Frugality comes in various flavors. On the one end of the spectrum there’s the type that makes Uncle Scrooge look like Santa Claus.
On the other end there’s the sensible version that lets you save optimally without being cheap, without compromising your sanity, without stress, while maintaining the fun and joys of life.
The kind of frugality that honors Agesilaus’ quote,
By sowing frugality we reap liberty, a golden harvest.”
This thorough list of products concerns that type of living sparingly. It offers a no-nonsense overview of items that will actually have a positive impact on your finances on a relatively short basis without having to make ridiculous investments or installing expensive or complicated equipment.
Some of these products are true must-haves, if you don’t have these items in your home you are losing money every day.
This ultimate frugal products list features items to make your home more energy efficient, to help you save on groceries, on beauty and cleaning products, and on reducing your outdoor expenses.
Ready to become a frugal expert? Here we go.
Flip-It! cap system
- Flip-It! Deluxe Cap Kit lets bottles stand upside down steadily so you can get the very last bit out without having to shake it frantically or smack its bottom real hard. Works for both food products such as ketchup as well as shampoo and other bottles known for thick liquids and stubborn residue that’s often thrown away along with the package. Flip-It! saves you time and lets you get the most out of things you already bought. Literally.
Blenders are the frugal living individual’s best friend.
- If you drink your juices like a camel drinks water a good blender is highly cost-effective.
- Even if you don’t drink juices that often, the ability to quickly make healthy and nutritious blends when there’s no time or energy to cook may prevent you from ordering in. Or eat less healthy snacks. On top of that, when you make your own blends, you are in full control of the contents.
- Home-made fresh organic margaritas, spinach-cheese-walnut smoothies or whatever you fancy for yourself, your family and friends save you from spending money when going out.
- Blenders are also great for pureeing foods that are close to going bad. (i.e. tomatoes with little spots)
- Another benefit, you can grind in large quantity (thus cheaper) bought spices and herbs. Puree these herbs and spices in your blender for storage in the fridge or freezer.
Energy saving power strip
- An energy saving power strips pays off in no time. They often come with surge protectors reducing the risk on damage to your electrical devices caused by voltage spikes. What’s more, these power strips eliminates phantom current to the peripherals.
- This money saver functions as a switch, so when you power your TV off, there is no phantom “standby” electricity being drawn to the other peripherals such as the DVD, satellite box and stereo. This way you will save money on both the absence of phantom charge as well as the powered-down peripherals. (same for desktop pc, printer, scanner, speakers, etc)
- Smart power strips feature advanced circuitry able to ‘sense’ the flow of electrical current through the strip’s control outlet. Because of this ability, they can turn off equipment when it’s not in use.
Did you know that standby power can account for up to 10% of your electric bill?
About phantom load. Pressing the off button often means the device is on standby power meaning your TV still uses energy. (New models generally have improved standby efficiency.) However, there are many electronic appliances that use energy even when turned off. This energy is called phantom charge or phantom load. The devices are referred to as “vampire appliances”. According to Cornell University a typical home or office has at least 20 vampire appliances adding about $200 to your annual energy bill.
Energy saving socket power timer
By putting a timer on the electricity provided to your devices you can safe on your bill as well as reduce risks by cutting power on potential fire hazards such as curling irons, space heaters, and coffee machines left on for too long.
- This very easy to use outlet timer lets you turn off power after a set time. Great for cutting phantom draw after the iPad has fully charged or to turn of the light in the kids room after they have fallen asleep.
Energy usage monitor
- Being aware of your power consumption can safe you a lot. An energy usage monitor gives you insight in energy costs of most of your appliances. Both immediate draw as well as average power consumption over a 24 hours period or annual costs will tell you a lot on where to make improvements and safe more on your electric bill.
Find out if it pays to replace that old refrigerator for a new one.
