Thursday, January 4, 2024

17 things frugal people never buy

Here's an article I stumbled across entitled "17 Things Frugal People Never Buy." Being deeply interested in the issue of frugality, I clicked on the piece with interest. How would we measure up?

"Those of us who are frugal know deep in our bones that there are things we would never, ever pay for. Ever," begins the article. "If you have the tightwad gene, you can probably feel your skin crawl at the mere thought of plunking down hard-earned cash on certain items. Following are some things sensible spenders avoid buying at all costs."

The first – the very first – thing listed is ... books.

Books, we are told, is "where you can separate merely cautious spenders from the true hardcore tightwads. The latter will only buy books as a last resort. The library is king for truly frugal readers. We’ll even resort to interlibrary loans if we must."

The older I get, the more I marvel at how little value people place on a home library for both reference and entertainment. Putting aside the issue of limited library resources in deeply rural areas, who doesn't want to just be able to pluck a book off the shelf and dive in? Books don't have to be expensive. Ninety-nine percent of our books were purchased second-hand.

I have to admit, this first listing was poised to put me completely off the rest of the article. Fortunately things improved after that.

Here are the other things frugal people purportedly never buy.

Bottled water. Agreed. Of course, it helps that our well water tastes delicious.

The latest technology. I just paused in the writing of this blog post to light up our wood cookstove to start heating the house. This tells you everything you need to know about how we feel on "the latest technology."

Lottery tickets. Agreed. Of course, part of our disinclination to purchase lottery tickets is our concern of what would happen if we actually won.

A brand-new car. This made me chuckle because at the moment all three of our vehicles are out of commission. One is being repaired, one is due to be repaired in about three weeks (the earliest the mechanic could squeeze us in), and our 33-year-old pickup truck has been temperamental to the point where we may be shopping for another truck in the very near future. Despite these challenges, it would never in a million years occur to us to purchase a new vehicle. Chief among the reasons is price. Who can afford to buy new? We refuse – we absolutely refuse – to go into debt to purchase transportation. We'll limp along with our cadre of used vehicles, just as we always have.

$5 coffee. Well, since I loathe coffee, this is no hardship. I do, however, purchase the occasional $5 chai tea latté. However since this is limited to about three times per year, I don't think I'm going overboard. As for Don, nope. He never purchases fancy coffee. Ever.

Cable TV. Nope. Haven't had TV reception since 1993 and don't miss it. Don't have a TV at all.

Brand names when generics are available. Agreed. I have very few brand loyalties.

Dryclean-only clothes. Ahem. I've already discussed the extent of my wardrobe and how little clothes interest me. Besides, the nearest drycleaner is about a two-hour drive away.

Beverages at restaurants. Um, why are you in a restaurant to begin with? Truly frugal people don't eat out. "Wondering who the frugal person is in your dinner party?" asks the article. "It’s the guy or gal who just ordered filet mignon, but also asked for a glass of free water." Frankly, that's just stupid.

Big homes. This kinda depends. We downsized from a big home (3600 sq. ft.), and are much happier for it. Our new home is 1,400 sq. ft. (400 sq. ft. of which are Older Daughter's suite), and a house this size is far more economical, easier to heat and maintain, and perfectly suited to our needs. When we originally purchased our 3600 sq. ft. home in 2003, we bought it for the property and just took the house that came with it. If someone has a large family, a big house makes more sense. That said, I don't have a lot of patience with pretentious McMansions designed to impress the neighbors. Not many people need that kind of space, and certainly I would not want to heat, cool, clean, or pay the mortgage on a McMansion.

Impulse items in the checkout lane. I've done this. So have you. So has everyone. However I do this rarely and I'm not fussed that it's breaking our budget.

Professional car washes and detailing. Bwahahaha. Do we seem like the kind of people whose vehicles are professionally washed and detailed?

Pets. Pets? Yes, according to this article, it's not frugal to keep pets. "There’s no getting around it: Pets are budget-busters," says the article. "I once heard a financial pro say that the best way to get rich is to never invite anything into your house that you are responsible for feeding. That rules out two of the best things in life: kids and pets. Sorry, Rover." Um, no. Pets may cost money, but they pay us back in spades with love and laughter.

Paper towels. Agreed. A few years ago, I put up a blog post about America's obsession with paper towels. We seldom use paper towels in our home; in fact, one roll usually lasts us anywhere from one to two years. Instead, we use dishcloths or rags.

Extended warranties. Since we seldom-to-never purchase anything that would require a warranty to being with, this is not an issue. Neither of us have ever purchased an extended warranty in our entire existence.

Fancy vacations. I'm trying to remember the last time we went on vacation at all. Six years ago, Don and I took a rare trip together to attend the Mother Earth News Fair in Oregon, where we were treated to the gracious hospitality of Dave and Ilene Duffy, founders of Backwoods Home Magazine. We had a wonderful time! (Ahem. We even bought some books.) Does this count as a "fancy" vacation?

So there you have it. Based on these criteria, I guess we're officially frugal ... books and pets excepted.


  1. I reconsidered extended warranties wrt appliances.
    I live extremely rural, and appliances are now designed to fail quickly. The motherboards are highly suspect. An extended warranty gets you a guaranteed repair person in a rural area if you bought from a reputable dealer. I had a one year old refrigerator go down, needed a $1000 compressor, plus labor and travel. So warranty paid for that. Next item was a one year old washer. Needed new motherboard. $300 plus labor and travel. Paid by warranty. Exactly the same month a year later, same washer same problem, another motherboard, $300, labor and travel. Let alone the fact they HAVE to come fix it.

    If you don't do warranties when living rural. The repairman laughs you off the phone. "Lady, it's cheaper for you to dump that new washer and buy a new one than to pay me to come out there, which WILL be a minimum of twice, once to diagnose, once to repair, plus parts labor and travel." Hahaha. Funny joke. So wasteful.

    So, I buy warranties on that stuff and it's saved me some major headaches.

    1. A man that sells used appliances (most that he got for free and repaired) was complaining that he is NEVER going to purchase another new appliance. His latest with all the bells and whistles died. Luckily, he had purchased an extended warranty. The repairman told him that, had he had to pay for repairs, it would be less expensive to have purchased a new one.

  2. It seemed to me that warranties are profit makers for the store you buy it in. I once purchased a (gasp) new folding table Walmart wanted to know if I wanted a warranty, really? As far as appliances I purchase mine from a refurbisher and I never have problems. They do come with limited warranty thought.

  3. Serious question, how do you blot the grease off of bacon without a paper towel? I can't see using a dish rag for that.

    1. Serious answer: We use paper towels for this purpose. But a roll of paper towels still lasts us 1 to 2 years, despite the occasional meal of bacon.

      - Patrice

    2. We just hold the bacon at one end and let the grease drip off into the pan and then eat the bacon. Grease gets saved for frying eggs, etc. Don't fear the fat!

    3. (And by that I mean the fat from the bacon, not being overweight. :) We are not fat!)

    4. I have 3 lint free dish towels that I use specifically for bacon. They stay in the basket with my other (old) rags and dishcloths.

  4. Libraries are a resource, but only when open... All of my "how-to" references are hardcopy and owned by ME.

    The water in our areas is pretty bad. I buy bottled water, but only the 5-gallon bottles. And those are bottles I bought and fill at the local ice house. ...Yes, we still have an ice house in our town... The water is reverse-osmosis filtered and costs $1.75 per jug. A jug lasts about a week. Given the crap that's "maximum permissible" in the local waterworks, I consider the bottled water an investment in my health.

    Sometimes the latest tech is what I need, so I buy it. The net-enabled irrigation timer that ties to my net-enabled weather station is a godsend, saving me A LOT of water. In the desert that's a big deal! The thing actually adds watering time, reduces watering time, or skips cycles altogether based on what the weather station sees. The weather station? What can I say. I'm a weather geek... On the other hand, we "space heat" our house with three kerosene heaters from the 1970's. We also DRIVE THE WHEELS off our cars.

    Paper towels; we go both ways on this at Rancho Whybother. Cloths and rags are used whenever possible, but there are times when "single use" is preferable, and paper towels are pressed into service. We also use paper towels for wiping grease and debris off the dishes before washing them. This keeps the pipes from gunking up with grease and takes some of the load off the septic tank. I GLADLY use those paper towels to keep plumbing and septic tank demons from rearing their heads! The paper towels we use for that task are most often ones that were used for something else that wasn't disgusting. We keep them in a bucket under the sink.

    In the coming times, people will lament over the money the no longer have because the $5.00 coffee they DID have... Come to think of it, in my town, they'll probably say the same thing about their tattoos! I still perk my coffee in one of two pots. One of them is probably fifty years old. The other one is a Pyrex glass pot from 1950.

