The Low Hanging Fruit of Frugality

John Schmoll over at Frugal Rules wrote an article the other week about how he recently switched his cell phone plans from Verizon to Cricket Wireless—saving his family over $100 a month. When I read that, my amazed reaction was, “John, how are you just now streamlining your gouging cell phone bill? For a man of your frugal stature, I would’ve thought that is the first thing to go.”

It was really telling, that somebody who touts frugality could be overlooking something that, to me, seemed like some very low-hanging fruit of frugality (defined as: easily implementable solutions to saving money).

So, I decided to make a sort of Frugality 101 post on some of obvious little things that save money around the Retire29 house and our lives therein.

Basically, if you’re looking to hop onto the express train to Frugalsville, here are the first areas where you should look.

Water Conservation

At almost 1 cent per gallon, the cents really add up.

At about 27% of all household water use, the toilet is the biggest consumer of water under your roof. Not for the Retire29 household! You see, we’ve significantly cut down on our toilet water usage by implementing the easy to follow “Flush Schedule” that you see in the photo. Sure, it’s not for everybody, but if you’re looking for some easy frugality, a little less water is an easy place to go. Heck, you’re literally flushing it down the drain, anyway, aren’t you?

Whenever we have company, things tend to get really interesting, as the common American consumer reaction to this schedule is, “Eric, you can’t be serious.” Fully anticipating this, I quickly pull out and show them our last six months of water bills. Their horror quickly turns to amazement, and I find myself more-often-than-not pulling out the sharpie and making a schedule for their house, as well.


Yessir, fresh bananas.

About one-third of a banana’s weight is the peel, and since most bananas are sold by the pound at the grocery store, you’re literally throwing away a third of your money. The Retire29 solution? Simple, just peel the bananas before you check out. Granted, you only have a few minutes to eat the bananas (given the short shelf-life of recently-peeled bananas), but that’s a minor inconvenience for such large savings. Like most families, bananas are a staple of our diet, making up some 60% to 65% of the calories we consume, so paying for the peel is a total no-go.

Staying in the food realm….According to the World Resources Institute, about one-third of all food globally is wasted in the production and consumption process. This is an all-to-common problem. Folks head to the grocery store and buy all sorts of fancy foodstuffs like seafood and peanut butter, only to not eat most of it and have to throw half of it out before trash day.

Looks like we might need to get some more rice…

Not in the Retire29 house. We keep things simple, with a photo of how our pantry looks today. At least now, when we’re wasting food, it’s cheaply replaced. It’s also completely uncomplicated at dinner time:

“Honey, what’s for dinner?”

“Beans and rice, dear.”


Household supplies

Here’s a quickie. Nearly every office in America is fully stocked on the following:

  • Pens, pencils, paper, folders, notebooks, highlighters
  • Toilet paper
  • Printer ink/toner
  • Plastic cutlery, plates, paper cups, napkins, and paper towels

If you’re paying for any of the above, your employer is literally screwing you from both ends. Don’t think of it as stealing either—you’ve committed your life to these people. Plus, it’s just like with Wal-Mart employees: there is an expectation that you’re going to lift some things on your way out each evening (why do you think they have so much)? It’s written into the budget.

Add to that list many other non-universal office perks like coffee and unlabeled coworker lunches, and you can make out like a bandit every day after folks start heading out. It’s no coincidence that Retire29 is always the last one out of the office (and with a much heavier backpack than he entered with).

Pet supplies

image2 (1)
I got a good week or two left on this.

Pets are like children to almost two-thirds of U.S. households. Like children, we tend to splurge on pets with little to no regard for the true needs of the animal. Obviously things like food and water are non-negotiable, but for so many other areas, we are likely spending far more than what is truly necessary. Youtube is full of DIY veterinary care for animals of all types and temperaments. You’d be amazed (see picture) of how long you can stretch the same box of kitty litter. And all children’s toys, when they’re no longer suitable for the child due to functional or sanitary reasons, serve as perfect hand-me-down toys to your furry companions.

And please, don’t feel bad. Most animals these days are just happy to be living with somebody, what with the high propensity for euthenization given the uncontrollable pet population…most animals simply consider it a cost of doing business with a loving-but-frugal owner.


image1 (1)
Baby29 counting out the minimum payment for daddy’s credit card.

