A Negative Side Effect of Frugality

by Shawanda Greene

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Pickling cucumbers. Making laundry detergent. Growing vegetables. That’s not my bag. It sounds like a lot of work. Many people shy away from frugality when they think saving money will become too time consuming. I’ve managed to save money the lazy way. I just stopped buying stuff…mostly.

Shopping isn’t an enjoyable experience for me anymore. As a result, it’s much easier to let money peacefully rest in my bank account.

I ran out of soap last week. Before you go “eeeeeeeeew,” let me explain myself. The last time I went to the store, there wasn’t any soap on sale. To save money, I purchased two bars of soap that I normally wouldn’t buy. I figured I’d purchase the good stuff once it was offered at a discounted price.

About two weeks ago, I noticed my soap dwindling down. So I slapped the two thin slices of soap together and carried on with my normal cleansing routine. It wasn’t until the soap disintegrated in my washcloth last Friday morning that I realized I’d taken my frugality to new heights.

In reference to taking advantage of available resources, a wise woman once said (I think it was Liz Pulliam Weston): “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Well, obviously I’m not about to go without soap. The thing about frugality is that it makes you creative. You see. I really didn’t feel like going out to buy more soap. When I ran out last Friday, I didn’t panic. There had to be a solution to my problem that existed within my apartment.

It may not have been the best option, but there was dish detergent within reach. I use it as bubble bath. Now, I have the privilege of announcing that I’ve also used it as soap. Figuring dish detergent wasn’t the best cleaning agent for my skin, I told myself I’d buy soap that day. But, something strange happened. I didn’t feel like it. When I prepared to take my shower the following morning, I swapped out the dish detergent for shampoo. That’s what I’ve been using the last few days.

I’m glad I finally found a use for all that shampoo that failed to deliver the miracle results promised on the back of the bottle. Eventually, I’ll get around to taking a shower like a normal person.

Besides, my skin itches.

This post was featured in the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights Edition #20! over at Counting My Pennies.

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Pete August 6, 2009 at 12:25 AM

Haha.. love the last line.

“Besides, my skin itches”.

The things we’ll do for frugality!


Ashley August 6, 2009 at 1:22 PM

This article made me laugh so hard because it reminded me a little too much of myself! I’ve been known to warm my mascara to make sure I got every application possible. I also cut open my tubes of toothpaste, face wash, and lotion to make sure every little bit gets used. My friends may laugh, but the few extra dollars I save a month are worth the teasing :-)


Shawanda Greene August 9, 2009 at 2:09 PM

I get teased by my friends for being cheap. It’s fine. There’s no point in wasting valuable product.


Carla August 6, 2009 at 2:32 PM

That is why I try to keep some sort of balance when it comes to frugality. I’m not one to really enjoy shopping and spending money, but I dont want to sap the joy out of my life either.

I had a cheapo pair of sunglasses that broke after about two months of regular use. Optic Neuritis makes it very difficult for me to be out in the natural light sometimes without feeling like I going blind so they are a need. The plastic on the frame had a stress fracture (like I said, cheap) and I went and got a tube of crazy glue to see if I could get it back together. It didnt work and I made a huge mess with the glue including gluing my fingers together. So far I spent over $50 in cheap glasses that usually break down within six months in the name of frugality. I think I need to make a better investment.

Reading your post gave me a headache! :D


Shawanda Greene August 9, 2009 at 1:55 PM

I’ve given up on purchasing off brand sunglasses. I usually get only one wearing or two out of them before I lose a lens or an ear piece breaks off. I’ve never owned a designer pair of sunglasses, but I think that’s the route I’m taking going forward. If there’s any money left in my FSA at the end of the year, I might even spring for a prescription pair.


Torrey August 6, 2009 at 3:00 PM

Ok, I thought I was frugal :) I think after you really get into the idea of being frugal, it can be fun. It’s like you’ve found secrets that no one else knows about. But after a while, and especially when paying off debt for an extended period of time, I can see how it can wear you down.


Shawanda Greene August 9, 2009 at 2:00 PM

When I was getting out of debt, I’d take mini breaks where I’d cut back on cutting back and increase my spending for one month. Kind of as a reward for paying off a debt. I only had to pay off a car loan and a student loan so I allowed myself two mini breaks. Interestingly enough, I’d still spend far less money than I thought. The important thing is to snap back to your frugal ways.


Mrs. Micah August 7, 2009 at 11:03 AM

I’m always shocked by how much toothpaste I get out of a tube after I buy a new one. I like having the backup but seeing how far I can take the other.

Frugal tip for when you do have shampoo, it’s great for handwashing clothes. Just takes a little.


Shawanda Greene August 9, 2009 at 2:03 PM

Thanks for the tip! I never even considered using shampoo for anything beyond washing my hair. Now I know it can function as a body wash AND laundry detergent.


Greg Marshall August 10, 2009 at 5:39 PM

Love the article and you have to love the friends making fun of you. I have definitely been there when I was just eating top ramen for the sake of saving a quick couple thousand bucks for a venture I am involved in. Ha ha its amazing but those very same people who laugh at you are the ones asking you for a loan and then praise you like the all mighty because you have money saved up. I think it is hilarious. Was watching dave ramsey show last night and was thinking about how you love dave ramsey and his philosophy about money. I am curious how did you discover dave?


Shawanda Greene August 10, 2009 at 7:35 PM

LOL! I used to eat ramen and tuna fish for lunch almost every day when I began my professional career about 5 years ago. My credit card debt was over $3K, and I knew that was a dangerous position to be in. I estimated that it only cost me $0.10 a meal since my mother would give me a bunch of tuna fish when I went home to visit. You know ramen costs next to nothing.

Sometimes you have to make short-term sacrifices. A lot of people don’t understand that. They just think you’re not enjoying life or you’re depriving yourself just for hoo-hahs. They’re not visionaries, so we should just ignore them.

I found Dave Ramsey in mid-January 2008 when I was looking for budgeting podcasts on iTunes. I was immediately hooked. I thought he was kinda mean at first, but I knew he spoke the truth.


Maggie@SquarePennies July 12, 2012 at 3:49 PM

Greg, we had a similar experience. People who used to enjoy all the latest and greatest finally ran out of money. Now they want to know the “secret” to our lifestyle. They are full of questions now!

I use shampoo that I don’t like as liquid hand soap. I also buy the cheapest shampoo I can find to use at liquid hand soap. That’s for guests because usually we use cheap bar soap to wash hands. Any kind of hair conditioner I don’t like I use as shaving cream. Works great! And yes, I use shampoo I don’t like for my hair to do hand wash. I haven’t tried liquid dish soap as body soap yet (the itch factor), but it is great in a bucket of warm water to wash the car!
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Carla August 10, 2009 at 7:52 PM

You know, I hear the Ramen stores all the time and for me, my health comes first. I would never be able to eat that way and keep a healthy weight, stable blood sugar and migraine free (MSG). Even one meal like that would be too much. There are many other sacrifices you can make but your health should not be one of them IMO.


Shawanda Greene August 10, 2009 at 8:05 PM

Ramen isn’t healthy, but people who aren’t health conscious will probably eat something equally or even more unhealthy than ramen noodles. It’ll just cost them more money.

Some times I still eat ramen, but I wouldn’t dare eat them everyday like I use to. At the time, the alternative to ramen noodles wasn’t a piece of lean protein and a large helping of mixed vegetables. It was more like a slice of pizza or some other type of ridiculously fat laden, overly processed pasta. Perhaps with extra cheese. Ramen won out because if I was going to be overweight and unhealthy, then I might as well have been overweight, unhealthy, and credit card debt free. :)

If you already have a healthy diet, then I wouldn’t recommend it. But again, most people aren’t going to eat healthy either way.


Carla August 10, 2009 at 8:22 PM

I hear what you’re saying. :) Some of the same people who didnt eat so well to begin with wont automatically start unless they are forced to (like I was). If you do already eat well, there are ways to maintain healthy eating habits, even on a budget.


