PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

Frugality is about choices. Frequent small expenditures can leave you wondering where your money has gone. Ever backtrack your purchases and discover you didn’t lose that $20 after all?

Tracking your spending will pinpoint your money leaks, and wise, consistent choices will help improve your savings, too. It’s as simple as adopting new, painless and cheaper alternatives to your old, automatic spending ways. For example, Lindsay in Alabama shares: “I’ve discovered the wonder of coconut oil mixed with cornstarch and baking soda (about 1/4 cup of each, mixed with enough coconut oil to make it not powdery) and will not be going back to regular deodorant!”

Here are a few more cheap options.

LESS PAPER: It’s easy to swap out paper towels and napkins in favor of cloth. You can make your own from older towels, sheets, etc. It seems the biggest excuse to keep paper is … how in the world do you drain bacon? Easy. Use a splatter screen, and drain the bacon grease back into your frying pan or use a wire rack over a cookie sheet.

FABRIC SOFTENER: Dilute liquid fabric softener or cheap hair conditioner with water, and place in a spray bottle or plastic container, such as a baby-wipes container. Use the spray bottle of softener and spritz a washcloth, or soak the cloth in the plastic container, wring it out and toss into the dryer. You can use 1/4 cup vinegar in your washer’s dispenser or reuse a Downy Ball by refilling it with vinegar. If you miss the scent, add a few drops of essential oil.

One reader, Karen in Kansas, recommends a cheaper option: “If you have problems with static, there are ways to help reduce it. Static is a sign you are overdrying your clothing, so reduce the drying time.

Keep a spritz bottle of water at hand, and, when you open the dryer, give the contents a few spritzes to break the static charge. You can also add a wet washcloth and start the dryer for a few tumbles to rehydrate the air and break the static charge.

Fabrics that are made from synthetics are great at creating static, so remove them from the dryer before the load is completely dry; or hang them on a hanger, drying rack or line to dry.” Previously, I’ve mentioned using homemade wool dryer balls, too. If you missed it, you can find the recipe at www.frugalvillage.net/2009/05/14/find-washing-soda-in-local-stores.

FOOD: Look at the packaged foods you buy and recreate them yourself. Try frugal recipes on my Web site, such as homemade soups, salad dressings, marinades, waffles, pita bread, granola bars, cookies or your own homemade pudding.

CHOCOLATE PUDDING:

3/4 cup sugar;

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder;

2 tablespoons cornstarch;

2-2/3 cups milk;

2 eggs, beaten;

1 tablespoon butter;

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa and cornstarch. Stir in milk. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more, until mixture is bubbly. Remove from heat.

Gradually stir 1 cup of the hot mixture into the beaten eggs. Return all of the egg mixture to the saucepan. Heat over medium but don’t boil. Reduce heat.

Simmer and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla. Pour pudding into a bowl. Cover bowl to prevent skim from forming. Cool before serving. — Kathy, Texas

Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a Web site that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living.

To send tips, comments or questions, write to Sara Noel, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., fourth floor, New York, NY 10016, or e-mail sara@frugalvillage.com.