During one of my mid-day walks with Will, we headed to the library to find some good reading material on how to start a family while cutting back financially. While I didn't find exactly what I was looking for (maybe I should take a stab at writing a guide myself...), I did find a few good books on frugal living that I brought home and devoured from cover to cover. From olive oil hair treatments to reusing vacuum bags, below are some of the best tips that I've either implemented or filed away for future use.
Be Thrifty: How to live better with less, Pia Catton & Califia Suntree (2010)
I really enjoyed this book - I even bought it after returning the library's copy, and goodness knows that's saying something. (I found it used on Amazon - did you know there are warehouse deals via Amazon that are eligible for free $25 super saver shipping? Always click on the 'used book' option to see what you can find.) It was an easy read and I found myself dog-earing just about every page. Some of the new things we are doing in our home include:
- Cutting my husband's hair. We bought a $20 Wahl clippers from Amazon and I've cut his hair for 6 months now. That's already a savings of at least $80 given he used to have his hair cut every six weeks. After getting over his initial fear of being my next DIY project, I think he secretly likes it...no hassle to get to the barber shop anymore. And honestly? No one can tell the difference.
- Cooking more often with dried beans, which are SO much cheaper (and more delicious!) than their canned counterparts. There is a great chart with some quick tips for soaking and cooking different types of beans, including a quick soak method I've already used a few times when I've forgotten to soak beans overnight (put beans in water, bring to a boil, cover and turn off heat and let soak for an hour). I used to have no luck with beans - they would be one of two extremes, burned or rock hard - but with the help of this book I've managed to overcome my bad bean karma.
- Making our own cleaning supplies. I've been using vinegar and water for a while now on my countertops, but after reading this book and articles in Natural Home and Urban Farm magazines, I've been inspired to switch up my whole cleaning regimen and go the natural (and cheap) route. This weekend I'm picking up washing soda, Borax, grapefruit essential oil and other supplies at the store. Let the experimenting begin (and let's hope that there are no explosions).
It's pretty amazing how many things have changed since this book was written in 2000 - for example, cell phones, online shopping, and streaming movies. Although it was quaint reading about inexpensive ways to store floppy disks and VHS cassettes, I enjoyed all of the ideas as I could tell they were written by a kindred spirit. Some of my favorites (for the 21st century) include:
- Leftover rice? Make rice pudding.
- If you get paid bi-weekly, twice a year you will get three paychecks in a month. Instead of allowing that third one to get eaten up by expenses, as soon as you receive it put it into a savings account or allocate it towards one of your goals.
- Put a small spray bottle with detergent in the bathroom to start treating clothes when they go in the laundry (vs. spending extra money on Shout or another stain pre-treater)
- Make facecloths from old t-shirts
- Make a hot oil treatment for hair: Empty out a travel-size shampoo bottle and fill with olive oil. Drop into a hot bath to warm. Put on hair for 10-15 minutes under a shower cap.
- Make a heart-shaped cake from 1 8-inch square pan and 1 8-inch round pan (cut round cake in half and add to two adjacent sides of the square)
- Turn old Christmas cards into a paper chain for decorating - cut the fronts into thirds, make into loops and create a chain (I love this idea - so fun for kids!)
- Make a garland of dried citrus slices
- Child gift idea: Find a small wooden chair at a garage sale, spray paint and stencil their name on the back
- Reuse your vaccum bag (I'm in the midst of trying this out). When bag is full, cut a slice in the side and empty into the trashcan (p.s. a messy endeavor). Seal with duct tape and reuse for one more cycle