75 [Somewhat Crazy] Ways to be More Frugal

This post was originally published 2 years ago. Since that time, we’ve found a few new (and yes, still somewhat crazy) ways to be even more frugal. I thought I’d share again while we recover from an almost non-stop 2-week adventure with our great niece. Enjoy!


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 75 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 and containers (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. Swap out your light bulbs for CFLs or LEDs*
  15. Borrow books, movies, and music from your local library*
  16. Dumpster dive*
  17. Hang clothes outside to dry
  18. Buy clothing and household goods from thrift stores (or garage sales)*
  19. Take extra condiments and/or napkins from fast food restaurants*
  20. Raise the thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and lower it to 68 degrees in the winter*
  21. Open windows and use fans (when possible)*
  22. Couchsurf or tent camp (for vacations)*
  23. Use only prepaid, no-contract cell phones*
  24. Cut cable*
  25. Use newspaper or color-print ads for wrapping paper*
  26. Make your own gifts for the holidays*
  27. Use the backside of printed pages for scrap paper/post-it notes*
  28. Refill ink cartridges*
  29. Recycle birthday and/or Christmas cards into holiday postcards*
  30. Pick up change*
  31. Skip using deodorant or shampoo (or make your own)
  32. Walk, bike, take the bus or carpool
  33. Create a meal plan and shop your own pantry first*
  34. Cook at home*
  35. Grow your own food*
  36. Use veggie scraps to make your own broth*
  37. Turn bread scraps into breadcrumbs or croutons*
  38. Compost*
  39. Buy in bulk (when possible)*
  40. Join a CSA farm-share program*
  41. Visit a U-pick farm (not only are the fruits and veggies super fresh, they are usually cheaper)*
  42. Use coupons*
  43. Drive a used car*
  44. Use cloth menstrual pads or a menstrual cup
  45. Use the internet at free WiFi spots*
  46. Use cloth diapers
  47. Make your own toothpaste*
  48. Put an empty quart jar in your toilet tank to save water during flushes*
  49. Wear mismatched socks and gloves (ones that have lost their mates)
  50. Reuse tea bags or coffee grounds*
  51. Pay cash for all purchases
  52. Take your lunch to work*
  53. Ditch your microwave (and convenience foods)*
  54. Exercise at home (bonus points for using canned goods as hand weights)*
  55. Go for a hike or walk*
  56. Get a free pass to try out a local gym or YMCA
  57. Eat less meat*
  58. Shop the day-old rack for discounted breads and pastries*
  59. Barter with or borrow from your neighbor*
  60. Glean untended fruit trees or gardens in your neighborhood*
  61. Take water and snacks with you whenever you leave the house*
  62. 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)*
  63. Enjoy free entertainment in your community (festivals, concerts/movies in the park, etc.)*
  64. Upcycle mesh produce bags into pot scrubbers and bath puffs*
  65. Use reward apps like Shopkick to earn gift cards for gas or groceries*
  66. Learn to make simple home repairs on your own*
  67. Take advantage of free trials of entertainment apps (like Netflix, Hulu or CBS) to catch up on your favorite shows (don’t forget to cancel before the end of the trial though!)*
  68. Borrow e-books through Lendle*
  69. Pick up hobby and craft supplies at garage sales*
  70. Learn how to effectively hack your credit card reward programs*
  71. Buy gift cards to places you visit often when they are offering bonus offers (like Panera’s recent buy $50, get $10 free)*
  72. Change banks to earn new customer cash rewards*
  73. Freeze your credit report to discourage opening new accounts*
  74. Take advantage of free preventative health screenings and health fairs*
  75. Stop shopping online*

We’re Not Broke, We’re Minimalists

We’re broke, didn’t you know?

Believe me, it came as a complete surprise to us as well. All these many months of budgeting and saving and investing and paying off student loans and buying a car with only 2 payments, and here we sit today, flat broke. The way I hear it, we can’t even afford to buy a box of Kleenex. You’re shocked, I know. You thought we had more sense than that. And you’re probably wondering what happened. Where would a couple of minimalists spend their life savings and how would we suddenly go from financially flexible to strapped for cash.

Here’s a clue. We didn’t.

