Savings in Every Room
Reviewing your household budget from top to bottom? Looking for ways to maintain your lifestyle while making precision based choices on your shopping runs? Me too. And since we are currently in the middle of jump starting a home from the ground up again, I've recently had the opportunity to walk through the entire house with pencil and paper listing options for quite literally, savings in every room.
Although I've made allowances for including a few affordable gee-whiz decorative items, where I've found most of the savings opportunities are in the areas of consumable products and hard infrastructure. Here's a breakdown of where I found the savings opportunities, room by room.
Overstock sheets. Since we have relocated to the land of reasonable shopping opportunities, this was a bit easier to do. With access to Ross, Marshall's and other discount overstock stores, I felt like the world was my oyster when it came to finding linens for our new bed. And since we've had to go so long without our own bed during this time of transition, this is one area where we wanted to treat ourselves and go with the king size. Not exactly the most affordable way to go when it comes to getting them covered, so I was super psyched at the discount options in the Tampa area. We found great satin striped sets in neutral tones for under 40 bucks. Also, and this is just a personal opinion, I find three sets of sheets per bed is more than enough. It allows to have one set in the laundry, one on the bed and one clean back up set in case someone gets ill during the night. We've personally never had any emergency where this hasn't sufficed. Your call, though.
Universal bed frames. They don't get much cheaper than this. Of course, if you are a long time local and know where all the good thrift stores are, you can probably get an even better deal. (Just be sure if you are getting a larger bed that you get the kind with support legs in the middle.) But having one delivered with the mattress set for under fifty bucks worked for us. Other than the two seven-dollar folding lawn chairs in the kitchen, this is the only furniture we have to sit on right now. Everything else will have to wait. What I love about these things is that they collapse down to a very transportable size for moving, and they save you the entire cost of a more elaborate bed frame. Eventually, we'll throw on a bed skirt and toss up a hanging tapestry or some sort of DIY head board. For now though, we are just thrilled to have a place to lay our heads.
Risers. These are a great way to maximize storage space in a bedroom. Since they are an affordable item as well, it's way cheaper than spending the cash or sacrificing floor space to yet another storage cabinet that you may have to move or unload at a later date.
DIY linen spray. I recently saw this for sale at a home goods store. While I love the idea of having a freshening spray for bed linens, curtains and pillows, I don't see any reason (other than the reusable giant bottle it came in) to pay big bucks for this stuff. For now, I'm going without until the container of essential oils makes its way south along with our dog. Then I'll be picking up a spray bottle and adding some water, rubbing alcohol and my scented oil of choice to create my own version of this product.
Custom candle containers. The super large designer candles aren't cheap, and if you like to enjoy candles in your personal space as much as we do, they can be expensive to keep replacing. An affordable answer? Custom designed DIY luminaries using tea lights and votive holders. Get a few reasonably large clear containers (crystal bowl for traditional decorators or perhaps one of the giant square glass vases for a more modern look) and fill with something decorative and affordable such as beach sand and shells, glass beads, river rocks or even potpourri, if that floats your boat. Arrange the smaller glass votive holders inside the larger container. They will be supported by the filler you choose. Go nuts with your tea lights. (Tip: If you live near an Ikea, you can buy them in bulk for super cheap.)
Using multi-purpose dish soap as a toilet bowl cleaner. I just came up with this the other day, and really wish I had thought of it before I had stocked all of the bathrooms with bowl cleaner. Not that I didn't get decent prices, but it occurred to me that I really don't need the angled nozzle since I have the brush for that. I'll just add a few drops of Grapefruit Seed Extract for extra sanitizing. Also, by switching from a separate product to dish soap only, I can save enough funds to buy an eco friendly brand in bulk. Score.
