Frugal Skills List

Hello there loyal Frugal Upstate readers (and newbies who are just stopping to say hello)!

Today is data entry for tax prep day for me.  Blech.  I hate bookkeeping and taxes and accounting and all that stuff.  I’m much more a creative person (in case you couldn’t tell) although I am really good at organizing projects and such. . .

Long story short-I’ve got to sit here and do the not so fun part of work today-so instead of an informative post by me, I’m going to ask you all for help!  Yes, help!

You see a brilliant idea came to me in the shower this morning (as so many ideas do).  I was thinking about how so much of living a frugal, sustainable and prepared life is about having skills and skill sets that enable you to be frugal.  I want to not only continue to build my own skills, but to help you all identify and build skills that will help all of you live the best life possible while staying within your means.

Ok, that’s great and all. . . but where do you the readers come in?

Well, I thought it would be fun today to come up with a big, huge list of every single skill we can think of that is helpful to frugal living.  Then I’ll roll it all up into one big sort of outline type list which I will post (and add to as folks come up with more).  As I either find great resources or write posts myself that pertain to those skills I’ll go back and link–that will make the list one big huge frugal living index!

So what do you think?  What skills can you think of?  Here are a few to get started that come to mind for me in the 2 minutes I have before I have to get my butt off line and start data entry.  blech.

(note: don’t be afraid to add very specific sub skills-ie under cooking might be “how to bake bread”)

Cooking from Scratch

       baking, braising, roasting,


      Mending, hems, replacing buttons, taking in or out a seam


    Growing your own veggies, starting seeds, saving seeds, composting

Changing your own oil

Preserving food

     Canning, dehydrating, freezing


OK, I can’t wait to hear what you all come up with!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. says

    Sufficient math to calculate price comparisons, keep track of spending, understand compound interest, understand that “30% off” still means spending 70%… :- )

    • Alyssa says

      Hi Alex,

      While it’s a great frugal idea at heart, it’s actually not a good idea to make your own pet food. There are a lot of nutrients that go into pet food that our pets need, and we normally wouldn’t know what they are or what they need. One could accidentally cause a nutritional deficiency for their pet without even knowing it! The best frugal idea is to watch for sales and coupons for your favorite healthy dog or cat food.

  2. Lora says

    hair care (cutting, coloring, attempting “no poo,” etc.); furniture reupholstering and refinishing; making fermented foods, such as yogurt; foraging for wild foods (risk of error makes me nervous in general, but I’ve picked huckleberries in upstate NY and know someone who made wine from dandelions years ago – when I was too young to try it); finding free e-books (out of copyright or on special) and e-book deals of most interest; cooking with leftovers, including planning for that, such as when starting with a whole chicken; making freezer jams; making reusable swiffer mop pads and frugal but effective cleaning solutions from ingredients such as vinegar; car care (detailing, preparing for weather); bartering; finding thriftier ways to make popular foods. such as popcorn; making greeting cards via computer or craft skills

  3. anonymous says

    lowering expectations without lowering quality of life. Having a great vacation/day off on the cheap. Cutting your electrical and heating bills.

  4. Rita W. says

    Re-purposing! My sister gives me her magazines when she is finished reading them. When I see something that I really want I cut out the picture, directions, etc. and keep in a special folder. I also do this with catalogs. I found a one drawer nightstand in a catalog that I thought would look great with a lamp on it between my 2 recliners in the living room. Price $110. I cut out the picture and put it in my folder. This helps remind me of what I had in mind for a certain project. One day when I was driving through a nearby town, I found an almost identical stand curbside. I took it home, cleaned it, painted it and now have a great substitute for no money and a little bit of paint and labor. Using the same paint on my book shelf and TV stand brings it all together. I wanted a sage green hamper for my bathroom. I found a pink one in excellent shape at a garage sale for $3, painted it sage green and it looks great. I just bide my time & something suitable usually shows up.
    Love your blog!

  5. Lance says

    This skill is probably one of the single most important skills of all: ingenuity — the ability to see the utility of something beyond its original purpose. For those of us who lack this critical skill, the web site has many examples of projects that can get us thinking in new ways.

    Back when dirt was still a novelty, I went through a phase wherein I wanted to do complete maintenance on my bicycle. Unfortunately, the rear hub required a special pin wrench. Rather than buying one (assuming we could have even found one without the Internet), Dad drilled a couple holes in the sides of the jaws of a regular adjustable wrench, into which he put very short lengths of wire coat hanger. This gave me my pin wrench without damaging his adjustable wrench. I’m guessing that he found the pin wrench useful, too, because even though I outgrew bike maintenance, the pins remained in the wrench for many years.

    At the moment, I’m looking for an old washing machine to convert to a chicken plucker. Using ideas from Instructibles, I hope to complete the conversion for about $40.

    While it’s not a skill so much as a trait, we need a sense of creative adventure to accompany this ingenuity, or we won’t exercise our ingenuity while we can afford to fail, only once we’re desperate.

