What’s The Cheapest Thing You’ve Ever Done?

by Katy on November 18, 2022 · 87 comments

This following blog post is a reprint from 2015. It garnered 170 comments and I thought it would be interesting to reprint it for the 2022 crowd.

Garbage picked toilet seat

I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey podcasts lately and loving the fresh inspiration. I enjoy the listener phone calls, but I really like when people come into the studio and do their “debt free screams.” Specifically when Dave interviews them and asks what was the key to their debt free status, and what were their most difficult moments.

I’ll admit, I get a bit misty eyed sometimes.

It makes me think about what I’ve done to stay on top of my family’s finances. And what are some of the craziest things I’ve done in the name of frugality? Of course the answer is when I garbage picked a toilet seat! 

But today I want to know:

What’s the cheapest, most extreme thing you’ve done in the name of frugality?

Please don’t hold back. I want to know about your wackiest, cheapest most insane frugal hack. (Even if it’s not as extreme as a garbage picked toilet seat.) 😉

Please write your stories 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 no longer listen to Dave Ramsey.

{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine November 18, 2022 at 12:17 pm

Well….okay, no holding back. When we were kids , my parents had a camp with an outhouse. In the 1970s my father installed an inside half bath, toilet and sink only (we took our baths in the lake and I can tell you sometimes in the early and late summer here in Massachusetts it was quite chilly). To accompany this half bath, he hand dug a septic system. The golden (eeewww) rule was that we didn’t flush for pee, only the other. He actually had a switchplate in there that read “In this land of fun and sun, we do not flush for number one.” Now that I pay for city water and sewage, I use the time that DH was out on the Appalachian Trail to incorporate this switchplate message into daily life. Yep, I know he wouldn’t approve of not flushing for #1 so I only do it when he’s hiking for days or weeks at a time. Hope I didn’t gross anyone out too much.


Lindsey November 18, 2022 at 1:34 pm

There are a lot of villages with such high priced water that people routinely don’t flush. I lived in one of those villages and when we visited family who had not lived in Alaska, they were appalled when we accidently forgot to flush. “I could never do that” was the most common reaction. Depending on the audience I would just think it or really say it, “Then you are an idiot.”

We have moved back to Fairbanks, with plenty of cheap water and we still don’t flush for mere pee. Wastes water so better for the environment not to flush for liquid deposits. But mostly I do it for the money savings. Well, and truth be told, I like appalling people sometimes…


Wendy November 19, 2022 at 9:42 am

Our motto is “if it’s yellow let it mellow; if it’s brown flush it down”.


Selena November 19, 2022 at 8:21 pm

Toilet paper is the factor as one does need a good flush. And for those with an upstairs bathroom and no regular users of said room, get your exercise, use the upstairs bathroom and flush twice IF you have a septic. Never had non-regularly used upstairs bathroom without a septic. And if you do have a septic tank, PLEASE pump every three years (most with a septic have wells and we must all do our part to avoid contaminating water).


Sandy November 18, 2022 at 12:19 pm

Our dining room rug had several stains and we could not afford to replace it. So I used liquid dye and a toothbrush to dye it a dark blue. It took a few evenings but it lasted for years. A great use of my time.


Ruby November 18, 2022 at 12:35 pm

I have spray-painted a toilet seat. It was one of those pressed wood ones and someone in the household dripped a cleaner on it that damaged sections of the finish, making it look awful. So I removed it, propped it up in the yard and spray-painted it white again. The neighbors driving past probably formed opinions about us!

Last weekend, my husband and I bought a big Lindt chocolate bar at a clearance store. Upon unwrapping it, we discovered that the chocolate had been cooling as it went into the mold, so the surface of it looked a bit funny and not all of the bar was there. “You think it’s okay?” I asked him as we peered at it. “Hell, yes, it’s chocolate,” he said and popped a piece into his mouth. We ate it with no ill effects. 😀


Lindsey November 18, 2022 at 1:44 pm

When I have flowers that need high nitrogen fertilizer, I have my husband pee into a (recycled plastic I am forced to buy in order to eat cottage cheese) container. I delute it 10 to 1 and use that as my fertilizer.

