10 Out-of-Fashion but Totally Frugal Old Tools
We all love the convenience that modern technology affords, but that convenience often comes with a hefty price tag.
You don’t have to pay top dollar for newfangled devices, however. You can save a sizable sum by swearing off appliances and other tools with batteries and cords in favor of their old-fashioned counterparts that only need a bit of elbow grease to get the job done.
Time to get nostalgic then. Here are 10 such tools. (See also: The Best 10 Items to Borrow)
1. Push Reel Mower
This early lawn mower design makes me laugh because it’s probably one of the most dangerous devices ever made. I’m sure some fingers and toes were lost in the '50s and '60s due to curiosity and negligence. But if you're smart enough to know that you shouldn't stick your digits anywhere near spinning, exposed blades, you'll be OK. The push reel mower is powered by forward motion, so you're saving money on gas versus a modern-day push mower or an extremely expensive riding mower. Plus you'll get lots of exercise trying to push it around the yard to get the job done. This frugal device is not for the faint of heart — it's a serious workout. Bring water.
The first thing I think of when the image of a washboard pops into my head is “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas;” I think it was a beaver who used this tool as his instrument of choice. While you’ll be hard-pressed to find a washboard outside of an antique store, this is a frugal tool that I can totally get behind. A lot of my clothing is delicate — wools, cashmeres, etc. — so I sometimes prefer to wash single items by hand. The washboard can help release the stains much quicker than trying to scrape them out with your fingers or a quarter (and don’t act like you’ve never done the latter).
While it’s called an eggbeater, this device is a multipurpose beater that preceded your handheld electric mixer or that coveted Kitchen Aid. I’m not sure why it was even used for eggs in the first place — a fork works just fine to beat eggs in my house, as I’m sure it did for the pilgrims — but the beater came in handy for other mixtures (like cake batter) that required more beating gusto than a fork can produce. While the old eggbeater is frugal, it’s also a tool that requires strength and stamina. Have you ever tried beating anything with this device? After about 30 seconds you’ll realize why it’s extinct.
4. Paper Maps
Confession time — I have never used a paper map to get anywhere because I don’t know how to read a paper map. Does anyone, really? The only examples I’ve seen of people using paper maps end in them arguing and crumbling it up — which is not a sign of people who are getting along fine with the map. (Besides, by the time I reached driving age, MapQuest was invented.) The benefit to paper maps over your phone or GPS, however, is that there are few errors. Paper maps are painstakingly created so they’re virtually perfect, whereas today’s technology can malfunction and send you off course.
5. Meat Grinder
If you want to avoid paying premium prices for ground beef, invest in a meat grinder and turn cheap cuts of beef into hamburger patties with just a few cranks of the handle at home. A meat grinder is ideal for any kind of meat that you want ground up, and some versions have an attachment so you can turn ground meat into homemade sausages. Throw those puppies on the grill, and you'll definitely wow the crowd with your culinary skills.
Are you as surprised as I am when you see a payphone? And when did they all disappear? It was like some covert government operation eliminated all the payphones one night while we were sleeping. In any case, the payphone is infinitely cheaper than your cell phone when you compare how much you actually talk on the phone by how much you pay for it. The base rate of my cell phone plan (just to make calls) is $46.99 a month. Last month I talked for 42 minutes total, which means that I paid $1.11 per minute. If I didn't like texting so much or reading Wikipedia at night under the covers while my husband is snoring, I'd definitely drop my mobile plan and seek out a payphone when I need to make my two phone calls a month.
There are plenty of arguments on why the computer is superior to the typewriter, but if you have no use for the Internet and you don’t mind producing documents spotted with Wite-Out, by all means return to using the typewriter and save. Plus, a typewriter has that retro-cool thing goin' for it. It's also the perfect device to use if you want to be crafty with gift tags or individual thank-you cards.
8. Floor Sweeper
Dyson does an excellent job of making a vacuum cleaner look sexy; people think I’m crazy when I ask for these newfangled products for Christmas. (Yes, I might be the only boy in the world who is happy to receive appliances and cookware as gifts.) However, if you don’t want to spend upwards of $400 dollars on that brilliant ball design, a floor sweeper will pick up all the same crud from your abode for much less. Other benefits include no cord to trip over or wrap up and no noisy motor to send your dogs into a tizzy.
One of my Facebook friends suggested this old-fashioned-but-frugal tool, and I agree 100%. Anybody who was in high school in the late ‘90s knows that most modern curriculums required a high-priced, huge calculator designed by — for the most part — Texas Instruments. (I should have bought stock in that company 10 years ago.) The truth is, though, my purchase of that calculator was a major waste of money because I couldn’t care less about any kind of math beyond basic arithmetic (and because I mostly used it to play games in math class). I didn’t need algebra, calculus, or trigonometry then, and I sure as heck don’t need it now. Long live the abacus and its simple, cheap system of teaching us how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
10. Can Opener
Another confession — when I was living on my own for the first time, I had no idea how to operate a manual can opener. It was foreign to me because I grew up with an electric one. But just because I didn’t know how to use it doesn’t mean that I don’t think it’s a valuable tool. In fact, I think an electric can opener is probably the most useless modern device mention on this list. I also think it was invented by the laziest person on the planet. Comparably, how much faster does an electric can opener open a can than a manual opener opens a can? Like five seconds? Come on. I’ll stick with the thing that costs $3 instead of the one that costs $30.
Time to chime in. What other old fashioned, frugal devices can you think of? Do you still use any of them instead of the modern devices? Let me know in the comments below.
Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.
Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.