Who’s up for a bit of wholesome distraction? Our lives have retracted into an ongoing state of crises, and I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s shocking just how gleeful I become over the smallest things. Deleting irrelevant emails. Having just enough coffee creamer. My toddler sitting still long enough for me to clip an exceptionally long toenail. Netflix not getting stuck at 25% (or the ’25 of doom,’ as I call it).
In a recent bout of escapism, I spent some time thinking about my thrifty ways. Below, I’ve cataloged some of the random frugal quirks I hold most dear — because when everything seems to require the utmost concentration and concern, we need an outlet. And with so much financial uncertainty in these trying times, we could also use a little frugal inspiration. These habits won’t make you rich, but they may make you think twice about getting rid of something that could be recycled or repurposed.
Are these habits quirky? Yes. Frugal? Definitely. Cringeworthy? Your call. Yet I’m willing to wager that you’ll see a reflection of yourself or someone you deeply admire/wish you could be in this post.
And now, a shortlist of all the frugal quirks I‘ll never share at parties, but will gladly share with you, reader.
Saving and using hotel goodies for as long as possible.
Going camping in the great outdoors? Your hygiene still matters. Those mini shampoos, conditioners, nail files, etc. from past hotel visits in the Before Times fit so handily into your toiletry bag and are perfect for camping, future trips, or just a pleasant reminder of past vacations when you use them in your shower at home. Expiration dates aside, I have hoarded shampoo from getaways that have gotten me through other getaways, which makes it pretty weird when you’re in Norway reminiscing about Bora Bora. Or in Scranton but secretly longing to be in LA. Either way, I never let these goodies go to waste.
Hanging onto my fave vintage undies.
That’s right, hanging onto comfortable undies for the better part of a decade can be a point of pride. Hear me out. At some juncture, these are the undies that have earned their way into your perma-wardrobe. They are bespoke to you. I have marathon skivvies that have withstood 26.2 miles on two different continents. Don’t get me wrong: They look horrible. They’ve been through a lot, and they have the tears, sagging elastic, and organic Rorschach “designs” to prove it. But this is about performance combined with comfort. While they may not be anywhere near the sexy undergarments you’d want to be caught wearing in a dress while, I don’t know, standing over an exceptionally breezy vent, these are the base layer you need in your life. In a world where fast fashion reigns supreme, I refuse to feel guilty for hanging onto clothing that still does the job.
Repurposing plastic storage bags of all sizes.
Relegating Ziplock bags to different duties might seem to be the hobby of a certain kind of mother-in-law or those who have survived the Great Depression. Don’t be fooled, though. Millennials and Gen Z are in on this, too. Not unlike cats, my plastic bags have seen second, third, or fourth lives as containers for sunblock, bandages, and markers. Some have had the particular distinction of becoming garbage bags for especially offensive diapers in the car. Who knew the thing you once stored snacks in or piped cake icing from could be the singular item you’re SO glad you brought along on the road trip?!
Transforming old shoeboxes into drawer dividers.
Marie Kondo, thank you for everything! Before my daughter was born, I nested like a pro. Now that she’s here and is increasingly mobile, how glad am I that I can pull off a onesie change can in the dark, thanks to some serious organizational skills. It turns out that shoeboxes make a great home for tiny human clothes, folded in Ms. Kondo’s three-section signature style. Also, since “Look in the shoebox in the middle drawer!” is so damned specific, my husband can easily find them. (Last but certainly not least, this is possibly an excuse to own more shoes, and therefore reason alone to adopt this practice.)
Keeping envelopes like they’re museum artifacts.
Prepare yourself for the pièce de résistance: saving unused envelopes for an encore performance. You literally have these pouring into your mailbox on a weekly if not daily basis, potentially in the form of bills or junky credit card offers. No matter—when it comes to the envelope, all are useful. Those birthday cards you’re getting? Keep that outer layer. That bubble-mailer your latest Amazon purchase came in? Time to store some fragile stuff! Sort out receipts, photos, or coupons. Write love letters to your partner, reminders for your kids, or anonymous passive-aggressive notes to your roommate. Or, you know, you could mail something one day.
So there you have it, reader. I feel like you know me better just by reading this far. Maybe you’ve got a few tips of your own that you could add in the comments below — when it comes to frugality, remember: sharing is caring. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
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