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Ten habits for successful tightwads

By on September 19, 2009

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photo by luminais

Frugalitarians have many small habits. Some of these strategies don’t necessarily save much money. They might seem silly or insignificant to others because of the time spent doing them, too. But the fact is that these decisions reflect the creativity and determination by penny pinchers (called this for a reason) to be less wasteful. The thought process of living gently carries over through all aspects of your daily life. How often have you been torn on whether or not to throw something away? Maybe it was a container, button, straight pin, rubber band or a juice lid. Keep in mind that tightwads aren’t hoarding hundreds of milk caps because they might find a use for them. They’ll save a handful of caps to make a memory game or ornaments or use the plastic ring to keep socks together or none at all if it’s not useful to them.

What types of things contribute little to your finances but are still worth your time?

Here are a few common habits that are simply what frugal folks will do.

SAVE PLASTIC BREAD TABS: They are great little scrapers for counters, floors and dishes. Use as bookmarks or to hold rubber bands. Or attach one to a roll of tape so it doesn’t fold over. They’re perfect for closing open plastic bags, such as rice or confectioners’ sugar.

REUSE ENVELOPES: Simply cover the address sections with new labels (cross out any bar codes) or simply use for scrap paper and you’re good to go.

CUT DRYER SHEETS IN HALF: This is the No. 1 tip submitted to me. Keep used sheets to clean your lint trap, wipe down your washing machine, dust, to help remove nail polish, line a trash can, or attach to a toilet-paper holder to give a fresh scent in the bathroom. Tuck them into a pillow or drawer, or attach them to a Swiffer mop.

REUSE GIFT WRAP: From saving bows to ironing tissue paper, it might only save a few cents but why throw away gift wrap that can be reused?

RENEWING: Melt items from scraps of crayons, soap or candles to make a full-size item again. Soap bits are often placed in a soap pump container with water to make liquid soap. Simply toss a marble into the container to help mix. One reader, Sandy C. in Minnesota, shares: “I use the little leftover hunks of bar soap and put them with some water in the toilet-brush container sitting by the toilets.”

TOILET-PAPER RATIONING: Some folks put themselves on a daily number of squares limit. While compulsive, it certainly tracks usage.

WASH FOOD WRAPPERS AND CONTAINERS: True tightwads know the value of a Pringles container. Rinse and reuse heavy-duty baggies (if not originally used for meat), foil and cereal bags, too. Disclaimer: Of course, some plastics will be reused in nonfood ways.

EMPTYING CONTAINERS: Cut open tubes (or completely flatten by using your toothbrush handle) and bottles, scrape jars or add water to sauce or condiment containers to get every last bit of product. Use every last bit of a lipstick. Scrape out the tube, and combine it with Vaseline to make a lip gloss or, if you have multiple broken lipsticks, create your own color palette.

FOOD SCRAPS: Save bread ends or “stale” bread for breadcrumbs, leftover vegetables for soup or flat pop or syrup from canned fruit to add to gelatin. Or reuse coffee grounds or tea bags. Another reader, Polly in Pennsylvania, shares: “I simmer orange, lemon and lime rinds on the stove before discarding to freshen the house.”

RESTAURANT TAKEAWAYS: Save all the condiment and seasoning packets, napkins and utensils. Read: Tightwads don’t intentionally take extras. They save any that were given but not used.


  1. Deb

    9/19/2009 at 10:24 am

    Even more frugal than using half a dryer sheet is to not use them at. They contain an amazing amount of toxic chemicals and are just plain unsafe. Here’s a link that has a list of the chemicals found in dryer sheets:
    .-= Deb´s last blog ..Grandbabies!!! =-.

  2. Sara Noel

    9/19/2009 at 10:48 am

    I agree. I’ve mentioned not using dryer sheets in previous columns.
    For example use vinegar in your washer or handmade dryer balls.

    The torn dryer sheets was simply one thing a lot of my readers do out of habit.

  3. tracy

    9/20/2009 at 9:57 am

    I save my cardboard egg cartons for spring seedlings. They can be planted right in the ground because they will break down. I also cut up an old towel into small squares for personal cloths. I use them in place of toilet paper unless its messy. They wash up easily and I go thro 1 roll of t.p. a month now. I save all milk, juice and vinegar jugs for emergancy water.

  4. zig

    9/24/2009 at 3:02 pm

    stop using the dryer and hang your clothes on an outside line or inside line.


  5. Jody

    9/25/2009 at 12:23 am

    Seriously! Using towels as ‘personal cleansing cloths’ instead of TP. you can buy 4 rolls for under $1.00! Save us the visual. I’m sorry but there is frugal and there is…..

  6. Sara Noel

    9/25/2009 at 8:14 am

    The people that practice this, do so mostly to use less paper products not simply to save money.

    I’ll finish your sentence on a positive note…

    I’m sorry but there is frugal and there is… 😉

  7. Lisa

    9/25/2009 at 3:29 pm

    I want to go back to drying my clothes on an indoor rack. I live in apartments so an outside line is not feasible. But I used to have an indoor collapsible rack. Problem was, it would collapse every time I had clothes drying on it, it would not stay upright even with light clothing like socks and underwear on it! i could never find enough surface space in my house to dry a whole load of laundry so I’ve given up on it. Anyone have reccomendations for a GOOD indoor dry rack?

    • frugalforever

      10/12/2013 at 12:40 am

      Get a metal drying rack, they are more sturdy than the wood ones. Also, make sure you have a window open when drying on a rack, because you don’t want to create a moldy environment on your walls.

    • Amberthecheapster

      4/30/2016 at 1:14 pm

      Secure the joints of the rack with cut up strips from plastic grocery bags. It is amazingly strong and a great way to repurpose these bags. I also dry polo shirts, tops and light weight slacks on plastic hangers on the shower rod. If you place the rack in the bathtub and hang the other laundry on the hangers, you can easily restrict the use of space and electricity. Open the window and let nature do it’s job!

  8. Sara Noel

    9/25/2009 at 11:25 pm

    Well there’s the AirDry rack that is great. Cheaper options are retractable lines for inside or simply use a tension rod in a doorway and hang clothes on hangers to dry. In my basement, I use clotheslines tied onto large eye hooks.

  9. Kurt

    10/3/2009 at 2:01 pm


    Although not cheap, you can get a nice indoor/outdoor drying rack from I have two of them and love them. I started using them this year.

  10. Lisa

    10/12/2009 at 7:00 pm

    We hang all of our laundry to dry (don’t own a dryer), use all paper products sparingly (paper towels, TP and kleenex), cloth diaper our baby about 90% of the time and I use cloth feminine hygene products. (They are so much more comfortable than the plastic/chemical alternative!)

    I urge everyone to think about the rolls of paper towels that they blow through every month- or the other “disposables” you use. There is no such thing as disposable. They all end up somewhere!

  11. ANGELA

    12/17/2009 at 1:04 pm

    I start with about 10 min on low in dryer then hang up everything and use an indoor collapsable rack but I also use just the frame of a door, so have to duck to go into a room maybe but its completely useable space. Ill even hang small stuff over hangers to dry too.

  12. Elisa

    12/25/2009 at 10:27 am

    I use a feminine “cup” – a brand available in the UK is called the Mooncup but there are others available. It is BRILLIANT. Every month is free for me now and far kinder to the environment. Not to mention, the disposable type always seemed disgusting to me, and now I never have to deal with them!

  13. Jacqui

    4/13/2012 at 2:59 pm

    I also have an extra shower curtain rod centered over my bathtub that I hang clothes on hangers to dry. It works great and you can hide it just by closing the shower curtain!

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