This is part of an ongoing series about how to trim the budget of the average American. As this series focuses on such broad-based tips, some will work for you and some will not. You’re invited to mention in the comments the tips that you found to be the most useful for inclusion in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of this series.
Housing – housekeeping supplies – $639
Garbage bags. Dishwashing detergent. Window cleaner. Vacuum bags. Laundry detergent. These are all housekeeping supplies and, over the course of a year, they really add up. $53 a month goes down the drain just to these supplies (and often, it quite literally goes down the drain).
Fortunately, this is yet another area where you can make serious cuts without cramping your style.
Start with vinegar and baking soda. Most cleaning needs in your home can be solved by one or both of these substances – and they’re far cheaper than most cleaning supplies. Water-vinegar and water-baking soda solutions make great cleaners, and mixing baking soda and vinegar over a stain works like a charm. Baking soda works great as a deodorizer anywhere, and vinegar does wonders when cleaning the floor.
Make your own. I’m well known for making my own laundry detergent, but that just scratches the surface. You can make solutions for anything using inexpensive ingredients, from window cleaner to toilet bowl cleaner.
Buy in bulk. Most housekeeping supplies keep for a very long time, thus they’re perfect targets for buying in bulk. Large quantities of dishwashing detergent, laundry soap, and other materials are great to have on hand – they will essentially never go bad and you’re quite sure you’ll eventually use all of it. Plus, buying in bulk means that you save a little each time you use it.
Try different brands. Try the generics. Try the not-so-generics. Experiment with the different brands to find the one that does the job for you at the lowest price. Often, generics will do the trick. Sometimes, they won’t. Try different low cost brands and find the one that works best for you at the cheapest price.
Use coupons. Coupons work great for housekeeping supplies, even if you buy in bulk. They simply shave a little more off of the price of something you would buy anyway. Remember, though, to compare the costs after coupons, because quite often coupons won’t save you enough to make it a better deal than the generic.
Read the directions. Many people drastically waste their household products, doing things like using three or four times as much laundry detergent than they need. Take a moment to read the directions on your household products and you might find that you’re using far too much – and that cutting back to a reasonable amount will work just fine and save you money.
Buy what you actually need, not what you think you need. I’m looking squarely at you, SoftScrub in my closet. I’m not saying that SoftScrub isn’t useful for cleaning – it really is – but most of the times I would break out the SoftScrub, I find other solutions that work just as well and are a lot cheaper and more convenient – I’m looking at you, baking soda paste. Don’t buy it unless you’re sure you need it, and try out using baking soda and vinegar in cleaning solutions first.
Use cloth rags instead of paper towels. Paper towels are one-and-done items – you use them, then you toss (or burn) them. Cloth rags can be used hundreds of times. Even better, they don’t really have a laundry cost, since you can just throw a dirty handful into any load of laundry without altering the load a bit. Keep a kitchen drawer full of cloth rags instead of constantly rebuying paper towels and you’ll see your budget happily drop a bit.
I want your help! In the comments, please let me know which of the tips you find most useful for trimming these costs. I’ll include the top choices in a comprehensive budget trimming guide at the conclusion of the series.