When Frugal is Stupid

I’m a huge fan of “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” when it is both practical and useful. There are thousands of uses for everyday household items that have outlived their primary purpose, and even more websites offering unique ways to bring new life to your old consumer goods. While these ideas can often be inspiring, I see many of them as cheap, tacky, and sometimes even unsafe. Here are those, that in my humble opinion, are the worst (and these really are listed all over the internet as legitimate uses.)


Credit Cards – The rough edges on a cut-up credit card make these ideas not too “sharp.”

Make a small notebook by punching holes and putting paper in between two.

Cut into pieces and string into a bracelet or necklace, or as charms.

Cover with sequins and cut into shapes; glue pin on back to make a brooch.

Punch holes and string to make a baby's mobile.

Cut into strips and put point on one end, round the other - instant collar stays.

Cut up to make guitar picks.


Hairspray – Because most of these ideas are aimed at the AquaNet crowd, the highly toxic nature of hairspray make them a no-no.

Ward off attackers - this stuff stings and leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.

Use a little to groom your eyebrows.

Can be as a room freshener if scented.


Film Canisters – While I like the idea of storing small items like bolts and beads in them, these ideas are a little over the top.

Use them as candle molds. You can pour melted candles in with a wick.

Punch a hole in the bottom and thread a loop through. Decorate and use as a tree ornament.

Punch holes in the lids and use as salt and pepper shakers.

Fill with treats to give children for Halloween or other occasions.


Perhaps the most appalling idea I found while searching was this one for reusing plastic bags:

“Make a mask: cut BIG holes in a bag and place over your head - Parents, please supervise! Only for older kids because bags may cause suffocation.”

(Do I even need to go into why this one isn’t a winning concept?)

The lesson of the story is that cheap is not an excuse for stupid. Please use common sense when practicing frugality. And if you have questions about the validity of any money-saving claim, please contact any of our WiseBread authors. We would love to look into it for you!

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Guest's picture

lol I love the bad idea! Great for ugly people! (Ok ok that was mean. I was j/k!!)

Guest's picture

Aerosol (or pump, if you must) hair spray works great against flying insects. When it dries, the bugs can't move their wings properly, if at all, making them easy to kill and dispose of.

Myscha Theriault's picture

After the last couple of days I had, I really needed a good chuckle. You really nailed your point. Good job.

Guest's picture

At some point, I actually saw snap-on lids for using film cannisters as salt & pepper shakers for camping/picnic. Had 2 parts: the holes part & cover part. Right next to them were plastic S&Ps with the same lid. Yes, both items were the same price. Are film cannisters made of food quality plastic?

Linsey Knerl's picture

I was kind of wondering the same thing... I'm always hesitant to reuse containers as food storage if not intended as such.  Plastic grocery bags have a warning printed right on them that they are not intended for food storage.  I've always wondered if this is because of the possibility of chemicals leaching into the food or because the bags are dirty.

Guest's picture

Oh. My. God. Oh this is priceless. Reminds me of the old Saturday Night Live with Dan Akroyd's Halloween costumes...Johnny Bag O Glass. I'll be laughing about this all day. Please tell me that no one will actually do this. Oh, anyone who doesn't believe Darwin had a point needs to pay attention...

Guest's picture

I am so glad that someone has said it! There are some ridiculous time wasters out there. Can't say that I've ever wanted a credit card bracelet. How about some Snapple bottle cap earrings to go with it? I've seen them for sale at Venice Beach!
I recently saw a post on another site that suggested that we save soap scraps for a year, mix them up in a pan with borax and water and boil them until dissolved, then blend in a blender to make liquid soap. It takes about two hours to make about 4 cups of liquid soap from year old soap scraps and borax. I would rather pick up a couple of bottles at the dollar store, or buy in bulk and refill. To each his own.

Guest's picture

There are many nasty residues in film containers. Dont ever put anything food wise in them.

Guest's picture

hairspray can so groom eyebrows; a dab on your finger, pat on and it works. you are not eyebrow challenged like me!

Guest's picture

I will so share this with my readers!

Guest's picture

Haha, this was a great article. The one thing I have to point out though: if someone is attacking me and the only weapon I have handy is a can of hairspray, I really don't care if it's toxic. Matter of fact, it might be a nice bonus. :)

Guest's picture

Definitely agree that some reuse/recycle projects are not worth the time.!

I recall that my grandpa scavenged some teeny carpet color sample rectangles, glued to boards. When pried off, they worked wonderfully for carpeting my dollhouse. But his next suggestion, making them into chalkboard erasers, was a dismal failure.

Also, despite being an expert seamstress, I never seem to make time to do all the alterations on my list. Therefore, I have realized it is just not worthwhile to cut/alter a larger garment to fit my smaller frame, even if the fabric is really nice. I'll get around to fixing broken zippers, re-hemming pants, closing up popped seams, or replacing lost buttons. That's it. So all those larger-size garments I bought with great intentions went to Goodwill. And I have stopped buying them, no matter how smokin' the deal.

Finally, I had to admit that the likelihood of repairing busted lawn chairs, creating garden sculpture out of reclaimed miscellaneous hardware, and similar admirable projects are severely limited by my available non-working hours and previous commitments. Also my relative lack of necessary tools. So those worthy, but impractical, efforts at frugality remain unrealized. Actually, it probably would've ended up being a rather expensive garden sculpture, since I don't own a welding rig yet.

So I'll focus on the frugality measures that seem to really pay off and forgive myself for not following absolutely every trail towards frugality. Especially the ones in this article!

Guest's picture

These suggestions sound like things a hoarder would say they could use things for but then they throw them in a box and never look at them again. :|

Guest's picture

Okay I take offense at the credit/empty gift card thing. All you have to do to fix the edges is take a nail file to it. It's not that hard. That makes the edges smooth. How do I know? I made myself a necklace with an empty gift card and filed it and voila-no sharp edges. Filing the edges only takes a few minutes, too.