Your Unique Money Saving Ideas!

by Katy on June 26, 2023 · 19 comments

Last week I asked for your unique money saving ideas, and boy-oh-boy did you deliver! So many amazing ideas, some of which I employ on a daily basis, others new even to me. Here’s a small percentage of your ideas:


I use a 5-cup coffee maker in the morning. (It makes two mugfuls.) When I’m ready for more, I refresh the used grounds by stirring them up a bit and adding half the amount of grounds for a second pot.


A trick I learned years ago was to list our house on the site. That way, our lodging is virtually free when we use the site to arrange reciprocal exchanges (we swap house for house at the same time) or Guest Point exchanges (which work more like Airbnb). We have also rented our house via Airbnb for 2 months while going on a longer road trip.


I give cash as gifts and refuse to buy gift cards because I think cash is far superior — it cannot expire and it doesn’t limit the receiver to a certain store or mall. They can pay a bill, put it into savings or buy things second hand.


We change our clothing more than we change the thermostat of we aren’t comfortable with the house temp. We have saved a lot of money on electric this way. I might wear 3 or 4 different clothes changes, but I’m not making my house hotter or colder.


My addition is to get really clear on your priorities and spend very little on the low priority areas. As a young person my total priority was getting an education. As a young mother it was providing good care and experiences for my sons rather than lots of things. As a working person it was collecting assets for when health issues or retirement called for a nest egg but having inexpensive fun and experiences along the way. Now as a retiree it is stretching our money for everyday expensive where possible, paying for good healthcare and having fun and experiences with our family. Hence the 13 year old car lol.


Personally I think living below ones means is the key. I’m not talking about being so cheap you never see the dentist, optometrist, doctor, maintain/adequately insure what you own OR steal sugar/condiment packages from restaurants. Wants versus needs is key


At least once a year, I review all “repeated expenses”. This means things I pay for month after month with automatic deductions from my bank account. I’m talking about subscriptions, monthly cell phone bill, etc. I don’t want to mindlessly pay for any services I am no longer using.


I will get pumpkins on sale the day after Halloween and put them in colder bedroom and eat on them and their seeds during the winter. They usually last until January or February.


I think for me it was convincing my family that I do not want “stuff”. I don’t need anything more to care for and eventually have to dispose of. I remind them that at some point “stuff” given to me could become their problem to get rid of…..


I save orange netting (plastic kind) from orange bags or other produce that uses that type of netting and use those as scrubbers for my pots and pans. Works great.


one of the best things I did starting right after I finished grad school was to act like I was making $10,000 a year less than I was after taxes and banking that. Every time I took a new job or got a raise, I raised the amount I was acting like I didn’t make, so a few years later I acted like I was making $12,000 less than I was, and so on. After I had a large emergency fund, I stopped putting the excess in the bank and began investing it.

Mary Ann:

Focus on big money moves rather than the small. I treat the small money savers, (like upscaling my 45 year old bath towels with borders and embroidery; cooking in batches; or consigning clothes on Poshmark) as a hobby. I treat the BIG financial stuff as a job. This doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to study and read financial advice. I have to ask real financial advisors pro bono but in the end, I need to make decisions and be bold.

And counterpoint:


I maintain my habit of saving money in most everything by remembering what Amy D. from the Tightwad Gazette preached: It’s the thousands of small things that add up to a large amount of money saved.

I keep my speed at under 64 mph locked into cruise control on the highway to save 7% on gas, we bring our car in for regular oil changes as it extends the life of the vehicle, I use the library for almost all my reading (I buy one book a month from my good friend who owns an Indy bookstore for the Book Club I attend there) and much of my entertainment through their free programs, I wash clothes in cold water and hang them to dry, I cook almost exclusively at home except for attending a few dinners a year to help support local fundraisers, I buy most of our clothing at thrift shops (bras, underwear, bathing suits, socks and shoes excluded…I’m too skeeved out by these) but find these last for a long time anyway, buy almost everything I can secondhand, make our own coffee, tea and iced tea at home, walk for exercise, cash in deposit cans and bottles


Preplan and more importantly prepay for your final arrangements. I did that for my mom and it saved money as the costs were locked in at the time of payment. On the other hand, be prepared for additional expenses that were not thought of at the time of the initial payment. I chose to have my mom buried on a Sunday so more people could attend and it cost extra to have the grave diggers there.


USE THE LIBRARY – all the time. DVDs, books, audio, Libraries are the best bargain. Ours just added Flipster for magazines. I save an amazing amount of money as I tally up the price of what I would buy at the checkout and then download them for free.


One of our best moves was literally a move. We downsized into a new home that has just the right amount of space for our empty-nester lives. Had a big garage sale and sold a few things online before moving. Our utility bills and home insurance have reduced a great deal. With a few exceptions, we used existing furniture so no big redecorating costs. There’s no room for things we don’t really need so the temptation to buy more/new stuff is pretty much gone!


We never replace anything that is still working well to get a newer model. That includes computers, phones, cars, shoes, clothing. If it wears out or begins to have too many problems we don’t mind replacing. We never replace because an item is out of date or unfashionable.


