By Chaya Kurtz, Hometalk
Luckily I am employed. When I read the newspaper and look around, I realize how blessed I am to have income. Still, I’ve been living more or less like a cheapskate for years. With the exception of one cushy job I had that afforded me the luxury of buying a lot of take out containers of rice pudding from the corner bodega, I have had to figure out ways to live well for less. Here are a few ways that a very practical home improvement editor (that’s me) saves money on home products:
- Things I don’t ever buy: Plastic bags and plastic food containers. After years of spending on “Tupperware” that I inevitably let mold in the back of my pickup truck, I stopped spending on plastic. I reuse containers and bags. I invested in about eight large sturdy plastic food containers, the type that caterers use. They’re almost indestructible. I use those (and wash them out religiously) and actually purchase food for the container (juice in a glass jar vs. juice in a plastic bottle). I use glass juice jars for everything from freezing soup to using them as flower vases. I save plastic shopping bags and use them as garbage bags – therefore I don’t ever buy garbage bags. Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
- Something else I don’t ever buy: Paper towels and disposable plates and flatware. They’re expensive and take landfill space. I have a bunch of cheap dish towels that work fine. The one exception I make is paper napkins, and only if company is coming over. A pack of 500 paper napkins costs about $2.50 and lasts for months.
- I don’t buy toilet paper. This sounds crazy and maybe sounds like I have bad hygiene habits. Don’t worry – I buy bulk packs of tissues instead. Toilet paper is really expensive. At my local market, a 12 pack of toilet paper costs about $15. Since I don’t like flushing money down the toilet (heh), I figured out that a large pack of generic “Kleenex” actually lasts longer and costs less.
- I use soap and water to clean almost everything. My house, my body, my hair – you name it. I have cheap bulk dish soap in the kitchen and bar soap in the bathroom. For extra house cleaning and laundry cleaning power, I mix vinegar and cheap bottled lemon juice (and I save the bottle – you’re getting the idea now) into the soap and water.
- Health is wealth. I wash my hands (with soap and water) multiple times a day, keep a clean house (with soap and water), go to bed early and wake up early, walk to and from work, and I rarely eat out (once in a while I get a slice of pizza with my husband, but 99.9 percent of the time we eat at home). I carry around bottles of filtered tap water, rice cakes, and fruit so that I don’t have the inclination to buy snacks if I am hungry and on the go. Instead of going out for sugary caffeinated drinks, I make my own coffee. By doing these things I maintain a nice robust immune system, a healthy body weight, and avoid things like food poisoning and e-coli bacteria that the restaurant industry offers consumers.
- My appliances multitask. If I don’t own it, I borrow it. Why buy a crock pot when you have a burner and a flame tamer? If I need a small appliance that I don’t have (an iron, for example), I borrow from a neighbor. Look, I know that you might not know or like your neighbors, but borrowing things like a vacuum cleaner or clothes iron from them is a good way to both get to know them and like them. Borrowing and lending household gadgets is a really good way to build community.
- I only buy what I need. If there is a chance I can repurpose or reuse something, I find a way to. I recently hung a planter for one of my two houseplants (even my decorations multitask – my plants improve my indoor air quality). I used clothespins, a silverware holder, and a wire twist tie to mount the planter on the wall. I was determined not to spend and I didn’t. I also buy as little food as possible. Although buying in bulk can save money for very large families, I find that we waste food when we buy too much. I buy exactly what we need and use up all of it before buying more. This is also true for hygiene products, like toothpaste. I will use every last drop of the product before buying more in order not to waste any.
- I refuse to pay extra for electricity. We have a small, energy-efficient refrigerator. It uses less electricity than a large fridge. If you have a huge family, you probably need more refrigerator space. If your family is small, do like me: I store my fruits and vegetables outside of the fridge and refrigerate only foods that are perishable or might attract bugs (dry foods that could attract pantry moths). I turn off my electric hot water heater – I heat the tank when I need to shower and it is well insulated enough that it stays pretty warm for a day or two. I save hot water by rinsing off, turning the water off and soaping up, and then rinsing off again. I do this in the winter, too. Being a bit Spartan is good for your health. At times of being really, really broke, I actually took bucket baths to save money on water and electricity.
Do you have strategies you use to save money at home? Leave a comment.