Or measure the juice drawn by for example your microwave when not in use. Some use a few watts constantly so when you are aware of this you can use an outlet timer to cut this waste of electricity. It’s not uncommon for people to save $5 or $10 per month on their electric bill because of their newfound insights and thereon based adjustments.
Frugal people know that making and packing your own sandwiches, coffee and other beverages safes you a considerable amount of money.
- So brown-bag that lunch. Or actually, don’t. Use a lunch box instead since each person who brings a brown bag lunch to school or work on a daily basis generates about 67 lbs. each year according to EPA.
I use a lunchbox not only for lunch but almost all the time I go somewhere. By having a lunchbox with some carrots and nuts or a banana and peanuts in my car I reduce the temptation to have a quick (and often unhealthy) snack.
Food vacuum saver
Three reasons for getting a vacuum sealer.
- You will reduce food waste by preserving (pre-)left-overs,
- you will be able to buy food in bulk at sale which can be highly economical,
- and you can cook giant batches of anything which you can keep fresh thus having instant crisp meals available at all times. How having about a mouth-watering meal that took a whole day to prepare in your plate within no time?
We all know how it often goes, that delicious meal you cooked bores after a few consecutive meals so you freeze it in. A shame to throw it out right? But it never gets eaten again. During the semi-annual freezer clean out those unappealing frozen Zip-loc bags or Tupperware boxes pop up and are dumped anyway.
- Not with vacuum sealed foods. These stay fresh since they are not exposed to air in your freezer, kept their moisture so no need to add water when cooking them, no re-seasoning, no risk of overcooking.
Of the various food saver systems that exist, the vacuum sealer is the most common and easy to use method to extend the storage time of dried, refrigerated foods, and frozen foods. Drying and canning food are other preservation options.
Tip: if you decide to get one, check out the costs of bags since that’s where the main expense is.
Reusable glass beverage bottle
Plastic water bottles are not only horribly environmentally unfriendly but also about at least 10.000 times more expensive than tap water and often not even as healthy. Bottled water is sometimes even plain unhealthy as studies show.
Being a frugal chap by nature, I stopped reusing plastic bottles as I found out they may leak all kinds of chemicals into the water. I recycled glass carrot juice bottles for a while until I noticed the metal cap started to rust.
- Eco-friendly glass or stainless steel bottles are a far safer and more affordable option. Provided that you have safe tap water or a water filter at home. If not, a water bottle with filter included may be a safer alternative.
On the picture, the carbon Lifefactory 22-ounce glass bottle with flip cap and silicone sleeve.
Water filter system
If your tap water is contaminated, tastes bad or smells you may be buying bottled water. Apart from losing money like water (it really is much more expensive) bottled water is bad for the environment too and in many cases not even healthier than tap water.
- Be frugal and get a good home water filter system.
You could be saving more than $1,000 annually while drinking healthier water while you’re at it.
Portable Space Heater
- A portable space heater lets you heat single rooms or spaces thus eliminating the need to heat the whole house with the central unit. Heating a bathroom all day, for instance, is wasteful. By turning on an efficient space heater in the bathroom for those few hours (at max) you are occupying it you can safe a lot of energy.
Back in the day space heaters were rather inefficient but recent models incorporate features such as timers and thermostats making them much more energy-efficient. What’s more, modern units are pleasing to the eye too.
Typically, heating accounts for about 30% of a single home’s energy bill. Especially if you live in a cold area, heating takes up a huge part of your utility costs.
Things to consider: heat output, time it takes for heat distribution to start and noise.
Hair clippers allow men and women with short hair to give themselves free haircuts saving big bucks on the hairdresser.
Even if you don’t cut your own hair * you may be able to postpone a visit to the barber by trimming neck hair or doing some other coiffure maintenance.
* (cutting your own hair is not that hard, it’s just a matter of some practice and being adept with a hand mirror in one hand and the clipper in the other hand while in front of a wall mirror)
Affordable coffee / espresso maker
Do you happen to
stand in line at frequent Starbucks on a regular basis? Then you will know this habit costs you a lot of money. There’s nothing even remotely frugal about that. Personal finance experts call it one of the quickest ways to lose money.