I live frugally so I can live richly.

I have also forged long-term relationships with the people that take care of me, my family and my home. This one is sometimes controversial among frugal people. I do not always shop for the cheapest deal. I have used the same plumber, electrician, contractor, accountant, mechanic, veterinarian, and investment advisor for years. I know that they will treat me fairly and that they do their jobs well. Because I have come to know them, they are always there to help me or answer questions. I believe this saves money in the long run and gives me peace of mind.

I have made an effort to take advantage of all benefits offered by employers over the years – matching 401k contributions, FSAs, HSAs, discount programs, health rebate programs and much more. Now that I’m self-employed, I carefully track my expenditures. Many of my expenses can be written off.


Credit for this tip goes to my husband. He knows how to fix things, so he scours CL for things he needs. He’s redoing our backyard, using mostly secondhand or cheaply sourced materials. He needed a rototiller, so he found a free non-working one on CL. He fixed it rather easily, with minimal cost. He will use it to complete the project and then sell it. It won’t take up space forever and he’ll get at least $250 for it when he sells it in good working condition on Craigslist.

Now it’s your turn, what are your unique money saving ideas? 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen | The Frugal Girl June 26, 2023 at 6:52 am

I’d love to try HomeExchange! One day when I am a homeowner again, and my nest is empty, I’m totally gonna give it a shot.


mary in maryland June 26, 2023 at 10:51 am

I exchanged my tiny apartment in DC for a tiny apartment in Paris for a month. Folks seemed more interested in location than size.


Juhli June 26, 2023 at 3:43 pm

My son and DIL exchanged a small condo on Pasadena for a guest house in Portugal for 3 months. The guest house came with pool use and dog visits!


Katy June 26, 2023 at 4:55 pm

That’s an amazing trade!!!!


Emily June 26, 2023 at 7:20 pm

I tried it and had a family throw a large party without permission (free event space for them), clog up the plumbing, use a crummy plumber that didn’t put the plumbing back together correctly, which caused a flood, and they and Home Exchange did nothing to fix the problem. My cousin, who rents, has had a lot better success. I do not recommend it as a homeowner.


Katy June 26, 2023 at 9:11 pm

What a nightmare! I’m so sorry this happened to you.


Lindsey Goodwin June 27, 2023 at 6:43 am

Hi Kristen,

That was my tip and I hope it helps fellow travelers save some $$, like it has for us. Last year, we went to Lake Tahoe for 6 nights (at 2 different rentals on opposite sides of the lake) and Pacific Grove/Monterey for free!

If anyone is interested in checking it out here’s my referral link –

You’ll get some credit (guest points) and so will I. 🙂


Christine June 26, 2023 at 9:27 am

This was lots of fun. Like you said, there are ideas that are both old and new to me. The new ones are always welcome and reading the old ones is a good reminder for those I may have been forgetting to use.


Dicey June 26, 2023 at 10:07 am

So excited that DH made the list! Post-script: the same model was offered by someone else on CL a few weeks later. He figured the one he had was enough and the second one could be someone else’s score. Love that man!


mary in maryland June 26, 2023 at 10:49 am

Best frugal approach . . .
I had always wanted to quilt but didn’t have the time at home to do it while I was still working. I celebrated my retirement by borrowing a cousin’s easy quilting book and buying enough fabric for two quilt tops. I made one of the tops but was unsure of what to do next. SO I ASKED a quilter I met at her son’s barbeque who took me to her adjacent house to give me some ideas. Her house was PACKED with quilting stuff because her guild was having a yard sale in a couple months. I joined the guild, went to the yard sale, and kissed retail good-bye. Even better than going to yard sales is helping to presort and price the merchandise. Even better than yard sales—I have become known for helping women downsize before the big move or cleaning out the quilting room for a husband after the ultimate big move. I move on the big pieces but keep the scraps. I love scrap quilting. I spend time loving my stash before I go to any near occasions of buying fabric. My mantra is “I am in touch with the abundance in my life.” If I really want something, I write it down, ask around, and look for it whenever I go to a yard sale.
There are fabulous nationally known quilters who do destination workshops. The same famous quilters do lots of local workshops at various guilds for a fraction of the price—and I can sleep and eat at home. Quilt stores offer classes, but they all require a student to buy something new—the ruler, the book, beads—or silk or wool for a whole new way to quilt. I don’t need a new way. I actually avoid stores, because they make my stash look so dated. . . which it is, but then, so am I.
I avoid shop hops where one is encouraged to buy something at every shop for a chance to win something. The average quilter is said to spend $3363/yr on her hobby. Not me. I have not purchased a long-arm quilting setup (they start at $12,000) or a super-duper new machine. I did get a great machine semi-accidentally at about ten percent of the new cost.
I encourage cheap ways for my quilting friends to have fun. The sit and sew and chat. The exchange of Unfinished Objects (UFOs). The donations of magazines at meetings. The “feel free to check my stash before you look online for another piece of that fabric you need.”
I am proud to report that my several hours a week hobby is cost neutral. By using preowned fabric, sourcing tools at yard sale, and avoiding stores I find that the couple of quilts and the many potholders I sell in a year cover all my expenses. And I love to sew.


