Frugal Friday

My frugal knitting post was one of my most popular posts yet. I am a born-again cheapskate; a tried and true tightwad. It was how I was born and raised, and I am recently practicing the art of penny-pinching again as we pay down debt and try and save money with the looming potential of one of us becoming unemployed. I thought I might share, on a weekly basis, some tips and suggestions with you, my faithful Google-searched readers, and maybe you will find something you hadn’t heard before that is useful.

This week, I thought I might focus on saving money around the house.

First- laundry. Whether you use liquid or powdered detergent, there is something really important to know. The cap or scoop that comes with it is 3 to 5 times BIGGER than the suggested amount of detergent needed for an average size load of laundry. If you are using the whole cap or whole scoop to measure out your laundry detergent, you are using WAY more than is necessary. In both cases, there is a line on the cap/scoop that tells you what the suggested amount is for your soap; look for those lines and use them. Heck, use even a little than that. Your laundry will still get clean, I promise. For the really filthy stuff (like my daughter’s sweatshirt after she used it to clean the mud out of a gutter…really), pre-wash in a sink with a tiny bit of soap (or just water if you like) and agitate by hand a bit, before throwing it into the regular laundry.

Do you really need fabric softener/dryer sheets? Really? Studies have shown it decreases the life of your fabrics, it can reduce or eliminate the fire-retardant nature of infants’ clothing, and do you know what is actually in it? Do you really want all those chemicals and perfumes that close to you? Save the $5 or so you have to pay per month for it; a year without dryer sheets or fabric softener could save you as much as $60 for something you just really do not need.

Finally, and everyone is suggesting this, but in Virginia, where EVERY major and most minor electric companies and co-ops are increasing their rates this year, I cannot recommend this enough. Get a $10 drying rack from somewhere and dry at least SOME of your laundry on the rack; even if it is just your kitchen towels, wash cloths, and your delicate things. Anything that doesn’t have to go in the dryer means less time the dryer, the second most energy draining feature in your home after your heater, has to run.. Also, for added electricity savings don’t use hot water for laundry. It doesn’t really make enough difference to justify heating up all that water.

In fact, that takes me to my next suggestion. If you have a regular water heater (not a tankless version or solar heated version), and you haven’t done this yet, go find the thermostat on it. On some, particularly LP or natural gas fired ones, it might be right on the outside near the regulator. On electrics, it might be behind a panel, in which case you will need a flathead screwdriver. Either way, check your thermostat; if it is set above 125 degrees (F), lower it to around 125-120 degrees. If you water is much hotter than that, you can run the risk of scalding, particularly for children with very tender skin. You save more money lowering the temperature, you reduce the risk of injury, and I can promise you from my own recent experience, dropping ours from 160 to 125, I couldn’t tell a difference. I always had compensated with more cool water when bathing, and now washing dishes is less uncomfortable.

Okay, so into the shower. I have two suggestions for using up those last dregs of shampoo, soap, conditioner, and such.

First, when you get down to the bottom of your shampoo, conditioner, or bodywash, add a little water (a few tablespoons) and shake it up, It will pull much of what is clinging to the sides of the container down and while it will be a thinner mixture, you will get more out of what you paid for. (As an aside, if you can do it, buy your products in bulk and refill smaller, shower sized containers; the soap/shampoo wont go bad, and you can usually save a lot on it by buying in bulk from one of those big stores.)

Second, if you use bar soap, and you always wind up with little slivers that you cannot use, try saving them; once you have collected a handful of them somewhere, add them and a little water to a container and allow them some time to get kind of mushy. Then, using something like a washcloth or clean soft rag, wrap them up, and squeeze them together. Allow the conglomerate of soap slivers to dry up and harden, and you have a new, albeit lumpy bar of soap. It won’t be pretty, but it will smell the same and get you just as clean as a fresh bar.

Finally, remember not to use too much of your shower product at one time. Everything is designed to get you to use more than you need so you can buy more from the producer. The mesh scrubbies make it very easy to over-use body washes. The holes in the lids of your products are large and intended to let you squeeze lots of soap out quickly, making it easy to overuse the soap. You don’t need a massive lather to get you clean, and all it does is wash pennies (or nickels and dimes depending on your brand of choice) down the drain.

Last suggestion for today, and this one is about the air you breathe. Most homes with air-ducts for heating and cooling also use air filters to help cut down on dust and allergens. I highly recommend these and we use a very expensive brand to help with my husband’s allergies. Being so expensive, I have tried to think of a way not to have to pay almost $30 every 3 months or so to replace them; I haven’t tried this yet but I think I am going to, so take this as you will. Instead of removing them and throwing them away every season, consider once every 6 weeks or so, taking your filters outside and vacuuming them. By vacuuming them out, you remove the dust and detritus they have pulled out of the air without damaging the filters themselves. By doing it every six weeks instead of three months, you should have less gunk built up making it easier to clean. This helps save you money and make a little less garbage.

Happy frugal Friday. If you want specific suggestions on how to cut corners while living well, please feel free to leave a comment or email me. Next week, I plan to write about saving money in the kitchen.


2 responses to this post.

  1. If you don’t like the way your smushed together balls of soap look, take some roving and felt around them. Voila! Instant shower scrubbie.

    Insulate your water heater. Really. Makes a huge difference in how often the power source has to kick on.

    Spend the extra 18 dollars and get the washable HVAC filters. Every 30 days, spray them with soapy water (yet another use for watered down shower gel) and hose off. No more buying filters.

    Not trying to hijack your post, just expanding on the well thought-out ideas you proposed.


    • Posted by laruse on April 17, 2009 at 3:37 PM

      I had not seen the washable filters. That sounds awesome. You’re not hijacking, you are sharing info which is the whole point of this post! Thanks.
      Happy belated birthday and good luck on your race tomorrow. I will be thinking good thoughts for you.

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