There are universities that say it is perfectly fine to use it on food plants, and impossible to detect in the taste of the fruits or vegetables, but that wigs me out a bit. Maybe if the husband took no meds, I would consider it, but we know that some meds show up at the other end when you swallow a pill.

There are also companies trying to turn urine into a commercial fertilizer but I still would not use that on my flowers—why pay for something I can get for free?

Some of the British botanical gardens ask their male staff to use the straw bales they have set up specifically to capture urine. Apparently male urine is more effective at getting compost moving along but even if it were not, I am not sure how many females would be interested in squatting over bales of straw. On the other hand, hard core female gardeners might totally embrace the idea!


Heidi Louise November 18, 2022 at 2:18 pm

I had seen an article some many years ago about a huge huge garden, using all sorts of organic techniques. They claimed they had no trouble with rodents, deer, etc., eating their crops. I wondered then and still wonder if they used human urine and if that is a wildlife deterrent.


A. Marie November 18, 2022 at 2:50 pm

I wish I could report that human urine is a wildlife deterrent–but in my experience, sadly, it isn’t. Despite the fact that my DH was, and Dr. Bestest Neighbor and my yard guy are, discreet but devoted users of the outdoors for #1, this seems to be doing exactly zero to discourage the out-of-control deer population. On the other hand, the practice adds valuable nitrogen to my and the BNs’ compost piles.


Lindsey November 18, 2022 at 2:59 pm

I am here to tell you that does not deter moose either!


Christine November 18, 2022 at 3:15 pm

My mother told me her grandfather had a large vegetable garden in the back yard. To fertilize it he used the contents of the cesspool…taken out in buckets. No ill effects and my mother said the vegetables were delicious.


A. Marie November 18, 2022 at 3:19 pm

I had been considering doing an FFT called “Possibly TMI Edition,” but this topic may be an even better place for some of these thoughts. I’ve already noted the use of human urine around here in my response to Heidi Louise above; consider this my (1).

(2) I’m discovering as I move further into old age that I no longer need to shower or shampoo as often as I did before. I’m down now to showering every other day and shampooing only once or twice a week. The reduced rate of showering also seems to be helping with winter dry skin.

(3) I recently cleared all of DH’s old jockey shorts out of his bureau at the nursing home, since he’s long since moved into Depends. I brought the underpants home and cut them up for rags to be used as throwaways (in situations where I’d ordinarily use paper towels).

(4) As noted earlier both here and on The Frugal Girl, some neighbors up the street recently cut down two big trees. I already scavenged the bigger logs that I could use, but now that the city DPW has done its usual sloppy job of hauling away most of the rest of the logs and branches, I’ve been picking up the many remaining smaller sticks to be used as kindling. The longer-term residents already know I’m weird, but a couple of the newbies have been giving me funny looks.

(5) And I’m on track to make my usual $300+ this year from picking up NY State 5-cent deposit bottles and cans. If the state would only expand the deposit to include sports drink and fruit juice bottles, I’d probably make twice that.


MB in MN November 19, 2022 at 7:42 am

A. Marie, re your #1 – I saw what you did there! And I’m with you on your #2 (as in showering/shampooing, not pooping). Additionally, since I floss three times a day, I reuse the dental floss.


A. Marie November 20, 2022 at 7:22 am

Back in the days when I wore deck shoes (Sperry Top-Siders and the like), I used to use rinsed-off/dried Glide dental floss for shoe repair.


Katy November 20, 2022 at 9:45 am

That’s just smart!


Marie November 18, 2022 at 4:08 pm

What fun reading all the comments from 2015. I found one of mine about painting a silver screen door, which I am still using.
My frugal\ cheap, basically not to waste thing this week is…
Cleaning food cupboards, I found old dried beans and split peas, which will not be used. Also the last bag of trail mix was way too full of peanuts, so picked out all the m&m’s, and cashews for me. I will be using my old metal food grinder to make some grain aka trail mix to supplement my chicken food.
Chicken food has increased in price tremendously, so no waste, and out of my house


Katy November 18, 2022 at 5:11 pm

From now on I’m going to eat all the M&Ms from trail mix and tell people that it’s a frugal hack. You know . . . to save on chicken feed. 😉


Jennifer November 18, 2022 at 6:02 pm

I bought a used fence. We needed a fence because we wanted a dog but could not afford a new fence. I found someone selling a split rail fence. We fenced in almost 1000 sq ft of backyard for $200 and the labor of moving it and installing it. The guy even let us borrow his truck to haul it to our house.


