Frugal and Tightwad Living

This is my story about frugal and tightwad living! To start, I live alone right now. I have been frugal my whole 38 years. I am also a tightwad. My family laughs about to what lengths I will go to live the way I do. For instance, when gas hit four dollars this last summer, I asked for a ride with my parents to a family function we were attending on the same day.


I only drove once a week unless it was to work. I cleaned out my car completely, trunk and all. I cleaned it myself with a hand held vacuum cleaner and used my outside plug-in. This helped my 2 door gas guzzler car. I filled up before the hike in gas prices and it has lasted two weeks.

I use the dollar store for presents, food, pet for both the kitties, health items and school supplies for my foster children. I also buy some clothes at the dollar store, socks and undies. They also have powdered milk, so I buy that instead of the liquid kind of milk. At the end of the month I go to the food pantry in the next town (3 miles away) and get food for free. The only requirement is that I have to live in the county. Making things is my specialty. I sew potholders from scraps of rags. I iron them so they come out nice.


I wash my clothes in a bathtub so as to save money for other things that I may need during the year. I wash my foster children's clothes this way too. Plunge, scrub and soak and that is all there is to it. This year, I am going to a social club that allows us to do our laundry for .75 a load. I think I will do their clothes there since I will have six foster children to take care of as of September 1st of this year, but it is just as easy to do them in a tub or sink.

For entertainment, we have a VCR and a lot of movies that are well taken care of. We will use the library for videos as well, It's free. I go to church every Sunday, Wednesday, and Saturday. We have potluck on Saturday afternoons and Sundays sometimes, if the men's dinner is Saturday. I am a Protestant Baptist. I believe that frugality is the only way of life that the Lord meant for us to live.


I also believe in helping out the less fortunate. Those who are dirt poor with no welfare help. The children whom I foster are from drugged out and abusive families that they were taken away from by welfare. This is my way of practicing my religion.

My husband is in the Armed Forces of America. He sends money home to help with our expenses here in the states. It's not much because he has living costs overseas. The loneliness in my life is what caused me to take in foster kids as well as my upbringing. I sell Avon on the side too.

We live in a suburb away the main city and I use public transportation only to go shopping. I walk to the bus stop 1 mile away from our home. I shop with coupons for everything, I do mean everything too, including shoes and presents that aren't from the dollar store. I shop in bulk even at the thrift stores, with the 3 dollar bag sales at the end of the seasons. I also use a back to work thrift shop for clothes for work and winter too.


My children that are in foster care get hand-me-downs from cousins of mine as well as some new clothes. I get welfare assistance for my foster children, It's not much, but it helps me out with them. This year I will have four boys and two girls which it is a good thing since almost 70 percent of my cousins are male.

Free lunches at school for my school age kids go a long way. I also pack fruit for them as this is extra in our school lunch program. I use the bags of apples from my brother's land who has apple trees and plenty to pick from.

I get help from local women's groups to send my husband calling cards so he can call me when he gets lonely. Asking around helps you find out what is available in your neighborhood. I believe in giving back to my area as well. Everyone in America should give back because you never know when a good deed comes in handy. What goes around comes around, and back three fold, is what I always say! So put out the good, so you get back good.


Well... this is how my family lives frugally.

Tonya from Northern Minnesota

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By Iris (Guest Post)
August 24, 20060 found this helpful

I thought it was neat to read that Tonya was from Northern MN! I too, grew up in a small town in Northern MN--just 6 miles from the Canadian border. I too consider myself frugal! Is it something in the water:)


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August 24, 20060 found this helpful

Do you have a freecycle there? It's a website of everyone in the community offering free things, so if you need them, you can pick them up.


We've had everything from broken dishes (for mosaics) to autos. Of course, lots of clothes.

I got Sesame Street party supplies. I donated my old sofa (with a new slipcover). Lots of gardening tools, old computers/monitors, plants, kitchen utensils.

