Extreme Frugal Living Tips From My Grandmother

The elderly are masters of frugal living!
The elderly are masters of frugal living! | Source

Basic Tips For Saving Money

My grandmother was a master of frugal living. She could pinch a penny hard enough to flatten it. She took saving money and cutting corners to a dangerous extreme sometimes.

Perhaps that is why whenever I see articles on living frugally, I break out in a nervous sweat. After all, her methods created all sorts of havoc throughout the years. In this generation she could have been an instant celebrity, the star of a reality show titled " Extreme Frugal Living", or something similar.

I give advance warning here: none of this is exaggerated. I am presenting it in a humorous format, but in truth, some of her ideas were not very funny. Different people have different ideals and standards, so if any of these appeal to you (and some are very practical in theory) then by all means, use them seriously. Do use common sense though before trying some of these at home!

How To Score Freebies

My grandmother loved receiving free stuff. In fact, I think she had a closet addiction to scoring a free item or two. It didn't matter to her if it was new or used, useful or pointless, awesome or atrocious. Here are some of her top methods for acquiring freebies:

  • Prizes and Incentives--Remember when products used to come with promotional trinkets? At one time, all of her dishes and towels came from laundry soap boxes. And she kept the toys out of cereal boxes.
  • Salvage--If someone wasn't using something, she had to have it. Even if she didn't need it. No sense in letting it "go to waste".
  • Beg-- I don't mean standing on street corners, but if someone had something she wanted or needed, she didn't hesitate to ask for it. Or better,she would launch into a dialog about how poor she was and how much she would love to have just one of those.


Re-purposing and Upcycling to Save Money

When we think of repurposing a piece of clothing into a decorative pillow, or perhaps upcycling a jar into a pincushion, don't we all envision something cute and clean? Something we can share on Pinterest or create a tutorial with?

My grandmother had slightly different ideas about re-using items.

  • Wash and save bread wrappers. (never use them again, just save them.)
  • Wash and reuse plastic storage bags. Even if they had spoiled food or raw poultry in them.
  • Use butter bowls instead of the hundreds of Tupperware bowls stored under the bed.
  • Turn tin cans into drinking glasses to save the "good glasses".

Now, before you start tsk tsking me and saying that "this is how some old people are", do let me say that she was like this by habit from an early age. The family photo album tells a lot...

Save Money On Your Utilities

Grandma had unique ways to cut back on the use of electricity, water and gas. Even when she was not paying these bills herself, the rules were firm.


  • Only one lamp on after dark.
  • Wash laundry only once a month
  • Food should never bake more than two hours. Saves electricity.

My grandmother was convinced that the more food you put in the fridge, the more electricity it used. No amount of lecturing would change her mind. No amount of warnings would deter her from putting stuff that 'wouldn't spoil fast' on the counters, tables, or the porch outside.


  • Flush toilets once a day. Regardless of contents.
  • Bathe once a month
  • Wash hair in bathwater
  • Run one dishpan of water per week. Add bleach. Use this to wash and rinse dishes all week.
  • Share baths. Not romantically. This means that one person takes a clean bath, then everyone else bathes, one by one in the same water.
  • Re-use 'slightly' dirty dishes, such as glasses and silverware. Three uses at least before they need washing.
  • Re-wear outfits for three weeks.

How To Save Money on Food

Like many people who "survived hard times", my grandmother had an obsession with hoarding food. Wasting food was a hanging offense. According to all sources, she was never at a risk for starving. Maybe for a few days in the 1940s.

Did I mention not wasting food? When I say Not Wasting, what I mean is "nothing gets thrown away. It had better be eaten."

This included any food that had expired, curdled, soured, or started singing opera when you opened the fridge door. It isn't merely worry about doing without. She just loves food. A lot. She used to call her friends and ask what they were eating for dinner. If you went to visit her, she told you what everyone had cooked over the last week:

" And Patty made a peach cobbler. I sure hope she ate it. I hate to think she mighta thrown it out. Oh! And Lurlene made a Tex-Mex scramble on Thursday. She called and told me it was really good. I sure wish she had brought me some. I know she won't eat leftovers..."

Want to cut your food budget? Try some of these ideas:

  • Keep expired food.
  • Carefully removed discolored particles from leftovers to revitalize them.
  • Don't forget to beg for food from friends and neighbors. Never use your sugar when you can borrow a cup!
  • Use coupons to buy food you don't like. You might need it, someday.
  • Weevils? Sift them out.

Frugal Use of Disposable Items

Sure. I bargain shop for deals on paper towels and toilet paper. And when feasible (and sanitary) I use rags rather than paper for clean-up. However, I think there is a distinct line between being frugal, and depriving oneself of basic comforts.

  • Two sheets of toilet paper. ALWAYS.
  • A paper towel should be re-used until it falls apart. (regardless of what it was used for.)
  • Kleenex can be used more than two or three times.
  • 1 tsp of dish soap regardless of load size or type of cooking mess.
  • Plain water is all you need to clean counters, sinks, appliances, etc.
  • A bar of soap should last a year. Any less and you were using too much.
  • Gargle and then spit the mouthwash back in the bottle. Its your spit, won't hurt you!

Creating A Frugal Image

My grandmother enjoys appearing much poorer than she actually is. At the moment, she is being cared for by her daughter and son-in-law, who try to see to it that all of her needs are well met. Most people who struggled through hard times would probably love to have this opportunity, but it irks my grandmother's sense of style.

I'm not sure if there is a mental illness that specifically addresses this issue. We simply think of it as her "poor" look. An example of this;

When she first moved in with my mother, she was in possession of a bedspread so old and torn and filthy that it was a health hazard. She had twenty sets of new linens that she had received for holidays that she refused to use. Still, my parents were not about to let her continue sleeping under something that was growing mildew!

And honestly, the spread would not have survived a washing. So they bought her a brand new bedding set. They made her bed with it, and when they took her in there to show her the surprise her response, in typical grandma fashion was:

" At least let me cover that up with an old quilt. If anyone saw that they would think I had money."

I am sure this links into her bad begging habit that I mentioned above. She was notorious for hiding all of her new dishtowels and matching flatware in a cupboard.

When visitors would comment on her worn towels or mismatched, thrift-store spoons, she would lament that it was the best she could manage. Inevitably, a new set would appear shortly after. After a few days of being displayed...these too would vanish into the bowels of her house.

Lesson learned: if you present yourself as impoverished, eventually people will take pity on you and donate items. You will score many cool items. And here and there, even at great personal will save that penny.

Moral of the story: Frugal living isn't always a good thing!

Extreme Frugalist?

Which of these frugal living tips are LEAST anxious to try?

  • Reusing mouthwash!
  • The two sheets of toilet paper per visit sounds a bit extreme.
  • Food salvaging...I'm not eating anything 12 years past its expiration date.
  • Sharing bathwater. Sounds like an infection waiting to happen.
  • Saving garbage to reuse if I don't have a need for it.
See results without voting

Practical Frugality Tips

Okay, so we have gone through some of the wildest and scariest methods of saving money. How about some practical advice? I won't claim to be an expert, but after years of being around grandma I do know that sometimes the "don'ts" are just as important as the "do's".

  1. If you don't need it, there is no reason to save it. As in, if you have Tupperware, there is no need to use butter bowls. At least not in the kitchen!
  2. Don't risk your health to save a few cents! A $5000 hospital bill is worse than losing a tablespoon of green beans!
  3. Do re-purpose when practical. Use those plastic bowls and bags, but only if it is sanitary. Don't save more than you can use in a lifetime!
  4. NEVER reuse mouthwash!
  5. Don't sacrifice hygiene to save soap!
  6. Do save energy by turning off unused appliances and light fixtures.

Now. Go forth and find ways to save money. Just remember to use some common sense!

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Comments 106 comments

thebiologyofleah profile image

thebiologyofleah 3 years ago from Massachusetts

I think we all need a reminder from time to time to take a step back and realize how ridiculous some of our money and energy saving techniques are. I often save food containers because I think they'll come in handy only to later realize there are nine of them in the dreaded tupperware cabinet and I have never used them.

Thanks for sharing from your grandmother's point of view, reminds me of some of the quirks of my grandparents!

Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

Oh wow, this brings back memories. My grandmother didn't quite go to the extremes that your grandmother does. However, here are a few examples. Linens. She used the same ones over and over until they were washed-out rags. Then she trimmed the ragged edges and used what was left for cleaning rags. Meanwhile she had new sets stored in the linen closet. Same for clothes; she wore old worn-out khaki pants and shirts that belonged to my grandfather, held around her waist with safety pins, and in her closet were rows of new clothes that my mom and dad had given her over the years. When her house was cleared out, all her "new" stuff was thrown away because it had been folded in a drawer for so long that fabric gave way at the folded creases. Clothes hanging in the closet were ruined simply by hanging there on wire hangers for 30 or 40 years.

stephanieb27 profile image

stephanieb27 3 years ago from United States

Cute hub and great reminder for us frugal folks to weigh the pros and cons when it comes to saving money! :)

Patriot Quest profile image

Patriot Quest 3 years ago from America

loved this! Reminds me of some of my elders! ..........and my DAD! lol, good write

sarahshuihan profile image

sarahshuihan 3 years ago from USA

Some interesting points. I don't think it's bad to be frugal, but if what you do imposes or reduces your quality of living, then maybe you need to take a step back. By the way, very well written hub!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@thebiologyof leah--Yes, its true. We all have good intentions, but sometimes the extra pinching and scraping actually costs us more (in time or space). My grandmother was always saving the plastic hooks that storebought shoes or clothes have attached to them. She swore they were the handiest things in the world, but I have never been able to find a use for them. I still feel guilty for pitching them tho!

Duchessoflilac1 profile image

Duchessoflilac1 3 years ago from Johns Island, SC

This is a hoot! Loved it. I can see why our grandmothers did the things they did.

Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 3 years ago from Hamburg, New York

Unfortunately, I know many people who choose to live this way. It is so sad.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Silva Hayes--Exactly! Eerie similarities. My grandmother had four closets full of new clothes, and would not wear them. When she moved in with my parents they had many struggles trying to get her to throw away ragged and stained clothing, since she had plenty of new stuff. What is really weird is that she told me to gave me bags and bags of new clothes and linens and told me to cut them up for rags or throw them in a yard sale. :O I guess it isn't as unusual as I thought for people to behave that way when they don't have too. Thanks for the comment!

BrightMeadow profile image

BrightMeadow 3 years ago from a room of one's own

I think that particular hoarding instinct is the product of surviving the depression. Had a great-aunt who didn't go to quite those extremes. She did hit every sale she saw. She bought all kinds of things she never used and gave them away at Christmas. When she passed and her house was cleared out she had closets full of clothing that was so old it was dry-rotting. And a pantry full of foods which had been there so long they tasted like the spiced aroma of her pantry.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@stephanieb27-I agree. Health first. Then savings. Thanks for the comment!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Patriot Quest--Thanks! :) I fear we may all know someone like this!

Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 3 years ago from East Coast, United States

Ha ha - loved this! It made me think of my old aunties who used paper towels and laid them out to dry on the counter to reuse. What a waste - I never use paper towels. Some of these ideas are actually not bad, but I do not condone filth. I never thought of being dirty as associated with thrift, but some of those old girls, maybe that's what it was all about. I used to think they just forgot to wash up.

kaiyan717 profile image

kaiyan717 3 years ago from West Virginia

Ugh, you had me at the mouth wash comment, I think I threw up a little in my mouth, wow.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Sarah Shuihan--Thank you. I like being frugal too. But only when it when it is practical! There is definitely a fine line between beneficial frugality, and unhealthy hoarding. :)

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@duchessoflilac1--Glad you enjoyed it. :) Some things I can understand. Others just make me shake my head!

Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

Wow - I don't think I could adhere to your grandmother's strict rules, but they definitely make sense! Interesting hub and I do like the one lamp on rule. May have to try that in our house.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Lipnancy--it can be sad, definitely. Especially when, like in my grandmother's case, it was uncalled for and un-necessary. She has always been taken care of, but I think she liked the idea that it gained her lots of attention to appear to be so needy. Now that she is living with my parents, she has had some major adjustments, as they insist on hygiene first and foremost!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@BrightMeadow--in most cases I think you are right. My grandmother's family did very well during the Depression though. Pictures of the children from that time show them in lace dresses and leather shoes, and their parents were equally well-dressed. When my grandmother married my grandfather, she was surprised to hear how badly other families had fared during that time. His family almost starved to death! I honestly think it was just a natural instinct for her, just as today's hoarders often have no logical reason for doing what they do. Perhaps this has been going on since the beginning of time, but only recently come to the general attention as being something other than just normal eccentricity?

I hear you on the food! When we moved my grandmother out of her house, we discovered food that was twenty years past it's expiration date. The absolute worst? A box of open cereal that was ten years old!

Thanks for reading and commenting. Hopefully, we will all understand one day what makes people go to such extremes.

DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 3 years ago from Iowa

Wow. After reading the tip about the bath water, I fell like I need to go take a long, hot shower. : ) Although this is presented in a humorous manner, I think you are on to something a bit more serious. What would make a person go to these extremes? Maybe something for you to explore in a future hub.

Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

I love being frugal, but this is extreme, for sure. I love your sense of humor about it. I think that many folks who went through the depression had the mentality of saving everything. Maybe that's what made them go to extremes? I enjoyed your hub! All the votes!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Deb--Thank you for reading. It can be funny, but then again it can also be very frustrating. I have been doing some further research into this and have found that there are some variations of simple "hoarding" that are similar to what my grandmother does. I am hoping to explore the topic in a more serious hub soon.

CountryCityWoman profile image

CountryCityWoman 3 years ago from From New York City to North Carolina

I love this...and I love your grandmother's tips! Isn't it interesting how our elders did things like this - and - they lived to be 100! My grandmother lived to be 98 and her brother 102. Now we are dropping in our 50s and 60s doing all these things that are deemed safe.

We forget that today our immune systems are shot, thanks to all the stuff we call food but is really garbage. Then add pollution and stress and stupidity...our elders were made of steel and diamonds and such.

Thanks for a fun read!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@VictoriaLynn--I definitely understand it in some cases. My grandmother was a fairly young child at the time though, and they appeared to have been very well off for the times. She always said she didn't even know there was a Depression until she was older at the end of it. So it didn't really make much sense. But...she always had nice things for herself. Maybe she resented having to share with her kids? Interesting psychological question, but one I think we can only speculate on after so many years. One thing is for sure though...I definitely don't want to have to go to these extremes! Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you got a laugh. I really did want to point out the ridiculousness of being extreme. :)

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@CountryCityWoman--I agree, some of her tips were useful. However, she has had countless cases of food poisoning and fungal infections from some of her practices. And I remember visiting once and there were...bugs nesting in one of the un-flushed toilets. I don't think that can be healthy for anyone.

I'm not too sure that the new health information out there is all it's cracked up to e though. My grandma started eating packaged and convenience foods as soon as they were invented. She still drinks a 24 pack of sodas every day, lived in cities, never wore gloves when handling chemicals, and was always surrounded by smokers. (they are all in their nineties and 100's too!) So maybe the great lesson we can learn isn't how frugal or simple she lived, but rather that because she had a tremendous will to live and never feared death or illness, she and others of her generations survived better than younger generations simply because they lived as they pleased without worrying. Stress really is a great killer, and with all the scare-tactics being shouted at us daily, we are constantly on edge as to whether or not something will kill us. Maybe that was, as you put it beautifully, what makes them all steel and diamonds. Thanks for reading and the great comment.

mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

I just love your Grandmother! She reminds me of ME! I'm not as extreme as she, though. I loved the idea of spitting back into the bottle, I agree it is one's own spit!

You didn't mention reusing paper plates, I do that if they aren't too dirty. I live a frugal life, that's for sure! My Hubby told me once that he was surprised I didn't reuse toilet paper. Well, I do draw the line on that one.

Voted UP and shared, also Pinned on my Frugal Living Board.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Mary--I guess we all have to certain personal limits! She always had the plastic coated paper plates/cups, etc. that she re-washed, so yes, she did re-use paper plates.

I totally can't agree with the mouthwash! I only wish I had taken a picture of that bottle...after 11+ years of being re-gargled it no longer resembled mouthwash, that's for sure!

