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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Save Money by Using What You Have

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Money Matters

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Surprisingly, I am decent with money. It’s not because I’m organized or Type A, I assure you. Nor am I obsessively frugal. I try really hard to do things like create a budget, micromanage my finances, use only cash, and clip coupons. But in reality, I have a general idea of what I have to spend every month, I splurge on things I really want need, I use my credit card for almost everything (although I pay it off monthly), and I rarely clip coupons.

So how was I able to leave a job where I was really comfortable and still afford my mortgage, my two kids, and my new grill? I’m resourceful. I save my money where I can so that I can spend it on the things I really need.

I Compost.
My compost bin

The last time I actually spent money on garden soil was a few years ago. Instead of throwing my food scraps away in the trash, I compost them along with shredded junk mail and make my own soil. I add this to my gardens before planting, and I use it as potting soil in my outdoor pots.

I Grow My Own Vegetables.
fresh greens growing in my garden

The other day, I was going to go to Costco to buy a pound of organic lettuce for $5. Which, granted, is a great deal. Instead, I went to the garden soil and bought 5 lettuce starts to plant in my garden. So now, for $5, I have an ongoing supply of lettuce to harvest when I need it. I have tomatoes growing from starts, as well as parsley, radishes, basil, zucchini, sugar snap peas, carrots, broccoli, dill, cilantro, and cauliflower. I’m growing most of them from seed, but starts aren’t as expensive as you think.

Think about it: you can buy plants for the same amount that you would buy one serving of the same vegetables at the store. The plants will provide you lots of veggies. The ones from the store get eaten, peels composted, and that’s it.

I Know Where to Get Free Stuff.
This is NOT iced tea!

I’m not talking about freebie websites and stuff, although Big T is a little addicted to those. I’m talking about free stuff in my town. Our local gardening store gives away compost tea to anyone who brings in an empty milk jug. Instead of paying for expensive fertilizers, use compost tea. You can spray it on the leaves of your plants to ward off bugs and fungi, and you can pour it into your soil to introduce beneficial microorganisms and feed your plants. I mulch with leftover cardboard boxes and shredded paper, and then I cover it with compost. This saves me a lot of money every year.

You know how toddlers become obsessed with one thing for a few weeks and then they act like you’re trying to feed them dog poo when you bring it up again? That’s why I’m a big fan of the library. First of all, it’s a special excursion. Baby T loves going, even though he never cooperates by picking out any books himself. We have the books for 3 weeks and then renew them for another 3. By that time, he’s so bored with them it’s time for another library excursion.

Along the same vein, my friends and I often trade toys. You know how you bought your kid that awesome toy because you thought it was the coolest thing, and all he wants to play with are toilet paper tubes and boxes? Lend that cool toy to a friend for a while. My group of friends often lets other kids go home with their toys. It gives kids something new to play with without having to spend any money. I also don’t turn away hand me downs.

I Hoard Random Things.
Why it's pointless to spend money on toys

Big T and I joke that we’re secret hoarders, because our garage is always stuffed to the gills. We’re good about purging—in fact, we had a yard sale last weekend—but we also save things we might be able to use in the future. I keep clothing with cute fabric, because I can always use it in my crafts later. I save coffee filters, yarn, sandpaper, and toilet paper tubes. One of Baby T’s favorite games is toilet paper tube bowling. I don’t keep huge amounts of them, and I recycle them when the game gets old, but they give Baby T something fun to do for a while, and it’s completely free.

My fall doorstep: pumpkins, repurposed tables, a wreath
made from recycled materials, and lemongrass

Yesterday, Baby T helped me paint some old, rickety side tables. I was inspired by the cover of this month’s Southern Living and really wanted to dress up my doorstep. I have never had a cute front door. So I pulled out an old can of white paint (saved from a previous painting project), some old paintbrushes (I save the old ones for Baby T to use), and slapped a coat of paint on the tables. Now I have a festive fall doorstep.

I Don’t Spend Much on Beauty, Cleaning, or Paper Products.
I use baking soda and vinegar for just about everything: What can you do with baking soda and vinegar, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you:
  • Wash your hair
  • Do your laundry
  • Run your dishwasher
  • Clean your kitchen and bathroom
  • Deodorize your diaper pail
  • Scrub your soap scum
  • Wash your windows
I also keep a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s castile soap on hand, and I make an all-purpose cleaning solution that cuts through anything. I use cheap, dollar-store washcloths as dishcloths so we can run them through the laundry and don’t have to deal with sponges getting gross and moldy. I buy coconut oil on Amazon and use it as moisturizer, face wash, and a sugar scrub for the shower.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, if I can make something, I will. Often, I’m too lazy to run to the store and too indecisive to shop online. So I use what I have—whether it’s for cooking, playing, gardening, or doing projects with the kids. I don’t spend a lot, so when something comes up that I really want to spend money on, I can. And when the opportunity came along to become a WAHM, I snatched it up.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon October 11 with all the carnival links.)
  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life... — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth - Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family's realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the "real cost" of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don't Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here's why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw's Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she's made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget - and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma's Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen's monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she's lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children's financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family's lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she's willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me ... a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old's learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It's Not a Baby Crisis. It's Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • "Making" Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There's a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters... But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive...Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living - and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo' Money, Mo' Problems — Sarah at Parenting God's Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family's finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn't always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family's approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.


Lauren @ Hobo Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm most inspired by your toilet paper tube bowling. :) I'm always wondering what to reuse those things for. I have the worst time shopping because of indecisiveness, too. I didn't realize what it was good for!

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

Great tips!! I so wish I was a better gardener - I always have these big plans for our garden, and then I let weeds overrun vegetables or I get lazy about checking for produce, or . . . I make excuses ;) I keep trying though - so hopefully I'll keep learning!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I love your ideas for saving money! I really need to get into composting again. I put ours in the garage last winter and just forgot about it. When you shred your junkmail, do you use a paper shredder or just do it by hand? I've done it by hand in the past and I'm wondering if it breaks down faster when machine stredded?

Also, I'd love to hear how to make laundry and dish soap out of baking soda!

Phoebe said... Best Blogger Tips

Great post!
I second 'theadventuresoflactatinggirl' - I'd love to hear how to run the dishwasher and do laundry with baking soda and vinegar! I just so happen to have large containers of both things in the kitchen cupboards (I had/have great plans, I just haven't done anything about them yet...)
The council here subsidizes the cost of compost bins, I haven't taken advantage of it yet as the council also collect food waste and garden waste to compost themselves, but last year I ended up buying in compost... think I'll be taking advantage of that subsidy soon! said... Best Blogger Tips

For shredding compost, I put mine through a paper shredder. I have a cheap one that my sister gave me when she got a good one, and it works perfectly. Even forgetting about your compost in the garage is composting. Did you get some out of it? I wrote an article about the lazy guide to composting recently:

I go through composting phases, but even when I do nothing, I get compost after a while.

To make laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent with baking soda: Dump in the baking soda. Seriously. That's all I do. For the dishwasher, I fill the detergent department with baking soda and fill the jet dry rinse department with lemon juice or vinegar. For the laundry, I just put in about 1/2 cup of baking soda into the wash and 1/2 cup white vinegar into the rinse cycle. I don't always do this with laundry, but I've been doing it with the dishwasher for months now!

missy said... Best Blogger Tips

How do you wash your hair and run dishwasher with baking soda and vinegar?

Amyables said... Best Blogger Tips

I am slowly incorporating these types of methods into our household. . . it's nice to have affirmation that they do in fact work! I'd love to know more about your composter! That thing looks fierce! And what is your magical Dr. Bronner's mixture, if you don't mind sharing? I always find that when I try to clean with Dr. B's . . . it's too waxy or something. I'm just not mixing it right, I think.

Gretchen said... Best Blogger Tips

I need to try out making my own cleaning supplies - I know that would help me save a ton! said... Best Blogger Tips

I am going to post about my super special cleaning solution later this week or next week, so stay tuned ;) It eliminates the waxiness and oiliness and even cuts through high chair crud that's been stuck there for a year!

As for washing my hair, check out this post I wrote for the Green Baby Diaper Service blog. It gives great tips and tricks as well as links to other people who have gone "no poo" and washed their hair with baking soda and vinegar. (Sorry--I usually post about "green" stuff on that blog)

And Costco sells such huge bags of baking soda for around $5 that I just keep looking for more uses for it! I sprinkle it in the diaper pail, use it instead of steel wool pads... ok, I'll stop now.

Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said... Best Blogger Tips

We are so of the same mindset! I just wish I had a small dose of your creativity!

Sylvia@MaMammalia said... Best Blogger Tips

I think we have a lot of the same spending - or NOT spending - habits! My husband is more of a pack-rat than me, but I do find it pretty useful when I need something random and he pulls one out of the closet.

I'd love to hear your formula for baking soda & vinegar for the laundry!

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