Old-Fashioned Frugal Habits to Save Money Now

Want to build a better future? Maybe it's time to look toward the past. These old-fashioned frugal habits and money-saving tips never go out of style.

Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do—or do without. That wartime slogan, hailing from the era of rationing and victory gardens, feels just as relevant today as it did during the 1940s.

As we become more aware of the global impact of fast fashion and disposable plastics, many people are turning toward reusable alternatives. In addition, rising inflation and stagnant wages are making it more important than ever to save pennies wherever we can.

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Some of these old-fashioned frugal habits, tips, and hacks have been around for more than a hundred years. And many of them will not only help you save money but can help save the environment, too!

Use Bar Soap

Let’s start with a really easy frugal habit. Bar soap is a better value than liquid soap. It costs less and lasts longer. Liquid soap is mostly water! In addition to bar soaps for the shower, you can find shampoo bars and even kitchen soap bars that get the job done for a fraction of the cost of liquid soap.

If you absolutely can’t quit your liquid hand soap, get a reusable container and fill it with castile soap instead of buying a new dispenser every time it gets used up. You can always get unscented soap and add a few drops of essential oil to change up your routine.

Prepare More Food at Home

We all know that it’s cheaper to eat dinner at home than to dine out—but have you ever run the numbers on just how much money you can save each month? The average American household spends $3000 a year (or $250 a month) dining out.

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Wouldn’t you like to save $3000 a year? Start with simple meal planning. Budget Bytes is a great resource. If you’re feeling even more ambitious, you can try making your own baked goods from scratch at home. It costs pennies on the dollar to bake bread, cakes, muffins, and cookies from scratch, although you’ll need to put in time and effort to master the art. Preserving fruits and vegetables is another old-fashioned frugal habit that can save a ton of money in the long run once you learn how to do it.

Of course, you’ll be trading out the convenience of picking up fast food or ordering delivery. There may be days when your time is worth more than the cost of having someone else make dinner. However, try to plan ahead for the times you’ll dine out rather than waiting until you’re too tired (or hungry) to cook for yourself.

Repair or Reuse Instead of Replace

As a society, we’ve gotten away from the tradition of repairing things instead of replacing them. Consumer goods are so cheap and plentiful that it seems almost ludicrous to spend time and money on repairing an old, worn-out thing.

There are a couple of problems with this attitude. First, it traps you in a cycle of buying cheap, disposable goods. That’s bad for the environment and, ultimately, bad for your bank account. If you spent five dollars on a t-shirt, you’re not likely to spend ten minutes trying to repair a busted seam, right? The truth is that you can repair so many things on your own, from clothing to small appliances to your home or car!

If you can’t repair the item, you might still be able to reuse it. That old t-shirt? It can find a new life as a cleaning rag. Grandmas around the world have known the power of saving glass jars to reuse instead of buying plastic containers. With a little imagination, elbow grease, and some help from the internet, you can learn how to repair or reuse just about anything.

Connect With Your Community

Communities don’t always watch out for each other the way they used to, and that’s a shame. While many of us wouldn’t feel comfortable knocking on the neighbor’s door to borrow a cup of sugar, there are ways to connect with your community.

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Your town or city may have a municipal calendar advertising free (or very cheap) events. Your neighborhood might have an association or a Facebook page, too! If you can’t find that information easily, head to your local library. In fact, add the library to your list anyway since it’s a great resource—and for more than just books.

Thanks to sites like Facebook and Meetup, you can find groups in your area to spend time with, often without spending a dime. There are also groups and organizations that offer clothing swaps or opportunities to trade furniture. Retirees have even more resources available, including free or reduced-cost college classes and inexpensive gym memberships. Until you start looking, you might not realize how many ways there are to get involved with your local community.

Get Smart About Water

Depending on where you live, water can get expensive. To save a little money on your bill—and give Mother Earth a break—try this trick. The next time that you’re running the tap or shower, waiting for the water to get hot, don’t let it run straight down the sink.

Instead of wasting precious water, fill up a couple of jars, bottles, or buckets. If you’ve got a water pitcher to refill, grab that, too. The water you save can be used for boiling pasta, cleaning your house, or even watering your garden. Considering that you were just going to let it drain away, this is a no-brainer. Some areas allow you to set up rain barrels as well for gardening, but be advised that it’s not permitted everywhere.

Budget with Envelopes

It might be old-fashioned, but the “envelope method” of budgeting is a classic for a reason. In this simple budgeting system, you withdraw cash for variable expenses each month, such as groceries. When the cash runs out… so does your budget for that category. You’ll learn to be much more conscientious about your spending as you see those stashes of cash dwindle.

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“One of the reasons we overspend is because there’s nothing telling us when to stop,” writes Rachel Cruze for Ramsey Solutions. “Once the money is gone, it’s gone—so this will force you to stop overspending and help you achieve your money goals faster!”

You don’t need to start paying your bills in cash, of course. However, the envelope method pairs well with setting up automatic bill pay. And thanks to the money-saving tips on this list, you can stretch the cash in those envelopes further every month.

Read More: How to Gain Financial Responsibility With the Envelope Budget System

Update Your Grocery List

First, cross off all paper products from your shopping list. (Well, okay, you can keep the toilet paper.) Paper plates and towels can easily be replaced by washable items that are cheaper in the long run and better for the environment. Easy enough, right? Let’s keep going!

Dried beans are so much cheaper than canned beans. They’re easy to cook, too—especially if you invest in an Instant Pot. Even if you don’t want to buy an additional kitchen appliance, you can easily cook beans on the stove the old-fashioned way. You’ll never buy cans again!

It’s also a good idea to reduce the amount of meat you consume. (Obviously, if you’re already a vegetarian or vegan, you can skip this part.) It’ll benefit your health and the environment—and save you quite a bit of money. However, when you do buy meat, opt for the less popular cuts. Chicken thighs are just as good—but much less expensive—than chicken breast. A whole rotisserie chicken is also a good value as long as you make the effort to use up all the meat and use the bones for stock.  

Change Your Laundry Routine

I recently started air drying my clothes, and it has made a huge difference. I bought a folding rack from Amazon that I can store beside the washer when I’m not using it. In addition, I use plastic hangers and clips for dresses, camisoles, and even jeans. My clothes dry in a couple of hours outside on a sunny day. If it’s raining—or I don’t get around to laundry until the end of the day, the clothes will dry overnight inside.


Air drying your clothes saves money in multiple ways. First, it helps preserve your clothes for longer. Dryers are tough on fabrics—that’s where dryer lint comes from! Beyond that, you’ll save money on your electric bill by not using the dryer. And during the summer, you’re A/C won’t have to work as hard to counteract the heat.

You also don’t need to wash your clothes as often as you might think. While underclothes and workout wear need to be washed after one use, almost everything else can be worn several times before throwing it in the wash. Unless the clothing is obviously soiled, you can usually get away with putting the garments back in the dresser or closet.

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