My Frugal Insanity

by Sandy L on April 25, 2011

I’ll be the first to admit that there are about 1000 ways that I’m not frugal.  However sometimes I go just a little cuckoo about the stupidest things.    You see, it all started with a couple of unrelated events.   The first was reaching one of my debt reduction milestones and finally taking a breather from counting pennies.  After Christmas I went out and did things like buy new work clothes and undergarments that were long overdo.  (Kris, I also replaced my broken measuring cups too and I would have done it sooner too if I knew the restaurant supply store sold them for $3.49.)

Anyway, after a couple of months of buying stuff that I have been putting off literally forever, I got a little bit of sticker shock at my credit card bills.   My second realization was that non-food grocery expenditures (toilet paper, diapers, tissues, shampoo, etc) are actually the budget busters in my weekly spending.   This put me in crazy Sandy mode.  I wish I was one of those people who could do things in moderation, but as my husband says “you’re either on or  off…there is no in between with you.”  When I decide that I’m not spending on non-essentials, than it literally will take an act of god or my children outgrowing their current size to get me to spend.  When I decide something must be done, I find little else to focus on but that item.  That hyper focus has served me well in my career, but it can be pretty annoying to live with. I wish I knew about these  Walmart coupons back then because I would have added that to my pile of cost savings measures as well.

Saving Every Last Bit

Here’s an example.  I’m starting to run low on conditioner and rather than just chuck the mostly empty pump  bottle I had, I decide I wanted to get every last drop out of there.   I even thought to myself that it’s a dumb idea to go through all that trouble for $0.15 of product.  As I go to chuck it out, I just can’t get myself to throw it out.  I take the bottle down to the kitchen and start to operate on it with a paring knife.  Darn, this is no suave plastic bottle..this stuff is tough.  I think to myself, “take it easy killer, because before you know it, you’re going to  slice your finger clear off.”   Here I am with knife in hand trying to cut this bottle in half and just at the moment when the bottle is cut in 2, it slips out of my hand and starts spinning through the air like a boomerang whoosh whoosh whoosh. With every turn, I see the last bits of conditioner splattering all over my cabinets and floor.   I start talking to myself.  “I told you something like this would happen, you should have just thrown the stupid thing away.”    Do you think I threw it out after this monologue with myself?  Of course not, I went around scraping the lumps of conditioner off the cabinets and floor and salvaged as much as I could.

Did I learn? No again. Not two days later, I decided to do the same thing with my neutrogena face lotion but this time when the bottle got cut in two the lotion splattered all over me in a grand star burst pattern all over the shirt I had just put on.

I didn’t have to look far to see where I get these idiotic tendencies. The other day I was filling plastic easter eggs at Babci’s house (the secret hiding place for all holiday things).  I made it through the pile rather rapidly with the exception of one cracked egg.  I went to throw it out and my mom was like “don’t throw that out, I can tape it.”  Um, no, it won’t snap shut anymore.  Then she was like “look it has little holes on the end, maybe I can make it into a salt shaker”…really?  Is this kind of ridiculousness some sort of genetic defect?

Sloppy Seconds

The other thing I do that I hate is I force myself to use up products and/or food that I don’t like before I replace them.  You know when you buy a horrible shampoo that makes your hair just limp or flat or a really bad brand of hot dogs or something?   At least with the beauty products, I have a friend with shorter hair who will always take them off my hands.  I am trying to get better at this. If I’m going to consume calories, they should be enjoyable.

On a related note, the third thing I do that benefits no one is eat the leftovers off my kid’s plates. The only thing that does is give me a few extra pounds to carry around. I’ve been getting better at that though.  Thankfully my older one eats like a horse and my little one is so disgusting that he’s been helping me wean myself off that habit.  For example, last night at Easter dinner, he stole my dinner roll and so I decided to take his instead. I went to take a bite and immediately spit it out. It was all soggy Eeew.  All he did was suck the butter off and left the rest of the roll sopping wet with his spit.

