frugal living concept with money notepad calculator on tabletop

Simple Tricks to Make Household Stuff Last Longer, Stretch Farther

Being wasteful is easy, especially when everything seems to be so plentiful and simple to replenish. Just order more. Or run to the store, right? Sure, we love to buy things on sale but that’s not the only way—nor the best way—to cut costs. Discovering simple ways to make things last longer and stretch farther is a surefire way to save time and money

frugal living concept with money notepad calculator on tabletop

Blue Dawn

Our favorite degreaser and all-around amazing product, Blue Dawn, typically comes super concentrated. Read the label. It says it right there … “concentrated.” Here’s a great tip: Don’t use Blue Dawn straight out of its container. Dilute it.

I’ve used the same sturdy recycled glass decanter for more than 10 years now. It has no lid, cap, or cork which makes it super easy to dispense. I keep the jug of Blue Dawn on a shelf in my laundry room. It’s out of sight, and not that easy to grab mindlessly. When the decanter needs a refill, I eyeball 5 parts water to 1 part Blue Dawn.


Cut your sponges in half to immediately double the number of sponges and cut the price per sponge in half. Using 1/2 of a sponge is as easy and efficient as using a whole one. It packs as much grime-fighting ability as a whole sponge. So, you can get twice the utility out of one sponge by cutting it into two pieces, which immediately cost your sponge cost by 50%.

Foaming handsoap

Mix your nice hand soap with water and dispense from a foam handwash bottle. The bottle’s mechanism will create the foam, and your nice liquid hand soap will last three to four times longer.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Choose soap. Anything liquid will do… body wash, hand soap, whatever you have on hand.
  2. Pour 4 parts water and 1 part soap into the container. (About 4/5 full of water and the other 5th soap).
  3. Apply the pump top, and gently roll the container around to combine without vigorously shaking it.

There you go—foaming soap!


Shower gel

Apply shower gel to a washcloth or loofah, instead of directly to your skin, and it will last many times longer! Just a small squirt will produce endless lather. That’s all it takes. But if you pump it directly, you’ll use way more than necessary.

Bar soap

If you prefer traditional bar soap, make it last by letting it fully dry between uses. For even better results, keep it away from the steamy shower area. Use a soap dish with holes for air circulation. Here’s a tip: lather it up with a washcloth or loofah instead of your hands, and you’ll use much less.

Don’t toss away those leftover bits when the bar has been spent. Turn them into soap balls instead. Gather the pieces, grate them into the same sizes using a cheese grater, and shape them into a ball. Who knows, you might even create something similar to grandma’s fancy guest-room soaps.



Dilute shampoo with water and a small amount will still work just as well—and last up to twice as long. Do even better by extending the length of time between shampoos. For most, washing hair every two to three days is sufficient—and a good idea. Oily hair gets a bad rap. The sebum your scalp produces is vital to healthy, shiny hair.

Despite what shampoo commercials lead us to believe, washing your hair too often can be a key contributor to a bad hair day. Hair that is completely free of this natural oil can feel coarse, dull, and difficult to style. Also, pay attention to the amount you use—a quarter-size dollop is sufficient for medium-length hair.


Laundry detergent

Modern detergents are highly concentrated. If you’re pouring a whole cap for each load of laundry, you’re using too much—maybe even twice as much as necessary. Marking the fill lines on the cap with a permanent marker so you can see them better. Those lines are so faint, it’s easy to pour out too much detergent without realizing it, and that not only a big waste, it’s going to give you bigger problems in the long run.

If you use the “dump” method of adding laundry detergent to the washing machine, I can nearly guarantee you’re using too much! Get out the owner manual to see what is recommended. Measure carefully. Every. Time.

Unless you have super hard water, chances are good you can use even less and still get great results, especially if you have a front-loader, which by its very nature uses very little water. EXAMPLE: I use one tablespoon of liquid laundry detergent plus borax per load in my front-loading washer.

Toilet tissue

It’s human nature to be super wasteful when it appears that we have things like toilet paper, paper towels, and other paper goods in abundance. But discover you have what’s left on the roll to last until you can get to the store and watch how clever you and the family can be to make it last.

The way to be that careful all the time it to create an appearance of scarcity. On purpose. Don’t fill the bathroom cabinet with 5 rolls of extra toilet paper. Make it one. Then store the rest in a place that’s not exactly convenient. Perhaps in the basement, on a high shelf, or under a bed.

Even the kids will get a sense that they need to go easy when it appears you’re about to run out. Repeat this trick with other things that seem to disappear overnight. Surprisingly perhaps, even the person creating this sense of scarcity will naturally be more careful. Out of sight, out of mind. It works like a charm.


Keep the scissors handy. When you can’t squeeze out any more toothpaste from the tube, don’t waste several more days’ worth of paste. Cut the tube open and use your toothbrush to scoop out what you need.



Candles are great to set the mood in a room, but they can get pricey. Before you light them up, give them a quick chill in the freezer. This makes the wax harder, so they’ll burn for a longer stretch.

And here’s another nugget of wisdom from our friend, Bob Vila: “Once your candle has been glowing for a while, sprinkle a little salt into the melted wax. This nifty move will slow down the burn for your next cozy moment. Enjoy the candlelit vibes!


Even with inexpensive disposable razors, you can make them last longer by following some good shaving habits. Rinse off all shaving cream, lotion, or products from the blades after use. Gently pat the razor dry and store it in a cool, dry spot (your shower isn’t the right place). This will maintain the blades’ strength and prevent rust, giving them a longer life.


Shoes were one of the first things to be worn out, then repaired—often over and over—during the Great Depression. So, instead of saying goodbye to your favorite pair of shoes, try fixing them. Tape up any holes from the inside, then seal holes or open seams with an adhesive like Shoe Goo. You can also easily clean up a dirty pair of tennis shoes with toothpaste.

Clean dirt and remove salt stains from shoes and boots as soon as you notice them, to avoid any permanent damage.


Store paint cans upside down. Really! That forms a completely airtight seal, extending the useful lifespan of house paint. Make sure the lids are tightly closed for this longevity trick to work.

Garden hose

The sun’s UV rays slowly destroy garden hoses made of plastic. If you can’t keep your garden hose out of the sun, wipe it down with Armor All or a similar protectant in the spring and again midsummer. Set the hose on plastic or cardboard, spray the whole thing down and then wipe it with a rag.


To make your old sneakers look new again, grab an old toothbrush and some non-gel white toothpaste. This works best for white-soled sneakers. And you want to avoid colored toothpaste as it might stain instead of clean.

Brush the toothpaste onto the dirty areas using the toothbrush, let it sit for ten minutes it so, and then wipe it off with a damp cloth. If needed, do the process again.


It’s quite easy to bring dead Sharpie pens back to life. To get started, remove the back from the maker. This will differ for each brand of permanent marker. For Sharpies remove the back nib.

Next, deposit a few drops of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol onto the felt material inside. Shake the marker a bit to ensure the rubbing alcohol is absorbed. It’s the solvent that the ink is mixed with that dries out first, making the pigment unable to flow. Once the felt absorbs the rubbing alcohol for a couple of minutes, the marker will be practically good as new!


When you reach the bottom of a tube, use a lip brush or a cotton swab to get at the remaining lipstick. You won’t believe how much product remains even when you think you’ve reached the end.



Spray dispensers

Set the spray nozzle to the lowest mist setting. Less coming out means you’ll use less which means—that product will last longer!


As a general rule, turn clothing inside out before laundering. It’s a simple way to prevent pilling. And zip those zippers! The teeth on a zipper can act as a tiny chainsaw through the agitation and tumbling activity of a washing machine, boring holes in t-shirts and gnawing the heck out of fabric.

You might not notice it the first or second laundering, but over time, open zippers will shorten the life of everything you launder with them.


Food spoilage is often the result of improper storage. Learn more about how to store the foods that you eat regularly to keep things fresh longer.

Salad greens

Placing a paper towel in with your salad greens or lettuce will keep them fresh all week long. The paper towel will absorb the moisture, which is the culprit for wilting lettuce.


Spread a thin layer of butter to the cut ends of a block of cheese to keep it from drying out and to stave off the green mold.


Buy organic milk. It lasts a lot longer, and it’s better for you anyway. Make it last even longer: Drop a pinch of table salt into that new container of milk. Salt will retard the development of bacteria, extending its useful, fresh life.


If you are at all interested in making your refrigerator last longer (repair bills are horrible, the early death of an appliance even worse), vacuum the condenser coil in your refrigerator every three months (once a month if you have pets). Check the owner manual to discover where that coil is and how to reach it.

Garbage disposal

Clean it. Often! It will last longer and you’ll be much happier when that lovely appliance works well and doesn’t stink!

The metal part of the garbage disposal in a kitchen sink produces ions that can help kill germs, but they love to grow on the crevices in and around the slimy rubber splash guard. Your disposal can become a real breeding ground for bacteria, contaminating your hands, and everything you touch, like your dishes and utensils. All that rotting gunk and grime can cause quite a stink, too!

Here is everything you need to know and the steps you need to take once every month. Yes, it is a minor chore, but oh the payoff!

Expanded & Updated 1-5-24


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  1. Susan M says:

    When making my liquid laundry detergent, it’s almost impossible to get the borax to dissolve.. I discovered that if I use my salad spinner… gently….. cold water, and rub the smaller lumps in between my fingers it disolves SO much quicker! Of course you always have to give your container a gentle shake before measuring it out but still.. no more lumps!

    • Jeannie says:

      Susan…I, too, have found borax difficult to dissolve completely. That is a good tip. But…I have just in the last week given up on this homemade laundry soap recipe because I continually find bleach streaks in my towels where the color is removed. And several days ago, I washed a very nice coat and found a small bleached spot on the arm. I cannot figure out why this happens, but I’m done ruining good towels and clothing! I bought a huge jug of Arm and Hammer, sadly. Anyone have thoughts?

