16 Things We No Longer Pay For

Frugality is always at the forefront of our daily life and finding ways to be more frugal has become somewhat of a hobby for us. From dumpster diving to making our own laundry soap, we’re likely to try all manner of things in the name of frugal living. Sometimes the goal is to save a buck or two, but more often than not, it’s for the sheer fun of it. We like to challenge ourselves to be more resourceful, to learn new skills, and find better ways to use what we already have. Our frugal efforts over the years have helped us to no longer pay for:

[Some] Personal Hygiene Items

We finally ran out of the all-natural deodorant that we scored for $1 a stick on clearance last year and had to go on the hunt for something new. Since the last time we purchased deodorant, it seems the market has become flooded with a lot more options, some costing more than $10 a stick. No, we don’t want to stink but we also want to eat and pay the rent. So we opted to make our own, using this recipe. And guess what? It works! We also started making our own mouthwash (with just water, baking soda, tea tree and peppermint oils). Yep, it works too.

Microsoft Office 365

Okay, this is going to sound silly, but, the one thing I was looking forward to most in leaving my job was not the freedom to do something on my own; it was being able to ditch Microsoft Office 365. For 7 years I’ve paid either an annual or a monthly subscription fee all because I was required to use Outlook. As soon as I quit, I switched to LibreOffice. It’s 100% free. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference between their software and Microsoft Office when it comes to word processing or spreadsheets. Google Docs is another good free option.

Amazon Prime

It’s not always feasible to shop local so on occasion, we do buy online, and often it’s from Amazon. But, after a couple of years of paying for Prime, we realized two things – first, we ordered stuff a lot more often just because we wanted to get our “money’s worth” out of the subscription and second, all that packaging just didn’t make us feel good about our environmental impact. We cancelled Prime in 2017 and have made only 6 “strategically planned” purchases since then. Yes, Prime offers other benefits, like videos and books, but for us it was not enough to justify paying $119 a year.

Giving Mom a trim at “Outdoor Clips”

Haircuts

More than six years ago, I ordered an $8 clipper set from Amazon – probably on Prime 🙂 – for the sole purpose of learning to cut our own hair. More inspired by the ineptitude of Great Clips than frugality, I watched a few YouTube videos and sat Angie down in front of the bathroom mirror for her first trim. I was terrified! As the years have gone by, we’ve both gained confidence. I’ve even given haircuts to other family members. At a cost of $30 every 6 weeks for the two of us, I estimate that we’ve saved nearly $1,600 so far.

Central Heat

Last year, we tried an experiment of not turning on the central heat unit in our apartment all winter. We used supplemental heat sources, specifically small room heaters. We saved $91.12 on our heating bill (over the previous year). This year, we’re going to do the same thing and maybe even toss a log in the fireplace every now and then.

Magazines

Fuss at me if you want but I still like to flip through the glossy pages of a magazine every now and then. I just don’t like to pay for them. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get free magazines – the simplest being to go to the library or flip through your favorites at your local bookstore. If you prefer a paperless copy, go online. Many e-zines offer the same articles as the print version, for free. Often you can find offers for a free 1-year subscription to your favorite print magazines online. Free subscriptions are a marketing ploy to get you to purchase a paid subscription the following year, so if you do this, remember to cancel toward the end of your free period. To avoid clutter, I drop our old magazines in the lobby of the doctor’s office where patients can enjoy them while they wait.

Paper Napkins

We switched to cloth napkins about 4 years ago and have never looked back. I think we paid less than $5 for a set of 4 cloth napkins back then. They were on clearance, of course. The monetary savings is not that big (we save about $20 a year not using paper napkins) but the environmental impact is. Since most paper napkins are neither recyclable or compostable, switching to cloth greatly reduces the amount of waste we send to landfill.

Plastic Storage/Sandwich Bags

Almost 2 years ago, we ditched sandwich bags completely. At first, I thought we’d miss them but there really hasn’t been an occasion where we’ve reached for one and haven’t been able to find a suitable alternative. Even though we’ve cut back on purchasing packaged goods, we still end up with a lot of packaging every week – bread bags, produce bags, and more. Simply reusing these eliminates the need to ever purchase a storage or sandwich bag. For freezing, we have reusable freezer containers (yes, they are plastic but they were free). We also use glass jars. They do extremely well in the freezer, provided you leave a little head space.

