The Frugal Corner

I am a confirmed and baptized Tightwad. I have lots of money saving tips and am always on the look out for either time saving or money saving ideas.

Here are some of Shirley’s top hints:


  1. I buy a 40 gallon tub of powered laundry detergent from Sam’s. It costs $10. I use an 1/8 cup per extra large load. My last purchase of laundry detergent was January 27, 1999. ( I dated the tub with a marker to see how long it would last. I do this on all household cleaners to see what lasts longer when comparing of how well it works.) I still have about three cups of laundry detergent left at this typing. ( It’s the agitation in your washing machine that cleans your clothes, not the soap. Soap is for scent. I pre treat stains with Shout. And use a Fabric softener which I always add a bit of water to it.)

  2. I hang dry all shirts and pants. Outdoors when possible.

3)I rip dryer sheets in half before use. It takes me forever to go through a box.


This is not an area of speciality with me. I am always looking for ideas in this department.

My only thing of real savings that I highly recommend is to buy meat in bulk at Sam’s or Costco, etc, ( porkchops) and since they are cut so thick, when I get home, I slice them in half and get twice the meals out of them.

I use vineager in my dishwasher during the rinse cycle for spot free dishers ( which spots are a real problem with hard water, even with a water softener.)

Baby Stuff:

  1. 90% of my children’s clothing ( and toys)has come from garage sales, resale shops or hand me downs. The 10% that I’ve paid for has been for either holiday clothing ( which has been from resale shops anyway) or really fun and funky winter hats.

  2. Diapers - Buy in bulk. Running out of just to pick up a pack of diapers will end up buying impulse things you don’t need.
    If it is a first baby you are expecting, write down the cost of all the diapers on the shelf at the stores you frequent and to a comparative analysis. It takes time, but when you see just how much the dang things are, and how much you can save (with and without coupons) it is well worth the ten minutes of writing in the diaper aisle. I did this and shared my findings with my neighbors who were all expecting at the same time. They were very appreciative.

That’s all I can think of off the top of my head.

Anyone else care to contribute?

" I went to a breakfast that “Served Breakfast At Anytime”. So I ordered french toast during the Renaissance." - Stephen Wright

  1. If you eat breakfast cereal avoid the name brands and buy the generic cereal in the huge bags. You literally get more than twice as much for the same $$ and it tastes the same.

  2. Avoid name-brand aspirins, cold medications, etc. Buy the generic brand. Same ingredients (aspirin is aspirin, folks), much lower price.

  3. Invest in a good, basic cookbook and if you haven’t already, LEARN TO COOK. For what you pay for a big jar of Prego spaghetti sauce you can buy the ingredients yourself and make 5 times as much.

  4. Go to matinees instead of evening movie showings.

“My hovercraft is full of eels.”

Torgo, good call on the generic medicines, I forgot about that one.

Most of the generic/store brand medicine is made by the Name Brand Manufactorer (sp?), and marketed under the store name. I learned this from my pediatrician who basically said, " Do you think that some Rite Aid clerk is in back whipping up a batch of Triaminic? The Big Names don’t care as long as the product is getting sold, and it is, often for several dollars cheaper.

" I went to a breakfast that “Served Breakfast At Anytime”. So I ordered french toast during the Renaissance." - Stephen Wright

Dang! I need you to come have a talk with my wife. :slight_smile:

One other suggestion: Cut coupons. I know people who look at me like I’m nuts when I mention that I do this, but when I get to the register and get $14 off my bill from coupons, I think it’s worth it (no, I don’t get this much off ALL the time, but it’s not uncommon to have the clerk have to call a manager over to accept the over $10 in coupons I have).

Woman, I don’t even USE dryer sheets! I have a box of generic Walgreens ones that I bought about 5 years ago; I cut the roll into 4ths and will occasionally throw one of the slivers in with a load of towels if company is coming. :wink:
I’d say 80-90% of my clothing comes from thrift stores (Everything but pantyhose and underwear almost.) And most of my books come from the thrift store or library too. (I admit, we have really good thrift stores around here.)
In addition to your suggestion to make people learn to cook, I add learn to use leftovers and like it. Pack smaller portions of stuff to take in your lunch the next day, or dice up leftover meat to use in quesodillas (sp?) or wraps. My greatest leftover triumph was the time I tried a recipe from a magazine for Italian sloppy joes. It was a larger recipe than I anticipated and I was left with quite a bit of ground beef in a garlicy, oregano tomato sauce. I mixed what was left with some ricotta cheese and filled pasta tubes with it to make canneloni. Once you learn how to cook, you figure out what ingredients make up what and how you can interchange them. You’ll find yourself planning your menus based on what kind of leftovers you’re after. Sneaky!
Get this, the other day when I was at the grocery store checkout the woman asked if I was having a party. What happened to be on sale that week was corn chips and baking stuff, junk like that. I told her “Nah, I just want to get enough to last me 'til the next sale.” and she said “Oh, I get it. You buy a lot of what’s on SALE and make it last!” Like the idea had never occured to her before! I couldn’t believe it! With our grocery store doing one of those scan card deals you can really make out like a bandit when they’re selling something “buy one get one free.” If it’s something you use anyway then get as much as you can and freeze it if it’s perishable or stick it in the pantry, a closet, or under your bed if it’s not.
I’m giving gardening a shot this summer, although my halfhearted attempt a couple years ago was a bust. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

“Welcome to the Knowledgeum, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from such automated information kiosks as ‘Welcome to Springfield Airport’ and ‘Where’s Nordstrom?’”

You have to be careful with coupons, I’ve found. Often the price w/ coupon of the name brand is still more expensive than the generic brand. Furthermore, coupons will often be for items you probably wouldn’t have bought at all without the coupon, such as novelty snack foods. Not buying the squeezable peanut butter in the first place will save you the most money. Coupons can be useful, but you have to be aware.

For most people I think impulse purchases and luxury items are the biggest money suckers. The trick is not to cut out everything that is not a basic neccesity, but to learn to differentiate between those unnecessary purchases that you will contine to love and appriciate for years and those unnecessary purchases that you will either regret or forget in a matter of days. I have a two-fold technique:

1)Never, ever, buy anything the first time you see it.

  1. Always put the cost of something into terms of what else that money could buy. “Ten dollars” is too abstract, and it is too easy to put the words "It only costs. . " in front of it. I try and think “Would I rather have this or a paperback book?” or “Would I rather have this or a bottle of fine liquor?” or “Would I rather live in a nicer apartment or have a new computer every two years?” or whatever. Yes, I still spend money on my real vices, but at least I am not wasting money on vices I don’t really enjoy.
    Another little trick: if you unavoidably end up at the grocery store hungry, go to the milk aisle and grab a single serve milk or chocolate milk. You can drink it in the store and pay for it useing the empty container (Clerks are always cool with this), and it will calm hunger pangs so that you don’t buy things that only look good thru a hunger-induced haze.

Generic brands of over the counter medicines is a must. But also, skip RiteAid and go to Drug Emporium - they’re usually a dollar cheaper even on the store brands than the other chains are.

I buy store or generic brands of other things too, like canned goods, mac and cheese, etc.

If you use SOS pads, cut them in half (I personally prefer the Brillo plastic wool pads because they don’t rust).

Don’t take cash out of ATMs anywhere other than your own bank.

Write checks instead of using your ATM card - those 25¢ fees add up quickly.

Wash and reuse those expensive ziplock bags (it’s environmentally better, too).

If you’re not much of a milk drinker, keep a box of powdered milk in the house to use in recipes that call for milk. You’ll never have to throw out a half gallon of milk because all you needed was 1 cup for a recipe and the rest went sour. Trust me, no one can tell the difference once something is baked or cooked with dry milk instead of fresh. (I sometimes add a bit of coffee creamer to the dry milk mixture to thicken it for sauces where skim milk just won’t cut it.)

Buy refills for your household products such as window cleaner & liquid fabric softener and just refill the bottles you already have. It’s cheaper, less wasteful and easier on our landfills.

Turn your recyclables into cash at recylcing centers.

Don’t throw out limp celery - put it in a container of water. Since celery is mostly water anyway, it will absorb the needed water to become crisp again. (Or just store it in water to begin with - it’ll last longer.)

