A girlfriend of mine was visiting last week. While we stood in the kitchen catching up, I was busy mixing up some scones. (I love baking from scratch.) As I finished rolling them out and putting them into the oven, my girlfriend let out a gasp that made me think she was about to collapse! “I would never have thought of that in a million years, Janine.” I was confused for a moment and then it dawned on me what she was talking about. I was taking all the flour from my countertop that I used to roll out the dough and I was putting it back into the flour bin. I have a fine mesh strainer I use for this process and I just sift the flour back into the main container. This keeps any dough lumps out of my clean flour. This system is so route for me I don’t even think about it.
One day over 11 years ago I had figured out how much money I would save a year by returning flour from each roll-out of biscuits, scones, breads, or pie crusts into the bin. It amounted to $5 for the year. So I went out and bought a strainer for $3 and have been using it ever since. Over the course of 11 years I’ve saved a minimum of $55 on flour using the sift-back system. I say minimum because when I first figured out the savings rate 11 years ago I wasn’t cooking from scratch as much as I do now. I make something using flour and rolling it out at least 4 times a week. Now you may think, “Janine, this is ridiculous! I mean, a $55 savings over a decade for this?!!! Not worth my time.” That is where you may be a bit short-sighted, dear one. I want you to think past the reference of scones and biscuits and think about all the products you use in your home every day or several times a week.
If you save a little bit on each of these products you will be saving yourself hundreds of dollars a year and thousands of dollars in a decade. Think about all those things you do during a week that may be costing you money because you use too much or you don’t recycle it within your own house. Here are some tips I’ve learned from various sources over the last decade that have helped me to save pennies a day that add up to thousands over a ten-year period.
• Washing Dishes – When you wash dishes in the dishwasher do you fill the cup all the way up with detergent? This may sound silly, but I tested my detergent in my washer by using less and less until I found the amount “required” to get my dishes clean. This amount is exactly one third the quantity the cup can actually hold. Now when I buy dishwasher detergent I dump it all out of the box it comes in and I put it into an old ice cream bucket (yes, I get the powder kind). I have a special scoop I use that has the exact markings on the side of it (I made the lines with a permanent marker) so that anyone in my family from Dad to the 5-year-old knows the exact amount of detergent to put into each dishwashing load. Side Note: I had a dishwasher repairman out to look at the hard water issues we have in this area of the country. He then told me that the rinsing agents now available for dishwashers actually keep the seals and rubber parts of your dishwasher in good shape and are worth the money to keep him from coming out to repair those pieces. Good to know, yes?
• Laundry – When you wash your clothes how much detergent do you use? Again, I used the same system here that I did for my dishwasher, I kept using less and less cleaning compound until the results showed (grey-looking whites) and then I brought the quantity of detergent up a bit and have used that amount ever since. Again, my scoop has special marker lines to show all members of the family just how much to use. My 7-year-old was teaching my 5-year-old how to do laundry and she suggested, “Then you add this much detergent to the load. Follow the Mom Line and it will be just enough.” That was payday for me!
• Toothpaste – Why do you put a full glob of toothpaste on your toothbrush? Do you spread out the gel so all the bristles on your brush are covered? You may want to rethink the quantity of paste-per-bristle ratio. If you look on most tubes of toothpaste they tell you exactly how much to use. On my particular brand, it says, “Put a pea-sized amount” on the toothbrush. Wow! That certainly is different from the packaging on the outside of the product as well as the commercials. I mean you can frost a cake with the amount of toothpaste they use, right? Okay, maybe that was extreme!
• Size/Color of Containers – Did you know there is a psychological behavior that the lower the contents of a container the less a person uses? Why not use this data to your advantage when it comes time to put out the hand soap, dish soap, shampoo, etc? I have proved this research to myself by putting small bottles that were half full of shampoo and soap in the shower for my family to use. It takes them longer to run empty then if I filled them full each time they got low. Next time you’re out shopping you may want to think about getting some clear containers for all your liquid soaps, shampoos and conditioners.
To some of you this list of tips might seem silly, extreme or down-right unprofitable, but in actuality it is amazing how much money you’ll save over the course of a few years by doing these simple little tests to determine the cost/benefit ratio of any particular product. I had one client tell me in exasperation, “Janine, it will take years for this to really make any difference!” My response to him was, “Well, how long will you be washing your hands, shampooing your hair, doing dishes and laundry?” Folks you’re going to be doing all of these things for the rest of your life, right? At least I HOPE so. A few of us may go bald between now and then, but for the most part there are hundreds of little things you can do to save money.
The point is this. Little savings add up BIG in this area. This is exactly the same principle that compound interest uses to create huge rewards by the end of a 30-year savings cycle. If you would like additional ideas on how to do more with less, I recommend you read Amy Dacyczyn’s “The Tightwad Gazette.” You can get it from most libraries and it only costs around $20 to purchase. You can also visit my web site to the list of books I have reviewed that I think are worthwhile reads for saving cash.