Frugal Living

Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without: A motto for getting out of debt

“Use It up, Wear it out, Make it Do, or Do Without” is a saying that used to be said often but no one thinks this way anymore. Our world wouldn’t be so full of consumer debt if more people were taught this saying.

We could all use to learn this saying more in order to help the environment. But especially if you are paying off debt right now, this needs to be one of your mottos! Tape this saying all over your house, and whenever you’re tempted to purchase you can remind yourself to live by this frugal advice. This motto has helped us to stay motivated on our journey to pay off $245,000 of student loan debt. 

Every single dollar that you don’t have to spend, is a dollar you can spend towards debt to get out faster. By using these principles of learning to use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without, you will make great strides towards paying off your debt.

Use It Up

This phrase mostly applies to consumable items. How many times do you go to buy something new before you have run out of an item? The brand new bottle always seems more appealing and alas you have wasted the small amount left. So before you go and buy more, think “Did I completely use it up?”

  • Cosmetics (Toothpaste, Lotion, Shampoo, Makeup,etc.)
    • Don’t let so much money run out of your hands with wasted products.  Squeeze every last bit out of the toothpaste tube. Cut open the containers to get even more out. Get into a habit of using the entire product before purchasing more.
  • Food
    • The amount of food waste in America is truly sickening. Did you know that the average American household throws out an average of $640 of food per year!1
    • Condiments: Use up an entire bottle of a condiment before buying a slightly different variety! ­­­­Try to make your own and you’ll save ­even more.
    • Repurpose leftover bits of veggies into soup, egg casserole, or stir-fry.
    • Keep veggie ‘scraps’ (carrot peels, celery bottoms, onion skins, etc.) to use in homemade chicken stock.

Wear It Out

Society in America has truly become a disposable society and “Mending” and repairing are truly a thing of the past. We might think we wear out an item but compared to older standards most people don’t come near to ‘wearing an item out’.

  • Ask yourself:
    • Do you wear your clothes until they are truly ‘worn out’ or just until you don’t like them anymore?
    • Do you buy new gym shoes when yours are slightly used or do you wear them until they have holes, the rubber is ripping off, and they hurt your feet?
    • Is the entire item ruined or can you fix a hole?
  • Solutions:
    • Buy less: If you are buying so many clothes that they never have the opportunity to get worn out then you have too many!
    • Learn basic sewing skills. Learning how to fix a simple hole or ripped seam can save you so much money!
    • Finding time: A common excuse to not mending items is that you don’t have time and it’s easier to go buy a new one. Be creative about when you can fit in 10 minutes here and there to mend your items. I used to bring work pants, socks, shirts, etc. that had a ripped seam in my bag on the train and sew the holes on the way to work. Did I get weird glances from the people around me? Sure thing, but I didn’t care because we’re getting out of debt! ­­Watching a movie? Sew something!
    • Repurpose it! Did your boys pants get so many rips in the knees that it’s hardly fixable? Repurpose them into shorts! ­­Is your ­shirt getting too thin to be worn outside? Make it a pajama top. Are your bath towels getting too worn down? Make them into rags.
    • Bottom sheets very often get small holes in them because of their wear. As we speak my bottom sheets have some holes that need to be repaired. Making sure to fix a hole as soon as it is spotted means you don’t have to replace them!

Make it Do

  • Do you buy new clothes when you have something that you can certainly ‘make do’? Do you buy new ho­­me décor (my guilty pleasure, I admit it!) when you certainly have enough to ‘make do’? I bet that most of our purchases could be avoided if we had more contentment with ‘making it do’.
  • Our examples:
    • The door on our coffee maker would pop open without warning and if you weren’t standing there to watch it, it could pop open and you’d have coffee all over the floor (Yes, this may have happened at 5am a few times before we realized the problem). We made it work until the day I accidentally shattered the carafe and we had to buy a new used one. Was it ideal? No. Did it work, yes?
    • Our vacuum works just fine but it cannot stand up. If you leave it for a second, the handle will fall down and hit you. We are making it do because we are in debt!
    • The electronics of our sliding door in our van very often causes the beeping sound to beep. Constantly. Without end. Is it annoying to drive an hour ­­with beeping? You bet! Was it necessary to get fixed? Not in the least. We’ve made do.

Do Without

  • If you are in debt, and you can’t use it up, wear it out, or make it do; chances are you need to just do without. If it’s not a basic necessity of food, shelter, and clothing then just do without it. When determining needs vs. wants, think rice and beans, not steak; a roof over your head, not a house big enough for each kid to have their own bedroom; and socks in the winter, not the latest name brand boots.
  • Examples of Items you can Do Without…
    • Buying new bedspreads for you or your kids when you have old comforters and blankets that do just fine.
    • Buying a new couch when your old hand me down couch works just fine.
    • At the very least before purchasing something get in the practice of WAITING. Once you wait to purchase something most of the time the desire will subside and you can truly evaluate if you can do without.


I hope that our honesty in the ways that we are ‘making ­­it do’ are helpful to see that you don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. Keep your eyes on your debt journey, your frugal living, your goals, and use the principles of “Use It Up, Wear it Out, Make it do, or Do Without” to help you along the way. 


Please please share some of the ways that you live out this principle? We could all use extra inspiration!

1  U.S. households trash $640 in food a year.

7 thoughts on “Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do Without: A motto for getting out of debt

  1. My husband got a whole big free bottle of natural toothpaste from the dentist last time he was there. We finished our normal natural bottle and instead of buying a new bottle we are using what the dentist gave us. It is gross but I’m powering through brushing my teeth because it’s saving us money

    1. I think this is why so many products go wasted because they’re not our FAVORITE! But who cares, if it saves money, use it up!

  2. I’ve been stretching liquid soap for as long as I can remember. It just seems such a waste to toss it when there’s clearly some more in there and a little water can make it last a few more days.

  3. That’s a great saying to live by, Rosemarie. Too often what we think of as needs are really just wants…it’s no wonder so many of us are in debt. I’m pretty good about “using it up” when it comes to toothpaste and shampoo, but not quite as good when it comes to food. Some things I’ve found helpful are meal planning to use up your perishables, eating up leftovers for lunches or snacks, and organizing pantries so that you know what you have to use up.

    1. Exactly! Those are great tips for making sure we use every last bit of food! My husband is the king of eating all of our leftovers for lunches!

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