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Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments and Garage Sale Finds

Hamish Discovers Grass The Prudent Homemaker

Hamish discovers grass in this beautiful classic baby outfit that I purchased for $4 at a garage sale.


The weather was perfect this week. We enjoyed having the windows open all day long every day. We only had to use the fans for a few hours this past week.

I brought the electric bill down $43 this past week from what the electric company estimated by bill to be this month. Each week, I receive an estimated bill amount, based on past and current usage. I always challenge myself to bring it lower than the estimated amount. The week before I brought it down $10. My bill will now be $53 less than it would have been. I continue to be diligent in turning things off when not in use, using the lights less, even in the early morning before sunrise (For instance, I use the single light over the tub rather than the entire set of bathroom lights while showering, using one bulb instead of 8, and even though our kitchen has no windows, I keep the kitchen lights off as much as possible once the sun is up.) I have 8 days remaining and I am trying to bring the bill down even more, as always, though it will be more of a challenge this week as temperatures won't have dropped as much, so I'll have to be more creative and mostly more diligent about my electricity usage in order to achieve my goal of coming in under the estimated amount. Last week's electricity cost $22 for the week ($3.14 a day). I know I can get it just a little lower (just under $3 a day) when the weather is as good as this if I am diligent.

From the garden, I harvested Armenian cucumbers, rosemary, cherry tomatoes, peppermint, and chives. We cut lots of fresh peppermint for herbal teas, which we had with breakfast or else for snacks with either homemade bread or homemade oatmeal cranberry white chocolate chip cookies.

While pulling weeds, I accidentally pulled a branch of a bush that had been growing where it should not have been. It had rooted under the dirt, so I planted it in the garden where I am making a new hedge.

I used free samples of beauty products.

I made yogurt in the crockpot.

I am diligently working to use up as much as possible from our freezers this month. I want to use up the old things before the turkey, ham, and other harvest and holiday food sales of November and December. I cooked a ham this week, some whole chickens (I cooked two at once to save on natural gas as well as to save time on two busy nights; it was too windy to use the solar oven so they cooked together in one pan in the oven along with baked potatoes at the same time), and made some inexpensive things such as homemade Rice-a-Roni and several salads with leftover chicken and homemade salad dressing.

I mended a pair of jeans and the case for an item where the zipper had come unattached from the case.

I read an e-book from the library on my phone.

I collected shower warm-up water and used it to water potted plants in the garden.

I did some free French study, listening to YouTube videos the teach French.

Saturday was the community garage sale in our area, where several master-planned communities have garage sales. There are so many communities having sales on the same morning that it is impossible to visit all of them before lunchtime, when most people close up, even though the houses are all within a 2-3 mile radius. The people who live in these neighborhoods are only allowed to have garage sales two weekends a year on specific dates. The houses are close together; often, I can park in one place and walk to two or three houses having a sale next to one another.

This time, I went to the two neighborhoods that in the past have been the places where I've had great success in finding items on my list. The pickings were slim this year, though, with fewer sales and fewer items for sale. I noticed this trend in April as well. One neighborhood of about 75 houses usually has 30-50 sales. This time only 3 or 4 houses had items for sale in that tract.

Frustrated with not even finding many sales worth stopping at, I left those neighborhoods and went to other tracts close by.

I stopped at a sale that completely surprised me. First, I found some plastic links that babies play with, an item that was on my list as most of mine have gone missing. I then walked from the seller's driveway into the garage and found a plethora of classic baby boy clothing. This is not a style that one even finds for sale in this part of the country, but the seller had moved here from South Carolina, and she was selling smocked and other classic clothing. I have always wanted to buy these for my boys; I have bought a few for my girls online in the past, and I know that even on eBay, these clothing items go for $20-$30 each used, plus shipping! She was selling the outfits for $4 each (most being two-piece items, such as a smocked romper with a shirt underneath). She said if I bought a bunch, she would make me a deal, and she did, giving me an extra $15 off the clothing I purchased after I made a large pile! She also gave me a large bag of disposable nursing pads for free.

I also bought some clear plastic drawer organizers from her to use in the bathrooms ($1) each. I took them home and my eldest daughter was able to use one to organize hair supplies in the bathroom where the girls do their hair, and I used one for makeup and one for hair supplies in my bathroom, so three drawers were organized in my house this week. My daughter said the organization of the bobby pins made doing her hair faster the next morning. I love how a little organization saves time every day! If my mother had told me this as a child I wouldn't have believed her, as I always had a messy room, so mothers of children with messy rooms, take heart!

