not have to pay admission. We saw them every week.
By the time I got up to high school age, the school district had ended this practice. They put great big tarps on the fences so that the boys couldn’t see the game from outside. I thought that was rather mean, since a lot of these kids lived in poverty and didn’t have a lot of fun things they could do. It not only blocked the view, but also any breeze that would blow from that direction on a hot September evening.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:51 pm

That does seem cruel. Plus the amount of money they spent to fix the issue probably outweighed how much they were losing in ticket sales.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 8:51 am

Yep.

Reply

Marybeth from NY July 5, 2024 at 4:52 pm

That is so mean. Our football games are free to everyone as is all other sports events.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:06 pm

Our library’s cultural passes are too hard to get. They release them on the first of the month and I haven’t been able to get one for at least a couple of years.

Reply

Marybeth from NY July 5, 2024 at 4:53 pm

That stinks.

Reply

Cindy in the South July 5, 2024 at 8:10 am

Precovid, I flew from Atlanta to Salt Lake City, round trip for $250, and always for under $300. My last trip post Covid was four times that. Sigh.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:05 pm

I remember that Continental Airlines had $79 round trip tickets within the continental U.S. for students.

Reply

A. Marie July 5, 2024 at 3:14 pm

Back in the 80s, the late great People Express (which eventually merged with Continental) used to run incredibly cheap flights between NY (Newark) and London (Gatwick). That was how DH and I took many trips to London in those days.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 6:12 pm

Oh yeah, that rings a bell!

Reply

Bee July 6, 2024 at 3:49 am

Between 2011-2015, both my sons lived in California. I would fly on southwest from Florida for $109 each way or $218 round trip. I went to see them frequently because I could. DH and I heading out to visit in a few week tickets were $687 round trip.

Reply

Bettypants July 5, 2024 at 8:10 am

There was a local non-profit (all donations) resale store that had cheap prices, and I would routinely find great stuff there. Store management changed a couple years ago and now they list their best stuff online, and store prices are much higher.

Within the last couple years, our McDonalds had rotating specials by days of the week physically posted in store that included vanilla cones for $0.49 on Saturdays. Now a cone is $2.19.

Qdoba used to frequently send out buy one get free entree coupons, and a free entree for your birthday. Now it’s free chips & cheese for birthdays. Their rewards program changed too, so points build worse.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:04 pm

The closest McDonald’s had 99¢ Happy Meals the summer before I gave birth to my daughter. I joke that “I made her out of Happy Meals.” Small burger, fries and a milk; plus a small stuffed animal was exactly what I needed.

Reply

Marybeth from NY July 5, 2024 at 4:59 pm

When my oldest was little we would walk to McDonalds(hubby had our one car) and get cheeseburgers(49¢ each) on Tuesdays. It was our big splurge for the week. One time walking I found $100 bill. She looks at me and goes “Can I please get a Happy meal?” I let her get it that one time. Hubby was working 3 jobs at that point and I worked part time. My mom watched her for me when I worked. Things were tight. She was 4 and still remembers it. She would play in the play area for hours.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 6:14 pm

I once took my kids up to Mt. Hood and stopped at a McDonald’s with a “Play Place” on the way home. When asked their favorite part of the trip, they both answered “McDonald’s.”

Reply

Bettypants July 6, 2024 at 4:20 am

My son was around 4 when he stayed with my parents for a weekend and when he got back to our house, he kept talking about “the restaurant” they ate at, and how he wanted to go back. We were running errands several days later and he suddenly screeched “The restaurant! There it is!” Golden arches.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 8:59 am

Friend of mine was a newspaper reporter. His town had a McDonalds and a Wendy’s next door to each other. He was assigned to cover Dave Thomas, the Wendy’s CEO, visiting that restaurant for a press conference, ribbon cutting, or some such publicity event. It was going to be a big to-do. So the reporter brought his wife and kids along. During the proceedings, their little girl (about 3 or 4 y.o. at the time) looked out the window and yelled, “Let’s go to McDonald’s and play there! I want a Happy Meal!” Of course, Mr. Thomas and everyone else in Wendy’s heard her. My friends were sooooo embarrassed!

Reply

Katy July 6, 2024 at 9:40 am

That is such a great story!

Anne July 8, 2024 at 7:21 pm

That reminds me of a story that I heard decades ago. A grandmother that I knew spent big bucks to take her granddaughter to “Disney On Ice.” After they got home, all the kid could talk about was the Slurpee she had gotten afterwards from 7-11.

Reply

Sandra July 5, 2024 at 8:40 am

I agree with others about the local libraries being one of the best sources for free entertainment. My local offers free concerts and lectures throughout the year. Always good, always free. They have public spaces that they make available for nonprofits such as my herb club, my book club, and my movie group. They offer children’s programs, too, such as musicians, movies for kids, art projects, and other live performers. There are also free books, magazines, and puzzles.

I also have a great community center that provides a wealth of classes either free or low cost. It happens to be adjacent to a lovely park which provides so many possibilities for all ages. Both are well used and such an asset to our community. Two hugely successful annual events are Arts in the Park which showcases artists from all over our area, the other is a Labor Day weekend music festival that has multiple stages set up for a variety of musicians. There is no charge for either of these events.

Our community college offers free musical programs in the Spring and the Fall. They are recitals at the end of semester for the band, the orchestra, and the jazz group, each have their own evening performance and they are a real treat. Likewise the choir and choral groups have seperate performances. I try to go to all of them and I always bring friends.

Check your local community websites to find out what’s available. You may be missing out on a lot of free or low cost entertainment.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:03 pm

Colleges offer lots of free performances, which can be professional level.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 9:01 am

So can high schools. Ours did the opera Les Miserables (high school version) recently and I treated my pals, retired professional opera singers, to a performance. They were favorably impressed!

Reply

K D July 5, 2024 at 9:43 am

Our suburb had free outdoor concerts every Sunday evening all summer. They had donation buckets but there was little pressure. Eventually they added concerts on Saturday evenings as well. We attended many over they years though after the pandemic the music did not seem to be as good and it was too loud so we have not attended any the past two years.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:01 pm

That sounds like a nice way to end the weekend.

Reply

Ashley Bananas July 5, 2024 at 10:30 am

During the Extreme Couponing show days I started getting into couponing and did really well at it. Most of the coupons were from news paper inserts. I would go shopping for inserts in recycling bins on Monday and Tuesday and collect neighbors inserts they had thrown out for free. It was easy as I lived in an apartment complex at the time and the recycling bins were all together. It allowed me to collect a great deal of coupons and then get a great deal of rock bottom price deals with those coupons. In the last several years a lot of stores have started having online only coupons and coupon inserts have grown thin. Proctor and Gamble stopped printing their monthly coupon inserts. There are many many rebate apps and online rebates available now that weren’t before. I can’t zero out and make overage like I used to, but I still try and find those matchups that help my budget.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:00 pm

I do scroll through Safeway’s e-coupons before I shop as they often have loss leaders.

Reply

Ecoteri July 5, 2024 at 11:46 am

Our local town offers a festival they call “39 Days of July” that runs from the holiday weekend at the beginning of July (usually June 30 or so) until after the August Long weekend. They offer music in a shady/sunny park with seating and a covered tented stage, from 11 AM until 8PM, and many days they ALSO offer music in the town square from 7:30 until 10 or so. The music is all kinds of things, some of our local regular favourites, some up and coming artists, a number of artists who are travelling through for the various music festivals in the area and who are willing to put in an hour on one or another stage. I think very few of the artists are paid save for some of the evening artists, local businesses sponsor the stages and advertise in the free program that is full of info about the shows and artists. The local downtown business improvement association throws in money, as does the small town. They pass a donation hat and although don’t pressure they ARE clear that they rely on donations to make sure the show goes on.
I am often too busy to get to many of the shows, however I love that my town does this!
The littler community close to where I live offers free (donations appreciated) Thursday night music in the park, it is a joyous celebratory time, good danceable music, usually a food truck of some kind, often a ‘side event’ like kids creation days – although they have a bunch of kid friendly activities every week. Again, put on by a local group of keen volunteers who want to see the arts flourish.
We have a lot of river walks, lakes and ocean beaches that (almost everywhere) have free parking. World class mountain biking trails if that’s your jam (maintained in part by volunteer groups).
A weekly downtown farmers market is entertainment all by itself, and they always have music on the stage (same city square stage as 39 days of July – everyone works together).
We have a pride day/parade/booths in city square, Canada Day ditto, the city has a special celebration day that includes closed streets full of free activities for kids (climbing wall, bouncy castle, bowling, etc etc) and inexpensive foods.
Our library, too, has a room available for non-profit groups to use for free, and they have a whole schwack of arts and crafts and educational offerings on an on-going basis, as well as one-off courses. We even had a ‘check out a person’ day this spring, which was a fabulous event: you could choose to talk to someone about Hospice, or being Gay or Trans, or life as a homeless person, or what it is like to be aging, or… I ‘checked out’ two books and found it so heartwarming and lovely.
we have seedy Saturdays/sundays with vendors and the opportunity to engage in seed exchanges. There was a 3 day community grief workshop last year and again this year that was free (lots of volunteers and sponsors make that happen).
Couponing has never been a big thing in my world, the old days when there were a few coupons they weren’t for things I was interested in. I did get a deal on a ‘get free trial at grocery store’ coupon for a new ready to eat rice product, and it was in our local free paper – so I did a bit of digging to get a few more of the coupons and picked up a few to give to the kids. Usually for groceries I just watch the flyer of my favourite store and pick up what is on sale – as there IS a cycle, as the Tightwad Gazette told us. having been in a few of the other grocers I have decided I prefer my two (grocery and veggie store) as I know their products and don’t have to try to juggle a price book.
I hadn’t thought about the discount gift cards so will investigate at Costco.
I too am a fan of Buy Nothing and Free on Marketplace (and Used.ca), both for giving and getting, as well as curbside surprises. (those are never what I am looking for, but sometimes what I might need).
.
@Katy, thanks for keeping posting – you may think you are scraping the barrel, but your ideas are wonderful jumping off points, and your fans (readers? friends?) contribute so many amazing things..

