Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Frugality -Saving the Pennies (It Mounts Up)

Penny pinching can be fun. Really! I play silly little games with myself  over penny pinching ideas. Often I get bored with the game and stop doing it. But surprisingly sometimes the game sticks and it becomes a habit. I try to keep in mind not to get too serious about these little games. Otherwise I might become the old old woman I knew of as a child who saved a house full of empty cereal boxes to use for writing down notes and lists.

Snuffling around the internet I've seen all sorts of penny pinching ideas. I try them a couple at a time to see what comes of it. Some other ideas were suggested by friends or I've seen other people doing. Yet others I come up with myself.

So it is comes, the list of crazy things I've done or still do:
... rinse off paper disposable coffee filters and use them again. By using them twice, you cut the cost in half. The more reuses, the more frugal you get. This idea actually morphed into my making a few cloth filters out of cotton muslin. I now reuse these cloth filters over and over again, rinsing them out between uses and occasionally dropping them in the washer. A quilting friend gave me the muslin, so the filters cost me practically nothing to make. Note: hubby prefers the taste of filtered coffe, thus the reason for not switching to a French press.
...making and using rags. No, I don't buy store bought rags, but I have a friend that does. At the local Ace Hardware they sell rags in a box and guys buy them! Rather than throwing  away worn out clothing, towels, and sheets, I cut them up for rags. Plus I don't throw away rags, I rewash them. Hubby laughs because I different grades of rags. Good cleaning rags. General use rags. Throw away rags, for cleaning up nasty stuff, wiping oil or paint. The front and back of an old t-shirt makes nice rags. But I also use the sleeves and around the neck. Those can be throw away rags. Our thrift shop often gets too much clothing donated, so from time to time I can pick up a trash bag of assorted clothing for a dollar. Great rag material.
...plastic shopping bags. Before there was a bag ban here, I had scads of bags I saved or were given to me. I reused what I could for bag uses, but I still had scads. I heard that a local woman was braiding them into rugs and mats, so I gave it a try. Now my old dogs have cushy pads to sleep on that are braided from discarded plastic shopping bags. I made the pads the size that would fit into an old pillow case. I stuffed the case so that it is over 6 inches think. Both house dogs find them more comfy than a standard blanket or pillow. So by making my own pet beds I saved a bundle. Plus the pillow case is washable so the can be kept clean easily.
... Reuse containers for flower pots, saving food leftovers, storing sewing supplies, storing workshop tools, sorting hardware (nails, screws, bolts, etc). I will buy dry pet food in the economy size bag and to keep it from getting moldy in the bag, I'll transfer it into smaller sealable containers. I've reused pill bottles, food bottles, milk jugs, just about everything. The cut off tops of soda bottles make good funnels. I've used the soda bottle necks and screw top part for electric fence insulators. The milk jug caps work as good gaskets for grabbing the greenhouse plastic that you nail on to the greenhouse frame. They keep the wind from pulling the plastic off.
.. Make potholders and hotpads out of rags. Really quick to do if you have a sewing machine. Of course you could make them by hand too. 
... Recycle a broken ladder into a garden trellis. Recycle a broken wheelbarrow into decorative garden planter/ornament. 
... Make garden ornaments out of twisty bizarre tree branches. Make a bird bath/mini pond out of an upside down tree stump. 
... Save the string from feed bags. Roll it up  in to a ball. Use the string for all sorts of little jobs that string comes in handy for. 
... Put the soap ends/slivers into a jar with a little water. After it gets soft, use that for hand washing. 
... Use those extra pillow cases that come in the sheet sets for laundry bags, shopping totes, and to store things to keep the dust off. They also work good for transporting the cat to the vet's office. 
... Use cardboard and newspaper under grass clipping to keep weeds down, in place of store bought weed cloth. 
... Wash and reuse ziplock bags. 
... Use broken trashcans, rubbermaid type storage boxes, and garden totes as growing container beds. Great for radishes, lettuce, and greens. 
... Use old or broken coolers for growing containers. Being insulated, they work super great.
... Salvage useable items off of items being taken to the dump. I've salvaged screws, nuts and bolts, springs, handles, latches, rubber molding, metal plates, and all sorts of odd parts. These get sorted and stored in those jars and containers that I saved. These bits and pieces not only come in handy for repairs but also for my experiments and curious creations. 
... Unravel an old knitted item and reuse the yarn to make something else. At the thrift store I can buy big bulky knitted sweaters for a dollar. It's cheaper than buying yarn at the store. My mother likes to crochet and she has made potholders, knee pads, arm warmers, cozy bags to keep pots of food hot when being transported, etc. The cotton and wool yarn makes good biodegradable garden ties for trellises in the garden. 
... Plastic/foam egg cartons make good storage separaters for little hardware items and notions. The
paper ones I use to make fire starters. So for the fire starters, I save and use sawdust and old candle pieces. I don't buy eggs but people give me the cartons. 
... I make tea out of plants that I can grow. Rose. Mamaki. Mints. Citrus. Hibiscus. Strawberry. Raspberry. Chamomile. Tulsi. 
... Wood pallets are useable to make gro-boxes in the garden. I have made shelves and racks out of them for the barn. Even furniture. In the greenhouse they can be used to make plant boxes, pot holding trays, growing benches. Although I haven't done it, I have seen people use them for the subflooring in sheds. They can be cobbled together to make livestock pens.  And at the very least, they can be cut up for firewood. 
... I save rubber bands to reuse. I never seem to have enough of them. 

There are a lot of things that I don't save or reuse simply because I don't accumulate them in the first place. I don't buy fresh fruit in those molded plastic containers. I don't buy butter, yogurt, or cottage cheese in those plastic tubs. I don't buy onions in those mesh bags. I don't buy stockings to wear, so I can't find cute ways to reuse them. I don't buy foods in cans, so I don't have cans to reuse. I bring my own take-home container to a restaurant, so I don't have styrofoam take-home boxes to reuse.


  1. Yeah, I do lots of the same things, too. Sometimes, I find re-using things too time-conserving, but then again, I haven't bought a bag of rubberbands in a long time, but they don't degrade, since I keep them in a little jar with a screw cap, and I put baby powder in to keep them from drying or breaking down. I gave away coffee cans of assorted nails, screws, washers, nuts and bolts, and da kine when I moved. So - bumbye, I will re-accumulate that "junk" over time, although the best sources are scarce here": houses and buildings under construction. Almost no one leaves any scrap metal of any kind around these parts, as scavengers take the stuff to metal recyclers!

  2. The closest metal recyclers other than for aluminum cans is a two hour drive away. Too far away unless one has a serious truckload of scrap metal. So we have metal recycling now at the dump here, but you don't get any cash for it. You just throw it into a bin. At first the guys there wouldn't allow me to take anything out of the bins, but I made a point of making friends with them. So as long as I don't go crazy, I can salvage things like Costco shed frames and old fencing in order to make trellises.