Frugal Finds: New Uses for Everyday Things

July 2, 2014

One of the easiest ways to keep money in your wallet is by getting creative about how you use a few common items found around most homes. After all, just because something is marketed for use in one way, doesn't mean you can't use it in a multitude of other ways.

Here are a few new ideas for everyday items.

Overly Organized 

  • Use mason jars to store small items -- crayons, buttons, screws in the garage, etc.
  • Missing the lid to a mason jar? Parmesan cheese container lids will do the job.
  • Use ice cube trays to store desk supplies on the top of your desk, or in your desk drawer.
  • Use that old Rolodex to organize your gift cards.
  • Use your address labels to "brand" your items -- books, staplers, tupperware, etc.
  • Use an old decorative picture frame as a tray for the top of a dresser or a bathroom vanity. Place a piece of pretty construction paper on the tray for a finishing touch. This is a great way to keep the vanity/bathroom counter organized!
  • When traveling, or in your purse, eliminate clunky bottles for nonprescription medication by popping the pills into a contact lens case.
  • Use cereal containers as trash containers in your car.
  • Put an empty laundry basket in the back of your car to make bringing stuff into the house that much easier.

 Doing Double-Duty 

  • Put a serving tray on top of the (upside down) bucket, for an instant table. This is a great idea for the patio, the pool, or the beach!
  • Use a cocktail shaker as an egg scrambler.
  • Use holiday lights as night lights by putting them in a glass mason jar.
  • Use clean, colorful shoelaces as gift ribbons.
  • Shower caps make great shoe protectors when traveling. Put a pair of shoes in a shower cap, before putting them in your suitcase. This will keep your clothes from getting dirty from your shoes.
  • Use a "Twister" game mat, as a birthday party table cloth.
  • Use that hair straightener to get between the buttons on shirts where the iron won’t fit.
  • A clear hair elastic binds (or a rubber band) keeps blooms together for a better arrangement in a wide-mouth vase. Stretch the elastic around the stems, then let the flowers fall naturally.
  • Use lemons to remove tough food stains from plastic or light colored wood cutting boards. Squeeze the juice of one half a lemon on the board, let it sit for 20 minutes, and then rinse.
  • Use paint strip/chip colors as place cards by folding the strip in half, writing the person's name on it, and placing it as a “tent” by their seat. Write the name on the strip that suggests that person's personality -- i.e. "delicate peach," etc.
  • Put a large trash bag in the empty laundry basket (use clothes pins to hold the bag in place), and fill with ice. Now you have an instant ice cooler to keep your beverages cold!
  • Use paper clips as (temporary) zipper pulls.
  • Use those (re)peel window decals as drink markers. Your guests will know which drink is their drink, by their window decal. Peel off, and reuse at your next party!
  • Wrap aluminum foil around the door knob when painting the door for easy clean up. This is easier than painters tape!
  • Cut down on the amount of potting soil needed, by crumpling a plastic bag in the bottom of the deep pot, but don't cover the drainage hold.
  • Spray your snow shovel (before shoveling the snow) with "Pam" cooking spray, and the snow will slide right off. Also spray inside your votive candle holders before lighting the candle. The dripped wax will slide right out.

Rubber bands and clothes pins are two items that seem to be bountiful in most homes. Here are some great ways to make use of these easily-found items.

Resourceful Rubber Bands 

  • Put rubber bands around your glasses for an instant grip.
  • Use rubber bands as jar openers -- if you can't open that nail polish jar, wrap a rubber band around the handle and presto!
  • Wrap a rubber band around the TV remote to keep it from sliding off the table, or from scratching the table.
  • Use a rubber band as a pencil or pen grip.
  • Wrap a rubber band around the top of a cooking spoon, just above the rim of the bowl, and the spoon won't slide into the (cake/cookie batter) mix.
  • Use rubber bands to make interesting and fun Easter Egg designs. Wrap several rubber bands (gently) around the egg before you dip it into the egg dye.
  • Limit amount of soap dispensed by wrapping a rubber band around the neck of the pump. This is great for little hands that love the foam soap!

Creative Clothes Pins

  • Use clothes pins to keep napkins from blowing away at picnics.
  • Keep your cookbooks open by using a clothes pin on each side.
  • Write the name of each of your family member on a clothes pin and clip to their towel for easy identification.
  • Keep that trash bag in place by putting a clothespin on it and the garbage can.
  • Clothes pins make great organizers for teachers -- write the name of the subject, day of the week, etc. on the clothes pin and clip to the appropriate stack of papers.
  • Help your elementary age child know what he/she is going to wear during the week by writing the day of the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc), on a clothespin, and clipping the clothespin to the hanger.
  • String a wire/rope across the wall, and use clothes pins to hang your child's artwork. This way the artwork can be easily changed.
  • Write each of your children's name on a clothes pin, and put the appropriate clothes pin on the appropriate chores chart.
  • Use a fun, colorful clothes pin to hold the gift tag on a present.

Do you have an idea for how an everyday item can be reused in a frugal-friendly way? Share your idea by leaving a comment!

This post was written by Kimberly Schmit, a Data Information Specialist at Colorado PERA. Would you like to submit a guest post to The Dime Colorado? Send us an email at dimecontact@copera.org.