Frugal living is a great thing, when it saves money and cuts down on waste. Sadly though, most of what she saved went to hospital bills whenever her habits made her sick. Sometimes we do have to splurge a bit on basic hygiene! Still, her tips have been inspirational, and we can all tailor them to suit our needs. I certainly have my own quirky habits that might appall others. :) So glad you read and thank you for the shares and votes.

Specialk3749 profile image

Specialk3749 3 years ago from Michigan

I love the "laundry once a month"! I laughed hard at that one....maybe when my kids are all grown and it is just my husband and myself we can do this one. With 7 kids, there is NO way! LOL Loved the hub!

poetvix profile image

poetvix 3 years ago from Gone from Texas but still in the south. Surrounded by God's country.

I thought my Granny was the most frugal person in America. Yours has mine beat. I'm all into frugal, but not dangerous. I have to say the bleach dishwater scares me to death. Bleach, when mixed with water, degrades quickly. After 24 hours all disinfecting properties are gone if what I have been taught in numerous classes is correct. Thank you for a most interesting and enjoyable read. I think I'm going to go kiss my disinfecting dishwasher!

Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 3 years ago from USA

Some people like to save money just for the sake of saving money, and forget that there is a purpose for money. It really is wasteful to save things "for a special occasion" when you are skimping and saving. At least let the family enjoy it!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Specialk3749--Lol! I would love to not have to wash laundry ever...but I would still want to have clean clothes. Her idea was that you could wear the same clothes, night and day, (pajamas were just dirtying up unnecessary clothes) for at least three weeks. When you start thinking about food stains, hot weather, gardening, illnesses....those clothes sure took a beating between laundering. Then when you think about wearing the same socks or underwear three weeks straight without changing them....nah. I will use a little soap and water! Thanks for reading!

Kenja profile image

Kenja 3 years ago from Long Island, NY

Great common sense stuff, Shark. Consider contributing to Roel in the Money 2013 or other sections. I think you'd be an asset. best, Ken

Kellyilebode profile image

Kellyilebode 3 years ago

I thought this was hysterically funny and brought back so many memories of one of the foster homes I lived in as a child....she would save aluminum foil - her collection was to be envied. I asked her once what she was going to use it for and she just smiled and said, "you never know what the future holds." She was NOT a hoarder, but definitely did re-use ... There is so much waste today, that I try to be more conscious of what my family can reuse....

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@poetvix--yes, the bleach water does lose it's strength if left too long. Especially if exposed to light. The CDC recommends storing bleach solution away from sunlight, and using diluted formulas within 24-48 hours for sanitizing day care equipment, restaurants, etc. So yep, leaving it in the pan for weeks on end, and occasionally adding a new dollop of bleach was only creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Not recommended! Thanks for reading, and I love my dishwasher too!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@MillionaireTips--I absolutely agree. Once the bills are paid, and all the necessities are provided, you really should take some of that savings and use it for something pleasurable. I have an uncle who worked and saved for years. He wouldn't spend money for medication when he got sick. He was saving the money for when he retired. Then he retired and decided to save for another 15 years. He kept his family on a meager allowance. When he finally got to the goal age to enjoy the savings, he was too sick to do anything. So he sits inside and plays solitaire all day, and complains about all the stuff he never got to do. I certainly don't want to end up that way. Thanks for reading and your wonderful insight!

janices7 profile image

janices7 3 years ago

Very interesting article. My grandparents grew up the same way and practice some of the same habits, though not all. Saving bread bags and reusing plastic containers from butter or other condiments is something I always seen as well! Great idea for a hub. Nice work!

SidKemp profile image

SidKemp 3 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

Thanks, Sharkye. You demonstrate an excellent practice, which is to learn from the extremists, and then move in the right direction in moderation. To be honest, most of what your grandmother did sounds more like poverty consciousness and hoarding, not frugality. But you do a great job turning it around to practical tips in the end. I especially like the idea of up-cycling.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Kenja--thanks, and I will check it out.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Kelly--for sure, there are some things that can definitely be re-used. And should be whenever feasible. My grandmother saved the foil too. But never used it. In fact, she rarely (if ever) used most of the things she saved. That was what was so puzzling about her tendencies. Usually though, she would reuse the garbage stuff, and the nice stuff would just collect dust in the closet. Weird! Until we cleaned her house, I never suspected that plastic storage bowls could dry rot!

Thanks for reading and commenting, and keep being frugal...just don't go wild! Lol!

DFW TEEN VOICE profile image

DFW TEEN VOICE 3 years ago from Richardson, Texas

Frugal living can save you money!Even money to invest if you wanted! Also, this type of living can help you to have extra money to reach your goals and dreams!In this economy learning about ways to re-cycle and re-use can help our youth! You do need to learn the basics in-order to keep and maintain something of value. Frugal living is meeting your basic needs. Enjoyed reading your article with advice & tips. Much Continued Success!

Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 3 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

Sharkye11, that was the puzzling thing about my grandmother and my mom, too. They saved things but never used them. Example, my mom had hundreds of canning jars and lids in her garage, but had not canned in years. Hundreds of margarine tubs and lids but no use for them.

helene_c profile image

helene_c 3 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

This is such an interesting hub - luckily no one in my family is this extreme, although my Dad likes to save a lot of things for 'just in case' and I'm trying to get him to clear out his house a bit.