Katy June 26, 2023 at 11:16 am

This is all so inspiring!


Ashley Bananas June 27, 2023 at 7:45 am

I used to make candles, and because my budget was very tight I would ask neighbors for candle ends, broken candles, candles with lost wicks, etc. From these I would create candles out of recycled materials. I would ask in my neighborhood online group and found that people were very quick to let go of these things, often giving me items that had a lot of shelf life left and didn’t even need recycling. I would often recycle wicks, wick foots, and jars. Waxes I would separate by type and then combine to make full candles. The only thing I typically bought were scents and sometimes wicks. It was very fun and at a fraction of the cost had I bought all my materials new.

One time a neighbor with a store gave me several boxes of religious candles which had fallen from a shelf in his store and the glass was broken and imbedded into the wax. I boiled them directly in water at a low heat making a density level tower where glass was in the bottom, water in the middle, then wax on top. I would turn off the heat and let it sit over night to cool and get a wax disc. It was really cool and my son helped.

I’ve since given it up and gave my remaining items to a neighbors daughter who was getting into candle making. It super fun.


Louise June 28, 2023 at 3:32 am

As a fellow quilter, I love this story! I built my stash originally by searching eBay for <$1/yard fabric. Usually it was being sold by family members clearing out a quilter's estate. They probably had no idea that she purchased all that fabric for ten times as much money.

After a few years, I became involved in a quilting charity and became the go-to person for accepting donated orphan blocks. Folks were so happy to get rid of those extra blocks that they usually also donated fabric. It arrives at my home in HUGE boxes. I haven't paid for fabric in years and I love the creative process of turning these discards into lovely quilts.

My brilliant and frugal husband taught himself sewing machine maintenance so I never miss a day of stitching. YouTube is his best resource for learning the right techniques.


rae June 26, 2023 at 6:34 pm

This will sound strange to a lot of people, but: I don’t wash or cut my hair. Or, I should say, I don’t use soap or any products on my hair, just rinse it with water and scrub my scalp with my fingers. I swear I do not stink or have mats or anything like that! My hair is below my hips at this point because I got tired of paying for haircuts I didn’t like.

So I haven’t had to buy shampoo or conditioner or anything hair related other than a bottle of oil (jojoba if you are curious) since 2019. I also stopped buying plastic hair restraining devices and replaced them with metal ones (but that was actually very expensive).


Coral Clarke June 26, 2023 at 8:26 pm

I portion control EVERYTHING! Household/Personal cleaning products? 50 % of the recommended amount works just as well ( possible exceptions would be very stained work/ sports clothes) Protein? Most of us are in the habit of eating at least 50% more than required! If you regularly make 4 serves into 5, plate it and freeze it, on nights when cooking would make your head explode, you have multiple choices in the freezer, no need for takeaways.
See if you can , over time, create a sharing circle for infrequently used items ( ladders, power tools, drop sheets etc) If you are nifty with a sewing machine, see if anyone would rather paint, if you’re happy to baby sit, see if anyone is happy to prune your trees. Sometimes, to live in the village we want to be part of, we have to sign up to be a founding member, and let people know members are wanted!


Katy June 26, 2023 at 9:10 pm

I love this! I remove the big scoop for our powdered laundry detergent and replace it with a small scoop. Never noticed a difference and our detergent lasts forever. I keep a tablespoon measuring spoon in our powdered dishwasher detergent so that we don’t mindlessly use too much.

We lend out our belongings all the time to friends and neighbors. Last week it was a wheelbarrow, and a friend just returned my sweater shaver yesterday. We borrow one neighbor’s pressure washer as well as countless last minute dinner ingredients.


Dmarie July 5, 2023 at 1:50 pm

some years back, I read a recommendation from the Queen of Green (David Suzuki Foundation) that only one tablespoon of powdered detergent is necessary for lightly soiled loads (say, sheets washed once a week), so I stuck a tablespoon measure in our detergent & started adjusting based on how soiled things were. This recently made the NYT: “To effectively clean your clothes, you need to use only 2 tablespoons per load at most—and that’s for big loads weighing 12 pounds or more.” So nice not to have as much moolah going down the drain 🙂


Alison July 12, 2023 at 6:13 pm

For the past decade I have actually just used 1/2 tablespoon of powdered detergent (Country Save brand) per load of laundry. This started when I started cloth diapering my oldest and that was the recommended amount of detergent for the diapers. It works great- no funky smells or anything, and I don’t do small loads. I have five kids and lots of laundry, so this has saved a lot of money. A box lasts forever it seems.


Jan June 27, 2023 at 5:23 am

I use baking soda for teeth whitener. Just put about half a teaspoon of soda in the palm of your hand, wet a toothbrush and dip it in. Brush your teeth gently – the soda is abrasive. Your teeth will be super clean and white! You can brush gently again with toothpaste for a better aftertaste.
Use maybe once a week & do be careful not to brush too hard. You’ll see results!


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