Just ask, and you'd be surprised what someone in your community wants to give away.

We have just one rule: you may not offer your kids. hahahahaha

By Linda from WI (Guest Post)
August 25, 20060 found this helpful

I would like to know how I can locate a freecycle around my area. Is there a web site for this? I live in northwestern WI. my email is richlin AT
Thanks so much!

Editor's Note:

By gina (Guest Post)
August 26, 20060 found this helpful

Tonya, great job! I really admire all of your strategies. We are foster parents also, have adopted five of our foster children. Such a rewarding lifestyle. Gina

June 8, 20090 found this helpful

Our family is also a military family. My hubby is currently serving his third tour in Iraq. Money is very tight. One of the things I have done, is I now make my own laundry soap. Borax, Washing Soda, and a bar of Ivory. Less than 2.50 to make a bit more than 5 gallons of laundry soap!! I also make my own fabric softener. I grew up in a Mormon household, so I have the firm value of food storage and buying in bulk if possible. There are some really good recipes on the net for these items, and I do recommend them.
Bright Blessings,

January 9, 20180 found this helpful

I will be learning some of tose ways. I buy powder from the dr tree and mix with borax. I never grate soap that much any more.

June 8, 20090 found this helpful

We try to save on food by growing and canning as much of our own food (veggies) as possible. And I now have a dehydrater so I can also dehydrate the veggies. I just learned how to dehydrate slice potatoes like you find in the boxed scalloped potatoes. Just rehydrate add some cheese and such and you have scalloped potatoes fast and easy. Of course you do need to "cook them" in the oven. Just read on a box of the boxed ones.

We also buy whatever is on sale. We buy up as much as we can afford and have room for. We just have to be sure that we rotate it when we put it in the freezer. I also like to fix just veggie meals. Especially in the warmer months. In cold months, we like to eat stews and soups. I could live on soup year round, but hubby likes meat, meat, and more meat.

August 11, 20090 found this helpful

Tonya, what a good person you are to help these kids! I am certain you are making a difference! God Bless You!

September 13, 20100 found this helpful

You truly are an inspiration for all women.
God bless you.

September 9, 20111 found this helpful

Most states pay & have established rate schedules for Foster Care aid. The most recent I can find for Minnesota is 2008 with a rate of $585 - $699 per month, per child with extra expenses for extra events, so I beg the question, Why would you have to go to such extremes as to wash your clothes in the bathtub?

August 5, 20171 found this helpful

Thank you, littlegamma, for asking this question, and there are others making my head spin. If you think this is living well or whatever you wish to call it, I am sorry for you. But, my heart goes out to the foster children you care for.

September 17, 20170 found this helpful

I realize this is an old post, (VHS players?) but it reminds me of a TV show from a few years back called "Extreme Cheapskates." Even if she was only getting $500 per child, that was $3000 a month, plus what her husband sent, etc. And she mentioned going to work, which would have added to that.

I can't help but wonder--what is she spending her money on? Foster kids get free medical care, at least in my state. And she is getting free food from a food pantry once a month.

Somewhere along the way, she should have been able to get a cheap washer and dryer. I'm sorry, but certain items of clothing need more than a swish in the bathtub. I hope it wasn't obvious that the kids were fosters when they went to school.

