Saturday, July 31, 2010

Friday, July 30, 2010

Avoid Antibacterial Soap

Antibacterial soap and other antibacterial cleansers have a whole list of health problems associated with them. Just buy regular soap. It kills a fraction less germs, but who wants to risk immune system problems over .2% more germs?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Save Money on Soap

My husband always leaves soap remnants in the shower. I always throw them away. It's like a game now. But this is what we SHOULD have been doing with them to make new soap!

1. Collect the pieces of soap. Put them in a zip-top bag. Store them in a cool, dry place.

2. When the bag is full, put the pieces into a double boiler and slowly melt them.

3. Pour the melted soap into a nonstick baking dish.

4. When cool, cut into rectangles and wrap them in plastic wrap.

Now that is frugal.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Clothing-Purchasing "Diet"

I just saw this article in the NY Times. It outlines two different plans for clothing oneself:

A) Don't buy new clothing for a year (with exceptions of socks and underwear)
B) Only wear six items from one's closet for a month. This will help compulsive shoppers realize that they don't need all the items they own and buy.

I am by no means a compulsive shopper, but I do enjoy purchasing new clothing. Since having a baby, I've been focusing on acquiring clothes for free or low cost (ie the clearance racks at Target or online from Land's End, from a friend's cast-offs, or by using gift cards from saved-up credit card points).

Some behaviors that have helped me stay under my clothing budget this year:

1) I leave the tags on as long as possible to determine if I really wanted the item or if I just wanted the experience of buying the item. If it is the latter, I return it.

2) I avoid buying clothing with prints. I'd rather purchase basic items. (I wear lots of black).

3) I don't buy things that need to be dry-cleaned. This eliminates a lot of clothing purchase options! (However, I don't work outside the home right now so I'm really not wearing suits or dresses which would likely require dry cleaning.)

4) Price adjustments at Target. Twice in the past 3 months have I purchased something and a week later it went on sale.

5) Asking myself, "Do I really need this?" Most often, the answer is "NO", so I keep my money. What a great way to be frugal!

6) Coupons! Target had a coupon in a magazine I frequently read...Famous Footwear had an online coupon I used...Macy's, Penney's and Kohls often have coupons. I save them in case I need them. Coupons are most useful when you can use them on clearance items.

7) Borrowing maternity clothing from friends. I also loaned out my maternity clothing to these same friends.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

White Vinegar

Make sure your white vinegar says "Made from Grain" on the label.

In some countries, white vinegar is made from petroleum.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Drying Herbs

I started a small herb garden this year. Very small. But I love it. Instead of buying herbs, I can now just get them from my yard!

But what can I do to dry them and preserve them for winter?

Freezing: Some herbs are best preserved by freezing. Specifically, basil, cilantro, parsley & chives. I'm going to just put them in ziploc bags and put them in the freezer.

Air Dry: More specific instructions for air drying are to cut them at the stem, tie a string around them and hang them upside down until the leaves are crumbly. (Avoid crumbling the leaves, though as they hold more flavor before crumbling. Don't take them off the stems or crumble til you're ready to use them.) Store them away from heat and light for up to a year.

Frugal and yummy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Time Savers

-Keep the same glass all day. Saves time & dishwasher space. Mark it with one of those oil pencils used in chemistry labs if necessary!
-Use a few different laundry baskets in your room. One is for whites, one is for colors, and one for delicates.
-Put your junk mail straight into the trash instead of setting it on the counter.
-Buy birthday cards in bulk. Address them while you're thinking about it. Put them in a stack, and send them out once a month.
-Put a piece of bread into your brown sugar container. This keeps it moist and helps it not form small rocks (you know what I mean!)
-Brush your teeth in the shower. I used to do this in college. It saved me time!
-Moisturize your cuticles with baby oil. Cheap and easy and makes your nails shiny.
-Do bicep curls with large cans of soup while you wait for water to boil in the kitchen.

Sweet Potatoes for Babies

My little guy loves sweet potatoes. I found it is far cheaper to make them myself from whole yams than to buy them in the tiny packages already pureed.

I used to peel, steam, and puree the sweet potatoes.

