Frugality in general terms

I've been getting requests for more blog posts about frugality. I actually don't really have many new tips on this topic -- at least, none that seem worth sharing at the moment.

We're still living frugally, but it's not very glamorous at times. We're just plugging along, I guess. :)

I think one of the main things I've learned about being frugal or saving money is that it requires waiting. A lot of waiting. The longer you wait, you have a much greater chance of coming up with a creative way to meet your needs.

The more you wait, the more you grow accustomed to waiting... and the things you needed become less important -- at times -- unless it is a true NEED, and then as you wait, it becomes more important instead of less important, and you end up appreciating it even more! :)

If you want to find ways to save money, you first need to know where your money is going.

If everything you currently purchase seems like a need, then select something that you think you could live without for a week (or two). Do without it for that amount of time, and then ask yourself if you could go even longer without it. If another week (or two!) wouldn't be the end of the world, then hold off. I find it's best to try this with things that you have run out of.

For example, if you want to try doing without paper napkins, it's much easier to be completely out of them, because when a "need" for one arises, that need must be met in a different manner. In the case of paper napkins, I found some cloth napkins at a rummage sale. We used up our current package of paper napkins and didn't buy more. Since the cloth napkins were more bother to use (because of needing laundered), we found ourselves using them less frequently. Now, we only use napkins when we have guests. We don't feel like we "need" them anymore! But I can tell you that using cloth napkins for your guests will make them feel very special!! :)

I also don't buy garbage bags. We used to get large trash bags for free from a relative who "rescued" them from the trash bin at work. ;) However, when we no longer got large bags for free, I switched to using a smaller trash can in our kitchen, and now we use grocery bags in all of our trash cans. I have to empty the trash can more often, of course, but it's really not much more bother, and grocery bags are free (since I have someone who saves their bags for me, while I shop mostly at Aldi's and don't come home with bags from shopping!).

Before Ruth was born, Joshua and I bought a package of paper plates, paper bowls, paper napkins, and plastic cups. I could hardly believe how much it all came to -- along with the newborn disposable diapers we bought! And honestly, I didn't really even enjoy the disposable stuff like I thought I would. We have so many paper napkins left! That bag will probably last us a year or two! I guess we're just used to real things.

But anyway, I mentioned those things because sometimes it seems like a little purchase here and there doesn't add up to much. But when we bought that stuff all at once, I realized how expensive it really was!

Another personal example is using lotion. I used to need (and I do mean NEED!) lotion on my hands almost constantly. When I used the last of my lotion, I didn't buy more. I found a substitute (olive oil instead!) and then employed measures to reduce the need -- like wearing rubber gloves while washing the dishes. When once I couldn't go more than a couple of hours without lotion, I was eventually going all day with just a few drops of olive oil.

Along with finding items that I can completely eliminate (which, by the way, is a wonderful clutter-reducing way to save money!), I also look for ways to use less of the necessities.

For example, I used to wash my hair at least every other day. I gradually stretched that time and my hair adjusted (less oil production). Now I wash my hair every 4 days. This saves time and automatically cuts my shampoo and conditioner usage in half.

We also wear our clothes more than once before washing. Obviously, if an article of clothing is really soiled, I'll put on something clean. But the children usually wear their clothes for at least 2 days. (I use my nose to determine when a piece of clothing goes into the wash!) Less laundry = less work and less expense (soap, water, wear on the washer).

You'll have to try different things and see what works for you, but these are just a couple examples of how to find things you can cut back on.

Another great way to save money is to not go shopping (or at least, not as often, since groceries are a true necessity!) and stay home more.

I shop at second-hand stores or rummage sales a few times a year (I admit that I would go more frequently if it weren't for the challenge of taking little ones along!) and usually make it to some garage sales each summer (often walking to ones in our neighborhood, to save gas and get exercise!). I wear my clothes until they are worn out... and in the mean time, I look for replacements second-hand. I very rarely order anything online.

