3 Semi-Hippie Things I Do to Save Money

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So maybe you’ve heard (or perhaps you’re tired of hearing) … we’re getting out of debt. Not just kinda sorta getting out of debt. Oh no, we are all-in trying to be completely debt free.

To that end, I have picked up a few borderline hippie habits to save money, that I would not otherwise have been inclined to try. If you know us, we’re not that hippie-ish. I’ve discussed this before. We like red meat, we don’t grow our own vegetables, I don’t think twice about tossing poopy diapers in the trash. I slather Desitin and non-organic sunscreen on my babies’ skin, and I shop at Walmart.

Sorry, hippie friends. We can still get along. [I’m also not critical of anyone who prefers vegan, gluten free, non gmo sunscreen or whatever. I have a lot of friends in that category. I don’t really care, honestly.. To each her own.] 🙂

BUT, in the spirit of saving money at home, I have tried a few “natural mom” things that I’ve grown to tolerate and even enjoy. So, I figured, I’d share the love, for my hippie and non-hippie friends alike.

#1 Cloth Diapering

This is something I tolerate. I don’t love cloth diapering. I don’t think everyone and their grandma should exclusively cloth-diaper. Quite frankly, I don’t care about it that much. But, keeping Emma in cloth most of the time keeps our diaper budget under $15 a month. (I wrote this post about how we cloth diaper, what my favorites are, and how much money it saves… if you’re into that kind of thing.)

cloth diapers
cloth diapering

*Bonus: ridiculously cute cloth-diaper-clad-buns

#2 Sustainable Cleaning 

I use to be the queen of chemical cleaners. Then I discovered vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and Norwex! LOL

NEVER DID I EVER think I would make my own cleaning products or care about reducing chemicals. No way. I LOVED that lemony fresh cleaning product aisle.

But then I read some stuff, and realized maybe my chemical cleaners were doing more harm than good. Slowly, over the course of a few years, I took one step at a time towards my hippie friends who, as it turns out, were on to something with the whole stop-breathing-in-chemicals-all-the-time. 

VINEGAR DOES A LOT 

I guess I’m behind, but I had no idea that you could clean with vinegar. Vinegar is amazing. Apparently people have been using it to clean for decades, but when I “discovered” vinegar a year ago, I was amazed at how much it could be used for. #latetotheparty

The “discovery” happened when we lived in Boston and I ran out of cleaner. I was pregnant and without a car, and got a crazy urge to deep clean our kitchen. I searched “DIY cleaner,” and of course, vinegar + water was repeatedly suggested.

Technically, it’s not a disinfectant, so I stick to a hydrogen peroxide spray in the bathroom. (HP will discolor stuff… so don’t use it on wood!) 

Vinegar has a strong smell, but only for 30 minutes or less. Then it’s gone and everything smells and feels fresh. (Clean has no smell, my friends!! I am officially over the lemony lavendar fresh clean scent.) 

Cleaning with vinegar is easier for me too. I usually shop at Aldi which doesn’t have great cleaning product choices. So, I just keep a giant container of vinegar around and add it to water when I need more cleaner. Plus it simplifies my under-the-sink cabinet.

I added cheap essential oils from Amazon (lavender and lemon) to kick the smell a little more. 

YOUR SINK IS DISGUSTING – CLEAN IT WITH BAKING SODA

The other trick I picked up that crazy-nesting-deep-clean-night was baking soda on a stainless steel sink. You probably already knew this too. Amaze-balls. If you don’t believe me, try it.

Just sprinkle some all over your sink and then scrub away. You can use a wet cloth or a soft scrubber. Rinse with water and voila. Sparkling clean. When I’m feeling really crazy, I use an old tooth brush to scrub the grime around all the edges. I’m actually freakishly weird about a clean sink. It’s one of the only things I deep clean regularly.

I read once that people’s sinks often have more bacteria than their toilets and that was that. (because everything you read on the internet is true and they obviously had a lot of sound data to back up that claim…)

So, now I clean my sink a lot.

natural cleaning products

I don’t exclusively use vinegar and baking soda to clean my house. Vinegar is not a disinfectant, after all! And the vinegar + baking soda combo doesn’t quite get everything…

I wanted a sustainable option for the hard stuff! Like shower scum, old hard water stains, laundry, and all the sticky messes that kids bring to the table. 

After hours of internet research and trying several different “natural” products, I landed on trying Norwex.

