Corners to cut

We’ve found quite a few new corners to cut this year, not because we’re hurting financially (though we’ve always had to be careful), but because we want to pay off some debts.

I shared some of our new savings in the comments over at Frugal Hacks but maybe some of you don’t follow that blog, so I would love to compare notes here as well.

Big stuff:

  • We line dry all of our own clothes. We have a large family so we generate a lot of laundry. We estimate that this is saving us $50/month, not to mention one less appliance to buy and maintain.
  • We are skipping the a/c. This is saving us $150-200/month.
  • When we gave up the a/c, we started buying a lot of ice for cold drinks instead.  I just realized that we were spending nearly $50/month on ice.  This week, we’re experimenting with homemade ice cubes.  Switching isn’t as easy as you might think because our water has a lot of minerals and bagged ice isn’t just convenient; it tastes much better.  But we’ll try.  Savings: $50/month.
  • We switched to cloth diapers and baby wipes. Savings: $30/month.
  • We canceled our trash service and started separating our trash.  The burnables get burned in a barrel with a screened cover.  Savings: $35/month.

Small stuff:

  • We started using baking soda & vinegar instead of shampoo and conditioner. We also switched from antiperspirants to a homemade concoction which has shocked me by working better than anything I’ve ever used! We don’t do these things for the savings, but that’s a nice little perk. Savings: $15/month.
  • We make our own laundry soap.   Savings: $10/month.
  • We have started using cloth for other household products, cutting way back on our use of paper napkins, paper towels, paper plates, etc.  Savings: $30/month
  • We invested in chickens this year. They live primarily on scraps so feed cost is minimal. Once they start laying, we hope to save $30-50/month on eggs and might have extra to share or sell.  Alternatively, we might find ourselves consuming far more eggs and saving on other sources of protein that we would have bought.

Future plans:

  • We hope to install a woodburning stove to heat the house this winter. We’re debating whether to go with a cheap/free model, or invest in a more efficient one.  We might save immediately by using a free one now and then invest in a better one in a year or two.  We expect to save $400-600 this winter.
  • We are considering one or two milk goats. This should save us at least $30-40/month minus the cost of feed.  Feed should be minimal since we’re hoping they’ll help clear the land by eating a lot of brush, though we’ll have to give them some grain if we plan to milk them.
  • We have talked about using passive solar energy to preheat our water, significantly reducing the energy consumed by our water heater. This is rather common here in south Texas. I estimate that it might save us $15-20/month, though I admit that’s nothing more than a wild guess.

This list is hardly comprehensive, and doesn’t include the other ways we’ve been saving over the years.  These are just a few things that have changed recently in our house.

What’s new in yours?


  1. You’ve inspired us to turn on our A/C off. We can’t just set it at 80, or whatever, b/c something is wrong with our heat pump and it would need constant monitoring. So I figured if you can stand mid-90’s in the house in Texas, we ought to be able to stand it in SC. We’ll try it at least for the rest of the month of August. Our most recent electric bill was almost $300!
    Thanks for the ideas and the inspiration!

  2. Roxie Meiske says:

    I am really amazed that you can go with out AC in Texas. I live in central Texas (near Austin) and every day for the past 45+ days it has been 100+ degrees. No rain in site, sever drought, and very high heat index.

    I do a lot of the things you do. I use the clothes lines, I do not use our heater in winter, I wash all laundry in cold water, and we have a nice garden. (this year our garden has burned up,) We are going to go for a fall garden this year too.

    We keep our AC set at 78 and run some fans. It does help to keep the air moving.

    Blessings to you and your family

  3. Things are way more costly this year. We too have a large family and it seems ‘frugal’ living has been our way forever. Where you said you may save 400-600 a month on heating with a wood burner I have to say I believe that’s an excellent guess. When we bought this old farm house 11 years ago we spent that much the first winter to heat. The next winter a wood burner went in. And now we have a cook stove we plan to install. Huge savings. We hang our clothes too, bake all our breadstuff, grind our grains, have tons of raw milk, eggs, and fruit available to us. Plus a big garden. It’s amazing how much money is saved from small things. We have 9 daughters with of them at home. For my 5 younger girls I make jumpers and skirts from sheets that I find at thrift stores and garage sales. My hubby gets his work clothes given to him and has for the last 18 years and for about the last 4 years or so my bigger boys can where his clothes so we rarely purchase anything for them. I’m sure if we all looked closely we could cut in many, many areas. And thankfully we are having a cool summer as we too aren’t running our AC. I know that just having a ton of eggs and milk available to us saves tons. My kids will eat eggs and drink fruit/milk smoothies all day long.

  4. These are truly remarkable adjustments you have made. The added bonus is that should we reach a point when we MUST live without these conveniences we take for granted, it will not be the same shock to your family that it will to most.

    I am currently visiting my son and family in Japan where the cost of living is through the roof and they are forced to be frugal. Last month this family’s water bill alone was $300 – JUST WATER. They thinktwice about long showers, extra laundry etc. Power and propane fuel is unbelievably high. I notice that they don’t dispense paper napkins, towels, etc. at home or in restaurants. We have come to rely so much on disposable everything and we waste so much in overpackaging – another reason to do more from scratch.