Reply

Ecoteri July 5, 2024 at 11:50 am

Oh, and I forgot – the community centre that holds our library has an art gallery that is FREE – they have new shows every month or so, again put on by mostly local artists – the print makers, or the landscape painters, or a single prolific artist, or the youth creative arts group. I get in there monthly during my library pickups/dropoffs, and the time is never wasted.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:58 pm

Thank you, I appreciate your words.

It sounds like you live in an area with so many options — so cool!

Reply

Ecoteri July 5, 2024 at 7:29 pm

@Katy, because of the ideas others have posted, I was inspired to list what it available here, and I am now downright impressed with what goes on here!. I live in a rural area with a pretty small town in the middle (and what are called ‘regional districts’ surrounding ). Not a lot of people, and there are so many folk volunteering for so many arts events.
Of course there are all kinds of free sports happening, I just have no knowledge nor interest in those!

Reply

A. Marie July 5, 2024 at 12:06 pm

I agree with Katy that reflecting on this subject brings on thoughts of “Win a few, lose a few.” I confess that I miss the glory days of paper coupons, second-run movies, etc. But we’ve gained a lot of things through the Internet, as Katy notes. (This blog and The Frugal Girl, to name two!)

I’d add that thrift stores are MUCH cleaner and better-stocked than they used to be. The one Goodwill I remember from my old hometown (Ruby, this was in the Highland Park neighborhood, as I recall) used to look as if you really could catch cooties there. And even the thrifts I used to shop during my college years weren’t as good as the Salvation Army and Rescue Mission/Thrifty Shopper chains I enjoy now. (Maybe this isn’t entirely a good thing, since it may reflect our wasteful consumer culture. But, hey, I’m entirely up for being a bottom-feeder.)

Reply

Ruby July 5, 2024 at 1:31 pm

Highland Park was downright scary for a long time, but it is slowly gentrifying as people buy those historic old houses and fix them up. You would be amazed at how posh the north shore of the river has become.

Reply

Selena July 5, 2024 at 7:14 pm

I really have mixed emotions re: gentrifying. On one hand, happy to see existing buildings saved but on the other hand, sad to see those living in affordable-to-them-housing forced out.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:56 pm

I’ll never recover from the loss of second run movies!

Reply

Kaila July 5, 2024 at 12:22 pm

I can’t get over how much things cost at thrift stores now. Not just the clothes, even the little knicknacks that used to cost less than a dollar, now they are $5, $8 or more! I rarely go thrifting now. And I know this is not popular with the whole clothes to the landfill, but I do keep my stuff for a looooong time, and I’d rather buy a nice sweater from Macy’s for under $20 with their sales than get a crappy used one for $15.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:55 pm

Yup!

Reply

Bee July 6, 2024 at 5:33 am

I understand the sentiment completely. The Goodwill as well as other stores in my area used to sell most hard goods for less than a $1, books were five for $2, and clothing pieces were usually $2 to $4 each. The stores were stocked with quality merchandise.

I now stop in from time to time, but I rarely find anything. I just refused to pay $20 – $25 for a pair of used ladies sandals – very used. I do understand that overhead costs have increased, but I think store prices in my area are getting too high. The quality is just not there to justify the higher prices and competition for the good stuff has increased.

Although I continue to thrift and occasionally find a treasure, I now buy new when necessary especially if I need something specific like a white t-shirt. I also have started looking for other secondhand sources. I do miss the glory days of thrifting.

Reply

Christine July 5, 2024 at 12:39 pm

Forgot to mention in the post I wrote earlier: The thing I miss most is buying a whole pound of coffee or a pound box of crackers or a half gallon of ice cream. Some of my old recipes call for things that just don’t come in the same amounts they used to. I miss buying a whole pound, etc.

Reply

A. Marie July 5, 2024 at 1:21 pm

A college friend of mind noticed this as long ago as 1973, when the manufacturer shrank the size of her favorite chocolate bar. She referred to this as “a decline in the International Candy Bar Unit.”

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:52 pm

Everything should be explained in reference to chocolate!

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 5, 2024 at 1:41 pm

I have the day off, so I hit the discount store to stock up on necessities. What you describe is called “shrinkflation.” And it’s not just snacks/chips and food products that are getting shrunk.

They had Colgate toothpaste on for 88 cents a tube, and it was packaged in a regular-sized toothpaste box that said “60% More!”. Figured I’d spring for that since it’s usually priced much higher; I bought 3 so they’d last a while. Got home and opened a box. Turns out the box is an inch longer than the toothpaste tube it contained. Boy, do I feel taken advantage of!

I also noticed that the cans of hair spray are much skinnier than before. White Rain brand was the cheapest of all (even less than Suave, believe it or not!). I have a long-haired pal who works outdoors and needs to look presentable at all times; she swears by White Rain, so I got it. My last can of hair spray, now almost empty, is at least twice as big around as anything currently in the store. But at least I’m not having to get the stuff that’s $15 or more for a super skinny can.

If they’re going to shrink their sizes, why not also shrink their prices??? Guess that’s too much to ask!

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:49 pm

I made an Instagram reel about this exact situation with the “60% free” toothpaste!

https://www.instagram.com/p/C7xO8P6Sq7L/

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 9:06 am

You blogged about it too, IIRC. But I’d forgotten about your posting when I saw the toothpaste display! Just remembered it now that you mentioned it. My bad!

Reply

Denise July 6, 2024 at 11:31 pm

I worked for a major food manufacturer here in the UK. We would have cost increases and when we went to the supermarkets to talk about price increases, they would routinely reject any increase. But they would agree to pay the same for smaller product sizes. We participated in a one year industry wide study which showed that, in that year, food manufacturers had suffered £1 billion in cost increases but had only recovered £0.5 billion in price increases from the food retailers. But here’s the kicker: on- shelf pricing to consumers for the products being made by the study participant companies was increased by £1.5 billion. So they made us swallow half the cost increases while tripling their prices, only one third of which was justified by increased prices from their suppliers. They will have suffered some increased costs themselves in that year, but nothing like what they were making from the extra £1 billion they added on to the £0.5 billion in price increases they accepted from the industry. And sadly, most suppliers also ended up having to reformulate their products to reduce or remove the most expensive ingredients. On many of our products (household name brands in the UK), it was the only way to maintain any profit margin. Horrible for us as consumers, but I do think that sometimes, we want something for nothing (or at least, for very little), which is unrealistic. But that retailers use and abuse inflation as a screen is clearly also true.

Reply

Kara July 5, 2024 at 12:47 pm

When my husband was in college full time and we had 3 school age kids and no income for 4 years, we went to Denny’s on Tuesdays for dinner. The 5 of us could eat for $6 and it was a real treat. In those days Tuesdays were kids eat free and adult grand slams were $2.99. each paid adult meal got up to 2 free kids meals so when our kids got older and the kids portions weren’t big enough , we would get 2 meals each for the older 2 kids. It was a highlight in a financially very difficult time.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:54 pm

We used to go to a Mexican restaurant on the rare Tuesday as they also had a “kids eat free” deal. Plus they’d fill up on chips and salsa anyway.

Reply

Laura July 5, 2024 at 12:49 pm

Timing when to make long distance calls. I can still remember my mother calling my grandmother with a watch in her hand.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:53 pm

Or making a collect call and saying your message as the “Call from!” As in “Collect call from ‘pick me at ten'” instead of your name.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 9:07 am

Now that cell phones with free long distance calls, and email is here, we don’t have to worry about long distance bills anymore! At least that’s a positive!

Reply

Laura July 10, 2024 at 9:28 am

I agree, it’s so much easier to keep in touch with people now. I moved around a lot growing up and we would have loved unlimited free calls.

Reply

Casey July 6, 2024 at 2:14 pm

I was going to say … my parents used to do this when my Dad traveled so she’d know if he’d arrived alright.

Reply

Katy July 7, 2024 at 5:25 pm

Smart parents!

