Frugal Friday Super Scary Halloween Edition

I know you’re thinking that Halloween has already passed and that I should have a different name for the October frugal round-up. But I wanted to remind everybody that now is the best time to purchase next year’s costume and Scary Halloween candy. Of course, if you have kids you can just set aside what they gathered this year trick-or-treating to give out next year.

It was a good month in the frugalosphere. Pragmatic Environmentalism pointed out that an IUD is the most cost effective of the non-abstinence methods of contraception. And Not Made of Money shared a tip for saving money on tailgate parties: hold them in your backyard to save on game tickets and parking.

Provident Planning had an important post Do It Yourself: Why Your Time Is Not Worth As Much As You Think. The author doesn’t quite say it, but the idea is that if you have time to read blogs you’ve got time to knit your own Swiiffer pads. It’s really just economics. If there is uncompensated leisure time in your day, then the marginal value of your time must be zero. You can’t argue with math.

Speaking of making your own stuff in your "free" time, we got two great new recipes. Living Cheap Now showed us how to make our own starch for ironing using corn starch. And Out of Debt Again shared a recipe for vanilla using vanilla beans.

Out of Debt Again also had a great tip on that recurring topic of frugal concern, the budget-busting cost of toilet paper. Apparently, at the right stores you can buy commercial-sized TP rolls. They may be more expensive on a per-roll basis, and they won’t fit in your home dispensers, but on a cost-per-square-foot basis they’re 25% cheaper.

Of course, using the commercial TP will leave you with extra rolls of the ordinary kind.  Not to worry, Frugal Girls has detailed instructions on how to make an "oh-so-cute" pumpkin you can use as a centerpiece using an ordinary (non-frugal size) roll of toilet paper.

Of course, pumpkins and Halloween occasioned a lot of tips last month. Kitchen Stewardship shared techniques for freezing unused pumpkin in ice trays, so as not to let any of this precious resource go to waste. Frugal Upstate gave no fewer than 12 ideas of what to do with left over candy, including my favorite, baking it into a leftover candy cake.

Frugal Upstate also had a great rundown of inexpensive costume ideas for the kids that you’ll want to bookmark for next year. One of them was "Hooker." Upstate or not, it’s still New York.

But regardless of the season, we frugalists continue on our journey. And sometimes that journey brings philosophical questions worthy of the finest Talmudic scholars.

Clever Dude quoted from a news story about a new UN program to send food vouchers to Iraqi refugees via cell phone texts. Not so cleverly, Mr. Dude asks why people with cell phone texting plans need $22 worth of food aid per family every other month. Silly Dude. This is just another example of how cell phones can save you money.

The Red Stapler Chronicles had an obviously scientific rundown of the The Most Common Things People Steal. The ethics of most of them have already been settled by our best frugal thinkers. (For example, sneaking food into a theatre is okay, sneaking into a movie you haven’t paid for is not.) But the post posed a new conundrum: is it okay to charge your cell phone at work to save on your electric bill? I say yes. It should be no more ethically questionable than using the bathroom before you leave work to save on your water bill.

But by far the biggest frugal ethics imponderable of the month was from The Simple Dollar. In a post that was part of its Ethical Frugality Week, a reader confessed to having refilled her husband’s expensive shampoo bottle with a cheap substitute. Of course, hubby has not noticed the difference. (Expensive products are always identical to cheap ones.) Should the wife fess up and tell the husband, or just continue secretly topping off his prestigious bottle with the cheap stuff?

On the one hand, as long as the husband never reflects on why he hasn’t needed a new bottle of shampoo in ten years, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. And he may not like finding out that he was experimented on.

But I believe that frugal ethics require the wife to tell the husband. Because as it is, the wife is depriving the husband of the joy of knowing that he is being frugal. After all, being frugal is not about saving money, in fact actually saving money is not necessary. It is about knowing that you are saving money.


  • By Patrick, November 6, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

    “(Expensive products are always identical to cheap ones.)”

    That’s classic.

    I usually don’t bother reading Friday link roundups on personal finance blogs, but yours are by far the most entertaining!

  • By Alexandra, November 6, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

    This edition made me grin.

    “After all, being frugal is not about saving money, in fact actually saving money is not necessary. It is about knowing that you are saving money.”

    And being non-frugal is not about spending money. It is about laughing at the frugal.

    And it’s free, so there!

  • By Paul Williams @ Provident Planning, November 6, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the link, Frank!

    Actually, the idea in my post had nothing to do with your uncompensated leisure time. It was more to do with the idea that by paying someone else you’re “saving money”.

    If you had read the second to last paragraph, you’d have gotten the point. It all depends on the value of your “replacement activity” – whatever you’re doing instead of doing it yourself. And the value of that activity is completely subjective – which leaves plenty of room for uncompensated leisure time.

    If your leisure time is worth more to you than what you’re paying someone else to do something you could do for yourself, then you’re getting a good value.

    So while you were getting paid the big bucks to manage your former hedge fund, I would never have said you were wasting your money because you paid someone else to change your oil or mow your yard – regardless of how you were spending the time it freed up for you.

    All the same, I’d love to have you do more analysis on anything I write. I enjoy your blog and appreciate the perspective you have on many issues. I also don’t want to make a big mistake somewhere and teach people to do something that is detrimental.

  • By Rob Bennett, November 6, 2009 @ 5:48 pm

    It’s a bad idea for wives to trick their husbands into doing good stuff (no matter how tempting an idea this must sometimes be).

    My now-wife (then-girlfriend) made a decision to try to help me with my coffee addiction by putting half-de-caf in the coffee she made me when we would read the Sunday newspaper together at her house on Sunday morning. After several months of this, it hit me that I suffered from a big headache every Sunday afternoon and not on any other days. Eventually, we figured out that it was the reduced caffeine causing this and that her attempt to better me was ruining my weekends.

    Ever since, whenever I don’t feel well, I wonder whether it is the result of some effort on her part to better me. You don’t forget this sort of thing.


  • By Dove, November 7, 2009 @ 11:44 am

    Wow. I wouldn’t sell the honesty and mutual respect in my marriage for ANY price. I can’t fathom selling it for a mere few bucks a month . . .

  • By Mrs. Accountability, November 8, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

    Thanks for the mention – the vanilla is truly delicious and so economical!

  • By Tyler, November 9, 2009 @ 9:17 pm

    I save even more money at my tailgate parties by not inviting any friends over. Fewer people to feed.

    As far as whether or not cheap products are the same,I used to work at an automotive fluids plant in college. We made name brand car wax and some stuff I’d never heard of. The stuff was the exact same, except for that when they would screw up mixing it, they would just throw it in the cheap bottles to avoid having to throw it out. So basically sometimes it is actually the same. Sometimes it is crap.

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