Exercises in Frugality, Part 4

Homemade Laundry Detergent

I’d been meaning to make my own laundry detergent for ages. Now that I’ve done it and seen how easy it is, I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

Recipes for liquid laundry detergent are floating all over the Internet. Here’s the one I used. I bought a pot at Goodwill to keep just for making detergent; it cost a couple of dollars. I keep the detergent in a plastic wash tub with plastic wrap over it because the dishwasher detergent bucket I’d saved for it turned out to have a big crack in the side. (Don’t ask when I discovered this.)

The detergent was very easy to make. I’d bought a cheap grater at the dollar store to use for grating the bar soap, but we lost it in the move and my brilliant daughter suggested I use a peeler instead. And that worked. After that, it didn’t take long before I had my first batch of homemade liquid laundry detergent.

I was tickled to find that it really does get the clothes get clean. Plus, it’s cheap! Really cheap…..I just saw liquid Tide on sale for $6 for a bottle that cleans 25 loads of wash. That’s 24 cents a load. This homemade laundry detergent I’m using costs 2 cents per load. That is not a misprint! Plus it doesn’t contain all the weird chemicals in a bottle of Tide that we probably shouldn’t be breathing.

I won’t bother to spell out the recipe and ingredient costs as this site has already done so.  I did use essential oil (rosewood because the health food store was out of lavender) and it has a pleasant scent. Also, I doubled the amount of Borax and washing soda to make sure everything gets clean, a luxury that doubled the price from a penny a load to two cents. I know, big spender 🙂

Exercises in Frugality, Part 3

Prepaid Cell Phones

I’m not big on cell phones. I like being unreachable when I’m out and about. (Even when I’m in the middle of something at home, I’ve been known to ignore the landline when it rings unless it’s one of my kids.) But I like having a phone when we travel, or when I’m out driving our elderly minivan, so I can call for help if it breaks down.

I’ve bought TracFones for years. Some were good, a couple not-so-good. But this latest one is awesome. I bought it after we moved a few months ago, since I had to change the area code anyway.

I paid $18 for the phone, which has double-minutes-for-life, meaning every time I load it up with minutes I’ll get double what I purchased at no extra charge. I also bought a 60-minute card for an additional $20. Before adding the minutes I searched out a promo code (search words: “Tracfone promo code”) on the Internet for 60 free minutes with the purchase of a 60-minute card. Thus I got 180 minutes (and four months’ worth of service) added to my phone, at a rate of just over 11 cents a minute.

Of course, I don’t use it for chit-chat, so I rarely use up the minutes before the service date is up. But I don’t really want to be on the phone while driving or grocery shopping anyway.

The best part? I don’t get a monthly bill, and the taxes are included. I’ve seen other people’s monthly cell phone bills, and I can’t believe how expensive they are. In the past, we’ve spent about $10/month for TracFones. With double-minutes-for-life, it should be even cheaper.

Exercises in Frugality, Part 2

Hot Chocolate Mixes

Living here in chilly Wisconsin, we love our hot chocolate. I usually buy big boxes of hot chocolate mix at Sam’s Club, but decided to try to save a few dollars by making my own. Since I have a food processor, this isn’t hard to do.

There are many hot chocolate mix recipes online. Here’s the one I found, with ingredient costs in parentheses (all ingredients purchased at Aldi):

Hot Chocolate Mix

4 cups dry milk ($1.87)

1 1/2 cups sugar ($.26)

1 cup powdered coffee creamer ($.26)

¾ cup cocoa powder ($.50)

½ package instant vanilla pudding ($.25)

Blend ingredients together in a food processor. Use 1/3 cup mix in a mug of hot water.

A mug of this hot chocolate tastes fine. The instant pudding prevents the mix from sinking to the bottom of the mug. So what’s the problem?

The cost! It works out to 14 cents a serving. A box of 60 envelopes of Swiss Miss mix from Sam’s Club is $5.38 for 60 envelopes, or 9 cents a serving. Bummer. I didn’t work out the price ahead of time because I figured homemade would be cheaper.

However, all is not lost. Our son loves a brand of peppermint hot chocolate mix that is a bit expensive. Adding ½ t. of peppermint extract to this mix recipe makes the hot chocolate he loves at far less than its usual cost of 28 cents per serving.

Exercises in Frugality

R2D2, aka DAK

R2D2, aka DAK

Frugality, one of my favorite topics, continues to increase in popularity as the economy negatively affects more and more families.

