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Learn harmless frugal secrets

By on December 24, 2009

photo by aprilandrandy

Frugality takes creativity. Sometimes you have to be a little sneaky when the family won’t buy into your plans to save money. Secret solutions can be revealed after family members have successfully accepted them unknowingly. Some people would never keep frugal secrets. I’m not suggesting you hide important financial decisions, but you can adopt simple, creative and harmless ways to be frugal without drawing too much attention or resistance from family members. The big reveal is funny and not hurtful — for example, incorporating leftover vegetables into spaghetti sauce or putting unfinished drinks back in the refrigerator for later instead of throwing them away.

Have you ever done something sneaky or secretive to save money in your home?

Here are a few suggestions.

BUDGET MEALS: Maybe one person doesn’t like leftovers. Freeze them and give them a makeover a few days later rather than the serving the same meal the following day. For example, vegetables can be saved for soup, casseroles, stir fry, fried rice or pasta dishes.

USE LESS: You can use fewer supplies and still get good results. For example, you can use less meat when cooking, fewer cleaners when doing housework, install a low-flow showerhead to use less water or use your oven less often and a slow cooker more, to name a few.

PANTRY INVENTORY: When building or maintaining a fully stocked pantry, a common problem is that your family will tend to consume more than usual because there’s more readily available. Another reader, Valerie in Washington, shares her strategy: “I hide things from my husband, like his favorite pop, which never goes on sale. I bought a 24-can pack of it (at full price) a while ago. Every once in a while, I pull out a six-pack and let him have it. I also bought a big jar of peanuts, but just put a pint-size canning jar full of peanuts where he would find it. The big jar is tucked away.”

LOOSE CHANGE: Change found when doing laundry or cleaning is fair game. Keep a change jar, and gather loose change you discover around the house or have left over from shopping. Use it to pay debt or save for something fun such as a meal out or toward a family vacation.

THERMOSTAT WARS: There always seems to be one spouse who wants it warmer in the winter or cooler in the summer than the tightwad in the household. Rather than go through the thermostat wars, simply change it by one or two degrees and not five degrees or more.

PACKAGING HACK: Save and refill containers with less expensive alternatives. C.J. in Nevada confesses: “I do sneak stuff he does not like (or says he does not like) into our meals, and he is none the wiser. The biggest thing was bulk cereal. He loves Frosted Flakes. I bought the bulk kind, and his reaction was, he hates the stuff and it’s disgusting. So I hid an empty Tony the Tiger box, filled it with the bulk cereal from my shopping trip and he ate all of it and never complained. About a year later, my father made a comment about cheap cereal, and hubby commented that I bought it once, and it was gross and he would never eat it again. Not being able to contain myself, I told him that he has been eating it for more than a year! I thought my dad was going to need medical assistance from laughing so hard, and hubby was in shock for a few days. He does not have a problem with bulk cereal now, though.” Try this with products such as condiments, shampoo, fabric softener, etc.


  1. Kathy

    12/28/2009 at 7:40 pm

    Around my house they would eat from a jar of jam until about one inch or two from the bottom of the jar and leave it and open a new jar. When no one is around I empty the jar they abandoned into the fresh jar they opened and no one is the wiser. I do this with other items as well. Peanut butter, pickles whatever they abandon for whatever reason (could never understand why they do that) and the old stuff gets recycled to the new jar opened.

    I call it thrifty.

  2. Jennifer

    1/1/2010 at 9:51 am

    I have a tendency to use too much dish liquid so I put my dish liquid into a glass jar fitted with a pourer (the really cheap kind that you use for oil or liquor bottles). The dish liquid comes out VERY slowly and forces you to use a lot less. It seems to last forever.

  3. Marilyn

    1/3/2010 at 8:38 pm

    We buy dishwashing detergent in bulk. The containers are often so large and bulky that the dispenser gets overfilled every time. So I cut the top of the box off and stuck a disposable plastic spoon in there. Two teaspoons is all i need to clean an entired load. I have been using the same box of detergent for about six months. I run a full load twice a day for 5 people.

  4. Jess

    3/28/2010 at 8:26 pm

    My 14yr old daughter swears she’ll die if she uses any other shampoo than this $25 12oz bottle of stuff. Its a good thing that I have been cleaning the bottle and refilling it with a cheaper shampoo for several months now. One day I’ll tell her…..maybe.

  5. JP

    2/9/2011 at 11:58 pm

    CJ’s story is hilarious! I love it! Like Valerie, I too do not put large quantities of “special” groceries where they can be easily found by the rest of the household. And the Doer Of The Laundry is entitled to any money found, even if it’s a ten or twenty dollar bill. If it was so important, why didn’t they empty their pockets? Sneaking didn’t work when I tried to substitute ground turkey for ground beef, though. That stuff is disgusting.

  6. Romalee

    3/11/2012 at 12:01 pm

    I agree with JP!! That ground turkey is more than disgusting.

  7. Diana

    2/6/2013 at 6:21 pm

    When my kids thought they HAD to have something more expensive than I was willing to pay for, I gave them the amount of $ I would spend on it & if they wanted it so bad the rest of the $ came out of their pockets……worked great.

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