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Captain Obvious strikes again

By on April 27, 2011

There’s frugal mania out there. The problem is that some of the tips are the same suggestions being mentioned over and over. While they might be new for some people, seasoned frugalitarians think they’re disappointing and obvious.
Tips seem repetitious because they’re designed to become habitual. You’re supposed to feel as if you can do them or good that you’ve been doing them for years. They aren’t all brilliant. Some tips can be simple conversation starters. A tip might not be a new idea or practical for you, but it can be a way to support someone else that would like to make some changes in their life. Everyone starts somewhere.
What frugal tips make you roll your eyes?
Here are three tips that some of my readers hate seeing over and over.


1. Make your own coffee.

One reader, Constance from New Jersey, shares: “I hate the ‘Make your own gourmet coffee at home and save $5,000 this year!’ idea. It’s a bit hard to imagine that if the need arose to cut back somewhere a person wouldn’t think it was obvious to give up $4 coffees. I’m glad the tips are out there, though, for those who are really clueless about money, but it’s frustrating for me trying to wade through all the stupid tips to get to one I can actually use.”

— Usefulness:

You know the coffee costs a lot. But maybe your friend or spouse doesn’t think much about it. Their daily coffee trip might be a habit. Seeing the frugal tip over and over might make it finally sink in. Maybe they’ll cut back or be happy when they get a a reusable travel mug and coffee as a gift and discover they prefer it. This simple tip might encourage someone to seek out delicious new coffee flavors, syrups, or creamers for at home or learn how to roast their own coffee beans, reuse coffee filters or reuse coffee grounds. A small seed is planted and you never know what ideas can grow.

2. Reuse baggies.

Another reader, Misa from Washington, says: “I HATE the ‘wash the baggies’ out thing. I’m thinking if you’re going to re-use those bags, just invest in some containers. Re-use those.”

— Usefulness:

Some people consider these single-use items and have never thought about reusing them around the house. Maybe they don’t have the money to buy a new set of containers or they prefer freezing food flat to have more space in the freezer. Sometimes a person might think the tip implies to reuse baggies for only food and they don’t want to. But then some tips will share specific nonfood ideas to reuse them, which can lead to wanting to reuse more household items. Lynn from Wisconsin, confesses: “The general tips always frustrated me. Like ‘reuse whatever you can’. It wasn’t until I came to your website and saw what people were re-using and how, that I was able to start doing it myself.”

3. Buy a whole chicken.

Another reader, Jeanna from North Carolina, rants: “I think the tip I hate is buy a whole chicken instead of only chicken breasts because it is cheaper. Duh! But you will not save any money if no one will eat dark meat.”

— Usefulness:

The great thing about a whole chicken is that you can make soup from it and use the dark meat in dishes that place less emphasis on the chicken itself, such as fried rice, salad, soups, spaghetti sauce, casseroles, sandwiches, etc. The chicken is cut so small that no one really notices it’s dark meat. This tip might encourage someone to find new chicken recipes that their family loves, too.

photo by freewine


  1. Frugally Savvy

    4/27/2011 at 6:01 pm

    I would definitely give this a try, but the one problem is the fact that i don’t like coffee

    • Missy

      6/27/2011 at 3:15 pm

      The coffee tip is fantastic. Really. I myself became a home-roaster about 2 years ago. I was tired of spending $9 for 12 oz of coffee beans, thought the popular coffee chain tasted burnt, and was intrigued since I LOVE coffee. The cornpopper shown may not work (I use a Poppery air popper, they have to vent from the sides, meaning airflow can’t come up from bottom of machine. I order my organic FTO green coffee beans for less than $30 for 5 pounds at Sweet Marias dot com. The coffee doubles in size when roasted. I learned to roast from Sweet Maria’s and other sites and my kids know about full city roasts, first and second cracks, etc. and different varieties. It takes only 5 minutes to roast a batch of coffee (nearly a cup in the end) of coffee is the flavor is incredible…unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. Chocolate, brandy, peach, cinnamon…all incredible notes. And the cost? I pay less than $4/pound for organic coffee. When I can’t buy it to roast, I buy my whole beans from Aldi. I pay $4.50 for `12 oz. there and it’s not like my coffee but incredible. For coffee enthusiasts, this is a no-brainer and really fun to learn. Thanks. I think roasting your own coffee is a bit of an obscure comment to be honest. You can buy the old-school poppers online or at garage sales for around $30. If you want a new hobby, I can recommend this one wholeheartedly!