Buy a water filter/purifier for your kitchen tap and stop buying expensive bottled water. If you really like having those little bottles to carry around, just refill them from the tap.

Learn how to make minor repairs/replacements on your car. I change my own air filter, burnt out headlights, fuses, etc.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” - Anne Frank

Oh, yeah. I do the coupon thing; clip and put them in dated envelopes, then match them up w/ grocery list. important: don’t just buy something because you have a coupon! Though I make expections for non perishables, e.g. toilet paper, etc. Between that and “saver’s cards”, it’s rare when I don’t carve 10% of the bill.

Check out a nifty little publication, called “Tightwad Gazette” (I think; will confirm later).

Some great “foodie” savings, for packaged stuff that costs the damned earth:

8 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp salt
1 cup non-fat dry milk powder
1/4 cup solid shortening
3 quart container

Sift flour, dry milk, baking powder and salt together 3 times. Cut in shortening until thoroughly mixed. Spoon mixture lightly into 3 qt. container. DO NOT PACK. Close tightly and store on shelf. Doesn’t require refrigeration. Makes @ 10 cups.

(Basically, it’s homemade Bisquick, at a fraction of the cost.)


1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup flour

Beat well w/ electric mixer and store in fridge. When you bake, put this in your pans. I’ve never had a cake fail with this and it costs pennies compared to the spray stuff.


4 cups sugar
1 2oz. jar instant coffee
2 cups boiling water
2 tsp pure vanilla
1 pint Canadian whisky

Let stand 3 months in glass jar. It ain’t bad for a homemade knockoff, and a hell of a lot cheaper.

Definitely garden! Even if it’s just windowsill/container stuff. I haven’t bought herbs in years; grow my own and the taste is incredible. Beware, though; the taste is so much clearer you’ll need to adjust amounts after those awful grass clippings they sell in stores.)

Get a dehydrator. Honestly, it will pay for itself within a few months. Dry fruit, herbs, tomatoes, jerky whatever that you make when the produce is cheap. (And you control the salt and additives.)
Freeze and or dry tomatoes, jalapenos, snow peas, etc.

I don’t want to hog bandwidth, but if anyone is interested I could post the code for determining date of manufacture for McCormick spices. It’s pretty appalling how old some of that stuff is. Anyway, some of my cheapskate favorites…


The Dollar Stretcher

“Wednesday the 15th - Chris made one of her rare good points today.”

The book you are thinking of is the “Tightwad Gazette.” There are 3 books that I believe have been re-released into one big, fat superbook. You can usually find one of them at the library, but I went ahead and bought them because I re-read them so often. One of the best ideas the author talks about is “cost-per-‘wow’.” The idea behind how much better (or not) something is than the less expensive option. Example: Her daughter wanted a pair of green Eddie-Bauer type boots that some of her classmates were wearing. The boots usually sold for around $25 but the author was able to find a similar pair of boots in purple at their church’s yard sale for 25 cents. The daughter of course didn’t want purple boots, she wanted green ones, but the author asked her if she thought the $25 boots were 100 times better than the 25 cent boots. In other words, the “wow” factor of the green boots was not 100 times more than that of the purple ones, and the kid gave in and wore the purple ones. (Of course she then noticed that quite a lot of other people had purple ones and decided she liked them better anyway.)

The books are also full of great recipes and tips sent in by readers (it was originally a newsletter, and the author and her husband were able to retire in their 40’s due to their thrifty lifestyles.)

I forgot the thrifty option I’m lucky to have. The orthodontist office where I work receives tons of stuff packaged in zippered plastic bags. I arrive home daily with bags of all shapes and sizes. I always felt wasteful for putting 2 cookies in a big sandwich sized bag, but now I have small bags that archwires were shipped in that are just the right size. Headgear bags are perfect for two leftover hotdogs in buns. The empty wire spools I put to use as spools for my embroidery thread. The divided plastic trays that molar bands come in are perfect for my husband to put tiny bolts and nuts in while he works on the car. Look around where you work at stuff that gets thrown away that you can put to use at home.

“Welcome to the Knowledgeum, I’m Troy McClure. You may remember me from such automated information kiosks as ‘Welcome to Springfield Airport’ and ‘Where’s Nordstrom?’”

