Is a Frugality Tip That Saves You a Quarter a Waste of Time? Some Notes on Economies of Scale

A recent comment by Mindy provided an interesting insight into how many people view frugality:

I know I’m a little late coming to this discussion but, unless I missed it among the large volume of comments, no one is counting the amount of time spent making stuff in order to save. The link to the laundry detergent got me thinking about this. Sounds like a [significant amount] of time in order to save 27 cents per load of wash (I’m pretty sure that’s the statistic he quotes).

The question at hand revolved around my recipe for homemade laundry detergent. I estimated that my homemade detergent would save about eighteen cents per load over buying Tide with Bleach in bulk.

For many people, that’s an open and shut case right there. Eighteen cents? For fifteen minutes of effort? That’s enough to make people walk away without even considering the solution any further.

If I were to only save eighteen cents from fifteen minutes of work, I wouldn’t bother, either, but here’s the catch: most frugal solutions take advantage of scale. To put it simply, the recipe is worthwhile not because you save eighteen cents per load, but because that batch of detergent you make takes care of fifty two loads of laundry.

I’m not just saving eighteen cents with that fifteen minutes. I’m saving fifty two times that much – $9.36, to be exact. In terms of a comparable wage, that’s $37.44 an hour after taxes for the time spent making the detergent.

The same principle applies to many frugal projects. Take my homemade breakfast burritos. The procedure for making breakfast burritos takes about an hour and each burrito has about seventy cents worth of ingredients in it. In terms of one burrito, it’s not a bargain at all – you can get a breakfast burrito for $2 pretty easily (although I think mine tastes better). However, the recipe makes thirty two burritos at once – you can then store them in the freezer for future use. This cuts the time commitment per burrito to less than two minutes, meaning that your hourly rate after taxes for making the burritos is somewhere on the order of $39.

You can see the same benefit from many different frugal projects. Installing a programmable thermostat, for example, might take you an hour, will cost you $40 or so, and will only shave $5 or $10 off of your monthly energy bill. However, you’re saving that $5 or $10 off of every energy bill thereafter without any change in effort. After five years, your hourly rate after taxes for installing that thermostat is $410 per hour.

The catch, of course, is that you don’t see the savings up front. Instead, it’s metered out gradually to you over time. Each time you eat a homemade burrito, you’re quietly saving $1.30. When you use a cup of the detergent, you only save eighteen cents. And it’s that catch that keeps many people from seeing the bigger picture and taking advantage of how much money frugality can really save you.

Try this: take a lazy Saturday and fill it with frugal projects that have a good long term return for your time investment. Install some energy efficient light bulbs. Install a programmable thermostat. Make a batch of homemade breakfast burritos and maybe a few casseroles for the freezer. Make a batch of homemade laundry detergent. Put your home entertainment center on a single switch so you can cut power to all the devices with just a wrist flick. Swap out your laundry softener with white vinegar.

At the end of that day, you won’t have saved any money. In fact, you’ll have spent quite a bit, and you’ll have used up a day.

What happens next is where frugality pays off. You’ll quietly find yourself spending a lot less money than you used to spend in your monthly budget. It’s suddenly far easier to make ends meet than before. Your food bills are cheaper. Your household supply budget is cheaper. Your energy bill is cheaper. Much of the time, the bills stay cheaper, too.

Then, start applying that savings to your debts – or to your long term savings. You’ll quickly find that those silly frugality tips, like saving a quarter on your laundry load, aren’t that silly after all.

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68 thoughts on “Is a Frugality Tip That Saves You a Quarter a Waste of Time? Some Notes on Economies of Scale

  1. I think Mindy, like many readers, were lacking a bit of awareness. They read that they save 18 cents, but don’t look at it further. These are the same people who call a soda a day only 50 cents. That’s 180/year, not including the negative health benefits.

    I know a lot of people would LOVE to find an extra $200 in a pair of jeans they forgot about, they certainly wouldn’t throw it away.

    -Nate

  2. Lori says:

    I read in our paper about your website and the homemade laundry detergent on Saturday. That prompted me to look at your website and see the recipe for the detergent. Once I am out of my current detergent I am planning on trying it out! However what I found interesting was that very evening I was reading my “Real Simple” magazine and they had a whole section of cleaning simply. Guess what they were using? baking soda, white vinegar, salt and washing soda (which I still have yet to find). Instead of thinking I can only buy these items to make laundry detergent I know have so many more ways to use these!

  3. Movingonup! says:

    Making burritos and casseroles ahead of time is a time saver as well. I don’t know how many mornings and evenings I spent time looking for recipes or something quick to eat.