- Save heaps by buying an affordable espresso or coffee maker. Quality coffee doesn’t have to be made in an expensive top of the bill machine either. Get your own, reasonably priced coffee maker (or buy the best top level machine you can get) And while you are at it, experiment with your own, homemade blends or just adding some cinnamon or cardemom to your early morning java.
Can’t shake off the habit? Starbucks offer a 10 cent discount on your coffee purchase if you bring your own mug. After a year you will have safed more than 30 bucks by doing so.
Portable coffee mug
- Granted, hardcore coffee connoisseurs will scoff at drinking their high quality joe from a portable mug but frugalistas will balance out their desire by enjoying one or two truly excellent freshly brewed cups each day while drinking their other, still decent and piping hot cups from their travel mug.
This way you will have your favorite coffee you have brewn at home at hand saving you on picking up coffee on the road. Of course this applies for tea lovers too.
Get one that keeps your java hot as lava, does not leak, is lightweight, and has a well designed drinking lid.
- The main benefit of a programmable thermostat is the ability to preset lower temperatures when asleep or away from home. Automated timing when the AC switches on and off (set it and forget it) and remote adjusting add to convenience and comfort.
Experts say homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings.
Tip: Keeping the thermostat at almost the same temperature when you are not at home because it costs more energy than normal to bring an area back to a comfortable temperature if a thermostat is set lower is a common misconception. The longer you can keep your house at low temperature settings, the more energy you safe.
Something about smart thermostats. These popular gadgets have their flaws of which one is the fact that they measure only temperature while how comfortable you feel (and thus how high you will set the thermostat) depends on a combination of temperature, humidity and air movement among some other things. Which is why keeping an eye on relative humidity levels in your home is essential when it comes to reducing costs.
Relative humidity monitor
According to engineer Robert Bean we sense comfort through thermal receptors in our skin. Besides air temperature those receptors sense humidity, radiant temperature (has to with the temperature of the interior surfaces), humidity, air velocity, clothing and activity rate.
Improper relative humidity levels in your home will make you feel colder on a cold day. So at the same temperature you will feel more inclined to set the thermostat higher.
With a rH monitor you are always aware of your home’s relative humidity levels. Knowing your home’s relative humidity levels (and improving them if necessary) not only saves you money.
The lack of airborne dampness will also leech moisture from your body, leaving your skin and sinuses dry and cracked resulting in the need for creams, sprays, and other expenses and inconveniences. Here are tips on how to reduce humidity in your home.
- It’s winter and you are energy-conscious enough to put on a warm sweater instead of taking a swing at the thermostat. No need to be running around in your tanktop or thin linnen shirt right? But have you thought about a bodywarmer? These things keep you warm as a cozy fire while not giving you the feeling you are dressed like an eskimo in a snow blizzard. After all, there’s a limit to the amount of clothes you can wear inside and still feel comfortable.
In the same fashion (some may find this one disputable) can wearing a hat (or beanie) at home help you keep warm. I hear you thinking, Wearing a hat at home really? Who does that? I do. It helps me keep warm or quickly cool off a bit when I take it off. The popular claim that about 45% of body heat dissipates through your head may be a myth but my beanie sure makes a difference. Some sources state it’s only that you feel like you are losing more heat through your head.
Insulating your body is way more energy efficient than insulation of the room or house you are in. It’s the difference of heating a tiny layer of air between your skin and clothes and heating all the air in a room to achieve the same result.
Thermal long underwear
“One layer of thermal long underwear allows you to turn down the thermostat to about 17° C (63°F), saving 30 to 40 percent on heating costs and energy use compared to the normal winter outfit. Kris de Decker Low-Tech Magazine.