One bulk lotion, several refillable containers. One way I keep my sanity is to have certain things we use regularly at every single work station where I might need them. For example, with the lotions I like one by the kitchen sink, every bathroom sink and a couple of other places like by the couch where I read ( or will when it arrives) and next to my side of the bed. While I'm definitely a buy in bulk girl, dishing out for that many giant bottles of lotion when we are in the middle of replacing everything else just wasn't something I wanted to do. And since all of my smaller refillable containers are either in storage or floating down a river in Northern Maine after this spring's fiasco, I did have to dish out for these. However, the entire deal cost me less than two of the full larger bottles of lotion, and we still have lots to do us for a while. Tip: If you save your empty hotel samples, this is also a great way to have convenient sizes for the car, daypack or pocketbook. I'm thinking I might also use this as a way to have all of the bathrooms stocked without overdoing the upfront purchasing as well. Shampoo and conditioner combo bottles are coming to mind.
Free toilet brush containers. OK, if having everything out in the open is your thing, this might not work for you. But if you have either a bathroom closet or under the sink storage, you might consider turning garbage into gold by sawing off the top of a larger vinegar or beverage container from the grocery store. That's what I did, and was able to get by with the one dollar toilet brushes (and scrub brushes) from Family Dollar.
Hold off on the smaller trash cans. Again, if decorative is your thing or you don't have a cupboard to hide it in, this might not work for you long term. However, when starting over you might consider skipping one for a while and hanging your free plastic grocery bag off the door handle (doing this right now in the downstairs half bath), putting another of those plastic bags off to the side and just dealing with the fact that you have to hold it open each time it's needed (our current master bath strategy), using your cleaning bucket as a stand in while it's not in use (which is what I'll be doing again when the military shipment gets here), or cutting off the bottom of a giant beverage jug and get a free bucket and small trash can at the same time. This will likely be my eventual approach for the upstairs guest bath. Since I don't foresee anyone coming to spend the night until we have furniture, it's really not something I'm currently worried about.
Go multipurpose on the shampoo. Here are a few things it's used for in our house: shower gel, the hand washing of delicate items, gentle face cleanser, shampoo (go figure), bubble bath (not that I don't occasionally indulge in something girly smelling), and an add-in for homemade cleaning sprays when we are running low on eco dish soap and girlfriend doesn't want to run an errand that day.
The Living Room / Family Room.
Skip the facial tissue. I know they are more convenient when an unannounced sneeze is on the horizon during your favorite television program, but when I'm looking to pinch pennies in places it won't hurt I go with a standard roll of TP. If you think your inner decorating diva can't quite handle this, consider a decorative container, or store it in your end table if yours happens to be designed that way. You can also go with an over the top cover, similar to what you might use for boxed facial tissue. Bonus? You won't have to search for one specifically designed for the task since you won't be necessarily needing the slotted opening at the top. So you'll be free to think outside of the box here. World Market, anyone?
Lose the cable. It's been suggested before here on Wise Bread, and it bears repeating. Especially since so many people still look at us like we're freaks when we tell them we don't have it. Seriously, we don't really miss it all that much. OK, I occasionally pine for HGTV or the Fine Living Network, and my husband has a couple of shows he misses too, but between Netflix and online TV options, if we went with very much more audio visual entertainment, it would be seriously cutting into our productivity. Believe it or not, some people go without a television altogether.
Board games. If cobbling together full sets from thrift store marathons isn't something you have time for, these can be snagged affordably in their own right. At least compared to those fancy electronic options, they can be. Bring on the Scrabble, Risk, Twister and Sorry any day. Ditto with the Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit. Hey, you might even find your family starting to converse again. Imagine that.
Staple gun upholstery and other budget decorating techniques. The living and family areas really do have a ton of potential for budget and DIY decorating integration. Sarah's touched on this previously, and we have another article or two here on Wise Bread as well.
DIY dish rags and cleaning cloths. Got an old T-shirt or pair of sport socks that have seen better days? Sanitize them in the laundry and sacrifice them to the cause for a great way to keep it cheap and go green at the same time.