Reply

Auntiali July 9, 2024 at 8:44 pm

My husband and his siblings used to do the collect calll thing when they were in high school.

kate July 5, 2024 at 1:22 pm

i miss how thrifting used to be and thrift stores being actual thrift stores. they were not picked over when i was in high school and a young adult-you could find amazing vintage stuff for 99 cents. now i go to (some) of the ones near me and they have things priced at outrageous amounts, like $50, $75, $200 at times. i don’t think a lot of them should be called thrift stores anymore.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 1:51 pm

Yeah, the pricing can certainly be a head scratcher.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 2:13 pm

I remembered a couple more things:

Ocean Spray cranberry juice used to come with a coupon for a free bottle of juice, which meant infinite free cranberry juice. This was in London, 1988.

Pamper’s diapers had promotion in 1999 where you could send in proofs of purchase in exchange for different items, including a Fisher Price Power Wheels ride-on car. All of us labor and delivery nurses snipped the proofs of purchase from the hospital supply rooms and got them for free. I also got one for a friend.

This would get a nurse in trouble now, but this was the era of the wild west for nurses!

Reply

Megan July 5, 2024 at 2:27 pm

I’ve only lived in the Portland area (Beaverton) for the last 9 years, so I don’t remember some of the discounts you mentioned, but I do remember that the Franz Bread truck used to park around town and give out free loafs!

Some things that are still a good deal:
Joy Theater in Tigard has $5 movies on Tuesdays
Portland Art Museum has first Thursdays free and first full weekend each month free with a Bank of America or Meryll Lynch debit or credit card
Pips Donuts-free dozen little donuts on your birthday
Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum (small gallery on PSU campus but good shows and friendly staff) always free
The Judy Family Theater has lots of pay-what-you-will live theater and music, free movies with beanbag seating (definitely geared toward families and young kids)
Beaverton hosts Ten Tiny Dances-free

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 6:11 pm

Thank you so much for sharing all this great information!!!

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 9:12 am

Denny’s restaurants will let you get a free Grand Slam on your birthday. Does not have to be during the morning, either. You have to show your driver’s license as proof it’s really your birthday. So I go there every year (if anyone wants to take me out on my birthday, I pick another day the same week). I was really hacked when Winter Storm Uri hit during my birthday one year and I couldn’t go; ditto when my birthday fell on a holiday and there was too big a crowd for me to get in and out in time to go to work.

Reply

Christine July 7, 2024 at 12:31 pm

Didn’t know this about Denny’s. Thank you!

Reply

mary in maryland July 5, 2024 at 4:14 pm

When I rented an apartment in 1993, I received new phone books when I got my phone connected. The white pages had a coupon for a free pint of ice cream at Giant. The maintenance guys let me harvest coupons from a huge pile of phone books. Pralines and cream. I gained ten pounds in the six months I was downing a quart of ice cream every week. Fun times.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 6:12 pm

Worth it.

Reply

Denise July 6, 2024 at 11:36 pm

Phone books: that brings back memories!

Reply

BethC. July 5, 2024 at 4:59 pm

The company responsible for Musselman’s applesauce and B &M baked beans had a promotion about 20 years ago. If you bought 20 of their products, you got 2 free tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in NY. Although I grew up near NY, I had never gone. My husband was game, so we took the train in and had a lovely afternoon seeing the Rockettes. I believe that one of the wine shops near Rockefeller Center had a free wine tasting, so we went to that as well. It’s a good thing my husband loves baked beans!

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 6:15 pm

I feel like beans + high kicks would be a dangerous combination. Good thing the dancers get in for free!

Reply

texasilver July 5, 2024 at 7:47 pm

That is a funny comment, Katy. I chuckled. Hopefully the recipients of the free tickets did not have a big dinner featuring the baked beans before they attended the show!

Reply

BethC. July 6, 2024 at 5:13 am

Katy, your comment made me laugh so hard that I have tears in my eyes. Texassilver, no means that day and I made sure never to serve them at a time when we were having company!

Reply

Blue Gate Farmgirl July 5, 2024 at 5:34 pm

This is a great post, Katy!
I am retired military, so we can camp at any Federal or State campground for $0 on off days (Sun thru Thursday), I am located equal distance from 5 county seats so we take advantage of County Fairs and the exhibits are excellent. One even has free entrance this year + great music on 3 stages.
Summer has free concerts in 4 towns about 25 mi away (nearest town is 22 miles). There are 2 great no fee bbq competitions with music and fun coming up in a few weeks.
We still have a wonderful local thrift store that has great deals on Fridays. So many non profits got smart with their online selling.
I still do my best bargaining at the end of estate sales and neighborhood wide garage sales.
The bestest deals for me is growing my own veggies and fruit, putting it up and using it as gifts. This week we picked 5 gallons of tart cherries and turned them into juice (steam extraction). I drink it by the jigger as a recovery shot after strenuous work outs.

Reply

Katy July 5, 2024 at 6:16 pm

I have to be careful to not give away too many of my home canned goods as I end up without enough for us!

Reply

Nancy H July 5, 2024 at 6:36 pm

My husband and I try and hit the Regal cinema on $5 Tuesday. Not all participate and we thought the one showing the movie we wanted to see didn’t so we almost didn’t go. I did not buy the ticket in the app and we got the discount at the door.
I remember the free Tuesday at the gardens. We always enjoyed going to the Baghdad for the cheap films. Edgefield and Kennedy school were also fun venues. But they have all gone up in price. We stopped going to the Franz outlet when they closed the one on 50th and Division. By then we were pretty well done with sandwiches for lunches anyway. We could pack other stuff that we could microwave.
Like you we alway pick up change. Most of the time it is a penny but they add up. We usually park farther away just so we have more parking lot to cross and look for change, my husband also picks up every can. We give those to our grandkids. Our daughter had=s saved all the money from them in their accounts. That have accumulated about $4000 I the last 7 years.

Reply

Christine July 6, 2024 at 11:21 am

When I worked in a garden shop, an elderly man with a strong and lovely Italian accent would walk around and collect our empty cans from the soda we sipped all day. There were many other businesses in the area he hit in addition to ours. It was said he paid cash for his two daughters to attend college by collecting cans. All I know is it was nice to hear his thanks as he took the cans from me: ” You a nice-a girl-a!”

Reply

Jean July 5, 2024 at 6:51 pm

I took full advantage of the Portland pools free swim times when my kids were growing up. Each week day a different pool had free swim hours. Almost every day in the summer we swam at a pool for free. I believe this is still available and it’s for all ages.

Reply

texasilver July 5, 2024 at 7:41 pm

I remember sone long ago savings offers.
1. Blue Light specials at Kmart complete w/ a revolving blue light flashing while the special was in progress.
2. Thirty years ago, you could collect tabs from Coca-Cola canned drinks to redeem for prizes. I think you had to go to a nearby mall to redeem. I earned a couple of tee shirts w/ Coca-Cola logos on them (of course).
3. Many years ago, I would collect aluminum cans when I went on my long walks. When I filled a large trash bag, I would turn them in & get a little money. I don’t think people do this anymore. You recycle aluminum, but you don’t get money for it.
4. More recently, Coca-Cola had a program where you entered the codes in the screw on tops of their products. Their soft drink cartons also had codes on them. I got some decent prizes in that promotion. I would find soft drink cartons when people put out their trash for the week or plastic soft drink bottles thrown to the side of the road. Alas no more codes as the program was discontinued.
5. As a teenager, I remember the Diamond Shamrock gas station giving away brownish gold drinking glasses when you bought a certain amount of gas. The glasses had a pattern embossed on them also. Catering to the Spanish or Mediterranean decorating vibe popular at that time.

Reply

A. Marie July 6, 2024 at 2:58 am

Re: your #3, texasilver, not only is this still being done in states with bottle and can deposits, but some of us are actually making some money at it. I made over $400 in container deposits last year!

Reply

Heidi Louise July 6, 2024 at 7:19 am

It is possible to find a metal recycler that takes aluminum cans, not just the deposit money A.Marie referred to. I got the impression our local metal recycler prefers getting big lots of stuff, though.

Reply

Bee July 6, 2024 at 4:10 am

Time changes so many things. When re-reading The Tightwad Gazette recently, I realized that Amy D wrote of many cost savings measures that I did then but no longer do. Some of these things have changed because the world around me has evolved – especially technologically. Others have changed because my life is significantly different than it was 25 years ago.

I used to stay up until 11:00 PM or get up extra early in the morning to call my parents before 7:00am . This was when long distance phone calls were the cheapest. Boy, has this changed!

In days gone by, I would scour the Sunday supplements in the local newspaper for coupons and rebate offers. I would exchange these coupons with friends. Now I never read a newspaper.

With 3 children and a small budget, we used to take camping vacations. We would pitch a tent and cook all our meals outside. We had a large Coleman family tent. Now, I don’t know if I could walk after sleeping on the ground for a night. Our budget is also a little larger. It’s usually just DH and me and our budget seems huge compared to what it used to be. However, we are also able to use loyalty points and credit card points to keep prices down.

I am a huge beach bum. I have spent most of my life on, near or in the ocean. This equals hours and hour of free entertainment. Sadly, as Florida has grown, easy access to the beach has eroded. Walking or riding my bike to the beach is no longer safe. Parking areas are often overflowing on holidays and weekends. Private clubs and beach front homeowners have attempted to close off beach access. Gone are the miles and miles of empty beaches and It makes me very sad. I still manage but it’s different now. Very different.