Tight-fitting high-tech thermal underwear worn by athletes and travelers keeps you warm and your wallet thick. Actually, if you think about it, it’s just peculiar we didn’t yet make an habit out of wearing such underwear during the colder periods of the year. I think now would be a great time to start, don’t you?
Taking the principle of “personal thermal management” a step further, researchers are currently developing silver-nanowire clothes that reflect over 90% of your body heat compared to about 20% by a wool sweater.
Hot water bottle
- Keep your feet or hands warm with a hot water bottle. The extremities are feeling cold more quickly because there are higher concentrations of nerve endings on certain parts of your body such as the hands, wrists, feet, ankles and calves, neck, face and head.
Of course, warming your core with a hot water bottle can be very pleasant and economical too.
For extra efficiency and ultra long heat retention get a smart water bottle. These bottles made by Unikia have a cover made with Phase Changing Material (PCM) which keeps them warm longer while simultaneously preventing them from becoming too hot.
- A no-brainer this one, LED bulbs, since they use about 10% of the energy incandescent bulbs use. If you haven’t already done so buying a box of LED bulbs could be the wisest frugal purchase to make this year. Do some quick research and you will know you are nuts not to completely convert your home to LED lighting. These super-efficient bulbs could save you $380 annually and pay for itself within months.
At 12%, lighting represents a significant share of a home’s energy bill. Source: EnergyStar.gov. Which amounts to generally about $210 a year. Still hesitating? Remember that your old incandescent bulbs are pretty much the same as when they were invented in 1879 by Thomas Edison.
Did you know that for any lamp burning for more than an hour a day, LED’s are now more cost effective than CFL’s?
Light quality has improved a lot the past years being now just as good as incadescent bulbs, or even better if you take the various thrilling variations such as Philips Hue into account. LEDs are much more affordable than before, you can get many of the bulbs now for less than 10 bucks.
The best tool for saving money on groceries and household items is a pricebook. It does take some time and effort but by becoming a more savvy shopper you will be able to know exactly when to stock up on essentials, whether a deal really is a good deal, and when to skip a ‘fake sale’.
You can start out by tracking the 10 products you buy most often in a paper notebook. Write down prices, locations, and when you shop to get insights in the best deals.
In order to become a frugal grocery shopping expert, read this LifeHacker article: How to Save the Most Money on Your Grocery Budget with a Price Book
Coupons / Grocery shopping app
Grocery shopping and coupon apps allow you to quickly calculate prices and serve as grocery lists. An added advantage of mobile apps is that you always have your phone with you while you may forget to bring your price book. Also convenient are automated unit price calculation features.
Popular apps include CartCrunch, GroceryKing, ValueTracker, and SharkyShopping.
Remember, don’t forget to be aware of the coupon trap, coupons may lure you into the store causing you to buy things you don’t really need simply because they are a good deal.
Home made beauty product ingredients
Making your own beauty products is very frugal. On average, the American family spends $2,000 each year on cosmetics and personal hygiene items. Simplify with homemade beauty products which contain much less ingredients and tend to last longer than commercial products. Don’t believe the marketing tales.
According to the EWG, not even 11 percent of cosmetic ingredients used by the cosmetic industry have been tested for safety.
The best you can do for your wallet, beauty and health is make your own cosmetics. So you know that natural this time means genuinely natural (because even at WholeFoods you can’t count on that).
With a few basic ingredients you can do a lot. Organic extra virgin olive oil for example is an excellent moisturizer and effective but gentle make up remover too. It offers the purest way to remove eye makeup while moisturizing the most tender facial area. There are so many natural substances you can use to make basic cleansers, toners, moisturizers, sunscreens and more. Get a good book or, even more frugal, do your research online and start making your own body care products.
High efficiency front load washing machine
- HE washers save about half in energy and water costs. On top of that they clean better and you can suffice with using much less detergent. There’s less wear and tear on the laundry due to the absense of an agitator. All in all, several ways in which a HE front load washer saves you money. Both immediately and in the long run.