  4. Carrick says:

    Also, if you’re concerned about the environment (and I really hope everyone is) making your own detergent helps in TWO ways: first, you’re not buying bottle after bottle of plastic, and second, you’re using relatively natural/less harmful ingredients than standard detergents. And if you do care about the environment and buy the pricier Seventh Generation stuff, then switching to make your own will save you even more money. :D

  5. This is a great point. Also, by batching all of these things together in one big effort, like making laundry detergent or homemade breakfast burritos, you’re saving time and gas to go to the store and buy the items, as well as later on when you need detergent and can make it from home instead of spending the time and money to go out.

    Over time it really adds up, and you probably benefit from having less chemicals in your life, in the case of the detergent and the vinegar for fabric softener.

    -Tracy

  6. Megan says:

    I think it is worthwile to do things like this because it can just be fun to try it. I love trying new things to see if they work for me, I can’t help a curious mind. Saving money is more of a fringe benefit.

  7. Megan says:

    I think it is worthwile to do things like this because it can just be fun to try it. I love trying new things to see if they work for me, I can’t help a curious mind. Saving money is more of a fringe benefit.

  8. Amber says:

    I think frugal strategies like this are great and save money… IF you have the time. Since time is not an unlimited resource, we all have to prioritize how to spend it.

    For me, it’s most important to make a healthy, home-cooked meal for my family, and sometimes friends. That way I can spend time with people I care about, eat more healthfully and save money. Unfortunately, taking time to cook means I can’t take advantage of other cost-saving strategies. But that’s okay, we all have to make our own choices.

  9. Dawn says:

    Most folks when they start down the frugal highway immediately pick off the “big things.” They decrease cable, get rid of their landline, drop their gym membership – all those kinds of big changes. And those are really good, but once you’ve done those and you want to keep finding ways not to waste money, the smaller frugal tips are great! Plus they are fun. I love finding ways to shave a few dollars here and there – and they add up. By installing CFLs everywhere, I cut my electric bill in half! Weather stripping all my windows helped my heating bill. And like Carrick says, many frugal tips are not only good for the wallet, but they are also good for the environment.

  10. J says:

    Probably a thing that’s missing is a “frugality review”. As time goes on and (hopefully) you do things like increase your income and find ways to save money, perhaps you can look at where your time is going and figure out some things to drop.

    Also, when you get a spouse and children involved, there are things you may need to do to get by in the short term that make no sense (or cents) to do in the long term. Saving money is a great thing to do, but some of the ways in which this is accomplished are far more palatable to do on a short term basis only.

  11. Torrilin says:

    For me, the laundry detergent isn’t worthwhile. Bringing home the ingredients for a *liquid* laundry detergent by bike is… tricky. Not impossible, but it definitely takes more than a trip or two. Bringing home a box of powdered laundry detergent that lists at 64 loads (which is more like 130 loads for our household) fits in with my regular grocery trips, and doesn’t force me to use a car for shopping. And it doesn’t force me to buy a bike trailer.

    Small changes are very useful… but they need to be the *right* small changes. Since I already need exercise to stay sane, I use my bike often anyway. Might as well use it for groceries and errands. Once you’ve gone down that particular frugality path, some options are more available, and others become very inconvenient. For our household, it’s far more frugal to get luggage racks on all our bikes than to try to replace cleaning products that we use in tiny quantities.

  12. Courtney says:

    It also depends on your time and how much you have and how valuable it is. People who are recently unemployed – well, you have a lot of time, and want to save money. So in this case it would be worth it to make your own detergent. Later on, the ROI might not be there.

  13. Sandy says:

    When frugality becomes a lifestyle, you really realize how cheaply you can live.
    If you look to the pennies or nickels you can save by doing relatively simple actions, it’s fun to sit back and NOT have to spend money on a regular basis like others do.
    Today, for example, I spent my day Hanging up 2 loads of laundry, washing my car, and planting my peas for the season (it is St. Paddy’s Day, after all!)and preparing other parts of my garden. I had the day off work. I could have done it differently, but this is how I’ve done these things for years, and spending no money on services/additional energy costs is fine with me… we always have money for vacations and other experiences.

  14. Courtney says:

    Although I agree with you, I have found in my quest for frugality that there is no one best way to be frugal.

    Your laundry detergent recipe may save .18 per load, but I have found a store-brand powdered detergent that does 60 loads for $3.49, or .058 per load.

