Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

I Must Be Nuts

We are a one income family. Though we are luckier than most, we are starting to feel the economic pinch like everyone else.

We've never been lavish spenders; it's just a lifestyle we adopted when I became a stay at home Mom. We realized that we would have to change our way of thinking and our way of life if we were going to survive on one income.

For instance, we bought living room and bedroom furniture when we were first married, and 15 years later, we are still using it. Yes, it's ugly. It's ugly in the way that only teal green can be. But there's nothing wrong with it. So it graces my living room in all it's 1992 splendor. My sister in law has had three or four living room suites and several bedroom suites in that time. It boggles my mind.

Also, We drive used cars and we drive them into the ground. We carry only one car payment at a time. My van is almost paid off, which is good, because Husband's 15 year old Jeep Cherokee has now passed the 200,000 mile mark, and is ready to gasp it's last. He desperately needs a replacement vehicle, but we won't be buying new. We never do. We love Carmax and Carmax loves us.

We are lucky though. Even on one income, we do enjoy some extras. We have cable and high speed internet. We have a lawn service. (both Husband and I LOATHE yard work). We eat out when we please. Our boys both participate in extracurricular sports activities. I don't have to count every penny at the grocery store. But we make concessions to be able to afford those little luxuries.

Sadly, now that the economy has deteriorated, the luxuries are getting harder and harder to afford, even with our concessions. One by one, the little indulgences we afford ourselves are being eliminated.

I'm trying to cut corners, but it's really hard with two growing boys. Shoes and clothing lasts Pubescent One no more than a couple of months. And what's really disheartening is that because they are built differently (Pubescent One is long and lean, and Diminutive one is short and stocky) Diminutive One cannot wear his castoffs. THAT hurts.

Then there are braces ($116/mo.) which will soon double, as Diminutive One needs them as well, meds ($180/mo just in copays), and FOOD, which disappears in the blink of an eye around here. People told me about adolescent boys and food, but I didn't believe it until I experienced it myself. They are NEVER full. EVER. They can decimate a week's supply of snacks in just a couple of days. Seriously, I have to hide stuff and then dole it out in true skinflint fashion if I want it to last.

In short, my children are a yawning chasm of need, into which coutnless dollars are funnelled only to disappear into a sucking black vortex, never to been seen again.

I'm considering going back to work, but because Diminutive One has to be picked up from school at 2:30 (no bus service this year due to redistricting) it's going to be difficult to find something flexible enough to suit my needs. I'm really hoping to hold out until next year, when Pubescent One will be in Middle School. That will make everything easier.

But for now, I'm looking for ways to streamline our budget even further. I switched from my beloved Vanilla Lavender Tide to powdered laundry detergent. And I switched from Electrosol tablets to powdered dishwasher soap. But you know, even the powdered stuff is ridiculously expensive. A 95 load box of Tide costs $22! (I don't do cheap laundry soap, because it's definitely a case of getting what you pay for. It isn't cost effective if you have to wash everything twice)

Ree. Dick. U. Lous.

I started making my own cleaning solution a while back. Basically, Windex and the like are nothing more than Ammonia and water. You can buy a 2 qt bottle of Ammonia for 89 cents at the grocery store, so how does that translate into $3.49 for a 1 qt bottle of cleaner that is mostly water?

So I buy the lemon scented ammonia, invested in a couple of squirt bottles; one for upstairs and one for down, and made my own cleaner. It's cheap and effective. You can do this with white Vinegar as well. I think I might try adding some to my ammonia mixture, because I've heard it helps with streaking. As far as I know, mixing the two compounds does not result in a deadly cloud of gas, but I should probably find out for certain just to make sure.

But anyway...

I was watching "17 Kids And Counting" the other day and was inspired. Now, in general, I think those people are dyed in the wool kooks. But girlfriend can pinch a penny like nobody's business.

Turns out, they make their own laundry soap. And since they do something lke 80 loads of laundry a month, it came out to fractions of a penny a load. I can get behind that.

I think I'm going to try it.

I don't do 80 loads of laundry a month. But with two boys, I do a lot. And if I can save a little money on laundry soap, so much the better.

Here's the recipe:

1 quart Water (boiling)
2 cups Bar soap (grated)
2 cups Borax
2 cups Washing Soda

Add finely grated bar soap to the boiling water and stir until soap is melted. K
Keep on low heat until soap is melted.
Pour the soap water into a large, clean pail and add the Borax and Washing Soda. Stir well until all is dissolved.
Add 2 gallons of water, stir until well mixed.
Cover pail and use 1/4 cup for each load of laundry.
Stir the soap each time you use it (will gel).

Now, I don't really get the part about melting the bar soap. Because what happens to a bar of soap when it's submerged? It's dissolves, right? So it seems like a superfluous step to me. Couldn't you just mix it all up, let it "cure" so to speak...maybe a couple of days...and then stir it all up?

Maybe I'll just try to dry powder recipe:

One 4 1/2 oz. bar Fels Naptha or Ivory soap
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm and Hammer washing soda

Finely grate bar of soap into a lg. bowl (smallest grate on grater)
add borax and washing soda, mix thoroughly.
One batch fits into a Qt. canning Jar.

Use 1-2 Tablespoons per load of Laundry

Anybody have any experience with either of these methods?

Am I crazy?

I'm going to go through all this rigamarole of cooking soap only to end up with a gloopy, gloppy mess that doesn't clean squat. That's what usually comes of these type of ideas. Great in theory, in practice, not so much.

But what the hell. It's worth a try, right?


  • At 3:50 PM, Blogger jess said…

    Huh, it's a cool idea if it works. I wonder if there are any internet testimonials from people who've tried it?

  • At 5:25 PM, Blogger Amy Sue Nathan said…

    I don't like to fold and put away the laundry when it's easy to wash. This? I'd have the perfect excuse to not do it at all.

    "Sorry hons, I didn't cook the laundry soap today, turn your skivvies inside out and try me again tomorrow."

    I'll eat store brands and skip restaurant meals but I am not boiling bars of soap.

    But if you tell me it's fabulous...I may reconsider. In 2009.

  • At 8:56 PM, Blogger Kimberly said…

    I have a friend that does this. She says it is fabulous. And she has two toddlers, one of whom is, ahem, potty training, so you KNOW she has some laundry.

  • At 9:07 PM, Blogger Recovering Sociopath said…

    I'm Kimberly's friend.

    I have tried the powdered version AND the "boiling the soap" liquid version. I tried the latter because I wasn't sure the powder was always being fully dissolved in the washing machine.

    I'm using the liquid stuff I made now, but on the whole I think I prefer the powder version (I usually use closer to 1/4 cup per load than the two tablespoons). It seems to get the clothes clean, and it's easy and CHEAP. Plus, my kids are wonderfully entertained watching me grate the soap in my food processor. I don't know if I will ever go back to store bought detergent.

    Another thing I've heard is that you can use white vinegar in your Downy ball instead of fabric softener. I plan to try this once I'm through with my current supply of dryer sheets.

    Also, I'm making my own yogurt these days, in my Crock-Pot. SO MUCH CHEAPER than anything you can buy at the grocery store. The recipe is here:

  • At 8:01 AM, Blogger said…

    I figured out that I was paying big bucks for water when my middle child was caught licking a bottle of Windex and poison control told me that she'd have to drink a whole lot of Windex to get sick; there's that little ammonia in it. I stopped buying Windex.

    Is there a Barnes and Noble around you? Usually only 5 hour shifts at our store and great perks (coffee, cheap books...although I spend my paycheck on cheap books so...nevermind.)

  • At 11:48 AM, Blogger jean said…

    I would love to hear if this works for you. And while I'm thinking of it, how did using the Diva Cup work out for you? I'm not sure I am ready to give up the feminine hygiene products yet.

  • At 12:52 PM, Blogger Kim said…

    I frequent some frugal boards and a lot of people I know swear by the homemade stuff. However, the liquid apparently has the consistency of ummm ejaculate?! So umm let us know which you choose to try and how it works. I personally buy the cheaper liquid brands (Purex, Extra). They work fine for us and I have an extra dirty 11 yr old.

  • At 12:52 PM, Blogger Kim said…

    I frequent some frugal boards and a lot of people I know swear by the homemade stuff. However, the liquid apparently has the consistency of ummm ejaculate?! So umm let us know which you choose to try and how it works. I personally buy the cheaper liquid brands (Purex, Extra). They work fine for us and I have an extra dirty 11 yr old.

  • At 2:28 PM, Blogger Teryn said…

    Wow, I am going to have to try this. I'm right with you on the budget stuff. We are just about to switch to a no income family. Ya! How does that work you ask? I don't know. Are we crazy? Probably. My hubby is a med student and I just quit my job to stay home with our 10 month old. We'll see... I could definately use some cheap tips though.

  • At 2:59 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    Please, please follow up and let us know if the soap recipes work. I'll wait to try it until you perform the guinea pig role :)

    I have a friend who makes all of her stuff (I think laundry soap is the exception) and swears by it. I've been meaning to try myself, once my current supplies run out. I'm a hoarder of all products ~ even cleaning products ~ so that may take some time.

  • At 3:08 PM, Blogger Gross|Photo said…

    My kids have found a solution to their budget problems especially laundry and food... They bring their laundry to the house and do it in mom's machine and the husband shops in the pantry while Mom's giving the daughter hell about using her detergent....=) just a little humor guys....

  • At 3:42 PM, Blogger Middle Girl said…

    I don't need to stretch in the way I had to when the young man was home (food & shoes, oh my) but a buck is a buck is a buck and I can certainly use that buck elsewhere. I'm taking note of the liquid soap version.

  • At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We've been making the liquid version with the Fels Naptha soap for over 5 years now + using vinegar in the Downy ball. We have a water softener and a washing machine with a soak cycle, and the soap has worked great to get our 4 1/2 year old twins' clothes clean. I also do the homemade Windex thing; my recipe from some frugal board has rubbing alcohol and a tough of dish soap too.

  • At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How about "touch" of dish soap? Sorry!

  • At 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I have to say though, how does the homemade laundry soap work in front-loading machines? Because you know the HE stuff made for front-loaders is 1/4 to 1/2 again as much as the regular, of course.

    But, as costly as the machine itself is, I don't want to ruin it with soap that messes it up... Any further thoughts on that would be welcome!

  • At 7:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm going to be anon here, because I'm prbly breaking some rules by telling you this, but if you don't have the time (or just don't want to make) your own dish soap or whatever--BUY THE OFF BRANDS.

    I work in advertising. I get paid to tell you to buy the more expensive stuff, but *I* don't buy it. And I'll tell you why.

    1) Oftentimes a company such as P&G (who makes Tide) has an "off" brand that is exactly the same stuff, but not the brand name they have built up. In P&G's laundry detergent case, it's Cheer.

    2) Check out the ingredients of whatever you are buying. Oftentimes the off-brand and the "name" brand are exactly the same, with the exact same amounts.

    That said, I'd love to do some of these frugal tips, but I simply do not have the time to grate my own soap. I'm a one-income family of two (single mom) and I *have* to work if we want to have a roof over our heads and food on our table (even if it is cornbread and beans...)

  • At 2:14 PM, Blogger Jen said…

    We are in the same predicament and I recently did two interviews for positions I didn't really want. We'll see what happens, but here is what I know for sure:

    I also make my own glass cleaner. I used the recipe on the ammonia I buy and it calls for water, ammonia and rubbing alcohol.

    2 cups rubbing alcohol (70 percent isopropyl)
    1/2 cup ammonia
    1 tsp dish detergent (liquid)
    top with water until you have 1 gallon of window cleaner

    no streaks and SUPER CHEAP.

    I've heard mixed reviews on the laundry soap.

    I also buy the Lysol concentrate and mix with water for kitchen and bath cleaning. You only need a 1/4 cup per gallon so it lasts a long time! I find myself buying it every 4-5 months or so and I clean A LOT of stuff with it.

    Hope this helps!



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