As much as I love toying with the idea of living a moneyless life, being broke is not on my list of things to do in 2018. The assumption that we’re living paycheck to paycheck came from someone who is living the “American Dream” (in other words, she is broke herself) and it caught me so off guard that since hearing it, I’ve turned it into a joke.

“No, love, we can’t get those day-old croissants. We’re broke, remember?”

“Mom, do you have a quarter? I need to get some Ramen for dinner.”

There are people all around us who are living in poverty. There are hardworking men and women who can’t make ends meet no matter how hard they try. There are students saddled with so much educational debt that they have no choice but to live with mom and dad until they are 30. There’s nothing funny about that, and I firmly believe that it’s going to take the voices and efforts of all of us to make any changes there. But when someone mistakes minimalism for financial insecurity, now that’s something to chuckle about.

Let’s talk about how we got here…

We’re broke because we eat out of the dumpster. 38 million tons of good food goes to waste every year in America and the grocery store next door does a fine job of contributing to this terrible statistic. Knowing this, we feel a responsibility to at least rescue what we can. Besides, when you can find foods like this for free, why would you pay for them?

We’re broke because we shop at the thrift store. The average American throws away 80 pounds of clothing per year. Most of which ends up in a landfill somewhere. The average minimalist wears 30 pounds of clothing per year (yes, I weighed our wardrobe). Angie and I both could dress quite nicely on the discards of just one person so yes, we shop at thrift stores. Not only is thrifting better for the environment but it’s quite fun. Who doesn’t enjoy finding a pair of $80 ExOfficio travel pants for just $2.99?

Monkeying around at Rainforest Zoo on a Groupon.

We’re broke because we use coupons and discounts. I’m sorry but paying full price for something is not an indicator of wealth (like so many folks here in the South think). Every dollar saved is well…a dollar saved. And with those saved dollars, we can do other, more important things like travel.

We’re broke because we don’t have luxuries like cable and the latest iPhone. Don’t even get me started on how backwards we are because of this! Yes, our $50 Boost Mobile phones do have a tendency to attach random sentences to text messages but what’s life without a little novelty? And on the subject of cable, we broke up nearly 5 years ago and we haven’t missed it yet. We have; however, had quite a lot of fun on the $79 per month we used to spend for the pleasure of clicking through channels to find there was never anything on.

Playing cornhole at the park.

We’re broke because our idea of fun is a day at the park. Not the theme park. The regular park. The one with the grass and trees.

But mostly we’re broke because we “failed” at Christmas this past year. While this person went overboard, buying everything that everyone in her family even thought about wanting, we made our gifts and stuck to our guns about not supporting rampant consumerism. And we have yet to live this down.

Minimalism is a hard concept for some people to understand. It’s different, I know. Maybe even revolutionary in some respects. It’s definitely counter-intuitive to the way we (Americans) have been raised, where “stuff” and “debt” are such a part of normal culture that we often fail to realize a different path exists. Minimalism asks folks to take stock of what’s important to them and usually, because of it, they eschew the traditional path of excess and responsibility and do something far more fascinating/important/worthy with their lives. When this happens, those around them react and more often than not, the reaction is a negative one. I’m sure there’s a better psychological reason behind this but my take on it is that people often feel threatened by things they don’t understand, or think are beyond their own reach.

The thing is, minimalism is not beyond reach. Anyone can choose to live a life of less. You don’t have to live in a tiny house or wear the same clothes all week long. You don’t have to get rid of everything you own or stop shopping altogether. You just have to decide what’s most important to you and reduce or eliminate anything that doesn’t support that choice. For us, the most important thing is spending time with each other and our family (and travel, of course!). Having cable or an expensive phone doesn’t support that. Neither does buying new clothes or handing out expensive holiday gifts to show “how much we love someone”.

We can’t change how other people see the world if they choose to keep their eyes closed. We just have to accept that for every one person who supports our choices in life, there are likely to be ten more who don’t. If being environmentally aware, if being thoughtful and considerate of others, if making more conscious decisions about what we do with our money and more importantly, our time, makes us “broke” then I suppose we’ll just have to accept that too.

Now does anyone have a dollar I can borrow? I really need that croissant.