As a stay at home, homeschooling mother of ten children, with seven still in our nest, I have always tried to find ways to cut costs and make the money my husband makes stretch. Lately, though, it seems to be getting harder and harder. That could be partly because in the last three years, we have added three children to our family through adoption. But they are small still, and I have one grown son and two big strapping teenage sons living here eating me out of house and home, and one pretty twelve year old girl who likes things that smell good.
Plus, my big sons tell me there is a recession going on. Now, we don’t have a TV in our house, the local newspaper won’t deliver to our rural home, and there is enough noise around me that I don’t need a radio blaring all day. I am prone to be a lot more worried about whether someone is failing math than about failing banks. The baby falling is more concern to me than the stock market falling. Yet still, I can feel it. The household money is getting harder and harder to spread around.
Now, I’m not a person who wants to see if she can make it not spending money at all. I just want to be able to spend at least a little of it on the things that make life fun. So lately, as I move through my days, I’ve been trying to find ways to both save money, and to find stay at home ways to earn money, too, without taking up the time I need to devote to my large brood of children or lowering the quality of life around here.
As I thought on this, it occurred to me one day that one way I could save was to not buy paper towels and paper napkins anymore. This may not seem like much too some people, but to a household where nine people live, we can go through a roll of paper towels almost every day. I have a large cabinet just brimming with old sheets. I dug through and found an old flannel top sheet that had long ago lost its fitted mate and pillowcases. I ripped this sheet up just a little larger than wash cloth size, and zig zagged the edges. I got a lot of squares. Now we use them as napkins, to dry our hands, wash the baby’s face, and even as wash cloths for the bath and dish clothes in the kitchen when we have run out of clean ones. I make sure these particular cloths are not used as cleaning cloths for really dirty things, so that I don’t feel bad about washing the baby with them. I keep them folded neatly in a napkin holder on the table so that they are always ready to grab. I have really gotten a lot of use out of them.
I also had some old cotton curtains that I cut up, zig zagged, and use for napkins, too. These are smaller and don’t absorb as well as the flannel sheet I used, but they work great as napkins. Before you throw away any material, always consider if you could recycle it into something else!
I save the old worn out jeans of my older sons and husband, and cut large squares from them. Then I layer the squares three thick, and zig zag around the inside of the squares, leaving the raw edges to show. These make the best pot holders you will ever use. The first time or two you wash them, you will have to recut the fraying edge, but after that they are fine.
When I get a lot of these blue jean squares, I sometimes sew them together as a comfort top, and use bandana material as a backing. Then I tie it with red yarn. It turns out really cute. If it’s a present for a child, I will also use the squares with pockets, and tuck dollar bills or small toys into them.
As I always seem to have a baby in my house, I decided to make my own wipes. It’s very simple, and works every bit as well as store bought wipes. Buy a roll of Bounty white paper towels; these are the absolute only kind that will work well with this. Lay the towels on their side, and cut the roll in half with an electric knife. Place the roll in an empty half gallon plastic ice cream container (the generic kind you buy at Walmart), then pour two cups on homemade solution over them. I like to use two cups of water, and add a squirt of baby oil and baby wash or shampoo. Once the paper towels have soaked up the solution, you can easily remove the cardboard roll, and pull up the wipes from the middle just like the store bought ones. Cut an X in the lid of the ice cream container, and thread the wipes up through it just enough to grab. You get two containers of wipes for the cost of one roll of paper towels.
I quit buying cleaners, and now clean my house with only baking soda, salt, and vinegar. While it isn’t perfumed like the other stuff, and the house doesn’t smell has nicely afterwards, it does just as good a job, and deodorizes, too. I buy all these ingredients at the Dollar Store, which makes it even cheaper. I use old towels I have torn up to clean with.
Speaking of the Dollar Store, always be sure and check them out the day after a holiday, and for a couple of week thereafter. I bought the large boxes of full size candy canes for one cent a few weeks after Christmas. I bought every candle they had left for ten cents each. Small gift bags were also ten cents. Recently, I found a basket with small jars of caramel sauce for twenty five cents. Anytime I visit the Dollar Store, I always check out the clearance items.
I try and keep a gift box of things I have crocheted for unexpected or even expected presents. That keeps me from running to the store at the last minute for a shower present and spending more than I like to spend.
I have never like clipping coupons, it’s always given me a confused feeling mind at the grocery store, trying to flip through coupons while several children hang onto me and talk to me. However, I recently found a website that just might work! It’s called Thegrocerygame.com. You can get a one month trial for one dollar to see if you like it. You type in your zip code, and this site does all the work for you. It sends you a list of the stores in your area, tells you which one usually has the best prices, and then lists in color codes the sale items for that week, and what coupons from the paper and mail you can use in addition to these sales to find rock bottom prices. The site says it usually takes twelve weeks to stockpile enough that you get the most out of shopping this way, but you begin to save right off. I had always thought WalMart was the best place to go, but the site explained why this is not true. I shopped instead at HEB, using the list from the site. My receipt showed I saved $22, but I know based on how much I usually spend for a week’s worth of groceries, it was more than that, because the prices were lower at this store. I was also able to get, for free, several things that I don’t usually buy because I consider them luxury items. My family was thrilled with that!
As for trying to earn money at home, I am at an advantage since we live in the country, and I can raise farm animals for sale. Chickens have always been one of my best selling items, ducks are a close second. Rabbits sell well.
But I recently dug through our old storage building, and began listing items on Craigslist. A family drove over three hours to buy an old wooden incubator I had had stored for several years. I found boxes of old baby clothes I had forgotten were in there, some just in time to fit my youngest child, the rest are posted on this site. I have several other things listed for sale, and I’ve barely gotten into the storage shed.
Associated Content is always a good place to try. I love to write, and while I haven’t yet learned all the ins and outs of ways to increase traffic to my page, it’s not the fault of AC, who has several postings telling you how to do just that. I’m still learning, more in earnest now than before. The money I earn from AC goes into my paypal account, and I use that money to buy clothes and homeschool books on ebay for my children.
Mturk.com is a site that has several different ways to earn money by writing. You log on, and go through all the requests, and pick which ones you have the time or knowledge to work on. The money from that goes into your Amazon account as a gift card. I like to buy books on Amazon, so I save that money for that.
There are many ways to try and beat the recession. I’ve been through two of them in my life now, and I feel so much better prepared for this one than the last one, where we lost our house and car. We have learned a lot, the best principal being that we should live below our means rather than above them. Life is just a bit more secure that way!