30 Frugal Things We Do. And 4 That We Don’t.

piggy banks

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know by now that I’m a big proponent of using coupons, especially when you can combine them with a sale. But coupon shopping is far from the only frugal strategy we use. If you’re looking for new ways to frugalize your family, here is a list of 30 things we do.

This list is by no means exhaustive nor prioritized. It’s just the first 30 things that popped into my mind. And lest you think I’m some crazy frugal lady, I’m sharing four frugal things we definitely don’t do – and probably never will.

1. We menu plan. Are you sick of hearing me talk about it already? If not, you can read here, here and here for more on how menu planning saves us money.

2. We don’t eat out at restaurants. Okay, so our one kosher restaurant just closed, but still, eating at home is a definite money-saver.

3. We buy and cook in bulk for school lunches and portion into Tuperware or plastic baggies, rather than buying individual serving size bags.

4. We repurpose Shabbat leftovers for weekday meals.

5. We take advantage of free shipping & other coupon codes when shopping online.

6. We think before we spend. We discuss almost all purchases over $30 and very rarely impulse buy.

7. We say “No” and “It’s not in the budget” to our kids. And to ourselves. Often.

8. We make as many of our online purchases as possible from Amazon, which accepts our Swagbucks for payment.

9. We use rags and old washcloths, rather than paper towels,  to wipe down counter tops and to clean up spills.

10. We use real dishes and silverware rather than disposable (most of the time).

11. We buy almost everything second hand, from clothing to cars. When we don’t buy used, we buy on sale. With a coupon.

12. We canceled cable three years ago and never looked back (until we signed up with our new Internet provider 6 months and got free cable for half a year; on October 19th, the box is going back. And we’re really okay about it!)

13. We use the library for free movies and book rentals. We even get seasons at a time of our favorite show, Mad Men!

14. We carpool to and from school.

15. We give thoughtful, but frugal gifts, either consumable items we make at home, or inexpensive finds we stockpile throughout the year.

16. We don’t drink or smoke. Seriously, this is one of the biggest money drains for any sized budget. Not to mention what smoking and excessive drinking will do to your health and life insurance premiums — and of course your lungs and liver!

17. We fix stuff ourselves, rather than calling in a professional. Okay, my husband fixes stuff himself, which he learns to do by checking out books from the library (see #11) with titles like “Plumbing for Dummies”. When safety or equipment necessitates, we do call in the pros.

18. We travel frugally. Vacations for us are few and far between, but when we do take one, we take the frugal route. We drive instead of fly, we stay with family & friends instead of at hotels, and we pack our own food as much as possible. Our 3-week driving trip this summer was a blast, and the memories will most certainly outlast any ol’ mouse! (Not that there’s anything wrong with Walt & his world!)

19. We installed a programmable thermostat and keep our house a few degrees warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter. Our power company installed the thermostat for free in exchange for the right to override our settings for up to two hours at a time during peak consumption times.

20. We eat almost exclusively vegetarian during the week, saving meat for Shabbat and yom tov.  Even on sale, kosher red meat and chicken is just prohibitively expensive.

21. We buy produce in season, and shop organic for the so-called “Dirty Dozen” — the twelve fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide count. (Here are more strategies for saving on produce.)

22. We get regular oil changes and maintain our car per the recommended manufacturer schedule. The money that we spend in maintenance is more than saved in repairs.

23. We budget ahead on yearly expenses, such as municipal taxes, insurance premiums and even day school tuition. By setting aside the money in a savings account every month, we earn interest on our future payments, rather than owing it to the insurance company/state/school in the form of “convenience fees”.

24. We bake our own birthday cakes. I had to buy a cake for the first time this year for my five year-old because life got really crazy and I ran out of time. It cost $27! For one-tenth of that I could have made a much nicer cake. Next year…

25. We don’t use dryer sheets. In the winter, if static cling really gets to be a problem, I just add a glug of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of my wash.

26. We – and here, by we I mean I – breastfeed our babies. I know that breastfeeding doesn’t work for every mom and baby, but I’m grateful that it has worked so well for us. And not just ‘cuz it’s saved us a bundle in formula.

27. We don’t buy clothing that needs to be dry cleaned. It’s a habit we picked up in Israel, where dry cleaning a shirt costs almost as much as buying one new.

28. We work from home. No tolls, no traffic jams, no expensive suits (that would need to be dry cleaned), no fancy coffee drinks on the way to work.

29. We plant a vegetable garden in the spring, and fertilize it with compost we make all year-round. Truth be told, I’m not sure if this saves us all that much money, but it sure is fun!