    Finally (and this is where I’m very sadly lacking), we need social skills that let us interact with those who’ve been-there-done-that, so that we don’t have to repeat the mistakes our neighbors have already thoroughly explored.

    These social skills will allow us to learn from others while the ingenuity gives us something to offer in return. Even the most generous of mentors wants to see us grow and develop our own novelties — they don’t want to be ‘feeding’ you forever.

    Basic workshop skills so you can repair chairs and fans, etc.

    First aid skills so you don’t have to run to the doctor for every boo-boo.

    Basic mechanical skills — despite the increasing and accelerating automation & modularization of the modern automobile, there are still things that one can and should do one his own. Can you believe that there are some folks who don’t even know how to change a flat tire?

    Basic math skills so you can balance your checkbook and project your cash flow at least through the end of the month.

    Animal husbandry and livestock handling — someone’s gotta care for that sick cat.

    Logic — if you enjoy meat, don’t despise the butcher.

    Lance ==)—————-
    Chief Turkey of Reichert’s Farmette

  6. Mary says

    Growing your own veggies, starting seeds, saving seeds, composting
    For the beginner
    With containers
    Small area gardening

  7. Chrystal says

    Basic butchering skills, such as knowing how to break down a whole chicken into parts instead of buying them indiviually. Knowing how to break down a large piece of beef or pork into the respective cuts can also save money.

    Knowing how to raise your own livestock. Even in the city you can raise a few chickens for eggs and/or meat. If you have more room buying a feeder calf and raising it to slaughter weight for the freezer is a great money saver.

    Knowing how to connect with people to trade, barter, or buy those things that you need. Maybe you don’t have the room to raise a calf but know someone who does. We raise beef every year, but don’t advertise anywhere. It is all word of mouth that brings people to us and they keep coming back for the quality and affordability of the meat.

  8. Erika says

    – Hunt, and learn how to process game yourself. We are fortunate (or unfortunate) that deer are like rabbits around here, so a 2-3 end up in our freezer each winter. They eat my garden, we eat them. Circle of life!
    – If you can’t hunt, eat more no-meat meals and/or treat meat as a flavoring.
    – Only buy a book after checking it out from the library to make sure it will be of use to you. Never ever, ever buy fiction. Always buy used when it makes sense.
    – Cut the cable TV service down to super-basic. Anything worth watching on premium channels will eventually be available through Netflix, which is still a great bargain despite that bad press lately.

  9. Amyrlin says

    I love all the ideas everyone commented on.
    I would only add: following healthy lifestyle skills. If you are growing, foraging, and cooking your own foods, you are probably eating nutritionally sound. If you do significant gardening, lawn care, servicing your own vehicles, probably getting exercise. Parks, bike riding, and hiking are fun free healthy ways to engage the entire family in living a healthy lifestyle.

  10. says


    making jewelry for gifts or to sell.

    Yes I had to invest money in some things (findings, wire, Dremel drill, Ryoko drill), but I had literally thousands of beads, in all colors and materials. My grandmothers and stepmother collected beads, necklaces, etc.

    I ‘ve learned to be creative about things that aren’t beads (indian tears–a type of rock/gemstone–, small rocks (polished or not), marbles, buttons, nuts [not the edible kind LOL], pieces of driftwood, etc can be wire wrapped or strung on beading wire or leather strips to make necklaces, chokers, bracelets). You can drill holes in shells, coins, small pieces of soft wood and use them in jewelry. You can also use keys of all sizes. I also snipped apart good quality costume jewelry to use the parts in my jewelry business

    The really odd item that I plan on using is the flexible plastic oxygen tubes from when I had a concentrator in the house (I had pulmonary emboli in August 2010 and was on oxygen for 6-8 weeks). Most of the tubes were NOT used, but once the package is opened the oxygen company cannot take them back. I cut the tubes into small pieces that make great spacers between larger beads.

    Instead of buying fancy little expensive ‘bead holder’ cups and such to hold my various kinds types colors etc of beads, I use ziplock plastic bags (which were purchased years ago by my stepmother/father). I did invest in 2 small suitcase type plastic boxes to hold all the beads (carefully sorted into their ziplock plastic bags)


    I have a wood stove, 2 huge pine trees, and one huge spruce tree. There are also a lot of trees in the manufactured home park I live in, not to mention all over the town I live in. Pinecones are excellent kindling, and free to boot (spruce cones aren’t so excellent but are usable as kindling). I collected pinecones off my yard and other peoples’ yards all summer so now that I have had my winter wood delivered I won’t need to buy kindling. When I still had a vehicle, I would ‘steal’ pinecones from churchyards, parks, businesses, etc — I stayed off of personal property if I didn’t have permission. Cheap kindling again!

    When I had a yard sale and was selling jewelry, I displayed it on velveteen-covered cardboard. I’d purchased the velveteen from a remnants bin at a fabric store several years before, and used cardboard boxes. I used normal thumbtacks to attach velveteen to cardboard panels, and push pins to hang the jewelry on (both thumbtacks and push pins I already had)

    Really being a packrat descended from a long line of packrats (NOT hoarders, there is a difference!) has been a real blessing for me. Many of the things (jewelry, vintage metal purses, furniture, hand tools, vintage and collectible glassware) that I inherited from my father, stepmother, and grandparents turned out to have more than just sentimental value. When I was unemployed and struggling to pay my bills, selling these things (to local antique stores and secondhand stores, ebay, craigs list) helped me keep a roof over my head

    I’ve also learned to eat at home (1 mile walk each way to fast food, I like it but not enough to walk that far! especially in the winter). The food is healthier, less salt, and less sugar.

  11. says

    Hi I’m new here, nice to meet you. Very interested in this topic as I’ve designated 2012 as the year for Serious Saving for my family.

    We already:
    . only read books from the library – free is as cheap as it gets, plus they’ll usually buy one that you suggest 😉
    . take no weeklong vacations, better yet only day trips, better yet stay home and do a really fun project together all week
    . shop thrift stores, yard sales, roadside … and as someone above said, when you need something (I pray for it) just wait. It usually comes along.

    We have just started (in 2012):
    . Hanging up all laundry, 7 loads a week – I don’t care if it’s hanging all over the house, it’s free.
    . Washing dishes by hand. My dishwasher is old and cannot operate without that long heat drying cycle, and I’m not inclined to sit beside it til it gets to that point. By hand.
    . Keeping all north windows covered thruout the winter, blinds closed, curtains pull. On really cold days (we’re in VA so there aren’t too many really bad cold days) keep all blinds/curtains closed to hold in the heat, keep out the cold.
    . Make it ourselves. Hubs and I made a gorgeous kitchen island last summer (on vacation) from a desk I found at the dump in the “Too Good To Waste” area. Our cost was under $50.
    . Craft and sew. With just a small stash of supplies, I make all our Christmas ornaments, cards for every season, decor for the house. (Crafting & sewing is my skill.)
    . Read blogs. Blogs like this one, and many others, can teach us so much about how to live frugally in the real economically disheveled world in which we live.

    Mary in Virginia

  12. Pat in Kitchener says

    * Making my own convenience foods and mixes

    * Using the leftover meat from roasting and slicing it very thin to make “Deli” meat for sandwiches ( thinner meat makes for more flavour, 3 very thing slices tastes so much better than 1 thick slice that may have twice the meat as the thin sliced sandwich.)

    * taking a garment or other sewn item and remaking it into something new. Years ago I took a spring coat that no longer could be worn as a coat, turned the material inside out and made a lined skirt total extras a zipper from another old garment. I wore that skirt for years. I also use pillow slips for blouses, or worn pillow slips for craft projects that need small amounts of material. 1 Sheet will make 5 pillow cases and uses a sheet that would no longer be usable. or will make up into pretty aprons. The ideas are endless.

    *Home Decor- learn how to do simple upholstery tricks and how to make a drapery ( doesn’t even need sewing). paint or paper a room, rearrange furniture to best fit the room or mood you want.

    * right now I am growing green onions and garlic on my window sill and watching the cold snow outside! grow perennials and have the garden do it’s own work, ask around for starts for your perennials.

    *Using what you have to make planters -my favorite just now is a coal bucket I used to use to take out ashes from the stove. It started to get holes from the heat from the coals so I turned it into a planter.

    * buy a gauge and keep an eye on your tire pressure, read your vehicle’s manual and learn about your vehicle

    *Home repairs: Learn simple things and be able to hammer in a nail, or W.D. 40 a squeaky hinge, or other simple minor home repairs.

    *Washing and ironing and keeping up your wardrobe ( less clothes, and better condition , less cost)

    *learn how to accessorize your wardrobe with scarfs that you make or get from thrift shops etc., make your own jewellery,

  13. says

    1) Learn to re-purpose furniture! I’ve saved a lot of money doing this!

    2) Learn to say “no” to yourself! Every time I go to Target, there are a million little things I want to add to my cart. I usually find that I don’t really need these items! Saying “no” to myself has really added to my savings account!

  14. Gwen says

    Knitting and Crocheting – I’ve made some beautiful hats/scarves/dish rags/hot pads/baby blankets/booties/eyeglass holders/rugs using very simple patterns. I made a bright orange hunting hat for my husband out of alpaca wool and he said his head got too hot when he was walking for the deer.

    If you’ve got a skill, pass it on to someone else. My 80 year old neighbor taught me to knit about 5 years ago and my mom and I went to crochet classes at the high school about 20 years ago.

  15. Alyssa says

    All these ideas are awesome so far, so I have nothing to add! Maybe I’ll get inspired later and remember something amazing 😉


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *