Frugal Tip: Recycle before you Recycle

Trent over at The Simple Dollar wrote in a post "find a second use for everything" as a tip to become more frugal. I never really thought of it that way and it struck me as a good idea. He used the example of using worn out clothing for rags which I have done in the past. He was alluding to a form of recycling.

The idea does have it's limits. It can lead to having too much stuff or hoarding problems. It is most certainly not a tip for "pack rats" as they already have too much!

Problems to overcome:

  • Taking up space: limit yourself to a certain amount of each item. Maybe just one small bag of old clothes or a small box of plastic bottles to use later.
  • Accumulation of too much stuff in general: Keeping things because they might be useful one day is a bad idea. If you are keeping something to reuse have a specific purpose for it and make sure you will actually use it within 1 year.
  • Hygiene: Reusing things has cleanliness limits. Make sure to thoroughly clean anything you intent to reuse. Too much can attract pests and rodents to live in your stuff!
Now that I have all the problems out of the way I want to share what and how I reuse some stuff around my house. I try my best to limit my waste and recycle what I can as a starting point. After that I start looking at things in a new light and figure out if I can use it to fill another need. Here are some examples:
  • Plastic Grocery bags: I get a lot of these (free in GA) and use some of them as trash bags for my small bathroom trash bins. They cost me nothing and I don't have to buy bags instead. I get way too many and return the ones I don't use to the grocery store for recycling monthly.
  • Old and worn clothes: Aside from Trent's rag idea I keep a couple old or slightly torn tshirts to use for house projects and working my car. This goes for shorts/jeans too. If some of them are in reasonable shape I donate them for the tax benefits.
  • Food Scraps: I don't compost as I don't garden but I know people who do and just go over and put my scraps in their composter. It costs me nothing, helps a neighbor, and saves some waste in landfills.
  • Jars and Bottles: I keep a bin of jars and bottles of various sizes. Some can take the place of expensive tupperware. I use them for a wide range of things: mixing home made sauces, storing small amounts of liquids and powders for transport in my car, small ones as travel size containers that I can take to the airport, and so on. I limit myself only to what my "empties bin" will hold. I recycle the rest.
I could go on for a while with reuse ideas. The above are the ones I use the most often. I always suggest that "when in doubt recycle it first" so that you don't end up over accumulating stuff you will never use. Finding a second use for items does save money but moderation must be applied and we should not buy something simply because it could have a second use.