    I do a load of laundry every day. If I WOULD HAVE used Tide with Bleach, I would save $65.08 per year. Heck, if I WOULD HAVE used the Simple Pleasures detergent, I would have saved a whopping $156! In reality, I would use my store-brand powder as an alternative to the homemade detergent, and have saved $13.02. That changes my calculated hourly wage to $7.49, and I value my time more than that.

    I think the key is to focus your efforts on the biggest cost savings for YOU. Maybe I’m cheap when it comes to laundry detergent, but I like to go out to eat. Taking 30 minutes to cook $8 worth of steak, vegetables and dessert instead of spending $50 at a steak restaurant for dinner for two earns me $84 per hour in savings – and chances are, that half hour would have been spent driving to the restaurant!!

  15. Jules says:

    For me, laundry detergent is a no-brainer: of course I’ll make it myself. No breakouts of eczema.

    But the way I see it, it’s not so much about the money saved as it is that, unless you’re tabulating every single expense versus what you’d paid earlier, you don’t actually realize the savings. Yes, we save 50 euros a year making our own laundry detergent (probably more), but in the end, it’s not like I have an extra 50 euros sitting in my bank account. That extra money gets frittered away to things like my cats’ vet bill or birthday presents for friends and family. I don’t mind, since I actually put enough money away to have a healthy savings account, but I can understand why for some people these tips wouldn’t appear to have made any difference.

  16. jan says:

    The other way making the laundry soap saves is staying out of the store! Amazing what you don’t buy if you don’t go!

  17. Vanessa says:

    Making your own (whatever that is) is not just about saving money.
    Every time time someone buys a new bottle or container of detergent, that’s one more bottle going to landfill. By making your own things, you don’t travel to the shop, a docket does not get printed, you use the same container dozens of times and you know what your product is made of.

    Savings are just an added bonus as far as I’m concerned.

  18. Alexandra says:

    Just yesterday I did not feel like cooking, so I pulled out a shepherd’s pie from the freezer–what a treat to benefit from my earlier industriousness!

  19. kristine says:

    Not only does the economy of scale work here, but isn’t it better to spend time doing just about anything productive, rather than paying in small increments for convenience, and then sitting in front of a TV screen with all that “free” time? Sadly that is what most people seem to do. Idle hands make for a thin wallet and a fat butt!

  20. Jen says:

    I agree with you on the economies of scale. Saving cents here and there might not be a whole lot, but it adds very quickly. Plus, for a full time stay at home mom like me, it makes sense for me to making my own detergent, meals and so forth. Not only that they make fun projects I can do with my daughter, they also teach my daughter the value of frugality. It’s much more than just saving pennies.

  21. KC says:

    I eat every day (3 or more times in fact), but I only do 2 loads of laundry a week. So the time and money saved on the burritos would be much more plentiful than that on the laundry. But I suppose if you do a lot of laundry those numbers might change.

  22. Barbara says:

    It’s also worthwhile to note that when we talk about economies of scale, many times our time is not spent just doing one thing. We’re overlapping, doing more than one frugal thing at a time, or some other positive thing while we’re being frugal. And many things have “down time” in the middle. While I cut and chop and make triples of a casserole, Im also helping my kid with his homework. in the half an hour the casserole’s cooking, i may have put a load in the wash and another on the line to dry. So when we figure my effort in terms of time, you cannot assign one specifi chore, or hourly wage to one specific time.

    Its also worth mentioning that many frugal enterprises (most I dare say) have other positive qualities, such as being kind to theplanet (rewashing disposable items), or being more nutritious(home grown tomatoes).

  23. If these activities are done in free time, any cost-cutting is savings.

    If you make $50/hr at your job working M-F, and on Saturday morning you save $5 for an hour’s worth of burrito making, you STILL saved $5, because you didn’t lose an extra hour of work time in the process. You just chose to make burritos over something else, like watching TV, which would’ve given you entertainment, but saved you nothing.

  24. erin says:

    i’m addicted to making my own laundry detergent, because i’ve got it down to a quick and easy science.

    1 bar of fels-naptha + 1 cup each of washing soda and borax, blend in food processor.

    I’ve made enough for several months in about 10 minutes. and i get so giddy when i pull it out at the laundromat and see everyone else with their $6 bottles of fancy goo (NYC prices)!

  25. Michelle says:

    I think that making your own laundry detergent, cooking from scratch, etc. is about so much more than just saving money. These things teach us values and skills. We learn self-sufficiency, engage our bodies and minds in productive activities and help the environment. Little things can lead to a long-term change in mind set. That’s definitely worth the time involved.

  26. Beth says:

    Jules mentioned that the money saved by practicing certain aspects of frugality doesn’t typically end up in a specific account, and thus it’s hard to determine how much is saved total.

