You know what they say…Moms know best. And seriously, my mother is probably one of the most frugal people I know. My parents have improved their economic situation so much since I was growing up, so I think they’ve loosened the reigns a bit on the frugality, but when they were trying to get ahead, every penny counted!
1. Reuse Everything!
My parents reused EVERYTHING growing up. They reused paper towels, saran wrap, grocery bags, sandwich bags, wrapping paper, and plastic and glass containers!
I remember my mom always used one of those small tiny cottage cheese containers or tofu boxes to hold our sponges at the sink. Speaking of the sink, we always hand washed bunches of greasy sandwich bags and saran wrap to be reused later! If I washed my hands and ripped a new paper towel to dry my hands, my mom would demand I leave it on the counter to dry so she could use it later to wipe down something.
Birthdays and Christmas were times when my sisters and I would carefully pluck the tape off presents from friends so we could save all our wrapping paper or gift bags to reuse later.
We reused apple juice containers to hold our vegetable/cooking oil and other condiments, which of course were bought in bulk at Costco.
We reused old tshirts as rags for cleaning around the house. We reused scrap paper and flyers as scratch paper for math.
All of these hacks probably saved tons of $$$ over the years not to mention the carbon footprint friendliness of everything! I have to say, I don’t have the self control to live like this and reuse everything, the only thing that really carried over for me (sadly?) is the reusing plastic and paper bags.
It’s really interesting because my parents really decorate with company in mind. The places in their house that look the nicest are the ones that guests could see–things like furniture and decor. The things they don’t care about being aesthetically pleasing are things they have to look at every day. I’m the opposite. I care about how guests see my home, but I care more about having a space that feels aesthetic to me. Meaning I’m that person who splurges on uniform plates and containers just for my own viewing pleasure. Hey, it’s not my fault…we live in the world of aesthetic lifestyle blogging!
2. Shop Sales/Thrift Stores/Yard Sales for Everything
Clothing is a huge money sink especially when it comes to shopping for kids. My mom was a firm believer that we would grow out of our clothes within 6 months – 1 year so she almost never purchased anything new. 90% of clothes she bought for me and my sisters were always gently used items from a yard sale/thrift store/or 90% off from Kohl’s. She was the thrift queen before thrifting was in.
Other items, especially home goods are definitely things you don’t need to purchase new. Plate sets or vases or infrequently used kitchen gadgetry are great items to pick up at a yard sale or thrift store. Having worked in Retail especially in the home goods department, I can attest to this. Home goods aren’t really of high value but are the kind of item you need to have on hand. When I worked at Macy’s, various things were sold at a discounted price probably 80% of the year.
Again, very carbon footprint friendly habits!
3. Shop For Christmas A Year Early
12/26 is your best friend.
The day after Christmas is full of GREAT deals. All the gift sets that go unsold are marked on clearance. All the Christmas wrapping paper that were selling at $5/roll are selling for $1. Cute little Christmas themed stuffed toys or coloring books are 50-90% off.
My mom always took advantage of these day after sales and bought a bunch of the clearance Christmas sets to stock up on gifts for acquaintances for the following year.
4. Shop Off Season
Yep, my mom was a biiig fan of buying winter clothes at the tail end of winter and summer clothes at the tail end of summer. It works really well, though I don’t really know if she ever accidentally bought the wrong size because the point mentioned above about children growing out of clothes so quickly!
5. Buy Multi-Purpose Items
We never ever ever used something that wasn’t all purpose. Every cleaner in our entire house was a multi-purpose cleaner (well, except maybe the carpet stain remover). To top it off, we’d always buy the GIANT bulk size refill at Costco and just keep refilling the spray bottles.
When it came to kitchen gadgets, my parents only had 3 knives–a meat cleaver, a vegetable knife, and a paring knife. We didn’t even own a veggie peeler for the longest time because my parents peeled everything with a paring knife. I did some knife sales for Cutco at the end of high school and was actually just shocked to find there were so many different types of knives…like one for cutting bread. Wow!
6. Use A/C and Heat Sparingly
During the summer, our house was always too hot. During the winter, our house was always too cold. My parents hated paying so much for utilities! Because we had a 2 story, 4 bedroom house, the utilities were another huge money sink. I basically lived wrapped in a blanket or bundled in 2 jackets during the winter.
I think my parents have gotten more lenient on this one ever since they moved to a new house. Their bedroom happens to be above the garage which is usually the coldest room in the house. And it just so happens in my childhood home, my room was the one above the garage
7. Never Let Savings Slip By
Whenever my mom went back to China, I would be astonished by her aggressive bargaining skills–it was insane! I wish I could ask for a raise the way she bargained!! She would literally cut prices by at least half.
The other thing she always did was double check her receipts. She never let a cashier accidentally charge her more for an item that was on sale…she would always go back into the store to argue for that dollar back. I think this is more of a good habit than a huge savings hack–being in the habit of always defaulting to going back will save you a lot of money in the long run!
If there was a coupon, she’d have it prepped and ready at a grocery store or at a retail store. She pretty much always waited out a good deal instead of doing what so many of us (including me!) do today which is wait a really short period for an acceptable sale.
What were some crazy smart frugal things your parents did? Do you think you picked up anything from them?? I definitely picked up frugal thinking, but I don’t do 90% of the things my mom did!