A full-sized ENERGY STAR certified clothes washer uses about 8 gallons of water less per load than a machine without the label. 5 gallons of water per load, vs. 23 gallons used by a standard machine.
Did you know that according to experts, replacing a pre-1994 clothes washer will save you as much as $110 a year?
Energy Star water heater
- Need a new water heater? Get an Energy Star rated unit and save about 7%. Tankless water heaters will save you even more, about 30% and solar water heaters can reduce your costs even further.
Initial costs of solar thermal systems are high but when replacing an old heater the investment will pay for itself over time.
Solar thermal systems have vacuum tubes which absorb energy ensuring you with warm water all year round.
Added benefit, increasing fuel prices and fuel shortages in the future will not cause you any additional financial strain.
Other Energy Star Appliances
Tossing all of your old appliances while they still function and purchasing new ones would be very unfrugal. But if you’re in need for a new one it’s wise to opt for an Energy Star appliance.
Energy Star-rated appliances generally use 20–30% less energy than appliances without the label.
Because they consume so much less electricity you will eventually recoup your outlay in lower bills. Moreover, these energy efficient appliances reduce your impact on the environment.
- By upgrading to a more efficient device you will be saving money every time you run your dishwasher, wash your laundry, or open your fridge adding up to serious savings in the long run.
Tip: Use a kill-a-watt gadget to find out how much your appliances are slurping right now and what you can save by purchasing a more efficient model. For example, if your fridge is more than a couple of years old it’s likely to lack energy efficiency. Replacement will probably pay itself back within 2 or 3 years.
Clothes drying rack
- Each time you dry your clothes on a drying rack or line instead of the drying machine you save money.
The California Energy Commission estimates the average household pays about $85 each year to run its clothes dryer. Together with the flatscreen TV and refrigerator it’s in the top 3 of household energy hoggers.
Hanging your clothes out to dry gives them that really nice fresh scent too and when the weather doesn’t allow you can put up the foldable drying rack in the home too (useful in case of dry air as well).
Tip: if you must, condensing dryers use less energy than vented dryers, are easier on clothes and quieter.
- At not even a buck a piece these little gadgets increase the sensation of flow by adding air into the water stream. High efficient faucet aerators (i.e. Watersense label accessories) cost more but save you more.
Studies show that by replacing existing bathroom sink faucet aerators with high-efficiency 1.5 gpm aerators households can save approximately 570 gallons per year. Source, EPA.
Water efficient shower head
These are part of any self-respecting eco-friendly bathroom. They save water while maintaining water pressure.
- A water efficient, or low-flow shower head uses about 2 gallons per minute (2 gpm) whereas conventional shower heads use between 3 and 4 gallons per minute (3.5 gpm).
Especially WaterSense labeled models can save you a lot.
Typical U.S. households, spending $1,100 per year on water, can save $350 each year simply by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances
The Delta Faucet 75152 water amplifying showerhead for instance is adjustable enabling you to switch between 2.5 gpm and highly economical 1.8 gpm.
Even when using it on 2.5 gallon-per-minute it can save a 4 person household $260 per year in heating costs alone compared to an older 5.5 gallon unit.
Water saving toilet fill valves
On average, toilets are the home’s biggest water users accounting for nearly 30 percent of a home’s indoor water consumption.
- Older toilets can be upgraded with water-saving toilet fill valves and dual flush converters. This way flushing 6 gallons at a time can be reduced to up to less than 1,5 gallons per flush.
Tip: when you don’t have a two-stage flusher you can press the button gently for a little bit instead of pushing it down all the way, thus releasing only a portion of the water volume present in the toilet tank.
Natural DIY cleaning products
This may come as a surprise to some but cleaning products take up a big chunk of household expenditures. Especially since often for each appliance or purpose a dedicated cleaning agent is bought.
- Baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice are very efficient and non-toxic ingredients that can replace most commerical cleaners.