    Extended warranties; I used to purchase those warranties on the REALLY EXPENSIVE stuff, such as appliances. One power flux these days can ROAST the motherboards in just about ALL the appliances sold now. When I moved to Rancho Whybother, state law required the seller to provide a whole-house warranty for one year. I've kept that warranty going since then. In nine years, there has only been ONE year that warranty didn't at least pay for itself! Averaged out over time, the rest of the years more than paid for that year. I had the kitchen drain line snaked out a number of times by a plumber after my own attempts failed to remedy the clogging. I was eventually able to get the warranty company to pay for hydrojetting the line. That one expense paid for the warranty that year. Of course, the less stuff you have, the less likely a warranty is needed.

    Pets are expensive. They also provide love, companionship, and fun for the owner. On top of that, they know something's up here at the Rancho WAY before we do, and let us know. They KNOW the coyotes are in the corral before they've even started circling the chicken coop. The return on investment FAR outweighs their cost!

    Fancy vacations... What's a "vacation?..." What's "fancy?..."

    Washing vehicles is an exercise in futility here at the Rancho due to the DUST. Vehicles get washed here only when the window grim presents a visibility issue. My wife backed her car out of the garage yesterday and parked it. I asked her why. She said the car was dusty and it was going to rain... Yeah... It's like that...

    The lottery is a poor man's tax that he willingly stands in line to pay. 'Nuff said...

  5. I am frugal and I bought and maintain a 19' travel trailer because the places I go I do enjoy my bed and a potty... I can't stand motels and sleep in a bed that a drunk tossed his cookies the night before and the bed bugs I may encounter? I too buy used clothes and used furniture. Only new vehicle I bought in 2000 was a one ton pickup and 24 years later I still have it. Always bought second hand good cars and trucks. Frugal isn't about new things, but fads and impressing people, we just rather not. Oh, buying books, second if I can, only new when I can't. I read a good book and place it in my book case, next year I will read it again. That is free and freedom.

  6. There is one item on that list you may want to rethink. The truck. Hear me out.
    Toyota never jumped on the EV bandwagon. In fact, they are reverting back to old school, and are making a new bunch of vehicles with low technology ( like roll up windows! ).
    They have a new $10,000 truck due to come available outside the US in about a year, that's designed to be a basic 2 seater with a flatbed, and the capability for you to turn it into all sorts of things depending on your need. I was very impressed with their video. My toyota truck was bought new over 2 decades ago, has never been garaged, and is still a good truck. I would buy another new tomorrow at the above price. They also have a $15,000 basic truck and $20,000 basic truck coming out.
    And if Toyota doesn't float your boat, other companies are following suit. EV is crashing and burning, as it should.

    I like the idea of a truck that you can use as a generator for your house or hunting trip if need be, so kudos to Ford for their idea. But $80,000 trucks aren't for the average person, so we'll have to wait and see how they weather the future.
    I'm thinking Toyota is going to do well with their new, less technological, vehicles.

    1. My daughter works for a Ford dealership and was picking me up at the airport 79 miles away. She took a test vehicle and the electric Ford pick up was losing power on the way home so fast that she had to drop it at the dealership and pick up her own vehicle to get the rest of the way home. That means at 160 miles there wasn't anymore battery power. Who would ever buy these vehicles especially if you live in a rural environment.

    2. I love the low tech truck idea! I have a basic 1995 V8 F150 that has the roll up windows, bench seat, no headliner, rubber floor mats, no carpeting. LOVE it. I have a 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis (for transporting grandchildren) that has less than 90,000 miles on it that has an electronic gizmo necessary for actually running that has gone out and can't get the part. It is out of stock *everywhere*. In order to get it in running, we have to buy a *used* part on Ebay. We're going to get the used part but I don't have much confidence in it. It sure would be nice if we could have vehicles with replacement parts that were made on this continent.

    3. Did you try rock auto they have lots of older car parts some of them are new parts in old boxes that never were sold they buy them out of old warehouses i just finished 1976 dodge b300 running like new now

  7. We have a home library that grows every year. We love to read.

    We use washable feminine products, cloth diapers.

    I make a lot of our condiments from scratch. I cook from scratch. We rarely eat out. We grow a lot of the food we consume.

    I use paper towels to clean the toilets or clean up after our elderly dog if she gets sick.

    We have a big family, so I use our appliances a lot. They seem to die every 4 years. We do buy the 5 yr warranty and it really has saved us money. Although, the next time our washer dies, we're buying a Speed Queen.

