Some call it miserly. Some call it stingy. Some call it cheap.

We prefer frugal. Or thrifty.

Both of my kids called me last week with essentially the same question: How do I do this cheaply?

They come by it honestly. They grew up wearing other people’s clothes and sitting on second-hand furniture. But they seem to realize that it’s not because I didn’t want them to have nice things. In fact, they could have more nice things if we spent less money on each item.

It took my son a while to figure it out. When he was a kid and needed sneakers, he’d look at the price tag before deciding whether he liked the shoes. If they cost less than $85, he didn’t like them.

He figured things out after he was on his own and was spending his own money. Frugality came into focus.

He’s wanting to build a hunting cabin. Since his wife will be going with him and he plans to spend a considerable amount of time in the woods, a tent isn’t going to cut it. He thought about a camper until he priced them.

He’s drawn up plans for a small, one-room cabin and wondered how he could cover the inside walls on the cheap.

Plywood is expensive, but drywall would crack since the cabin won’t be heated when it’s not being used.

My suggestion: wait until two weeks after the next election and gather up all the big, plastic political signs that are still standing. They’re colorful, interesting and free. Best to ask the campaign first since some of the signs are intended to be reused.

I’m saving cigar boxes for a similar project. I have some ugly walls that need recovered. Most of the walls will get paint or wallpaper, but cigar box lids will make an interesting accent wall.

Reclaimed lumber is also popular. Know anybody who has a barn they want torn down? I asked him. Use the barn boards and sell what’s left to crafters.

My daughter’s question was about installing used light fixtures. She has an older home, so buying retro fixtures is fitting. But they don’t come with instructions.

The kids are inspired by a two-car garage I built for $3,000 using recycled materials. The underlayment on the roof had a previous life as fence boards.

My dad bought my shingles for 50 cents at an auction. Several of the packages were partial bundles — closeout materials from a lumberyard.

I asked Dad how much coverage he thought was there. He studied the bundles for a minute and said, “I think you have 700 square feet of shingles.” So that determined the size of the garage. When I got done roofing it, I had one shingle left over.

I can’t say that Dad was off on his estimate, though. I put a small skylight in the roof; if I hadn’t done that, I’d have used that last shingle.

That $3,000 garage added $20,000 to the value of the property when I sold it. Frugality pays.

My mother always lectured us: A penny saved is a penny earned.

My parents are even more frugal than I am. Growing up, even my underwear was handed down.

My bicycle was built from two other bikes: a brown one retrieved from the trash and my sister’s pink bike. But I drew the line at wearing her hand-me-down underwear.

© Copyright 2020 by David Porter, who can be reached at My dad’s so tight, when he lets loose of a nickel, the buffalo pants for air.