My Frugal Life: Letter to My Daughter

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My Frugal LifeThis is a letter to my daughter who has been out of work for 2 years.

When putting on my jeans this morning, I was reminded that there are a lot of things I do to save a little money, so I thought I would share them with you. Anyway, about waistbands (as in my jeans). Here's an easy way to put some elastic in pants that are just a little too big, that you aren't ready to give away yet. On the inside only of the back waistband cut a slit over near each side seam. Thread elastic (about 1 inch wide works fine) through the slits along the back with big safety pin. Use smaller safety pins to anchor the elastic at each end. Voila! One size smaller! I put the pins on the outside since I never tuck in any of my tops. Also, I use old suspender elastic sometimes. My husband gave me a bunch of them when he retired and quit dressing up in suits.


Use half ammonia and half water and a squirt of dish detergent in place of 409 etc. to clean just about anything. I prefer the ammonia that has a lemon scent, as it doesn't smell as strong as the straight stuff. DO NOT mix bleach with this! It will form a poisonous gas that is not good for you!

Use windshield washer fluid in place of Windex. Lots of times you can get a whole gallon for a dollar. When washing windows, if you wipe them off with a damp rag first to get most of the dirt off, it doesn't take as much spray and effort to clean them up. Make your strokes side to side on the inside and up and down on the outside, so you can tell what you missed.

Shop at the 99 Cent store first and be willing to try (only get 1 container at first in case you really don't like it) off brands. Do this with store brands too.


Watch the read-out as the cashier is ringing up your stuff and/or check your receipts before you leave the store to make sure their computers gave you the correct price. Sometimes you can get the item for free if it rings up wrong. It may help to invoke "The Department of Weights and Measures" - if you see it priced on a shelf for a lower price than on your receipt, they have to give it to you at the shelf price. Don't feel bad about holding up the line. It's your money and no one has a lot of it right now!

Use coupons if you can, but don't buy something just because you have a coupon. Leave the coupons you don't use by those items on the shelf for someone else, if you feel bad about throwing them away.

Pick up pennies (or any money) on the street.

Shop at Goodwill and other thrift stores. Take a tape measure with you. Know what measurements you need to have to make things fit. You can measure blouses and pants that you already have that fit well. The Goodwill here in Gilroy has some kind of agreement with Target to take their stuff that doesn't sell. They have bent boxes and out of season clothes that are new.


Know your prices. Keep a list in your purse of prices of the non-perishable items that you buy all the time. There is nothing wrong with having a 3 months supply of toilet paper, if you got it for a good price! I use Scott 1000 sheet rolls and rarely pay more than 55 cents a roll. It takes me about 5 days to use one roll.

Paper towels are hard to price because all the packages have rolls with odd numbers of towels on them. I add up the number of sheets in the whole package and divide by 50. Then divide 50 into the price. I don't like to pay more than about 75 cents for 50 sheets of paper towels.

I use the Walmart cheapo pantyliner most of the time. If I know I will be out for a while and am uncertain about the availability of a restroom, I will wear one of the heavier name brands. Also use Walmart brand aspirin, naproxen, acetaminophen, and mouthwash. Much, much cheaper!

I use Suave shampoo - the "2 in 1 PH Balanced" in the light green bottle alternating with the "For Men 2 in 1" in the dark blue bottle. Occasionally I use their "Daily Clarifying" shampoo just to get all the other stuff out. I use a white vinegar rinse with all this - about a cup of white vinegar diluted with about a cup of water poured on when you think you have all the shampoo out or your hair, then rinse it out. This helps take out any soap residue that doesn't get all rinsed out. I keep a plastic 2 cup measuring cup in the shower. I've found that Suave works just as well, or even better, than the more expensive stuff. Besides, you can get it at Walmart sometimes in really big bottles for a very good price!

Buy your white vinegar in gallon jugs. When they are empty, they make great refillable water bottles. We have very hard water here that doesn't taste good, so we refill at the grocery store for drinking water. They're also good to store "earthquake" water if you live in California, but add a few drops of bleach before closing them up.

Make rags out of old t-shirts. If you have a lot of them, you can use them once then throw in the dirty clothes (when dry) instead of using a paper towel. You can get 2 small ones (sleeves) and 4 larger ones (front and back cut in half) from each shirt.

Cut the hook and eye pieces off an old bra and sew them back together to make a bra "extender".

Toothpaste or anything that comes in a tube is rarely all used up. Cut the tube off about 1 inch back from the shoulder and scoop out the rest of it. I can get almost another whole week out of a tube of toothpaste this way. Hand lotion bottles can be cut in half to get all the rest of the lotion out of them. Clear body wash, shampoo, etc. can be drained all together into an old Soft Soap pump bottle to use as hand soap.

Save your lip stuff tubes. When you get 4 or 5 "empties", dig out what's left in that little cup and put it all in one tube. I use the pointy end of an old metal nail file.

If you have dumpsters where you live, don't hesitate to pull something out that you can use if it is just sitting there right on top of everything. I did it for years here. We have individual pick-up now so no more diving for me. Probably best to take a look around to make sure no one is watching, so you don't get a bad reputation right there where you live. I was lucky as no one could see what I was doing when we had dumpsters. If you ever decide to look in a dumpster behind a store and someone catches you, the thing to say is, "I was just looking for a box to mail something to my mother."

For shaving your legs, the cheapest brand of men's shaving cream works just as well as the expensive ones. Sometimes you can get it for a dollar! I always look for the "sensitive" kind.

You can save water and gas/electricity by shaving your legs before you take a shower. It is also easier to see what you are doing this way.

Use wasp spray for self defense. The wasp spray can shoot at least 20 feet away and is very accurate. It temporarily blinds a mugger until they can get an antidote at a hospital. Put a can of wasp and hornet spray near your door or bed. It is inexpensive, easy to find, and more effective than mace or pepper spray. If someone tries to break into your home spray the bad guy in the eyes. That should give you a chance to call the police or get out. It might even save your life.

By Karin from Gilroy, CA

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April 30, 20110 found this helpful

Please be careful if you decide to dig in a dumpster. Often there are used needles in there that could hurt you or even distroy your life.

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May 1, 20110 found this helpful

Love, love, love the wasp spray idea. Thanks so much.

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May 2, 20110 found this helpful

I laughed when I read the dumpster dig excuse. Here's why: I live near Petsmart and one day while walking by, noticed something usable on top so I took it. Visiting regularly, I've rescued alot of good things. Such waste! Sometimes I've seen them destroy something before throwing it in!

What I find, I either keep or donate it to a cat rescue thrift shop. But, the box explanation wouldn't work because next to the dumpster is a cardboard recycling bin! So, I guess I'd have to say, "I can use this."

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