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To what lengths do you go to be frugal? Do you raise at least some of your own food? Do you can it or freeze it for later use? Do you get creative with leftovers, stretching one meal into two or three? It always has amazed me what my Aunts, Dot, Emily & Evelyn, would do to save a penny, and they could all squeeze one tight enough to force Lincoln to jump off and go get help. All three grew up during the depression. With a family of eight to feed, I am sure my grandmother knew plenty of ways to be cost-conscious, and more than likely was always keeping her ear open for other things she could do.

This item was one of the things they used. The first time I ever saw one in an antique store, I was with my Aunt Dot. She asked me what I thought it was, and she laughed at some of my answers. Then she explained what it was and how it was used.

The internet is full of ways to be frugal. When I Googled ‘ways to be frugal’, it returned 1, 090,000 websites I could peruse. Some of the sites gave a numbered list: 31 ways…, 50 tips…, 80 things to do…; so I could probably spend weeks reading all of the ideas people have to save money. Some of the tips range from auto maintenance and care; to health and hygiene; to cooking and cleaning; there are even some recommendations to ‘sleep on it’ before purchasing an item. Some of the suggestions are smart and realistic, but I am always aware of the ones that require you to buy high-dollar items that will ‘save you money’ in the long run. Just how far do I have to run to save a dollar or two? If I study it carefully, I usually determine that I’ll save more money in the short run and the long run by refraining from spending my hard-earned dollars on the ‘miracle’ device, and make even more money if I put the original cost in savings.

There are actually times when you think you are being frugal, but in reality you are throwing your money away. Buying an inferior ‘off brand’ item might save you a few pennies up front, but when it doesn’t work more than once or twice, you end up throwing the product and your dollars in the trash can, and then purchasing another, better quality item. A perfect example would be plastic storage bags for every-day use. You can get a box of 40 for around $3.00, when a set of hard plastic storage containers will cost you around $15.00. Truthfully, you’ll end up spending around $30 to $45 dollars by the year’s end by using the bags. If you had gone ahead and bought the containers, you would have an extra $15 to $20 in your pocket to start out your new year. And if you save the plastic tubs that margarine and sour cream come in instead of buying the storage containers, you could save even more. I use the plastic storage bins, but I also use the vintage refrigerator boxes –some of them have been gifts, and some I’ve found for a ‘steal’ at antique shops. I will admit – Randy and I do use the plastic freezer bags sometimes. Since we sell and give so much of our sausage away, it would cost us a small fortune in plastic storage containers if we didn’t. The rest of our frozen meat goes in Food Saver bags. That can be costly, but our meat lasts three times as long, so we do consider it being at least somewhat frugal.

Another way to waste your money is on ‘must-have’ items. I have one sitting in a storage drawer right now. It’s called a ‘blender’. Randy and I love a drink called Amaretto Freeze. It consists of ice cream and a shot of Amaretto, blended smooth. Truthfully, we rarely consume any alcoholic drinks, and when we make these, we use the Amaretto more for flavoring – less than half an ounce. But we got a wild hare to make some about seven years ago, and headed out to buy a blender. I think it cost us about $20. Needless to say, it was used once, and then put away in storage. And since I have a great food processor, I haven’t needed the blender for anything else since. If I had instead taken that $20 and put it in savings or spent it a little more wisely, I’d be ahead of the game now.

Being frugal is a matter of personal preference. Some items we might consider ‘must haves’, and are willing to give up other things to have it. Your must haves are probably different from mine. My mom feels like a microwave oven is a wasted purchase for her. Randy couldn’t do without it for quickly heating up leftovers. It all comes down to your personal lifestyle. We haven’t even considered the cost of putting in central heat and air, and instead live with a fireplace at both ends of the house and window units. I know of some people who think we’re crazy, but we’re okay with it.

Back to the picture at the top. Can you tell me what it is and how it was used? Have you ever used one? If you post here with your thoughts, I will then take the names of everyone who posted, put them in a basket and draw one name, to whom I will send a prize basket with items in it that can help you become at least a tiny bit more frugal. If you don’t know what it is, go ahead and post – but you have to share something you do to be frugal to enter the drawing. And here’s the best part – you can add this to your ‘I’m a frugal person’ list, because you got something for free! Go ahead – start posting. I’m curious to see how many frugal people are out there. And in all honesty, I’m hoping to learn something from you that I can use to save a few pennies!