10 Tips for Thrifty Cleaning

Green Cleaning

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Before you realize it, cleaning supplies can eat up a surprisingly large chunk of your budget. All those specialized soaps, spritzes, and scrubs really add up. And that’s not taking into account the expense involved in cleaning such things as car upholstery or fine art.

How can you cut the costs of cleaning? The blogosphere is awash in tips, all of them vying to make your home cleaner for cheaper. Here are a handful of good ones to get you started.

1. Mix your own citrus-vinegar cleaner. It’s easy, super-cleansing, and smells good.

Credit: Myhealthygreenfamily.com

Credit: Myhealthygreenfamily.com

2. Transform a Swiffer Sweeper into a mop using a washcloth. Easy, cheap, effective.

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3. Make your own laundry detergent. Spend just $20 to make enough to last a year or longer.

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4. Detail your own car, including the inside. Get that clean-car smell for a lot less.

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5. Use vodka to remove stains from upholstery, including those made by ink, grass, and some types of food.

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6. Whiten your linens using lemon in a pot on the stove. You can pretend you’re a housewife from days of yore, stirring your laundry over the fire.

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7. Remove spots from wood floors with fine steel wool. You can combat stains from water, ink, pets, and other sources with a bit of judicious scrubbing.

Credit: Marthastewart.com

8. Wipe your sink daily with water and white vinegar for continuous clean. If you do it while you brush your teeth, it will soon be second nature.

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9. Clean the dust off paintings with a piece of white bread. Dab, don’t wipe, and make sure not to eat the bread afterwards.

10. Use cream of tartar to clean porcelain, aluminum pans, and other items. Mixed with water, vinegar, or peroxide it can be a top-notch cleaning substance.

What are your top thrifty cleaning tips? How much money do you save every month by using these alternative methods?

Saving For a Home: Cut Back and Get Ahead

Times are tough. It can be hard enough to make ends meet, not to mention saving for a home. Especially now that home prices are rebounding in many markets, it may feel like the dream of homeownership is out of reach.

Storage.com Buying a Home in Today's Enviroment

But before you write off the cozy cottage with the white picket fence forever, ask yourself a few questions about your lifestyle and spending habits. There might be more room than you realize for you to cut back.

The key question in analyzing whether you’re saving as much as you could be is “want or need?” Many of the things we buy are things we want—things that make our lives more comfortable, convenient, or fun—not things we fundamentally need.

Take, for example, buying a new—or at least new-to-you—car. Do you take out a loan to finance the latest model? Or even buy a slightly older model that is still a pretty comfy and stylish ride? If so, you are not cutting back enough to get ahead. If you’re in saving mode—which pretty much all of us are until we retire—then buying a used car that fits your needs at a price you can pay cash for is the best decision.

Or what about your coffee habits? Do you make yours at home or buy it every morning at the coffee shop? If you buy it, are you spending upwards of $3 a day on foamy caffeinated confections? Many of us are, and spending that kind of money on a daily basis is another way not to get ahead.


If we were to pare down our lifestyles to a point where most of our spending was on things we legitimately needed instead of wanted, we’d all be saving a lot more. Even the grocery bill can usually get a nip and tuck here and there, whether that means buying in bulk at Costco, reducing the meat and increasing the beans, or drinking more water instead of juice or beer.


The savings add up fast. Soon enough, especially if you invest your savings wisely, your dream of homeownership might not seem so impossible after all. Storage.com Saving to Buy a Home


How have you changed your lifestyle to allow for more savings?

Shopping for Singles: Save time, Money, and Space

Shopping for singles isn’t as easy as it might seem. One significant problem is that suppliers often package grocery items in amounts suitable for families of three or more people, which can lead to food waste.

Planning your shopping trips ahead of time, as well as learning safe food storage techniques, can make grocery shopping for one less stressful and expensive.

Here are some tips for solo grocery shopping:

  • Use specialized cookbooks: There are several “meals for one” cookbooks on the market, including some ethnic cookbooks. Yes, you may need to buy a few new pieces of cookware, such as a small skillet or a tiny crockpot, but once you learn to cook for one, you’ll be less likely to rely on prepackaged meals or delivery food.


  • Create plans and lists: As you browse through your cookbooks, select a week’s worth of recipes and create a shopping list. Shopping lists not only keep you from forgetting things that you need at the store, but can also help prevent impulse buys of junk and convenience food.
  • Select your stores carefully: Some chains, such as Trader Joe’s, offer packaged foods in smaller quantities (1 or 2 servings). Independent grocery stores in trendy neighborhoods, where lots of singles live, might likewise offer foods packed in smaller quantities.
  • Shop the parameter: Dietitians have been telling us for years that it is best to shop the parameter of a store, where fresh, whole foods are. While this is good advice for everybody, shopping the parameter has another advantage: This is the area where you can buy unpackaged foods from the produce section, butcher shop, deli and/or fish market. Take or order as much as you need.