We also save gas by staying home more, and eliminate the temptation to eat out (since staying home allow more time to prepare meals!).

It's hard to remember all the things we're so accustomed to not doing.

We haven't rented a movie in ages. We eat out just a couple of times each year. We do all our own hair cuts.

I don't spend money on perfume, make-up, jewelry, or personal care items like lotions, shaving gel, disposable feminine products, or most any of the things sold in that section of the store -- I don't even know what all is out there. I don't get those items for free using coupons and such, though I think it's great when I hear of others getting good deals on those things. For me, not using these items is the simplest and easiest way to go. This is for various reasons such as allergies, health, and personal preference as well as frugality.

We don't go out for entertainment very often at all. I don't think zoos, museums, traveling, etc. are bad, and I loved taking Yehoshua and Eliyahu to the zoo last summer! But it was expensive. Forty dollars for admission and then the cost of gas to drive there... our budget just doesn't have room for a lot of this type of thing.

I also love to keep things simple, and have found that a lot of the things we "do without" free up time and space in our home.

And truly, I have always found nicer clothing and things second-hand than I could ever find or afford from a store.

Hopefully these general suggestions and ideas are even more helpful than my own tips. Our homes probably run a lot differently, but if you use these principles, you can find your own ways to cut back.

As always, take it slow. Don't switch to cloth everything and line-drying everything all in one week, unless you really are bored or something. ;) Change one thing at a time, and it'll be painless. :)

And on a personal note -- some of my frugal winter doings...

Since it's still winter time here, so almost all of our laundry has been getting dried on my wooden rack in the living room. I am looking forward to warm sunny days when I can hang clothes outdoors again! :)

I've also been using my new homemade cloth diapers for Ruth! I had been saving them for when my current cloth diapers wore out. Most of my cloth diapers were inexpensive (i.e. low quality) ones that were given to me when Yehoshua was born. After almost 4 years of use, they were really wearing out! Aside from the holes and such, the diapers were so thin that I had to use at least 2 just for a light daytime diaper.

When Ruth was born, I used all the old diapers one last time and then they became rags/trash (some were too worn out to be much use as rags). I've been enjoying the nice, thick, soft diapers.

We used disposable diapers for a couple of weeks after Ruth's birth, but I honestly did not like them in the least! I could never tell when they were wet (until they were saturated), they leaked, they stunk, they weren't soft or comfy, and they were expensive!! I guess I had forgotten just how much nicer cloth diapers are, and I was so thankful when we were back to using cloth! :)

I also switched to cloth pads for myself (though with being pregnant or nursing for all of the last 4+ years, I have been blessed with fewer times of need in this area). I have been really pleased with this change, and of course it was done frugally, utilizing some inexpensive wash cloths, at the suggestion and example of a creative friend of mine. :)

If you can sew, there is lots of info online about making cloth pads -- just use Google. :) I opted not to go the sewing route due to time as well as the expense of fabric, but all you more sophisticated ladies might prefer the "fancy" way of doing things. ;)

So... that's what I've been up to. I'd love to hear about your latest change towards more frugality! :)

Also, be sure to check out the other frugal posts linked over at Crystal's blog! :) 


I am going to have to think on some of your ways, it seems there is sooo much I could change, now what to start with;)

I asked hubs to put up a cloths line this year, I hope it happens! We use cloth and I do love it. I am a number cruncher and HAD to figure out what I am saving. In my area I am saving $2000 doing cloth! Just thought you would enjoy that figure! I would save even more if we lined dried;)

I really want a clothes line outside as well. I have some racks, but they're just not as nice as a real clothes line! I LOVE to hang up my cloth diapers to dry when it's nice out. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE cloth pads. So much nicer than disposable! And better for you!

I actually loved that article about frugality, your reflection that frugality has so much to to with patience and the ability to wait is very wise. Often I think that this or that is absolutely necessary and I need it at once! If I do not have time to purchase it, I will see in many cases that some days later the whole topich isnt that urgent any more!
Thanks for posting!

Hi Tammy!

We almost never rent dvds (to watch on our computer as we don't have a TV or cable bill). However, we do borrow them regularly from our local public library - which lets us keep the dvds longer, is closer in distance (no driving), and is completely free with our library cards. It's awesome! We also borrow books-on-cd for my fiancé's long commute back and forth from work and other books (wedding planning, cooking, other pleasure reading) for me.

Since I've started reading your blog, I have stopped using a number of things when I ran out of them. I either replaced them with something else more frugal, or stopped using them altogether. Thank you so much for being such good inspiration :)

Could you tell us about the pictures on this post? They're beautiful!


Aline, the photos are of some kitchen towels that were made by a friend of mine. I needed some pictures to go along with this long post! ;) There are four towels in the set, all beautifully embroidered.

I have saved them for use when guests are here, because they are SO nice, but after my recent post about enjoying our nice things with our family members, I decided the towels would make more of an appearance in my kitchen! :)

Great ideas!

I don't sew, am interested in using cloth sanitary pads, but am outraged at the cost of ordering the ones you can buy online. I'm certainly curious how you made yours! I've been wondering if I could use our old, falling apart cloth diapers somehow since I have quite a few that are on their way to the rag pile. Would you mind sharing what you did?

I am sure you could use cloth diapers. I had some old, very very thin cloth diapers that I thought about using, but even then I think I would have had to cut them in half, since cloth pads don't take much fabric in comparison to diapers (even thin ones!).

I actually didn't really "do" anything, aside from getting some inexpensive wash cloths. I fold them in thirds. Fabric against fabric doesn't really shift. I thought about sewing the washcloths (which is what my friend did) but decided they would dry faster if they could be unfolded for wash. In the future, I may decide to change things a little, but I'm happy with how well the wash cloths work! :)

Oh, and since we use cloth diapers, I just wash the pads with the diaper loads. It couldn't be easier! :) 

I totally agree that frugality starts by separating wants versus needs-and that covers alot of territory! We do alot of the things you mention: rarely eat out, cooking from scratch at home, line drying clothes whenever possible (weather dependent), using leftover foods to eliminate waste, composting for free fertilizer for the vegetable garden, thinking outside of the box at times:cutting down old clothes for other purposes (besides quilts) such as making children's clothes, mending other clothes (I keep a bag of old cut off denim legs for future jeans repairs), salvedging zippers and buttons from worn out clothing, etc. Great post, should encourage many.

This is such a timely and wise post! I wish I had learned these lessons earlier in life. Great ideas! Thank you for sharing!

~Lady Why

I grew up using cloth pads and have to admit I hate them, but if I run out, I will use a cloth diaper that I have around for those reasons.
I love drying clothes outside and am so excited as we are moving and the house has a clothesline posts so we can hang clothes up again! I got a nice rack too this last summer which I use too, even in the winter. I find it helps the clothes to last better when they are not dried as much, plus if you hang them right, no ironing!
I have dry hair so I cannot wash it more than once a week. I wear it up in a bun so I can take showers without getting it wet then. Shampoo lasts a long time for me!

I am looking forward to shopping some garage sales too for things we need! It is alot more fun than just going to the store and buying it!

Some people's mileage may vary with regards to personal care.

I work as a nanny during the week and in a church nursery Sunday mornings, so I must wash my hands more than most women (because these aren't MY kids' germs I'm exposed to). I must use some lotion, at least at night, or my hands will crack and bleed. This is not because my hands are "used to" the lotion; if I go without, they don't compensate; and I don't use it in the summer, when the air is more humid.

Also, I went months washing my hair every three days, but on the third day my head always itched, and finally I went back to every second day for my own comfort. Apparently, my hair/scalp just didn't adjust *enough* to being washed less. (And I do bun my hair most of the time.)

