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!


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!).


March 13, 2011

Filed under: Environment,Green Living,Homemade Cleaners,Saving Money — Katie.Sewell @ 9:53 pm

I have an aversion to strange things. For example, I do not like the smell of cleaners. Some people like that smell, and more power to them. However, I hate the smell. I do not want my entire bathroom to smell like toilet cleaner for two days just because I cleaned the toilet. I was also put off by the cost of buying “green” toilet bowl cleaner. I love a clean toilet and I love trying to save the planet, but no one should spend that much on cleanser. Not to mention that toilet bowl cleaner is one of the most toxic cleaners people keep in the house.

If you are in the same boat, or if you are just looking to green up your cleaning habits and save some hard-earned cash, I have got a great solution for you! I had been using Borax for a while to clean our toilet. It not only polishes and cleans, but it disinfects as well. Today, though, I was running low on Borax, so I decided to try Baking Soda. We had a couple of boxes of it in the cupboard. I pulled out a box, grabbed a bowl, and a pair of cleaning gloves and headed to the bathroom. Following the recipe below, I came up with a delicious smelling paste that worked wonders on the toilet. The best part is that our bathroom now smells minty fresh.A Green Grass Toilet

Homemade Toilet Bowl Cleaner

  1. Dump  a liberal amount of baking soda into a bowl. I used about 1/2 a cup.
  2. Add about 12 drops of peppermint oil (or an essential oil of your choice).
  3. Add just enough water to make a thick paste.
  4. Slather the paste in your toilet bowl and scrub away!
  5. Rinse.

To get rid of any stinky-ness in your toilet, simply let the baking soda paste sit on the sides of the bowl for a while. It is a natural deodorizer.

Now, I will note that I used my hands and a wash cloth to clean the part of the bowl that sits above the water line (I was wearing gloves, though). If you have an aversion to sticking your hands in your toilet (I’m just going to note that the average toilet is cleaner than most computer keyboards), wear some gloves OR water the paste into a cream and put it into a squeeze bottle and squirt it into the bowl. I did use a scrub brush for the areas below the water line.

Savings by using this recipe? I am not a mathematician, but I can tell you that entire box of baking soda and the water used cost a LOT less than buying more “name brand” toilet bowl cleaner.

We plan on picking up some more Borax on Friday and I am sure that this same recipe will be just as handy with a slight change in ingredients.