When I was reading this though, I kept thinking, why was she trying to save so much money - did she spend her savings on great holidays or presents for others? Or did she just save for the sake of it. I think that is probably the saddest thing about extreme frugality - unless it is for a certain goal, then it is probably for nowt and you should enjoy your life instead.

marion langley profile image

marion langley 3 years ago from The Study

oh my...thank-you for ending this well, I almost didn't make it all the way through...too disturbing LOL

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Janice--yes. Saving bread bags seems to be pretty common. But I have never seen them being reused. Just saved. I definitely save some condiment containers too. They are handy to use as gardening tools. Right now I collect baby wipe containers because they have tons of uses. But I do actually use them. Mostly for organizing small junk. I can't think of any good use for bread wrappers, so I go ahead and throw them away. Thanks for reading!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Sid Kemp--Wow, thanks for the heads up. We have been researching the poverty consciousness and it really does fit with a lot if the issues. I even found a vague reference to it's link with hypochondria, which is another problem, since she also hoarded medicine's and over-medicated herself several times. Thanks again for reading, commenting, and the tip!

moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

I remember the days when we had to share bathwater. Sears catalogs for toilet paper in the outhouse. I remember all the women family members saving oleo bowls. Hair washing was once a week. How things have changed. Enjoyed your hub and voted up.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Teen Voice--Indeed, frugal living is very important for most of us as long as it is carried out reasonably and without creating health risks. I have definitely fallen back on many extreme techniques during lean times. Thanks for reading!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Silva Hayes--That is confusing, isn't it? My grandmother saved wrapping paper. Never in my life have I ever seen her wrap a gift. She gives gifts in Wal-Mart sacks!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@helene c--Thank you for reading and commenting. No, she didn't save money for gifts or anything like that. She never splurged on herself either. We had her set up so that the only expense she paid was 1/2 of her electric bill (she shared power with her sister and brother-in-law who lived right next to her). Her water, food, clothing, etc were all provided by us or her other relatives. So she either saved her extra money or she spent some at thrift stores buying old items to replace her nice stuff.

The only thing she ever said she was saving for was an elaborate, multi-state funeral that will cost almost $20,000! It's a mess for sure.

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 3 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@marion langley --thanks for reading. Yeah, I know. It is hard to watch too!

sue 2 years ago

Hi thanks for this informative hub. Im from SA. My grandma to had sad memories of the great depression. It motivated her too plant every fruit tree she could find in our small garden. There was a clever vegetable patch as well. We stayed with her in a 3 bedroomed home and really looked forward too baking day, which started the night before with measuring and kneading. next day the smell of freshly baked bread would lure every living sole into the kitchen begging for the crust of the freshly baked warm bread. and while we were eating , she would remind us that things were not always good in the past, and then the lesson of waste not want not. She took very good care of a very large extended family, with only her fruit trees , vegetables, canning and baking every bread and cake and grandpas small salary.

Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 2 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

Sue, my mother was just like that. She had a vegetable garden with berry vines climbing up the fence and fruit trees. She composted, canned and froze vegetables and fruit and made her own bread.

Shelly 2 years ago

Wow! You've brought up so many memories of my great Aunt. She saved everything and wasted nothing! When she passed it took forever to clear out her "just in case" piles! I often wondered as a kid how she never made herself sick with the food she ate and the conditions she

lived in. Everyone in the family knew to NEVER eat anything Aunt Dot brought to a gathering. Funny though, my grandmother, her sister never had this tendency to save "stuff".

April 2 years ago

My grandmother did all of this, we live on a farm next to her my whole life and the bread bags/grocery bags were used to put on our feet and then put on our boots so our feet didn't get wet. I find myself sometimes being frugal but not to these extremes. Living in hard times and on a farm you find ways to use everything you can!

Natalie Tiltman profile image

Natalie Tiltman 2 years ago from UK

I loved reading this! Thank you for sharing. Your Grandmother sounds as though she is a great character.

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Thelma Alberts 2 years ago from Germany

That was an extreme frugal living of your grandmother. I could not imagine myself taking a bath in the same water after the others used it. I would love to use the idea of using only 1 lamp in the house. Thanks for sharing this very interesting and funny hub.

Bob Go profile image

Bob Go 2 years ago from New England (various locations)

Reminds me of my grandmother. Maybe not as extreme in some ways, but no doubt more extreme in others!

nathalia27 profile image

nathalia27 2 years ago

My granny used to live frugally during her time here, but not as that extremely frugal living. Not to the extend that her health will put into risk.

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grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

This is a great hub. I notice a lot of people commented on the depression years. In the Philippines a lot of us complained of mothers who kept the best things in a chest and never used them until they were worn so thin that they were useless. My cousin blamed it on the fact that they went through the war. So it's likely that any act associated with over frugality could be due to stress from a difficult time, whether it's the depression or war. I think this is a topic that would make a very interesting, in-depth study.

CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 2 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

Lol! Extreme...totally extreme but good job incorporating some humors. I love to up-cycle and re-store things though just for fun.

Good hub! I enjoyed it. :)

mary615 profile image

mary615 2 years ago from Florida

I was brought up poor and I learned to be frugal from necessity. I am still pretty frugal! Old habits don't die easily. I reuse Ziplocs after I wash them out. My kids tease me about the out of date stuff in my refrig. Oh, my I could go on and on about how to be frugal!

Americans are very wasteful, I think!

Great Hub. Voted UP and shared.

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sharonchristy 2 years ago from India

I just gave you everything from useful to interesting. Oh God! I am so glad I read that article... it really has made my day. Chances are I would have loved your grandmother, she sounds like an eccentric and we have a fair share of those in our family too. She would have made me feel right at home. I had this one great-grandmother who used to look up at the ceiling fan and say she could see Jesus sitting atop it, and no, she was perfectly sane, had a good job she was great at. Another great grandmother had a chronic forgetting habit, she would do great dishes and forget to serve them to her husband, letting it go to waste often. There are all types and this type certainly could have been added to our family's interesting specimen list. Do tell your grandmother that I do really love her though I don't even know her, she sounds just like family and thank you for that great article. I will be reading all of your's whenever I get the time, that's for sure. And have a great day!

