Save a Penny, Save the Earth

Saving money is something everyone wants to do, but by saving money, you can also save your mother (the Earth) in the process!

Musings September 27, 2013

Filed under: Environment,Green Living,Homemade Cleaners,Ramblings,Saving Money,Weather — Katie.Sewell @ 11:30 am

Stack Of CashBack in June, I took a new job in Lincoln, Nebraska. That meant that my family uprooted itself and moved. The job that I took pays less than my previous one, but we are much happier being closer to family, which was important with our 1.5 year old son.  With a new, tighter budget. I have been inventing new ways of saving money.

First , the basics.

  • Soap – Rather than purchase luxurious body wash, I opted for a $1.74 bar of soap from Yardley. It is AMAZING. It is paraben and sulfate free and smells amazing. Plus, the packaging is from 100% recycled material and is, itself 100% recycleable. I highly recommend. I only saved about $2-3 because I don’t buy expensive soap anyways, but you know the old saying.
  • Food – always a conundrum. We love to buy organic, but with the super-tight budget, we have been having to weigh our options. We still only buy organic when it comes to the “Dirty Dozen.” If we can’t afford it, we don’t get it. Luckily, since it is a great season for buying fresh food, we don’t run into the problem very often. Outside of produce, we have just been buying store-brand instead of fancy stuff. We pretty much were doing that anyways because I am a cheap person. With most things, you cannot tell the difference. Seriously, why get the fancy stuff?
  • Laundry Detergent – With our new water, we have found that our Soapnuts are not as effective. Also, I did notice a residue buildup. I am not sure if it is because we now have someone who is ALWAYS filthy, but I have had to change our soap. I still use soapnuts once in a while, but when I have a really dirty load, I opt for this homemade soap recipe. She even has a version for cloth diapers that works wonders.
  • Utilities – I am always looking for a way to save money here. We have a giant electric bill to cover from when the temperature was unbearably hot, but now that fall is here, I look forward to having the windows open all the time. Hooray! Heat will come up shortly, I am sure, but hopefully we can all just layer the clothes and keep the temp down. In terms of phones, I was shopping around this summer for a good data deal. Turns out, that does not really exist. I love my smartphone, so that was an area I was not willing to negotiate. I was please to find out that I could save $10 per month by routing my Sprint account through the University here and pay the University. Again, a penny saved… it adds up.

Any other good, money-saving suggestions? Feel free to share in the comments!


Dryer Balls: A (nearly) Permanent Replacement for Dryer Sheets? October 5, 2012

Filed under: Environment,Green Living,Saving Money,Uncategorized — Katie.Sewell @ 2:46 pm

To me, there is almost nothing better than pulling on a fresh, clean sweatshirt on a fall day and having it smell like clean laundry. I love picking out and trying new dryer sheets. Since we use soapnuts, we do not get a nice, light scent on our clothes the way other, laundry detergent users do, so dryer sheets was my way of filling in that gap.

Well, for the longest time, I had a strange problem. My armpits were itchy (TMI). Turns out, I had a slight perfume allergy. Not enough to break out into hives, but just enough to drive a person mad with itching. When I found out that the only way to rid myself of an embarrassing problem was to use unscented dryer sheets, I was sad. Then when I thought about it, I realized we had changed over our soap to be more environmentally friendly and cost-saving, but we did not do the same with our clothes-drying habit.

What to do?

I did some online research and found out about different brands of PVC-free balls that you can throw into your laundry and it beats and pulls at the fabrics to make them soft without the use of a dryer sheet. I ended up going with Nellie’s. They are, according to the reviews, heavier than the other brands, which makes them more effective at softening your clothes. Also, you can purchase soy wax sticks that go on the inside of the balls. Those wax sticks release a scent so your clothes smell really good.
THEY WORK. Really well. I love them so much, that when we dry any laundry outside (diapers, mainly), we throw them in the dryer for 10-15 minutes with the dryer balls on air dry just to get our clothes to soften up.

Caution: We have had ours for just over a year, and they are falling apart. Overall, they are still cheaper than the dryer sheets we were using, but I may try one of the other brands OR the wool balls that are out there. Nellie’s has a 2-year warranty on their products, but as I have not tried to get my money back yet, I will have to remain neutral on that.

I highly recommend switching to a system like this for anyone wanting to rid themselves of their dryer-sheet habit. Whatever kind you choose, it will save you money AND help keep our planet healthy!


Tired of Expensive Laundry Soap? June 19, 2011

Filed under: Environment,Green Living,Saving Money — Katie.Sewell @ 12:44 pm

This is going to sound like an infomercial, seriously.

However, I got seriously tired of constantly buying expensive laundry soap. I bought the expensive stuff because I wanted sulfate-free soap, which usually meant buying small bottles of Method that lasted about, oh, a month. We do a lot of laundry. One day, we were shopping at our local health foods store (Sahara Mart) and found a bag of things called “Soapnuts.” They are nut-like thingers that produce a natural soap that is biodegradable. They do not leave a scent on your clothes and CAN be reused. You just throw 4-5 in one of the cotton bags it comes with and toss it in your wash. I add 1/3 cup of washing soda for good measure since we tend to sweat when walking around B-town. I have to say, I have yet to be disappointed. You can also use them for handwashing.