I found two men's ties for $0.50 each. One I will gift to my eldest son and the other to my husband for Christmas.

I bought two silicone baking mats for $0.25 each. I use these often for baking instead of parchment paper, and they're fantastic to line a half-sheet pan to freeze fruit that you don't want to stick together into one hard lump (such as berries or sliced peaches). I freeze them first on those and then put them into a freezer bag once the entire pan is frozen, so I can take out as many or as few as I would like. 

I purchased three boxes of new-in-the-box LED Christmas net lights to use outside for $3 a box.

At another sale, I found a small inflatable toddler pool that had only been used once by a grandmother when her grandchildren came to visit ($10). My children have been wanting one of these. At the same sale, I found several pairs of brand-new earrings (marked at $2 a pair) and a little toddler plate with a matching fork and spoon ($1).

What did you do to save money last week? 



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  • Cindi October 15, 2018

    What terrific garage sale finds! And I'm very impressed with your electricity savings. So inspiring.
    We had the first snow of the year – it melted off after a day, but was pretty while it lasted. That morning, just as the snow began to stick, I went out to harvest raspberries and chard. On the way back to the house, I spotted a clump of four large shaggy mane mushrooms. I brought them into the house and sautéed them in butter and a little sherry and stuck them in the freezer to use later.

    We are still getting lettuce and tomatoes from the greenhouse and chard, collards, and raspberries from the garden beds. We disconnected the garden irrigation due to freezing temps at night. I’ll continue to water the greenhouse by hand.

    I made a batch of homemade pancake syrup.

    I mended my husband’s pajama pants, took in a pair of my jeans, and made four Christmas gifts.

    Our neighbors left to spend the winter in Florida and gave us their perishable leftovers, including almost a dozen eggs and a large bag of fresh spinach.

  • Maxine October 15, 2018

    Cindi (and everyone else), please tell us about the gifts that you make! Also, Brandy, great scores at the yard sales...and what a cute little boy!

    A friend was cleaning up her garden after our first frost and gave me a bunch of cherry-type tomatoes. I also picked up windfall Italian prune/plums. I have been feeding my compost pile (3 plastic garbage cans) with kitchen scraps and dryer lint.

    We sold our freezer with the other house. It was 23 years old, had gotten to be too big for us and wasn't worth storing and moving. My husband and I decided last week that we needed a freezer again. Lowe's and Home Depot advertised the same 13.8 cf Frigidaire upright for $478 and $479. I went online and bought a Kenmore of the same size for $395 after $30 promo code. I will also receive $80 worth of Shop Your Way reward points, which I plan to use for Christmas shopping. And I'd better do it quick—before Sears goes bankrupt.

    I used coupons on my phone for 40% and 60% off two items at Jo-Ann’s, saving $5.60. Both are for my second Operation Christmas Child shoebox (girl 10-14). If I’d known I was going to do two, I would have bought more school supplies when they were cheap!

    I got a screwdriver with extra bits in the handle free with purchase at Harbor Freight for my boy (10-14) OCC box. I have a coupon for a free measuring tape, but I didn’t get it because it wasn’t metric.

    Good news on my newish freebie plants—I haven’t killed any of them yet! The philodendron cutting has put out a new leaf, the aloe has 3 new offsets and the spider plant is throwing a baby! Also, I brought my Christmas cactus indoors and put it in a dark room…and 10 days later, it is now covered in buds! (Hoping to keep it alive until Christmas, LOL).

    I mended a shirt of my husband’s…which was a hand-me-down from our 40-y-o son! Frugal fail--the dog threw up on my bedspread, and it went all the way through to the mattress pad. I got it out of my sheets on the second try, but there is a big stain on my summer bedspread that I don't seem to be able to remove...and it's not that I haven't tried (four times). Mending and stain removal are part of the “usual frugal stuff” at our house.

  • Nancy October 15, 2018

    Have you tried Hydrogen peroxide with some Oxi clean? It worked on a stain on my husband's white shirt

  • Maxine October 15, 2018

    No, I haven't tried hydrogen peroxide with Oxi, and I have both. (Oxy in the wash water is one of the many things I have done, but I haven't used hydrogen peroxide). How do I do it? (I can think of a couple of different ways). Each time I have washed it, a little more has come out, and then I have dried it in the sun for some extra bleaching. I think I might be able to stand using this with just a pale stain. Or not, LOL. If not, I'll donate the spread to the animal shelter for dog bedding. Funny thing, this is the first time in my life I have had more than one spread at a time.

