My Frugal Life: Finding Small Luxuries

My earliest adult encounter with frugal living was as a twenty-something single woman living on $425 a month in the 70's. I was exasperated with most of the budgeting articles in ladies magazines with titles like "How to Get the Most Out of Your Roast". I couldn't afford a roast! Hamburger was a stretch! Instead, I ate a lot of eggs. I would whisk an egg into Ramen noodle soup. If I bought celery I chopped the leaves off of the stalks, and those went into the soup too.


Once when times were especially tight I lived on bean soup for the better part of a week. It is actually very good made with Northern beans and ham hocks cooked in a crock pot. The beans are cooked until they soften and thicken into soup, and the meat on the ham hock falls off the bone.

I also could not afford bottled water. When I lived in an area with water that didn't taste good I used a trick I learned from a presentation at the public library. A lady who told us what it was like to live in Costa Rica said that children there would stir uncooked oatmeal into a glass of water, sweeten it with sugar and stir. The oatmeal will settle to the bottom of the glass and the cloudy part will mask any off taste in the water. You drink the water, then you eat the oatmeal.


I found that for a treat, cinnamon sugar is cheap and always tastes good on buttered toast. Another favorite was to buy bananas and slice them into rounds. Put them in a skillet with melted butter. Don't try to brown the bananas. They'll get mushy. Cook just until the edges soften and the bananas have a golden hue, then stir in brown sugar to make a syrup. You can eat this over ice cream and some people even add rum and set it on fire and call it flambé, but it tastes very good as it is.

For exercise I had a dog that needed to be walked a lot. For entertainment, there were no videos then. I read a lot of books, but found I also enjoyed having a television and have never felt I was addicted to it. I had to work on Saturdays so for a treat I got my lunch from McDonald's each Saturday. I sure looked forward to my Saturday fish sandwich and fries with an apple pie for dessert. I have found that small luxuries are very important when you are nearly destitute!


I didn't know of any consignment shops then, but I always had nice clothes because I made a hobby of shopping around for good deals. I remember being happy when I bought a pretty pink dress from the clearance rack at JC Penney's for $6.99.

Now, I no longer have to count up how much the items in my grocery cart will cost to make sure I can cover it with a check. I have to say that it is better not having to watch every nickel. However, learning to be frugal has paid off. Although I am a single mother, employed as a teacher, I own my home. When I bought my teenaged daughter a car to commute to college, the lady at the bank told her, "Your mother has A plus-plus credit. That means any bank would lend her money."

I love shopping for bargains. It makes ordinary life a game. It also provides financial security. I feel sorry for people who have so much and don't seem to enjoy it. Here are a few of my favorite tips:


Major chain grocery stores are beginning to charge a lot for chicken thighs, which used to be a bargain. The smaller grocery stores, not chains, still sell them cheaply. I can buy four for a $1.30.

The same chemists that work for the high end cosmetic companies work for the low end companies, using the same recipes. You can buy cosmetics from ELF ( for $1.00 each, and they are hypoallergenic, full-sized products. I have very sensitive skin, and I can use their cosmetics. I have bought expensive cosmetics that have given me a rash!

Note trends in what your family likes to eat, and shop for the lowest prices for those items. That is where you will save on a regular basis. I get coffee, canned goods, pudding mixes from Big Lots and Save-a-Lot.


I buy the packages of rice and noodle mixes when they are on sale for $1.00 each. They aren't salty if you had 1/3 to 1/2 cup of peas or chopped broccoli when you cook them.

You can get 5% off of your grocery bill at Winn Dixie if you are a AAA member. You don't have to show them your AAA card each time. Once it is entered in the computer, the discount will come up each time you shop. (This discount might be offered at other grocery store chains as well).

I have a large yard and cut my own grass. I just wait until 7:00 PM when it is cooler outside. While I'm cutting I have a little chant that goes, "Sixty dollars in my pocket..." That is the cost of having someone else do the job.

There are so many ways to save money and have fun doing it. Being resourceful and creative in using what you have is a great lifestyle. Before buying anything I attempt to talk myself out of it. Will I use it? Can I use something else instead? Can I get it cheaper somewhere else?


I don't spend more than I can pay off when my credit card bill is due at the end of the month. So far I have always been able to pay it off, but it is good to know that if there is an emergency and I need to make payments, the credit is available.