Reply

Fru-gal Lisa July 6, 2024 at 9:19 am

When I lived in Florida, I moved there on June 30. I spent my first 4th of July at the apartment swimming pool instead of the beach. The pool area was almost empty except for me and one neighbor; we met that day and I made a lifelong friend! Had a better time at the pool than at an overcrowded seashore.

Reply

Christine July 6, 2024 at 5:29 am

I’m sorry Florida has changed so much. My mother visited Sanibel Island throughout the years, starting as a young woman and the thing she loved most about it was it’s wildness (and it’s shells). However, as the years went on she lamented the construction and commercialism that had crept in. The last time she went she was in her 70s in the early 2000s.
It does sound like your kids had great chilhoods!

Reply

Bee July 6, 2024 at 12:27 pm

Thank you, Christine. Like most parents I did the best I could. I did a lot of things right and I did some things wrong. Unfortunately, my children did not come with directions. We did spend a lot of time outdoors.
They would often complain that we didn’t have cable or I didn’t let them play video games all day. However, they grew into healthy adults with lots of curiosity and a love the outdoors themselves, so I guess it all turned out OK.

Reply

Christine July 6, 2024 at 5:31 am

…its, not it’s…darn autocorrect!

Reply

Katy July 6, 2024 at 9:06 am

I thought of yet another frugal mainstay that’s now in the rear view mirror, which was Costo’s $1.50 Polish dog that came with sauerkraut and onions. Yes, they still have the hot dogs, but that was never my order. I liked the sausage so much more. I also miss the sauerkraut. Sigh . . .

Reply

JDinNM July 6, 2024 at 10:32 am

S & H Green Stamps! They used to give them out at grocery store checkout and Mom would let me paste them into the little booklet you saved them in. When I got my first apartment Mom gave me all her booklets so I could get a metal avocado green rolling cart for my kitchen. Loved that thing. Have no idea what happened to it…

Reply

Bee July 6, 2024 at 12:30 pm

My mother saved S&H Green stamps for me all through High school. When I went away to college, we went through the wishbook and picked out the things I needed. I had gotten some gray and white enamel pans that I wish would not have burned up.

Reply

Pat July 6, 2024 at 11:39 am

Growing up in the burbs of NYC,there were coupons on the back of Borden’s milk containers for a free NY METS game,a friends dad took a bunch of us.
There was also a small amusement park on the island and they had Pepsi night,saving bottle caps got free admission and free ride tickets.
Chobani yogurt is manufactured in my area and every December they handout free cases of their yogurt to the area.

Reply

Lindsey G July 6, 2024 at 1:31 pm

Something about this post really struck a chord with me and other readers, as judged by the number of comments. I think maybe it’s because I’ve had the feeling lately that things used to be easier and/or less costly than they once were. And of course that’s the case with inflation and modern life. As I read through your list, Kay, as well as the many comments, it gave me license to create my own little list of by-gone frugal activities and events, as well as cool, new options here in Sonoma County, CA (which is not a cheap area to begin with). For reference, my 3 sons are now 13 (twins) and almost 15.

*MOVIES – we have an amazing open-air performing arts center on a college campus that was built around 10-15 years ago and is bike riding distance from our home. The venue previously offered free (second run) summer movies on their lawn throughout the summer. Now it’s $5 per person for ages 13+ (still free for kids under 12 and college students). I am thankful for the price being $5 each, but miss the free days when we’d take a picnic dinner, blankets, and pillows and make an evening of it. We still do this, but it’s just not free.

*POOLS – for years there was a Groupon that would run for an amazing pool in a neighboring town that was quite the deal. Like Katy, the pool pass for summer was out of our price range, but the Groupon was super cheap and you could buy up to 5 per person. So my husband, my mom, and I would all buy them and have a summer full of pool experiences with the kids for about $15 a visit (for 5 of us). This particular location was great for both younger and older kids as there were separate pools and a large water play structure in the kiddie pool

*SOMETHING THAT’S BETTER NOW – new this summer is a “kids and senior (citizens) ride fee program” on our local commuter train (SMART). Now that my kids are older, they are enjoying the freedom of hopping on the train to ride one town over to go to the movies, or visit some of their favorite card and game shops.

Thanks again for the inspiration to review frugalities of past and present, Katy!

Reply

Terri July 6, 2024 at 4:24 pm

I am older than you and recall that double trading stamps were offered on Wednesdays at the two groceries in our town. Wednesday also happened to be the start of the new grocery sales week. You can bet those stores were super busy on Wednesdays because everyone wanted those trading stamps.

I miss various rewards programs I’ve indulged in. I recall when proofs of purchase of saltines got my first slow cooker, a lovely little metal West Bend on an electric base.

Then there were programs that provided me with free catfood for every ten bags I bought, the Coke Rewards program where I got coupons good for free crackers, sodas and such, among many other manufacturer rewards that I used to supplement our grocery hauls.

As you say, for every thing that no longer exists, something new comes along though. Now I use Fetch, Microsoft Rewards, Rakuten, Ibotta and such as that….

Reply

Heidi Louise July 7, 2024 at 9:04 am

A classmate would always order soda without ice. Sometimes doubled the amount of pop she got compared to with ice.

Reply

mary in maryland July 7, 2024 at 9:58 am

When I was home sick as a kid, I spent the day pasting S&H green stamps into the booklets. The Piggly Wiggly had a deal where if you bought $10 worth of groceries, you got an extra 100 stamps. Mom took Grandma grocery shopping every Friday afternoon. Grandma didn’t have a whole ten bucks worth of groceries, so Mom loaned her some for the checkout lane. But Mom wanted her stamps for the groceries Grandma had borrowed (and been reimbursed for) and a proportional amount of the free 100. This math always annoyed Grandma. When she was no longer very ambulatory, Grandma did her Christmas shopping by opening bank accounts to get the free electric blanket or digital clock or . . . Mom was happy to take her to doctor’s appts, church, and grocery shopping, but drew a line in the sand over numerous monthly bank visits.

Reply

Selena July 7, 2024 at 7:12 pm

I suspect I can pretty much nail the age of your grandma. My aunt’s MIL did the same thing – opened bank accounts for the free gift (oh how times have changed) and re-gifted toasters, TV trays etc. at Xmas time. In her MIL’s defense – great depression era. Sad to say most great depression frugal habits have, yeah, gone with the wind. Far too may these days won’t take ownership of their not good – too often NOT good – financial decisions. Which they now blame on those who had NOTHING to do with said poor/bad decisions.

Reply

mary in maryland July 8, 2024 at 5:23 am

Grandma was born in 1894. Her freebie frenzy was 1965-1970. There was a last burst in 1977 when she and many others opened accounts at Grand Forks Federal to get me a full set of stainless steel flatware–the set I am still using.

Reply

Katy July 8, 2024 at 3:20 pm

Love this!

Reply

Casey July 7, 2024 at 10:44 am

I was making tea this morning and remembered how Red Rose used to contain the small figurines. I collected the entire Noah’s Ark set. Loved that!

Reply

Christine July 7, 2024 at 12:38 pm

Oh my, I had forgotten about those! They really were quite adorable. My mother in law loved Red Rose Tea and would frequently give the little figurines to my kids. I have no idea what happened to them but I wish I still had them.

Reply

Heidi Louise July 7, 2024 at 12:49 pm

I don’t know Red Rose Tea figures, but this prompted a memory of the little eraser-rubberlike animals from the dentist. Also don’t know what happened to them– my mother had channels to get stuff out of the house I never identified.

Reply

Bee July 7, 2024 at 2:28 pm

These are Wade’s Whimsies and quite collectible now. You must not be the only one with fond memories of these little figures. 🙂

Reply

Katy July 7, 2024 at 5:23 pm

I stopped drinking Red Rose after they stopped including the figurines.

Reply

Li July 7, 2024 at 8:07 pm

The goodwill bins used to be a favorite frugal hack, and now they’ve gotten so expensive. I think Portland’s bins have the highest prices in the country! I’m particularly annoyed that hard bound books are $2.75 each! How many books are going into the landfill because of these ridiculous prices?

The Fred Meyer woohoo section is still a favorite hack, but I notice that there is more competition for the deals now that food costs have increased. A recent “hack” is buying half price milk and turning it into yogurt.

Portland free piles are still alive and well. I’m enjoying a portable air conditioner I found on the curb last fall.

Reply

Auntiali July 9, 2024 at 8:58 pm

What I remember:
Getting free Hess high ball glasses at the gas station. I still have one that came from hubby’s aunt.
My kids would go bowling every day in the summer as it was $20 for the summer including the shoes. They would also get a free beach towel or t shirt. I loved going there cause it was so cold in the bowling alley I called it my “meat locker”
Free reading programs at the library and Barnes and Noble
I once went to a bank offering free Tupperware-ish containers and got a set just for asking about their rates on savings accounts
Went to a car dealer and didn’t do the test drive and still got thee $25 gift card
I miss garage sales
The kids did the Book It program at Pizza Hut
I loved People’s Express. I flew to California to visit my brothers, back and forth to Florida to watch my neice and nephew and my father and I went back out to California to scatter my mother’s ashes. Dad gets on the plane with the ashes and asks the flight attendant “Have you got seats for my wife and I” groan
Free slurpees at 7-11 on July 11. That is one deal that is still going on.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: