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30 Handy Hints for Frugal Homeowners

Some may think these handy hints are a bit extreme (or even bordering on hoarder territory), but if you’re a frugal homeowner, we bet you’ll appreciate these 32 clever, money-saving ideas for reusing common disposable household items.

Milk Jug ScoopFamily Handyman

Milk Jug Scoop

Cut off the top of an empty gallon or half-gallon milk jug with sharp scissors. It helps to draw the cut line with a marker first. Clean up the cut to make sure there are no sharp or rough edges. Replace the jug cap and you have a handy (and pretty much free) scoop for pet food, potting soil, etc. Remove the cap and you can use the scoop as a funnel! See what you can do with a milk jug in the garden as well.

Greenhouses from the Salad Bar

Greenhouses from the Salad Bar

Reuse a plastic clamshell container from the salad bar as a mini greenhouse for starting seeds in the spring. After washing the container, punch a few holes in the top. Fill the bottom with potting soil and plant your seeds. Close the lid and place the container in a sunny spot. It acts like a mini greenhouse, allowing the sun to reach the plants while holding in moisture.

Paper Towel Boot Shaper

Paper Towel Boot Shaper

Insert one or two empty paper towel rolls inside each of your tall boots to help them keep their shape while in storage. When tall boots are back in season, you won't have to spend time ironing out creases.

Tin Can Glue Bottle StorageFamily Handyman

Tin Can Glue Bottle Storage

Reuse a tin can for storing glue bottles upside down in your workshop. Then you won't have to wait for the glue to slowly reach the top of the bottle in order to squeeze it out—it'll be ready to go when you reach for it.

Cardboard SawhorsesFamily Handyman

Cardboard Sawhorses

I use cardboard appliance boxes as collapsible sawhorses. They're lightweight and plenty strong for many tasks. They hold heavy workpieces like doors without wobbling and fold up flat in seconds. You can cut them to a comfortable working height with a utility knife. — reader Guy Lautard Plus: Savvy Sawhorse Tips.

Oil Change Trough

Oil Change Trough

Make changing the oil in your lawnmower, snowthrower and outdoor machines less messy with this handy hint: Cut off a piece of an empty cereal box and fold it into a trough. Then tip the machine and use the trough to guide the oil into the waste pan. The glossy coating on the cereal box keeps the oil from soaking through.

Dish Soap Glue Bottle

Dish Soap Glue Bottle

Reuse an empty dish soap container as a refillable glue bottle. The small size and screw-on top with attached cap are perfect for squeezing out wood glue. Be sure to rinse the inside of the container thoroughly (including the lid) and let it dry completely before filling it with glue.

Milk Jug Furniture Movers

Milk Jug Furniture Movers

When you have to move heavy furniture on carpeting, don't just drag it around. That's hard on carpet and you might damage the furniture legs. Make the job easier with these homemade moving pads. Cut the bottoms off four plastic water or milk jugs with a utility knife and rest each furniture leg on its own slider. The rounded, slippery bottoms make them perfect for furniture moving. Yes, you can buy fancier versions of these things—for 15 bucks or more! But these work just as well, and best of all, they're free! Click here for more furniture-moving ideas.

Pie Plate Dustpan

Pie Plate Dustpan

Create a quick disposable dustpan out of an aluminum pie plate. Use tin snips or heavy-duty scissors to cut the pie plate in half. Sweep up the mess and toss it in the trash!

Paper Towel Roll Hanger Hack

Paper Towel Roll Hanger Hack

Make a hanger for storing your dress pants crease-free. Use scissors to cut open an empty paper towel roll. Slip the tube over the horizontal bar of the hanger and tape the opening closed. That's it—no need to purchase expensive padded hangers!

Grass Seed Broadcaster

Grass Seed Broadcaster

When it's time to clean out the refrigerator, be sure to save those plastic berry containers for repurposing ideas. You can toss the mushy raspberries, but wash and dry the container—it's perfect for spreading grass seed on your lawn!

Coffee Carryall

Coffee Carryall

You can reuse those takeout coffee four-pack cartons. They're made of stiff cardboard and offer 3-1/2-in.-wide square bins for jumbo plastic drinking cups. They're handy storage spots for nails, screws and other small stuff. I loaded my carryall with a 10-year supply of four styles of drywall fasteners—I always need them but can't find them in my heap of surplus hardware. Heck, now that I think of it, I gotta head out for another four-pack of coffee. I'll be wired, but I'll know where my wire spools are for years to come! Click here for more workshop storage ideas.

Cardboard Drop Cloth

Cardboard Drop Cloth

Save large pieces of cardboard from boxes that you bring into your home. Store them along a wall in your garage or workshop so they're at the ready when you're working on a messy project such as refinishing furniture or changing the oil in your car. A large slab of cardboard makes a perfect disposable drop cloth.

Grocery Bag Shoe Covers

Grocery Bag Shoe Covers

Reuse plastic grocery bags as shoe covers. The plastic keeps dirt and water contained, and the handle loops can be tied around your ankles to keep them on when you step inside your house for a quick break.

Wine Cork Wobbly Table Fix

Wine Cork Wobbly Table Fix

Next time you open a bottle of wine, save the cork! You can use a slice of synthetic cork to brace a wobbly table leg. Just mark the amount of cork needed, slice it off with a utility knife and glue it in place.