Myscha's multipurpose homemade spray cleaner. For less than the cost of one large bottle of spray cleaner, I picked up two empty spray bottles at the discount store, mixed some water in with some leftover witch hazel my husband had been using as a cheap aftershave substitute while we transitioned, and added a few drops of graprefruit seed extract and eco dish soap. While I'm still working at stocking all of my work stations with this stuff, I at least have an upstairs and downstairs supply. Normally, I'd use either vinegar or rubbing alcohol, but since I didn't want to stock up on those right away, I improvised. It's working fine.
Bulk baking soda with recycled shakers. So far, we've only emptied one container of grated Parmesan, so this is still in process as far as the house start up goes. It's still a start though, and it's the same technique I've used before when we were settled. Gotta love warehouse stores.
Practice good soup cents. I just can't say enough about soup. Grocery stretcher, nutritional power house, leftover user upper, the list goes on and on. And depending on what type you make, it can quite literally be, cheaper than dirt. Feeling like Thai? Whip up a little Tom Kha Gai. Needing to go a little more low budget to make ends meet this week? Dress it up with a decent soup topper to take it to the next level. One meatless meal and one soup dish a week can add up to some serious annual savings. Bonus? More money for gourmet kitchen gadgets.
Go generic where possible. Don't have time to clip coupons or price compare? Mary wrote a great piece recently on how picking up generic store brand items can easily shave some bucks off your regular grocery total.
Buy bottled juice on your first grocery run. We normally go with the canned or frozen concentrates (with the exception of apple juice sales when autumn rolls around), but since we don't have our pitchers to mix stuff up in, we found a few giant jugs of Tropicana have come in super handy. When they are empty, we'll have something to mix some frozen juice up in. One of them is going to turn into a toilet brush holder while the top becomes a funnel for the stain and seal job we need to do on our new fence. If you are starting from scratch and would pay that price for a beverage pitcher anyway, why not get some juice to boot the first couple of times around? You'll be set to rock and roll with the concentrates the next run into town.
The Home Office.
Get creative with your desk options. A funky old farm table with a comfy chair, a core door on top of some old filing cabinets, or a piece of plywood attached to a couple of sawhorses and painted black are all ways I've seen work at home desks done on the cheap.
Rubber stamps. Skip the special order address labels, and save yourself the individual addressing time by picking up a return address rubber stamp for your home office. Reusable, affordable and simple.
Be cheap with your shipping supplies. I'm a big fan of turning boxes inside out and retaping, myself, but for some really affordable ideas, check out this piece by Xin Lu.
The Yard, Patio and Garden.
Hey, if the HGTV folks can call it an extra living space, you can too! Here are a few ideas for keeping it cheap.
Keep it simple. The uncluttered look can be just as powerful for the outside living area as it can for your interior living space. Bonus? You have less to move out of the way when you mow and trim.
Composting. Save on potting soil and create your own “green gold” by trying your hand at composting. We used part of our tax refund one year to get one of the compost tumblers we'd been drooling over. Our aging backs thanked us profusely.
Consider rustic or artsy over formal. I'm referring to your landscaping style here. Twig arbors or DIY mosaic stepping stones are all fun projects the entire family can enjoy participating in. It's also much easier to take your time with these designs and still have your yard looking kept up with a simple mow. Bear in mind, rustic doesn't necessarily need to mean cutsy or overdone with Adirondack furniture (not that there's anything wrong with that). It can also mean simple and natural, as mentioned above. Think rock accents and mossy walkways with wildflower accents.
Precision planting of shade trees. Not only can this provide you with a comfortable shady spot to sit and overall energy savings inside the home, but you can multipurpose this idea even further and plant a fruit or nut tree to contribute to the grocery effort. Just something to think about.
That's my take folks, and an inside peek at some of the ways we are jump starting yet another household from scratch. Got any of your own room by room savings tips? Don't forget to share the love.