Here’s an excerpt from Penny Pinching Mama for you enjoy to help you improvise when you run out of money!
So often, I get asked for specifics about how I saved money. There is nothing more frustrating than to go hear a speaker or read a book on “self improvement” where the “expert” spends the whole time telling you why you shouldn’t do what you are doing but never tells you how to change. I thought it might help some of you to see what I did when I had a nice long shopping list but no money to spend.
Here are some substitutions I made to improvise when I couldn’t afford to buy certain things I needed:
Baggies – small
If you don’t have any small plastic lunch bags, you can use plastic wrap, aluminum foil, wax paper or, in a real pinch, the waxed bag that cereal comes in.
- If you don’t have baking soda but you need it for cooking, then you may simply have to avoid making recipes that call for baking soda.
- If you’re using the baking soda for cleaning, substitute other cleaning supplies you have in its place (see ammonia).
- If you’re using it in the refrigerator for odor control, try using a couple pieces of charcoal.
If necessary, you may have to use just regular mild bar soap. If you have a baby in the house, buy something like Ivory soap, and you will kill two birds with one stone– you’ll have soap for you and the baby.
If you don’t have borax, you can use vinegar as a rinse. It can also help brighten clothes and make them softer.
You can use baking soda in place of carpet deodorizer.
Cleaners for kitchen, bath, windows, floor
- When it comes to cleaners, the reality is that hot soapy water cleans virtually everything. If you need the area to be sanitized, then use a few drops of Clorox in the water.
- You can use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol as a disinfectant too.
- If you are cleaning a surface that doesn’t need to be disinfected, like a window or mirror, then just plain water will work. Use a slightly dampened rag to wipe the surface and then go over it with a dry lint-free cloth.
The main thing to remember when using soap and water or any other cleaner is to always dry the area. This helps get rid of any water spots that might be left.
Sometimes when you are short of money, you have to give up conveniences, and this is a perfect example. As handy as these wipes and many others are, they are basically a paper towel or rag with a cleaner of some sort sprayed on them. In the case of Clorox wipes, just fill an 8 oz. bottle with water and 4-5 drops (truly, that is all you need) of Clorox and spray on a rag, or you can spray on the surface, let it set for a minute or two and then wipe.
Use a paper towel that has been cut down.
Vinegar works really well as a conditioner. If you need shampoo, too, you might try using a shampoo and conditioner in one. For years when we had a hard rain, I would run out to get my hair wet or put a bowl out to catch some rainwater. It makes your hair very soft.
Cotton balls and cotton squares
I have never bought a cotton ball before. I don’t use them that often. If you use them to remove nail polish, use some toilet paper instead. For taking off makeup, use toilet paper or a washcloth that you save for that purpose only. I do save the cotton that comes in some medicine bottles for those rare occasions when I need a cotton ball.
I was so glad to see that everyone’s list had deodorant and other personal hygiene products on it. I and the rest of the world thank you! HA! HA! In a bind, though, baking soda works really well.
I have used laundry detergent in place of dish soap before, although you have to be a little careful because it makes the dishes a little slippery. In a real bind, you can wash them in very hot water and then dip them in some water with a little Clorox in it.
Dish cloths for washing dishes
Use old wash rags or cut up some rags.
If your drain is just sluggish, sometimes sprinkling some baking soda down it and then pouring vinegar on top will help. Let that set for a couple of minutes and then top it all with a kettle of boiling water. I recently had a sluggish bathtub drain and as a last resort used the plunger on it. It worked. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? Duh? It even cleared up the sink drain in the kitchen at the same time.
I love using dryer sheets and fabric softener, but when things are tight, your clothes will come clean without them. If money is really tight, air dry your clothes.
Vinegar will rinse every bit of soap out and helps soften the clothes.
Baking soda or a bowl of charcoal placed in a closet will absorb the smell.
(See bathroom and kitchen cleaners above.)
Use toilet paper.
When I couldn’t get light bulbs, I would take one out of a lamp or someplace that wasn’t used very often and put it where I needed it the most.
I know paper is cheap, cheap, cheap, but I still hate to waste it. I cut up scratch paper into the size I want and staple them in the corner. This gives me several nice little note pads. If your kids are just scribbling and coloring, have them use the back of old homework papers. If they have to figure math problems, have them use old scratch papers for that too. When you are scribbling a note to other members of the family, use the back of scratch paper.
Definition of scratch paper: any paper that has been used on only one side and is no longer needed.
I got this tip from a reader and it works great. Swish your mouth with 1/2 hydrogen peroxide and 1/2 water. An added bonus is that it really whitens your teeth.
Use paper towels or small hand towels. If you use paper towels, you can often tear them in half since paper towels are often large.
Use rags instead. Cut up those old flannel pajamas, cotton T shirts, towels, and washrags.
Pet food, treats, and supplies
Of course, you can’t really do without food for your pets, but here are a couple of things that might help. There may be times when you don’t have the money to buy a large bag of pet food so, even though it is a little more per pound, you can buy a smaller bag and then maybe next time you’ll have enough money to buy a larger bag where you’ll get more for your money.
There was a time when I fed my dog rice with a couple of tablespoons of hamburger in it for a week. I had tons of rice, so it was cheaper for me to do that. I knew it wouldn’t hurt my dog because over the years the vet had recommended that I feed my dog rice every once in a while to get his digestive system back on track.
Treats of course are just that and are not necessary. Remember, I’m not saying don’t ever give your dog treats. This is just an idea if you need to cut back on this particular shopping list.
You can use a small piece of toilet paper carefully rolled around a bobby pin. Or check around for good prices on generic Q-tips. Just last week I bought a bag of 1000 generic Q tips for 50 cents at Walgreens. Sometimes, you can get great buys in unexpected places.
Clorox or denture cleaner works well. Often, I just sprinkle a little Comet in the toilet and it does a great job.
Years ago, people used to wrap rags around their fingers and use baking soda or salt to brush their teeth. I don’t tell you this so you won’t buy toothbrushes but so you will know what to do in case you ever find yourselves in a pinch without a toothbrush.
Baking soda or salt
These are a few ways to save until payday.
If you would like to know Jill’s story about how she raised 2 teenagers on $500 per month, check out her book, Penny Pinching Mama.