    Although I have never done this myself, it might be useful to actually calculate the savings of something like making your own laundry detergent – to take that $9.36 (or whatever your savings is) and physically take that money and put it aside, in an envelope or separate savings account. Do this with every frugal action you take and see how much is really saved. It could be a surprising amount.

    This goes with Trent’s “snowflaking” idea.

    I’ve made both the dry and wet versions of laundry detergent. The dry version is easier to make but occasionally clumps and doesn’t completely dissolve. Either one is less expensive than store-bought and eliminates the need for more wasteful plastic packaging.

  27. Shelly says:

    I found the same effect from making my own baby food. Just steam fruit and veggies and puree. I do a big batch at a time and freeze small quantities. A jar of baby food costs almost $1.00 nowadays. I can buy a bag of carrots for $2 and make 5-6 jars worth.

  28. Amy says:

    I recall Amy Dacyzn first used the “hourly Wage” approach in establishing the value of frugal efforts, e.g., wasing and re-using plastic sandwich or other zip-style storage bags.

  29. Michele says:

    Another added benefit – in addition to the environment and the healthy aspects of it – is that you can make it anytime! When there is a snowstorm and we have no snacks to eat, no problem, all of the ingredients are there to make cookies. Out of detergent? No problem, I can whip up a batch. No bread in the freezer? Let’s go make some. It’s great to be able to make what you what when you want it!

  30. Cathy says:

    For this particular project, I was left thinking – I would be out $2400 per year. (That is what it would cost me to rent a larger apartment so I could have the extra closets to store the extra detergent.) Economies of scale are important but it’s hard to follow if you live in a small apartment. That said, your site has amazing ideas. Even if I can’t literally translate them to my lifestyle, it gets me thinking (which appears to be the larger point anyway).

  31. I fell under the category Carrick mentioned: a seventh generation user. I haven’t tried the laundry detergent yet, but I just made a batch of hair conditioner fabric softener. It worked so well, and it was super convenient. One less product I have to buy, one less trip to the store, and I have more control over what I use. My mother is allergic to everything, so we’re trying the laundry detergent recipe next! I definitely agree with Michelle, that the self-sufficiency it creates is very important. I shudder to think about all the things people wouldn’t know how to do if there was a crisis and they were left to their own devices.

    FYI: If anyone’s interested, this was my fabric softener experiment: http://www.moderntightwad.com/2009/03/macgyver-monday-fabric-softener.html

  32. JB says:

    The home-made burritos have yet another advantage from a time standpoint. Buying a burrito 32 times (or 16, if you eat two at a time) requires time – say 15 minutes each to walk over to the store/cafeteria, stand in line to pay, and walk back.

    That’s 8 hours spent in “making” lunch (4 hours if you eat two at a time), as opposed to the hour spent in making 32 burritos.

    One should be adding the nominal hourly rate for the extra 7 (or 3) hours to the overall cost savings.

    Home-made lunches almost always come out way ahead.

  33. Jennifer says:

    I agree with comment #20 – Frugality and all is about learning skill sets *and* saving money.
    For those who may not have time to make their own laundry detergent, or in areas such as myself in Germany where these items are not readily available over the counter — Get soapnuts. Those things last a LONG time, and even when they no longer work for the clothes or dishwasher, you can make a “tea” for shampoo and replace all your shampoo bottles with eco-friendly, skin-friendly soap. :)

    Sure Doctor Bronner’s is the same, but 1 kilo (around 2 lbs) of the stuff will get you well through a year of washing.

  34. tightwadfan says:

    I often see this argument against small-scale economy – that if the amount of money you save is under a certain amount it is not worth the time you spend on the task.

    But this argument only makes sense if you are working on that task instead of something else that would make or save you more money.

    But people perform these tasks on weekends or free time so this argument is stupid and I wish people would drop it.

  35. Carmen says:

    I totally agree that small savings add up to big savings. The impact over a year is staggering. But I almost think you have to do it to see it. And there is a big snowball effect, partially from increased motivation when you see results – a bit like dieting!

    However, it’s important to be realistic and honest (comparing apples with apples), when estimating savings. I doubt there are many people who shift directly from a premium brand of laundry detergent with additional price bearing ingredients (such as ‘Tide with bleach’) to making their own. Or if they do, they never tried savvy shopping first.

    I have made my own laundry detergent but found that firstly it didn’t actually save us any money and more importantly it didn’t clean my clothes as well. I now buy supermarket own label brand. No frills packaging, great at cleaning clothes, which is all I want. It costs £1.64 for 3kg, which I estimate does 60 loads. So that costs me 2.7p (3.9c) per load. Not much room for savings there. UPDATE – I’ve just put laundry on and weighed my detergent (lol). I used 100g (big load) but it means my estimate is incorrect. 4p/6c per load is probably more like it. Anyway.

    Loads of savings to be had from shopping around (for all of 10 minutes with the internet) for annual bills like insurances, as well as choosing food wisely. Haven’t made breakfast burritos in a while, but can testify that they are delicious! We have more than halved our monthly food bill over the last year, which makes a huge difference.

  36. Carmen says:

    And for those of you loving white vinegar as a fabric softener substitute, please pass on your tips. Although what they could be I have no idea!

    We’ve tried it. And hated it. Firstly the clothes were not that soft comparatively, but more importantly, the smell lingers. Yuk. I could just about cope only smelling it to put into the washing machine, but I can actually smell it on the clothes. And no, I am not using a lot. One small capful per load, probably like a dessertspoon amount. Ugh. But helpful tips welcome.

  37. Melody says:

    Thanks, Carmen, I am about to try that!
    Not only my own laundry detergent, but I also make my own dishwasher powder. I have heard you can use vinegar in the rinse cycle there, as well, instead of expensive stuff like Jet Dry. (and, again, oh the chemicals!) BUT that only works if you have a dishwashwer with a gizmo that actually shuts when you put it in! Otherwise the vinegar is too runny and will drip out soon as you put the door up!
    I agree with many others here, that if you have a strong moral/value reason for being frugal with seemingly small things, like making detergent, then it’s much more of a no-brainer than if you are just looking at it from a money standpoint. For me, making the detergents and all my other cleaning products from scratch, means I am not putting chemicals and other stuff all over my house and in the environment. (immediate and otherwise!) The fact I save is a secondary thing, but an awesome benefit! The ‘economy of scale’ in this case is global for me, rather than simply an accumulation of dollar bills.

  38. tdh says:

    I bend over to pick up pennies off the sidewalk. Is that a waste of time? ;-)

  39. Lenore says:

    I’m recovering from the kind of clutter you see on shows like Clean House or Oprah, so for me, it often makes more sense to do something conveniently and actually complete it than to agonize over doing it cheaper or in the most environmentally beneficial way.

    I continue to push myself to improve, however, so I recently decided to stop guzzling soda and make drinks from the cheaper powdered mixes instead. Once I found out I no longer had to make Kool Aid, Crystal Light or other brands in a big pitcher, I started saving 16 and 20 ounce plastic bottles. Now all I have to do is pour in the mix, add water, shake and refrigerate. I’ll be able to use the small bottles ad infinitum and won’t have to deal with lugging, storing, pouring and tossing or recycling 2-liter bottles anymore.

    Will homemade laundry detergent be next? I hadn’t thought about the benefit of keeping all those bulky detergent bottles out of the landfill, so yes, I just might try it. I know you can also dip a sponge in liquid fabric softener and add that to the dryer instead of those costly toxic sheets. Maybe I’ll do that too.

  40. Savings are savings– the economies of scale make it work.

  41. Mizzle says:

    @Carmen:

    I just fill the spot intended for fabric softener (next to where I’d put the powder if I used powder instead of liquid detergent) up to ‘max’ with either plain white vinegar or household/cleaning vinegar (which I imagine is more concentrated – the label does say it’s suitable for clothing).

    I smell it when I pour it in, but the smell is mostly gone when the laundry comes out, and all gone when it’s dry…

    Where do you put the vinegar, and when? I reckon most of my vinegar is rinsed out or at least spun out with the rinsing water when the machine starts spinning…

  42. Another thing to consider, aside from frugality and environmentalism, is that some people enjoy the self-sufficiency that comes from doing things for themselves.

  43. Battra92 says:

    @Lenore – Soda is my biggest money pit. I just can’t drink Kool Aid anymore (too many people doing that these days anyway) and plain water makes me sick (unless I drink it on a really hot day my body just craves the sodium in soda I guess.

    I may try this Gatorade substitute from WebMD though. http://www.webmd.com/hw-popup/rehydration-drinks?navbar=hw86827

    But as for the whole saving money on little things, I think the biggest problem with many in the IWTYTBR crowd is that they value their time as infinitely valuable. I’d take a job at $37.44 an hour after taxes. ;)

    I make a lot of my own food but that’s not always a money or time savings but more for health or for wanting something better quality.

