Save It

I am a pack rat. Most frugal people will say the same thing and with good reason. Before I throw anything out, I think about what else I could possibly use it for.

Glass jars are the ultimate for me. They're good for so many things. If you get four or five together, you can fill them with virtually anything and they will look spectacular. Grouping like items together is a quick way to give any simple item style. Pens on desks, flowers, candy. In the bathroom, line them up and put in cotton balls, hair ties and makeup brushes. The possibilities are endless. Not to mention how awesome glass jars are for bulk items like beans and rice. A while ago, I read an article on one of my favorite sites that suggested screwing the lid of a jar to the underside of a cabinet, creating out of the way storage for things.

Recently, I've been re-thinking other items as well. For example, my husband and I started several plants from seeds this year. Little did we know that we actually had green thumbs. All of the little seedlings popped up, green and optimistic. Only... you're supposed to kill off the weakest ones. I'm much to egalitarian to kill off the little guys so I let them grow, hoping I could find things to plant them in. Old vases, old milk jugs... anything.

Plastic bags are good saves too. I'm not just talking about grocery store bags (though you should think about canvas ones). I'm talking about bread bags, produce bags, and re-using plastic baggies. So far, I haven't found many uses for the bread bags. My husband already has a lunch bag... and would probably scorn taking a lunch in a hot-dog-roll bag anyway. I don't need them to store anything... I hate to throw them away. They're perfectly good.

Egg containers are also wonderful little inventions. We buy our eggs by the eighteen. When empty, the bottom serves as a jewelry organizer, scrapbook embellishment organizer, and general stuff-holder.

I'm very proud to say that the "save it" mentality has infected my husband. He still eyes my collection of glass jars, but he won't be throwing them out. I can't tell you how many times when we were dating or in college that he would ask me, "do you want this?" I would say, "are you going to throw it out?" He would say, "yes." And I would say, "in that case, I do want it." For example, sophmore year of college, he had an index card holder. The front clasp was broken, but it held shut nonetheless. It was full of index cards. He told me he was going to throw it away. I saved it and kept it. Flash forward three years. Four weeks ago, my husband asks me, "do you have anything I could store my flashcards in?" I smiled and went right to storage, pulled out the index card box and handed it to him. "Did this used to be mine?" He asked.

Tonight, we were down to the dregs of our tortilla chips. They were stale and crumbly. My husband opened the trash, held them over and then said, "is there anything else we can do with these?"

Yes, yes indeed. Tortilla soup anyone?

Apartment Gardening

It may not look like much. These are my babies. I also have parsley, rosemary and seedling oregano, basil, bell pepper and habanero.

This is the only thing in my life that I didn't do the math on in buying. I had to do it. I am a country girl at heart and as such, I need to garden. The sight of green plants makes my heart smile.

The start-up costs of apartment gardening can hit the frugal wallet hard. The containers can run anywhere from $6 to $60. The container on the left isn't actually a pot for plants. It's a tote container for summer drinks and such. I got it for $4 at Wal-Mart. Yes, it's pretty shallow, but the plants in it are okay with that. My husband drilled holes in the bottom. Very carefully, mind you, because the hard plastic can very easily split, enough splits and the bottom falls out (similar to what we discovered on the bottom of my husband's car... another story, another day).

Bell peppers alone can run 50 cents or more. The packet of seeds was a dollar. My husband and I planted six plants from a small seed starter. We had to buy soil ($4 a bag) and a container ($4 each). I also bought plant food. The food lasts a ridiculously long time, a tablespoon of food per one gallon. The containers can be used many times. The soil will have to be replaced eventually.

In the long run, it will pay off. Like making my own bread, I may not save much money in the end. Maybe only pennies, maybe I'll have paid a few cents... but the joy of growing my own veggies is well worth it.

Keep Out! (of landfills)


I think an important part of the frugal lifestyle is keeping a firm hand in green living. It just doesn't make sense to get new, plastic bags every time you go shopping. I've had my cloth bags for years and though I occasionally forget them, I always recycle my plastic.

In New York, recycling is a way of life. Every apartment at Syracuse University had a recycling bin. I signed petitions to get the state government to recycle plastic water bottles. Dasani is the water of choice at S.U.