  • Tina October 15, 2018

    You may want to try a mixture of Dawn dishwashing detergent, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda, there is no real science to it I just put some of each on and scrub with the toothbrush. So far in has saved several of my shirts that had underarm stains.

  • Cindi October 15, 2018

    Maxine, I made a pair of pajama pants for my husband, knit two scarves for my choir director and our choir accompanist -- using yarn from my stash. I made this pin cushion for my MIL, who collects all things owl. https://www.craftsy.com/sewing/patterns/little-owl-pin-cushion-template-and-tutorial-/291826 .
    I decorated two flour sack towels for my MIL. I learned this week that you can write on flour sack towels with Sharpie markers! I laid out a couple of funny sayings on my computer (I used Canva, a free program), printed them out, then laid a towel over the design and traced it with an extra fine point Sharpie, then filled it with a fine point Sharpie. Then I starched and ironed the towels. They look like they were screen-printed. Best of all, the whole process only took about an hour for two towels. I purchased the towels in a 4-pack at Target with a gift card ages ago.

  • Maxine October 15, 2018

    This is what I love to hear! I started making Christmas presents last year (Brandy's influence) and I had a great time. I have no particular abilities except for basic sewing and cooking skills. (I can knit dish cloths if you don't look at them too closely). I just love hearing about things that most anyone can do. Everyone liked what I made them last year...of course, I pinned a large Amazon gift card to each one.......! I hope everyone that makes gifts this year will let us know what they make.

  • Margaret @ApproachingFood October 15, 2018

    Cindi, I love your idea of using Sharpies to 'screen-print' on flour sack towels! What a clever idea? So the Sharpies don't wash out?

  • Cindi October 15, 2018

    No -- it's permanent ink. After it dries it is set. (I think ironing helps set it, too). I can't promise they won't fade a little with bleaching, but screen-printing does that, too. And I can't take credit for this as an original idea -- I saw it on Pinterest.

  • Rhonda A. October 15, 2018

    Sharpies will dissolve with rubbing alcohol. Not sure if regular alcohol (vodka, wine, etc.) will dissolve it or not. Otherwise, if you heat set the marker, it should be relatively permanent. It may fade with time and washing, though. Still a really cute gift idea. Even if it does fade, the towel will still work!

  • Robbie October 21, 2018

    What a cool idea!

  • Elizabeth October 18, 2018

    My standard remedy is to soak things for four days in a strong solution of Tide detergent. It will even undinge the clothes people give my daughter for her girls.

  • Sarah October 15, 2018

    What a great yard sale score! I've had similar luck on the facebook marketplace. Scored a bag of my daughter's next size up, all barely used name brand stuff for $30- she will have everything she needs for fall/winter next year. Joining in here: https://frugalfive.com/2018/10/13/frugal-5-10-12-18/

  • Holly October 15, 2018

    I am so happy for you for finding the classic outfits for little boys. My nephew-in-law banned those English styles for his son which made the older women related to his wife sad. We have to settle for minature modern menswear when shopping for his sons. On the bright side, his edict saved us lots of time and money.
    Mom's eating and drinking has varied during the week. I had to throw out a lot. But Friday she drank more and on Saturday, I promised we could go to dinner if she drank enough for me to be confident she could make it back up the porch steps. She did and we did. We split my favorite meal at a local restaurant and she ate almost as much as she had the previous two days combined. Yesterday, she did fine too. The bathing aide commented on what a difference adequate foid and water had made. My sister had told us that her youngest son had cried and cried when he heard his grandma was not doing very well at all because he was hoping to go to the parks nearby with her (probably especially the inflatable water park at the state park his nieces went to this year) when they all visit her here next summer. His tears might have given grandma the encouragement she needed to take in more nourishment despite being very old and very tired.
    I took advantage of 20% off and $4.95 shipping at Joann.com to get two Dr. Suess blanket kits ($8 each instead of $29.99 regular price) and six yards of fleece. I will sew and topstitch by hand the blankets instead of tying the edges.

