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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Housewife--Stretch a Buck

"We just can't afford to travel, everything is so expensive right now. There's just no way."

I disagree.

Every time we've made a big purchase or taken a trip, I've heard from some well meaning (or jealous?) people that they couldn't possibly afford to do what we do. Now, granted we only have one kid (but, quite honestly, he doesn't add much to the travel budget), but the reality is, we all can make room in our budget for more. It's just a matter of looking closer at how we spend and where we can trim. Then put the money that you saved far away from your reaches and watch it grow.

I've known many people who spend hundreds of dollars a month on daily coffee shop purchases, expensive trips to the liquor store (we don't drink and can't believe how much people spend on this!), and have to have name brand everything. Their money is just leaking rapidly from their bank, but they usually consider these expenditures nonnegotiable. Boy do they complain, though, when they can't afford something. It makes me sad.

I feel like I live a great life. I'm happier than I've been in ages and I don't want for anything. Like watching what I eat, I watch what and how I spend. Some of my simple money saving tips for detergents and paper products are listed below. I challenge you to try just a couple of them.

  • Make your own household cleaners. I've shared my reasons for this here.

  • Generic toilet paper is a huge money saver. Think of expensive, premium tissues as literally money down the toilet. Yes, it takes a little getting used to, but seriously, keep in mind what this product is intended for.

  • Now, cheapie toilet paper is great, but keep in mind that it's not always a bargain. Know how much each brand is per sheet and how much is on each roll (and watch out for single ply, that's not always a savings because you'll use double). Sometimes cutting coupons can bring brand names down to generic cost.

  • Buy generic laundry detergents. My dad was a chemical engineer who designed detergents before he became an attorney. Usually the difference between the detergents is scent and possibly the presence of optical brighteners. Tide detergent is notorious for adding optical brighteners to their detergent, which in the short term does make your clothes look brighter, but within minutes, these brighteners actually attract more dirt than detergents without them.

  • Use the right amount of detergent. Read the label. Many times, a normal load can be done with much less detergent than you think. Often times, the bottle or box will tell you that the lowest line on the measuring device is the most appropriate measure.

  • Stop buying paper towels. They're horrible for the environment and you really don't need them. We quit using them almost 6 months ago and we do not miss them. We have plenty of reusable rags made from old clothes and towels. We use wax paper in the microwave. Because we have a high efficiency washer, I know that the water and detergent use is much better for the environment than dumping so many paper towels into it.

  • Make your own foaming dish or hand soap. Purchase foaming pumps and once their empty, refill with about 2 TB of full strength hand or dish soap and the rest is water.

  • Are you a heavy paper napkin user? Why not try cloth napkins for a month? My grandpa used to say, "Betty, bring me a towel." Thanks Grandpa! It's a great idea.

Some of these changes might be difficult to get used to at first. You might be surprised, though, when you see no difference in the quality of the products you now have. Really, what have you got to lose? Give it a try, give a few different brands a try, and you'll find the savings is well worth the change in mindset.

I wrote this entry many months ago and scheduled it to be posted today. Actually, I had forgotten about this little blurb! Funny how coincidences happen. I was just talking to a dear friend this morning and we're both worried about our respective travel plans. When I wrote this, there wasn't even a glimpse of a $700 Billion (BILLION) bail out.

She and I both agreed, though, that our lifestyle will make this latest crunch so much easier than someone who's become accustomed to a great deal of frivolous spending. We know how to cook from scratch and make do with less. Actually, our lives probably aren't going to change that much.

The future is so uncertain though. She and I both agree, the stress is getting to us and there seems no end in sight. As I was speaking to her, our neighborhood albino squirrel was sneaking across my back yard. I gleefully told her that I was watching it and she wisely said, "See, we're going to have to get back to focusing on finding joy in the little things."

Maybe, ultimately, this isn't going to be such a bad thing for our country.

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