November 19, 20171 found this helpful

I come from a Christian background as well and also lived with my Godmother who taught me these and many more invaluable ideas. Now I have a real issue with people who count and quantify what they do not understand. I was a Family longstay child for the purpose of studying at the neighbouring Town's School. The school provided classes no other school did and my Mother agonised and could not really afford the fees but a plan was made. That is how it's done. My Grandmother taught me to wash my heavies in the bath and stomp it. Our clothes lasted longer and I tell you I don't know what type of person you are but a foster child who finds somebody to love them, that is a gift. Children are expensive to bring up right. I went and looked up the electricity and all the cost of running and buying a machine and dryer, and it's not cheap. This Lady is teaching the Children how to survive if nothing else, and I believe that any discomfort is of short time. We are adult for longer than we are children and live is neither kind nor fair. These things you criticised, they are the things I thank my People for. They are painfully proud and you come and belittle them, so they didn't even need to wait to get to school. I can and do say with pride that I learned to cook and bake, heat my water on an old Aga, the same one my Mother and own Father bought before he died, I hear still the old generator he was so proud of, learned to ride on a tractor. These things are watched on cheap shows that teach you nothing. I am now a Grandmother and many people I know would be horrified but I see the quality of their modern plastic lives. I am proud of my upbringing and grateful to the people who saw something special in me. It's not actually about the money, money doesn't smooth out anything when you are not wanted. And just out of curiosity, have you transferred your old VHS tapes to disks? Tapes of music? I have never and do not want to see Grease, Bonanza, those old shows people die for. We debated, and my Godmother didn't hang on the phone, she spoke to us and I even got to observe her work in her Lab for her Thesis. I still do not like television. Certainly you can learn a lot watching TV, while actually we should be doing more. I follow young people all over the world doing these very things you mock, and they are proud. They prosper and flourish. When my Children were small I was from necessity an extreme cheapskate, it is an art form. And I saved so that now I am not a burden, as so many are to their Children. I wish you well and I salute this Lady you attacked. Maybe she can show you how to budget if you do not know that welfare is not a bottomless pit.

August 11, 20183 found this helpful

I'm not sure who you were referring to when you said the original LW, 12 years ago now, was being attacked, or mocked. Questioning why she has to live so frugally when she's getting money from the state, her job, her husband, plus all the free stuff, is hardly "attacking," just questioning. There's nothing wrong with living frugally, but there's no reason to be a cheapskate or deprive your children if you've got the money coming in.

As a matter of fact, I did transfer any VHS tapes I wanted to keep to DVD, several years ago. I had VHS tapes of my son growing up and it was getting to be hard to find a VCR. Old movies and TV shows are available on Netflix, METV, and even youtube, so no, I didn't transfer any of them. I'm saving the tapes, though, because I can crochet tote bags or doormats from the old tapes.

I come from a Christian background, too, and I believe in helping people and am active, even an ordained elder, in my church.

There are certain items of clothing that will not get clean by handwashing. If they're not machine washed, they will smell. Anybody with 6 kids should probably have more than one washing machine.

I have a dear friend who has fostered for over 30 years, along with raising her own two and one adopted. She worked fulltime as well, so I am familiar with what fostering entails.

I grew up in a house with no indoor plumbing, other than cold water in the kitchen sink. My father had us convinced we were poor, but in truth, he was just stingy. He didn't care whether we had decent clothes or not, or a nice house. My mother is 90, and has a new house for the first time in her life. He once said he just knew the Lord would let him take his money with him when he died. His MIL, my grandmother, said she hoped "it was written on an asbestos check."

I learned to sew out of necessity and made most of my clohes for years. Now, it's cheaper to buy off the rack, so I only sew for therapy. Plus, I couldn't care less about whether I'm dressing in style or not. I've got clothes that are over 20 years old, and I watch for on-line sales for necessities like t-shirts and jeans and tops for church.

I decided early on that I wanted more, so I got a decent education and I limited my family to the number of children I could afford. I certainly don't need anybody "teaching" me, at 67, how to budget. There have been times I worked 3 jobs so that my family could have what it needs, and I've certainly never been on welfare.

May 19, 20120 found this helpful

Tonya, you are an inspiration! Not only by sharing inspiring ways to be frugal but for taking in those children and making their lives SO much better than they would have been. My thoughts, prayers and wishing you many blessings in your life.

January 9, 20180 found this helpful

hinI took my plates oof ad sent them back. I found paying insurance and high gas was not for me. Now I save and offer gas to friends with no job. that is my washing machine in my tub. Every item in that basket came from dollar tree. minus wipe and pampers


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