Save Money: Think Before You Buy


A photo of Susan B. SommerEvery day we’re bombarded by advertising on TV and radio, in catalogs and magazines, in our mailboxes. Having grown up in our throw-away quick-fix modern society, I constantly struggle to fend off these entreaties to buy new gadgets and spend money on all kinds of things I don’t need. But I also come from a family and am married to a guy who knows how to fix old stuff and build new stuff from scratch. So, though I’m sometimes lured into the thrill of buying new, I’m getting better at purchasing wisely and making do with what we already have. Here are a few ways creative thinking has saved us money.

Plastic Bag Dryer

I use a lot of Ziplock bags, most of which stay fairly clean. I rinse them and have been laying them atop the stack of clean hand-washed pots, pans and delicate stemware in the dish drainer, but inevitably the corners get squashed and don’t fully dry, or they get splattered being so near the sink. Flipping through catalogs, I’ve eyed those bag dryers with the nice ash or birch sticks poking up from an attractive base, but just can’t bring myself to spend upwards of $20 on one. So I decided to make one. I dug through my box of extra jars and found a tall plastic container with a lid, through which I pierced holes with a small nail. I filled the inside with rocks to stabilize it, then gently stabbed a wooden cooking skewer through each hole. I covered the whole shebang with wrapping paper to pretty it up, and voila!

Plastic bag dryer

Clothes Pins as Bag Clips

Those large plastic bag clips are overpriced and unnecessary. We use clothespins for open bags of cereal, frozen veggies, pasta, etc.

Clothes pins as bag clips

Cat Trees and Toys

Have you shopped for a cat tree lately? Highway robbery! Though I’m willing to spend whatever it takes to keep my pets healthy, I’m a cheapskate when it comes to buying their happiness. Shortly after I got two kitties from the pound last year, I visited several pet stores looking for a tallish carpeted cat tree so they could spend the winter spying on critters outside and gazing contentedly down upon their humans and dogs below. Every “tree” I sampled either cost hundreds of dollars, or was cloaked in hideous purple shag carpet, or wobbled. Sometimes all of the above. What to do?

10/10/2014 3:26:02 PM


Ruth deGraaff
3/6/2011 1:32:23 AM

Hi Susan, I love your website! How do I save money? I use white vinegar for laundry softner, shower, sink cleaner (to remove calcium from hard water). It also removes some stains, but not all, from clothes. I soak my shower curtain in it for about a day, when it gets coated with calcium, likewise dish drainers etc. I use about a gallon of white vinegar for things like this each month. We found out that our gas bill was reduced by $60 just by closing the curtains after the sun goes down. I've also signed up on Cindee's fb page to trade items I need for things I have. Let me know what you need--I probably have it!

S.M.R. Saia
5/23/2010 6:40:27 AM

I use butterfly clips in the kitchen - you know those black ones that are usually sold as office supplies? They're excellent for keeping bags closed. We also keep heavy curtains drawn in the living room as soon as the weather warms up to keep the room from heating up. That reduces how often we have to run the air conditioner. Without this step, it's just not possible to cool our house. Love the bag dryer. I use a lot of those too.

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