    We have tried to make our property somewhere we'd like to take a vacation to, so we invested our "vacation" money into that once our homestead was paid off.

    I believe Dave Ramsey said, live like no one else, so you can live like no one else.

  8. Books and pets (rescue dogs) they’ll remove from my cold dead hands. Fancy coffee or tea if I’ve gotten a gift card. I do have a bi-weekly or monthly lunch with some former colleagues, which serves as my non-church social time. We meet at a moderately priced establishment and order inexpensive entrees. I’m the one with water, no ice, if you please. My car is twelve and I’m pretty sure I can check off the rest of the list. Regarding Toyotas, my former car is still in the family and will have its twenty-seventh birthday this year.

    1. Our dogs and cats are essential workers/partners/family members. As livestock and dogs have been dying of old age, I haven't been replacing them as we, too, are getting up in years. It doesn't seem right to get an animal that may outlive us. BUT husband has been sneaky looking at potential Good Boys and Girls that have ended up at animal shelters now that we only have one elderly livestock dog left. He mostly spends his days and nights on a heated mat in SwampMan's workshop.

      Our (formerly) bucolic rural landscape is rapidly becoming suburban as we are being inundated by people from the northeast, upper midwest, AND the northwest. They are all building houses on swampland because all the high, dry ground has been taken.

      My biggest vice is that I like to frequent a local coffee shop @ once per month for a Cuban coffee which I love, but sugar does not love me. Otherwise, I make my own New Orleans style coffee with chicory (grin) which the grandkids tell me is disgusting because I drink it with a little cream, no sugar. We mostly eat at home because, well, we both get aggravated at paying $$$$$ for food that isn't good. WHY would I pay @ $3.00 for (unsweetened) iced tea? (Nope, nope, nope.)

      As for books, well, we still have hurricanes and internet outages. It is nice to have entertainment and the ability to look up needed information when there is no internet. (I'm told that books are clutter and there is no need for me to hold on to, say, my 1800s agricultural textbooks.) Yo ho, yo ho, the cluttered life for me!

  9. People can be frugal with wildly different definitions of that. Ultimately it comes down to priorities.

    (For the record, there is a lot I would up before books and pets....)

  10. All tv is not evil, though much is, and a lot is just brainwashing. (And we all know who the father of lies is)

    I saw a movie review on a Christian channel recently, and there was the face of an actor killed off a program a number of years ago, Lucas Black. ( an Alabamian) Well I wondered briefly back then what he was leaving for, so because of the movie review, googled him. He left to put family first and has been involved in homeschooling his children ! And now works to portray Christian values, Godly manhood, and you get the gist. Seems to be happening more and more with actors.

    Then, while reading about Mr. Black, there were blurbs about PureFlix. Hmm. Great American Pureflix. There are probably a lot of other people that know about this, but since I'm a hick from the boonies, I didn't. It's a subsctiption for your devices pretty mu
    ch and is cheap. Since the content is wholesome and edifying, I may subscribe.
    My only television is free tv and I'm thankful to get some excellent Christian programming through them.Most television is like audio-visual junk food. But lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need community, and our devices and some programming help provide elements of Christian community some of us can't get locally.

  11. I have a couple points I'd like to make if I may be so bold.
    1. Agree that going out to eat should be a rare treat. I am mostly referring to a sit down location. Definitely stay away from the fast food joints. However, I actually think getting a soda when at a restaurant is a good idea. Most places have free refills with your soda. Now, from a health perspective, avoid the soda. It's nothing but flavored sugar water. But if your gonna do it, you might as well get your money's worth.

    2. Yes to pets!!! They can be pricey, yet they bring so much joy to a person's life. I've even seen studies that pets can prolong life. Pets seem like a good idea. If you are into that whole living a long and healthy life, that is.

    $5 coffee!!! There is wisdom in this. I know many in the younger generations (X, Y, Z, etc.) poke fun of those in the older generation who make this frugality point. What the younger generations are missing is the broader point. $1,200.00 "smart" phones, the sexy expensive cars, etc., is the overall point.

    Frugality for the sake of Frugality is worthless if you don't put that onto action to achieve an outcome or goal. What is the point of making these "sacrifices" if you don't use your newly found wealth wisely? Downsize your life? Purchase your first home? Save for your kid's further education? Owning a pet? Pursue your dreams? All worthwhile goals.

  12. On Books