WOW ... I was wasting my time. A lady @ my MOPS table clued me in:

1. Rinse sweet potatoes
2. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork
3. Bake in 350 degree oven for 60-80 minutes.
4. Cool for 20 minutes.
5. The skins peel right off.
6. Mash with a fork or potato masher*.
7. Freeze.

*One would likely want to puree with some water in a blender
 for younger babies or for babies who dislike lumps or the stringiness I've found to be typical of sweet potatoes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Foaming Hand Soap

I love foamy hand soap. I just found out that you can make it yourself!! Since it is more expensive, I don't usually buy it.

First, you're going to have to buy the foamy soap so you can save the bottle (you need the nozzle for the foam).

Next, you'll need your regular liquid dish soap or liquid hand soap. In the empty foamy bottle, combine 1-2 Tablespoons of dish soap and fill the rest of the bottle up with water (leave a little space at the top). Shake it slightly, not too much or it will overflow.

Shopping for Clothing

I have a love/hate relationship with shopping. I used to love to shop. That was back in high school & even college, when my mom bought me clothes and would patiently wait while I tried on 10 different items and found out that no jeans fit my 5'10" frame and all the skirts were too short to wear to school. When something did fit, it was often purchased at full price. (I have a generous mother.)

That changed when I got married and started spending my own money. I can't remember the last time I purchased something at full price, let alone a whole outfit or a dress at full price. Heck, I can't remember the last time I went shopping at a mall!

A few shopping secrets that help me keep my family's clothing under budget each year:

1) Shop toward the end of the season. Things are often on sale or clearance. Try shopping after things have been returned after Christmas.
2) Start with the back of the store. Check out the items on clearance.
3) Shop often, but rarely buy.
4) Buy basics. I have very few patterned clothing in my closet. I wear a lot of black & white or other solids. That way I can wear them year after year and they don't look 'trendy'.
5) Don't buy something you don't LOVE. You won't wear it.
6) Don't buy things that don't fit. You'll be sorry.
7) Don't be afraid to return things. I usually don't wear a purchase right away. I let it sit in my drawer (ok, on TOP of the dresser, because I hate to put things away) for about a week to think about it. I change my mind a lot. Save your receipt. See my tips on sticking to a budget.
8) If you are going to order online, make sure you order from somewhere that grants free shipping. Also, make sure you can return it to the brick & mortar store or ship it back for free. Sometimes I order multiple sizes of a certain item. I return what I don't want.

And this is off the clothing topic, but while we're thinking about the mall, if you're going to buy something at Bath & Body Works, PLEASE don't pay full price! Just wait and buy what you want during their semi-annual sales in June and right after Christmas! They practically give things away during these times.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Remove Ink Stains

If you get ink on your clothing, act fast!
While it is still wet, saturate the spot with lemon juice (doesn't need to be fresh juice!)

Launder as normal.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Poision Ivy?

Try applying lemon juice. It should help reduce itching and relieve the rash.

Old Cell Phones

You can recycle your old cell phones and get paid. There are a number of sites out there, and this is just one, but try

They provide a shipping label so you don't have to pay to send it to them.

Obviously, the more you paid for the phone in the first place, the more it is worth after you've beat it up for a year or two.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cleaning the Microwave

Easily clean the microwave with 4 T of lemon juice and one cup of water.

Boil this mixture for 5 minutes in the microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) and allow the steam to condense on the inside walls.

Wipe the microwave's interior clean!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Books as Frugal Gifts

We've been invited to lots of weddings over the past few years. We haven't always had much money to purchase a gift. Instead of giving a gift card (a good, easy gift) we have often purchased a book we enjoyed for the couple. We sometimes have written notes to the couple in the front of the book.

I feel like that makes a really great gift which conveys our thoughts and wishes yet doesn't leave us bankrupt.

What are some other frugal, yet thoughtful gift ideas?

Deodorizing Carpet

Our carpet took quite a few hits over the course of the first 10 months of our baby's life. In other words, he spit up a lot. His doctor assured us it was normal, just in case anyone out there was wondering.

We could pay a carpet cleaning service $150+ to remove the odors. We may have to have them come eventually to remove the stains...more on that in another post.

But using baking soda is a far less expensive option for odor removal. Simply dust it onto the carpet before vacuuming, leave it for an hour, and then vacuum it up.

