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6 Frugal Habits That Stuck (+ 5 that didn’t)

Guest post from Jennifer:

In 2009, I became a mom for the first time and my husband got the “job of his dreams” (or so we thought).

In 2010, I lost my job… and my husband’s “dream job” wasn’t turning out the way we thought it would. In other words, we were broke. Not so broke that we couldn’t pay our bills, but broke enough that we could ONLY pay our bills.

My first thought was: “if I can’t MAKE money I can at least SAVE money.”

Here are a 6 things we started doing 9 years ago (and continue to do today!)

1. We Buy Bulk Rice

At one point we were literally on a “beans and rice” budget, so much so that we bought rice 25 pounds at a time! It’s so cheap in bulk at Costco (we shared a membership with my husbands parents) that it just made sense.

Even though we are much more financially secure now, we still buy our rice 25 pounds at a time and love having it on hand for a quick side dish.

2. We Cut Hair at Home

Do you know what a haircut for a child costs? We paid over $20 for my child’s 1st haircut!

Once our 2nd child arrived, I quickly realized I needed to invest in a $25 hair trimmer, watch some You Tube videos, and learn how to cut my kids (and husbands) hair.

There was a learning curve at the beginning, but with some practice I can now do a pretty good fade on all three of my boys — my husband now shaves his head!

3. We Shop at Thrift Stores


We get great quality, brand named clothes for a fraction of the price!

If I were to give you a tour of our house you would be shocked on how many things (furniture, clothes, decor, tools, toys, etc) have come from thrift stores. It just saves us money, and it’s a thrill to get items for a fraction of the cost.

Even our “Santa” shops second hand!

4. We Buy Groceries at Aldi

This switch took me longer than I’d like to admit.

I thought coupons were the way to go at the beginning of our struggles, and it may be for some. I was blinded by free toothbrushes and cake mixes and didn’t realize these coupons were actually costing me more time and money than we had.

Aldi is a magical place where food is cheap and coupons aren’t needed. I am Aldi loyal and always will be.

5. We Make Food From Scratch

I quickly realized that processed food cost more, I always knew this, but now it mattered. So I pulled out my Betty Crocker cookbook and made my own food.

We made French fries, homemade waffles, biscuits, oatmeal packets, and Hamburger Helper Meals just to name a few. This was great because homemade tastes better and is usually better for you!

Since eating out wasn’t much of an option, we also found recipes of our favorite restaurant food. I can now make some amazing orange chicken, and an outstanding pizza crust.

I still make homemade waffles weekly for breakfast and my biscuits are a family favorite!

6. We Sell Stuff to Buy Stuff

During our lean years, all money that came in went to bills and food, there wasn’t a lot left for “stuff” like clothes, electronics, toys, new furniture and so on. If we wanted to get new things we looked around our house to see what we could sell in order to get the money.

For example, we really wanted a new sectional but was not prepared to make such a large purchase.

I then started looking around our house to see what was more important, the old elliptical I never used or a new sectional? An old sofa or new sectional? Finally we made enough to pay for a new-to-us sectional without using any money from our accounts!

We do similar things now, we try our hardest to sell stuff we don’t use anymore in order to buy stuff we want/need. This way of doing things has allowed us to be debt free and build up our savings.

Although there are plenty of frugal habits we have continued through the years, there are a few frugal habits that didn’t stick around after our very lean “beans and rice” years…

1. We no longer wash ziplock bags to reuse them.

2. We no longer make our own laundry detergent.

I buy whatever is on sale at Costco.

3. We no longer cut dryer sheets in half.

I now get a little crazy and put in the whole sheet… sometimes two!

4. We no longer say, “We can’t afford it.”

Instead, we say: “That’s not how we want to spend our money.”

I say this a lot in front of our kids, I want them to know that we’re okay financially but that doesn’t mean that we will buy whatever they want.

5. I no longer put my needs and wants on the back burner.

I did this for years and years… but now I treat myself to quality makeup and skincare products, and I don’t feel guilty.

Even though we are in a much better place financially, I always have a frugal mindset about how we spend, and save our money. I’m blessed to be a stay at home mom to 4 kids and watch my husband thrive in his career (which wouldn’t be what it is today without that first “disappointing” job so many years ago).

God really does have a funny way of working things out.

I’m Jennifer, a stay at home mom to 4 children. I’ve been married to John for 12 years and we are happy to live in the suburbs of Kansas City! I love staying home with my kids, working out, watching way too much TV, and crafting!

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  • Kate says:

    Thank you!! Try dryer balls for a really frugal splurge!!!

  • Amy Thetford says:

    Great ideas! We are moving next month to a place with an Aldi (finally!) and I’m so excited to check it out! We have been in “beans and rice” mode for years it seems like, but we are finally starting to claw our way out of those pesky bad habits (fast food is the worst!) and get to a place of financial stability!

    I always love reading posts by other frugal mamas! I love the fresh ideas and the camaraderie shared between other moms trying to give their families the best life possible!

  • Julie says:

    I enjoyed this post, Jennifer! We have a lot in common! I too feel like getting a haircut is crazy expensive…so I only go once every year or two! Couponing does take a lot of time and energy – unfortunately we don’t have Aldi’s around here but between WinCo, Grocery Outlet, and utilizing digital coupons and mark-downs at our Kroger affiliate stores we get some good deals. I exclusively shop for clothes and toys at thrift stores and we pretty much only buy things on $1 color tag days. I had to laugh though, I repack my kids lunches in the same ziplock bags over and over (for non-messy things like PB sandwiches, crackers, chips)…and I tear my dryer sheets in half! Thanks for sharing!

  • Jennifer says:

    This is very similar to my view of saving money! I love shopping at Aldi and cooking from scratch. I have decided washing ziplocs is not for me, I will just buy reusable containers and use those instead 😉 And I think your last point is a good one. If you spend a little more on things that are a priority to you, it makes living frugally feel so much less restrictive!

  • Chris says:

    I recently found out you can use Dawn dish soap to wash your laundry. Only use a VERY SMALL amount, a tablespoon or less, to keep it from sudsing up. I have used the homemade laundry detergent before and after while, my clothing would be dingy. I also read it can be bad for pipes. I wash freezer ziplock bags but not lunch baggies. 🙂

  • Chris says:

    Thank you for sharing posts like these, Crystal. I love them!

  • Carolyn says:

    It is important to find a balance, no doubt. We insource where we can. We have a garden with fruit trees, berry bushes and grow a ton of vegetables. I can, freeze and make jams. We keep bees and chickens. We sell eggs and honey as a side gig as well as for our own use. Saves a lot in our grocery bill and we know that the food we grow is not laced with poisons.
    Hubby is the primary chef, sadly I admit he cooks better than me, but the upside is that he does all of the cooking. He doesn’t buy processed foods, he likes to cook with single ingredients and doesn’t buy anything with high fructose corn syrup or soybean products. The cost per pound of processed foods and snacks is more expensive that prime rib! Why pay a premium price for garbage?
    I have shopped at the salvation army store and bought pants for my boys that were like new for only a couple bucks a pair. We also exchange hand-me-downs with friends and family as kids outgrow clothes so fast.
    We do haircuts at home to save a lot of money. Hubby is the family barber/stylist. I bought a good set of Wahl clippers a few years back and hubby had good hair shears, not a cheap throwaway pair. Boys get their haircuts every three-four weeks, I take a seat and get my tresses trimmed by him every 8-10 weeks. Hubby cuts his own, but doesn’t shave himself bald, I wouldn’t like that, he doesn’t give my boys skin head shaves either. They are teens and want their haircuts a certain way. Hubby watched YouTube videos and accomodates them. We don’t waste money at the barbershop or salon when we get better results at home. My mother watched him give the boys their haircuts and said it looked too difficult, she would just shave them bald. This is the same woman who used to cut my bangs too short and say they looked cute. She also thought it was terrible that he cut my hair for me until she got a really bad haircut at the salon she paid way too much for. She then was complaining about how bad it was cut and that my hubby would have done a much better job and it would be free. I told her that is why I don’t go to the salon and don’t be a stubborn fool, just ask him to give you a haircut next time. So she did, and surprise, low and behold she liked her free haircut and it became her idea to have him cut her hair because he does such a nice job on the boys’ haircuts. Go figure. I was surprised that hubby, Mr Meticulous, said that doing the haircuts for me, my mom and my best friend’s hair is easier than doing the boys’ haircuts. It takes him longer to do ours as we have longer hair, but the boys’ haircuts are more detailed and less forgiving for any errors as theirs is shorter. That does make sense to me, but I don’t understand why people are brainwashed to think giving the guys haircuts at home is a great idea, but the women shouldn’t get their haircuts and home and save money too, but have to go to the salon.
    We have pyrex galore that we use to bake, store food and warm up leftovers. And I pack my lunch with small pyrex containers to bring to work. I bring my own coffee and a small jug of water as our well water is better tasting than from the drinking fountain.
    We have an antenna on the roof for free tv channels, no pay tv and internet only by cable, no expensive bundle. 26 crystal clear broadcast channels is plenty. We don’t need 200 channels of junk we don’t watch.
    We buy good tools that cost more as they last and are an investment. One repair project easily exceeds the cost of the tool, especially plumbing and electrical work. A $75 bathroom faucet would cost $125 to have a plumber install it, it takes hubby 30 minutes. We were both raised to do things for ourselves versus just paying someone else to do it for us. So I think that attitude helps us to be more responsible with our financial resources.

  • Cherie says:

    Thank you Jennifer for your frugal living ideas! Enjoyed reading about you and your beautiful family.

  • Kristin says:

    Thanks for your post, Jennifer! I am frugal by nature coming from a large family with 5 siblings. My husband was an only child. It’s been a learning curve for both of us. I’ve had to “let go” of some things myself and teach hubby things along the way. For example, he would need toothpaste and stop at the nearest drug store to buy it. We now coupon for it when it’s on sale and have a supply. That was the way he was raised.

    It’s fun to see your frugal mindset change as things change in your financial situation (for better or worse). In lean times, we certainly appreciate what we have in fruitful times.

  • Amy says:

    How do you store the big bags of rice once they have been opened?

  • Diane says:

    I love point #4. I’m going to start using that phrase from now on!
    Another way to save is by using half as much laundry detergent as the package suggests. I learned that trick from my high school home ec teacher many years ago, and your clothes come out just as clean.

  • Guest says:

    So appreciate your post, Jennifer. Love your reminder to us all that sometimes our “dream” isn’t the best God has to offer us. And also love that you share the difference between your truly broke days and your not fully broke days. 😉 One of the things I struggled with when we moved out of the saving every penny stage was…gosh, what does my life look like now that I can afford to buy fresh flowers occasionally – SHOULD I?!? Now if someone enjoys washing out Ziploc baggies – knock yourself out! 😉

  • Amanda says:

    I LOVE posts like this, thank you! And can I just say how impressed I am that you’ve got the fade down? I’ve been working at it for 12 years, and it’s still a struggle. 🙂

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