50 [Somewhat Crazy] Ways to be More Frugal

A few days ago I was skimming a post in one of the Facebook groups that I belong to. The question posed was “What frugal things do you do that your friends consider crazy?” As I read a few of the comments, I got to thinking – with few exceptions, we do just about everything that was listed – so we must be crazy frugal after all!

From the comments and from our own brainstorming exercise, Angie and I compiled a list of 50 somewhat crazy ways to be more frugal. They are in no particular order. We put an asterisk (*) by the ones we currently do or have done in the past. How many do you do? What did we miss that should be added to the list?

  1. Split or share meals at restaurants*
  2. Drink water at restaurants instead of purchasing a drink*
  3. Use family cloth instead of toilet paper
  4. Stop wearing make-up*
  5. Learn how to give haircuts at home*
  6. Re-use baggies (Ziploc, plastic grocery bags, bread bags, etc.)*
  7. Shower less often*
  8. Reuse bath towels for several days*
  9. Shred newspaper to use as cat litter
  10. Make your own cleaners and laundry soap*
  11. Use a wool dryer ball instead of dryer sheets*
  12. Wear clothes for multiple days*
  13. Hand wash dishes*
  14. Borrow books, movies, and music from your local library*
  15. Dumpster dive*
  16. Hang clothes outside to dry
  17. Buy clothing and household goods from thrift stores (or garage sales)*
  18. Take extra condiments and/or napkins from fast food restaurants*
  19. Raise the thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and lower it to 68 degrees in the winter*
  20. Open windows and use fans (when possible)*
  21. Couchsurf or tent camp (for vacations)*
  22. Use only prepaid, no-contract cell phones*
  23. Cut cable*
  24. Use newspaper or color-print ads for wrapping paper*
  25. Use the backside of printed pages for scrap paper/post-it notes*
  26. Refill ink cartridges*
  27. Recycle birthday and/or Christmas cards into holiday postcards*
  28. Pick up change*
  29. Skip using deodorant or shampoo
  30. Walk, bike, take the bus or carpool
  31. Cook at home*
  32. Grow your own food*
  33. Compost*
  34. Use coupons*
  35. Drive a used car*
  36. Use cloth menstrual pads or a menstrual cup
  37. Use the internet at free wi-fi spots*
  38. Use cloth diapers
  39. Make your own toothpaste*
  40. Wear mismatched socks and gloves (ones that have lost their mates)
  41. Reuse tea bags or coffee grounds
  42. Pay cash for all purchases
  43. Take your lunch to work*
  44. Exercise at home (bonus points for using canned goods as hand weights)*
  45. Eat less meat*
  46. Shop the day-old rack for discounted breads and pastries*
  47. Barter with or borrow from your neighbor*
  48. Glean untended fruit trees or gardens in your neighborhood*
  49. Take water and snacks with you whenever you leave the house*
  50. Use the ice machine at hotels to refill water bottles or small coolers on road trips (even when you didn’t stay at the hotel)*

That Week We Had New Phones

Even the most frugal folks make buying mistakes sometimes. I’d say that it was okay but I’m still waiting on the finally tally of our latest mistake before I know that for sure. At present, we’re up to $93.31.

For the past 3 1/2 years we’ve been toting around a pair of Samsung Galaxy S3 phones. These bad boys have traveled all over the place – from Manhattan to Mexico – taking pictures, posting to Facebook, and keeping us in touch with our friends and family back home. Mine has also had the added burden of facilitating weekly conference calls and handling umpteen million text messages from worried moms and crazy teenagers at all hours of the day and night. In other words, the S3 is workhorse.

A few weeks ago we had the bright idea to upgrade from workhorse to megapixel madness. Let me clarify that a bit – we had been talking about upgrading for more than a year at that point but in researching we could never find anything in our price range that met our must-haves. When my camera froze in the middle of taking pics of baby Addison in the pool, we moved from “talking about” to “doing something” and picked out a pair of LG G3 phones from an online retailer. They were rated 4.4 stars by CNET, were capable of wi-fi calling, and had a 13 MP camera for goodness sakes! How bad could they be??

And so began our journey down the rabbit hole. The phones arrived on Saturday along with our new SIM cards (the wrong SIM cards, by the way). Cost to return the wrong SIM cards – $6.61. Cost to order the right SIM cards – $24.00.

We quickly learned that wi-fi calling does not work on all networks, even when your new phone has the capability for it. This was kind of a sticking point. Being a Ting subscriber is great if you can keep your usage within their small to medium buckets. The best way to do this (when not using your phone is not an option) is through wi-fi calling. Once you reach the large to extra-large Ting buckets, you’re better off with a wireless carrier than offers unlimited talk/text for a set rate. So…we began considering a move to another carrier.

In the meantime, I got a blank text message from my niece. It was supposed to be a picture but for some reason MMS messaging wasn’t working on the new phone. Several hours and several resets later, we couldn’t get any messages. In fact, we couldn’t connect to the wireless network at all. Ting checked our account and found nothing limiting access to the network.

The proverbial straw though was the persistent pop-up for a system update. We updated I don’t know how many times only to have the box appear again within minutes, prompting for the same Android System Update. A little research and we found that this was a common issue with the G3 and the only way around it was to root the device (not happening!) or turn off ALL system notifications. Great! Thanks, LG!

On Friday, we boxed up the phones and sent them back to the store. Bubble wrap – $1.50. Cost of return shipping – $11.70. Restocking free – yet to be determined.

Thankfully, we still had our workhorses. Since the S3s were not in service with Ting, we decided to provision them through a different carrier offering unlimited talk/text. (When your mom who lives 3 miles away calls you every night instead of stopping by, unlimited calling is an absolute must.) Cost to move phones to another carrier – $49.50.

The lesson in all of this? I’ve got a bunch of them – take your pick. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Newer is not always better. Don’t throw good money after bad. Never make buying decisions when you’re frustrated. But my favorite one is this –

It’s a waste to buy things you don’t need. This whole episode was a reminder to me that minimalism is about getting more out of life with less. Less stuff. Less waste. Less impact. Less time spent on meaningless pursuits. We spent the better part of a week messing with a piece of technology that would have done very little to improve our quality of life (quality of photos, maybe, but quality of life, I don’t think so). We wasted time. We wasted money. We wasted resources (fuel to ship these things to/from, mailing materials, 2 SIM cards we can no longer use, etc.). And in the end, we were right back where we started.

We take really good care of the things we do own so the old phones are in very good condition. Sure they freeze up occasionally but then again so does this laptop I’m typing on right now…and the TV…and even our coffee pot. Such is the nature of technology. When the phones do die, we’ll replace them, and we’ll do it conscientiously and with a better understanding of what we need and don’t need from a phone. Until then, I’m marking this off of our list of things to even be concerned about.

Have you ever made a rash buying decision that you regret? What was the outcome?