- September 8, 2014

10 Cheap (Ahem…Frugal) Tips My Momma Taught Me


My mother, who died suddenly this past August, taught me the true meaning of “Waste not; want not.” Raised by her own Depression-era mother, she passed on to my siblings and me a wealth of knowledge about how to get the most out of your budget and to never underestimate the value of a penny.

1. Reuse boxes, bins, and plastic tubs. At least once a month, my little girl received a box of “goodies” from grandma in the mail. Naturally, these dollar store treasures came in an old shoebox all taped up or a reused Amazon box. My daughter’s massive collection of sidewalk chalk resides in an old Blue Bell Ice Cream tub. Bacon and hamburger grease is neatly contained in old jelly and applesauce jars so it doesn’t clog up my pipes. We both loved to scour new uses for old things from Real Simple Magazine on Pinterest.

2. Add water to soap dispensers. This works for hand soap, dish soap, and detergent. It can even work for gel hand sanitizer. You don’t have to use a lot, and it extends the number of washes you can make with the bottles.

3. Cover old pillows with pillowcases and sew them closed. Prop your head up when your nose is runny; prop up your leg when you sprain an ankle; or cushion your knees while you work in the garden.

4. Repurpose chipped china as catch-alls for jewelry or coins.

5. Take full advantage of sales and coupons. Even as a kid, my mom had a bin of “gifts” and cards in her closet for last minute birthday, holiday, or baby shower parties. If canned, paper, or frozen goods were on sale, or if she had a coupon, she bought the maximum amount allowable. In case of unexpected dinner guests (or the Zombie Apocalypse), no one could go hungry in my mom’s house.

6. Use cotton swabs to dig out every last drop of your favorite lipstick. When on sale, buy several tubes of your favorite. Seriously. If they stop making your favorite color, you’ll thank me for these tips.

7. Make a home for everything. Speaking of cotton swabs, have you ever run out of them, rifled fruitlessly through your medicine cabinet to find the extras, and run to the store to buy a new pack only to discover upon returning home that your extras were actually tucked away under the sink? Designate a space for all of your essential toiletries and household items. Use whatever system works for you, and write it down somewhere obvious so you won’t forget.

8. Always have a backup. Walking through my mom’s home, you would see a pair of reading glasses near each of her favorite reading chairs in the various rooms of the house. In each purse, she had a tube of lipstick, gum, and a little bit of change. Her travel kit was always ready to go complete with mini shampoo and conditioner bottles, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a mini sewing kit, and a mini first aid kit.

9. Keep free samples. Mom’s purse, travel kit, and the drawers of the guest bathroom sported a plethora of tiny perfumes, single use cold creams, body wash, hair products, and hand wipes.

10. Use vinegar to clean just about anything. Vinegar is naturally anti-bacterial. It can clear mineral or oil build-up in a coffee maker or bottle warmer, rust on metal gardening tools, grime in the microwave, mold in the bath or shower, stinky shoes, floors, carpet, laundry, dishwashers, refrigerators, you name it! Vinegar cleans it all and only costs $3 a gallon. P.S. It also kills weeds.

Dawn M. Ambuehl-Sadek is a work-at-home mom of two girls: Maya, age 5 and Lila, 7 months. She has been writing in various mediums since she was in elementary school, including poetry, short stories, newsletter articles, and business writing. She currently authors a blog focused on parenting and poetry.