Thursday, April 14, 2011

Money Saving Tips and Ideas Part 3

If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can find it HERE.
If you missed Part 2 of this series, you can find it HERE. I said in parts 1 and 2, please comment with your ideas & thoughts! I suspect with a title like "money saving tips and ideas" this blog may get lots of come back & read the other comments, too. You never know when something might inspire you!

Tip #3: Around the house.
In part 1, I discussed ways to save money on your groceries by creating a menu plan & writing out a very specific & organized list. In part 2, I explained how I use coupons to further save on my grocery bill. In today's installment of money saving tips & ideas, I wanted to share a few things I do around the house to save our family money. I'd love to hear your tips & ideas, too, so comment!

*Cook at home
I know this is a no-brainer for most of you, but there are still plenty of people out there who think that they can eat out on a budget. While there are certainly restaurants that are cheaper than others....and you can choose cheaper menu items sometimes, the reality is that eating at home is not only healthier for your family, but it is so much cheaper!

For example, if my family of 5 (2 adults, 3 kids) goes to eat at McDonald's, it will easily cost $20...actually, probably more. And that's just fast food! If we go to a "sit-down" restaurant, the price goes up. But let's stick with the $20 price tag for the moment. That $20 covers 5 burgers, 5 fries, 5 drinks, right? Let's just look at the prices of those same items if I cook them at home.

Burger patties (15 count, from Walmart): approx $7...but since I only need 5 of these for 1 meal, the cost for 1 meal is $2.35.
Burger buns (8 count): $2.25 (that's buying the good variety that is more can get cheap ones for $1.)
Mayo/mustard/ketchup/pickles: We keep these on hand all the time, so this is FREE.
Lettuce/tomato/onion: $5
Bag of frozen generic brand french fries: $2.50
One 2 Liter bottle of Coke: $1.25 (on sale this week!)
Total cost: $13.35

That's a savings of nearly $7 on one meal alone! Sure, sometimes it feels "worth it" to go out to eat, but if you're trying to save money, paying an extra $7 per meal will add up quickly, especially if you typically hit the fast food place several times a week!

*Homemade laundry soap
I know it sounds crazy, but I've done it. It works. It takes time & means putting in some elbow grease to make the soap, but again, if you're trying to cut expenses this may be something you want to consider. I did this for a while when our kids were babies & I was staying at home full time. I will be honest. It took a lot of time to make the soap & I got tired of bothering with it, so I quit doing it. But I wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again if I felt like we were in a serious enough bind. I found this recipe online & it looks identical to what I used to make.

2 cups Fels Naptha Soap (finely grated – you could also try Ivory soap, Sunlight bar soap, Kirk’s Hardwater Castile or Zote)
1 cup Washing Soda (NOT baking soda - it's on the laundry aisle)
1 cup Borax Laundry booster

Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container. Use 2 tablespoons per full load.

*Make your own baby wipes/cleaner wipes

Again, I know it sounds a little crazy, but I've done it and they work.

Baby wipes:
2 c. water
1 "squirt" of baby bath soap
1 "squirt" of baby oil
1/2 roll of Bounty paper towels

With a serrated knife, cut the roll of paper towels in half. Sit your 1/2 roll of towels in a sealable airtight container (tupperware, rubbermaid, etc). Pour in the wet ingredients & put the lid on the container. After about 10 minutes, flip the container over to make sure that both ends of the towels get soaked. After it soaks up the liquid, remove the center cardboard roll from the towels & pull up the wipes from the center. I found these wipes to work equally well as the commercial ones, but I felt like they were probably better for baby's skin because of the ingredients...all things that I was already using on my babies anyway! No alcohol, no chemicals or weird soaps. (Of course, they don't travel well in the diaper bag, so you might have to still get a box of commercial wipes to refill the travel container in your diaper bag....)

Cleaner wipes:
Use the same basic method as you would for baby wipes, but replace the baby bath soap & baby oil with a liquid cleaner you're comfortable with using in your home. (about 1/4 cup)

*No more liquid fabric softener!
I bought a Downy ball about 5-6 years ago & use it every time I do laundry. But I don't put Downy in it! Fill it to the same line with white vinegar. It works BETTER than commercial liquid fabric softener. And no, it does NOT leave a vinegary smell! I'd NEVER use this if it did! A bottle of vinegar costs about $1.50. A bottle of fabric softener costs about $5-6! And it's all chemicals!
*Dryer sheets
If you prefer dryer sheets to liquid fabric softener...or if you use both, use 1/2 a sheet. It does just as good a job as a full sheet and your box of dryer sheets lasts twice as long!

Don't buy books in bookstores. Go there to browse. Take a notepad & write down the titles you're interested in. Come home & check one of these websites. I can just about guarantee you that you'll get the book cheaper. WAYYY cheaper! I can't tell you how many times I've bought a used copy of a book for $.01 to $3.00 when the new copy at the store was close to $20! (look for used book prices!) (did you know Barnes & Noble sells used books too??)

Besides, by the time you get home & think about it some more, you may talk yourself out of buying a book altogether...saving you money on an impulse buy. many times have you bought a book in the store just because it looked good & you were in a book buying mood only to get home & figure out you hated it??

And here's another fun one that my husband & daughter use a lot. You can get FREE books with this site!

Goodwill & the Salvation Army and other thrift stores are also good sources for low-priced books!

Several years ago, I read an article in People magazine about a new website that had just been created called Freecycle. The idea behind it was to keep items out of the landfills by sharing it with people in your town. You post an item to give away & others let you know if they need it. You work out a location to meet & give them the item. And vice versa. If you need something, you post that need & if someone local has it, you meet & pick it up from them.

I loved the idea, so I went to the website & ended up being our town's first Freecycle group's creator! It grew VERY quickly & soon became very overwhelming, so I turned it over to a new group of moderators! I am proud to know that I started the group for our area. It has been such a great source of needed items for our household and a fabulous way for us to get rid of things over the years, too! Check it out HERE.

This post has gotten very long & I am getting very tired, so I'm going to stop here. I may continue this post later, but for now, WOW me with your own household tips & ideas to save money!

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