Do you do things that are irrational for the sake of frugalness?  What are they?





{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

eemusings April 25, 2011 at 6:27 AM

I think my dad is a little like you – sometimes he just does the wackiest things that are obviously not worth the effort for the return 😉

I don’t mess around with skincare – I know better than that – but I’m probably guilty of using crap hair products. I’m too lazy to cut open toothpaste tubes but I definitely hang on to things like reusable ketchup bottles, sponges and razors wayyy too long. I know, it’s gross.


Sandy L April 25, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Eemusings – it’s weird how I’m frugal about some things and not others. I don’t actually open toothpaste tubes though. they seem to last an eternity so I feel like I get my money’s worth out of those.


Kellen April 28, 2011 at 9:52 PM

I definitely take forever to buy new razorblades, and will use the last one from the pack for weeks and weeks before mustering the courage to spend money on new ones. But show me a toy my dog doesn’t have yet, and what’s $15 really worth hanging on to for anyway?


101 Centavos April 25, 2011 at 7:22 AM

How about saving every bit and scrap of wood from workshop projects. Same goes for screws, nuts, bolts and other doo-dads. Borderline hoarding disorder, but they might come in handy some day.


Sandy L April 25, 2011 at 5:06 PM

101- Yup. We used a ton of scrap wood this winter framing up my mom’s 2 rooms that were gutted. The studs literally didn’t even come all the way up to the ceiling and a lot of reinforcement was in order. We also use it for when my 5 year old is in a building mood. I don’t know how we’d be able to part with it if we moved, but our pile has dwindled thanks to my mom’s house that needs everything.


Nicole April 25, 2011 at 7:52 AM

My spending does tend to go in spurts. No new clothing for years and then $600 all at once (and needed too!)

I do not cut bottles open. I do put them upside down and let gravity take care of things.

With crappy toiletries, I stick them in the back of the cupboard for emergency use. That’s actually really helpful because sometimes life gets really busy and we accidentally run out of regular TP or laundry detergent or toothpaste etc. and the crappy kind is better than nothing and using it forces us to make a stop at the store to stock-up again.

Sometimes I’ll eat DC’s leftovers. Right now he’s at about the right age to transition to my father’s rules– you serve yourself and you don’t take more than you can eat. If you take more than you can eat, you get your leftovers next meal. So far he’s been pretty good about taking multiple small portions.


Sandy L April 25, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Nicole – I am the same with spending. I hate shopping, so I put it off for as long as possible and then try to do it all at once. I like the plate rules…although we’d have to have a mandatory minimum serving size on veggies.


Nicole April 25, 2011 at 8:30 AM

This post encouraged me to tell DH that he didn’t have to take the icky “cheese” brautwurst (that gave me an MSG headache AND didn’t taste great) for lunch. We tossed them. I feel bad for the animal that gave its life, but not enough to feed garbage to us or the cats.


MutantSuperModel April 25, 2011 at 12:23 PM

You have got to use coupons for those non-food grocery things. When I see posts like yours, I’m always tempted to say, “Oh please don’t spend money like that. Let me shop for you.” I get all of those non-food things at CVS with coupons and ExtraCare bucks and never spend more than a couple of dollars. Seriously ( And then I’m not stressing using absolutely every last little bit (although I totally relate to that one. You should see me with a shaving can.). I also hate forcing myself to eat leftovers and sometimes I just shove them to the back and “forget” them.