It was a bit of an up front investment, but oh my goodness, a game changer!! (So much so that I became an independent sales consultant. But, this post is old, and I was using Norwex stuff before I started selling it. I’m just required to tell you that now!)  

Amazing Alternatives to Chemical Cleaners 

Lysol wipes as a disinfectant – useless.

Not only is it nearly impossible to use lysol wipes correctly (read the label on the back), but they just spread the germs around, as this video demonstrates.

Part of the disinfecting instructions include: pre-cleaning the surface (????) and making sure the surface remains visibly wet for 4 minutes. They recommend wearing gloves and washing hands after use too.

Now I use this envirocloth embedded with anti microbial silver. It removes 99% of bacteria from the surface (instead of trying to kill the bacteria), and then the cloth releases everything when rinsed under hot water.

Replace Pledge for dusting with…

this dusting mitt that is 100x better.

It uses static electricity to get EVERYTHING off the surface, plus it doesn’t leave a residue behind like dusting spray does. (The dusting spray residue actually attracts more dust to the surface… which means you have to dust more often.) 

This dusting mitt doesn’t spread dust around either. Once it fills with dust, you just shake it outside and keep dusting. I wash it once a month and it’s guaranteed for 500 washes. SO… it should last at least 10 years, saving me, let’s just say, at least $500 on dusting products?!? #nobrainer

Ditch soft scrub for toilets

I now use the envirocloth for the outside of the toilet and this non-toxic highly concentrated bathroom cleaner for the inside of the toilet with this self-cleaning toilet scrub brush. (So much less gross than the $2.00 white ones from Walmart.) 

Non toxic Alternative to Weiman glass cooktop cleaner

The Weiman glass cooktop cleaner works well. But, if you’re dealing with old food stains, or a ceramic cooktop, it gets a lot harder! Plus it’s a specialty cleaner that’s only good for one thing.

Now, I use this Norwex cleaning paste for ANYTHING that needs extra scrubbing… it has gotten old food off my stove, hard water off my shower, and sharpie off my walls.

Paste isn’t really the right word… It’s more of a chalky powder. You rub any sort of cloth or scrubber on the product and scrub. It will fix anything! And the container will last you YEARS.

#3 – Paper towels

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I hardly ever buy paper towels anymore. I think a Costco size package lasts me over a year!

Am I anti-paper towel? Nope.

Are they easier? Yep.

But can you do without? Yes. For almost everything.

Cleaning glass/ windows/ mirrors without paper towels 

I use this 2-cloth package to clean everything “shiny” – glass, windows, mirrors, stainless steel, car, etc… it works WAY better than paper towels + Windex.

Wiping kids off without paper towels or baby wipes

My first solution to kid messes was old t-shirts! I cut up old t-shirts and put them in a bucket under the sink. We never sprayed anything on them and we didn’t mix them with the cleaning rags.  

I only ever wet them under hot water, wipe kids off, and put it in the laundry. I wouldn’t really re-use them throughout the day or let them sit around. It is actually easier to wipe them off with a cloth than a paper towel too – more leverage & friction.

Because when they look like this, you need leverage and friction. 😉

IMG_2061

My newer longer-lasting solution to replacing paper towels is these kitchen cloths. Not only do they remove 99% of bacteria from a surface (or a child – lol) with just water, but they rinse it all out too!

AND they’re embedded with antimicrobial silver, which inhibits the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria within the cloth as it dries.

SO I can use one of these cloths for days in my kitchen to clean everything. I rotate through a 3 pack and wash them all once a week.

I do use paper towels for…

Bacon: there is no substitute. That I can think of. I usually have a roll of paper towels around for soaking up grease on the plate if I’m cooking bacon. Although now that I think about it… maybe just never soak up the grease. Yum.

Lettuce: I usually wrap washed lettuce in paper towels & store in a container to help it keep longer in the fridge. If I don’t have any paper towels, I use a towel, but it doesn’t seem to work as well for some reason.

So I like to have paper towels around for lettuce too. Usually we don’t need more than 1 roll a month. AT THE MOST. 

Next up: composting and DIY-toilet paper.

JK.

But seriously.

These 3 simple hippie-inspired changes add up in savings!

$45 monthly savings in diapers= $540/ year
$10 monthly savings in cleaning products = $120/ year
$15 monthly savings in paper towels = $180/ year

TOTAL=  $840/ year.

