Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Removing Paper Products, and other good tips

The economy sucks right now.  I think it might be getting better, overall, but budgets are still tight, especially for families, and especially for us LDS families who have a tendency to breed frequently. :p  I have a few money savings tips that may sound a little gross, but can make a pocket book really stretch.

There are obviously more ways to save money, but I picked some of the easiest and least obvious to detail here.  Everyone knows that growing your own produce, owning your own dairy cow, or slaughtering your own chickens is cheaper than buying things in the store.  You can make your own breads, pastas, sauces - you can make everything from scratch if you want!  And yes, you will save money.  But me personally - I don't have the time it takes to do these things on a regular basis.  Maybe if I *really* wanted to do it, I could find the time, but meh.  So here's a few easy, not at all time consuming ways to save money every single month.

If you use coupons diligently and regularly, you probably won't save as much as my estimated savings suggest, because with coupons you can get things nearly free (or totally free) if you play your cards right.  But, assuming you DON'T coupon for whatever reason, here we go!

1) Ditch the paper towels.  Whatever you can do with a paper towel you can do with an old T-shirt, a raggy bath towel, or some other form of mildly absorbant cloth.  Just toss it in the washing machine with your load (or by itself if you want, but that sort of defeats the cost savings), or toss it in a diaper pail and wait until it's full. I use towels to clean up everything.
** Kid spills - water, juice, milk, anything wet.
** To dry the floor after I mop so that I don't slip and die
** Pee - from kid pee (potty training yay!) to dog pee, it's pretty much all the same, and they come clean in the wash.
** Puke - see the comment about pee
** If you're squeamish about getting your hands dirty (in a literal sense), then you can invest in some rubber or plastic gloves to wear so your skin doesn't touch the towel.
** Use cloth diapers to clean windows and mirrors - they don't leave fuzz and are reusable.
** We go through maybe one $1 roll of paper towels every two months, because we use it for things like bacon and... yeah, pretty much just bacon.
Estimated Savings of ditching paper towels: $4 a month (more if you use the higher quality paper towels)

2) Ditch the toilet paper.  You might want to keep some around for guests, but as far as your kids and spouse go "Family Cloth" is a definite savings tool.  If you lack sewing skills, you can take old cotton t-shirts and cut them into squares, or use baby wash cloths (can be bought at Walmart for $1 for 5, I think?), or you can make them yourself with a needle and thread and some fabric.  For poopy messes, you can soak the cloths in a vinegar solution or leave them in a wet bag until it's time to rinse, or you can rinse them immediately after use and then toss them in a pail.  Again, if your squeamish about getting your hands dirty, rubber or plastic gloves will do the trick nicely.
This saves our family oodles a month, given that our one-year-old and our new puppy both have a strange fetish for unrolling, chewing on, or otherwise destroying entire rolls of toilet paper at a time.  Add in the ones that get soaked when the bigger kids play in the bathroom sink, and really we go through A LOT of disposable toilet paper!
Estimated Savings with Family Cloth: $15 a month (more if you use higher quality toilet paper)

3) Ditch Disposable baby wipes.  Use cloth wipes instead.  You can buy them online, you can make them, or just like Family Cloth you can use the cheapy wash cloths or old T-shirts - whatever you have on hand.  You can make a wipes solution to soak them in or spray them with, or you can just use plain old water - that part is up to you.
Estimated Savings with two in diapers: $8 a month

4) Ditch Disposable Diapers.  This is a HUGE savings, especially if you have more the one child in diapers.  See my blog entry on the detailed savings of cloth diapers here. Cloth Diapering Saves Moolah
Estimated savings of cloth diapering: $12 a month

5) Ditch Commercial cleaning products.  A gallon of vinegar costs around $2.  A box of baking soda is about the same.  Ammonia isn't expensive either, and neither is rubbing alcohol.  And all of these things can be used to clean your home just as effectively, and with just as much germicide as expensive, commercial cleaning products.  And the added bonuses - better for the environment, less harsh fumes, and no artificial chemicals.
White vinegar solution: 1 part vinegar, 1 part water.  You can use this to clean your kitchen, your bathroom, your tile or hardwood floors, and even your carpets.  You can even add it to your laundry as a fabric softener.
Rubbing alcohol: 1 cup alcohol, 1 cup water, 1 Tablespoon white vinegar.  Use this to clean crome fixtures, windows and mirrors, or to make your tile floors nice and shiny.  Added disinfecting bonus.
Baking soda: sprinkle directly on the sponge or mix with water to make a paste.  Use this to clean your kitchen, your bathroom, your counter tops, your walls.  You can also use it to fix slow running drains (not clogged ones though).

Ammonia solution: 1 tablespoon ammonia, 1-2 cups of water.  You can use this as an all purpose cleaner, to clean your kitchen, bathroom, walls, mirrors - pretty much anything.  It's the harshest chemical in the bunch I've listed, so reserve it for the tough jobs.
Furniture polish: mix 1 cup olive oil and 1/2 lemon juice.

So what have we replaced with basic, cheap products?
a) Fabric softener
b) Toilet bowl cleaner
c) Window cleaner
d) Furniture polish
e) floor mopping solution
f) pet stain and odor carpet products
Estimated Savings of ditching the commercialism: $16 a month (depending on how much you clean)

6) Ditch the soap!  No, not altogether, but ditch the fancy bottles of hand soap you get at the store with the cool pumps and the pretty scents.  Maybe buy a couple of those in order to reuse the pumps, but stop buying them monthly.  I don't know about you, but my children are somewhat obsessed with washing their hands (and by that I mean playing in the sink with a bottle of soap).  Since I rarely want to stop them from playing independently, I just let them use an entire bottle of hand soap in one sitting - I'm just lazy like that.  They do this a few times a month, not to mention the soap I use normally (two in diapers, LOTS of poop - you get the idea), and we're talking like seven soap bottles a month, give or take.
Soap is super easy to make, even if you don't want to use lye and animal fat.  You just need a bar of soap, a pot of water, some essential oils (coconut, lavender, whatever you prefer), and some glycerin if you want to go that way.
Estimated Savings of Ditching Commercial Hand Soap: $7 a month

7) Ditch Laundry Detergent!  Like hand soap, I don't mean literally.  Tough you can use vinegar as a fabric softener, you still need some kind of detergent for your clothes.  However, instead of paying a bundle of money for what comes out to be water, dyes, perfumes, and a little bit of cleaning solution, you can easily make your own detergent.  All you need is a bar of soap (of your choice), washing soda, Borax powder, scented essential oils (if you so choose), and lots of water.  If you do as much laundry as I do (five humans, four dogs), this will save you bundles of money!
The added bonus of Borax is that it can be used for lots of different things, including the killing of ants, roaches, and fleas.
Estimated Savings of Ditching Laundry Soap: $10 a month

Review Time! (there will be a test on this later, of course)
Monthly Savings:
Paper towels - $4
Toilet Paper - $15
Baby Wipes - $8
Diapers - $12
Cleaning products - $16
Hand soap - $7
Laundry Soap - $10
Monthly Total - $72
Yearly Total: $864

And the icing on the cake: you can tell people that you went to Disney World this year because you wiped your butt with a washcloth!

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