Another great way to keep dirt and toxins out of your home is to take off your shoes!! I don't like wearing shoes in my home anyway. Think about all the stuff on your shoes...tar, oil, antifreeze, salt, lawn chemicals...we have a crawling baby, so I sure don't want that stuff on his hands and in his mouth!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Road Trip Savings

1. Don't pack extra stuff. Every 100 pounds of gear can reduce fuel efficiency by 1-2%. That adds up.

2. Do pack a cooler with food. Plan your meals on the road to be picnic-style and pack sandwiches, fruit, pre-cut veggies, and yogurt. Drink water. (Or drink coffee as needed.)

3. Bring along a travel coffee mug. Most coffee shops give a $0.10 discount if you have your own mug. That can add up depending on your coffee requirements!

4. Check for gas deals along the way.

5. Consider camping out at a public campground along the way instead of staying in a hotel.

6. If you do go to a hotel, find out if they offer free breakfast.

7. Rent books on tape from your local library.

8. No GPS? Borrow one from a friend.

Flossing is Frugal

I floss most nights. I have never had a cavity. My husband flosses now, too. I truly believe that flossing helps reduce our dental bills. We are lucky to have dental insurance which allows us to receive semi annual cleanings, but if we had to have a cavity filled, we would need to pay out of pocket at least some of the costs.

Flossing can reduce the risk of gum disease. Also, researchers have found that flossing reduces the risk of heart disease.

The bottom line is that flossing is worth the 2.5 minutes per night for your health and your bank account.

Dishwasher Detergent Dangers

I normally use price as my only guideline when choosing a dishwasher detergent. However, I recently read that they usually containe chlorine that can cause eye injuries. I do keep my cleaning chemicals behind a "child-safe" lock, but my 13-month old is pretty good at getting things open.

I would like to switch to a phosphate and chlorine free detergent. I hear that they do exist.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Yes, you can conserve the amount of coffee grounds you use each day.

Empty only half of the grounds (use them for composting!)
Add half the amount of fresh grounds.
Make your coffee with the same amount of water.

Want to Make: Fabric Boxes

I want to make fabric boxes using only materials I have around the house (I was thinking cardboard!). It isn't frugal if I have to go out and buy something.

Idea 1 uses interfacing to stabilize.
idea 2 more interfacing.
idea 3. same problem
idea 4. too bad this tutorial/pattern is no longer free. these are cute.
this one uses batting.
more interfacing.
made with felt!
circular ones using interfacing.
another with cardboard.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Save Time: Socks

Pin your socks together before putting them in the laundry.

You don't have to sort them once they're all clean and dry!

Have you considered...

...washing your clothing less often? As in, "I only wore these jeans for a few hours, they don't smell, they aren't visibly dirty....I'll just hang them back up"?

I see this as a frugal practice for two reasons:

1) Less wear & tear on the clothing. For example, I wash each piece of my son's clothing practically every time he wears it. (It is usually dirty as he is a messy eater! Also, he is in the crawling stage, so his clothing has been all over the floor.) But his clothing just LOOKS WORN very fast. I attribute that to the fact that I wash it quite often. I don't want my clothes to wear out that fast! Kids grow quickly; they need new clothes often.

2) Less water, laundry detergent, and energy costs.

Plus, it saves time! Enough said! Hang up your not visibly dirty clothes and don't feel guilty about it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Use the Library

Why buy books? Instead, keep a list of what you want to read, and go to your local library's online site. Request the books. Wait a week or two (sometimes more). They'll email you when they come in. Go pick them up. Read them. Return them within 3 weeks or renew them. Completely FREE!

Why buy magazines? My library allows magazines to be borrowed! Not every issue is available, but there's a pretty good selection. The back issues are always available. When I was working, I liked to go to the library during lunch and just read the magazines without borrowing them. It was relaxing.

We never buy/rent DVD's...we just request what we want from the library.

You can even make purchasing suggestions for a library if they don't have the book/DVD you want within the library system!

Guess who funds libraries. Taxpayers! May as well get your money's worth from your library!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Quest for the Very Best Mac and Cheese

I may have found it. It is spicy! Better than bland! It uses no butter!

This kind is also good for those who don't like spicy. It also uses no butter. It does call for nonfat dry milk, which you mix up in the white sauce with milk. I think that makes it creamier.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Things I Just Don't Buy Anymore...