Buy a small house (unless family size makes a large home necessary). They are cheaper to maintain and pay off the mortgage sooner. Also, with fewer rooms it is easier to afford nice furnishings and upgrades like tiled or wooden floors. I don't envy friends who have large magnificent homes. Sometimes I even imagine them envying me for having a less complicated life!

By SusannL from Florida

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June 12, 20060 found this helpful

Wonderful post, Susann!

I do many of the same things and YES, even though I don't absolutely HAVE to do this anymore, it makes me appreciate EVERYTHING so much more. Things are simpler and less complicated and I love that! I love your lawn-mowing chant! I actually love doing things like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. It is fabulous exercise and its getting something done at the same time. I LOVE this!

Thanks so much for sharing. Great story!

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By Mary (Guest Post)
June 12, 20060 found this helpful

I didn't find cosmetics at

Did I go to the wrong website?

Your frugal story reminds me a lot of mine. As the last of 8 children, frugal was the only way to go for us.


Editor's Note: The link has been fixed above. It should go to

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By Heather H. (Guest Post)
June 12, 20060 found this helpful

The actual address for ELF cosmetics is:

The one above takes you to a site about motor oil.

Great tip, though. Thanks!
Editor's Note: We have fixed the link above so both will take you to the correct place.

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June 13, 20060 found this helpful

Sorry about the wrong web site address for E.L.F. Thank you, Heather, for the correction!

My teenaged daughter just got some lip gloss and other items that she loves from there this week.

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By kerri (Guest Post)
June 13, 20060 found this helpful

Yes, great story. I get frustrated, even now, with the "how to save money" articles in most magazines--they are stuff most of us less-affluent types are already doing! I guess there are a lot of women out there who don't pinch pennies, so these tips are useful. Anyway, I have a similar feeling about our yard work--only here in California, it would be more like "saved the $125" (that is typically what the Mow, Blow, & Go services charge for front/back. I can feed my family of 7 for 10 days on that!). It is appalling what people are willing to pay for things that are so easily done themselves. Also, in our home, that's what teenage boys are for!

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September 3, 20060 found this helpful

Susann - Great tips and I will be copying this to put in my "file". The problem I find being a single gal is that a lot of times people recommend that I buy in bulk and 1) I don't have anywhere to store and and 2) a lot of times things will ruin before I can use it (foodwise that is).

I find the Dollar Stores are great for buying things like the Raman noodle soups, jellies, chips, dips, and snack foods. I also buy a lot of my cleaning goods there and it saves me quite a bit of money.

Thanks again for sharing your tips.

Tonya ;>)

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September 3, 20120 found this helpful

The Dollar General brand, LA Colors makeup, well the blush and the eye shadows are magnificent, I too am one with very, very sensitive skin and eyes and I use these all the time, the lip glosses are great too, they aren't sticky and don't feel like you have put glue on your lips like some of the bigger name glosses. The makeup brushes they have are second to none in quality too, and they are $1 a brush. The nail clippers are much better than the bigger name ones too, and are super duper cheap.

The athletic wrap, the kind that football players use to wrap ankles and wrists is also 1/3 the price it is a WalMart too. I have tons of stuff that I only purchase at Dollar General and thrift stores.

I love to refinish furniture and most of my home is furnished in stuff I bought on sale at the local thrift store. I love that I can make things with good bones match with just a little cleaner, elbow grease, paint and new hardware! I also bought my "new" fridge at the thrift store, it was $200, and I turned around and sold my old one on FaceBook for $125, I had a whole $75 in it!

I also sell my kids and my clothes and stuff I no longer need on FaceBook when I buy something new. My youngest son is 12 and I have a girlfriend who has a son that is a year older and one size bigger who buys nothing but the best clothes for her kids and I buy all her son's stuff for mine. Theres never a stain or tear on them and my son gets to wear Abercrombie and Fitch, UnderArmour, Hollister, Nike. All the big names for mini money,

I totally spent $75 on his entire back to school wardrobe. I always use my $10 off $30 coupons at Bath and Body during the hello yellow sale, they have all the shower gels, lotions and body sprays for an average of $2.50 -$3 each, and I do multiple purchases and buy enough of my favorite to last a year! Costs me about $50 - $100 depending on what I buy (I buy Christmas gifts sometimes) and I am fully stocked for the entire year!

