A New View

by Betsy Sullivan


The type of frugality that my family and I practice we have labeled as creative frugality. Frugality is often seen negatively and associated with poverty or stinginess. Being creatively frugal, however, goes beyond simply not spending money. It is a way of life we think is more fun to live.

It is looking at life from a whole new perspective. Creative frugality is a never-ending treasure hunt, a challenge to one's imagination and a wonderful sense of freedom from having to earn a lot of money.

One aspect of creative frugality is in seeing things in a different light. In other words, using your imagination to see beyond the traditional uses for things. Some examples of this are listed below.

  • A neighbor of ours saw old gutters as planters along a fence.

  • Another neighbor saw an oil drum cut in half lengthwise as a barbecue pit.

  • I saw a quohog (clam) shell that we had found at the beach as a soap dish in the bathroom.

  • After being stymied for a few years, I finally saw an old, wooden, index-card file cabinet (missing two drawers) as a container for potatoes and onions. I set it upright on its back so that the openings were facing up and painted a farm scene on its side.

  • My mother-in-law with her artistic eye saw a slice of watermelon when she looked at a wooden bowl that I had brought home from a yard sale. So I painted the outside green, the edge white and the inside red with black seeds.

  • I saw a terra cotta wine holder as a vase for silk flowers.

  • I saw an old drawer hung on the wall and used as a display case.

  • I saw a wooden trivet as a display for miniatures.

  • I saw an old, discarded, wooden box as a miniature room waiting to be painted and used to display doll house furniture.

  • Some clever person saw old windows as frames for mirrors or pictures.

  • Another clever person saw a printer's tray as a display case.

  • I saw in a magazine a decorative tin used as a utensil holder in the kitchen.

  • I have used wooden napkin holders as note pad holders , drilling a hole for a pencil. I have also used a wooden note pad holder as a napkin holder.

  • I saw an old wooden shoe shine box as a storage place for audio cassette tapes.

  • Many people see doors as perfect desk tops when placed on two small file cabinets.

  • My mom saw a wooden cranberry scoop as a magazine rack.

  • A friend of mine saw an old, fragile, wooden highchair as a plant stand.


Betsy Sullivan is a CPA and writes a bimonthly newsletter called "Balancing Act" that helps people save money and simplify their lives.

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