My husband and I buy Tide with Bleach b/c that's what Consumer Reports recommends, but anyway, the woman who fixed our dryer when it died recommended that we use just 1/4 cup of powdered detergent per wash load, and set our washer to two rinses to get all the detergent out. She said it makes the clothes last longer. We've been doing this ever since, and our clothes are still clean--though we do use 1/2 cup of detergent for my husband's work clothes from FedEx, where he unloads trucks. They're stinky! :)

We just had our third son, and are using cloth diapers with him. I have to admit I still am not brave enough to use them at night or when we go out, but I still am saving money and love it! I, too, use cloth napkins. Bought mine on ebay-a huge lot for really cheap. I only took out a few of them, and I will use those until they are worn out, then replace them with others from the box. We also don't use paper towels very often. One roll of the cheapy kind can last us for months.

I haven't gotten brave enough to use cloth for myself yet, but I did invest in a Keeper. You can search google to find out more about this product.I still have to back it up with a pad, but I use fewer of them using this product. I may get brave enough to make a few cloth pads with my leftover diaper making supplies.

It's amazing how much we can cut out if we truly look at what our needs vs wants really are.

These tips are great reminders, especially about the cloth diapers. I picked up some receiving blankets at a yard sale a year ago, on a whim, and still have some. I gave a couple to a friend who made them into cloth pads.

Receiving blankets are SO useful!! :) I never pass up one at a garage sale, provided that the price is right. ;)

My mother uses cloth pads due to allergic reactions and loves them, while I have never used cloth I absolutely LOVE my Diva Cup. The inital cost was a little bit expensive, but it has quickly paid for it self. They have a one year satisfaction return policy. The best part is that I only need to empty it morning and evening and there is NO concern for TSS. (And I don't have to wash them :)

On another note, I grew up using all "real" products such as napkins and rags. I can't stand using paper towels, but I discovered, when we lived abroad for a time that I could tolerate paper napkins if necessary. We must be pretty messy eaters as we always need to use napkins. They last more than one meal though, simply turn them over or fold them inside out. I would like to find some pretty napkin rings so that they last even longer. They tend to end up in the laundry sometimes when they really aren't dirty. I still only wash one load of rags and napkins a week though.

Great post. Really got me thinking. We do use cloth napkins exclusively. I've made all of ours from old table clothes. I don't find it any trouble, I just put them in the wash with either the towels or sheets. I've also eliminated paper plates and paper towels ( I still use the paper towels to clean windows twice a year). Since I'm really trying not to spend money, your tip on not going out to shop really rings true. If I'm not tempted I can't spend.
Keep up the good work.


You can use newspaper instead of paper towels to clean windows. The chemical in the ink works as a cleaning agent and actually does a better job - and saves money.

Several years ago I heard about making your own pads and thot it sounded gross - but then I decided to try it and thot it was great for the most part. I used old flannel sheets and they were so soft and absorbent. Sometimes when I was going out I would use regular ones just to be safe but actually found the cloth worked better. I really hate using anything "plastic" now. I also found a package of some kind of wipes - like Handi wipe products at a thrift store that have lasted about 15 years - they were super absorbent and used in conjunction with the flannel worked very well and work well for light days. They also washed easily. I found the cloth conforms to "you" better and therefore causes less problems.

I agree with everything you have written...especially about basically saving money by WAITING for things. We have gotten HEAPS of free clothes instead of spending money on stuff in a store just because it caught my eye. Also my 3 1/2 year old was asking for a dinky Spiderman key chain he saw in a store for over $6 (I didn't buy it, of course). Well today we got a free HUGE spiderman doll (used) from someone at church! I sort of "saved" six dollars on that deal!


I appreciate your thoughts because it has a lot to do with making-do with what you have and not leaning so much on materialistic purchases that many of us think we absolutely need, but don't.

