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Extreme savings: Washed baggies and unflushed toilets

Some of these frugal tactics are just plain gross.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 1, 2009 1:17AM

Re-used any dental floss lately?

All together now: Eeeewwww!

Yet a reader of the Smart Spending message board knows a guy who did this. "There’s nothing grosser than dental floss hanging over the towel rack," said the reader, who posts as "Willowtears."

Sure there is. How about the folks who flush their toilet only once a day?  Or the guy who would re-use wash water "until it was black"?  Or the woman whose mom strained and re-used cooking oil regardless of pedigree: "Doughnut-flavored taquitos, yum."

All this came from the "Most Extreme Savings Tactics" thread on the message board.  I’m pretty extreme myself, but I flush my toilet each and every time, thanks.

I’d also like to note that floss is "a one-time-use item," according to my dental-hygienist sister.

That said, a number of the "extreme" suggestions seemed logical to me -- good ways to deal with temporary reversals of fortune or to help save for a long-term financial goal.

Besides, "it’s just stupid to spend more money than you have to on things you need," according to a woman posting as "ManyaP."  That’s why her all-purpose cleaner is a spray bottle full of a bleach-and-water solution. It smells like a product called Clorox Anywhere Spray.

Well, there’s one difference: Clorox Anywhere Spray costs $3, and ManyaP can make her version for about 3 cents.

TP is also a one-time-use item
People who wash and re-use plastic storage bags are the trainspotters of the frugality movement, derided as parsimonious kooks who waste time and energy to save a couple of pennies.  But compared to some of the stuff on that "Extreme Savings" thread, baggie-washers look downright mainstream.

Consider the paper-towel trisectioners and teabag triple-dippers, fridge-unpluggers and bathwater-sharers, spaghetti-sauce diluters and dryer-sheet stretchers ("three uses before they lose their 'ability,'" according to one reader).

And then there are the toilet paper re-rollers, who turn two-ply paper into two separate rolls -- and at least one toilet-paper re-user. A reader posting as "ckf179" claims her elderly neighbor lets urine-damp toilet tissue dry for another go, as it were.

This is the sort of thing that gives frugality a bad name.  Yet it's worth noting that some of these activities were only observed by readers, and actually performed by Depression-era parents or grandparents who did what they had to do to survive.

Not all of the old ways are good ways. As ckf179 noted, she's learned a lot from her neighbor, but "I can’t quite convince myself to leave drying TP around the bathroom."

Build a cheaper pickle . . .
Smart Spending readers offered plenty of present-day ideas, too. Some are clever, some obvious (turn off the lights when you're not in the room), and some arguably false or unethical economies.  A few examples:

  • Stain won’t come out of your shirt?  Dye it black, suggests "Dallas1979."
  • After finishing a jar of pickles, "Jestjack" sliced half a 39-cent cucumber into the brine.  Two days later, he had more pickles.  He also "stretches" canned tuna with bread-heel crumbs, and re-sharpens utility-knife blades.
  • "E-Diva" has gone on "quite a few" dates with people she wasn’t interested in, just to get free dinners.
  • "CJs Babcia" volunteers to clean up after work-related parties, obeying the command to "throw out" the leftovers.  Kind of: "I throw it in the back of my car and then into my fridge."
  • Cute kids mean cut rates at garage sales. Willowtears let her daughter negotiate for a small color TV. She paid a buck, and has used it for more than a decade.
  • Buy only freezer-type bags because they’re strongest, advises "Ohio Belle."  She tosses hers in with the laundry.  "A box can last me for about a year."

(Full disclosure: My quart-sized Ziplocs are on their third tour of wild-blackberry duty.  However, I have never washed dental floss.)

I’m not cheap, I’m eco-friendly
Remember: You can always represent your tightwad ways as environmental awareness. Explain that you're being eco-friendly by shining your shoes with banana peels, wrapping birthday gifts in the Sunday funnies, and cutting the feet off worn-out socks so you can use what's left as washrags.

So click on the Smart Spending thread and read some of the other extreme advice. Some may strike you as hilarious, or appalling.  But it's also optional. Frugal tips are like any other financial advice: try what might work for your particular situation, ignore the rest. You may be surprised to find what a difference it can make in your bottom line.

And speaking of the bottom line: Please feel free not to dry your toilet paper. Or to use both sides of it. (Eeeewwww!)

Published Sept. 22, 2007



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