Photo credit: David Cooper / Toronto Star
This article ran in the Toronto Star in 2011 and was the most-read blog for Moneyville in its first year. I still wash out milk bags and hang them to dry. What frugal tips can you add to the list?
10 simple ways to live frugally
It’s always comforting to find others who share your obsessions.
Star editor Alf Holden and I love to compare our soap grafting challenges, and to our surprise, photographer David Cooper not only shares our obsession, he climbed several steps higher and tried to convince a soap company to create a mould with a slot that would make grafting old soap onto new easier.
Living frugally means that you don’t throw money away. As Alf says, “All you need to make these tips work is a good system – a routine that is easy to incorporate with the rest of life.” Yet, as David Cooper points out, there’s a fine line between efficiency and hoarding. When your bread bag tags spill out of a drawer, it’s time to question your tactics.
The frugal tips are used by us, but as with all things self righteous, use what you can, ignore the rest, and take it with a grain of salt. I never beat myself up when I choose ease over frugality.
1. Don’t throw water down the drain: The water from our dehumidifier waters the garden and grass. We pitch leftover water from drinking glasses onto indoor plants.
2. Turn off the power for computers and televisions: We just started turning our power bars off at night and when away during the day starting in January. I’ve already seen a reduction on our hydro bill.
3. Use rags: Alf has a stash of rags that he uses for drying cars and household items. For years he refused to buy paper towels, and kept a supply of cloths on hand that he tossed in the laundry. Fellow librarian Astrid Lange uses cloth diapers for cleaning and never uses paper towels.
4. Reuse tinfoil: Tinfoil takes an enormous amount of energy to produce. It’s also a sturdy product. I wipe down tinfoil after using it to tent a roast beef, and use it again.
5. Hang laundry: Dryers emit an average of 1,763 pounds of carbon dioxide annually and use about 15 per cent of household appliance electricity consumption, according toToronto Hydro. In the summer, we use a clothesline and our clothes smell wonderful and dry within hours. In the winter, I use clothes rods, a hanging rack, and an indoor clothesline. Besides cost savings, the advantage to hanging wet clothes is that it puts much-needed moisture into the air in my dry house and I don’t heat the driveway in winter.
6. Soap grafting: Admittedly, this won’t save a lot of money, but it’s the principle of not wasting that end piece! Grafting has become easier now that my family uses the basement shower. Moisture seems to be the culprit that makes grafting difficult. The soap bar in the photo is the seventh successful grafting in a row, not that I’m obsessive and counted.
7. Wash and dry milk bags: My family seldom buys baggies and never buys brown paper bags. Since the Toronto Star online archive began in 1986 there have been dozens of reader tips for reusing the litre bags, creating a tote bag was the oddest. I mainly use mine for packing lunches: sandwiches, fresh veggies, cookies, etc. or as freezer bags. In 25 years I have never had problems with food contamination. When used as a freezer bag, I throw it out after one use.
8. Bring lunch to work: Brown bagging (or milk bagging) your lunch saves a lot of money, and reduces waste, especially if there are four of you. I tell the kids that they can use their own money if they want to buy lunch. Not surprisingly, they choose to save their money and use our groceries.
9. Cleaning with vinegar: The cleaning staff at McMaster University in the late 1980s used a solution of vinegar and water for many tasks. I was one of them. At home, I mix 3:1 parts warm water to vinegar and clean mirrors, sinks, counters, and floors with it. So do Star librarians Astrid Lange and Tony Yeung.
10. Reusable containers: Why buy plastic wrap to cover food? Astrid uses Tupperware, Tony uses glass containers.