Welcome back to Part 3 of How I Keep Our Household Budget Under $300 a Month… Saving Money at Home!
Even if you’re a pro menu planner and careful shopper, it’s not going to make much of a difference if you burn through your supplies at home. So here’s where it gets fun. Here’s what do to make our dollars stretch. (By the way, I’d love feedback on this topic, since I’m always on the lookout for new tips and tricks!)
1) Let nothing go to waste.
This may seem obvious, but a little bit here and there really adds up. Make a point of eating your leftovers for lunch, or have Leftover Night once a week. If you have extra ingredients (perhaps you only used half a package of green onions), then chop the rest and freeze them for the next time you do! If the toddler eats only half of his PB&J sandwich, slip the other half in a baggie and serve it tomorrow. You get the idea.
This is where having a deep freezer gets really helpful. We were able to purchase a used one off of craigslist for about $150. It’s been a wonderful investment! Even though we have no place to put it in our little home, we got permission to keep it in our neighbor’s barn. It’s a bit of a trek out there, so I make a point of keeping a running tally of its contents inside of my recipe binder. That way I know exactly what I’m working with during my menu planning phase.
2) See how little you can get away with.
Here’s what I mean: Perhaps you always use two squirts of body wash in the shower. Experiment with using just one and see if that gets the job done. (By all means, if it doesn’t, then please, use two.) If it does work, visualize that bottle doubling in size, since that’s basically what happened. Body wash just got half as expensive for you.
Likewise, the back of our laundry soap box has directions to use a full scoop with a standard load. I’ve been using half that for years now with no repercussions. Our clothes come out just as clean. So see what works for you around the house. You may be surprised!
3) Consider rewashables!
I don’t usually consider myself part of the ‘green’ movement, but they sure have some things right! Household recycling is spectacular for the budget. We switched to cloth diapers when our second child was born and it’s made such a financial difference! For two extra laundry loads a week, I’ve been saving $60 a month just on that. We also use rewashable wipes, washcloths in place of napkins, and only hand towels for drying our hands (NEVER paper towels). It might sound like a drastic change at first, but it quickly becomes a natural part of your lifestyle. Pretty much the only thing disposable we purchase now is toilet paper.
4) Identify your most expensive buys and see if you can make them from scratch.
I say expensive buys here on purpose. Don’t assume that just because you’re making it from scratch, that it’ll be more economical. We get bread for $1.69 per loaf at Aldi. After doing the math, I realized I’d be paying close to that just for ingredients, and that didn’t factor in the extra time and work in the kitchen (baking is not therapeutic for me).
Realize that gardening is not always as frugal as you would think. One year we spent $60-$80 on the set-up for our tomato, watermelon, and pepper plants. I highly doubt we would have spent that much on tomatoes, watermelons, or peppers that year, especially since seasonal produce tends to be cheaper anyway. We spent a lot of time mulching, watering, squashing disgusting, gross caterpillars (can you tell I’m not an outdoors person?), and weeding that no one got paid for. Also, if you’re considering your own chickens for eggs or growing your own meat, be sure to look into how much it will cost to feed the animals. We spend about $8 total per month on eggs for our family, so something like that would never pay off for us.
Now, if you’re into organic foods or just hobby farming, then that’s a different story. If the budget allows, then go for it!
Don’t forget to visit the last part of this series, Keeping Things in Perspective!