Sometimes it just takes doing without a little bit, becoming more creative and maybe even staying away from Wal-Mart and Target more to realize the many things we can honestly do without. Some convenience items are very helpful, but many can be wasteful & just pollute & fill up our landfills even more.

Thought-provoking - Thanks, Tammy!


Frugality is something our family of 5 has had to deal with, especially with our daughter getting married in about 6 weeks! We have learned that the grocery budget can be pared down even further and I wait longer to go to the grocery store than I used to. I usually wait until I just have to replenish our supply or if there is a VERY good deal, like cabbage for 15 cents per pound, which it was this past week.

Although this really has nothing to do with the subject at hand, I love the pictures of kitchen towels you posted. Are these your towels, Tammy? Did you cross-stitch them yourself? If you did, I would love the pattern, if available. They are so cute!

Darcy, the towels are mine, but I didn't make them myself. :) I will ask my friend if the pattern is still available, and let you know. :)

Your post left me feeling grateful for the things I've been giving, exhorted to continue on my frugal journey, and challenged to do more. You wrote with such a spirit of humility and simplicity. I really appreciate your wisdom. Thanks!

Have you found a frugal solution to shaving (as opposed to shaving gel, disposable razors, etc.)?

Hannah, yes... sort of. ;) Not long after we were married, Joshua convinced me to just stop shaving my legs. I wear long dresses, anyway, but honestly -- it's been a great decision, I think. My skin is healthier/softer, my showers are shorter :), and I never have that day-old prickly stubble. I probably wouldn't have stopped shaving my legs, except that Joshua wanted me to! But now I'm so glad he did! :)

Now, you can all tell me I'm weird... ;)

Not weird; try "natural." Yay! for men who prefer their women the way God made them, I say. ;) I wish I could arrive at the point where I could go about unshaven without buying into the current societal belief that this would somehow make me a bear. *eyeroll*

I don't shave either. My husband never gave it much thought, but prefers no make-up, and in my mind, they go together. I used to dread prenatal visits, though, as most of the nurses and doctors shave. I thought they would think I was icky or assume things about me. Oh well. They probably do! But I give up. :)

Tammy, I really agree with you about how an item that you once thought you really needed starts to become less important after you have gone without for a period of time.

I have also tried lately not to replace certain items that we have run out of and I have found that after a little while, I don't miss the item anymore. I have found new solutions, and worked with what I have, and I'm almost always able to just make do without!

Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home

I actually tried the waiting and needs this week- only mine was more out of necessity than trying to be frugal. (no money = not buying anything) My husband may not agree, but I've found it to be kind of an adventure. :) I've used up just about everything in my kitchen - and it's amazing the substitutes and other meal ideas I've come up with. So I've learned a valuable lesson - A LOT of the things my husband and I view as needs are really wants. But I'll admit I am looking forward to going to the grocery store this weekend.

Thanks for the tips Tammy.

It was after reading this post that I was inspired to try making and using cloth napkins. I realized that I was buying and rebuying so many paper napkins and that those napkins seemed to take up a large proportion of my kitchen trash.

I cut up one twin flat sheet into 30 squares to make a napkin that would be 6 x 6 inches when folded to fit in my napkin basket on my table. I hemmed five napkins per day and before long I had enough for our entire family to use for a week between washings.

It has taken a little bit of getting used to but for the last four months our family has used only cloth napkins.

I'm now inspired to take a look at other disposable products to determine just how simple it would be to replace them with washables.


I love drying my laundry on a clothes line or clothes rack. I live in Michigan and our winters can be pretty hard sometimes and last a while. So I thought of the frugal way to line dry my clothes, so I bought 2, 40foot retractable clothes lines and put them up in the 2 bedrooms of my home and I hang up my laundry on them to dry all winter long. It is very frugal, and it makes my house smell great! It keeps moisture in the air and circulates when the furnace kicks on. Then during the summer time I have a huge 5 line clothes line outside that I use. I do have a dryer but only use it when I absolutely need it.

Katie Jean

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