30. We don’t have text messaging or Internet on our phones. We have the basic plan with as few minutes as possible, which costs us less than $50/month.

4 UnFrugal Things I Do (consider this my Frugal Al Chet)

1. I drink Coca-Cola. And not just like once a week or something self-controlled like that. Yes, I know coke is filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup. Yes, I know water is better for me. And yes, I know all those empty calories are costing us a small fortune. I can’t stop. I’ve tried. Repeatedly.

2. I don’t cut hair. We tried this for a while. I was cutting my husband’s and our  younger son’s hair in the kitchen every month. We saved $20-$30 a month. That’s not a small amount of money, so I totally get why people buy their own clippers and do it at home. But let me just say that the money we saved was nothing in comparison to the eventual bill for marriage therapy. We fought every.single.time I’d cut my husband’s hair. So not worth it.

3. We no longer use Magic Jack. MJ is a cheap — very cheap — VOIP phone thingamabob. We used it for 20 months. It saved us hundreds of dollars on our phone bill. It is super duper frugal. But it drove me up a wall. We had dropped calls all the time. We finally gave up and got an inexpensive land line. $19/month may not be frugal, but at least I can hear people when they’re talking to me.

4. We use our dryer. All the time. Even in the summer. Laundry is my nemesis. I think line drying might just send me right over the edge.

Well that’s my confessional for the day. Any interesting, unusual or embarrassing frugal things you do? Or don’t do? Share in the comments section! I can’t wait to read them.


  1. I love you!! Love your blog. So inspiring!!

  2. Mara,

    Thanks for this post. I think we are right there with you on 27 or so of your 30. Our biggest expense is vacation. We fly a lot and have family all over the world that we have made it priority to visit. Still we do it as cheeply as we can – still shoving 6 of us into a hotel room or crashing on family and friends’ floors and spare bedrooms. I also believe strongly in Ima and Abba having two nights alone once a year, so we splurge for that.

    We cancelled the local paper after being subscribers for several years. I had alot of angst that I alone was causing the demise of print media, but I found there was less and less to read and the articles often waned off with “for more info go to http://www.blahblahblah.com“. So I figured the $12/month of whatever it was could be used else where. I still splurge on a few magazine subscriptions and often read them on Shabbat. I only renew the magazines that hold my interest. I find that after a year or two I tire of their articles. I have a Yoga magazine that will not be renewed after this year for that reason.

    My next thing to tackle is the cable/phone/internet bundle. We rarely watch cable and I do most of my television watching from our cloud (the internet) or hulu.com.

    • And since you can get magazines for super cheap most of the time, it’s hardly even “un”frugal. We keep holding off on re-subscribing to the papers. I love the coupons on Sunday, which almost pushed me back, but now there is this free delivery of just the inserts. Do you know about that?

  3. PS…my frugal thing – I wash out the ziploc bags and save them. I mark them with indelible pen as to whether it is a dairy/pareve/meat bag and get a few uses out of them. I struggle with too many tupperwares and find that ziplocs are a great way to fit everything in the fridge during Shabbat or Yom Tov. Of course, I buy Ziplocs only with a coupon and usually from the military base where everything is just a little bit cheaper to start.

  4. Nice frugling! (is that a word?)
    One thing I do is set my hot plate (blech) and crockpot on a timer to go off after dinner and/or after lunch. It is especially good in the summer when days are long and it sits there unused for hours. And also, it heats up the room a lot in the summer, so you have to pay higher A/C bills.

    • We need to get better about using our timer. I was just looking at our electric bill and Saturdays are always our highest days — sometimes twice as much!

  5. Wow, need to come back and peruse this list at my leisure — esp. for tips that are frugal AND green. I’m currently trying to dump plastic baggies, which I think will save me money in the very long run (and is definitely nicer to the planet). We use Vonage (VOIP) and only have a weird call very occasionally. It saves us a lot, esp. on International calls (my husband’s parents live in South America).

    • I have a love-hate relationship with plastic baggies. For a while, I was trying to totally get rid of them, but then our kids kept losing tuperware at school, so we went back to using them in lunches. The int’l calls on MJ are very cheap (like $.02/minute), so we do still use that when we call abroad.

  6. Great post! We do a lot of the same things. We still do have Magic Jack, however, it is for our second phone line – because our daughter was constantly using the house phone – we have not had any problems with it.

    Love reading your blog with a Jewish perspective!

    Shabbat Shalom,

    • Thanks, Michele! I always like reading your blog as well. We still use MJ for our int’l calls, since it is SO cheap!

  7. I LOVE Mad Men too. Compulsively. So glad I know another Mad Men lover.

    I don’t do hair either. I run my dryer too. I also like high end lipstick and eyeshadow. I like high end cheese.