  • Think through bulk purchases: Buying large quantities of something can save you money, but only if you end up using all of it. If you do spot a good bulk quantity sale, consider first whether you have enough space to store your purchase. If you are buying perishable food, do you have the time and resources to re-package the food into reasonable amounts?
  • Learn safe food storage: To actually save money with bulk food purchases, you’ll need to repackage it for long-term storage, preferably soon after you bring it home. The federal government site, Nutrition.gov [http://www.nutrition.gov/shopping-cooking-meal-planning/food-storage-and-preservation] offers comprehensive information on safely storing food. Be sure to add food storage supplies, such as foil, plastic containers and freezer bags to your shopping list.


Do you shop for one person? What are your tips for thrifty shopping?

Saving Money on Vegan and Vegetarian Food

Fruits and vegetablesIf you’ve decided to switch to a plant-based diet, or even just cut down on your consumption of animal products, you may be in for some sticker shock.  While there is no reason that a vegetarian or vegan diet should cost more than diets that include meat, the process of swapping out familiar staples for vegan alternatives can get pricy.

Here are some tips for keeping your costs down while you transition to your new diet: Continue reading

Fitness on a Budget: Get in Shape and Save Money

Diet and exerciseAlong with warmer weather, the approach of Summer also brings out a desire to get into better shape. If you are looking to improve your health and fitness, but are concerned about the cost of exercise equipment or gym memberships, don’t despair. With some research and advance planning, you’ll be able to develop an fitness regimen that suits your pocketbook.

Here are some tips for getting fit on a budget:

1. Free and Low-Cost Exercise Options

While prices for fancy fitness clubs and Pilates lessons may make you blanch, they aren’t your only options for keeping in shape:

  •             Walking, running and jogging don’t cost anything, though it is a good idea to invest in proper footwear. Check your park district’s website for a list of trails and tracks that you can use.
  •             Basic bicycles cost between $80 – $150, though you might be able to pick up a used bike for half that amount. Get yourself a good bike lock and helmet and you are ready for some serious exercise.
  •             Scour eBay and Amazon for pre-owned home exercise DVDs: You can save big by buying these used. YouTube offers free exercise videos as well. If you have an on-demand video service with your cable or satellite dish company, check to see if it includes exercise programming.
  •             Moving sales can be a great source of basic exercise equipment, such as floor mats or hand weights. Be careful, though, about buying more sophisticated exercise equipment used: If these pieces malfunction, you risk serious injury.
  •             If you need companionship and accountability when you exercise, join or start a walking/running club in your area.

2. Fitness Benefits at Work or School

Many employers, colleges and universities offer fitness-related benefits or incentives through health insurance or stand-alone programs. Contact the benefits office at work, or the student life department at school to find out what they offer:

  • Many schools have their own fitness facilities that are available for free, or at low cost, to students, faculty and staff. If your school doesn’t have its own fitness center, ask the student life office if students can get a discount at fitness centers in town.
  • Some employers participate in discount health club programs. These programs can save you a lot of money by eliminating health club initiation fees and offering members discounts off monthly gym dues.
  • Health insurance companies sometimes partner with health club discount programs or fitness chains and pass along the savings to policy holders. Call your health insurance company’s customer service line to ask if they offer any fitness benefits.
  • Some health insurance companies offer wellness incentive programs. These programs offer incentives in the form of gift cards (or other types of compensation) for healthy living behaviors, such as joining a gym.

3. Comparing Fitness Clubs

If you live in a medium-to-large town, chances are that you’ll have access to more than one fitness club. Here are some tips for choosing the most cost-effective option:

  • Check locations and hours. A “cheap” fitness club isn’t cheap if you never use it. Choose a gym that’s convenient to where you live or work. Hours are also important: If you can only exercise early in the morning, or on weekends, make sure the club can accommodate you.
  • Ask about chain privileges. If your health club is part of a chain or network of clubs, find out whether you can work out at more than one location. Some chains allow you to work out at any club in their chain at any time, while others require you to get a special visitor’s pass for working out at a chain or in-network gym. This is important if you travel a lot.
  • Look into 24/7 gyms. These gyms are usually small and offer limited classes and facilities. Staff members are available for assistance during specified hours during the week, but otherwise the club is unattended and members let themselves in and out with a key card. While this option isn’t for everyone, the fees at these gyms are typically low and you can’t beat the convenience of being able to work out whenever you want.
  • Find out what’s included in your membership. Some gyms offer an all-inclusive plan that includes participation in group exercise classes or sessions with a personal trainer. Others may charge for classes, personal training, or access to the swimming pool.
  • Decide what’s important to you. There is no point in paying a high membership fee if you don’t plan to use fancy facilities such as hot tubs or swimming pools. Similarly, if you aren’t into group exercise classes, why pay more for a gym membership that includes them? A more basic facility, with lower dues, may work just fine for you.
  • Look into park district and YMCA exercise facilities. These organizations often have excellent facilities and cost significantly less than for-profit clubs.
  • Keep your eye out for new membership specials. Some clubs run promotions that let you waive initiation fees or get a free month or two. Keep your eye out in local media for these specials.
  • Ask about contracts. Many clubs operate on a contract basis and you may have to sign up for a long-term membership to get the best monthly price. Ask about a trial membership before signing a contract. Also, ask about a club’s cancellation policies: Some gyms let you cancel your contract for a small fee if you move out of town, but it’s up to you to learn whether a club offers this option.

How do you keep in shape while sticking to a budget?