Bread Tabs for Labeling Cords

Bread Tabs for Labeling Cords

Not sure which cord goes with which electronic device plugged into your power strip? Save yourself the hassle of following the cord from the plugin to the device for each item you need to move by labeling them. Plastic bread tabs are perfect for labeling cords that are plugged into a power strip because they're sturdy, have enough room to write on and can easily clip around the plugin end of a cord. Plus, they often come in different colors. You'll be able to easily identify and move your electrical devices. Plus, learn how to use a Surge Protector for Electronic Device and see why plugging your electronics into a surge protector is a smart way to save money.

To-Go Coffee Cup to Water Plants

To-Go Coffee Cup to Water Plants

Use a clean to-go coffee cup with a lid to water plants. The hole in the lid is small, so water pours slowly. It's especially useful for plants such as aloe vera and cacti, which don't require much water and are at risk of overwatering.

Reuse Nursery ContainersLuke Miller

Reuse Nursery Containers

Plastic nursery pots have so many uses that it's a shame to throw them away. Recycling them is good, reusing them is even better! You can save money gardening by reusing plastic nursery pots and cellpacks to raise new plants. Larger containers can hold hand tools. Or remove the bottoms and place the pots upside down around prized plants that are prone to rabbit browsing, as seen here. Click here for more tips on easier gardening.

Toilet Paper Roll Hair Band Organizer

Toilet Paper Roll Hair Band Organizer

Keep elastic hair bands in one place—not scattered in drawers or in the bathroom sink or all over the floor. Slide them onto an empty toilet paper roll, which can then be neatly tucked into a drawer. The small cardboard tube keeps the circular hair accessories organized yet still easily accessible.

Plastic Bag Dispenser

Plastic Bag Dispenser

To make it easy to stow and reuse plastic bags, make a dispenser from a discarded 2-liter soda bottle. Cut off the top and bottom with a razor knife. Trim any jagged edges so you don't tear the bags when you pull them out, then screw the dispenser to a cabinet door or closet wall (or attach with hook-and-loop tape). Click here for more kitchen storage ideas.

Rx Bottle for Earplug Storage

Rx Bottle for Earplug Storage

After losing the storage tube that his pack of earplugs came with, Mike Yalch discovered an alternative: an empty medicine bottle. It keeps his ear protection clean and on hand at all times, as the small container fits perfectly in his pocket.

Laundry Jug Watering CanFamily Handyman

Laundry Jug Watering Can

Instead of throwing away empty laundry detergent containers, rinse them out thoroughly and then recycle them for watering plants. Drill 1/8-in. holes in the top of the cap, and a 1/2-in. hole just above the handle to relieve pressure so the water flows freely. Click here for more watering tips.

Paper Towel Roll Bag Storage

Paper Towel Roll Bag Storage

There are many uses for plastic grocery bags in the workshop. You can use them to seal up brushes and rollers during a painting project, so you don't have to wash so much stuff between coats. The point is, it's worth keeping a handful of plastic grocery bags on hand in the workshop, and here's a great tip for storing them: Stuff as many plastic grocery bags as possible into an empty paper towel roll. Then toss the roll in a drawer or cabinet. The cardboard tube keeps the bags contained, and it's easy to pull one out at a time when you need it. Check out more home hacks using cardboard tubes.

Egg Carton Painting Props

Egg Carton Painting Props

Keep a few empty egg cartons with the rest of your painting supplies. They're great for lifting a small project off of a work surface, making it easier to paint nooks and crannies and along the base of the project.

Six-Pack Shop OrganizerFamily Handyman

Six-Pack Shop Organizer

Six-pack cartons are useful for storing and transporting items like spray paint, lubricants and caulk. — reader Gerald Fitzgibbon Plus: 51 Brilliant Ways to Organize Your Garage

Tin Can Water Bottle Holder

Tin Can Water Bottle Holder

Keep cold water within reach when mowing the lawn on hot days. Simply attach an empty (and clean) tin can to the handle of your walk-behind mower using zip ties. Be sure to select a can that is large enough to fit your water bottle!

Better Bucket StorageFamily Handyman

Better Bucket Storage

Stacked 5-gallon buckets fit together so tightly that it's almost impossible to pull them apart. Prevent the problem by placing a large plastic pop bottle (with top on) or milk jug between each pair of buckets. You can still nest the buckets together, but they won't stick together anymore. Here are 17 more nifty ways to store tools.

Paper Towel Cord Storage

Paper Towel Cord Storage

Give empty paper towel rolls new life as cord wranglers. Fold small extension cords neatly before slipping them into their own individual storage sleeve. You can even label the cords by writing on the cardboard. Be safe and learn How to Prevent Electrical Overloads!

Plastic Bag HolderFamily Handyman

Plastic Bag Holder

An empty rectangular tissue box makes a convenient holder for small garbage bags, plastic grocery bags and small rags. Simply thumbtack it to the inside of a cabinet door. It's one of our favorite kitchen storage ideas.

Recycle Peanut Butter Jars

Recycle Peanut Butter Jars

Plastic peanut butter jars work better for storage than glass baby food jars because they hold a lot more hardware and won't break into shards if you drop one. Attach the lids of 28-oz. jars under a shelf with two screws (so the lid can't spin when you loosen the jar) and screw on the loaded jar. For quick access, cut away half of a 64-oz. peanut butter jar with a sharp utility knife, leaving the neck intact, then attach the lid and jar to the side of a cabinet. If you load it with lemon drops, we won't tell. Click here for more workshop organization tips.