I just realized today that we have had one bag of soapnuts for over a year. Over a YEAR! For the price we paid, which was about $20, I have to admit that I am more than impressed.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this product. I do not think that it matters what brand you buy, since a soap nut is a soap nut. Do some shopping online or go to your local health food store and see if they have any.




Natural Febreze June 16, 2011

Filed under: Environment,Green Living,Homemade Cleaners,Saving Money — Katie.Sewell @ 4:10 pm

Wow! It has been a while since I posted anything on here. My apologies!

If you live in Bloomington, IN, you know that it gets HELLA-HOT and really, extra humid. Well, I walk to work and to avoid the sun, I walk very early in the morning. However, I still sweat, which leaves my shirts smelling not-exactly-fresh by the end of the day. We do not have our own washing machine, and I do not like to waste energy and water on a shirt that was only worn once, so I wanted to buy some Febreze. What I found was that it is REALLY expensive and LADEN with chemicals. Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that touching my skin.

So, what about a good, natural deodorizer?

I tried this recipe. You have to leave your shirt hang out all night to air out the vinegar smell, but it smells fresh in the morning!


  1. Mix 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water.
  2. Put in a spray bottle.
  3. Done!

Wasn’t that easy?

I have a friend who uses the same recipe, except with vodka. I have not tried it, but she swears by it and she does re-enacting in wool clothes in the middle of summer.

Have fun and stay fresh!


2-Week Update March 24, 2011

Filed under: Ramblings — Katie.Sewell @ 9:17 am

So lent has been in full swing for about 2 weeks now. I have not started missing meat yet, but I have been reminded how having meat makes meal-planning easier. Soda, on the other hand, I MISS. I miss having a coke in the afternoon as a quick pick-me-up. I love you, tea, but you just are not cutting it.

In terms of not spending money on things I don’t need. I miss that too, but when I saw how much $$ I had in my checking account, I realized that I didn’t miss it THAT much. I was able to put more money into our savings account, which we will need if we move or whatever.

Today at the gym I decided that ellipticals and walking on a track is just not cutting it.  I feel like I have accomplished nothing. I need to run again. I am going to spend my saved money on a really good pair of shoes and hope that shoes help my hip issues. Done. I WILL have a runner’s body again. I don’t care what it costs! The health benefits more than make up for it in the long run. (haha… pun intended)


The ALL Purpose Cleaner March 23, 2011

Filed under: Environment,Green Living,Homemade Cleaners,Saving Money — Katie.Sewell @ 1:55 pm

About a year ago, my husband and I started to make our own all-purpose cleaner. We started doing this because the price of my favorite Method brand all purpose spray was ridiculous. Really? $4-5 for a spray bottle of stuff that hardly lasts as long as it should? Also, I do not consider all purpose cleaners to REALLY be all purpose unless they actually can be used to clean everything. And I mean everything. Counter-tops, stoves, metal, glass, porcelain,… you get the idea.

We found a good recipe online, but I have modified it a little so that you can use it on more than counter-tops.

What you will need:

  • Spray Bottle (you can reuse one… it doesn’t have to be fancy)
  • Borax (yes… the miracle cleaner)
  • Water
  • Dish soap (please use an environmentally-friendly, phosphate-free one)
  • Essential Oil in your favorite clean fragrance – I use peppermint, but I am thinking that orange, evergreen, and lavender would also be awesome

How to mix cleaner:

  1. Fill your spray bottle up about 3/4 of the way with WARM/HOT water (make sure it is warm enough to dissolve the Borax).
  2. Add 2-3 tsp of Borax.
  3. Add 2 drops of dish soap.
  4. Add 4-5 drops of oil.
  5. Add more water if you want, but leave some room for shaking.
  6. Shake.
  7. Clean!

I use our cleaner on mirrors, wood, counter-tops… EVERYTHING. I realize that it will not be good to always use this mixture on woods, so I plan on trying a recipe I found for homemade wood polish. However, for mirrors and glass and every thing else, this mixture works fantastic. For glass, just be sure to wipe wipe wipe until dry so that it does not leave streaks.

What does all this cost? PENNIES. We have saved about $5 per month on all purpose cleaner. That is $60 per year! Leaves more money for more important things… like fine cheese and wine. 🙂


For more recipes, try EarthEasy. I have not tried them yet, but am excited to try something new!


The Miracle Cleaner: Borax March 21, 2011

Filed under: Environment,Green Living,Homemade Cleaners,Saving Money — Katie.Sewell @ 10:15 am

For those who have not purchased Borax, I would highly recommend you go out and buy a box… NOW. We have been using it for a while as a laundry booster, but only recently have we discovered that it can replace nearly all of our cleaners. Here is a short list of what we use Borax for:

  • Laundry Booster
  • Polishing (sinks, bathtub, stove)
  • Toilet Cleaner
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • All-Purpose Cleaner (recipe TBA)

We purchased a couple boxes of Borax as well as Washing Soda this weekend and I am pretty sure that I am not going to buy any other cleaners for a long time. Why waste money on cleaners that you can make yourself for cheap AND they are not nearly as dangerous for you and your family as the other, “designer” brands?

I will post pictures soon of what Borax did to my sink (sparkle!).