Holiday Decor

No, we’re not Mrs. & Mrs. Scrooge. We do celebrate holidays and we do decorate our home. We just do it with someone else’s decorations. You’d probably (or maybe not) be surprised at the amount of holiday decor that gets tossed out, especially in the summer. Why? I have no clue! But I do know that all of our Christmas stockings, plastic Halloween pumpkins, and holiday lights were found in the trash.

New Clothes

The average American tosses out 81 pounds of clothing per year, most of which ends up in a landfill somewhere. Yes, people outgrow things or they wear out, but most clothing gets tossed simply because someone doesn’t like it anymore. I like to think we’re a stopgap in that problem. We shop garage sales and thrift stores to find all of our clothing. Sometimes we even find clothes in or near our dumpster. I honestly can’t remember the last time we purchased something new from the store to wear (besides socks and underwear). This sweatshirt I have on cost me 18 cents at a garage sale. And it’s just my style – warm!

Education

It took me FOREVER to pay off my undergrad loans and to this day, I can’t recall a single time when having a degree has helped me get a job, a promotion, or anything else. Not that it can’t for some folks, but for me, higher education has not paid off. On the other hand, I’ve learned a ton of stuff watching Youtube, reading books and blogs, and taking free classes online (on topics ranging from nutrition to permaculture). I can count the number of jobs that has landed me – two.

Dishwasher Rinse Agent

A bottle of Jet Dry will set you back nearly $4. We hand wash a lot of our dishes but since our apartment was upgraded to new appliances, we’ve been using the dishwasher on occasion. Yet, we’ve never put a single bottle of Jet Dry in it. Instead we mix 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide with 10-12 drops of orange or lemon essential oil and fill the rinse agent reservoir. We’ve never had a single spot on our dishes.

Dryer Sheets

A few yeas ago, I received a set of 3 wool dryer balls as a reward for completing an online survey. Though I was never really big on buying dryer sheets in the first place (due to all the chemicals in them), I did occasionally grab a box of unscented ones to keep the static down in the dryer. The dryer balls have been great as a replacement. One set is supposed to last for 1,000 uses. At 4 loads a week, that’s 250 weeks or almost 5 years. Another trick to reduce static, if you don’t have a dryer ball or are opposed to wool, is to use a balled up piece of aluminum foil in the dryer. According to my niece, it also works like a charm!

Excess Life Insurance

This one makes our parents cringe all the time. They believe that life insurance ranks right up their on the necessity chart with things like air, water, and toilet paper. We think otherwise. The purpose of life insurance is to cover debts when you are gone or to provide for your non-working spouse and children. If you are debt-free and have no children, it’s not necessary to leave a large sum of money behind. Angie and I each have a $10,000 term policy that we purchased for a few dollars a month when we were in our twenties. It’s just enough to offset the cost of a funeral.

Recreation Center Memberships

When we first moved to TN, we joined the rec center. We did it mostly to have access to the pool (something we took for granted living in Florida). What a huge waste of money! We went swimming only a handful of times and used the other amenities a sum total of zero times. When our lease was up in 2016, we moved to an apartment with a year-round pool. I can’t say that we’ve used it a whole lot but we don’t pay extra for it either. What we do use often is the great outdoors. With dozens of lakes and hundreds of miles of trails within an hour drive of us, why pay to play inside??

Movies

From Redbox promo codes and free trials of various apps to rewards through your favorite loyalty programs, there are just too many ways to watch movies for free these days to ever have to pay for one.

Want to get in on the freebie action? Check out our 5 Favorite Loyalty Programs.

We also don’t spend money on satellite/cable TV, to-go coffee, or bottled water and we’re getting really close when it comes to books, but all of these topics have been explored at length here and on other blogs so I won’t bore you with the details. Now it’s your turn. How has frugality helped your bottom line? What things do you no longer pay for?

Dried Okra? I Need This in My Life!

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We got out first dehydrator as a gift when we lived in Florida a few years back. I don’t know the brand name, but it was one of the “most recommended” ones on Amazon and came complete with a jerky maker, fruit leather maker, and more. We successfully dried one batch of apples (and ate them all while watching TV one night). From that point on though, nothing seemed to want to dry, no matter what setting we used or how long we left it.

When we moved, we gifted the dehydrator to my sister’s husband who only wanted it for the jerky maker. We were going though a dry spell (no pun intended) on food preservation anyway and it was just taking up space. At the time, we thought we’d never want or need another one, simply because our track record with dehydrating foods was so lackluster, but a few months ago, we watched a video on dehydrating okra.