  2. Carla

    4/28/2011 at 9:20 am

    I know the baggie thing drives people nuts, but this was one of the tips that I first read on your site that had never, ever, occurred to me. It might not seem like a big savings, but it was sort of a ‘gateway’ tip for me, it made me think about things that I never really thought about before, and unusual ways to cut back.

    Actually, it drives me nuts when people respond with the “just use containers” comment to the baggie washing. Bags are far more versatile, don’t require a huge commitment of time and space to store and organize, and most importantly my small children can actually open them. I started the school year with containers in my children’s lunches, but quickly switched to bags for everything when the kids were coming home starving and the containers were still full. They couldn’t get into their food!

  3. Pete

    4/29/2011 at 5:39 pm

    Had to laugh! Yes, some suggestions are of no use here, but it is certainly easy enough to just look over them and get to something that we can use. Come on, folks!

    And we are occasional bag reusers. If it looks like they will take more water and soap to clean them than a new bag would cost, they are tossed. But we use and reuse most things until they are worn out.

  4. Sally

    6/14/2011 at 12:26 am

    I agree that these are good ways to save. Everyone is different and will save in different ways. The point is to try. You cannot please everyone since we are all different.

  5. Bev

    6/15/2012 at 9:18 pm

    There are several things that I hear over and over that drive me crazy. Use coupons-yeah done that forever. Take your lunch to work-really? Don’t eat out as often-and…? I have done all the obvious tips I still can’t save anything and we are still not making ends meet! I am looking for tips I can really use. There is one that I saw the other day that was good-I have two teenage sons and my husband is a construction worker. All three are HUGE eaters and I spend a fortune at the grocery store. One tip was to serve homemade bread with the meal. They eat the bread and don’t eat everything else in the house! Finally a tip that is not from Captain Obvious!

    • Noel

      6/25/2012 at 9:24 am

      Bev, I’d suggest that use your bread skills with some creativity. bread dough can be made into pizza blanks, freeze it. Keep a little spaghetti sauce, grate cheese ready and use up veggies and meats from left overs to make pizzas, or spread a little butter and a light sprinkling of garlic powder and parmesan for a garlic bread pizza, only takes 200 minutes to bake from frozen. twist the dough into pretzels, make buns, cinnamon buns, season it for herbed rolls and breads. I find that bread, as you mentioned is a great filler, especially home made, because they’ll eat it up. Add a little variety and it goes even further.

      • Bev

        11/9/2012 at 11:26 pm

        I have a breadmaker and it gets used ALOT! I make my own pizza crusts, bagels, hotdog and hamburger buns, I have a breadmaking book with lots of recipes and I have tried quite a few! My breadmaker is ancient though and I am needing a new one soon. I can use it to make dough but if I try to bake bread in it it starts to smoke and smell really bad. I have cleaned it and cleaned it and I still have the problem with it smoking. Things have become easier now that I am working again. I also make pretzel bread/rolls too which are a huge hit! I just use the pretzel dough recipe and then you add baking soda to water and bring it to a simmer and then put the rolls in the water for about a minute and then bake them in a hot oven-around 425 for about 10-15 minutes. It makes a really tasty sandwich. Another thing I have discovered is making sandwiches out of waffles. They are SOOOOO GOOD!! I use lots of different recipes. Last week I made a dinner loaf with hamburger meat, cheese, and mushroom soup and rolled it up in an italian style dough. It made two loaves and I barely got one small piece of it. It was really good though and cheap so it will be a meal I repeat again!

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