Untapped Piggy Banks

I know what you’re thinking, “Eric, you’ve gone too far.” But, I implore you to hear my side of it. Children’s piggy banks are what we call a non-productive asset in finance-speak. The money comes in day after day, birthday after birthday, and just sits there, not earning a dime of cold-hard interest. I say, put that money to work in some high-quality dividend growth stocks. Or, for a more immediate and guaranteed return, use it to increase the minimum payments on your ballooning and impending credit card debt.

The benefits are numerous:

First, there is no counterparty to refuse the transaction.

Second, the money can be used to avoid late fees or non-payment penalties.

Third, IOUs from daddy are just as valuable to somebody with no concept of money.

In Conclusion

For all those eagerly looking to jump start your way on the path to financial independence, you really need to look at the fountains of waste that are in every home. We always get the same rehashed lists that include “skip your morning coffee” and “cancel your medical insurance.” But, you’re coming to Retire29 for those out-of-the-ordinary cost-savers that really turbocharge your savings rates.

Let us make a toast to frugality! And in the comments below, what are some areas in your house that you’ve cut down on? Have you had success with the strategies above? Inquiring minds want to know.



P.S. This was all a joke.


    • Hiya Bryan,
      I wasn’t sure if I needed the “I’m joking” line at the bottom. But, knowing that some folks out there might not catch the heavy sarcasm throughout, I thought it best to remove all doubt. Thanks for reading and commenting!


  1. Thank God you were joking. I had only read the first few paragraphs before my wife and I went out this morning to run a few errands. I told her about saving water with the toilet, she was cracking up but in total horror and disbelief.

    When I returned, I read the part about stealing ink/etc from the employer and I was about to hit Unsubscribe when I happened to find the last sentence.

    It would have been better on April 1st though.
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  2. Oh man, the whole time I was reading this thinking ‘this is satire, right?’ but I wasn’t sure. Especially the bananas, ha! Brilliant.

    Although my parents go to a vacation house in a remote area that has a similar flushing schedule. Along the lines of ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow…’ I’m sure you can work out the rest. Eww! But that is because there is limited water supply. Great post!
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    • Luckily we live with an abundance of water, so I never felt the need to actually cut back on flushes. I’m glad you read through to the end—I’d hate to think anyone actually believed all of this craziness.


  3. After reading this and MMM’s “Dogs are optional” post, I was thinking, has everyone gone mad? Hahahaha
    We practice the “if it’s yellow, let it mellow” but umm, yeah we still flush when needed. 🙂 It’s more of a “do we need to waste 2 gallons of water if it’s not needed” vs a money savings. OUr water is like 0.03 cents per gallon or something ridiculously cheap, but no need to waste it.

    Thanks for the laughs this morning!
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  4. Awesome article. Loved the line “bananas are a staple of our diet, making up some 60% to 65% of the calories we consume”. Hysterical.

    • Hi Samantha! Thanks for commenting. I can’t believe anyone thought I was serious about that statistic. I think I’d be dead if I ate that many bananas. Or horrifyingly constipated.


  5. Frugality at it’s best! 1/3 of a pound for bananas, I mean that could be saving .25 for every pound of bananas! Assuming you eat 4 pounds a week, that’s $1 a day or $52 a year, put that out 10 years, $520 and think all I have to do is eat 4 pounds of bananas in the grocery parking lot…..I can’t wait.

    Fun to read, thanks Retire29.
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  6. Holy cow, am I glad I read through to the last line! I was taking everything seriously until then, and thinking, wow, unpeeling bananas? now that’s extreme! 🙂 This may be too much information, but when going #1 only, I flush every other use–no joking! Saves money and resources…

    Anyway, very funny, but you should have saved this for April 01. 🙂
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    • The intermittent flushing on #1’s seems to be somewhat acceptable, based on the comments. I wouldn’t get away with it in our house, but to each his own.

      I can’t believe you thought I was serious! Taking from the baby?! Lol, thanks for commenting!


  7. Love it Eric! Those are some seriously creative ideas, especially with those banana skins. I can only imagine what great things you’ll achieve if you’re harnessing that creative power towards your own life!

    PS – I actually do try to stretch the kitty litter a day or two, but always end up regretting it when the cats decide to teach me a lesson and leave their biggest, best, stinkiest mess possible…
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    • Yah, I admittedly do forget the kitty litter from time to time. My wife has a sense of smell that would make a bloodhound jealous, though, so she rarely lets me get away with it for too long.


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