Lynn D. November 18, 2022 at 6:05 pm

Confirmed dumpster diver here. My favorite spots are college dumpsters when the students are leaving for the summer (electronics, clothes, laundry detergent!). Caterers and party planners are good too.
Once I passed by a wedding planners dumpster and got only slightly burned candles, beautiful flowers, fancy paper napkins, and yes, some delicious wedding cake that was in a plastic bag.


A. Marie November 20, 2022 at 7:25 am

I’ve pretty much retired from dumpster diving in my local university area, in part because of age and decrepitude, and in part because there’s now too much competition. But you wouldn’t believe what the spoiled rich kids at this party-school university throw away.


Lindsey November 18, 2022 at 6:33 pm

I was reading the husband the cheapest stories from today’s blog. He was insulted that I did not mention signing up to pick up road kill moose, no matter what the time was when the Troopers called after they made sure it really was an accident and not another attempt to do out of season harvesting; there were a number of people on the list so we got called only two or three times a year. I got to keep a quarter of the moose plus the head and organs, as long as I delivered 3/4 of the kill to one of the charities that use moose meat to supplement the groceries. Given that moose meat is healthier than beef because it is so lean, and that many people here used to depend on moose for all their winter meat, it did not seem odd to me. Until, once again, we were visiting non-Alaska relatives and the husband was entertaining the hosts with some of our middle of the night , 40 below zero, butchering. Since it was dark, we had to bring both of the pickup we owned at that time, so that we could aim the headlights at the carcass while we worked. By the end of his stories, I think some people were literally green, not with envy but with disgust that we would eat road kill. This was many years ago, so those what were then elderly relatives from my husband’s side of the family based in San Diego are all gone now. Too bad, I could show them pictures of caribou road kills, too. Or the whales being subsistence harvested and the polar bears eating what the humans left behind. Now they handle road kills differently so I am lucky to have experienced this program. I think we saved easily $1000 a year when we participated. Too old and disabled now…


Katy November 18, 2022 at 8:43 pm

I would have been riveted to that story!


Bee November 19, 2022 at 4:55 am

It is amazing how varied American life can be. In beautiful, urban San Diego, preparing a frugal might involve a trip to the farmer’s market. In wild, majestic Alaska, it involves butchering your own meat in the middle of the night. I loved hearing this story!


Bee November 19, 2022 at 4:56 am

* preparing a frugal meal


A. Marie November 19, 2022 at 2:47 pm

Lindsey, I always enjoy your “wild Alaska” stories. This one’s definitely a ripping yarn.


Lindsey November 19, 2022 at 7:16 pm

A. Marie, mail me if you want to see the polar bears devouring what the humans left behind after butchering the results of this year’s whale harvest. This is how it has been for generations and I had to keep reminding myself of that. We lived in a beach front rental, so had a front row seat to everything from the tackle used to drag in the animals through the entire harvest and eventually, when the polar bears are done, one of the departments drags off the bones. Unless you have seen some of the larger species, is is hard to grasp that blue whales are over 100 feet long and weigh more than elephants do; they are the largest mammals on earth. The hearts can weigh 400 pounds and the babies can be 3 tons at birth. Okay, I will now force myself to quit giving information about whales…


Katy November 19, 2022 at 9:59 pm

No, keep ’em coming! Whales are interesting.


Denise November 20, 2022 at 12:59 pm

Umm. And endangered?

A. Marie Sprayberry November 20, 2022 at 1:55 pm

To respond to Denise: I believe Lindsey is referring to the harvest that Alaska Natives are allowed to take. Lindsey, am I right?


Lindsey November 20, 2022 at 9:05 pm

Yup, only Alaska Natives can do whale harvesting (last time I read about it, the Japanese also allow whale harvesting because of its connection to traditional practices). I do understand/experience/struggle with concerns about the extinction of the species, but the number taken each year in Alaska is low. They came under federal protection in 1972, with the passage of the Marine Animal Protection Act. There are limits imposed and if the herd seems to be thinning, the numbers are restricted. Whales provide and average of 1 to 2 million pounds of food a year, and the harvest is shared with people now too elderly to participate in the hunt. It is hard to see a 80 year old whale harvested…plus I don’t care for the flavor at all. We all have ethnic foods that gross out people outside the culture, even inside the culture. I am looking at you head cheese!