1. Garbage pail liners
-save your grocery bags from the store to use

2. Jewelry
-I like making my own

3. Scarves
-again, easy and fun to make!

4. Swiffer cloths
-I bought some fleece from the fabric store and cut it to fit the bottom of the Swiffer broom. $4/yard

5. Single-serving yogurt
-we have small plastic containers in to which we partition plain yogurt from a large tub. $2.50 for 8 servings as opposed to $0.50-0.60/single serving

6. Rubber bands
-save the ones that hold together your fresh broccoli.

7. Windex
-I use white vinegar and a spray bottle.

8. Sponges
-I hear they hold tons of bacteria. I use rags instead and launder them.

Have any other ideas?

Friday, July 9, 2010

Finishing the Unfinishable Project 4--Striped Bag

This wasn't so hard to finish. What happened is that I made it last year (using this tutorial) right before we had our little boy...and I tried to buy plastic handles for it. Well, they were too small and I couldn't attach them the way I had envisioned.

Also, plastic handles can't be slung over one's shoulder while juggling a baby/toddler, diaper bag, and possibly one of the baby's shoes. So I got some scraps and sewed a ribbon down the middle of each one (to keep the handles from stretching), sewed up the handles, turned them, and installed them! Easy. I like how it turned out!

I'm glad I saved $5-6 by not buying handles from the store!

Target and Reusable Bags

Target gives a $0.05 credit toward your total order for each reusable bag you bring to the store. (Here it is from their website.)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chin Strap for Toddler Hat

My little boy has a sun hat (which he doesn't much like to wear...) but it doesn't have a chin strap. Whoever designed hats for toddlers without chin straps obviously is NOT a parent. Because this guy does not like to keep his hat on. So I attached a strap.

1. I sewed a tube of fabric.
2. I turned the tube inside-out with a safety pin (you know what I mean, right?) to hide the line of stitches.
3. I put a string of elastic through the tube.
4. I cut a few stitches from each side of the hat's lining to insert the tube and elastic.
5. I sewed it all shut! Not perfect, but I think it'll work for awhile.

He wore it long enough to get a picture!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Things to Always* Buy Used...

I saw this post and agreed with some of it:

1. Cars.
2. Sports equipment.
3. Houses.
4. Craft supplies.
5. Home furnishings (thrift stores & garage sales often have great finds!)
6. Furniture
7. Kid's Clothing
8. Musical Instruments (unless it is your profession!)

*Or usually; there are exceptions to every rule!

My exceptions:
Cars: Usually it is best to buy used. However, sometimes dealerships offer rebates or warranties that can be very valuable.

Craft Supplies: I would like to start buying used things, but haven't because usually I want something VERY specific. I also usually have coupons!

Furniture: Possible exception of couches, I truly appreciate our new couches!!

Kid's Clothes: I feel that kid's clothing can be so cheaply found on clearance at some stores (Target, Walmart, Sears) that you can't do better at the secondhand store for casual or low-quality items.

What are some other things to always buy used?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Clean the Coffee Maker

Your coffee maker will last longer and your coffee will taste better if you do this simple step to clean your coffee maker once every 6 weeks or so.

1. Place one part white vinegar and two parts water to completely fill the water section of your coffee maker. Turn the pot on and let it run through. Let this sit in the coffee pot for 15-20 minutes.

2. Dispose of the vinegar solution. Rinse the pot.

3. Run three cycles of plain water through the pot to rinse out the vinegar.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Finishing the Unfinishable Project 3--T-Shirt Purse

I really love bags. Every time I see a bag, I want to make it!

This bag was made from t-shirts (except for the handles, which I used from another failed project). The colors are a bit wacko because it was actually a test for an actual bag I made (with actual fabric, stay tuned for that picture). I made the bag sans handles a year ago using this tutorial (I had to dig really hard to find the check it out and see if you want to make one!)
Here is a picture of the lining.
What needed to be finished was actually just needed I added them and they look awful. What should I do to make it better? What could I use for handles?

Other Bags to Make:
Make it and Love It
cinched backpack
more cinched backpack
Craftster a different t-shirt bag link
yet a different t-shirt bag
bags from pillowcases
with your own bias tape