When we began our journey to become debt-free I scoured the internet and the library for tips on saving money. I was eager to learn every way possible to save a penny. Notice I said I was eager to learn every way, to actually do everything I learned was another story. Most of the tips I found made sense (or cents in this case!). Others were completely ridiculous in my mind. For instance, giving up indoor plumbing is not something I will be doing voluntarily! Even for me that is just too extreme. I have to admit that a few of the "extreme" tips I rolled my eyes at, have actually made there way into my house.
Anyway, I thought I would share a few of the not-so-extreme frugal tips I've learned along the way. We've already talked about saving money on electricity, so I decided to just give a sampling of miscellaneous ways to save around the house.
In the Kitchen:
Make your own cleaners. I used to think I had to have a specific cleaner for each cleaning job. You know, floor cleaner for floors, bathroom cleaner for bathroom, kitchen cleaner for cleaner, etc....Well, it turns out if it cleans the kitchen counter it will probably clean the bathroom counter! Afterall, soap is soap, right? I have been making my own cleaners for a while now and I have to say I'm partial to my homemade stuff. With a few basic ingredients you can make just about every type of cleaner you need for the entire house. A few of my favorites are posted under the "Frugal Household Recipes" page on this blog.
Limit convenience foods. Let's face it, convenience costs money. And some conveniences just aren't worth it (and yes, some are worth it). What are convenience foods? Well, that depends on you. Some consider chips, frozen pizza, mac and cheese and so on, to be convenience foods. Others may consider the seasoning packets like the taco, chili, onion soup mix and the like. And then there's the individual packaged conveniences like the "100 calorie" packs, single serve jello and pudding, and hot cocoa mixes. I started with just trying to limit the frozen stuff I'd buy. For example, instead of buying frozen waffles, I make up a batch of homemade pancakes and freeze them. A little at a time I have weened my family off of many convenience foods. Now, before I purchase anything, I ask myself if it is something I can make. It does takes a little extra work on my part, but there is something very gratifying about making your own onion soup mix! Instead of buying the "100" calorie or individual snack size stuff, buy the larger quantity and "bag" your own individual packs. Check out my "Homemade Convenience Foods" page for recipes to help get you started.
Beverages. We all know water is the most frugal of beverages. Unless, you're buying expensive bottled water on a daily basis. My family drinks whatever is most convenient for them. So I do make sure that water is convenient for them. I do use bottled water, but I'm the one who bottles it! I reuse water bottles and keep them in the fridge. Before anybody gets upset - I do thoroughly clean the bottles and throw them away after a while. Same goes for juice or kool-aid. I reuse gatorade-type containers and fill with juice or kool-aid and keep the fridge stocked. When I pick up the kids from school or if we're going anywhere in the car, I make sure to grab a few of these drink bottles for the ride. This helps to cut down on the drive-thru temptations out there. (I always keep the car stocked with snacks for this same reason)
No more paper towels! Believe it or not, I haven't bought paper towels or napkins in at least 2 years. Instead of paper towels, we use cloth napkins and I cut up t-shirts and flannel fabric to use for cleaning up messes and spills. I often use newspaper for grease blotters. At first, the hubby and kids thought I was a little nuts, but now they just grab a cloth out of the drawer when they need a napkin.
Save and reuse containers. Yes, I'm one of those people who wash and reuse ziploc bags. I like to say I'm being "green" because that sounds better than being cheap. But who am I kidding, I am a tightwad! I also save any plastic containers I get. These are great for storing the homemade convenience mixes and also great for storing leftovers. I also save things like the plastic bag liners from crackers and cereal boxes. These come in handy for using to separate beef and sausage patties.
In the Laundry Room:
Make your own laundry detergent. Too extreme? Hear me out. When I first started making my own deteregent, I was doing about 15-20 loads of laundry per week (at least). I felt like I was constantly having to buy that big plastic jug of laundry detergent. I despised having to spend so much money on that stuff. Not to mention how upset I would get when I realized I had ran out of detergent (after the washer was already full of water and clothes). Then I found a recipe for homemade laundry detergent. I tried the "powdered" version first. It was okay, but since I use cold water to wash, it really didn't dissolve very well. Then I gave the "liquid" version a try. I was hooked. The ingredients were priced reasonably and the "recipe" was quite easy. In fact, it's kind of fun to make. (I know I'm a dork!) My clothes are clean and I'm saving tons of money. Costs just pennies per load! I've posted the recipe under the "Frugal Household Recipes" page if you would like to try it.
Cut dryer sheets in half. If you use your dryer instead of hanging clothes to dry, then try cutting the dryer sheets in half. When I was still using my dryer, I only used a half dryer sheet and it worked just fine. Another idea is to use a dab of liquid softener on a cloth and stick in the dryer instead of the dryer sheets. I've also used a ball of aluminum foil.
In the Bathroom:
Toilet Bowl Cleaner. Remember what I said earlier, soap is soap. Well, same goes for the toilet. You really don't need to buy expensive cleaner with a fancy spout just for the toilet. I use a shampoo bottle that is "empty", you know the one that doesn't have enough shampoo to wash another head of hair. Just take that "empty" bottle of shampoo and fill it with hot water and shake. Mixed with water, that little bit of shampoo that was left at the bottom, has now turned into toilet bowl cleaner! Squirt some in the toilet and scrub. I can get 2 or 3 refills out of one "empty" bottle of shampoo. Cleans the toilet just fine.
Another great cleaner for the toilet, is plain ol' vinegar followed by some baking soda. Did you know that vinegar kills as much bacteria as Lysol? Besides getting the toilet clean, it's kinda fun to see the baking soda fizz when it hits the vinegar!
Body Wash. I haven't paid for body wash in a while, thanks to couponing! But before I started with the coupons, I would use bubble bath for body wash. You can usually find a big bottle of bubble bath pretty cheap at a dollar store and guess what - soap is soap! Works just fine as body wash.
I could go on and on with this post. There are just so many possibilities when it comes to saving money. I'd enjoy hearing what you all do to save money and stretch that dollar. If you have a tip, leave a comment or send me an email so we can share with everyone. Always looking for new ways to save!