Use-it-up Strategy

Mmm. . . Coffee

Leftover coffee. What to do with it so it won’t go to waste.

The last of this morning’s coffee can make just about anything “mocha.” Hot cocoa. Chocolate milk. Cake or brownies. Pudding. Frosting. Poured over ice cream. I’m sure there are more I haven’t thought of.

Freeze some in ice cube trays so your iced coffee won’t be weak. Or, to cool a hot cup of coffee.


Coffee is so hugely not-cheap, it’s a shame to waste any.


The Hot Dog to Bun Inefficiency

Hot dogs usually come ten to a package, and buns generally eight to a package. What to do. After pointlessly complaining about those leftover dogs, there are several options. A hot dog can be yummy without a bun, served like any other meat dish on a plate. Or, there’s no rule that says you can’t wrap the dog in an ordinary slice of bread. I’ve been known to cut up the hot dog and mix it in with something. Mac and cheese. Rice and vegetables.

One could buy another pack of buns, to cover all the dogs, but then there’s the extra buns to deal with. Just because it’s hot dog-shaped doesn’t mean you can’t use it for other sandwichy foods. Or toast. Garlic bread. Allow to go stale and mash up as bread crumbs.

Why do they package it that way? The Straight Dope suggests that meat packers think in pounds – which happens to be ten ordinary size dogs – and bakers think in parts of a dozen, three, four, six, eight. It’s as good an explanation as any.

“What I Don’t Have to Spend, I Don’t Have to Earn”

About half the time when I say that to people, they stare as if what they heard me say was, “Erndampt, ag rojabrane.” I’ve tried saying it in different words, but sometimes it just doesn’t fit a person’s mindset.

If I arrange my life so that I don’t have to spend $60 a month on dry cleaning, then at least theoretically, that’s $60 I don’t have to earn that week. Of course when you have a steady and sufficient salary, you’re going to earn anyway. In that case, what you don’t have to spend, you can save up for something bigger that you want, like a vacation or early retirement.

When you’re relying on intermittent and unpredictable self-employment income, and your health isn’t reliable either, not-spending is a wonderful way to handle gaps in income. This is great for people who are retired, disabled, temporarily out of the work force for personal or family reasons, etc…..

If working overtime hours is putting pressure on your health or your family life, perhaps you could not-spend instead of working yourself into the ground.

For hundreds of examples of ways to not-spend (and still live a normal life), see my book, Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely.

Clothes – When They Aren’t Clothes Any More

Clothes that can no longer be fixed or altered can still be useful. Absorbent items such as T-shirts, towels, and socks can enjoy a second life as cleaning cloths or shop rags.

You can make a dusting mitt from the sleeve of a sweatshirt. The fuzzy inside will be the outside of the duster. Allow enough length so that when you reach your hand into the sleeve from the end, the cuff of the sleeve is around your wrist. Leave enough material beyond the tips of the fingers of your outstretched hand to allow you to hem it closed.

A sock rubber-banded to the handle of a broom will let you reach dust and cobwebs in high places.

The leg of a pair of slacks can become a tube pillow for your neck. Stuff it and either tie or sew it shut on each end.

A square pocket can become an inner pocket for your purse or tote bag. Cut it out, leaving an inch of material all the way around. Turn all the edges under ¼ inch and then another ¼ inch, and sew it into your purse or tote.

If an adult garment has large sections of sound cloth, the good areas can be used as fabric to make clothes for babies or dolls.

Ruined panty hose can do many things. If you run them through the sleeves of a shirt or sweater, you can hang it to dry without getting clothespin marks on the garment. Put a section of it over the end of the vacuum hose to trap small objects you want to find, like earrings or contact lenses. They make a nice outer casing for things like patio umbrellas or small tents–the material will breathe, reducing the risk of mildew.

Socks with worn out feet? Cut off the tops and sew a top on to a mid-calf sock to make it into a knee-high sock. Or sew two tops together to make a leg warmer. Sock tops can also make mittens longer, so they go up into your sleeve instead of leaving a gap between mitten and jacket.

If you have long hair, you can use a sock to make a large bun. It’s too hard to explain here, but go to and search on “sock bun” to see it.

Buying a large quantity of socks in the same color and style can save money and effort over time. You will never have an unmatched sock. If one wears out or gets lost, the other still matches all the other socks. I have a dozen tan socks that I wear with nearly everything. A man could do this with black dress socks, an athlete with white tube socks.

If you get a run in one leg of a pair of pantyhose, you can cut that leg off and wear it with another one-legged pair. If they are both the same leg, turn one of them inside out. If you catch a run when it’s just starting, you can stop it by painting both ends of the run with clear nail polish.

The sound part of worn out denim clothes can be used for many things. Make children’s jeans last longer by sewing a large piece of denim inside each knee area in advance. Denim is also handy for making potholders and purses. It makes a relatively masculine quilt or couch throw. For directions, use any Internet search engine to look for “make a denim purse” (or potholders or whatever).



Marie Brack is the author of Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely. It’s available on in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Clothes – Change it and Keep Wearing it

Clothes don’t have to keep on being what they originally were. They can be fabric ‘transformers’ that morph into something more useful.

If a pullover sweater becomes too tight or gets a stain or hole in the middle of the front, you can make it in to a no-button cardigan. Stitch two parallel rows close together down the middle so it won’t unravel when you cut it. Then cut in between the stitching down the middle and finish the edges with sewing tape or ribbon. You can do this with any shirt. It’s a little hard to describe in words. You can see it by searching on for “turn sweater into a cardigan.”

When I was a kid, the elbows on my favorite blouse wore through. I cut the sleeves off just above the holes, rolled them up, and went on wearing it. This will also work if the sleeves have become too short. You might be able to take the sleeves off and make it a sleeveless shirt.

You can do something similar with slacks. If the knees are worn through, cut them off to make shorts. Then you can roll them up, hem them, or fray the edges. A shirtdress that’s too short can be cut off and hemmed to make an actual shirt. A dress whose top part has become unusable can be made into a skirt.




A New Financial Start

Maybe you spent a bit too much over the holidays. January sometimes brings on a sort of financial repentance, and a desire to use money more effectively in the new year. My book can help with that. Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely deals with the need for financial change from both directions – spending less and earning more. Maybe you have friends or relatives who spend too much, or want to get out of debt. The book would make a nice gift for them, or just tell them about it. Want to retire early? Take a fantastic trip? The strategies in the book can help you move toward any financial goal.

It’s available on in both paperback and Kindle versions.

Wonderful review

I am so moved by this review. “Tightwad Gazette of the 21st Century” is exactly what I wanted people to think about it:

“Great book!, February 18, 2014

By Lita McRiley “Sorlina”See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)

This review is from: Frugal Living for the 21st Century: Adventures in Using Your Money Wisely (Kindle Edition)

This book is jam-packed with tips, ideas, and strategies for saving money. It’s the Tightwad Gazette of the 21st century… internet addresses for DIY help, encouragement for readers, personal anecdotes, this book has it all. To top it off, it’s delivered in a light, easy to read style that isn’t preachy or judgmental. A very helpful, and enjoyable, read!”

The Tightwad Gazette has been the “bible” of thrifty living. My hope was to make it the ‘old testament’ and mine the ‘new testament’, and it seems I have succeeded.