Jenn-Anne profile image

Jenn-Anne 2 years ago

Gotta love frugal grandmas! Great hub - fun and enjoyable to read!

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rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

This is funny, but it has it's serious side, too. I have an uncle that is a hoarder. He drives my aunt crazy. I enjoyed reading this!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 2 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@moonlake--I know that it was practical lifestyle, and sometimes even necessary. I didn't want to sound as though I was against frugal living (I'm not). But I do think it can be taken to unhealthy extremes. I use many frugal tips from my grandmother. Others, not so much! ( way!) Thank you for reading and commenting!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 2 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Sue--sounds like a lovely childhood! The difference is that your grandmother really did have to make do, but it sounds like she did a lovely job and still tried to make things nice. Quite the opposite, my grandmother never suffered, and yet, she loved the idea of seeming poor. And sadly, she never actually saved any money by being that way. Just had tons more stuff in her home than she could use.

Miss Info profile image

Miss Info 2 years ago from New York City

I am not sure its a good idea, when you are compromising health and safety.

Debbi 2 years ago

This was so funny and a few "gasps" too lol!

JoeYoung22 profile image

JoeYoung22 2 years ago from Blyth, Northumberland, England

A very funny and well written hub. There are some useful tips in there too.

(just kidding)

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MPG Narratives 2 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I had a giggle or two whilst reading this. One of my grandmother's had some strange frugal habits too, she kept flour bags (when flour came in hessian bags) and ended up having so many she filled the smaller bedroom in her home with them. They were a fire hazard! Thanks for a funny read, voted up.

JuanDo 2 years ago

Some interesting points. I don't think it's bad to be frugal, but if what you do imposes or reduces your quality of living, then maybe you need to take a step back. By the way, very well written hub!

Kara Skinner profile image

Kara Skinner 2 years ago from Maine

Wow, and I thought some of my friends were extremely frugal. Thanks for the awesome hub. It was very funny and I just voted up.

jefboyardee profile image

jefboyardee 2 years ago

"Share baths. Not romantically. This means that one person takes a clean bath, then everyone else bathes, one by one in the same water."

That's the likely source of the old saying, "don't throw the baby out with the bath water:"

"Some claim the phrase originates from a time when the whole household shared the same bath water.[10] The head of household (Lord) would bathe first, followed by the men, then the Lady and the women, then the children, followed lastly by the baby. The water would be so black from dirt that a baby could be accidentally 'tossed out with the bathwater' "

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Rebeccasutton 2 years ago from Rock Hill, SC

Oh dear God! I am sending this to my mother...My gram (rest her soul) used to carry ziplock bags and steal rolls from restaurants. She also hoarded the creamers and jellies, but never used them...I also am willing to admit, among friends, that I find creamers in my pockets and purse sometimes...

Pamela Bush profile image

Pamela Bush 2 years ago from Alberta, Canada

I agree that the frugal living thing can get carried away. But some of us have had life very easy for many years and have never experienced the difficult financial trials that others have gone through. After living life for 30 year in luxury I made a voluntary decision to give up everything and move out to an acreage in the country where I try now to live as a minimalist. I am enjoying the numerous challenges and discovering that I no longer need to spend $6000.00 per month to be content.

Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 2 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

The Depression caused some people to live under such extreme hardships that we today can hardly imagine. For example, can you imagine not having a safety pin when you need one? Most of us have safety pins, paper clips, and hair pins, etc. cluttering our bins and desk drawers and don't think twice about it. My grandmother gave birth to twins during the Depression. They didn't know they were having twins because they did not receive any pre-natal care. They only had three safety pins in the house, and they needed four - two for each baby to fasten their cloth diapers. My grandfather sent one of the older boys to a neighboring farm to borrow a safety pin. True story.

They were all so poor that there was one set of current car license plates in the entire county. When someone needed to drive to town, they would walk to the one farmer who had license plates for his car, and they would borrow the plates, take them home, and wire them on to their own car, returning them when they got back from town.

Vanessa 2 years ago

This made me remember my own grandma ! She would lay out pans with food in the sun to re-heat food, since she didn't want to waste electricity or gas. When fruit would go bad, she would make beverages and add a lot of sugar so people couldn't notice the bad taste.

Erin Jade profile image

Erin Jade 2 years ago from South Australia

You know what? I actually love her idea of using butter containers as her tupperware dishes. It's actually a perfect size for freezing for one portions so i might have to implement that! On the subject of food however she must have had a cast iron gut and an extremely strong immune system to keep up with that food storage and cleaning regime, possibly a little extreme for me. I do love her justification of spitting the mouthwash back in, what a funny lady! Although there isn't a lot I will be implementing differently to what I do now based on your grandmothers advice this was a very humorous read thank you!

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I think there's a fine line between being overly frugal and just plain wasteful. My own mother would waste water washing aluminum foil (that she NEVER re-used) but limited my brother and me to one bath a week (Saturday night, but we each got fresh water!) to "save on the water bill".

In her case, I can truthfully say she was woefully short on common sense. The prime example was when she came home with a new medicine cabinet for the bathroom that she'd found at a department store's after-tornado sale. Fine except that it had a diagonal crack in the mirror on the door, but it was a "great" bargain because an identical cabinet with only a few out-of-sight scratches and no crack was fifty cents more. (My dad gave her the 50 cents and told her to go back for an uncracked one, but she wouldn't budge and eventually we got used to looking at one side of the mirror or the other, never in the middle.) Her perked coffee was so weak it looked like iced tea, so it was rather hilarious to watch her shudder at the first sip of full-strength coffee away from home. On sheet-changing day, the bottom flat sheet went to the laundry, but the top flat sheet went to the bottom for a week, then the ends got swiched for another week. That way the part that had been under the pillows would be at the foot. Never made sense to me either, especially in the days before A/C.