Joyce November 20, 2022 at 5:44 am

My husband has a clip he used to love to inflict on folks of a whale harvest in Arctic Village, from when he worked out of there for USFWS. Lots of queezy looks among the viewers.


Nancy November 18, 2022 at 8:56 pm

When following truck loads of onions down the freeway in Eastern Oregon, I absolutely pull over and pick up “road rash” onions that fall off the trucks!!


Katy November 19, 2022 at 10:24 am

If a found penny is a “lucky penny,” then those are “lucky onions!”


Jill A November 19, 2022 at 3:42 am

Several years ago I removed all of the burned out lights on my pre-lit christmas tree and replaced them with strings of lights by attaching them with the original metal fasteners. It took several days and lots of scratches. I’m still using the tree but again the lights are starting to burn out.

Once following Amy Dacyczyn’s advice I refilled my empty tissue box with a toilet paper roll. My parents both not knowing this grabbed a tissue and walked away with the toilet paper dragging behind them. We still laugh about it.


Ruby November 19, 2022 at 6:54 am

I still do that toilet paper roll in the tissue box trick for a box of tissues only I use.


Lindsey November 19, 2022 at 7:17 pm

I never heard the toilet paper in a Kleenex box trick. That is why I reread the old comments from years ago and keep coming back to latest of today’s commets.


Ruby November 20, 2022 at 10:07 am

It works best with a cube Kleenex box. Pull the cardboard tube from the center of the roll of TP so that it can unwind from the center. Unfasten the side of an empty Kleenex cube box, put the TP in and feed the loose end out the top. Tape the box back together. Rip off lengths off TP to use as tissue. It lasts quite a long time.


Lindsey November 20, 2022 at 12:09 pm

Thank you, Ruby, for taking the time to give me instructions as to how it is done!


Dicey November 25, 2022 at 6:12 am

There’s a store that sells Costco returns in my area. They often have boxes of Kleenex for about $1.00. Recently they had large rectangular boxes of premium tissues. My bathroom tissue holders are the cube style. I opened the large, rectangular box and gently folded about 1/3 of the tissues in half. Then I opened the side of the cube-style box and tucked the fat fold of new tissues in. I didn’t even bother to tape it shut, because the outer container will hold it closed. From a single $1 box of tissue, I will be able to refill the countertop container three times. Score!

Bee November 19, 2022 at 5:16 am

I have been pondering your question for a while. I do so much to save money and most of it I do without thinking. However, my biggest money saving /money making adventure occurred 20 years ago. A couple had inherited a old, near-by beach house from their elderly aunt and had a dumpster placed in the driveway. They began throwing away all her possessions.
My girlfriend who lived down the street called me. She had asked permission to go through the dumpster. So we went everyday after work for a week and dug around. We pulled out Roseville Pottery, Fire King, early Nippon, vintage fishing lures and reels, and so much more. I sold these treasures on eBay and my girlfriend sold hers at her antique booth. Some we kept and enjoyed.
We asked if we could purchase items before they went in the dumpster, but the couple would not allow us to. However, they were happy to let us dig around. I never quite figured that out.


Katy November 19, 2022 at 10:23 am

Dumpster full of vintage treasures? That’s the dream!


Bee November 19, 2022 at 1:26 pm

It made us a little crazy, because we could not reach the things on the bottom. We knew there were wonderful things that we just couldn’t see. At the end of the week they hauled everything away. It was sad. 🙁


A. Marie November 20, 2022 at 2:01 pm

Ruby, your last paragraph is the puzzler for me: Why wouldn’t they let you buy stuff, but were OK with the dumpster diving? A mystery, perhaps never to be solved.

Anyway, this may be the best dumpster diving story ever. No dive of mine has ever come close.


Ruby November 20, 2022 at 3:39 pm

That was Bee, but I would speculate they had more than they could deal with just emptying the house and did not want the hassle of selling the stuff.

I cleaned out my mother’s house when she went into a nursing home and selling her stuff was a true pain. I made only $1,000 for an entire house full of stuff. It truly would have been easier to have taken it to the dump.


