These will not seem like earth shattering money-saving advice. In fact, these ideas will just save you some pocket change here and there. Because of this seemingly small amount, they hardly seem worth the effort. But again, I challenge you to think as stewards. WE SHOULDN’T WASTE ANYTHING. We are stewards of God’s creation, and we have all been given an abundance of material gifts—yes, all of us. The average “poor” folks in our country in the USA seem rich compared to average families elsewhere in the world. According to Gallup, the yearly household income average for the world is under $10,000. We are all tempted to not value small change or even dollars, but when added all together, these add up. An extra $5 a week may not seem much to us, but we know that it could provide food for a school girl in another country for a week. And when we take steps to save small bits of money here and there, over time this can accumulate to lots of money—even by our standards. Let’s not waste any of our abundance. Let’s not add to our materialistic, throw-away culture.
Cut back on the use of disposables.
–One example of this is paper towels. We do not use paper towels in our house—with the exception of draining bacon and cleaning up other undesirables that I won’t mention. We have a single paper towel roll on a high shelf. We use hand towels for drying hands, cleaning cloths for cleaning.
– I never was a fan of disposable swifters, those throw-away cleaning disinfectant clothes, or other disposable cleaning products, either. This is just stuff for the landfill that doesn’t make our lives that much better. Which brings up the point of diapers.
– I only had a short bout with cloth diapers, so without sounding too much like a hypocrite, I will lightly suggest giving up disposable diapers. With sometimes 3 in diapers, the cost advantage just wasn’t there for me. If I ever get pregnant again, I will give cloth diapers another try. Some women even use cloth diaper wipes. You can ponder this one yourself and decide.
-Paper plates and cups can be saved for big parties where there would be an unusual amount of dishes to wash. I keep extra plates (simple glass ones) and extra glasses stored for occasions when we have extra people over. They are so much easier to eat from then paper plates, and honestly it just means an extra dishwasher load.
– And how about cloth napkins for dinner? If this sounds too fancy, it’s really not. Just have 2 or 3 sets that you can rotate through. These barely take up space in your washing machine.
-Ziplock bags? If you can, use storage containers.
One of the best disposables to get rid of is bottled water. Perhaps you think my tip here should be–NEVER BUY BOTTLED WATER, always bring your own. Keep a case in your car. And although using your own from a case that you bought is far cheaper than buying an individual bottle, I think you should try to limit all use of bottled water. In the long run, it will save you money, but more importantly, it will limit those giant landfills that all of those disposable water bottles are causing. Did you know it takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce plastic bottles yearly? This could fuel 1 million cars for a year. Spend some money on good water bottles for yourself and your kids. Yes, don’t get cheap ones. It will break or you won’t care enough to keep track of it and lose it. Make your kids be responsible for their own. If they lose it, the next one comes out of their pocket money. (Considering they are old enough. . .)
Are there any other disposables that seem reasonable to do without? Let me know. (I’ve thought about handkerchiefs . . .sorry, I’ll stick with Kleenexes.)
Do you still have a landline? That monthly expense probably isn’t worth it. If you still need an emergency phone at home for the kids, get one of those pay-as-you-go cheap flip phones.
Keep kids phoneless as long as possible. Once you get them a phone, start with a flip-phone. These monthly fees are usually half the amount of a smart phone—not to mention, a lot safer and easier to monitor.
Some laundry money saving ideas.
–Wash in cold or cool water, except if you have a whole load of really stinky, dirty clothes. You can get away with washing these in cool, if you simply soak them in cool water ahead of time.
-Use half of the recommended amount of laundry detergent. This has been proven to wash as well as the whole amount.
-If everyone re-uses clothes and towels, this will lessen the amount of loads per week, saving water and detergent. Make sure everyone has a place to hang their towel, so it will get dry and be re-used. Ask everyone to re-wear hoodies, sweatshirts, jeans, and other washing machine hogs.
-Dry clothes on a line. This is not a timesaver, but will save money on your electric/gas bill. I compromise with this by using a clothesline for all sheets, tablecloths, blankets, and comforters. I also usually hand dry jeans by hanging them in the laundry room. During summer swim season, we have a very handy clothesline for all towels and wet swimsuits. These items are re-used all summer, usually without being washed. (Hey, what’s chlorine for?)
Turn down or up your thermostat. Put on a sweater in winter. Wear a tank top in summer. Your body usually adjusts. It becomes difficult when a spouse comes home who has been in very cool air-conditioning all day. This isn’t worth losing a marriage over, but compromising can definitely be practiced over the setting of the thermostat temperature.
Simplify your cleaning products. Take the time to set up an easy system of reusing spray bottles by refilling them with solutions made from concentrates. I use an all-purpose cleaner, a glass cleaner, and baking soda. For occasional heavy duty cleaning, I use soft scrub. I also have bleach and white vinegar (don’t use these together!) for other specific cleaning needs. Bleach cleans up mildew. Vinegar will get out pet odors, and also can be used on glass. If you find yourself needing to clean something beyond what a basic cleaner in a spray bottle can clean, try looking up ideas on Youtube. You’d be surprised what vinegar, baking soda, and bleach can clean. And these are all very inexpensive cleaners.
Carpool whenever you can. This again may not always be the most convenient for you or your children, but it does save on gas money. I get the impression at my children’s school, that no one feels comfortable asking anyone to give their child a ride anywhere, as if it were some major inconvenience. I think parents feel irresponsible because they can’t give their child a ride to and from an event. For some parents at our school—they just solve the whole problem by buying their child a car as soon as they are old enough to drive. This is crazy!! Don’t be shy about asking parents to carpool with you. You may start a very positive trend where parents will work together to help each other look out for each other’s kids. Along these same lines, teach your children the subtle art of bumming a ride. By high school my children are quite proficient in this—not overbearing or assuming, just comfortably asking to ride along. It’s taken a few “if you want to go, you need to find a ride” kind of comments from me.
Walk, bike, use public transportation.
Delay those driver’s licenses for a year or two. In some families, another driver is a necessity. The costs and trouble involved may be worth it to help the parents who need help driving kids everywhere. If you’ve managed to keep up with all your kid’s activities and have the carpooling under control, it won’t kill your teenager to put off getting his/her license. You will save money in insurance costs. This can be from a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars a year. It will also save you money in car repairs and gas. There is also the cost of stress to parents. According to Geico, 1 in 5 sixteen year old drivers have a wreck in their first year.
A final idea on saving gas money—make it a policy to make only one errand-running trip a week. This means planning ahead so you don’t run out of milk and have to run to the store just for milk. It also means letting your kids know the policy so you aren’t making last minute trips for them: “Mom, I am out of hair gel, and I need it tomorrow. . .”
Every little bit helps. Perhaps what I like about these tips is that many of them are environmentally sound. They may not initially be as convenient or timewise, but with a little planning and organizing, these all can be efficiently done as well.
Next week we will talk again about some big ticket items that use up a lot of dough in many families’ budgets. Is it worth it? Are there ways to cut these high price costs? I’ll give you my take and ways that we’ve dealt with it.