Apr 07 2008

Spend to save: Items that can save you money in the long run

In the grand scheme of being frugal, sometimes it is wise to spend a little bit more initially, so that you’ll have a quality item that won’t need to be replaced for a long, long time.
Or, it can be worthwhile to invest a little in reusable items, rather than disposable ones. You can be green and frugal at the same time, in many cases!
Items that help prevent waste are definitely frugal.
Here’s some products you can acquire that might help save money in the long run. Remember, sometimes being frugal means you should spend to save.
  • Vacuum wine saver — Ever find yourself with a half-empty wine bottle? Rather than having to drink more than you desire or pouring it out, you can use a vacuum-style wine preserver to remove air from the bottle and plug it up for next time.
  • Salad spinner — Wash your leafy greens (or other vegetables and even fruits, such as grapes) in a salad spinner to remove excess water. If you store lettuce, it won’t brown as quickly if it’s dry.
  • Coffee maker— Having your own coffeepot can save you tons of money, if you opt to use that instead of going to a coffeeshop.
  • Reusable coffee filters — Instead of using a paper coffee filter every time you brew a pot, you can buy a mesh or metal reusable filter.
  • Coffee thermos/Water bottle — You won’t be tempted to grab a cup at a coffeeshop. Not a coffee drinker? Use a reusable bottle to take water with you.
  • Spatula — This well-designed utensil ensures that every bit of batter or other food is used.
  • Reusable lunch bag — If you’re not taking your lunches to work (but could) really consider changing your habits. Taking your lunch even once per week can save you a lot of money. A reusable, insulated lunch bag can keep food cool while preventing the need to have a disposable sack each day.
  • Reusable containers— Rather than using ziplock bags or foil, have a good supply of reusable containers to store leftovers or lunches. Reuse old butter tubs or cottage cheese containers as well.
  • Filtered water pitcher — If your tap water doesn’t taste good, using a filter can be a great way to avoid purchasing bottled water. Also, you might be more likely to drink water instead of a beverage that costs money.
  • Cloth napkins and towels — Rather than using disposable paper towels, try switching to cloth rags. Sure, you might need to keep paper towels on hand for those really disgusting messes, but using cloth more often will save in the long run.


  • Water conservation devices for toilet tanks — So you don’t need to use as much water per flush.
  • Dye tablets to detect leaky toilets — You just put them in the tank, and if you see dye seeping anywhere, you know you have a leak that needs fixed.
  • Low-flow shower head— So each shower will use less water (as long as you don’t spend more time sudsing up!)