    Hmmm….might have to do post about all the things I don’t do frugally. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. I love that you ended your list off with some decidely un-frugal things your family does. Very real. We all have our vices, eh?

    Nice blog you have here.

  9. Brilliant!
    I already use so many of your suggestions but there are many others I can try. Thanks.

    • Thanks for reading, Karen. This post is just the tip of the iceberg, but I’m glad you got something new from it!

  10. Hi, I just discovered your site and have been browsing and learning. It’s great, especially the kosher angle (I felt that other frugal sites didn’t totally apply to me because kashrut would prevent me from following some of the suggestions).

    Thank you for mentioning your Coca-Cola habit–now I don’t feel so alone. 😉 Supposedly I only drink Coke “out” but somehow there are always opportunities–at kiddushes, etc. Not to mention my “emergency” stash in the basement. I drink tons of water, we buy organic milk, avoid high fructose corn syrup in our food, and yet…

    Anyway, keep up the good work!

  11. I was kind of regretting not getting a magic jack when I recently moved, but now I’m glad I didn’t.

    I got an ooma instead. It’s a hub you plug into your network and you plug your phone into it. It’s about $200 up front, but you can port your existing phone number to it and pay only fees after that.

    The hub itself looks and functions like an answering machine. I also have voicemail mp3’s forwarded to a gmail account and I can also listen to voicemail via my personal ooma website my.ooma.com. My husband and I are separated and when I get a voicemail for him, I simply forward him the email with the mp3 attachment. It’s very convenient.

    The voice quality is great! If you make international calls you can add on a feature for around $10/month (we don’t).

    It’s more expensive up front than the magic jack, but I believe works MUCH better. It is independant of your PC so you don’t need to keep your PC on 24/7.

  12. How about recycling paper for your printer?

  13. we often put turkey wings in our split pea soup. We cut the turkey off the bones. When we finish supper, we stick them in a baggy and freeze them. Then we add them to the cholent. Turkey flavor is great!

  14. for Purim, we find two nice, inexpensive food items, such as an apple and a peanut butter sandwich, or a Snapple type drink, and a bag of blue chips….or whatever. Then we put it in brown sandwich bags. In the note, we tell people that we used the extra money for tzedaka. People appreciate it. Sometimes we print out a recipe and stick that in too.

  15. I take the left over chicken from shabbos, cut it into pieces the size of Shwarma, use the flavors of Shwarma, and fry them. The kids really enjoy it like Shwarma from the Israeli restaraunts.

  16. gardening is another thing I do, which is almost cost-free, great exercise, sun, fresh air and if you don’t want to spend anything, then you can take the seeds from:
    tomatoes, butternut squash, and other foods, dry them, and plant them.
    Its gratifying in many ways, and very inexpensive. You can buy seeds for basil for about $2 and at the end of the season, let it grow into flowers, and the seeds will drop and grow the next season.
    Its fantastic

  17. heres another one, very good and frugal too:

    Rice timbales


    make a pot of either white or brown rice….a drop on the moist side. Flavor the rice (I’ll give ideas below for flavor combinations)
    spoon while hot into muffin paper cups that are in muffin holders, and press in firmly. Let cool.
    then either warm up again, or serve room temp. They stick together (I have Sharon from UWS in mind bec I remember she cant use eggs for her son) so when they’re warmed up the second time, they are in one “unit”. This means: its finger food for the kiddies, and also it looks really attractive on a shabbos plate.
    you can be creative w/ your flavors, but here are some ideas:
    olive oil (not alot), onion, garlic, parsley, sea salt
    cinnamon, raisins or craisins, honey
    italian seasoning, onion and garlic pdr, olive oil and sea salt
    honey, lemon rind shreds
    vanilla and chocolate chips (remember for those sugar free people, Gefen makes one with maltitol)
    shredded carrots, ginger powder
    teriyaki flavor: garlic, tamari/soy sauce, ginger
    shredded carrots, honey and raisins (nice for rosh hashana for those needing sweet and gluten free)

  18. what about the free sunday coupon inserts…? 😉

  19. No wonder we get along so well! We do all but a few of those things and I, too, am addicted to soda. I crave soda and chocolate when I am stressed. We do have cable (I got hooked on the DVR since we don’t watch anything until our kids go to bed) and my husband likes Netflix streaming for his ipod. I wish my husband would fix more things himself, but he is not so handy. However, he cooks, so that makes up for it! We use dryer balls instead of dryer sheets. As for gardening, that is on the someday list. Someday when I have more time!

    Thanks for another great find on your site!

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