Also did you know that the store will ship anything you want to your home? All you have to do is call them up, tell them what you want, give them your coupon codes and any offers that you have for free shipping or free items, pay for it with your credit card and you will have it right at your door in about 3 days, the best part being, You aren't spending a dime on gas! Anything to save a buck!

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September 10, 20120 found this helpful

I really enjoyed reading this. I agree that it is enjoyable finding the best product for the lowest price - even when the bank acct can afford a higher price. There were times years ago when I had to pinch - but not quite as much so. Then life was good, and I still continued getting the best buy. Now

I just turned 76 and the recession hit, had a property that I had sold on land contract. The people destroyed the water supply and the beautiful interior was completely destroyed. I always enjoyed fixing up homes/apartments, etc., but before I could do it this time, my hubby passed away and immediately after I ended up with dizzy spells from prescriptions, fell and broke my hip.

Had the corrective surgery and for 3/4 days and nights the nurses did not turn me and put some weird boots on me that they required had to stay on day & night. I ended up with 6 ulcers down to the bone and have been bed ridden for 18 months, which left me with no income except SS.

Now cannot meet my obligations and life is turned upside down. So enjoy all tips I run across. Wonder if I'll ever get back to life. Special doctor's appointment comes up this week. and hope he'll have any - some good news.

Anyway, read the comments on the Dollar General brand. The dollar stores here are different. There are 5 dollar stores in a very close vicinity, but the only true dollar store is Dollar Tree. All the others that use the dollar store names are high priced and sometimes even priced higher than Wal-Mart.

Anyway, wanted you to know I really enjoyed your "story" and wanted to tell everyone to think about pinching whether you need to or not, because you never know what the future holds. And, it can hit fast.

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September 10, 20120 found this helpful

Also forgot to add in my feedback that you can save a great deal of money in cleaning products by using white vinegar and baking soda. The vinegar deodorizes and steralizes. Great for almost all cleaning. Also do a search in this Thrifty Fun for making your own laundry soap. Very easy and saves many $$.

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November 25, 20120 found this helpful

Wow! How much my life has changed since I posted this six years ago. My daughter graduated from college and is living on her own. I sold my house in the country and now rent an apartment where I am close to everything, but still live near a wooded area and a bike path to walk my dogs. I also changed jobs and have a teaching job that is a better fit.

So many of my tips no longer work for me. I try to eat as few processed foods as possible, so I don't buy the noodles or rice mixes. I stick with brown rice and mostly whole grains, veggies, and go organic for many foods. Beans, brown rice, and veggies make healthy meals and I eat at least one organic apple and a handful of natural almonds each day. I bought a juicer and am having fun with juicing. If you live alone, this is a great way of making sure fresh veggies don't go to waste.

The doctor told me my bones are thinning and to avoid caffeine. I took the advice to heart and even make yummy whole wheat carob brownies to skip the caffeine in my beloved chocolate. I am also taking a yoga class. I have taken care of my health- paying for the recommended screenings, dental work- and, because insurance wouldn't cover it, spent over $4000 having veins removed from my legs. But, hey, there are people who spend $4000 on extra options for their cars.

Now my legs don't hurt, I don't get the itchy ankles or foot cramps I did, so I guess it was worth it. I pay the price for just the right items in my house and give to the thrift shop anything I don't need and use. I just paid $51 for a comfortable stylish pair of Italian shoes that were originally $201. With my daughter grown I can afford to do and have some of the stuff I couldn't and I feel like I have earned it.

Still save a lot by purchasing many items at consignment and thrift shops, but I am picky. It has to be as good or better than what can be found for more money at the mall. I joined Birchbox and look forward to my $10 box of goodies each month. I am a Netflix subscriber now instead of going to the library for DVDs. I get free cable here and Netflix is $7.95 a month. I love movies and documentaries.

I love and read reviews before purchasing. This precaution has kept me from many mistakes. I still make mistakes that I've learned from. Dealdash auctions IMHO are a scam and I lost $36 on an introductory bid package, thinking I would at least get a gift card or two to give as Christmas presents. Nope. Nothing.

And I did use Bidbuddy and followed the tips. Hope someone can learn from my mistake! So I guess my message is- life is changing all of the time. Frugal for me now is different than when my daughter was a small child or in college. Or even when I was a 20 something single. We adapt as we go along and I like to view this as an adventure!

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