  • Mesh bags for laundry— If you’re washing delicates or tiny items such as baby socks, perhaps putting them in a mesh bag before putting them in the wash will make them last longer (and prevent them from getting lost).
  • Wooden or padded clothes hangers — If your clothes hang well in the closet, their shape will remain intact and should last longer. Some wooden or padded hangers can help prevent bugs from being attracted to your clothes. 
  • Shoe polish — If your shoes have good soles and are still comfortable, consider cleaning or polishing them to preserve their life.
  • Laundry drying rack — I have two drying racks, and I’m considering getting another suitable for sweaters. I hang most of my laundry on those racks, saving me $1.25 per load I’d have to pay for using the apartment dryer. Plus, it adds humidity to our apartment, and I don’t accidentally shrink clothes.
  • Clothesline/pins— Like a drying rack, but on a larger scale. When I have a house and a yard someday, I hope to have a clothesline (though I realize some neighborhoods ban them, eep! I’ll try to avoid neighbors who don’t like clotheslines).
 Around the house
  • CFL light bulbs — You won’t have to replace them as often, and your electric bill should go down.
  • Weather insulation — I know it’s almost spring, but really consider weatherizing your home next winter. And, if you live in a superhot climate and keep your AC on all the time, make sure your windows aren’t drafty, either. Ya don’t want all that cool air to seep outside! Caulk your windows to make sure this can’t happen.
  • Crank-up flashlight — My husband received a crank-up flashlight as a gift one year. No batteries!
  • Rechargable batteries/ battery charger— If you have a digital camera that uses AA batteries, definitely consider getting a set of rechargables and a charger. I picked up a free-after-rebate one from Walgreens a few months ago, and without rebate it was like $10.
  • Digital camera — If you’re still using a film camera, please stop, unless you have an artistic reason to do so. The price of film and development simply isn’t worth it. Check eBay for decent used ones.
  • Programmable thermostat — Ours is set to lower at night in the winter to save us even more on our electric bill. It’s nice not having to remember to change it yourself.
  • Fans — If you live in a climate that doesn’t get insanely hot or humid from March through October, try opening your windows and using fans as much as humanly possible, instead of relying on your air conditioner.
  • Turtle wax — Keep your car shiny! Even if you don’t plan on selling it, keeping your car looking good will help its value. Also, you’ll feel good when driving it.
  • Tire pressure guage— If your air pressure is low, you’ll get worse gas mileage, and could damage your tires (costly to fix!). Keep a guage in your glove box and check your pressure often. Even if they look OK, they could be low.
  • Diva Cup — I haven’t yet tried a Diva Cup, but hope to at some point. Check out Mrs. Micah’s review on this feminine care item.
  • Electric razors — My husband uses an electric razor, which has lasted for many years. I never have to buy disposable razors or lather for him. He has to replace the razor head when it gets dull, but it’s cheaper than disposables over the long run. Plus, he prefers it this way.
  • Hair cut at home kit — I’ve now given my husband two hair cuts at home. He loves it! It’s a lot easier than you’d think. Check out our first hair cut experience here. The kit has already paid for itself, and then some.


  • Cloth tote bags for shopping— It’s good for the environment, and if you shop at Aldi, bringing your own bags can save you 5 cents per purchased bag. Other grocers have incentives for bringing your own bags as well.
  • Cooler — When you travel, pack a cooler of food instead of stopping at restaurants for road trips. A good cooler is great to have on hand for picnics and potlucks.

This post was inspired by a list I saw compiled by Real Simple. What can you add to the list?

Posted under Uncategorized | 22 Comments »

22 Responses to “Spend to save: Items that can save you money in the long run”

  1. I only had to spend $6 to get a decent little lunchbox that kept my food cool during the commute and could then be stuck in a fridge at work. Spent another $5 ish on a set if ziplock sealable containers which happened to be just the right size for the lunchbox. After that, 4 months of lunches in it every week day. (Now my schedule lets me mostly eat at home.) Great return on the investment. :)

    Thanks for mentioning my diva cup post!

  2. I noticed you mentinoed a water conversation unit for toilets – my husband actually made something for free that does the same job. He filled a plastic bottle with rocks and put in the back of the toilet. I thought he was nuts when he did this, but it actually works REALLY well. Also, I never buy paper towels anymore. My mom makes cloth napkins for me as well as reusable shopping bags. If you ever shop at Whole foods, they give you a 10 cent discount per reusable bag that you bring. Great post!

    lori’s last blog post..Gerber Baby Food Danger??

  3. If you don’t want to invest in a salad spinner, use a clean pillow case. Toss everything in, whip it around a few times, and voila! Clean, dry salad.

    Also, reuse your plastic bags. I know it sounds weird, but turn those puppies inside out and wash them, just like you would any other dish!

    Amphritrite’s last blog post..The Day’s Work

  4. I was with you all the way up until the haircut. :)
    I let my wife cut my hair…once! (bad move)

    This is a great list. I was surprised how many of these I’m already doing, but you did give me some good ideas on some others.

    I’d like to switch over to an electric razor, but every time I’ve tried it, I break out in whelps and get very irritated skin. Using one would help me get through airports much faster because, apparently, the TSA thinks someone might shave someone to death in flight. With an electric, I could skip having to check my luggage. Right now, that’s the ONLY reason I check it…one silly little razor adds 30 minutes to the check in and again to the landing process.

  5. I try, whenever possible, to buy glass containers instead of plastic. They’re more expensive but they last forever, and they don’t leak toxins into your foods if you throw them in the microwave.

    I also make coffee in a french press–a little more low-tech than a coffee maker (and requires a stove top or electric kettle), but because it’s simple (glass and metal) there’s nothing to replace and no filters.

    I invested in a pair of Chacos, and some Chaco flipflops when they were 1/2 off at Rock Creek last year. I will wear these for years, and will not be buying tons of cheap flipflops that barely survive a summer.

    I’m glad you spotlighted the Diva Cup. It’s great!

  6. Interesting list…some items I simply refuse to do. I refuse to buy those horrid twisted CFL lightbulbs. I hate the light they give and I’ve actually run into many people who say they burn out FASTER. Not to mention the whole mercury thing, which isn’t the main reason but doesn’t help.

    And if I ever am forced to buy a low flow shower I am going to switch to baths. Unless it is a super one that still gives me the proper water pressure. There are just some things I can’t live without and a nice hot and properly pressurized shower is one of them.

    I don’t *mind* low flow toilets if they WORK. My mom was forced to buy one (seriously…the guys would not install anything else and she had to have one) and it does not work. It’s not low flow if you have to flush four times to get everything down!

    Otherwise I’m with ya…love reusable plastic containers. Cheaper than anything else and it doesn’t bother me to throw them away when they’re past they’re prime. But for lunch bags I re-use my plastic grocery sacks. They’re free and I then recycle them at work. They’re like an extra purse. :)

    castocreations’s last blog post..Looking Toward Tomorrow

  7. What an awesome collection of tips! I’m going to be moving into a new place this weekend, so I’ll definitely keep your list in mind. Thanks so much!

    burnski’s last blog post..Bargain Bonanza – Deals at West Marine? Sir, Yes Sir! – $30 off Orders of $225+ on Water-Safety Equipment & GPS Navigators

  8. I love not needing coffee filters with our French Press, very easy clean up for it, too!

    CFLs come in different light colors, it seems–we have several that give off a nice warm light, as well as some of the colder seeming office white ones. Now if I could only figure out what I had bought different so I could recommend them to others!

    Erin’s last blog post..What Juice Do You Buy?

  9. Great post!!

    I love finding ways to spend more money upfront to save more in the long run!! I don’t know why I get such a kick out of it, but I really do!!

    thanks for the list!!

  10. CFL light bulbs have recently been slowly replacing all the lights in my house, yea, more now, but gimme 5 years… :)

    hank’s last blog post..Reverse engineering the Entrecard system

  11. I bought a hair catcher do-dad for my shower drain to avoid having to worry about plumbing issues. I have long hair that likes to shed constantly so it’s saved us a lot of hassle.

    Sarah’s last blog post..Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke: Love & Money

  12. thanks

  13. Here’s a couple for your list:

    Shop at the dollar store before going to Wal Mart, BJs, or the grocery store for many of your needs.

    I’m a roofer – so I realize that attic ventilation will help double the life of your roof – no matter what type of roof you may have (asohalt shingles, tiles, flat). Also, the ventilation will give you 10% lower energy bills, as your ceilings will be cooler, because your attic will be cooler. Home Deopt and Lowes have power attic fans that with thermostat for about $100.

    Also, Wal Mart sells 100% UV ray blocking curtains. Your windows lose a lot of energy as well. Don’t like curtains? Try tint, there are many great and cheap installers available.

    These 3 tips save me literally HUNDREDS A MONTH!

  14. Just a few more: a pressure cooker saves fuel to cook since it cooks meats so quickly. A slow cooker saves on cooking costs too, but a pressure cooker also saves time!

    Whenever we have leftovers that are not enough for even one serving, we throw it into a container in the freezer. When the container is full, we make soup!

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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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