  44. Sandy says:

    Funny….I haven’t used fabric softener in years! My dad reminded me (15 years ago) that fabric softeners, when used on diapers, reduces their absorbancy, so I stopped using it for diapers. Then I read an article about how very toxic all forms of Fabric softeners are (dryer sheets and liquid) and I thought…I really don’t need the hassle at all. We’ve seemed to survive! And I hang out our laundry!

  45. Alexandra says:

    Melody, I’d love to hear your recipe for dishwasher detergent!

  46. plonkee says:

    Taking into account the amount of time you need to spend doing this kind of thing is important though. I mean it’ll take me what half an hour to make laundry detergent, plus probably a two hour round trip to get the ingredients (need to go to the big supermarket). That’s the best part of a Saturday morning. Fine if I happen to have a Saturday morning free, but not if I normally don’t. There’s only so much time in the week, and I’d save more money cooking ahead in a spare Saturday morning than I would making laundry detergent – not all economies of scale are equally useful.

  47. Shymom says:

    Economy of scale always make sense but, it also always comes down to personal preference. I wouldn’t be saving very much money by making my own soap. I would only save 4 cents a load. Just about 96 cents a month. So for ME it isn’t worth messing with.

    Personally, I have a hard time labeling making my own detergent as self-sufficient. I mean I would buy all of the items at the same store,in the same aisle, at the market. On the other hand, my great-aunt used to make her own soap in a huge kettle in the back yard by using lard from a hog she butchered herself. Now THAT is self-sufficient. 8-)

  48. Carmen says:

    We have never had a tumble drier and only tend to dry clothing outside in Summer, so I feel we *need* fabric softener to keep clothing soft. Maybe it’s the central heating that dries them out? I have tried lots of options.

    @Mizzle, I do just as you have described. I really hate the smell and do have a sensitive nose, so unfortunately I can still smell it if I smell the clothes up close. I just don’t like the faintest hint. And we have found it to be quite ineffective, but we do live in an area with very hard water which I suspect is the reason. Hence we switched back. I have a favourite (brand leading) fabric softener which I love, chosen for its scent. I dilute this quite heavily in recycled bottles with the cheapest store brand which is about 1/5 the price to make it considerably cheaper. A solution that works for us. Well I say ‘us’, my husband would never actually do these sort of things, dire straights aside! And I’m sure all my friends and family would think I was bonkers if they knew! :)

  49. Jessica says:

    I recently stumbled across your website because I was looking for a recipe for laundry detergent. I used to make this years ago, but somehow, the process got away from me. Firstly, thank you for the recipe. Secondly, I am enjoying your website and find it refreshing.

    After reading your breakdown of the detergent savings this morning, I do have a question concerning the savings of the detergent. I have used the detergent in the past and I have begun again but I do notice the quality of the detergent is not as great as I would like it to be. I know most people find it comparable to Tide, but maybe my kids are just dirtier than most other family’s and the homemade stuff leaves stains on heavily soiled clothing. This does not happen with good ol’ reliable Tide. However, for lighter washes that are not as dirty as my 15 month old’s food stained clothes and my 8 year old’s grass stained uniforms, I would definitely use the homemade stuff. Do you think that by using the homemade stuff on some loads of laundry and using Tide the remainder of the time (probably about 3 or 4 loads a week) it is worth the time and effort to make the homemade stuff, or is the time going to waste? It seems this would be logical, but Sometimes I am surprised when someone has a different take on things than I do. Thanks!

  50. PF says:

    Dryer sheets are toxic? Wow, I didn’t know that. I attached them to my clothes as mosquito repellent when I was pregnant to avoid using spray on repellents. (We have a lot of West Nile Virus here). Hmm, maybe not such a great idea. You learn something every day.

    I rarely use them in the wash or fabric softener. I have never really seen the point.

  51. Norma says:

    Does anyone know if this laundry detergent recipe is suitable for a front-load washing machine? My front-load machine’s instructions say to use HE products so I have tried to use only HE detergents.

  52. Felipe says:

    I believe careful cost/savings evaluation is a must every time we consider a frugality tip, otherwise those savings could actually be costing more.

    I can think of two anecdotes: My ex-boss telling me how his stay-at-home wife saved a few bucks every week by sending his chauffeur (she wouldn’t dare set foot on one of those ugly supermarkets) to do groceries instead of going to the usual market herself. And, my sister who used to drive 30 extra miles to save $1 on a package of paper towels. She would go there twice a month, spend 2 hours driving (and the gas it required to move her Grand Cherokee there), and save a total of $4 every month.

  53. KM says:

    This has nothing to do with the actual point of this entry, but the high amount of italics in many of your posts (such as this one) is really annoying to read. Most times, readers don’t need the writer to point out what to stress. The content does that on its own. Especially when you combine the bold with the italics, I feel like I’m reading a used copy of a college textbook. Great site otherwise.

