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Spend a little to save a lot

By on November 23, 2008

photo by webg33k

Many frugal folks buy items that pay for themselves over time. For me, this includes compact fluorescent bulbs, a cooler, a cappuccino machine, a battery charger, low-flow shower heads, a rechargeable shaver, a thermos, a TiVo, quality cookware, carpet cleaner and a water cooler, to name a few.

Some of my choices have even lower-cost solutions, such as drinking tap water instead of buying a water cooler, or taking shorter showers, but it’s what works for my family. Today, readers share items that they consider investment purchases.

FOODSAVER: 1. A FoodSaver. It allows me to buy in bulk and not have to worry about freezer-burnt food. 2. My Kirby vacuum. I was buying $100 vacuums that lasted only a year and needed to be replaced. 3. Reusable sandwich containers for lunches. Saves me a lot in sandwich bags and no smashed sandwiches. — Debra, Nebraska

FRONT-LOADER: My front-loading washing machine. It was costly, but it uses much less water and detergent and is gentler on clothing. — Dee, New York

REUSABLE BOTTLE: My reusable water bottle. I cringe at the thought of ever being out and having to buy water. This trusty bottle sits with me through every class, car trip, bus ride, plane trip, gym time, etc. — A.C., e-mail

TOOL TIME: Tools, because we are handy and have saved tons of money by fixing things ourselves. Our freezer, because it saves us a fortune when we buy food on sale and freeze it. Our woodstove, because it heats the house for cheap, and we can cook on it if the electricity goes out. In the wintertime, I keep a tea kettle on it for us to have cocoa or tea. — Zakity, Oregon

BABY FOOD: My food processor hasn’t paid us back yet, but it will by the end of this year. We’re using it to make baby food. Depending on how much the raw ingredients cost, I can save anywhere from 5 cents to 45 cents per jar. Our Brita pitcher because we used to drink a lot of soda. Now, we drink water instead. We pay around $1.50 per month in replacement filters, and you can filter a lot of water for that amount. It’s much cheaper than soda. Our wholesale club membership and AAA membership have saved us a bundle, too. — Sara, Massachusetts

SEW-SEW: My sewing machine. It’s 23 years old and has saved me a bundle in soft furnishings in every home I’ve lived in. I sew all my curtains, cushions and covers for furniture. I have sewn clothes for myself and my family. I quilt using recycled fabric with it. I also recycle denim jeans with it. — Jean, e-mail

STAY DRY: My clothes-drying rack. It greatly reduced my electric clothes-dryer usage, and I figure within two months, it has paid for itself. — C., Maine

LET THERE BE LIGHT: My solar outdoor lights help light up my walkway without using electricity. — Denise, Illinois

POSTAGE: My postal scale. I have had it about 10 years. It is excellent quality and has saved me from putting too much postage on things. By having the exact amount of postage every time, I am sure that I have already saved the price of the scale and then some over the past 10 years. — A., e-mail

LINENS: My cloth napkins and kitchen towels (that are now used for cleaning) have saved us a lot of money. I haven’t bought any paper towels in months, and I don’t think I’ll ever buy them again. Cloth diapers saved us money, and I’ve resold them and have made most of my money back from them. DivaCup. I don’t even wanna think how much money I’ve saved not buying tampons. These are all environmental choices but are frugal as well. — Sara, Virginia

ONLINE: My Internet service. I read news, get free samples, pay my bills online and am entertained for hours. I also found an old hand-crank ice chopper. I don’t need to buy fountain sodas for the crushed ice anymore. My outdoor clothesline saves me money, too. — D.J., Missouri


  1. Pingback: Monroe on a Budget » Sara Noel: Spend a little to save a lot

  2. FrugalNYC

    11/24/2008 at 2:31 pm

    Great site and a great post! I think the water bottle idea is great. I tend to use a mug for most of my water drinking needs. When traveling, I tend to reuse a poland spring bottle.

  3. San Francisco Financial Planning

    11/24/2008 at 3:22 pm

    Great ideas for saving money. It can be so difficult to not overspend, especially when you’re managing a family. Groceries, DIAPERS, Doctors, clothes, toys, babysitting, child care, etc. You need to be very clear on your expenses that you have now and project how they might change so you have a plan. You will know what you can spend. A few money saving tips: swap babysitting with a neighbor or a friend who also has children, join a mom’s club — they sponsor lots of free and low-cost activities plus you meet a lot of people. Consider a used pump or other supplies on eBay.

  4. sheila

    11/24/2008 at 4:31 pm

    I second the Diva cup for it’s money saving attributes!
    What I did a little while back was to stock up on my favorite reusable pads from Lunapads
    for the days when I don’t feel like using my cup.
    The savings has been incredible!


  5. Thevail

    2/3/2009 at 4:45 pm

    A one pint clear wide mouth plastic jar with a tight fitting lid, inexpensive in nearly any camping store. I nearly always have it with me.

    Acts as a water bottle.
    Put nearly anything shiny inside it and it will amuse children up to two years old for hours.
    I’ve even picked blackberries (from a safe non-spray area) and taken them home in it to throw on ice-cream for dessert.
    I’ve used it at a friends house when she was getting rid of ratty old clothes to hold all the lovely harvested buttons until I could get them home to the button tin.
    I also pick up things from the side of the road (okay, so I’m wierd) like bandanas, pairs of gloves, etc..and this is a great way to store them until I can get them into the wash without getting the inside of my bag disgusting.

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