Donna Freedman August 12, 2009 at 4:27 PM

Shampoo can also be used to hand-wash shirts. Just a little squirt will fill a sink with suds. Useful when traveling and you bring only enough clothes for a few days in your carry-on bag — instead of bringing a little bottle of laundry soap, just use some shampoo.
When I was a kid and we ran out of shampoo before payday, we’d use a little bit of Tide. Honest. We never thought of using dish soap.
When we had diaper rash as babies, my mom couldn’t afford any kind of ointment so she used….Crisco. Really. I guess we were the original lard a$$es…. ;-)


Deb August 16, 2009 at 3:22 PM

Listen, we still cannot comprehend how wasteful we are in this country. Even when we’re broke, we have so many choices, we have a much better safety net than many other countries. I’m not saying we’re perfect, we’ve a long way to go (and as an aside – I am totally FOR health care and health insurance reform, even though I’ve got great benefits through my employer – but being on the front lines of healthcare magnifies the inequality and disparity on a daily basis in my world).

I lived in the Philippines for 2.5 years – that is SERIOUS poverty, which necessitates extreme frugality. I would purchase produce & fish & meat at the local market, and would naturally toss out the wilted or slightly browned leaves & fish heads & scraps, etc. I learned to put all of that in bags by my driveway because it got snatched up by the poor folks immediately. They would snag empty cardboard boxes (used to construct housing for thier families), plastic cartons and containers, old clothes, old magazines, and just about anything that was remotely useful. When you see kids dressed in rags, and 5 kids sharing a bicycle at one time, or a family living in a large cardboard box, you get ‘it’ real fast.

Absolutely use it up and wear it out. There is no shame in that game! Until you’ve seen extreme poverty, you cannot imagine how blessed we are here, and how silly our wasteful behaviors are.

And if your detergent makes your skin itch and you’re out of lotion – go ahead and use a little olive oil or sesame oil, or heck, even like Donna said – a little Crisco! :o )


Deb August 16, 2009 at 3:25 PM

::sigh:: yes, it should be their, not `thier’…fingers of flame strike again! :o )


bn August 24, 2009 at 7:07 PM

you got it, y’all. dishwashing liquid has served me well for many years — the addition of a bit of liquid vegetable glycerine makes it even better. you’ve got instant bubble bath, shampoo, woolite substitute and even sudsier dishwashing power.


Shawanda Greene August 25, 2009 at 2:19 AM

I’ve used vegetable glycerin as a hair moisturizer. Worked wonders. I didn’t know it was so versatile.


Carla August 25, 2009 at 2:23 AM

Vegetable is a lifesaver for my hair – especially after I color it.


Kim January 5, 2010 at 9:36 PM

I also use shampoo to clean makeup brushes. It leads to less breakouts, and then you don't need to load up on facial cleanser or foundation!


Shawanda Greene January 11, 2010 at 7:40 PM

I heard that trick from a couple of makeup bloggers I met back in November of last year. It actually works really well. Plus, the MAC brush cleaner I was using before didn’t lather as well AND it’s 11 bucks a bottle. My makeup brushes aren’t too precious for shampoo.


joetaxpayer February 20, 2011 at 10:17 AM

I'm on the flip side of the soap issue.

I have a keen eye for sales and coupons. So, when I am able to get the brand my wife love or one of the 3 I use at a crazy discount (like a $1.29 bar of Dove for under 33 cents) I'll buy a huge amount. 33 cents "invested" to return a dollar in a year or two is worth the purchase.


Minimalist Mommi December 3, 2011 at 10:21 PM

Firstly, I just found your blog and LOVE it!

As for the soap thing, I use dish detergent for almost everything. I put it in our hand soap dispensers in the bathrooms. I use it to clean almost everything. It's just pure awesome.

Also, if you live in an area with Trader Joe's, they have some amazing oatmeal honey soap. You get 2 bars for a little over a buck! It's safe (I think a 0 or 1 on Cosmetic Database), works amazingly, smells divine, and lasts forever!


Shawanda December 4, 2011 at 11:48 AM

You'd think I'd consider using dish detergent in my soap dispenser, but nope. It's never occurred to me. So thanks for sharing!

I recently switched from Dove to Palmolive Gold. Dove was getting too expensive. There's a Trader Joe's that just opened up a few miles away from my apartment so thanks for letting me know about the soap as well.


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