A. Marie November 21, 2022 at 6:07 am

Whoops, Bee (and Ruby), sorry for the slip-up!


Bee November 20, 2022 at 4:12 pm

They just thought it was a bunch of old junk and didn’t want anyone digging around in the house. They told us that we could take whatever we wanted once it was outside. So we hauled home boxes of things every afternoon for 5 days. It was the one and only time that I did any dumpster diving. What a treasure trove!


rebecca November 19, 2022 at 7:39 am

I have used expired raisins in cooking and baking. I have regifted wine, books and other things I didn’t want. I have used the dumpster at work to throw away big items because I didn’t want to pay the city to remove. I have waited a day after the expiration of my car inspection sticker so I get an extra month.


chitra November 19, 2022 at 11:29 am

I re-use used cooking oil in my old glass oil lamps(safe enclosed ones) for lighting my room mostly..I love the ambience and better lighting than the bulbs.
I use used aluminum foils to clean my pure silver items ( utensils).Put those crumbled foils along with utensils in the boiling water .They come out as new in few seconds without even scrubbing.


Mary in Maryland November 19, 2022 at 2:09 pm

How to sound like a nutbar . . .
1. When it was my turn to cook in the group house, I trapped and cleaned pigeons from the roof. Baked them in pot pie using their bone broth to make the gravy.
2. When I was told I should use my diaphragm even during my period and that it would just collect the blood for up to six hours, I never bought feminine hygiene products again.
3. We shower once a week in the winter, twice in the summer.
4. My church bazaar did not sell used undies, and I was tasked with getting rid of the donations. We were past due for laundry, so I tried on a pair of men’s jockeys and found myself to be wedgie free. I used the dozen pairs for years until they were too shredded for anything but dog ear cleaning rags.
5. I found the perfect dress for my wedding at Value Village—new with tags for only $40. I waited until the half-price sale two days later to buy it.
6. I found a fabulous down comforter in a dumpster at a friend’s upscale building. Despite the vomit on it, I brought it home, scraped the v off in the driveway and washed it.
7. I lived in a 17 story building where we were to leave large trash outside the chute. I found furniture, clothes, and one astounding haul of top shelf liquors. (Maybe someone swore off the booze?) Mainly I collected and donated, but I gave all my friends gallons of liquor for Christmas that year.


A. Marie November 19, 2022 at 2:51 pm

Mary in MD, your #5 made me LOL–especially since, at a rare lunch out today with my Jane Austen bud in the next city over, we were sitting a table away from a family party having a long, serious, and occasionally heated discussion about an upcoming wedding. I’m getting the giggles just imagining how they would have reacted to your wedding dress story.


Katy November 19, 2022 at 6:59 pm

If you’re ever read “The Siege,” which is a fictionalized account of the siege of Leningrad during WWII it talks about how there were almost no wild birds by the end as people were trapping them for food. I read the book at least twenty years ago, but this stuck with me.



Hana November 20, 2022 at 7:00 am

Katy, I felt the same about “trapping” those poor birds. I’ll never understand why we drink other creatures’ milk and the variety of animal products we consume. You’ll never see a predator, like a lion, killing/ eating a buffet of dead animals, or eating more than it needs. The mindless cruelty is baffling!


Rose November 20, 2022 at 9:49 am

Lions will eat carrion if they find it. So will most animals.


Mary in Maryland November 20, 2022 at 1:50 pm

I turned vegetarian two years later and vegan a few years after that. Pigeons are now safe from me.


Mati November 26, 2022 at 8:00 pm

Large predators routinely kill more than they can eat and leave the rest. One theory is that our earliest ancestors first began eating significant amounts of meat as scavengers following predators; or stomach acid pH during digestion is that of a scavenger.

We use dairy because we’re observant and highly adaptable and have opposable thumbs.


Rose November 20, 2022 at 8:19 am

Our neighbors in Queens used to trap and eat wild songbirds. Cardinals, robins, blue jays, etc.


Katy November 20, 2022 at 9:48 am

That’s a lot of work for a small amount of meat.


Rose November 20, 2022 at 11:25 am

They put the tiny bodies in the weekly spaghetti sauce (aka gravy).

Denise November 20, 2022 at 1:05 pm

Okay…pigeons and songbirds have officially made me want to hurl. Siege of Leningrad – that, I get. The rest:


Liz B. November 20, 2022 at 3:02 pm


Heidi Louise November 20, 2022 at 3:56 pm

It is illegal to kill many native birds in the U.S. , or take eggs, disturb nests, etc.
The current status of the law isn’t clear to me from my fast google search, but it is enough that if I wanted to, (which I absolutely Do Not!), I would do quite a bit of research before firing up my slingshot.

Mati November 26, 2022 at 7:46 pm

My aunt’s wedding dress cost $8 at Value Village – a beautiful vintage Laura Ashley dress that needed minor alterations and embellishment. She looked wonderful! Attendants were asked to wear whatever they felt best in, in shades of blue.


Shona November 19, 2022 at 4:21 pm

When CFL bulbs were newly on the market and fairly expensive I bought a couple and was able to replace the rest with free bulbs from the electric department because at that time Al Gore told me that’s what I was supposed to do save the planet (insert face palm emoji). Shortly afterwards I moved and took all my expensive light bulbs with me to the new apartment.


Katy November 19, 2022 at 6:55 pm

Am I not saving the planet with my energy saving light bulbs?! Dang.


Selena November 19, 2022 at 8:27 pm

While a single person may not save the planet, we should all do what we can. AND not be online hypocrites claiming to be concerned about the environment yet not recycl and/or burn cardboard etc.


Dicey November 25, 2022 at 6:30 am

A recent candidate in our local election promotes themself as an environmentalist. They used the ubiquitous coroplast signs. After the election, they told people to “dispose of them” rather than saving them for their next campaign. Grrr!

In a previous campaign, another candidate kept putting signs up on a nearby business without the owner’s permission. *With* the owner’s permission, we took every one down. When we installed new (recycled) pavers at our house, we needed a membrane for the machine that compacts the pavers. The pile of illegally posted campaign signs worked perfectly. Best use of plastic campaign signs ever!


Mati November 26, 2022 at 8:03 pm

Many local Democratic HQ collect signs for reuse/recycling. If yours doesn’t, ask if it’s something they’d consider.

Am November 19, 2022 at 9:24 pm

I live in a city w a large college population and many leases end on June and July 1st. They will throw everything out, it makes so so upset to see all the perfectly good items as waste. For those two weeks I’m driving around the alleys and grab grabbing furniture/TVs I can sell or give away or post location to free groups. This year I got a great haul of groceries, some slightly opened and some alcohol. A different time, I was walking home and spotted some Costco sized snack boxes in the alley. Some granola bars, Takis, chex mix, potato chips, moon pies. weren’t even expired! I loaded out as much as I could into my arms and backpack and walked the mile or so home, my arms were so sore but the snacks lasted a long time and we definitely worth it.


Amy November 20, 2022 at 1:12 pm

I live near a college campus and have also gotten many good condition items and groceries this way. I have several 3 foot tall shelf units that I picked out of the dumpster area.
I was encouraged to see that the student government association has stepped in and collects many of these items in the spring, stores them over the summer and has a give away in the fall.


Joyce November 20, 2022 at 5:59 am

My daughter had moved to our state right before Hurricane Katrina. I was driving thru our subdivision one day and spied some old furniture on the kerb. She and I were interested in one 1900s dresser. It had two dead, very large rats resting in one drawer. Probably were pets. We dumped the rats, took the dresser. It cleaned up good. We furnished a three bedroom house for about $350.00.


Katy November 20, 2022 at 9:46 am

I am phobic about rats, so that one I couldn’t have done myself.


Joyce November 20, 2022 at 11:10 am

The rats were dead, looked kinda like ugly stuffed animals


Katy November 20, 2022 at 5:38 pm

Ugh, worse.


Mary Beth Danielson November 20, 2022 at 12:53 pm

My $800 wedding with 100 guests.
1. My family owned a printing business and printed our invitations.
2. Bought an on-sale Albert Nippon dress for $120 for me. Bought a new suit and shoes for him – he used the suit for interviews for years.
3. We didn’t have attendants.
4. I was an intern pastor (I never became a minister for a lot of serious and funny reasons) so I had connections! The women of the church I was associated with at that time ASKED ME if they could host the church basement reception after the wedding. What an amazing gift to us. My mom made all the cookies. A woman who is my BFF to this day made a 3-tiered cake for $100. She and her husband and two toddlers drove it 100 miles from their rural Indiana home to the west side of Chicago, with no a/c in the car, on a 95-degree day.
5. Second reception was in the ‘bad neighborhood’ condo of good friends. We lost several of our ooh-la-la relatives who wouldn’t drive to into that neighborhood, which we counted as a win. We borrowed utility tables from a church, put a few cardboard boxes on them, covered them all with white sheets, and turned their dining room into a beautiful sandwich and salad bar. We’d served Chicago La Scala Italian beef and bakery buns. We’d arranged ahead of time for a friend’s parents (who liked us and had a big garden) to bring huge bags of produce picked that morning, for the salads. Michael Troyer (RIP) made SIX cheesecakes and topped them with edible flowers and fresh fruit. We had several coolers of beer, wine, and soda. This reception fed about 50 friends and relatives who actually loved us. All the gifts of foods were peoples’ wedding presents to us.
6. One friend and two uncles took photos. They were not professional quality, but they got the job done since I still look at them and smile.
7. Flowers were from a florist his aunt said we had to use. We thought she was going to pay for them but nope, that was $150 of our $800 wedding. We didn’t buy floral arrangements for the church.
Some family members said we were cheap and weird. Well, we were and still are. Once, having coffees with friends my age, we talked about our weddings and all of us, veterans in happy l-o-n-g first or second marriages – all of us had had extremely modest weddings. There must be a clue in there.
Why did we spend so little? I was in grad school and then I had the debts for it but no job. Ten weeks before the wedding my husband-to-be lost his job. A week after our honeymoon we both got jobs.


A. Marie November 20, 2022 at 2:18 pm

A. Marie’s First Law of Marriage: The happiness and stability of the union are generally in inverse proportion to the money spent on the rites.

Me, I got married in a tweed jacket bought on sale in the boys’ department of a local menswear store (I was a LOT thinner then) and a blouse and skirt purchased at the Salvation Army. DH wore the only suit he happened to own at the moment (we too were fresh out of grad school). We got hitched at my hometown county courthouse, by a judge who was a neighbor of ours when I was a child, with immediate family only present. My folks paid for a corsage for me, a boutonniere for DH, and a restaurant dinner afterward. The rest of the money they’d earmarked for my wedding (they’d put aside equal amounts for me and my two sisters) they handed over to us, and we spent it on much-needed appliances for our first house.

I keep telling young folks of my acquaintance that this is a viable option. They just look at me like the crazy old broad I am, and go right on planning their expensive extravaganzas.


Amy November 20, 2022 at 12:59 pm

I have done several things to save money: dumpster diving, gleaning the neighboring potato field, cutting down old t shirts for kids t shirts. But my husband wanted me to tell about the summer of the free Dr. Pepper.

It started with helping a friend with washing windows and rehanging curtains. She bought a pizza and a 20 oz. Dr. Pepper for each of us as a thank you.. I took about half home and finished it the next day. Then basically because I have a large family and several individuals had baby showers, grad parties and picnics, at each one I would end up taking home leftovers. I ended up with half used dark colored sodas. Sometimes it was Dr. Pepper, Coke, Pepsi and other times it was generic Dr. Thunder or Dr. W. I decanted whatever it was into the same soda bottle.

I am happy to say I no longer have the same dependence on Dr. Pepper, but I didn’t buy any that summer.


ch November 20, 2022 at 1:58 pm

1. Garage sale, bought new kitchen sink for 20 dollars, value 300 and installed in rental house for years.
2. Mother-daughter house, converting back to single family home, had contactor remove upstairs kitchen and put in new space on first floor, one and only time he ever took apart a kitchen and reassembled it in same house. only needed new counter tops
3. had to replace all 4 tires on my car, went with spouse negotiated price, and then whipped out a coupon for 40 dollars off, thought my husband would crawl under the counter. they honored the coupon.
4. wedding, bought gorgeous suit off the rack for 50 dollars from Macys, had hat made, 50 dollars boom done. groom wore suit and tie he already owned.


