Cheapskate Hall of Fame VI
From pilfering pine needles to faking flagstone, these masterful misers can teach us all a thing or two about cost-shaving shortcuts
From pilfering pine needles to faking flagstone, these masterful misers can teach us all a thing or two about cost-shaving shortcuts.
Total saved by the Cheapskate Class of 2013: $9,290
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
When the plastic lift chain in my toilet broke, I replaced it with the twist tie from a bunch of kale. It works great!
What Mary Saved: $2.85
Instead of using stone veneer, I cut small pieces of drywall, stacked them randomly, roughed up the edges, covered them with drywall mud, and faux-painted them. Looks like the real (fake) thing.
What Dan Saved: $200
I wanted a drawer-mounted ironing board but found the prices to be ridiculous. I took an $8 tabletop model from the dollar store, cut it in half, and added a piano hinge so that it would fold back onto itself and slip into the drawer. I removed the front legs of the board and reused the brackets from them to attach the back legs to the bottom of the drawer. The front of the board rests on the lip of the drawer, which, by the way, is part of an old science-lab cabinet I repurposed for our laundry room—a project that earned me a Cheapskate honor two years ago. I'm no rookie! In fact, my husband always says I'm so cheap that I will build his coffin when he dies.
What Donna Saved: $166.79
I needed to cover a hole left by a ceiling fan, but I had no budget. So I took a plastic bowl from the thrift store (25 cents), cut a hole in the middle, spray-painted it black to match my light fixture, slipped the fixture's chain through it, and used pinches of putty to stick it to the ceiling to make a "medallion." Looks fabulous!
What Cara Saved: $140.24
Instead of buying mulch, I get free pine needles when my neighbors put them out on trash day. I don't like to ask, so I have to work up the nerve to sneak over and grab them.
What Carolyn Saves: $2.50 per bag
If you want to do an uber-cheap makeover, there is no need to buy two curtains for every window. I always cut my curtains in half and utilize them for two windows. Most curtain panels are around 60 inches wide, so even when they're cut in half you can still cover a typical window, which is 3 or 4 feet wide. And if your windows are short, you can cut curtains in half horizontally.
What Amberly Saves: $250
I wanted new kitchen cabinets because my old ones were so 1980s style. After a few estimates to resurface or replace the doors, I decided the cost was too high and I would just make do. But after seeing textured wallpaper in a big-box store one day, I got the idea to wallpaper them. I covered the door fronts—and the dishwasher front too—with a raised beadboard-pattern wallpaper, then painted it. Now I have a "new" kitchen and spent less than $100 on wallpaper, glue, and paint. The wallpapered cabinets have held up to everyday use now for the past six months, and they look great! Easily wipeable, too.
What Maureen Saved: $5,928
Campton, New Hampshire
Go ahead and laugh: I stuff all my dryer lint into empty toilet-paper tubes and use them as fire starters! Nothing gets wasted in my home!
What Katherine Saves: $20 a season
For a matching look, I laminated photocopies of ceramic trim for the tile border above the bathtub. Guests think it's a larger scale of the same decorative tile, and I haven't fessed up yet!
What Andrew Saved: $320
I wanted a walkway and liked the flagstone look. I saw a work crew breaking up a concrete sidewalk in my neighborhood and got them to drop off a load of broken pieces in my driveway. I set the "stones" and troweled mortar between them to make a winding path up the sloped yard and a small patio. My only cost was for the mortar mix. (Oh, and the cost of a balm for my back!) It's like a miniature maze through a garden of blooming flowers and trees.
What Joanne Saved: $858
Mike and Pat Erving
Manasquan, New Jersey
We got a new flat-screen, but it didn't work with the old cabinet: It was too big for the TV slot, and it would be too high sitting on top. My husband, Mike, chopped the top and bottom off the old cabinet and put those parts together, and now the TV sits on top, and it's the perfect height. He cut the door down, had the glass cut down to size, and covered the seam with molding. You cannot tell at all, and it cost only $6 to get the glass cut and $8 for the molding. He's very handy.
What the Ervings Saved: $636
We were putting the handles on new kitchen cabinets, but the screws that came with them were just a bit too long. We were going to go buy all new screws, or washers to take up the slack, when we came up with this idea: We found that the tabs from our beer cans were the perfect thickness. It may seem a little too redneck for some people, but for us it is a reminder of the fun we had remodeling the kitchen.
What Arlene Saved: $5.58 for a pack of washers (and a trip to the store)
I had the bottom to an old 5-gallon Shop-Vac lying around, so I added a 1-inch layer of stones, filled it with dirt, and planted my flowers in it. I can easily push it around my patio on its wheels, and it already had a drain for when you used the vacuum to suck up water, so I took off the plug and now my planter has drainage. It works really wonderfully.
What Sharon Saved: $30
Shannon and Gail Macklin
The cabinets in our master bathroom are only 29 inches high, and I wanted taller ones, but we couldn't afford new cabinets. Instead, my husband and I pulled off the countertop, framed up the existing cabinets by 3½ inches, and replaced the countertop. We found faux-wood trim at The Home Depot that was very close to the cabinet color and attached it with finishing nails around the new framing. Looks like it has always been there. We spent a total of $35 and had it done in four hours.
What the Macklins Saved: $450
There was no such thing as a square corner in our 1895 house, so when it came time to install crown molding, we had no choice (with our skill level) but to use corner blocks. After a lot of searching and price estimates with all the corners that were needed, I decided to make my own, from 2x4s. We think they do the trick.
What Russell Saved: $144
Sandy Springs, Georgia
I save used fabric-softener sheets because they make great dust cloths—especially for ceiling-fan blades and window blinds.
What Susan Saves: $3.25 per microfiber dust cloth
While researching materials for a water feature in my yard, I was stunned by the price of commercial pond liners. I hit eBay, and what I found was large 15-by-30-foot recycled advertising billboards—sheets of PVC that would work perfectly. I purchased one for $70, including shipping. Compare that with $200 for traditional liner material.
What Robert Saved: $130
North Apollo, Pennsylvania
I always save the plastic inserts that come in packages of bacon. They make great paint edgers. Of course, you have to rinse them off first.
What Joyce Saves: $2.96