Next time skip buying dishwasher and laundry detergents and even all-purpose, window, toilet bowl and tile cleaners and use these natural, antimicrobial substances instead.
EPA estimates that during the dry season up to 70% of residential water use goes to watering the lawn. According to specialists at least 50% of this water is wasted because of overwatering.
While ecological consciousness is increasing it doesn’t make much sense to begin with to water the plants with tap water when you can harvest rainwater.
- If you live in California, turning on your outdoor fountain, washing down your driveway or irrigating the lawn may be prohibited during droughts making a rain barrel a desired item for people with yards.
Having some rainwater stocked is a good thing for more reasons. In case of SHTF scenarios you will be able to filter the water for consumption too.
Smart irrigation controller
- The RainMachine smart sprinkler controller adjusts watering times based on daily downloaded weather forecasts from NOAA.gov (100% free). This device is designed to improve watering efficiency enabling you to dramatically reduce water waste. It is claimed to pay for itself in the first year.
Indoor growing kit/ system
Growing some of your own produce with a sprouter, an indoor growing kit or a miniature greenhouse can save you money. Lists of the most lucrative crops to grow circulate, but in the end, what matters most, is which crops you eat the most. Salad greens, for instance, are popular crops to grow at home because they don’t take up much space and who doesn’t love salad greens?
Another very space efficient option are microgreens or sprouts. They are often used as a lettuce replacement or to put on sandwiches and in roll ups.
Sprouting seeds are very affordable compared to the amount of food and its nutritional value yielded. You can grow a whole lot of sprouts from a few tablespoons of seeds. A few days after germination your fresh, vitamin and mineral rich homegrown foods are ready to eat. Both growing as storing the seeds doesn’t take up much space. Especially with a stacked sprouter.
Solar powered devices
Obviously solar panels and solar powered devices allow you to be economical. Because solar panels require installation they are not (explicitly) mentioned on this list. Charging your smartphone, tablet, or mp3 player with a solar charger won’t save you much.
- Getting for instance solar powered garden lighting will be more economically fruitful. Or even better, a solar powered air conditioner, makes a whole lot of sense.
Fireplace chimney draftstopper plug
- Sealing up your fireplace with a fireplace draftstopper plug or a chimney balloon helps you reduce your heating bill by preventing heat from escaping up your chimney. On top of that it prevents cold drafts and winds from outside entering and stops debris and odor.
A must-have for households with fireplaces and chimneys. These simple gadgets pay for themselves in no time by preventing considerable energy loss. (Chimneys and fireplaces are real heat drains)
Magnetic vent covers
- Central air conditioning vents in your home can be a source of drafts in winter increasing the need to turn up the thermostat. Magnetic vent covers offer a simple, affordable, effective, and decent solution to wasting energy. You can cut them to size and reuse them.
- Draft protectors are placed right under doors or in front of windows thus preventing air from flowing under them. This way you will ensure warm or cool air stays in the rooms you want it to be. Similarly, draft snakes are placed in front of doors to achieve the same intended effect.
Estimated savings: draft guards are said to reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 10%.
Relevant: standard home efficiency improvements can save you as much as 30% in costs. For instance, sealing windows and ducts and caulking cracks.
Shrink wrap storm window kit
- When it comes to insulation, there are always a few weak links in the chain. Drafty windows are your enemy since a lot of energy is lost there but window insulation film kits make for a simple and effective solution. These inexpensive inside storm window kits can help you raise interior temperature significantly.
You could also go for the DIY route with a bubble wrap hack. Instructables user kc8hps asserts that with this bubble wrap storm window modification the temperature in his bathroom increased by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Material costs, about 4 dollars.
Shrink wrap insulator kits often include window insulation film and a roll of double-sided mounting tape to create an airtight seal while maintaining a clear view
What do you think? Did we miss something? Want to add to this list? Let us know below or shoot an email.
Featured image Pixabay.