Frugal Friday – Mother’s Day Edition

It took longer than I thought it would to distill the best tips and frugal philosophy from the past month, so Frugal Friday is appearing late. I am sure you will agree it was worth the wait.

Leading off, there was another high-profile mention of one of the best money saving tips ever seen here, switching to printer fonts that use less ink. Alas,Lula with Alum Roll this one, at WiseBread, failed to bring up my follow-up idea, using shorter words and words that contain less ink-intensive letters.

WiseBread also brought us 12 Surprising Ways to Reuse Aluminum Foil. It is not a bad list, but I am not sure the word surprising can be applied to washing and reusing foil for its intended purpose. It does share the tidbit that “10th wedding anniversaries are traditionally celebrated by exchanging gifts made of aluminum.” I guess there is no romance like frugal romance. But they missed completely a 13th use, as headgear.

A third helping of wisdom from WiseBread told us about how it is a great idea to buy stuff you do not actually need at Office Depot so you can sell it to others.

Elsewhere in the frugalosphere, food was a big topic. Lazy Man and Money asked, rhetorically of course, is a 34 year-old too old to take advantage of free birthday food offers from restaurant chains? Helpfully, he points out that the establishments in question hardly ever actually ask for proof that it really is your birthday.

More good tips for saving while eating out came from Ask Mr. Credit Card. The post is about using discount coupons from That’s something all frugalists do already, but the blog did point out that if you are on an expense account, you can often submit the full undiscounted bill for reimbursement. Cryptically, the post adds that “your ethics may vary.”

But not all food discussion in April was so constructive. There was considerable backsliding from GRACEful Retirement in a post called The English Muffin Epiphany. In it, Grace is fooled into thinking that Thomas’ English Muffins are actually better than properly frugal store brands. Of course, this is absurd, as we all know that “prestige” brands like Thomas’ are not any better than the less expensive versions. People buy them strictly to impress their breakfast companions.

Clearly, the science of frugality is not a simple thing. The Centisible Life explored one of the more subtle points, in Frugal vs. Cheap-Which are You? Frugal people earn their saved money, by, for example, researching where to get the best deal rather than merely negotiating for it. Also, although a frugal person will save unused napkins and condiments from fast food meals, a cheap person would get fast food just so that he could score free napkins and condiments. That makes all the difference.

Our final frugal tip this month comes from new blog, Squirrelers, which tells us how to save on gasoline at the self-serve pump. Always put one cent more than a round dollar amount in your tank, for example $10.01 or $20.01 worth. Then, when you go inside to pay (in cash, of course) just grab a penny from the need-a-penny dish. If you did this every time you bought gas, you would save the equivalent of a free gallon in only a few short years.


  • By Aaron, May 8, 2010 @ 9:43 pm

    My thoughts feel so safe in foil.

  • By Coley, May 9, 2010 @ 2:36 pm

    I think at most gas stations cash paying customers are required to prepay. I’m not too familiar with the process because even when I started driving in high school I used my Dad’s credit card for gas; in fact I’m not sure if I have ever paid cash for gasoline. But I’ve seen many signs noting the requirement to prepay.

    If that’s the case, I think it’d be pretty funny to walk into the store to prepay, pull out, say, a $20 bill from your wallet, THEN take a penny from the dish, and say “Give me $20.01 on pump 3.”

    That’s not frugal. That’s cheap.

  • By craig, May 9, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

    Ah, Frank, how positively feline you can be at times.

    My mother’s frugality was legendary. She never bought Tupperware for leftovers–they were stored in whipped dessert topping bowls, which were themselves treasured and protected like the family silver. The funny thing is, I can never remember actually having whipped dessert topping when we were growing up…just the bowls. I assume my mother purchased a dozen such containers at the grocery store early in her marriage, then resolved to make them last. Mom, bless her, has long left this world behind, but on a visit to the family compound this past weekend, I stumbled over an aged and weathered whipped topping bowl in the garage. The lid was Kroger’s Cost Cutter brand from the early 1980s; the bottom was something else. The experience was Proustian; I nearly cry writing about it.

    Store brands, however, are always worth trying. In many cases, they are produced by the “name” companies on the same production lines; you’re just paying for the fancy label. And if you like the fancy label, you really only have to buy it once: I really like that Quaker on the oatmeal cylinder, so I refill my Quaker container with Publix-brand oatmeal every couple of weeks. My friends in the bartending trade call this a “downpour” when they give you Skyy instead of Grey Goose.

  • By jim, May 10, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

    Craig, my mom also reused the plastic tubs from whip cream or other stuff. The problem with those was that I could never tell which tub held what. They all looked alike.

  • By anonymous, March 2, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

    my classy mother would stock up on napkins (even though she has enough) and condiments/plastic utensils (two plastic grocery bags of them) at fast food restaurants if she were there buying food so she wouldn’t have to buy any at stores. she doesn’t go unless she’s buying food so that she would also save on gas. she also asks for extras “just in case”. now that’s cheap, doesn’t matter which way you cut it. plus, fast food napkins are like sand paper to your lips. i ask for one or two depending, but usually just one. easy enough right?

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