      • JDC says:

        Yes, what is probably happening is you wash your whites first or while you’ve got laundry sitting on the floor. If you’ve got a front load washer, some bleach water is held in the seals and maybe on the door glass/plastic. It sometimes drips onto your laundry, or gets mixed in.

        I learned this after ruining several pieces of clothing. I now do whites last (so the door being left open eventually dries everything out) and no other pieces around on the floor to get hit. I also switched to dried bleach packets. Never goes bad either.

    • Marion says:

      I have made this laundry detergent for years. I start my hot water running and add the borax, arm a hammer and Dawn to my gallon container then put in about three cups really hot water. I swirl it around until the powder is dissolved. Then I fill the gallon container with the rest of the water. My kids made fun of me until they need to use my machine and detergent too. Now they make their own too.

  2. amanda richards says:

    I have 3 daughters and we all have very long hair. I buy a good quality conditioner for us, but before I put in the shower, I pour off 1/4 of the bottle into another bottle for later and top the first bottle off with water. Since the conditioner is so thick, the water is easily absorbed and it lasts a lot longer.

  3. Gina Stevens says:

    When I bought my Speed Queen washer, the sales person warned against using liquid fabric softener straight. He said cut it in half with water. It’s better for the washer and still offers the same benefits. Thanks, Mary.

    • Bookworm says:

      Try 1/2 cup white vinegar instead of commercial fabric softener. I compared towels washed without any softener and those washed with vinegar, and I was amazed at how much the vinegar softens. Of course it sanitizes also.

      • Barbara J Pire says:

        I totally agree with using vinegar for that last rinse!! I too won’t use anything else! AND…it is cheap! And it softens fabrics!! And like Bookworm said it sanitizes!! I have been using vinegar for years!!!

    • Linda says:

      I understand that using liquid fabric softener cuts down the absorbency of towels etc
      I myself don’t use fabric softener.

  4. Ruth says:

    To use less toilet paper Spread Your „Cheeks „ when sitting on the toilet. That way you need less paper to clean yourself.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      OK … this is funny! Not saying that it doesn’t work, just that you gave me a good laugh. We have to remember that … laughter is like good medicine and who doesn’t need a good dose of that 🙂

      • Bonnie Alcorn says:

        A meme I saw earlier suggested that if you spray your bottom with “Pam” or a similar product it will conserve on toilet paper because nothing sticks to it!

      • Barb says:

        During the CoVid toilet paper shortage- I invested $30.00 in a Bidet attachment for my sink. It has a tube to reach my toilet located next to the sink. It has a toggle switch that diverts the water either into the sink faucet or into the bidet. You do not need any toilet paper at all!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Fixed! So sorry about that, everyone. I’m moving at the speed of light out here, trying to keep all the plates spinning. So grateful for your eyes to find errors like this. Never hesitate to let me know!

  5. Belle Mieloch says:

    When I was a child.I told to use 3 sheets of TP for liquid and 5 for solid. This worked well and I still do this. Sometimes you need more for a second wipe with solid but you will be amazed at how much TP you save.
    I use French milled soap and when it get down to a small piece I put it in A mason jar when it is half full I add hot water to make liquid soap. This can be done with any bar soap.I love to save money, Belle

  6. Rosalie says:

    Used toothbrushes are wonderful for cleaning crevices in shower doors, sliding doors, and jewelry, etc. All small, narrow spaces may benefit.
    Also use children’s (water color) paint brushes to brush dead, outdoor “critters” from our post lamp sockets before changing the light pulbs. Keeps them out of the bottom of the socket.

  7. Christina Copeland says:

    When your antiperspirant/deodorant is down to the plastic dispenser, carefully scrape out remainder into small glass bowl, pop into the microwave for a few seconds and pour on top of another deodorant that has been retracted to accommodate the extra. You will most likely have another month of use out of something that would have been thrown out.

  8. Yehudit R says:

    When the tube of hand lotion or body cream is empty, cut it in half crosswise. You’ll be aurprised at how much is still in there. To close tube use one half to cover the cut end of the other half.

    • Rosalie says:

      When face washcloths become “old” their tag is marked with an “x” (black sharpie) and used for cleaning, polishing cloths. Kitchen tea towels, too.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      GREAT tip, Mark! How about this: You go to and enter this in our Monthly Tips Contest! Every month, 3 winners: $100, $50 and $25 … CASH PRIZES people! Either by Paypal or Amazon eCard.
      Everyone: You’re all invited. It’s FREE, so much fun and well, CASH PRIZES. We’re gearing up now to announce this new Everyday Cheapskate Feature, EC2, to the public. That means your chances of winning are really good now before the masses pour in. They will 🙂

      • Genny says:

        In ref to make ‘any’ hand soap into the foam soap by putting it in a foam soap dispenser – Do you dilute your regular liquid hand soap or just pour it into that foam dispenser?

      • Mary Hunt says:

        Here’s what you do:

        Choose soap. Anything will do… body wash, hand soap, whatever you have on hand.

        Pour 4 parts water and 1 part soap into the container. (About 4/5 full of water and the other 5th soap).
        Apply the pump top, and gently roll the container around to combine, without vigorously shaking it.

        There you go—foaming soap!

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