Sandy L April 25, 2011 at 5:13 PM

Mutant – you need to do a whole post on this. I have tried to do the CVS thing and I would rather not spend the money than to rack up extra bucks. Perfect example..right now they are having a promotion where if you buy the very conditioner I cut apart and spend $30, then you get $10 extra bucks back. Seems like a deal right? Well, the last time I bought it, it was 50% off, so it was $8.99, but at CVS it was $16 and shampoo was like 10.99, so I’d have to buy 3 expensive full priced items to get my $10. I passed. Instead I shop around TJ max and places like that trying to find a deal on the salon stuff. (I do spend a lot on my hair..bowl haircut growing up, looking like a boy…it’s a whole post in itself that I must do sometime soon)

I also seem to have less of an issue throwing out “forgotten about” leftovers than I do if they are still good.


retirebyforty April 25, 2011 at 12:33 PM

You can pour some water into the conditioner bottle and shake it around a bit to get it out. I used to cut up the lotion bottle too, but now I have decided it’s way too much trouble. I still do the Vulcan mind mend with the old soap though, that’s easy. 🙂
Hahah, kids sound like so much trouble.


Sandy L April 25, 2011 at 5:15 PM

Rb40- I now try to buy stuff that does not come in pumps. Seems to increase yield.


Terri April 25, 2011 at 4:02 PM

LOL, I like the salt shaker egg story. I do the same thing with cutting open bottles, but I was brought up doing it, so I normally don’t think twice about it.


Sandy L April 25, 2011 at 5:17 PM

Terri – well at least some people think it’s normal. I still feel strange doing it.


Niki April 25, 2011 at 4:25 PM

I’m crazy about food jars and cans. They must be scraped until they are completely empty. This is a side effect of growing up with my depression era grandparents. I think it is more about not wanting to waste anything that is perfectly good, rather than saving some money, although it’s a good incentive.
I understand why you would cut open the pump bottles, I hate that the pumps never get a good portion of the last of the lotion. I usually take the top off and try to force it out. I think cutting it might actually be the way to go. Just don’t wear my Sunday best while doing it.:)


Sandy L April 25, 2011 at 5:19 PM

Niki – sunday best comment. I try to not buy pumps now, but sometimes I still do if something’s on sale or what not. I was brought up not to waste food. It kills me throwing food out. At least I know it’s a problem.


Financial Samurai April 25, 2011 at 7:52 PM

PRetty irrational! However, I do the same thing, and it’s dumb. It’s not like we’re starving and poor. We shouldn’t waste, but we shouldn’t be that frugal.


Sandy L May 1, 2011 at 7:03 AM

Sam – I think it’s the not wanting to waste anything that really makes me do all this stuff. I was just brought up that way.


Molly On Money April 25, 2011 at 9:24 PM

I’m like you- I’m on or off. I was just telling a friend that I’m not looking forward to the end of my 1 year challenge of not buying any clothes. When she asked why I went on to say, ‘Knowing I can’t buy clothes I just don’t bother to even go in the store and look! In the past year I’m not convinced I’ve taught myself how to shop for clothing thoughtfully.’ I think it one reason I make everything…. denial is my security blanket right now!


Sandy L May 1, 2011 at 7:04 AM

Molly – you are right. It’s so much easier to just abstain completely than try to learn to do things in moderation.


laura April 26, 2011 at 2:52 PM

I cut toothpaste tubes and mix the remains of tomato ketchup with vinegar to use it up..which really annoys my son as sometimes it’s a little runny! I’m so frugal with hair treatments that I don’t even buy a conditioner 😉

I’m an all or nothing girl too, can’t help it!


Sandy L May 1, 2011 at 7:05 AM

Laura – that my hair is grey, I couldn’t live without conditioner…at least not unless I chopped my hair off.


Crystal April 26, 2011 at 5:08 PM

I used to work really hard for the last little bits of everything – shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, etc. Now I apparently don’t give a crud and simply move on. I guess I am in my “off” period…


Sandy L May 1, 2011 at 7:06 AM

Crystal – you have bigger things to worry about. With you, I feel like your time is better spent developing your blog. If you have 5 more minutes to write an article or something that’s worth a hell of a lot more than an extra squeeze of toothpaste.


Well Heeled Blog April 27, 2011 at 12:57 AM

I use bad hair care products – it does me no good. Also, not so much frugality as gluttony, but when I have something good to eat I HAVE to finish all of it even though I might be stuffed. Not the healthiest thing, obviously.