  54. Pattie, RN says:

    I grate the bar of soap for laundry detergent on a cheese grater while the water boils, and the whole process of making up a batch takes me less than 10 minutes once a month or so. Well worth it to us, but likely not to everyone. What we do NOW as empty nesters looks a LOT different than a decade ago when we were feeding, clothing, and housing two large, hungry, messy teenaged boys!

  55. Susan says:

    MELODY–
    I agree with Alexandra. Would you please share your dishwasher detergent recipe? Many thanks!

  56. AnnJo says:

    I know my limits for household prep time, and find it a more productive use of that limited time to prepare things like homemade chicken stock (store bought: 80 cents to a dollar per use and not as good) than laundry detergent (store bought in bulk: 4 cents per use and better).

    Generally, I think there are much higher savings to be found in food preparation (cutting up whole chickens, making your own soups, baked goods, granola bars, beverages, etc.) than in making laundry or dishwasher detergent assuming you’re already buying in bulk and using only what is really needed.

    But the principle is the same – over time, especially over a lifetime, a dozen or two small economies, most of which take very little time or just involve a change in habits, add up to huge savings.

    One thing about preparing your own cleaning supplies that is worth thinking about: The basic ingredients are things that are cheap, keep forever and have multiple uses – borax, baking soda, vinegar, etc. Even though I don’t usually make my own clothes- or dish-washing supplies, since I have the storage room it’s worth keeping that stuff as part of my general preparedness supplies and for the occasions when I run out of something and it’s not convenient to make a trip to the warehouse store. Recently, I found that what I thought was the “backup” pail of dishwasher detergent turned out to be an empty, and it was no trouble to mix up a two week supply of detergent to tide us over to our next regular trip to Costco, just from the supplies we had on hand.

  57. Jerry says:

    Here is an easy money saving tip: Do NOT follow the manufacturer’s directions. When I wash my hair, I lather and rinse, but I do not “repeat” (unless I have been camping, etc.). I use less laundry detergent than recommended if my laundry is not covered in dirt. Yes, I buy commercial detergent- usually Tide, in larger sizes, always on sale _and_ with a coupon. I do not use any fabric softener, and do not miss it. I always run my dishwasher when full. I only fill up the “main wash” detergent holder. The extra “prewash” cup is purely a waste, and so is heat drying- that is why I own a kitchen towel. I NEVER saw the need for ‘dish drying aid’ junk. I can live with the rare spot or two, and we do have hard water. Yes again, I buy Cascade powder, in larger sizes, always on sale _and_ with a coupon.
    Most of these tips apply to make-your-own detergent, shampoo, etc. as well. Why do I call myself frugal but buy name brand detergents? Consumer Reports said these work the best for relatively low prices per wash. I stock up when they (repeat after me) go on sale _and_ buy with a coupon. I can often reach the same unit price ($/lb) of store brand this way. I do NOT buy name brand stuff if I can find a cheaper store brand item that is just as good or close. I have found that buying a small calculator is a great investment (or use the calculator function in a cellular telephone, if you have one).
    I never buy _Anything_ with a coupon unless it is cheaper or much better (preferably both) AND I am going to use it anyway. My wife, who is saner than I :), does tell me to stop buying when I fill up the shelf. She does appreciate not having to worry about running out of detergent for a few months, and I make fewer trips to the store (saving gas or shoe leather).

  58. Allison says:

    Torrilin, are you certain that you can’t buy the three ingredients required to make detergent even though you ride a bike? The ingredients are not liquid. Arm & Hammer washing powder, borax, and a bar of soap are all you need for the recipe featured. You don’t have to buy them in one trip, either; just buy one or two during your regular grocery trip.

  59. Robin says:

    Although, i don’t make my own detergent, I always stock up when I can get a great deal on it… same general theory, quanity of savings, makes it worth the extra effort of seeking out the deal. I am a SAHM so almost everything is made from scratch at our house. It saves so much money & now we don’t miss take out & restaurants, because the food I cook is better.