  • Julia October 23, 2018

    Holly, these water jelly candies might help your mom stay more hydrated. They look and taste like candy but they are 90% water. I think 6-7 of them equals a cup of water. https://mymodernmet.com/lewis-hornby-jelly-drops/

  • Susan October 15, 2018

    Busy saving money in the kitchen. I made chicken potato soup by first making chicken broth on the stove top from frozen chicken carcasses. I then finished the soup in my crock pot using one large bone in breast and bits of chicken from my chicken broth. Hubby said best soup I have ever made. Wanted donuts so made donut muffins. My one son eats turkey sausage links every day for breakfast and I ran out of the store bought kind. Made turkey sausage from ground turkey and it is delicious. Never going back to Jimmy Dean sausage and homemade is so much cheaper. Homemade sloppy Joes for Sunday lunch. homemade Swedish meatballs with mustard sauce(recipe called for 1/4 cup of heavy cream but I used evaporated milk instead plus small pat of butter) served with whole cranberry sauce from Aldi that I added orange zest and small amount of orange juice then mixed together.
    My son is in a job training program working in several restaurants and needed non-skid restaurant shoes. I remembered I had some in the garage that my daughter used to wear and they fit him perfectly. Going through closets and drawers to get rid of clothes that no longer fit my adult children that live at home. All 3 have Down syndrome and all 3 work! Found dress pants for both boys at consignment shop and went right to place that does my alterations. I don't have a sewing machine or hem pants. Found a cashmere dress coat for my husband that he can use for work at the same consignment shop and it was 20% off.
    I bought a $1 box of marigold seeds in the Spring and planted them everywhere. They are blooming profusely. Next year I will buy 2 boxes. I didn't buy any annuals this year saving money there. Between my perennials, plants given to me and the seeds our yard looked great. Happy frugaling everyone.

  • Holly October 15, 2018

    Save your marigold seeds from a few of this year's blooms.

  • Cindy Brick October 15, 2018

    I agree -- it works great, and they seem to do even better as plants, because they've adapted to your particular climate and area. Pull the spent flowers off after they've dried a little, store in a plastic bag. Next year, throw them out on the area you want marigolds in.
    I have two large planters (old metal tubs) that have reseeded themselves this way for at least 4 years...and every year, the flowers get nicer.

    Also -- for the dog-stained bedspread...if you can't get it clean, try cutting the bedspread in squares, and using it as batting for potholders. My mom does this a lot with used mattress pads.

  • Stacey October 15, 2018

    I have also seen less and less at garage sales and thrift stores this year. I think these things must go in cycles. I remember it being that way in my area after 2008 for awhile. I'm glad you found some treasures. Those clothes sound great.

    Last week was frugal in some areas and not frugal in others. We get paid every two weeks, so I do my grocery shopping every two weeks. My kids like to empty the cupboards as soon as they are full so we swing back and forth feasting one week and famine the next. I'm trying to teach them something, but I'm not sure it's getting through yet. There's plenty to eat, but it has to be prepared.

    Spent the weekend reorganizing the first floor, and repeatedly going to the store to pick up 99 cent per pound chicken that was limit 10 pounds per transaction. I really miss Zaycon. It was so much easier. So tonight we will cut up and freeze our 90 pounds of sale chicken breast, and hopefully that will get us through the next few months.

    My daughters car battery died three different times on her way home from school. Once we were able to jump it. Once we replaced the battery, and the last time, we had to call AAA and have it towed home, so obviously a bigger problem like maybe the alternator. I need to save up cash for this repair, so my husband is getting her to class for the next few weeks. She also had an interview for an internship at a local nursing home working with the memory care patients and she will find out Tuesday if she got the position. Her final CNA training is in this same type of work, and so far she really enjoys it. This place is less than a mile from our home, so it would save her a lot of gas and commuting time. Time she could put towards studying when she gets into the nursing program. Fingers crossed.

    Other than that, we made a lot of bread and bakery from scratch,cooked from the pantry and freezer, and tried not to spend money. An ongoing lesson in creative problem solving!

    Also, I wanted to ask about fragrance free products that you might know of or recommend, especially shampoo. We have been using Free and Clear or the Walgreens generic version and it just doesn't work for our hair. Any suggestions, even recipes for homemade would be welcome.

  • We do as much fragrance free stuff as possible here, but shampoo is one that eludes me.

    Here is what we use that is fragrance free:

    Mens' deodorant: Speed Stick unscented
    Women's deodorant: Secret unscented
    Hairspray: Salon Graphix unscented. There is NO masking fragrance like there is in other "unscented" hairsprays.

    I use Aveeno body lotion.

    Then we are mild on soaps and shampoos, making sure the scent isn't too strong.

    I make my homemade laundry soap (recipe under "Make" at the top of the site) and I don't use dryer sheets. I started making homemade soap 14 years ago in order to avoid fragrance, as my husband is really sensitive to it.

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