A Childhood Memory Found
Adjusting to Changes

The Frugal Elder

Wow! What a lot of good advice from many people on Tuesday’s post about how to get by in hard economic times. There is so much that I started organizing the comments into categories for myself and thought you might benefit from it too. Obviously, elders know what they’re talking about when it comes to frugality.

Not all suggestions are practical or possible for everyone and you, as I discovered of myself, have probably never stopped doing some of these. But I’ve generally applied it haphazardly and now, all these ideas together have reminded me to be more vigilant and purposeful. There is a lot of money to be saved by using as many of these ideas as possible, along with a different and crucial benefit you'll find at the end of this list.

Apologies for not crediting each of you for your ideas and suggestions. There are just too many, but you’ll find the names and their blog links in the comments section of the original post.

It is likely, reading this list, that you’ll be reminded of more money-saving tips. Please leave them in the comments. Everyone can use all the help we can get.


  • Keep a garden/grow fruits and vegetables

  • Freeze or can the herbs, vegetables and fruits you grow

  • Keep chickens for eggs and for food (unless you’ve named the chickens and can’t bring yourself to kill them)

  • Restore the idea of potluck dinners with friends and neighbors

  • Buy local, eat seasonally

  • Reserve one dinner a week for leftovers

  • Buy on sale or in bulk and freeze

  • Bake your own bread and make your own noodles

  • Cook in smaller amounts so you don’t waste food, and/or

  • Cook in big batches and freeze individual meals

  • Buy generics at the supermarket

Energy Usage

  • In some cases, a wood stove is a cheaper heating option than fuel oil or electricity

  • Keep a list and drive to the market and other errands only once every week or even two

  • Unplug such appliances as hair dryers, toasters, coffee makers, etc. when not in use to keep them from sucking electricity

  • Use CFL light bulbs (the twisty ones) instead of incandescent; they are more expensive at first, but use much less electricity and last many times longer

  • Use the microwave or toaster oven whenever possible instead of the stove oven

  • Run the dishwasher only when full or only once a week

  • Turn down the heat in winter and wear a sweater

  • Turn up the temperature in summer to use less electricity for the air conditioner

  • Buy a hybrid car

  • Install energy-efficient windows and appliances

  • Install a tankless water heater, or

  • Keep the water heater unplugged until an hour before you need hot water

  • Turn out the lights when you leave a room

  • Dry clothes on a line outdoors instead of using the dryer

  • Use public transportation whenever possible

  • Bicycle instead of driving


  • Ditch cable television, watch more PBS and use Netflix

  • Download television shows and movies directly to your computer and then use an S-cable to hook it up to your television

  • Check local listings for summertime free concerts, festivals and other performances

  • Buy books at second-hand shops

  • Buy books at second-hand online shops

  • Try Paperbackswap.com

  • Use the library

  • Look for senior discounts at movie theaters

Clothing, Personal and Household Needs

  • Shop at Goodwill, The Salvation Army and other thrift shops

  • Let your hair go gray and save the cost of the hair salon

  • Use vinegar and baking soda instead of expensive cleaning products

  • Become acquainted with local dollar stores

  • Check out yard sales

  • Make your own soap and laundry detergent


  • Share your home and household expenses with relatives or friends

  • Sell unneeded and unwanted items

  • Cut back on restaurant eating

  • Cut back on cellphone use

  • When you must spend, buy high-quality so it lasts

  • Learn simple car maintenance like oil changing

  • If you can’t pay cash, don’t buy it

  • Save credit cards for travel and emergencies

  • Find a part-time job you can do at home

  • Pay bills online and save the postage

  • Don’t forget to smile

Contribute to local food banks when you can for others who have less than you do. Help out friends, relatives and neighbors who need it, and from Marian Van Eyk McCain of ElderWomanBlog, remember:

“…just as Gary White suggests in his comment, there's deeper and more lasting satisfaction to be gained from living simply and frugally than there is in being able to afford everything you want. And the bonus side-effect of everybody downshifting to a sustainable lifestyle is that we get to keep the planet.” [emphasis added]

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mort Reichek tells a small-world story in The Man Who Attended My Father's Bris.]


Wow! You've certainly proveed to me that I'm not a frugal elder, and have little desire to be one. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones, but I'm not into suffering or deprivation. No, I'm not rich, but I saved a lot when I was working, and I've never wasted money.

A few more money-saving tips:

In areas where you pay for your garbage pickup split the cost. My mother-in-law has about one small bag of garbage a week and we have about one bag. We take our garbage over her house, use her one can, and pay half of her garbage bill.

During a stint as a nanny/tutor I ran into three young ladies who drank bottled water. [Yes, they had perfectly safe potable water running out of their taps.] Since bottled water is apparently the "thing to do" amongst their peers, their mothers and I would refill the empty bottles from the tap when they weren't around.

Although it seems counterintuative, I buy DVDs of my favorite shows. I found that there were certain shows I enjoyed, so I have been slowly accumulating them (using coupons or sometimes at garage or library sales): Andy Griffith, Ozzie and Harriet, Bewitched, Mary Tyler Moore. Cheaper than expanding basic cable.

We have expanded our non-grass areas with mulch and ground-covers. Less cutting [less gas], less water, less time, less seed and fertilizer [if you are inclined that way], and more room for veggies and flowers.

Veggies can be interplanted in landscaping.

We only have a dialup on the computer: $9.95/month. I understand that it's slower, but for the most part I am only sending out and receiving text or small pictures.

Share dump day with the neighbors. Our town opens the dump twice a month and the tickets are limited. We own a small trailer and two of our neighbors have added hitches to their cars. Different neighbors get tickets for different months, pool the dump items [old doors, broken grills, storm debris, etc.] into one load and help each other load and unload.

Firewood: When a water line was run down a nearby road they let us pick up wood from some trees that had to be removed. After a while they were helpfully cutting the tree trunks to length and leaving them near the road.

For presents we try to let givers (mainly nieces and nephews)know how much we appreciate such items as bags of bird seed, inexpensive wine, etc. Its stuff we really want and need and cheaper than some of the stuff they were getting us.

Smaller cars, no cell phone... nothing that makes us feel we are missing out on something.

Well, gotta go. Have a part-time job working at a local private boarding kennel. They are always looking for help...hint, hint.

GO VEGETARIAN...It's cheaper, forces you to become more creative (especially on the East Coast), probably healthier and knowing maybe you've saved one cow, chicken, fish, etc., from suffering is not a bad way to feel...

Sometimes pennies add up. I cut into the top to of plastic cosmetic and lotion tubes to retrieve the goo that will no longer squeeze out. It's amazing how much is still in the tube. I use 'child cheater' spatulas to get the last cookie batter out of the bowl before putting it to soak. My kids laugh at me and call me cheap. I wonder who will be laughing if another depression hits?

Here is another idea: don't eat after 3:00 PM!
I have found myself doing this (naturally) the past few
months because, if a eat late, I tend to feel bloated and not sleep well. Then I found this book at Amazon.com, called The 3:00 PM Secret which talks about improving your health (and weight) by not eating after 3:00 PM five day of the week. It validated my personal experience and now, I think I am going to make part of my lifestyle!

Check it out.

I particularly like the last item under the heading "Clothing,Personal and Household Needs".

Make Your own soap and laundry detergent.

I once went to Dollywood in Tennessee
and a woman was there demonstrating how she made lye soap. She was stirring and stirring and we watched awhile then sauntered away.

Four hours later we came by that exhibit again and the same lady was still stirring the same batch of lye soap.

I'm not sure I have the time or the patience to make my own soap.

I'm going to have to ask for a dispensation to buy Tide at the store.

Is it OK if I just copy Darlene and cut the toothpaste and lotion tubes
and buy soap?


Like you, we have economized by moving to a smaller house in a smaller town. We have had additional insulation installed and the house is much more comfortable - and the savings will pay for it in two years!

One thing I didn't see mentioned is telecommuting. My wife still works, and she arranged to work at home most of the time. It saves on gas, her nerves, and her productivity has shot through the roof!

Thank you for providing the list!

What a great list! My husband is, at the age of 60, starting law school in the fall so we'll be using many of them. I would say about the Hybrid car, that it depends on how far you drive. They are very expensive and you usually can't negotiate a deal so it's wise to compare on those grounds. For me, it didn't pay.
BTW, Ronni I so know what you mean about NY. I only moved to DC and I miss it like crazy. My sympathies.

Wonderful suggesstions, Ronni.

I keep an ap/ar set up in excel and track all the money that comes in and goes out monthly. I list it in a line item format of each account...ie. drugs, doctors, food stores, credit cards etc. at the end of the month I total all spending and keep track each month of the total income and expenses. WHY? I don't know except, that it helps me when I say - I WONDER WHERE THE MONEY WENT???

Here is another Helpful Hint:
Use up all food before shopping
Be creative in meal prep.
Always keep non-fat dry milk
Prepare and freeze in indiv. containers for quick meals when you don't feel like cooking.
There is a nutrition program funded by government called Extension Nutrition Education Program...they have great meal tips for low income.(I was a secretary for a local office for 11 years and that is what was provided)
Food stamps...do not be ashamed...that is what they are there for...and they give you a debit card...no stamps are seen...

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