Our daughters have been great team players in our efforts to live more simply and frugally on this journey of becoming debt free. For the most part they’ve embraced the cutbacks, haven’t complained and have even come up with ideas for saving. But they haven’t been entirely happy about everything we do, or all of my ideas for cutting back or saving. For example, the other night I scored a huge pan of Chinese food that was leftover from the potluck dinner we attended. Part of the food that evening had been catered in – twice-fried chicken, lo mein, fried rice and stir-fry vegetables – and there was plenty left over. It was going to be thrown away, an absolute crime in my book these days, so I asked if I could take it home. I got a couple of funny looks from the “you take potluck leftovers?” crowd, but our girls were thrilled and enjoyed two days of tasty leftovers. I was a hero because I’d thought to score those leftovers.
What they weren’t crazy about though was that Mr. Losing It and I also asked if we could take all the empty cans for recycling. They too would have been thrown out, but in Oregon you can get back five cents for each can, and with 36 cans to be recycled I didn’t want to let $1.80 go into the trash. We have recycled cans and bottles for years, and I am not above picking up stray cans I find when I’m out walking. The girls tell me I’m cheap, but we’d pick up a nickel off the ground so why not a can worth five cents? I’ve also been known to stop if I’m driving by and see boxes of glass beer bottles out for recycling. The girls all duck down so no one will see them, but the last time I stopped I got over $6 worth of bottles to recycle. That $6, I reminded the girls, will cover the cost of a fruity drink with an umbrella in it some evening in Hawaii. I’m not as obsessive about picking up cans and bottles as I once was, and I don’t pick cans and bottles out of the trash, but otherwise every nickel counts and they add up quicker than you would think.
Our girls also don’t like that we no longer buy Kleenex or any other kinds of tissues (paper towels, either). We instead use cut-up t-shirts for handkerchiefs and rags around the house. The girls are terrified one of their friends is going to discover this cheap and potentially humiliating secret of ours some day. We do have nice cloth napkins for when company comes, and use regular toilet paper, but I otherwise can’t justify the cost and waste of paper tissues and paper towels these days.
Another cheap thing I do that sort of drives them nuts (and I can’t figure out why) is to ask for and bring home tea bags if any are left over at meetings or gatherings where coffee and tea have been provided. Lots of places, I discovered a while ago, throw the individually packaged tea bags away rather than reuse them (I was shocked to discover this), but I am happy to ask and often end up with a nice selection of gourmet tea bags. I think the girls would care less if I could find the type of tea they like (green tea with jasmine), but other than buying tea bags for them and loose lychee tea in the summer (it makes the best iced tea) I haven’t bought tea bags in years.
Mr. Losing also occasionally brings home some of the small condiment packages he gets at work. He’ll find he picked up more than he needs for that meal, and rather than throwing them away he brings them home and we put them away to take camping with us. The girls think this is another cheap thing we do, and roll their eyes when they see a packet out on the counter, but for me, free packets of catsup, mustard, relish and mayonnaise are a lot easier to pack and store on a camping trip than jars of condiments.
Do you have any frugal or cheap habits or ideas that make your family cringe?