Hoarding gets a bad rap, according to the eponymous blogger at Dogs or Dollars. She's joking, but some of her behaviours could raise eyebrows among the non-frugal.

DorD saves or scavenges things like egg cartons, coffee cans, plastic containers, cardboard boxes and large envelopes. The difference between her and a true hoarder is that she uses them instead of letting them pile up — and they save her "a significant amount of money."

In fact, such tactics save money in several different, interrelated ways.

For example:

  • The less waste you generate, the fewer garbage bags you have to buy and the lower your disposal bills might be.
  • Buying in bulk to reduce packaging waste means you get a lower cost-per-unit price.
  • Putting leftovers into a pickle jar or bread bag reduces the need for foil, plastic wrap or food-storage containers.

Repurposing used to be common. Outgrown clothes were cut down for younger siblings or reborn as quilt patches. Old buildings were torn down to provide lumber for new projects. My grandmother poured homemade jam into peanut-butter jars (which used to be made of glass) and sealed them with wax.

These tactics work
In a post on the Silent Springs blog, Vincent Smith suggests that "more thoughtful living" could greatly reduce waste. Why do we throw away an old shirt but buy cleaning rags?

Whether your motive is saving money or saving the planet, slashing waste is a giant step in the right direction. David, at Prairie Eco-Thrifter, suggests things like buying in bulk to eliminate individual packaging, packing a lunch to cut down on fast-food waste, and bringing your own water and coffee containers: "You don't need to contribute to that trash can outside Starbucks overflowing with single-use paper cups."

I do some of these things myself and can attest to their cost-effectiveness. A roll of aluminum foil can last me a couple of years. Produce and bread bags get re-used until they shred. I repurpose empty jars for storage and have found Tupperware in the free box at yard sales. A reusable shopping bag lives in my backpack.

I buy in bulk when I can and choose large sizes the rest of the time. I make my own jam (using foraged fruit), iced tea and yogurt versus buying and discarding all those plastic cups and bottles. Once I've used the last of the laundry soap I got cheaply with coupons I plan to try the simple detergent recipe I mentioned in "Homemade healthy cleaners and snacks."

Adding less to the problem
Not that I'm a green saint, mind you. For example, I drink a lot of tea but also go through a 12-pack of Diet Coke every couple of weeks. However, I do recycle the carton and cans (and the My Coke Rewards points).

Since recycling is mandatory here in Seattle, I generate so little waste that I never buy trash bags. My "garbage can" is small enough to be lined with plastic shopping bags.

Recently the city outlawed those bags so I may have to start buying trash-can liners. In the meantime, I save them from trips elsewhere or scavenge any that I see blowing down the street. ("Outlawed" doesn't mean "gone.")

While I don't kid myself about saving the planet single-handedly, there is a fair amount of satisfaction in not adding to the problem any more than I must. It's also nice not to have to shell out cash for more aluminum foil, or to rinse and discard a dozen yogurt cups per week.