In Florida, recycling is a mite trickier. The county I live in (Escambia) recently enacted a larger recycling program. Any standard recyclable material (glass, cardboard, paper) can now be dropped off at the recycling center. There is a pilot program of curb-side recyclable pick-ups.

The Naval base also takes recyclables (providing you're authorized to be on base).

In college, I discovered Freecycle through a friend. There are a lot of green-crunchy types at S.U. Freecycle's goal is to keep items out of landfills, 0perating on the "One man's trash is another's treasure" principle.

The groups I've been a member of all operated through Yahoo Groups. You post messages (which are delivered to your inbox) whenever you have an item you want to give away or are in need of. For example, I got an e-mail today whose subject line was this: WANT- Cotton Candy Machine. Sometimes the things people are looking for are... less than common. Still, you never know who's got something you want, collecting dust in the garage.

It's a give and take. You should offer up items as well as pick up items. It's like the Craigslist "Free" section, except with more integrity. It's well-moderated so if you're a repeat no-show at pick-ups, you're out of the group. Also, the group isn't dedicated to giving away free stuff as much as it is to keeping people from simply throwing a perfectly good item out. You name it. Puppies, old magazines, appliances, all have been offered up on Freecycle.

One word to the wise, though. If you live in a large city, you may want a separate e-mail address. I've gotten as many as twenty e-mails in five minutes as you get notifications of offers, wants, PPU (pending pick-up) and taken. A sometimes high-volume, but very effective system.

Visit to find a group near you!

Supplies on the Cheap


You know where I love to go? The Habitat ReStore. Ever been?

It's a kind of DIY thrift shop except instead of old clothes you find paint and lighting fixtures (and sometimes furniture and appliances depending on the ReStore). The materials are donated to the ReStore from any number of sources (contractors, building supply stores, individuals). All of the funds raised go back to Habitat for Humanity.

It's a great way to pick up paint on the cheap. I am a huge fan of thrift furniture... or of hanging on to the furniture you have until it literally disintegrates in your hands. When I was little, we had several things in our house that were held together by the sheer force of three coats of paint.

My hometown wasn't anywhere near a ReStore so I didn't discover it until I moved, but we did have a Grossman's Bargain Outlet. There are a lot of these types of stores nation-wide. It's a new surprise every time you go. My neighbor once got five gallons of beautiful paint for a buck each because the shade of blue wasn't "blue" enough for the original buyer. Do you know what you can do with five gallons of paint? She painted two rooms in her upstairs and various pieces of furniture for her living/dining room. Amazing.

Unfortunately, in my one bedroom, I don't have room for big projects, but painting is something that can be done anywhere. I have a screened in porch the size of a walk-in closet that's good for painting stuff. It gets the piece out of the way and I don't pass out from paint fumes. Win-win situation... or as Michael Scott would say win-win-win.

It All Adds Up

I'm trying to reconfigure how my husband thinks about money.

I have an all-in-my-head Fun Conversion Chart. It's a great way to figure out where you really want to spend your money. It goes like this:

My husband wanted to go to a monster truck rally today. First of all... haven't you heard that people die at those things?

Secondly, a monster truck rally? Really? I know we both grew up in a place where calling yourself a Redneck was like calling yourself a Human (it went without saying), but I draw the line at a monster truck rally.

Thirdly, that $15 admission fee, once put into my Fun Conversion Chart, should obviously not be spent on a monster truck rally. Here's how it works:
$15 isn't that much money (according to my husband, not to me), but, compare that monster truck ticket with other things you can buy with $15.
-five 12-packs of Mountain Dew
-an entire meal out
-two movie tickets
-3/4 tank of gas in my Civic
So, I asked him, would you rather go to a monster truck rally or go to a movie with me? More importantly, your cousin is visiting us this month from New York. So, $15 isn't that much, but if we save it now, we can take him to the movies and buy his ticket and popcorn. We can drive down to the beach and back five times.

It's difficult to wrap your head around at first, especially if you're in the but-it's-only category of thought. You know, you go to the dollar store and always come out with armloads of stuff because "it's only $1." That's my husband.

Fun Conversion takes forethought, planning, and the knowledge that the LCD TV we really want, can be bought one dollar at a time.