  60. Jerry says:

    Here is an easy money saving tip: Do NOT follow the manufacturer’s directions. I don’t mean ‘do anything crazy with your microwave’, but just don’t listen to the marketers and waste money. When I wash my hair, I lather and rinse, but I do not “repeat” (unless I have been camping, etc.). I use less laundry detergent than recommended if my laundry is not covered in dirt. Yes, I buy commercial detergent- usually Tide, in larger sizes, always on sale _and_ with a coupon. I do not use any fabric softener, and do not miss it. I always run my dishwasher when full. I only fill up the “main wash” detergent holder. The extra “prewash” cup is purely a waste, and so is heat drying- that is why I own a kitchen towel. I NEVER saw the need for ‘dish drying aid’ junk. I can live with the rare spot or two, and we do have hard water. Yes again, I buy Cascade powder, in larger sizes, always on sale _and_ with a coupon.
    Most of these tips apply to make-your-own detergent, shampoo, etc. as well. Why do I call myself frugal but buy name brand detergents? Consumer Reports said these work the best for relatively low prices per wash. I stock up when they (repeat after me) go on sale _and_ buy with a coupon. I can often reach the same unit price ($/lb) of store brand this way. I do NOT buy name brand stuff if I can find a cheaper store brand item that is just as good or close. I have found that buying a small calculator is a great investment (or use the calculator function in a cellular telephone, if you have one).
    I never buy _Anything_ with a coupon unless it is cheaper or much better (preferably both) AND I am going to use it anyway. My wife, who is saner than I :), does tell me to stop buying when I fill up the shelf. She does appreciate not having to worry about running out of detergent for a few months, and I make fewer trips to the store (saving gas or shoe leather).

  61. Jerry says:

    Apologies for posting twice. I got a message saying my comment was rejected the first time.

  62. Me says:

    I love this site–thank you for all that you do!

    We were already doing some things. But explaining it to some people, you’d think we had two heads!

    Thank you for the break-down, but I think that it’s like everything else; if you ‘understand’ then you understand, if you don’t… well, you don’t. “Wisdom is a fountain of life to him who has it.”

    The best way we have to explain it is this: We’ve found the secret to being poor AND happy; we’re not picky. Watching our loved ones scurry around, searching for peace, just like everyone else. But, if everyone had it, we wouldn’t be so chaotic, you know? Maybe peace is found NOT in the flock.

    It’s amazing what you can do if you think you can.

    Oh, and if you are a visual or hands-on person, put a cup by your washing machine, and put a dime in for every load. Then after 3 months, take the dimes and buy the stuff to make the next batch–then your laundry will pay for itself! :)

    It’s all about perspective; “The laborer is worthy of his reward.” And who knows better what you need? :)

    ps, my husband LOVES the burritos–we have a shelf dedicated to them in the freezer. :)

  63. Ilah says:

    Like Erin who posted earlier, I use Fels Naptha soap when making my laundry detergent. I also use a bar for stain removal-it works better than Shout, etc. I find that my home made detergent gets out stains and cleans better than Tide which I always used to use.
    Also, the ingredients needed Borax and Washing Soda — the boxes you buy last through many, many batches, so you aren’t running out to the store every couple weeks. The ingredients to make it are also all powders (you add the water at home) so carrying it home on a bike is easier than carrying home a big jug of liquid detergent.

  64. PointSpecial says:

    I think I know what your answer will be before I ask the following question… but what about online surveys? I can earn $3 for 15 minutes of work (if I qualify after about 5 minutes of initial work…) or 30 mins of work… and this is money that I would not normally have as I do it while I would normally be doing some leisure activity. It comes out to roughly $12 an hour… not great, but certainly more than the $0 per hour (or worse, if I spend/consume).

  65. Tina says:

    I made my second batch of detergent today! I love it. It took possibly 10 minutes from start to finish. Well worth it for me! I found the washing soda and borax at Kroger.

  66. Carey says:

    OMGosh!
    For all the complaining about not saving enough money is ridiculous. Money is money. And all this talk that “well I only do 2 loads a month” is crazy. YOU STILL SAVE. Yes, I admit, it is not a lot, but if your doing several things to save money, it adds to the piggy bank. I made it in under 10 minutes tonight.

    And if you don’t need that much laundry soap, sell it to your neighbors and make some money. Get off your couch and bike on down to a laundry matt and sell it there.

    Find a way to make it work, and if you can’t, then mocve on, but please stop posting in here. We want to lift each other up, no push them next guy down.

  67. mary says:

    how am I “quietly saving $1.30.” every time I eat a homemade breakfast burrito if I
    1) now have to spend $26 on the ingredients
    2) don’t eat take-out breakfast burritos ever?

    I’ll keep my toast and peanut butter.

  68. TheEqualizer says:

    Ummm, when can I learn to build my own car? Oh that’s right,cars are bad and I should be riding a bike or walking…why don’t we just elect representatives that don’t tax us to death (literally)! Then we can afford to buy things that EMPLOY other people. Sorry, but I don’t want to live in the Flintstone age. I love all of my conspicuous consumption!

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