I want to start a series of money-saving tricks that I have started using since kicking off this debt-reduction journey. Hopefully these tricks will help reduce some of our monthly expenses (pssst: revised budget coming this afternoon). Here’s my first money-saving trick:
Homemade Cleaning Spray and Reusable Rags
I have actually been making my own cleaning spray for years. I started because of health/safety (I wanted a 100% natural cleaning solution for cleaning high chair surfaces), but it also had a side-effect of helping out the wallet. Since starting my debt-payoff journey, I also decided to eradicate paper towels from our lives.
To be fair, we still have some paper towels leftover from a Costco run I made in late February, but I have already switched over to reusable rags. If all goes well, hopefully our hoard of paper towels will last the entire year of our credit-card eradication challenge since we will only be using them very sparingly (side note – I also saw a tutorial on making DIY baby wipes out of paper towels for WAY cheaper than store-bought wipes, so that’s an alternative, too). The only thing I’ve noticed so far as a disadvantage of reusable towels is in regard to cleaning mirrors. The rags always leave streaks and little bits of rag “fuzz” behind. Any reader tips on how to avoid this?
Otherwise, I’m really trying to stick to the rags. In our case, the rags required no initial investment. Because we had twins instead of a singleton, we were gifted an obscene amount of burp cloths (which were all IMPERATIVE when the girls were babies). Now that they aren’t needed as burp cloths, they’ve just been sitting in our linen closet taking up space. I have just repurposed these into our cleaning rags. They’re the perfect size and I don’t have to run out and buy a bunch of towels to replace the paper towels. Win-Win!
Dirty baby table about to get cleaned with a burp cloth and homemade cleaning solution. As you can see, I have reused an old spray bottle (you can tell from the picture it’s pretty old, as the label is peeling off). No up-front costs, only savings!!!
I have a link to my pinterest in my author info in case anyone is interested. I have a board of DIY ideas that I have used, and there are links to several homemade cleaning solutions you can use to save yourself some money, too!
and one more BONUS money-saving trick….
Free Magazine Scam
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the free magazine scams, right? These are when you get a mailing saying you can get a free magazine subscription for “X” months….but then they never remind you to cancel and the subscription auto-renews and CHARGES you!!! Familiar?
Well at the beginning of January I got an offer for FIVE free magazine subscriptions. I have no idea how this happened – I haven’t subscribed to a magazine in YEARS! But the mailing said that depending on the magazine, I could qualify for 6 months up to 1 year for free! Don’t mind if I do!
I went ahead and signed up for a bunch of magazines. Turns out I got 4 for one full year, and 1 for 6 months. All totally FREE!
Here’s the thing……the magazines are banking on you forgetting to call and cancel in time, and then they get to charge you! I am meticulous about keeping a planner (I would never remember all my various deadlines and due-dates otherwise). So I write in my planner the phone number, magazine subscription information, and a big note to CANCEL a month before the free trial ends (just so there’s no confusion or funny business).
But I don’t really care about magazines. I sometimes flip through them while the babies are taking a bath (I sit in the bathroom supervising, but they love to play in the tub so it could be a good 20 minutes or so), but I could do without them and don’t need them or anything.
So what’s my trick????
Almost as soon as I receive them, I take them to our local book resale shop (called Bookmans). It’s important that I take them soon after they arrive because then they are still the “current” issue. I take them to the book store and “trade-in” for store credit! I use the credit to buy books for my babies!!! Voila! Free books!!!
Me?? I’ve always been a library-girl. But my babies are so destructive they are NOT old enough yet to be responsible library-borrowers (they’re not even 2 yet), so we can’t borrow baby books from the library for fear of a book getting a page torn, a sippy cup spilled on it, etc. But the books at the resale shop are cheap anyway, and once I use my 5 trade-in credits per month, I’m always able to walk away with 1-2 new-to-us books for the girls absolutely FREE!!!
So there you have it! Two new ways you can save some money!
What’s your favorite money-saving “trick”???
Hi, I’m Ashley! Arizonan on paper, Texan at heart. Lover of running, blogging, and all things cheeeeese. Late 30’s, married mother of two, working as a professor at a major university in the southwest. Trying to finally (finally!) pay off that ridiculous 6-digit student loan debt!
I have been a follower of this blog for a long time; however never commented here. But I really applaud all the 4 bloggers for the joint initiative they have taken to make this blog so active and useful.
For cleaning the mirrors, try using a old newspaper with little bit of water on it (Not soaking wet, just a dab of water). I leaves no streaks/fuzz and makes your mirrors absolutely spotless clean.
Hi Parul! I appreciate the comment and the kind words! Thanks so much for the tip about the newspaper! We don’t subscribe to the local paper, but we get the free mailings that are newspaper-material so I’ll have to try that out – I would’ve never thought of that!!
We requested our neighbors give us their old newspapers 1) for cleaning and 2) to burn in our wood burning fireplace. That’s how we get ours. We just go pick them up the day before recycling every week that we need them.
We also used old newspapers as the base for our garden and our flower beds. The decompose and really help the soil, not to mention are a great weedblock until they decompose. The key is keeping them wet or held down until you mulch or put soil over them so they don’t fly away (this we learned the hard way.)
What a great idea!!!
I have saved so much money by making my own home cleaners like countertop spray, bathroom cleaner, hand soap and laundry detergent. I do get streaks on glass and mirrors, but I kind of just let it go haha. I have heard that using newspaper to wipe glass and mirror works wonderfully. That is if you regularly have newspaper around.
Ashley–go to the library! They have BOARD BOOKS available, if you seriously think the girls are too distructive. You can just wipe board books off with your spray and they are designed to be stepped on, chewed, thrown, etc. They also have book carts with withdrawn kids books at every Phoenix Public Library location, and I think they are either 25 or 50 cents.
And honestly, speaking as a librarian, they know those books are going to be manhandled and have a short shelf-life. We want to turn your 19 month olds into book lovers, fast talkers, and vocabulary experts.
Hi Kerry! That’s a fabulous idea! I have to admit that I haven’t even LOOKED at the baby book selection in the library, just having assumed it wouldn’t be a good idea for us (thinking of the destructive-baby thing). But I should’ve realized there would be the board book-style books! We do have lots of books gifted to us (Chris’ Mom is an English teacher and, therefore, an avid reader) so we have a good amount, but its always fun to read new ones! And you can’t beat FREE! : )
Due to the allergies in the house, I have made my own cleaning spray forever. It didn’t start as a frugalality tip but rather a health choice and it has worked wonders! My recipe is simple: 1:4 ratio of white vinegar and water. We clean EVERYTHING with it.
Not only is it super cheap (1 gallon of white vinegar runs about $3 at our grocery story,) but the kids allergies have cleared up tremendously and we rarely get sick because vinegar kills everything! I also use the vinegar in my washing machine as the fabric softener.
We’ve also always used rags…they come from cut up t-shirts, orphaned socks, old towels, etc. I did this because of all the spills with all the kids and animals. The cost of paper towels for those was crazy so once we started the rags, that went down tremendously.
The only thing I keep paper towels around for now is soaking up bacon grease when we cook it. 🙂
Love the post!
I LOVE these ideas, Hope! I’ve never even thought of using cut up t-shirts, orphaned socks, old towels. That’s genius!! I usually try to resell the girls’ clothes at a clothing resale shop, but was just talking to my hubs about how its’ impossible with lots of their current clothes because they stain them (food, dirt, etc.). This is a great idea for those outgrown clothes that are in too poor condition to resale/donate/etc.
I’ve heard of vinegar as a fabric softener but hadn’t tried it. That’s soooo happening next! I’ve also heard it works miracles as a hair conditioner. Vinegar does everything!
Ashley, what’s your laundry routine like? Because Oxyclean (yeah sorry for the buzmarketing) really gets out a ton of protein stains, even older ones. You can make a paste and rub it in or give the clothes a long soak in the sink.
Also baby clothes would be really hard to cut up–so small! Grownup size t-shirts work best,and they are so freaking thin these days it’s pretty galling not to get extra use out of them.
I’ve heard good things about Oxyclean but haven’t tried it, myself. Honestly, our laundry “routine” (if you can call it that) is pretty minimal. We don’t even own any stain-cleaner. In the past I have bought our laundry detergent from Costco (the Kirkland’s brand – whenever it goes on sale). But, if Oxyclean can save us money by extending the lifetime of clothing then that’s really something to think about!
Seriously, it works. White blouse, mysterious brown stain that had been there a while–applied a paste for 6 hours and it was almost gone, and a 2nd application took care of the rest! And Oxyclean saved my work tote after an unfortunate vomit incident.
And extending the life of your clothes through correct stain treatment, paying attention to fabric care, and prompt washing will save you money in the long run.
Oxyclean works miracles. I’ve even successfully removed set-in grease stains. Spot apply with water as a paste and let it set overnight. Add some dish detergent if its especially stubborn.
Oxyclean also works wonders on food burnt on pans.
Walmart has a Sun Oxy for about half price ($6 for a 5lb tub). Also, Dollar Tree sells their version in 1lb bottles. But they recently stopped selling the “free” version that doesn’t have the perfumes and chlorine in it. That kind would be good for clothes but not food items.
Nice! I’ll have to check out these generic brands!
If you end up with grease stains, Dawn dishsoap also works wonders.
Good ideas Ashley. I’d love to read more money-saving tricks in the future. Thanks for sharing!
you can go to Home Depot and get yourself a package of micro fiber rags. I’ve been using these instead of paper towels for a few years now. You can just wet it (then squeeze it out good) to clean mirrors or whatever and then wipe it with a dry microfiber ragand you won’t have any streaks or lint. I do keep one roll of paper towels on hand for those who this is but I’d rather throw away. Typically they have to do with the cat lol. who was the microfiber red and hot water but never use fabric softener on them. we should hang them to dry for best results. once you start with the micro fiber rags in water you won’t even need hardly any cleaning products. I use baking soda to clean my sinks and vinegar as a disinfectant.
For books for the kids, try Goodwill. You can get children’s books for 10 cents or 25 cents and many are in brand new condition.
Looks like the voice recognition on my phone didn’t turn out very well in the above comment.
Lol, I think I still got the main message : )
Great ideas! My husband actually has some microfiber rags for his car cleaning stuff. I could just wash them and use those! And thanks for the Goodwill tip for books, too!
Old linen dish towels make good glass cleaning cloths also, without lint. I always used cloth diapers (that’s just how old I am!) and they are good for glass or mirrors too. It sounds to me as if you are going to be successful because you are attacking the problem on many fronts at the same time. I eliminated debt from our lives a number of years ago now, and it does make life much simpler. After that, I paid our mortgage off nine years early, making it possible for me to retire six years earlier than I had originally planned. Have never regretted that!!
Congratulations, Marcia! That’s incredible to get to a point where you have the financial stability to retire early!
Hi Ashley –
A couple thoughts on cutting costs:
I found that a bottle of Dreft stain remover has been invaluable in saving baby/toddler clothes with stains you think will never get out. I know it costs a few bucks but I weighed it against this: it is designed with baby-specific stains in mind so it works really well on the kind of stuff they get into their clothes, the number of articles of clothing it has saved from the rubbish pile more than makes up for the cost of the bottle for me.
For me, one of the most expensive items on my household budget was hair products! Now, I am lucky to not need to dye my hair yet so it may not work for you, but a while back I switched to this method and have saved a ton on my curly/wavy/frizzy hair:
Wash with a baking soda/water mixture. (I think it is 1 tablespoon per cup, and you aim for applying it on the scalp and roots).
Condition with an apple cider vinegar/water mixture. (I think it is 2 tablespoons per cup, and you aim for applying it towards the ends away from the scalp and roots.) There will be no residual smell when your hair is dry.
Then for product I just use a small amount of coconut oil.
It takes a few weeks for your hair to get rid of all the buildup of product over the years and adjust to this, but once it does…..well, I spend a lot less time doing my hair in the morning as I don’t have to combat frizz and all sorts of other craziness!
I commend you on making your own cleaning sprays. Isn’t it weird how somewhere along the line we began to correlate chemical smells with cleanliness and not potentially harming us? I switched years ago, not for personal health reasons, but because my dog had allergies to the stuff! Now that I have kids, I could not imagine going back!
I took this almost as far as Meghan and love the results. I just worked at not washing my hair every day. I now wash about every 3-4 days. Sometimes, I’ll go longer if it’s over a weekend and I can just throw my hair up in a binder. My stylist and I joke that on those extended days we are “doing a treatment” on our hair because it’s just SO GOOD for your hair. I’ve had the same huge bottle shampoo and conditioner in my tub for almost a year now. I bought it from my salon on sale (Tea Tree). A bit of a splurge, but it’s literally lasted me almost a year now. One of the best results (and savings) for me was that I spend less on hair products AND I had dandruff and sebhorric dermatitis [sic]. BOTH went away when I stopped stripping my hair of it’s natural oils with washing every day. Saved me money on the prescription hair products, saves me time in the morning getting ready, my head doesn’t itch all the time anymore and my hair looks amazing.
This also took me some time to get to washing every 3-4 days. My head rebelled a bit at first, but after about a month I was adjusted.
Thanks for the great information Ashley! This is by far the most useful post I have read on here. I can’t wait to check out your pinterest for more ideas! 🙂