Some people apparently take frugal tips pretty seriously; note a couple of cranky commenters at this post. Two thought the blogger’s tips were too common, and one misguided soul suggested the blogger stop homeschooling, put her kids in school and start an in-home daycare.

Instead of complaining that someone’s frugal tips are too basic, most commenters helped by sharing their own tips. I think I’ll do the same for the next few posts.

Bread machines

My beloved Oster bread machine died several months ago after about ten years of use. The unit still worked but the pan began leaking oil (or something similar) into the bread because the seal was shot. A perusal of eBay introduced me to a few people* who would love to sell me a replacement pan for $20 plus $10 shipping.

Not interested. Instead, I hit the local Goodwill and bought a replacement, a Regal for $9. It made so-so dough and baked bread that resembled a doorstop in shape and heft.

I waited patiently while watching Goodwill for a new bread machine but kept seeing the same type as the Regal. A blogging friend suggested I buy a Zojirushi BBCCX20 Home Bakery Supreme Bread Machine as she’d had great luck with it. I checked it out on Amazon: $200+, and some (though definitely not most) people had trouble with it.

I know how ticked I’d be if I spent $200 on anything and it didn’t work right. So I decided to keep being patient and checking Goodwill. But then I saw a Sunbeam breadmaker at Walmart for $50. It had pretty decent online reviews, so I decided to use my birthday gift money to buy one, but when I went back, they’d cleared out that model and replaced it with another, whose model number came up empty on a Google search. Not a good sign!

Not long after this, I stopped by Goodwill and found four bread machines. Three were Regals or looked like them. The fourth was so funny looking that I didn’t realize it was a bread machine at first. But it came with recipes, and at $5 it seemed worth the gamble.

Turns out it’s old (1990) and works great! It has quite a fan club, and I can see why. I thought I was being so clever calling it R2D2 until I found out that many people call it that.

Anyway, it makes great bread and dough, it was $50 cheaper than the bread machine I saw at Walmart, and $200 cheaper than the Zojirushi. Definitely worth waiting for!

* Sounds like a profitable racket, so I gave my old Oster and the Regal to my eBay seller daughter, hoping she can make some money off the parts, paddles and manuals 🙂

Teaching Delayed Gratification is a Must

We visited our hometown over the weekend and noticed that a couple of businesses we always shopped at have closed down. I looked them up online when I got home and found that they went out of business because of the bad economy.

One store owner, who ran a wonderful Christian book/gift store, blamed her business closing on people no longer using their credit cards. She said that in the past, people bought more items and paid with credit, but then they began paying cash and only buying little things. She and her husband decided to close down while they could still pay their bills.

As a business owner myself, I understand her feelings. But part of the reason our economy is in the bad shape it’s in is because people abused credit. They bought things they couldn’t afford and borrowed the money to do so, but couldn’t pay it back.

One of the projects in Life Prep for Homeschooled Teenagers is designed to teach teens about handling credit cards responsibly. When I speak to homeschool groups, I’m often asked at what age people should begin teaching their children about credit. The book is intended for teens, but I tell parents if they really want to teach their children to handle credit responsibly, they must begin when their children are babies.

I’m not suggesting they get their baby a Visa card. But the root of credit problems is usually (I’m excepting medical emergencies here) an inability to delay gratification. Somebody wants a big plasma TV to watch the Super Bowl and they buy it on credit, never thinking about how they’ll pay for it. They don’t have the self-discipline to set aside money each week until they have enough to pay cash for the plasma tv.

How do you raise your children to become adults with the ability to delay gratification, to wait for what they want? You gently make them wait for what they want.

Don’t pick up the baby as soon as she makes a peep. Let her lay in her crib for a bit babbling and cooing before you pick her up.

Don’t buy your preschooler a toy he demands at the store. Let him wait for it until his birthday; he’ll appreciate it more, and he’ll have learned a little bit about waiting for what he wants.

Don’t buy your preteen the latest electronic device the day it comes on the market. Teach her to save up her allowance and birthday money until she can buy it for herself.

The child who learns he doesn’t have to have everything this instant is unlikely to become the guy who puts a $3000 television on his credit card a few days after losing his job. The adults who couldn’t wait until they were actually able to pay for what they wanted helped get us where we are today: in big financial trouble.

The goal is to NOT raise a child like this: