ARTful households on a budget

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Surround yourself with homemade and beautiful households, and save money!  Here are just some typical store-bought items that we are able to craft at home, with their cost savings.

1. Toilet Paper.

What?!  Toilet paper, you ask?  Yes.  Before you are grossed out, allow me to explain.  This one is for the ladies of the house, and I have a question for them.  Consider how many tinkles you have a day.  Would you rather dry yourself with minimally absorbent, rough, and fragile tissue or would you rather use a beautifully printed, soft, cotton cloth that is washable and reusable?  Simply cut 5 inch squares out of a lovely printed, cotton fabric and use dry or moisten to cleanse after a tinkle.  Toss them in a small basket headed eventually for the laundry and you’ve just saved 4 squares of t.p., helped the environment, and saved a little money over the long run.  (No, I’m not suggesting replacing disposable toilet paper for the traditional fanny wipe.)   Even using the ol’ t.p. wipe for those once a day episodes still saves us about $50 a year.

2. Laundry Detergent

Boil 2 gallons of water in a stockpot.  Microwave 1 bar of soap for 1.5 minutes to soften (I use zest…don’t use moisturizing soap).  Cool the soap a few minutes, and then mince it.  Add the minced soap to hot water and dissolve.  Add 1.5 cups soda wash and 1.5 cups borax, stirring to dissolve.  (Be careful to watch, as it will begin to boil again and could spill over).  Mix dissolved solution with 3 additional gallons of water, or combine with water in separate containers (I use old, clean milk jugs) at a ratio of: 2/5 solution, 3/5 water.  You can also add up to 3 ounces of essential oil for a scenty soap!  This makes 640 ounces of detergent, and you can use .5-1 cup for a large load of laundry.  It would normally cost $40 to buy this many ounces in the store.  This recipe costs $1.72 for the equivalent, takes 20 minutes, and is better for the environment!  Looks much more aesthetically pleasing to see my upcycled clean, white or clear containers full of a milky, smell-good soap on my laundry room shelf than those abrasive name-brand label designs with their bulky and oddly-shaped packaging.  Plus, this was a cost savings of over $100 for us last year!

3. Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets

Here is another chance to use up that beautiful scrap fabric you have laying around waiting for an upcycle!  Combine 6 cups water, 3 cups vinegar, and 2 cups hair conditioner, and shake well for your homemade softener recipe.  For softening dryer sheets: soak 5 inch, cotton fabric squares (remember, choose a color that you love or a print that makes you smile) in your softener batch for 10 or so minutes, squeeze out the excess, and hang to thoroughly dry before using.   Use your dyer sheets about a dozen or so times.  Wash them, soak, dry, and use again and again.  The rest of your softener solution will store in a recycled container with an air-tight lid for when you need it!  Homemade, your softener will cost $1.44 for 88 ounces.  In store, it would cost $6.97 for 90 ounces.  This saves about $50 a year.

We are now up to over a $200/year savings.  That’s a ski trip, donation to the needy, or a month’s worth of fruit and veggies!

4. Liquid soap.

Did you know you do not need ALL that soap?!  We were given a couple foaming, soap dispensers for Christmas a few years ago and are still using them to save bunches of money.  Simply buy a large container of liquid soap refill (we buy the off-brand, anti-bacterial hand-soap for our bathrooms and the off-brand hand-softening dish soap for our kitchen) for around $4.  Here’s the secret.  Add only an ounce of soap to the empty foaming dispenser and fill the rest with water.  Shake it and watch the soap foam perform exactly as it should while saving $6 a month.  Those foaming dispensers are label-free, clear and clean.  One thing I can hardly stand is seeing company advertisements invade my home.

5. Paint.

Visit the paint section of any department store, and the majority of the time they will have mis-mixed paint.  Many times you will find multiple gallons of paint that are similar in color.  Buy mis-mixed gallons to save at least %50 off your paint.  If you need three gallons and can acquire three different shades of the color your are looking for (beige, for example), then just mix them all together when you get home in a 5 gallon bucket!  This has saved us over a $1000 in the past few years.  We’ve also saved money on our art supplies by buying all different colors of mis-mixed paint and using those in lieu of acrylics.  Latex is latex!

6. Tires.

When you purchase new tires, so often you are being ripped-off by PAYING for your mechanic to rid you of the old tires that you own!  Paying someone to take something you own?  Think about it.  Instead, ask them to load them in your backseat, drive them home and re-purpose them!  Here are three ways we have used our used tires.  1. A child’s playplace addition.  Bury half the tire upright in the ground, leaving the other half above ground for a bouncy, climbing addition to your swing set.  Paint them in fun, bright colors to keep them looking great for years.  2.  The more lawn you have to mow, the more money you are wasting.  Try turning many areas into planted plots.  Use the tires as planters.  We have terraced a hilly area in our yard with the tires, and planted cucumbers and zucchinis in them.  3. Turn them into foot stools to keep or give as gifts.  When they are done, you can not tell they are tires!  Find or buy a wooden or metal circle the same diameter of your tire and secure it in place on top of the tire with screws or liquid nails glue.  (We have used an old metal pizza pan, but you can buy wooden circles at craft and hardware stores.  Or, if you’re just wanting aesthetics and not strength, then go for a cardboard cut-out!)  Use glue to wrap and secure hemp yarn around the tire, beginning at the middle of your wooden circle and moving outwards, and then down the sides of the tire.  Beautiful, functional, and cheap!  By using your tires, you save the mechanic’s fee of $15+ and you get a fantastic product or gift that you otherwise don’t have to purchase!  I’d say that a bonus $50.

7.  Herbs and TEA!

Here’s the real cost saver for us.  Growing and drying your own herbs and teas.  Herbs grow like weeds and are so easy to cut and hang to dry.  Seed packets for herbal teas like echinacea, lavendar, sage, and mint are, at most, $1 each, but I’m sure if you ask nice, your neighbor will let you cultivate some from their garden for transplanting.  In that case, you will have years of free herbs and tea!  Have you checked out the prices of herbs and teas lately?  Boxes of organic herbal teas are going for over $4 for 20 cups!  If you’re like me and drink at least 20 cups of tea a week and use herbs in practically every recipe (herbs like chives, oregano, sage, basil, and thyme), then we are both saving $520 a year!  The herbs looks beautiful growing for months in your lawn, and continue to look gorgeous hanging in your home or crushed into re-purposed glass jars in your pantry.

By making the above efforts, you could save $1000’s year after year, benefit your health and the health of the Earth, reduce the residual visual effects consumerism of brands have on your home, and add yet another ARTful living look to your life!

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