What money-saving tips and tricks do you have to share?

UPDATE 2019: We’re debt free. We scrimped and saved and worked and put EVERY EXTRA DOLLAR towards our student loan debt, paying off 6 figures in 2.5 years… with 2 little kids, and then 3. And then we had our 4th shortly after we were debt free. If you’re working towards being debt free (or thinking about starting a journey to pay off debt aggressively, go for it!! You can do it!! And it will feel awesome when you’re not giving someone else all your money.

I’ve recorded a handful of money-saving and budgeting tips on this blog because every extra dollar helps your momentum. Even not buying paper towels.

save money tips

p.s. this post was linked up at Motivational Monday & featured on Mom’s Morning Coffee.

30 thoughts on “3 Semi-Hippie Things I Do to Save Money”

  1. The comments on my site are turned off now, but I'd love to hear from you on Instagram! Follow me there & tag me in a comment or DM me. Xo I'm @MrsReneeCook on Instagram!
  2. I dabble in semi-hippiness and then get lazy about it, so thanks for the inspiring post! Also, I didn’t read all the comments so sorry if I’m repeating, but I have a tip to help with the bacon grease. Line a cookie sheet with bacon, put it in a cold oven, and turn the oven temp to 400•F. After about 15-18 minutes, you have a pan of crispy bacon (which freezes well in case this makes too much bacon for your family to eat in one setting). Drain the grease into a jar and store in the fridge, then use in cooking to add a pinch of bacon flavor to things like scrambled eggs or sautéed greens.

  3. I love the post and the title…totally made me laugh 🙂 I actually purchased some cheap hand towels at the dollar store and stored them in a glass container on my counter in place of the paper towel roll. It has made me SO aware of how often I would reach for a paper towel without even thinking about it! Although occasionally we still use paper (I am with you on the bacon), it feels good to go “green” with this idea. Every dollar counts when your paying down debt!

  4. LOL!! paper plates + cloth napkins 🙂 that’s us if we entertain large groups because it never occurs to me to buy paper napkins. haha!!

  5. I live in Oregon – for years in the greater Eugene area. Some things are just a natural outflow of that (reusable shopping bags for instance), but we’ve used cloth napkins our entire married life (32 years!) and I can’t imagine keeping packages of paper napkins around – what a mess they make. I grew up in a decidedly non-hippy home, but my mom kept a drawer full of cloth napkins next to the kitchen table, so I blame it on genetics.
    I followed a pinterest link to find you and I love your easy-going approach. Yes, I shop Walmart, no I don’t grow my own veggies. I use paper plates. With cloth napkins. Go ahead and laugh.

  6. yes – good point!! the alternatives aren’t free! we actually decided just this week that we’ll do disposable for baby #3 🙂 post coming soon!

  7. Like you and many have said, to each their own. I practically raised my baby sister who wore cloth diapers and vowed to never use them EVER! My son wore disposables.

    I just want to point out that sometimes the math isn’t correct. Yes, you literally stop spending money on the disposables, but when switching to cloth, you fail to add in their costs. First, you are doing way more laundering (washing and drying). That’s water, electricity and soap. And those diapers don’t last forever, replacements will be needed. That goes for the ‘rag cloths’ you use in place of the paper towels. I appreciate your quest to save money and pay down debts, but the alternatives are not free. 🙂

  8. i know what you mean! there are so many things that just don’t matter 🙂 no need to major on the minors. thanks for reading!

  9. You had me at eating red meat, tossing poopy diapers, using regular sunscreen, and shopping at Walmart! I have the same opinion as you-to each their own and nothing wrong with any of the above or buying all organic-whatever floats your boat. It’s so refreshing to find someone who isn’t extreme either way, just finding what works for your family!

  10. If you like the lemony smell of the cleaners you can add a drop or 2 of lemon essential oil to the mixture. Ive done this and i love the smell (it will cut the vinegar smell). Also lemon oil can be super cheap, from edens gardern oiils a 5 ML bottle is only 3.95.

  11. Tara – muslin is a good idea! I think I have some muslin fabric around somewhere… I wonder how the grease would wash out 🙂

  12. For lettuce – a well wrung or dry linen tea towel. Cotton is fine but not the fluffy type. It might work for bacon too. My husband uses muslin cloths for a lot of that kitcheny stuff.

  13. Lol – who knew menstrual cups would be such a hot topic. if this whole motherhood/grace blog doesn’t work out, i’ll have to start a menstrual cup blog. but first i’d have to try it, soooo yeah. i’ll stick to coupons and generic brand for now 😉

  14. We went with cloth diapers most of the time when our kids were little and yes, it did save a lot of money! I also agree that paper towels are the only way to go when I cook up bacon. 🙂

    I am cracking up about the menstrual cup comment thread – but totally agree! Saved tons of money and said goodbye to cramping so it was all good and I highly recommend it. Even though it is SO weird to talk about. LOL

    Stopping by from the Coffee & Conversation link party, and looking forward to visiting again.

  15. Renee,
    I LOVE this post – had me laughing AND learning at the same time!!
    Tip: for bacon: cook it on a foil-lined cookie sheet for ~20 mins @450, maybe turning over once. After it’s done, leave the sheet out to cool, then wrap up the foil and, voila!, no rags OR paper towel necessary1 Seriously, I had stopped cooking bacon because I ABHOR cleaning up after it… The guys in my family now think I’m a rock star again 😉

    Yeah, so I love this post so much we’re featuring it on this week’s Coffee & Conversation!
    Thank you SO much for sharing there…please do come back again…and often!

  16. hahaha!!! that cracks me up. I’ll have to check out your recipe. although i might have to start composting and baking granola if i make your wipes 😉 thanks for popping over!

  17. This post had me laughing, Renee! My husband has accused me of becoming a hippie for doing similar things! We actually started making homemade butt wipes (we don’t have a baby, ahem), and they are great for, well, their designated purpose. I imagine you could use them on a baby just the same, and they take only a few minutes to make. If you’re interested, here’s a link to my recipe: http://www.goodstewardclub.com/homemaking/diy-homemade-wipes/ By the way, they do require paper towels, but if you buy them on sale, you won’t find any wipes on the market that cost less. Oh, and you’ll get extra “crunchy” if you use the suggested peppermint essential oil 😉

  18. You wanna to stop a conversation in its tracks, tell someone you’re thinking about using a menstrual cup…. lol.
    I was the type of person that had long and heavy periods… 7 to 10 days… super plus tampons etc, etc. … fetal position for the first few days. Now it is 3 to 4 days (maybe), very light, hardly any cramps. You don’t have to babysit it like a tampon, which is awesome too… esp with 2 kiddos constantly in the bathroom with me. lol

  19. Whew we’re right there with you! It’s a big number but keep at it. The menstrual cup has me laughing out loud, literally! Hahaha! that is amazing.. it seriously shortened and lightened your periods!? I’ve heard about that hair thing too. But by Day 3 I’m such a mess. Hard to imagine making it to 30! THanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  20. We are in the process of paying off $80,000 in student loan debt. I have gone to cloth napkins, no paper plates, powdered condensed soup mixes (they taste SO much better) , gallons of vinegar cleaner homemade (so cheap at Sams, like 3 bucks for 2 huge jugs). Homemade brownie mixes.
    I am a huge couponer, and when I wasn’t able find tampon deals, I started looking at menstrual cups. (The me of 5 years ago would’ve cut and run.) I bought a cup for $20 bucks to save money and in turn made my periods shorter and less painful.

    I had a friend do the 30 days of not washing her hair, it is not supposed to stay greasy, etc. She did it to not buy shampoo/conditioner. Haven’t gone to that extreme, but she thinks I’m crazy for the menstrual cup…lol

  21. ha i had the same thoughts about ‘home made’ paper towels; or buying a package of cloths. I don’t remember where I heard that t-shirt idea but it’s so handy! i like having things around that i don’t run out of too 🙂

  22. We cloth diaper too. I love the idea of cutting up old shirts to replace paper towel use. I’ve been considering making reusable paper towels but I just haven’t wanted to spend the money…and who has time for that? We have plenty of old t-shirts that haven’t been worn in years so I’m totally doing this. We switched to cloth napkins late last year and have loved the saved money and less waste. I’m trying the homemade cleaner too. Love all these tips!

  23. As someone who hates the smell of “lemony fresh chemical cleaner,” I’ve been doing the vinegar & baking soda thing for years and love it! One tip: if you ever do clean something with a bleach-based product, make sure to wash thoroughly with water (or let a sufficient amount of time pass) before cleaning with vinegar – otherwise you get toxic chlorine gas that takes forever to clear even with fans running. Not that I would know from personal experience…

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