Sandy L May 1, 2011 at 7:08 AM

Well Heeled – Yeah, I love food too and often eat too much in restaurants, particularly when a serving is not so big that it makes sense to take 1/2 home, so I just finish the extra 1/4 or 1/3 that I wouldn’t have eaten otherwise.


Money Reasons April 28, 2011 at 2:15 PM

I do unconventional things so that I can save money too. But I’m also lazy so I don’t think I would have the energy to cut the plastic bottles in half (I am impressed though)…

Usually with shampoo bottles (I know conditioner is different), I just add a bit of water when it’s close to empty, and shake the bottle until it mixes. Note, this is not the frugal side of me, it’s more the green part of me… I like to fully use whatever I have.

You should have seen my old lawnmower, heavy duty tape was holding the handle bar together at one time…

Whenever I get a McDonalds Latte, I take the top off to get that last swallow…


Sandy L May 1, 2011 at 7:11 AM

Money Reasons – your lawnmower story is a good one. We have one that just died and my husband changed the sparkplugs and pull cord and did a few things before we realized it had a cracked engine block. For big ticket items it’s great to try to extent life a bit.


Money Reasons May 5, 2011 at 7:46 PM

Huge bummer on the cracked engine block! I wonder how that happened and it if make a horrible noise when it happened…


Everyday Tips April 29, 2011 at 9:43 PM

I was thinking I could trade you measuring cups for currant jelly in the fall if you were still holding out replacing them…

Sandy, you gotta try CVS, you really do. You just gotta hit the right sales. Combine your mfg coupons with the extra bucks and you end up with a great deal on some items.

I bought the worst Pantene shampoo. I normally love Pantene, but this version made both mine and my daughter’s hair straw-like. (We tend toward straw anyway, but this was really bad.) I gave the shampoo to my oldest son because his hair is short so it doesn’t really matter.


Sandy L May 1, 2011 at 7:14 AM

Kris – I’m turning a new leaf. I actually spent some time printing online coupons and I did end up finding better, a $3 huggies coupon vs the $1.50 one that’s in the paper. I think there is a a little opportunity there. My CVS circular doesn’t come in the mail with the other grocery fliers, so I think I’ll just go online once a week now.


Everyday Tips May 2, 2011 at 8:37 AM

You should just pick up the Sunday paper. Costs a dollar, but you get a ton of coupons and the CVS and other circulars!


Little House April 30, 2011 at 6:08 PM

I think your frugality is genetic. 😉 However, with beauty products I find myself doing similar things like squeezing every last ounce out of my ROC cream – gotta keep the wrinkles at bay!


Sandy L May 1, 2011 at 7:15 AM

Little House – yes, beauty products are on the expensive side, so I tend to get crazy about those. I don’t go nuts about the bottle of mustard that lasts forever, but conditioner, well that’s another story.


Linda May 1, 2011 at 9:33 AM

I have a pretty simple set of personal products so I don’t worry about couponing for them. For the past three months or so I’ve been using baking soda and a vinegar rinse on my hair, so there’s no need for shampoo or conditioner. I love the way my hair feels and looks since I started doing it and this routine costs much less than buying shampoo/conditioner, too. I didn’t start doing it because I wanted to save money, though. I do it because the chemicals in shampoo are not so good for people or the environment.

I do use body lotion and face lotion from the store and can relate to you on the challenges of getting all the lotion out of a pump bottle. I don’t cut the bottle, I invert it and then just unscrew the pump and shake it out of the bottle to apply. I keep doing this until I feel like I’ve gotten the last bit out. When I get to the point where the bottle needs to be inverted I know that I need to put lotion on my shopping list, so it’s also a way of reminding myself about it.