Ruby November 20, 2022 at 3:33 pm

Referring to university spring move-out days, the university I retired from last week used to try to do recycling and food collection during move-out, but the amount of stuff was too large. However, this spring the student workers in the residence halls where I worked took it on themselves to do a mini-version of that effort and salvaged loads of clothing, small items, food and paper goods.

We sent piles of food to the food pantry, carloads of clothes, bedding and household goods to Goodwill, and salvaged enough copier paper, paper towels and toilet paper to keep our office stocked for a couple of years. I also took home 52 rolls of toilet paper from clean but opened packages, which the food pantry would not accept. That’s about a year’s worth of TP for a single bathroom.


Ava November 20, 2022 at 3:46 pm

Let’s see. I have spray painted shoes with good results. I have picked lamps from a dumpster, used them for many years, then donated them. My infant son wore all my daughter’s semi unisex clothing, around the house and slept in her pink nightgowns. Probably one of the most cost effective things I have done was something some would find cringy. My ex husband was in the military and my son was born overseas. There was no base housing and our apartment didn’t have laundry facilities. I washed the baby’s cloth diapers in the bathtub, swishing them around and beating them with a toilet plunger. After rinsing, I dragged the basket of soaking diapers up three flights of stairs to the clothesline on the roof. Theý were well bleached by the sun. The bathtub also got bleached and scrubbed afterwards before I stuck the kids in it for a bath. That was almost 40 years ago but I still consider it a frugal accomplishment.


Mary Kay November 21, 2022 at 10:55 am

A little over a year ago I started using cut up tee-shirt squares as toilet paper for use after urinating. I wash them when I wash things in warm or hot water. It saves money but it is also a contribution to saving the environment.


Ashley Banas November 23, 2022 at 9:29 am

I had been a casual couponer, and upped my game during the country’s extreme couponing phase. I recycle bin dived and took inserts from coworkers for free, never paying for inserts. I became so good I never paid for groceries which allowed me to not go over my monthly income ratio, getting me out of the red every month. My son was in daycare at the time and it was very hard to do, but I figured out how to offset my costs through couponing. I then saved my child tax credit for two years and was able to use it as a down payment for a house in 2012 before the house prices came up. I went from renting a one bedroom apartment for 1k a month to owning a house for about $800 dollars a month. Buying the house was the smartest thing I have ever done financially as it stabilized my small family.


Heidi Louise November 24, 2022 at 7:03 am

What a wonderful plan and success story!


April November 25, 2022 at 1:36 pm

My husband and I travel to Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN several times a year. I drink a lot of milk: A. Lot. (He is not a milk drinker.) I typically buy a quart or a half-gallon when we get to town. With milk prices soaring this summer and not showing any signs of slacking in mid-October, I was not about to leave the rest of the half gallon of milk in the hotel room. Or dump it down the drain. We would be leaving after a midday doctor appointment, checking out of our hotel room that morning and not checking into our hotel room (on the way home) until that evening. So I put it in the car, well “insulated” with clothing (we had not brought a cooler this trip, for several reasons), and we headed off. That evening I put it into the room refrigerator, not realizing the mini-fridge was not operating (we had gotten in very late). In the morning, I realized I had room temp milk. What to do? What to do? I knew we’d be home by late afternoon; I knew the milk was pasteurized and would not “spoil”; what more did I need? We got home, the milk went in the fridge, the next morning it was chilled, and I was delighted to finish every last drop of that container!


Katy November 26, 2022 at 11:22 am

Wow, you really do like milk, you must have bones of steel!


April D Nelson November 27, 2022 at 6:35 am

Katy, “bones of steel” made me burst out laughing! I am 18+ years into multiple myeloma, which usually causes extensive bone lesions. My bones? Zero lesions;zero breaks; zero damage. Yep–I LOVE milk!!!


Katy November 27, 2022 at 9:54 am

Happy to inject some humor into your 18 years of multiple myeloma.


Mati November 26, 2022 at 8:30 pm

My husband has worked in dairy operations and cringes at pastuerized milk left unrefrigerated, so I wouldn’t drink it. I would, however, make cheese with it. I pick up for homebound neighbors at a food bank that received more milk than it could store and took home 12 gallons, which all became cheese after re-pasteurizing.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: