Some of us grew up in a frugal household where there should be no waste and all resources should be perfectly utilized. Some of these frugal practices become so strange that they infuriate us, but others still work out fine and even let us save some money.
Well, here are 11 strange frugal rules these people grew up with!
1. Reusing Aluminum Foil
One user said, “I remember relatives washing, flattening, and saving aluminum foil.”
The second person replied, “I still do that sometimes. It doesn’t make sense to me to only use it once if it’s still usable.”
2. Hoarding Disposable Containers
“My parents were kids during the Depression, so that experience gave them pretty valuable habits: No waste cooking, using utilities sparingly, and fix and repair it skills, and fortunately that affected me. The only thing that was iffy was borderline hoarding. It was hard for them to throw anything away. Big rubberband balls, Quaker Oats containers (because they’re good to put things in LOL). I mitigate this tendency by robust recycling,” said somebody.
“YES with the hoarding. For me, it was my grandparents who lived through the Depression and kept stuff around ‘just in case,’ but some of their kids in my parents’ (Boomer) generation still have hoarding tendencies, and I have to stay vigilant about it myself. Recycling and composting both help a lot because I can feel like things aren’t being wasted,” the second person replied.
Finally, the third added, “The hoarding was so real with my family too. I have been working for years to break those tendencies now that I’m in my 30s and living alone. It’s okay to throw things away!!”
3. Never Eat More Than Six Olives
One person commented, “My mom had so many rules. My favorite though is you can’t eat more than 6 olives or you’ll get sick. As an adult I proved her wrong … over time you realize its because with 8 people in the family she counted out the olives and knew if anyone ate more than 6, then there wasn’t enough olives in the jar for everyone to have 6 and it would cause a fight…and olives were a treat, it was something we had to buy vs. pickles which we grew and canned.
“However, as my brothers moved out, etc. the rule never changed. I wonder if it’s the same with your parents, there may have been a reason and as time and situation changed, they just never changed the rules.
“I spent a lot of time as an adult trying to sort out what was actually real and what was just made up stuff because we were way poor. For some reason, instead of just saying we couldn’t afford something, it was always we were going to get sick or injured. I literally thought people constantly hit trees while skiing, people drowned all the time at the pool, etc. It was messed up.”
4. My Parents Had Feast and Famine
Somebody commented, “My parents were frequently broke but not frugal, so I have a lot of memories of excess and then deprivation. Like they’d spend hundreds hosting a party, providing booze, and grilling tons of food, but then a few days later lights cut off due to nonpayment. Or have really elaborate holidays, then pick up groceries from relatives because they didn’t have money for them.
“Drive to the beach but have to split a pack of crackers. Buy new clothes but then park the car somewhere strange to hide from repo man. Order insanely expensive at a restaurant but you have to put them back apples at the grocery store because they cost too much.
“Over my childhood, they both became first-generation college grads, and worked very hard—both kept multiple jobs, attended college and grad school, and earned more and more money—but their financial situation never improved. So that is really a big part of my attraction to a more frugal lifestyle. Probably I have been cheaper than I had to be at times, and I’m sure some of it didn’t make sense to my children. But I didn’t want me or my kids to have anxiety or hardship because I wanted to cut loose in the moment.”
Another one replied, “It sounds like you’re American; otherwise, I’d swear this was one of my siblings writing this! Our mother would buy ridiculous amounts of Christmas presents each year, then spend the rest of the year stressed and angry because she’d got it all out of the catalog and had to pay it off every week. Both of our parents smoked like chimneys but if we wanted bus fare for school, we had to get a job. They were like literal kids in a sweet shop—they bought anything they wanted, whenever they wanted it, and [hang] the consequences!”
5. Always Conserve Water
One person shared, “My frugal parents had a phobia about wasting water. We had to conserve water while washing the dishes and especially while bathing or showering. In the shower, we had to get wet, turn the water off while we soap up, turn the water back on to rinse off. I still think of it every time I get in the shower.”
6. Compacting Trash to Save Money
“We had to crush everything before it went into the trash and make it as compact as possible. I guess in the old days the trash man charged by how much you put out so they would crunch everything down to save money.