Ahhh, a subject dear to my heart.

First, I don’t use coupons because the only name brand product I buy is liquid dish soap. Store brands are ever so much cheaper.

I don’t buy paper towels OR paper napkins. Cloth dish towels and napkins last forever. I use cloth cloths for housecleaning (they leave less lint, too); old cloth diapers are wonderful. Which brings me to:

When having babies, the best way to save money is to use cloth diapers. This isn’t an option if your baby is in daycare, but you can at least use cloth ones at home and save money out the kazoo. I saved literally thousands of dollars this way, with 3 kids. Instead of baby-wipes, use cloth rags. Breastfeeding is also free, compared to the thousands of dollars you’ll spend on formula. (Of course, if you’re really frugal, don’t have kids at all! ;))

We don’t eat out, except for extremely special occasions. I make pizza at home, and two large pizzas with side orders of bread sticks cost me about 2 dollars; compare that to the price of Pizza Hut.

When recipes call for meat, you can substitute something else, or cut the amount of meat in half. Buy ground beef in bulk, divide it into 1lb. portions, and freeze. Instead of canned beans or instant rice, buy the regular dried stuff. You can cook a huge pot of beans and freeze them in portions. Regular rice is so much cheaper than the instant kind.

I don’t ever buy Cokes or junk food, except I do buy chips for my son’s school lunch. Instead of the single-serving packs of chips, I buy a big bag and divide it into single-serving portions with (generic) baggies.

The huge barrel of laundry detergent is the way to go. I’d also suggest instead of using drier softener sheets to buy a gallon of (cheap) fabric softener, put about 1/8 of a cup of it on a clean washrag, and throw that in the drier instead.

Also, get that humongous box of toilet paper for $13 at Sam’s. Lasts six months and doesn’t clog up the pipes like Charmin. (We never buy Kleenex, either. Toilet paper is just as good for us working-class types.)

As for cleaning supplies, I spend maybe a few dollars a year. Generic bleach is a good all-purpose stain remover/ disinfectant. Dilute ammonia with water for window cleaner (and use old newspapers or cloth rags instead of paper towels). I buy a big jug of Pine Sol and dilute it for dusting, general cleaning, and mopping floors. The only other thing you need is a generic can of scouring powder (the store brand will save you a dollar over the Comet).

Another thing I’ve done is instead of buying wrapping paper for gifts, cut brown paper grocery bags along the seams, use to wrap the presents, and tie a little raffia around it for effect. (I think this is much prettier than the cheesy wrapping paper you buy, anyway.) If you want to go all out, stencil the paper a little. For kids’ gifts, use the Sunday comics section of the newspaper. Save bows and reuse them. Use handwritten cards instead of store-bought ones.

Buy your bread and snack cakes at the bakery outlet store. Ten bucks or less will get you a month’s supply of bread and cakes.

If you have a food salvage store nearby, check it out. Dented cans won’t hurt you unless they’re bulging; you can get corn (for example) at ten cents a can there. The store by us sells rice and beans for 10 cents per pound. A case of yogurt (a CASE!) goes for $1.99.

I buy my Thanksgiving turkey the day AFTER Thanksgiving. Who cares if you cook the big meal a day or two late? Am I insane?

I could go on and on and on…

Having worked for a buyer for a major convenience chain in the south…when people say that generic is as good as name brands…believe them. I helped the buyer contact enough major suppliers to know…they use the same name brand products…and just put them in the generic brand packages. Some people swear they can tell the difference on some things…and that may be true…if the buyer is getting the generic items from a generic supplier and not a name brand supplier. There are suppliers out there that make only generic items…and they aren’t as good on some things.
I’d watch out on the gardening deal…if you plan to freeze vegetables…you might get your money’s worth…but canning in jars…by the time you buy the jars…count your time in growing and preparing…and the electricity it takes to prepare…you come out much cheaper to buy the veggies.

I was at a store and some lady happened to ask me about Drano. We look at the cheapo brand. Both are sodium hydroxide. I think I talked to her for five minutes about these identical products. She bought the drano.

