Living Frugally: Loose Change, Contributions, and Scraping

Living frugally means more than simply looking for ways to spend less. According to…

fru • gal [froo-guhl] economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful.

Economical in use or expenditure might refer to spending less. However, how might a savvy individual save prudently and not be wasteful? Here are a few practices we have adopted in the SavvyJames household:

About three years ago we placed a wicker basket – which later became known as ‘the money basket’ – in our bedroom. We determined that at the end of each day, we would place all our change and any dollar bills in the basket. Of course, any change found, such as when out on a run, is also tossed in the basket.

And while we typically limit bills thrown in the basket to the $1 type, occasionally we will throw in a $5. You would be amazed at how quickly loose change, $1 bills – and the occasional $5 bill – add up! Often we use the change collected in our basket to add to our emergency fund or as spending money on our mini-vacations, taken over a long weekend. Our best haul? If memory serves me correctly, over a 3-4 month period, about $180.

Like many communities, ours collects recyclable material on a weekly basis. We make a point to take full advantage and ensure that all of our plastic, aluminum, cardboard, and glass make their way into the recycle bin. While not necessarily difficult, it is somewhat inconvenient to lug recyclables out to the bin every time we finish a gallon of milk or bottle of wine.

Therefore, we keep a small plastic bin in the garage, just a few steps away from the kitchen, and toss the discarded items in there immediately after use to ensure that they don’t end up in the regular trash can. When full, we simply dump the items from the small plastic bin in the larger bin that the city picks up.

A better solution to throwing away older clothes that no longer fit but still have use? In our community, the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the Boys and Girls Club regularly drop plastic bags off at the front door and a notice of the date they will come back by to pick up the bags. We simply leave the bag full of clothes at the curb (corner of our driveway/sidewalk) and they pick up during their rounds for that day. A side benefit? The contributions are tax-deductible. If you leave a bag of contributed items on the curb, they will leave a receipt on your door. If there isn’t an organization that accepts contributions in this manner, you can always drop off donated items at their place of business.

Lotion Canister

Just recently, Mrs. SavvyJames started holding onto lotion bottles after we would have normally thrown them away, as she realized quite a bit of lotion was left inside. After saving six or seven bottles, she cut them in half and used a spatula to scrape out the remains. A decorative canister, found on sale for $2.99, works nicely as a lotion container…

Stay Savvy, my friends and live more frugally.

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.


  1. I have a large piggy bank and I could go to the hair salon on one occasion and buy milk on another. Makes “cents.”

    • Makes sense as all those cents add up. Thanks for stopping by, Abigail.

  2. James I really like the money basket ideal!

  3. We also have our version of the money basket – it’s always exciting when it comes time to count up everything and take it to the bank to be put into savings! And that’s amazing about the lotion bottles, I would have never thought you could get that much out of ones you thought were empty! Might have to start doing that, too. Less waste is always a good thing.

    • Yep, even when you shake a lotion container, it is amazing how much remains. Hats off to my wife for taking the time to cut them open and scrape out the savings! Thanks for stopping by, Kali.

  4. Nice one Molet. Really loved the idea of the ‘Money Basket’. Would surely try it out and also advise others to do so!

    • The ‘Money Basket’ works out nicely as it is money that isn’t really thought about. It makes for an easy way to save a little money. Thanks for stopping by, Eva

  5. All good ideas. We do a similar thing as your money basket, we use a jar to collect spare change. It really adds up.

    We don’t have an organization near us that picks up donations from us, but that would be great.

    • Having an organization – or two in our case – that makes it convenient to donate is great. And as fate would have it, in a good way, it seems as though whenever it dawns on us that there are some clothing items that can probably be donated, we find a bag from one of the organizations on our front door. Thanks for stopping by, Kay.

  6. Great article. It’s amazing the money that can be saved by doing simple things like scraping lotion bottles. I really like the idea of saving the dollars each day as well. I save change currently, as my hubby and I are saving for our retirement home. It’s amazing how quickly it adds up!

    • So very true, Karen. Money that would otherwise not be missed adds up very quickly.

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