“Didn’t matter we had municipal trash collection that was paid for by our property taxes. Now I do it to get the most out of trash bags. I hate spending money on something that’s designed to be just thrown away so I figure I might as well get the most mileage out of it.
“Oh, and we saved every container that could be reused. Jars, plastic tubs, and foil lunch containers that weren’t too crushed. Washed and reused. Still do that but not as fanatically as when we were growing up,” stated someone.
7. Only Turning Lights on at Night
“Not turning on lights. I constantly have an issue with everyone in the house as a married adult. No lights on unless it’s dark outside. We never had lights on unless it was nighttime,” said one.
“I had this experience too, and it kind of made sense when light bulbs were a bigger electrical draw. Now that I have 100% LED bulbs in my house (and other electric appliances that use a LOT more electricity, like an AC and a dehumidifier, which my parents would NEVER have had), it’s more of a habit than an actual savings,” the second person replied.
8. Eat Before You Leave the House
Somebody shared, “My parents made sure my sibling and I always ate something before leaving the house to minimize us asking for the more expensive snacks and fast food later. Usual this was as simple as timing our departures for right after we finished a meal, but I remember going for a jacket and my mom being like, ‘Here, eat this sandwich first.’
“I understand why they did it but it created an awful habit as I got older where I no longer really knew if I was eating because I was hungry or simply because the opportunity had presented itself.”
The second person replied, “It is pretty smart to eat before you leave. I’m out and realize I’m hungry. I either then must starve, buy fast food, or go back home to eat. Just eat before you leave whether you’re hungry or not is a good plan.”
Then the third added, “Or simply bring some food with you, lol.”
9. Reusing Plastic Cutlery From Parties
“My mom would always save the plastic cutlery from parties. She would dig through the trash herself and make me help. She would wash the plastic cutlery and it would be saved for the next party.
“She was also furious at my dad for purchasing a new wireless landline. Our old wired landline was secondhand from a family friend, and we had it for as long as I could remember. My dad bought a new landline because he was tired of having to hold the wire in the base of the phone because it was cracked, and if you didn’t hold in the wire correctly, your call would be disconnected,” shared somebody.
“I consider myself a frugal person. I’m all for frugal ideas but I’m sorry, your mom went a little bit to extreme. Reusing plastic cutlery?! Refusing to buy a new landline phone that was clearly broken?! I can’t see the justification for that.
“On a side note, I will reuse plastic cutlery for myself, like if I ate something that didn’t get dirty for breakfast, I might reuse it for lunch but I would never ever do that for anyone else for sanitary reasons,” replied somebody else.
10. Reusing Paper Grocery Bags
One person said, “My dad is frugal, and continues to be to this day … I think I get most of my frugal habits from him! He grew up without much money at all, along with two other siblings, and his parents used to reuse paper grocery bags in place of a reusable trash can (one where you just empty out the bag).
“I didn’t think much of it when I was little, but the paper bag trash idea went on for many years. We saved paper grocery bags like crazy. We were not allowed to recycle them, because we owned no actual trash can. He only stopped using bags as trash receptacles (I can’t really call it a can) when he met my now-step mom. She believes trash should go in a real trash can, so now they use a traditional physical can.
“Thinking back, I’m sure my dad just carried on something he was used to from his childhood. But I sure don’t miss using paper bags for trash. In a pinch, like when you’re traveling or moving, or in a hurry … but that’s it, for me.”
11. Only Open One Container at a Time
Somebody shared, “We could only have one container of something open at a time, because once you open something, it doesn’t last as long. It makes sense for something like milk to finish the one that’s already in the fridge before you open the new one. But the thing I always hated was we could only have one box of cereal open at once. Want frosted flakes? Too bad, you have to finish the entire bag of terrible generic cheerios first.”
Somebody else replied, “I’m fully on board with the one container precept. I may put it on a sign. The majority of my household has food service training/experience, yet FIFO at home escapes them. I just threw out two 98% full bags of not-cheap deli meat because biology happened, and am still salty about it; at Boar’s Head prices, that stuff should come in a gold leaf packet with diamond zip closures.”
Can you relate to some of the frugal rules listed above? Or did you also grow up with one? Let us know in the comments!
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