Money saving tip: When buying any general item such as a broom, a garden hose a sprinkler a rake a tool etc. Buy the second cheapest item. The cheapest item often falls apart during the second use or at least by the time you’ve thrown out the receipt. The second cheapest usually lasts 3-12 months.

not sure if they’re doing this nationwide, but the walgreens drugs in my area have a ‘buyer’s club’ going. they put out a little magazine at the beginning of the month showing what the refund specials will be.

i watch for the week the stuff i want is on sale, use a coupon beside, & send in the refund packet to walgreens. they do the rest of the refund w/ the manfacturers & send me one check.

i have gotten checks for $15-45/month on stuff like hair dye, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, batteries, benadryl, toothbrushes, whatall. the refund on many of the items makes them free & it’s all for one stamp.

I use coupons and stockpile. I am at the point where I only purchase dairy, produce and meats during most shopping trips. When I have a good coupon and a good sale, I get as many coupons for the product that I can gather up and buy as many as I can get. My good double $1 coupon store put a limit of 5 like coupons per shopping trip and you must spend $50 to double anything over 50c. Generally, when I do a power shop, I save between 60 and 80% of my bills. It’s not unheard of for me to walk out of the grocery store with $160 worth of groceries that I’ve paid less than $60 for. If I can get it free with a double coupon, I will get it - even if it’s not anything I can personally use - you can donate it, trade it, or sell it at a yard sale or to someone else. I currently have over 90 pounds of coffee in my basement purchased at less than 80 cents an 11 oz brick. These are name brands like Maxwell House, Folgers etc. I usually give coffee to some of the elderly people who cound not otherwise afford it.

Some of the products I have received free are: Crest, AquaFresh, General Foods International Coffee, General Foods International Coffee Cappichino Cooler, Mrs. Butterworth Syrup, Log Cabin Syrup, and Koolaid, among others. I’ve gotten coffee for pennies, Beef almost free.

The secret is find a good double coupon store, clip coupons, find a way to trade for ones you need - also will help you get rid of the ones you don’t need, and watch sales.

Okay, now we’re rocking…

IMO, labelled ziplock freezer bags are the greatest thing ever. I never discard leftover peelings, tomatoes paste, etc. The peelings make wonderful stock. Tbsp of “unused” tomatoe paste get bobbited into a titch of Saran Wrap and frozen.

So many recipes call for small amounts, and then you have the rest. Well, “the rest” is pure gold in the freezer. Wimpy chili? Tired pasta sauce? The chicken breast saute is looking feeble? Check out your frozen and dried goodies. A titch of good wine, some garlic and olive oil and it’ll kick ass.

And heartfelt ditto on the cloth/paper thing. You can buy fabric towels for next to nothing. Use them on dishes, dusting, whatever, then duly washed they’re the best ever for floor mopping, whatever.

And baking soda. Cleans laundry, makes a great hair rinse, santitizes disposals, fridges…Alpha is probably retching by now. Too bad. Real life counts. Watching pennies and applying mundane solutions to everyday life works.

(BTW, I never toss eggshells. Wash them, dry and pulverize. Sprinkle them on your houseplants and watch 'em go crazy. Takes zip effort and I have finicky ficus trees that look like Amazonian “Audreys” on steroids in a a cold climate with central heating.)


Wait a minute. What does this mean? Are you telling me that I can go to any store (Let’s say Safeway, or Kroger) and drink milk in the isle? Then I can pay for this milk with the empty little carton? What have I been missing all these years!?!


“Life is hard…but God is good”

I am with those above that the Tightwad Gazette books are a gold-mine. Even if you only use a few tricks (I live in an apartment and don’t have a huge freezer) there are things you can do.

The one thing which helped me control impulse spending was when I read a suggestion that you put it into perspective by figuring out how many hours you have to work to make the $. For me, this means figuring out how much I bring home per hour of work, but that’s not hard… and then the math is easy. You bring home $10 an hour? Is that lime green sweater worth 4 hours of my time? Sometimes yes, sometimes no - but I helps me focus

I am a redhead, you see, and I do not tempt. I insist. -Cristi

My favorite topic ! Being cheap is one of the few hobbies you can carry around with you every day and apply to every situation.

