Since the economic crisis reared its ugly head in the U.S., many Americans who previously would have scoffed at shopping at a dollar store or purchasing something off-brand, have changed their tune: Frugality is no longer something to snicker at, but something to admire. In short, it's hip to be frugal.
And sure, there are many obvious things we can do to pinch pennies: shut off lights when you leave a room, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, forgo your favorite Starbucks beverage for a cup of Joe you brew at home, and so on. But what if you want to kick it up a notch?
WalletPop decided to seek out the secret tips of those who have been living and perfecting their thrifty lifestyle long before "recession" was an everyday word. Here we round up our 10 favorite suggestions from readers who know how to stretch a dollar.
A Breakfast Bargain
Reader "Bspeonk" says: "I have learned that if you go to a bagel store after 3PM, they will give you as many bagels as you want for free ... depending on where you go. Put on a smile, and you can [possibly] get them for free. Bring them home, freeze them and defrost one each morning for breakfast."
Baking Soda Saves a Bundle
Reader "Mailboxdepoe" says: "Baking Soda. Yep, my mom used it all her life, and especially as a young child, living through depression. You can clean sinks, wash your hair -- comes out soft, eliminating shampoos and cream rinse. Brush your teeth and it controls breath. Great in the fridge to eliminate odors. I also clean my ceramic stove top with it. About every fourth cleaning I use the real stuff, as it gives the polished look, baking soda does not. I use it on my jacquzzi bath tub, and shower. Get a big box at Costco, try it and see you can save a lot of money. It even cleans your car battery. Make a paste, put it on the terminals, and watch that stuff just get eaten away."
Text Book Tightwad
Reader "InLuvandDeath921" says: "As a college student with a tight budget, I refuse to buy or sell back any of my books to the store. Most places will buy your practically new books back for a third of the price -- if you're lucky -- and sell them for 4 times as much. I buy from half.com and abebooks.com. Now I pay about $200 a semester on six classes worth of books instead of close to $800."
A Liquid Softener Secret
Reader "Virginia Enigma" says: "I mix clear/white vinegar in with my liquid fabric softener to prolong it. I do about 25-50% vinegar and the rest Snuggle (or whatever softener you use). You can't smell the vinegar once the clothes have finished the final rinse cycle (or especially once they are done drying) and your clothes are really soft!"
From Rags to Riches
Reader "JessPalumbo" says: "You can buy four 15-packs of decent rags for 20 bucks, use them instead of paper towels and you will save hundreds in a year."
The Wonders of Wiper Fluid
Reader "Srdonalds" says: "I buy windshield wiper fluid and use it on windows, mirrors and glass around the house. It is the same liquid, but oh boy do you get more bang for your money!"
Good 'Til the Last Drop
Reader "Susanruggera" says: "I cut short lengths of PVC (polyvinyl chloride pipes) -- about 2" -- that fit over the opening of my lotion/shampoo/conditioner, etc. Then when they are almost empty, I can drain the contents into the new bottle by hooking the two together with the PVC. No more throwing my expensive beauty products out with the bottle."
Reader "Sloberoveru" says: "I save all my birthday, Christmas and any other cards I get [during the year] and use them for postcards. Most of the cards do not have anything written on the right-hand inside flap. That leaves you a place to write your own personal note to someone. Postage is cheaper for a postcard and you didn't even buy the card to start with, but pass it on with a smile."
Fake a Fancy Face Cream
Reader "Virginia Enigma" says: "Instead of expensive eye cream (to get rid of wrinkles), I use 100% aloe vera oil (Jason Natural Aloe Vera, 1 oz. bottle). It costs less than $5, it lasts forever, and I always get compliments on my skin (& very few wrinkles!)"
It's New to Me
Reader "InLuvandDeath921" says: "I cannot believe some of the things I have bought through this Web site (Craigslist). If you're just starting out with a new apartment you can find a lot of the basics. I bought a '93 Ford Taurus for $500 (which runs great, by the way). I also bought a mattress, box spring and bedframe all for $40 (practically new) and a TV for $30."
10 everyday ways to be frugal (that you don't already know)