Okra? Yes!

It was so fascinating to us that we wanted to try it. So we asked the only person we know with a dehydrator – a person who also happened to have grown 70 okra plants this year – to try it for us. I’m sure Angie’s mom spent a great deal of time drying okra for us, but by the time it arrived in the mail (it got lost), moisture had gotten to it and the okra was molded. It was time for Plan B.

We searched garage sales and thrift stores for a dehydrator but none were to be found, so one afternoon, I started looking on Amazon. The woman in the okra video was using a machine that had no temperature settings. It was plug-and-play, so to speak. Part of me thought, this thing can’t work. How’s it going to know the difference between drying apples and herbs? But, the decision was made when I saw the price of the dehydrator. We got an open box bargain for $30.

We don’t often buy new things and we’ve been limiting our online purchases this year (to cut down on packaging and our carbon footprint) so we waited until we needed a few other things before buying the dehydrator. Now you may be thinking it’s pretty silly to spend $30 to try something weird, like dried okra, especially when you can use your own oven as a dehydrator, and I don’t disagree. If we lived anywhere else, I might trust our oven to heat something for hours at a time but I firmly believe our oven is possessed. Once it came on in the middle of the night and would not turn off. Another time, simply turning it on blew the fuse. Though maintenance has fixed it (and even replaced it once), it still sounds like there’s an electrical fire waiting to happen in the wall every time we turn it on. And the apples we tried to dry, under careful supervision on 170 degrees, burnt to a crisp in 2 hours. Yet, it took more than 2 hours to cook two stuffed peppers a few weeks ago – on 350 degrees!

Minimalists, we may be, but when we have a plan to make use of something, we have no issue with getting it. So we did. Which leads me once again to do something I don’t normally do – recommend a product.

We bought the Presto Dehydro, a super simple 4-tier dehydrator. You literally layer the fruit or veggies you want to dry, put the lid on, and plug it in. The drying times in the book are fairly accurate. Though okra wasn’t on the list, it took about 7 hours to dry.

Was it worth it? Oh yes! Dried okra tastes like air-popped popcorn and makes a wonderful snack.

But that wasn’t the end of our drying adventure. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we’re in the midst of dumpster season. The grocery store next door is tossing out good stuff with a vengeance and we are out of freezer space already. The dehydrator has been a lifesaver. So far, it has saved the lives of 20 pounds of bananas, 10 pounds of strawberries, and 10 pounds of apples. (We also dried 5 pounds of mushrooms, though they did not come from the dumpster.)

Unlike our other dehydrator (or even the expensive one that Angie’s mom owns), this machine returns a quality product, time after time. I love the fact that there’s no temperature setting. There’s no guesswork, no trying to determine whether 140 degrees is best for apples or 150 degrees. I can’t say it enough – you plug it in and let it go. At first, we set timers to check on things as they dried but then, we quickly learned that plugging it in right before bed resulted in perfectly dried fruits by morning. The temperature of the Dehydro is approximately 165 degrees.

Herbs are easy too. We dried a tray of fresh dill (on parchment paper) in the time that it took us to do the evening dishes – about 30 minutes.

Another thing that bugged me about our other dehydrator was the space that it took up in storage. This unit is larger but takes up less space because the trays nest inside one another and the unit can sit sideways in the box.

What about energy consumption? Our electricity rates are about 1/4 lower than the national average so it costs approximately 6 cents an hour to run our dehydrator. The national average is 7.2 cents. The bigger savings though comes when you compare the dehydrator to the oven. It costs 24 cents an hour to operate our oven. That means that we get 4 hours in the dehydrator for every hour in the oven. Not bad!

But, you want to know what really made the whole purchase worth it?

We took Addison to the Tennessee State Museum last week and walked over to the Nashville Farmer’s Market for a picnic lunch. That morning, Angie had packed her a little cup of dried bananas and strawberries. It was her first time to try them and her face lit up when she did. As she reached for more, she looked up at us and said, “I need these in my life.”

She’s four years old.

Where on Earth she picks up these things, I don’t know, but in this case, I couldn’t agree more. For as good as the okra turned out to be, there’s nothing in this world more tasty than a crispy dried strawberry chip. You really need to try it. You may find that you need them in your life too!