First, always ask yourself, is there some way I can go without spending money on this item ? One of my favorite quotes “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Learn to sew, you can fix clothes and not buy new ones. Learn to cook with basic ingredients. Get low on the food chain with things like flour and yeast and tomato sauce and cook it yourself. Add an extra can of water to frozen orange juice. Add an extra cup of water to the jello when you make it. My sloppy joes are one third oatmeal and nobody knows. Change your own oil in your car, I do mine fo 6 dollars. Adjust your “personal habits” to use the toilet paper at work. I never use coupons for name brands, they’re always more than generics even with the coupon. I keep a big plastic container in the freezer and I put anything leftover (tonight it was 10 green beans) in it. When it’s full, time to make soup. Drive through the neighborhood the evening before “trash day”, lots of good stuff to be had at the curb. I call it “free-bay”. Never buy anything new, look for it second hand till you find it. Try to buy things made out of metal, easier to fix them. Buy an antenna and dump your cable TV. Saves 300 bucks a year that, when invested properly, can put your kid through college. Mow your own lawn, shovel your own driveway, wash your car yourself. Learn to do your own plumbing and carpentry work.

“Hope is not a method”

I knew we had a bunch of tightwads here! ( I’m not alone on Planet Cheapo! I’m glad I started this, all these suggestions are great.

Here are a few more that I’ve found surfing on line today ( and haven’t tried out, but they sound reasonable to moi.)

Instead of dryer sheets, 1)take an old wash cloth 2) A mister 3) fill mister up with fabric softener 4) mist the washcloth and toss in dryer. Wash every so often to get rid of build up.

Do all your dinner cooking for a week in one day. Since I’m at home full time, I try to do all mine on Monday. ( I’ve done this about five times and it words really good.) Whatever I plan out and cook, I freeze in ziplock bag in single eating portions. Then take out in the AM to defrost for dinner.

Save old containers with lids: ice cream, yogurt, whatever. Instead of buying “tupperware”. If you lose a lid, it’s no big deal and when hubby forgets to bring it home from the office, you don’t have to strangle him.

If you live on a septic feild, like me, and your yogurt or yeast spoil. Flush them down the toilet. The bacteria/yeast in either of them help break down the goop in the septic feild. ( Hows that for tech talk.)

Always eat before you go shopping.

Instead of throwing out the left over veggies from dinner, put in a freezer safe tub and freeze until your next batch of soup.

Kudo’s to Holly for the no paper towel/napkin thing. I had some left over calico from a craft idea that failed and since I didn’t want to throw out the material, I cut it out the size of napkins and used a serger for the edges. ( Ok, my mother in law did, I’m impaired in that department) I made about forty and I haven’t bought paper towels in two years. I do enough laundry where I am never out of these things. If only I could use them for toilet paper :slight_smile:

Re: The generic stuff. I realize this is only me, but the only thing I will not buy generic is tampons. Even before I had a child, every time I insomuch as laughed or sneezed, the generic ones would pop out ( not all the time, but enough to make me leary of ever buying generic tampons.) But after #2 arrives ( baby, not bowel movement :slight_smile: ) I think I’m switching over to a menstrual cup.The one time cost of $30-35 bucks is worth it in the long run.

I received about 25 boxes of baby wipes for free when I had my son. I’m nearing the end of that comstock lode and when I’m there, I plan to make my own baby wipes. Saving the disposables for the ‘on-the-go’.

Keep tires in the car inflated to proper level to help conserve gas.

I agree wholeheartedly with:
1)“Tightwad Gazette” stuff. Alot of practical information.
2) Used book stores. Haven’t bought new in years except for gifts.
3) Resale shops.

Here is a trick that if you are good with sucking up and writing it down, I highly recommend. Write praise letters to companies that you’ve received great service from. Or letters on ideas of how to help boost their revenue. I have done the praise letter bit for airlines and oil change places and have received coupons for future flights ($25 bucks) and a free oil change. I wrote an idea to help increase sales at Borders and received a $25 gift certificate for my idea, that yes, they had already thought of and were going to implement anyways. Just my luck. All for the cost of a stamp and the energy to walk it down to my mailbox. If I’ve received crummy service, also, I write ( not email, it’s not as effective.) a bitch letter. Since I use to work in a complaint department, I excell at this.