Saturday, January 29, 2011

Step two - cutting back on things I can control

Ok, so when it comes to a household budget, there are a few immovable components that you will likely not have an impact on decreasing even if you want to: rent, utilities, insurance, etc. But there are other things you can change - groceries, cell phone, television, internet, etc. Last week I talked about getting our cell phone to a manageable place, and this week I'm going to tap into a part of the grocery budget that I have definitely been overspending on: cleaning supplies.

I consider myself to be a relatively clean person. As much as I hate to admit it, I have a little panic attack when people come over and my house isn't clean. There is just something about being in a clean house that helps me to clear my mind. The opposite is also true.

I really love to cook, but if I go into the kitchen to cook and it is dirty, I have to clean it before I cook anything. So by the time I clean the kitchen, I have no more desire to cook anything because THE KITCHEN WILL BE DIRTY AGAIN. It's a dreaded cycle.

So anyway, I will admit right away that I watch television and I will buy into the latest cleaning crazes. ShamWow? Awesome. Kaboom? Of course. OxyClean? Brilliant! I see these things that wipe right through limescale, grease, soap scum, and I am enamored. I truly desire to try one of those shower things that apparently keeps your shower clean by spraying it periodically, except it makes me think of having a robot in my shower and that is something I think would genuinely freak me out. Have I always indulged on these urges? No. But do I know that I am a sucker? Yes.

So with that in mind and also my recent goals about saving money, I spent some time doing some research. I found another great blog about saving money that offers some more practical suggestions and how-tos than "And Then She Saved" (although I really like her, so I will likely keep reading hers): What drew me to his blog was a recipe for Homemade Laundry Detergent, which I was all gung ho about trying. But the skeptic in me was curious about the numbers.

He says that a person can spend on average $60-$70 a year on laundry detergent alone. So what do I do? I went through my grocery receipts from the last year and my number was $74.16! I know in the grand scheme of things that is not a ton of money, but it got me thinking about other things I shell out that kind of cash for that I know I could do without or reduce. My largest vices included:
  • Clorox wipes: $65
  • Swiffer dusters, floor pads (wet and dry): $85
  • Paper plates: $36

For me, the worst part of all of that is all of those are things I eventually THROW AWAY. I might as well have taken that $186 and just flushed it down the toilet. I am a product of American consumerism and convenience. Why should I go through the trouble of washing dishes when I have paper plates? Why should I just use a broom and a mop like in the olden days? Why should I just use a multi-purpose cleaner when I can clean something and just throw away this handy dandy wipe? Well the simple answer is because I am lazy. But a better answer is that as a citizen of the world, I should be doing my part to help the environment. I would also like to save a few pesos.

So I continued to look on the internet for helpful hints about this, and let me tell you it is an overwhelming place out there. Some websites seem helpful at first, but later they never quite get to the nitty gritty (like how much white vinegar and water will clean anything?). What did I do next? I went to the library of course!

Yea I know there are those of you out there who are exclusively internet information-o-holics, but every once in a while I like to take a break from my mindless searching and actually pick up a book. This time the effort was worth it. I found this little gem: Green Clean: The Environmentally Sound Guide to Cleaning Your Home . I only get to keep it for a few weeks, but I know I will be making copies of the recipes chapter and trying some of them out. Although their main focus is on the environment, I would say that majority of their solutions also come with a much smaller price tag than my usual purchases.

So here are the things I am willing to give up/ change:
  • No more paper plates! Sorry hubby, looks like we will be washing more dishes =(
  • Homemade laundry detergent. I may try a few recipes and see which one I like. Stay tuned for this =)
  • Floors - I have a perfectly good broom and even an awesome steam cleaner I bought on ebay that I don't use enough. Since it only uses water to clean, there is a nearly $60 savings right there!
  • No more Clorox wipes, I will be investigating new recipes for multi-purpose cleaners made with things like white vinegar.
So I know this is all very exciting too all of you (smell the sarcasm) and I hate to leave you in suspense about how this whole transition will go. But, as a wise man once said, "Good things come to those who wait..."


  1. I have been using up some cleaners my mom bought it bulk. I am not sure I will ever see the end of it. It doesn't take nearly as much cleaner for my small 2 bedrooms aparment as it did for my mom's 3 bedroom ranch style house

    Instead of tossing and starting fresh, I have vowed to use it all up first. So one day when it's all gone, I also plan to make my own cleaners.

    I've heard some pretty good reviews on homemade laundry detergent. I might venture do it soon. We'll see.


    i thought this was cool looking, if you're into crafting and saving money.