You Can Have the Things You Love


Frugality. It’s a word that for many people screams deprivation and even poverty. I get letters from readers who say they’ve had it with trying to live below their means and never having anything they love. “What’s the point if all of this deprivation if it just makes me feel even more miserable?” was the way one woman closed her letter.

Look, I can’t know your particular situation. But I do know this: If you adjust your attitude, get a plan and then let nothing stop you from reaching it, you can have the things you love.


Frugality isn’t just about cutting costs. There has to be a specific reason involved. And it can’t be something nebulous like “Because I want to be rich.” Frugality is about scrimping and cutting like crazy on the things you really don’t care about so that you can the things you love. It’s a matter of deciding what’s really important and what’s not—and I mean on a daily basis, and as a way of life. You have to get out of your “coma spending” and into conscious spending where every expenditure counts and every dollar matters.

I could give you all kinds of examples of how this might work, but let’s take something as simple as paper towels. A couple of rolls tucked in with the weekly groceries may not seem like such a big deal. And they are convenient. But do you really love paper towels? Enough to sacrifice things that you really do love in order to have that roll of paper always at the ready? I sure don’t.

Experts say the average household uses 1.5 to 2 rolls of paper towels per week. At a going rate of about two bucks a roll that’s more than $200 a year. Since I don’t love paper towels, that’s $200 I can divert to something that I do love or cannot live without. Now multiply this principle across paper napkins, paper plates, paper cups and plastic utensils and we’re talking a lot of money I choose to not spend on these things that I neither love nor need.

SET A GOAL. No matter how frivolous, you need a goal that is going to make your tradeoffs worthwhile. Giving up paper towels might be a pain for a while, but if your goal is so much more glorious, it won’t be difficult because you will know that you are working toward something specific—something you love.

CREATE AN ACCOUNT. This is mandatory. I suggest setting up an online savings account at or because that just makes saving money brainlessly easy. Now you can transfer any amount any time into your goal account.

Saving with a goal puts all of your decisions into perspective. It makes cutting costs mercilessly on things that don’t matter worth the effort because in so doing, you’re affirming and moving toward having the things you love.

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13 replies
  1. Katharine says:

    I can make a roll of paper towels last months because I only use one as a last resort..In this family we use cloth napkins and everyone has a napkin ring, When older members return to the nest, they of course use their napkin ring. It’s a sign of being home. And of course we use “tea towels”.They all go into the laundry. It’s amazing how little paper trash you have without paper napkins and paper towels.

  2. Diana Brannan says:

    I have purchased a complete 16-piece collection of colored and very cheap washcloths and use them for napkins. These can be used more than once unless they are grossly dirty from a meal. They really are not what I would consider extra laundry–they just get tossed in with everything else when a batch of laundry is done. I do not get the concern that these reusable items cause any more washing work. It does not do so in my household. I wash towels, kitchen towels, washcloths, my washcloth napkins whenever other laundry is done. How would you know the difference in the amount of laundry? Yes, simple spills I use the kitchen sponge. I use paper towels for greasing baking pans, actually cleaning up spills off the floor for which I am not interested in using my sponge. I recycle plastics, paper and cardboard. Unfortunately no glass or metal recycling around me. So I consider myself frugal and as “green” as possible without being a total cheapskate…LOL

  3. leslie says:

    i just got this message – don’t know how long it is good for.

    Scan your CVS card at the red Price Checker machine at CVS this week and it should print a coupon good for $0.79 off any Basics Power Towels.

    Basics Paper Towels are priced at $0.79, making them free after this coupon.

  4. leslie says:

    when i was a kid back in the dark ages they didn’t have paper towels so my mom used the brown grocery bags to drain fried foods – it worked well

    • Diana Brannan says:

      That was in the good old days when you could still actually get paper bags with your groceries or anything else.

  5. Mary Ann says:

    I gave up all paper products (except Toilet paper) 3 years ago and don’t miss them. I do occasionally have napkins from take out around. I use old cut up t-shirts as rags and I love having pretty dish towels hanging for simple spills. As far as bacon, I use a piece of the newspaper, works great! I do have to laundry more items, but I make my own liquid laundry soap and it keeps the cost really low. My friends laugh at me, but I use the money toward things I love, like concerts, special outings and travel.

    • Emjay says:

      Welll, I’m not Paula, but I drain greasy foods on a piece of newspaper covered with one paper towel. The newspaper soaks up so much more of the grease than a wad of paper towels, and one paper towel keeps the newsprint from the food. Also, when my cat chucks up the grass she ate the day before, I clean with one paper towel (or two if she’s particularly effusive) and then use cloth to take up the stain. For the carpet, to soak up spills, nothing beats a pad of newspaper covered with one paper towel. The newspaper is so absorbent.

      • Emjay says:

        Forgot to add this about the floor stains: I stand on the newspaper placed over the spill to make sure the paper soaks up the spill.

  6. leslie says:

    i am soooo tired of the paper towel commercials where they use paper towels to wipe up a spill on a kitchen counter when a sponge would be just as effective – like paper towels are a must for survival. i live alone and a roll usually lasts me more than a year. as far as i am concerned, they are good for draining fried or greasy foods and as shay says, cleaning up a gross or gunky mess where you just throw the whole thing away. however since i don’t have a dishwasher, i really love the convenience of paper plates but i am frugal with them also and re-use them when reasonable to do so. i buy the cheapest ones and use them with a plastic plate underneath – it’s good for most foods. but the article makes a lot of sense – why spend $$ on so-called necessities (that really aren’t ) if you don’t love them.

  7. D. Debord says:

    Paper towels are a great example! I don’t love or even like buying things just to throw them away! I usually buy about one roll a month, sometimes longer than that. I have made cotton dinner napkins and keep kitchen dish towels to use in place of those things. I saw a Extreme Cheapskate episode someone used cloth “toilet paper”, but I am not about to do that, even though I don’t LOVE buying toilet paper. I do buy before I need it and when it’s a stock up price. Being mindful of when to buy can save a lot of money on the items, like toilet paper, that you’d rather not to without. If people were to think back, if they are older, to times when they visited their grandparents house, they probably wouldn’t think they were depriving themselves. I never remember seeing paper towels or paper napkins at my Grandmothers house. She like a lot of people her age went through the great depression and remained frugal long after it was over. I am pretty sure she never even thought she was being deprived by not buy at least a couple of rolls of paper towels a week. : )

  8. Shey says:

    I’m already pretty frugal, but I noticed the paper towel/Kleenex issue, too. This year, one of my resolutions was to cut myself down to one roll of paper towels a month and one box of Kleenex a year. It was an adjustment, but now I prefer the dish rags and handkerchiefs. In fact, I’m still using my Feb paper towels now at the end of March. You don’t have to totally give it up. I love paper towels when I’m grabbing the hair out of the drain or other gross tasks when I want to just throw the whole thing away.


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