Since I only use a pea-sized dollop of toothpaste at a time the tube lasts and I don’t worry about cutting it open. Toothpaste is one area where I splurge, though. I hate mainstream toothpaste. The saccharine makes it so sweet that it makes me literally gag. Instead I buy one of the “natural” toothpastes: whichever seems most reasonable in price at the time, and which doesn’t have anything objectionable in the ingredients list. I’m sure if I had kids that toothpaste would be much more of a hit to my budget; kids always seem to glop enormous amounts of toothpaste on their brushes! I’m actually contemplating just making my own tooth cleaning powder, too, out of baking soda and other natural ingredients.


Squirrelers May 2, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Believe it or not, I think I’ve actually done much less of this lately. I almost feel guilty not employing such tactics, but I think that the big savings take place with good day-to-day habits, and making good choices with the bigger financial decisions in life (home purchase, etc).

Good post, by the way. I’m sure many PF bloggers can relate in one way or another.


Ardes May 2, 2011 at 2:30 PM

Ya know, the tops on almost all of those bottles just pop right off, even if they don’t unscrew. No cutting required! Then just add a little water. I can get an extra half week from a shampoo bottle. And the products that leave your hair too flat or too dry can be mixed together in hand and work better than your current favorite! By the way, I once went to a workshop at a museum on textile preservation, and they recommended shampoo for washing woolens and getting shirt collars clean. A drop of conditioner will also make scratchy sweaters more comfortable.


Doable Finance May 8, 2011 at 12:50 AM

Why not put a few drops of water when the bottle seems to be empty, shake it a little and use the liquid one more time.


Lindy Mint May 11, 2011 at 3:31 PM

I tend to get obsessed with finding (or making) inexpensive versions of something that I want. This often leads to driving all around town, spending hours searching online, and being all consumed until I find a solution. Often, I’m not saving that much money, and sometimes I end up spending more when my DIY projects go south. Tunnel vision can be hard to overcome once it hits. 🙂


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Deidre May 15, 2011 at 12:46 AM

Love the post Sandy 🙂 To directly answer your question at the end of the the posting; no, I don’t think that you are irrational.

I too have cut up bottles to get the last bit out of them, stood them on end to let gravity take over and also I’ve been guilty of cutting open tooth paste tubes to get that last micro-bit onto the toothbrush.

Perhaps our methodology has a bit to be desired 🙂 Someone obviously thought the same because I saw a kit at Bed Bath & Beyond that had all sorts of attachments for different bottle necks with a ‘funnel’ type of thing in-between. So you can combine the 2 bottles of product into 1 by taking the almost empty bottle, fit it into one end, and the other bottle on the other end and then leave it standing there while you go to work. You do not have to worry about coming back home to find a mess all over the bathroom vanity or kitchen counter. It even had some sort of combining ‘system’ for tooth paste tubes! At the time I was in a hurry and did not stop to pick one up but now I wish that I had. 🙂 Most likely I thought ‘why pay $$ for something I already do for nothing’. Now of course I cannot find it again 🙂


kathryn March 15, 2013 at 1:37 AM

Just today I cut open the lotion container to scrape out the last bit. Yesterday I cut iopen the toothpaste to get the last bit.Last week I added water to my bottle of conditioner, when it appeared to be empty.Last week it was a different bottle of lotion. I turned it upside down, but even gravity wan’t going to coax it all down.
Sometimes a bottle of shampoo is just terrible. In this case I use it as body wash.
I also add vinegar/water to the last bit of ketchup, but I use it in a recipe, so it doesn’t matter about the consistancy. I’ll even leave it in the fridge and start a new bottle, until I’m ready to use it.
I don’t feel cheap at all about doing this. I didn’t get to retire at 50 by throwing away stuff, just for the sake of a few minutes work. It also gives me a lot of satisfaction.
I could certainly be a lot better. I could use hankies, and I have been considering turning my old bed sheets into something useful.
It’s always a thrill to find a new use for something, that you were previously going to toss away.


Sandy L March 16, 2013 at 4:59 AM

Hurray. Yes, there is also a part of me that doesn’t like the waste associated with throwing away that stuff. Thanks for the comment.


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