Like your grandmother, she never used the "nice" towels, etc that she received as gifts. Her good silverware (which wasn't actually silver) was kept in the case it came in. Anything "good" was kept for special occasions. Never mind that very few relatives ever visited. It's for this reason that I use the "good" stuff every day. Because *I'm* special, a concept that took years to learn.

I have my own frugal ways, but nothing like my mother's. I finally broke myself (mostly) of saving empty butter tubs and other containers food comes in. A couple of times a year I'll go through the cabinets and toss containers I kept because they were "too good" to throw away at the time. Every electrical item except the fridge gets unplugged when not in use. "Experts" say when a lamp or small appliance isn't turned on when plugged in, it doesn't use electricity, but I live in a duplex and my electric bill is almost half of the neighbor's on the other side despite the fact that we have the same number of lights, lamps, small appliances, etc. When the freezer isn't full of frozen food, I fill the gaps with water-filled milk containers, which came in handy when the city water was shut off for several days to repair the main. The rare times I eat out, I always bring home a handful of extra paper napkins to use instead of paper towels or as emergency toilet paper.

There are lots of ways to be frugal without risking one's health OR stinting on comfort!

DzyMsLizzy profile image

DzyMsLizzy 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

Omigosh!! A lot of those are just plain scary! I couldn't decide which was worse on your poll--you need to add a choice for "all of the above." ;-)

My mother came through the great depression of the 1920s, but never went to those extremes. Even though raised as a full-on Yankee, with their motto of "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without," health and well being was never sacrificed on that "altar."

She saved mayonnaise and mustard jars, some plastic bags, and such for storing leftovers (we didn't have Tupperware back then), and she had several glass-lidded Pyrex™ dishes that were also used. Old, worn clothes and towels became ripped up for cleaning rags, and went into "the rag bag." But I do not recall any such extreme examples as you gave.

Spoiled or dubious food was not a risk we took. There, the saying was, "If in doubt, throw it out."

Voted up, funny, interesting and useful..there are a few reasonable tidbits in there... ;) Your grandmother sounds like a real character! ;) Peace out!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 2 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@Shelley--That sounds about the same. Grandma's sisters didn't do it either. Neither did her older siblings who really were struggling adults during the Depression. I guess some people just have that inclination!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 2 years ago from Oklahoma Author

@April--I am all for being resourceful! I've seen many people slip hags over their shoes to get a little water-proofing. Nothing wrong with that. My grandmother though would have probably made everyone do that even if they had all had brand new waterproof boots in the closet! Lol!

@natalie Tiltman--Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoyed!

PMARTIN 2 years ago

I wont even comment on the kleenex and mouthwash but how do you make a bar of soap last a month? Actually I cringe at your possible answer.

misterhollywood profile image

misterhollywood 2 years ago from Hollywood, CA

Loved this hub. I know a few people who are this extreme today and they are younger than one might think! Voted up!

Gold Buyer MI profile image

Gold Buyer MI 2 years ago from Farmington Hills, MI

I couldn't go passed "wash water in bath water" - yikes!

Keisha Hunter profile image

Keisha Hunter 2 years ago from Paradise and then some

Cute grandma but! All that stuff about reusing bath water and such really shook me up.

Dolly 2 years ago

Reading what your grandmother did reminds me of things my own grandmother used to do. Most things weren't too bad, but she tended to cut corners the most in an area that had the most potential to cause harm--the kitchen. Leftovers from breakfast, lunch, and dinner were carefully wrapped in saran wrap and left out on the counter all day in case anyone wanted any. Meat, left out all day. She had a pitcher she made orange juice in every day, but never ever ever washed the container. I took the lid off one day and found a BLACK ring of scum a good 1/8" thick on the underside of the lid. She never washed the pitcher, just added more water and frozen concentrate every morning. She had a dish rag that she would wash the dishes with, then wipe down the stove and counter with, and then hang up to 'dry'. As she did this routine three times a day the rag never dried. It was so rank, and black and spotted with mold I threw it away one day and boy, did she get mad. Finally, her method of washing dishes was a leftover from The Olden Days. She put two little tubs down in the sink (it was those little pink tub/basin things you get when you're in the hospital and you get to take it home with you). She would fill one with hot soapy water to wash dishes in, and the other with hot water to rinse the dishes in. Wash one plate, run it through the rinse water, and put the plate on the drain board. Next dish washed, ran through the rinse water, etc. Of course after the first soapy plate went through the rinse water, it was dirty with bits of food floating in it, so she was doing nothing more than rinsing dishes in dirty, soapy, food-bit infested rinse water. And then wondered why she had diarrhea all the time.

God bless her, she had so many simple ways, but not all of them were safe.

Thrifty-fee profile image

Thrifty-fee 23 months ago

Gosh this scared me! Funnily enough I just type-od scarred instead of scared! Ha, that's maybe a bit fraudien! :p It;s good to have perspective in our thrifty habits. Saving money should be about being able to enjoy the good things in life- not denying ourselves everything that causes is to feel relaxed or happy. I know from my own experience that money-worries can take a toll. Best to keep that perspective when we are doing well- enough!


Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 23 months ago from Oklahoma Author

@Thelma Alberts--the bathwater was scary! Yes, using one lamp is fine, as long as you are not doing something that needs good lighting. Eyestrain is not fun! For just relaxing while watching television though, it is a great way to cut down on lighting expenses.

@Bob Go--Seems like a lot of grandmothers are pretty frugal! Thanks for reading!

@nathalia27 She sounds like a wise woman, balancing her frugal living with common sense. I greatly admire wise frugality!

Sharkye11 profile image

Sharkye11 23 months ago from Oklahoma Author

@Grand old lady--Any hard times can lead to people becoming stressed over money, that is for sure! They do need to study it more, and instead of just saying "its because they went through this", actually helping them cope better and learn how to spend and save wisely. Thank you for sharing your insight--it is very interesting to know that its a worldwide phenomenon!

Virginia Allain profile image

Virginia Allain 23 months ago from Central Florida

It's really sad when you go to an estate sale and all the nice things are stored away in their original wrappings, never used. "Too good to use."

Zoraya Nash profile image

Zoraya Nash 22 months ago from Ukraine

I 've heared about washing in the same water but i cn't accept it at all :) contamination is the direct consequence.... Unbelievabe. But still thank you, a good and very fascinating hub.

ezzly profile image

ezzly 22 months ago

Ha ha this made me laugh :) my nana was the same she was born in 1901 so had lived through 2 wars rationing etc. she loved marzipan so she would pick it off iced Christmas cake and lick the icing back on. Ends of soaps would be squished together to form 1 weird lump, a lovely habit she passed on to my dad , needless to say I love liquid hand soap , no squishing required! One nice thing though, she used to keep scraps of fabric and give them to me , i loved that!

Kristen Howe profile image

Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

Interesting hub on how to go on a frugal budget. Some ideas are interesting, while some I don't think I'll do, like bathe/shower a month. Common sense is ideal. Thanks for sharing.

MarloByDesign profile image

MarloByDesign 20 months ago from United States

Flushing once a day regardless of what's in the toilet...ewwww...

creditcomedy profile image

creditcomedy 16 months ago

I thought only Credit Comedy had great jokes, but I was wrong... I loved the idea of less showers, the only draw back would be your bank account will be high, but your social life will be low...

skperdon profile image

skperdon 16 months ago from Canada

Lol! Reminds me of my Grandmother, she did some of these back in her younger days.

But she was a clean freak too, so she didn't get to the "salmonella and ecoli" farm stage.

But she did wash the plastic bread bags and such.

Excellent writing on a very delicate topic Jayme! I was both grossed out and well entertained. Thank you.

Amie Says profile image

Amie Says 12 months ago from U.S.

There are probably several mental illness issues going on with your grandmother. Hoarders can be very manipulative as well, which I see here in spades.

My mother used to do the margarine tub thing, but she included Cool Whip containers. Every year, one of us would take her out for the day over Christmas holidays and the rest of us would go clean out her stash and throw out the ones without lids. She still had plenty, mind you, but she would get furious at us for cleaning up. Heaven forbid we threw out any old, expired food, but we did it anyway. She got food poisoning once from eating greens that had been sitting in her fridge for a week, saying "Well, I didn't want them to go to waste." She's make us "leave a bit" of something for her, but she would never eat it, and raise the roof if you ate it so it wouldn't spoil! We never could get her to get help for her problems.

Matty Fernandez profile image

Matty Fernandez 9 months ago from Passaic, NJ

Wow! when I came across this hub, I never expected it to make me laugh so hard. I love frugal living, but not so extreme. I reuse containers, and have kids re-wear clothes if they don't smell, but that's only about two or three times. I can't imagine someone wearing dirty clothes for three weeks. Oh my God!!! and the mouthwash just could not do that.

kiddiecreations profile image

kiddiecreations 9 months ago

Hahaha! Food with weevils, just sift them out! Pretty funny stuff here! I could also never do laundry only once a month. I could probably turn off a lot more lights in the evening though. Thanks for sharing!

flwrsetc 8 months ago

Brings back many memories of my grandmother too! We used to go visit & when we ran out of toilet paper, we'd have to sit there & give her the empty spool so she could roll 2 more, using the roll you just finished!

jupiter justice profile image

jupiter justice 8 months ago from Los Angeles, CA

Way to go Granny! And great work Jayme! We all are responsible for making the proper conscious decision on how to leave a smaller foot print on our magnificent and beautiful plantet.

Mike Belk profile image

Mike Belk 8 months ago from Mississippi

It turns out that our parents were right on saving money and the best way to live a frugal life.

An elderly man once told me to not spend all my money in one place. Now I know what he meant.

Mike Belk profile image

Mike Belk 8 months ago from Mississippi

I love the subject of this hub. It proves that the elderly has a lot to teach us about life.

JC in Ky 3 months ago

Sad but I know some folks that live like that today .I grew up poor and I live Frugal but I know folks who are so tight with their money it's sad they don't eat what want , won't wear there nice clothes ,or have a drawer full of nice towels and wash clothes but won't use them they wear worn out shoes , being this tight ,cheap or greedy is just as bad as some one who spends and wastes everything

LAC 6 weeks ago

My parents were born into and grew up in the great Depression. My fathers sister (Aunt) was born in 1929. In the 1940's there were LOTS of food rationing and you got food rationing cards. So if you really wanted something you had to save enough cards for it. These may seem like extreme ways to save but back then when you just didn't have the money to buy or you were saving your ration cards for a big item then you HAD to cut back in other areas. You know that the news is constantly talking about another financial collapse BIGGER than the Great Depression so I am tying not to waste money on things I can make and do myself.

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