Frugal NationFrugal Nation

Going out? Grab the 'anywhere bag'

Whether you're out for the day or gone for a week, these 10 easy-to-get items can save you aggravation -- and money.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 19, 2012 4:50PM

Image: Los Angeles, Calif., traffic on Interstate 405 © VisionsofAmerica/Joe Sohm/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesI'm one of those people you can always ask for ibuprofen, safety pins, a tissue or sunscreen. While riding the bus I've handed adhesive bandages to the moms of hysterical children with minor injuries. My day pack routinely contains an elastic bandage -- honest.

That's why I clicked immediately with Trae Bodge's idea for the "anywhere bag." Originally she called it the "parent survival kit," but soon realized the concept works both for parents and the child-free: Anywhere you are, certain things come in handy.

"It's smart to be prepared for just about anything," says Bodge, a senior writer at RetailMeNot's blog, The Insider.


Whether you're hauling kids from pillar to post or heading for a single person's getaway, the anywhere bag can save you a ton of aggravation -- and money.

Having to buy first-aid supplies from the first (or only) available place is not frugal. When errands take longer than you thought, a granola bar from the bag will keep you from dropping $5 on coffee and a cookie. An allergy attack or a lost button can turn a good day into a stinker.

The anywhere bag lets you cope.

The liquids

Start with a gallon-size zip-top bag, which is easy to pull from a backpack or out from under an auto seat. Worst-case scenario: The bag becomes an ice pack for a sprain or bee sting, or transports a child's wet or dirty clothing.

Put these items in the bag:

1. Sunscreen.
Fill a tiny container (repurposed shampoo sample bottle, maybe?) from the large bottle that you bought with a sale price/coupon combo. will match the sales to the cents-off for you for free. Note: Many of the items below can also be bought on sale with coupons. But you've probably already got some or all of them.

2. Insect repellent.
Don't let the bad bugs bite. Incidentally, it's possible to buy repellent/sunscreen combos. Find the best deals with a price comparison website such as Nextag or PriceGrabber.


3. Wet wipes. These are useful for both adult and child cleanup issues.

4. Hand sanitizer. Fill a sample-size shampoo bottle from the vat of sanitizer you bought at the warehouse club.

5. First-aid kit.
Put some adhesive bandages and the smallest tube of anti-bacterial ointment you can find into a little container or sandwich bag. If traveling, throw in a few tablets of over-the-counter allergy, anti-diarrheal and cold meds, all bought on sale with coupons if possible. (Make sure the backs of the blister-packs clearly identify which med is which.)

The solids

6. Tissues.
Fold some up inside a sandwich bag.

7. Pad and pen.
Cut old computer printouts into 3- by 5-inch pieces and staple at the top. You'll be able to play hangman with Junior while waiting for a tow truck. (Nothing drains a smartphone battery like a few rounds of Angry Birds.)

8. Snacks. Ever spend an hour in traffic with hungry kids in the back seat? With sales and coupons I've paid as little as 1 to 5 cents apiece for granola bars. Or fill small bags with nuts or fruit from larger containers bought at a restaurant supply store or an ethnic market. (Read "Warehouse shopping without the fees" and "Ethnic markets can save you money.")

9. Sewing kit.
Look at the fabric stores that put 50%-off coupons in their Sunday ads. Or thread a couple of needles, wind the thread around them, stick the tips into a scrap of cork or foam and put them into a little container or sandwich bag along with a few safety pins.

10. Money.
This idea's from me. Cash-only establishments do still exist, so carry at least $20 in emergency quarters, ones and fives in a sandwich bag. Tell your kids the sound of the ice-cream truck is not an emergency. Prepare to repeat that lesson as needed.

Do you have an anywhere bag? What's in it?

More on MSN Money:

Jun 20, 2012 2:11AM
Assuming from the article that this anywhere bag is largely meant to b kept in your vehicle i would reccomend in addition to above items listed adding: a small set of screwdrivers, duct tape, chapstick, a disposable camera, xtra phone charger, a sweater or travel blanket, a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, deoderant, feminine hygene supplies, a couple electronic card games that run on batterys, a couple packs of batterys, a paper phone book with important contacts listed an emergency stash of prescription meds if you use them. matches a flashlight, slip on sandals, and keeping all items in a gym bag of sorts with multiple pockets so as to keep some organization to the chaos.
Jun 19, 2012 5:55PM
I bring an anywhere bag inside my daily briefcase!  I also have a small bottle of soap I got from a hotel because there have been many, many times I have been in a restaurant, store, or school bathroom and there is no soap.  I just can't imagine getting through the day after going to the bathroom and not washing my hands!!!
Jun 19, 2012 7:33PM
Donna, What about the bandana? That is one of my favorites!
Jun 20, 2012 6:45PM

I keep an anywhere bag in my desk drawer.  I figure I spend 9-11 hours a day here at the office and I want to be as comfortable as possible.  In one bag is floss (coupon), a mini sewing kit (free), a nail clipper set (also free), an extra emory board, a scrunchie (for weekend in office projects), Gas X (free sample in the mail), bandaids (coupon), etc.  In a separate bag I keep feminine supplies (always bought with a coupon).


With the ideas above, I'm going to tuck a mini go anywhere bag in my purse.  :)

Jun 20, 2012 12:41PM
Hey, don't forget an insulated water bottle with plenty of ice cubes in it.  This is a must for me in the summer months.
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.