8 Household Tips for Surviving the Recession

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.

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Simple Energy-Efficient Tips That Save Money
18 Ways to Reuse Plastic Bags
Image: foxumon/stock.xchng

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

Thank you for posting :)

Janine F.
Janine F.3 years ago


Marcia Machado
Marcia Machado4 years ago

some good ideas

Julianna D.
Juliana D.4 years ago

Great ideas!

Aude L.
Aude L.4 years ago

Some ideas are good !

Rose Becke4 years ago

Love all the comments as I am getting great tips from them !

Sheila Daim
sheila d.4 years ago

toilet paper? i would rather wash with water... so clean after that dry up towel..

Debra Forman
Debra Forman4 years ago


Magdalen B.
Magdalen B.4 years ago

The old couple next door used torn sheets of newspaper hung from a nail in the outside lavatory door. They had a large high cistern so the flush was good. I don't think they ever had problems with the pipes.

Faith Purdy
Faith Purdy4 years ago

interesting ideas..