Frugality Is The Second Mother Of Invention

It’s been said that necessity is the mother of all invention. Then frugality must be like a second mother!  Have you ever noticed how most frugal people are also very creative? It’s no coincidence; I believe there is a strong correlation between frugality and creativity.  There’s plenty of examples out there of frugal people finding creative solutions to life’s problems – sometimes in an effort to save money, and other times simply to extend the useful life of everyday things.

Mowing by flashlight

The idea for this post came to me Saturday night while mowing our lawn late in the evening. As it got dark, I switched on the lawn tractor’s headlight feature without success. In a matter of minutes I would soon be mowing in the dark.  With no time to investigate why the lamp wasn’t working, and little time (and money) to start looking for a replacement, I did what any frugal person would do. I duct taped an old MAGLIGHT flashlight to the hood and finished mowing.

Of course, this probably won’t be a long-term solution, although after looking up the cost of a new headlamp I’m thinking I might just live with it for a while (and start mowing earlier in the day!).

Painting the top of my van with Rustoleum auto paint

A while back I noticed the top of my old van was seriously rusted. I was less concerned with aesthetics and more concerned that it would eventually leak during heavy rains. Recognizing that it is a large vehicle, I figured having a new paint job would be expensive, so I decided to do it myself.

One Saturday morning I hand-sanded the top of the van with sandpaper fine enough for auto surfaces, but coarse enough to remove most of the rust. I then gave the van a good washing to remove any sanding residue and loose paint/rust chips.

The next morning I applied a couple coats of Rustoleum auto spray paint to the roof in an almost matching color.  It’s really more two-toned now, but not many people can see the top of a van, so it certainly doesn’t bother me. With a little elbow grease, and $20 worth of supplies I had solved most of my rust problem. At 19 years old, the chances of me having to repaint the roof during the van’s useful life are slim.

Made a “book” rest

A few weeks ago I was cleaning out my work office when I found some very old programming books.  These thousand-plus page monsters were extremely outdated and were ready to hit the recycle bin long ago. But I had a different idea.

I grabbed two of the books of equal size, and found four door wedges (those triangular things that slide under a door to hold it open), and glued two to each book, about a 1/3 of the way in on both sides.  What I had left was a gently elevated footrest for each foot that I put against the backside of my desk.

No offense to the books’ authors intended of course, but the software the books were written for stop being supported five years ago. At several inches thick they make a perfect way to elevate my feet under my office desk,and saved me from having to buy an expensive footrest. Why not extend their useful life a bit?

Naturally, these homemade solutions are not always better. There are plenty of times where it makes sense to go shopping for a new product or  service that will solve your problem. However, I applaud those who stop to think about finding a frugal, creative solution using the things they already have, rather than rushing out to a store to buy something new–adding to the clutter in their home or office.


  1. Great post. Also so many times we “need” something, yet if we look we will find we already have something that will do the same job or will work just as good. Even if we can buy something new, do we need to? Not usually.

  2. It seems Frugal dads have a lot in common . . . My dad hand-painted his old Ford station wagon several years ago. It was grey on top and blue on bottom because that’s what paint he had around. He called it the “Battleship on the Sea of Love”!!

  3. That Rustoleum comes in cans of paint also in many many colors. My entire 74 Datsun pickup was hand brush painted a nice hunter green, 2 coats, for under $8. I thought “Sweetpea” looked rather nice when I was finished painting her 🙂

  4. @Marci: My old boss ran a lawn care business and had an old Datsun pickup he painted dull yellow (so the attached signs would stand out). We affectionately called it “corn!” Something about those old trucks made them last forever – they don’t build them like they used to.

  5. That’s for sure – and NO computer parts in them makes them easy to work on. Because I needed a better firewood hauling truck, (the rust holding the ’74 together was starting to let things fall off, like a taillight one day when I went over a bump) I upgraded in January to a 2004 Silverado – but “Sweetpea” (the ’74) 35 years old is still running on my son’s dairy farm as fencing supplies truck and a heifer feeding and calf hauling truck…she’ll have a long happy life yet down on the farm where she won’t have to travel on the highways 🙂

  6. Well, I’m afraid I’m going to have to show up as a curmudgeon here today.

    Most of the blogs didn’t sound useful to me. I did finally check out the one on Frugal Being Green or whatever, and found nothing particularly green about it. I even went to the gardening tab in search of something I would consider green. The best they could come up with is to use the mint in your garden to make mint ice cream with.

    Now, if they were talking about raising your own livestock to make the ice cream with, I would consider that a possible green solution, but they didn’t.

    I like your column, Frugal Dad, but I suppose I’m much less of a consumer, and more of a do-it-yourselfer, than most people who read your blog. I don’t clip coupons, either…I think they are supreme waste of my valuable time.

    I suppose it’s unrealistic for me to expect other people in our consumer-oriented society to change their consuming behaviors overnight. Most of the blogs you listed barely chip away at that ingrained tendency that most Americans have to consume, rather than really produce, IMHO.

    Maybe instead of focusing on efforts to reduce spending, in my case it might make more sense to increase my income. I’ve seen very few posts by Frugal Dad to increase income in any significant way. The ones I’ve seen don’t seem to be a good fit for me, as a recovering underearner.

    Suggestions appreciated.

  7. @Marci: We are a lot alike – I’m eyeing a 2001-2004, Silverado as a potential replacement for my old van, which now appears to be on its last leg. Hoping to buy a little more time to finish saving up the cash so I don’t have to finance any portion of the purchase.

  8. @ Elliott – here in farming country we call it a “farmer fix” – duct tape and baling wire/twine! Most every truck out here has that “Repair Kit” in the truck for emergencies 🙂 Works great!