    In Japan, they carry their groceries to the car, bus or train in reusable containers because they have to pay extra for a plastic or paper bag. Wouldn’t it be wise to start this before we have to pay for the luxury?

    My son does the laundry and he hangs the clothes, often strung in bedrooms, kitchen and anywhere they can mount a rod or hang a plastic hanger. With lots of rain here, (and snow in winter in this part of Japan) they often don’t have the option of hanging outside. But, when they can there is plenty of support since everyone here is in the same boat – no snooty neighbors or ridiculous restrictive covenants that force unnecessary expenditures.

    Where I live incineration is against the law due to air quality concerns. I remember having these in the 50s and early 60s. It really cuts down on garbage. The local restrictions can make it hard at times but in this valley we do need to make changes for the good of the community.

    You probably use ceiling fans. I have installed these in two bedrooms as well as the living room and find them to be very helpful and cost very little. (Be sure they are switched the right direction depending on the season). How quickly we forget that we managed without A/C in the past – even in the car driving through the desert to Disneyland. I have no doubt that some places are worse than others without A/C or central heating. Here in northern Japan where climate is similar to Salt Lake where I live, only individual rooms are heated in winter when they are in use – thus the sliding walls and window coverings (paper, rice weave, bamboo, etc.). The children are very good at knowing to keep the rooms closed to conserve the energy and not let heat escape in winter. The same in summer but they only use A/C rarely in a single room. They have also learned that huge homes are not “needs.” There is much we could learn from different cultures.

    I guess my suggestion is just to consider all we take for granted and realize much of it is habit; not necessity. You are showing many great examples in your blog. Thanks

  5. Go for the Crown Berkey. When considering which Berkey to buy for our family of 11, I was thinking of one of the smaller ones (because the bigger ones were more expensive). My wise husband told me to buy the biggest one available. He was right! We now have 12 in the family, and, depending on the time of year, it gets filled (and emptied) at least twice a day. Summer and large cooking days require more fillups.

    We use the water for drinking, ice, cooking . . . and once or twice I’ve caught a child allowing water to flow from the spigot onto the floor to MOP THE FLOOR! Well! Doesn’t everyone purify their water in order to clean the floor? And this was from a child who was plenty old enough to know better. (No wonder we need to fill the Berkey a lot.)

    “Filling the Berkey” is on our job list. The six oldest children each have a day of the week in which they are responsible to do certain things, among those things is keeping the Berkey filled. The clandestine purifed-water-mopper makes up for their misdeed by being the best at keeping the Berkey filled.

  6. I’ve been a reader for a while, but I think this is my first comment.

    We’re in New England. It’s been so cool here this summer that we’ve used our window AC for only 3 days! Winter, however, is another story.

    We put in a woodstove. The chimney goes down to the basement. My husband cut vents into the first floor and attached fans to bring the heat up. For the next winter he is going to run large PVC pipes up to the second floor to pull the heat up there. When the fire is going well, it really does a nice job of heating.

    We’re on a learning curve, though, and we’ve also done a nice job of “smoking” the place.

    I line dry my clothes in the basement and there have been a couple of times where people have commented about our having had bacon for breakfast. Nope! Just another bad fire building job that produced a lot of smoke LOL!

    I’ve made my own laundry detergent for a while.

    I’ll be trying out your deodorant recipe. Do you use a powder puff to apply?

  7. I am excited that you shared the deodorant recipe. It must be working since you all are foregoing a/c in that hot Texas heat. Good for you!

    It was interesting to read this post. As well as see your update on paying off debt and your freedom from your other house! Woo-hoo! We really feel that God has told us to sell our current house so that we are not carrying a mortgage. Are there any farms for rent near ya’ll?

    If you are interested in seeing how God spoke to us on this issue I blogged about it.

  8. I have a $700/month basic living budget, including rent, utilities and food.

    so I think I’m good. 🙂

    We put all of our plugs on these power cable strips (microwave included).. and just shut them off at night.

    We cook at home. I do laundry once every week or two weeks, because we wear items 2-3 times or more.. and we just.. live 🙂

  9. We eat a lot of boiled eggs as snacks in our house–since I started buying the good eggs. It makes a big difference. I never liked boiled eggs before, and still don’t if it’s the regular store eggs.

    Bring them to a boil then set the timer for five minutes. The middles should be solid but slightly orange. I boil a dozen at a time and keep them in the fridge.

    In fact, while we were traveling we had a lovely picnic lunch of boiled eggs, cottage cheese, fruit, cheese sticks and homemade zucchini cookies. It was a good break from sandwiches.

    (Do you know anyone else who could go on for paragraphs about boiled eggs? I sincerely hope not.)

  10. We raise goats for milk and meat. One word of caution: Be careful letting them browse for their food. For one thing it may be difficult for them to get enough nutrients to sustain milk production. Another is that what they eat, they make milk from and you can possibly end up with some very strange tasting milk. They can also get into some poisonous plants which could cause some problems. Meat goats are easier to browse than milk goats. And since most goats are herd animals, some breeds more than others, you will need more than one. Combine the two purposes by having some of both types.

    Take care and good luck.


  11. Hi. I have been reading your blog for over a year and enjoy it very much. I’ve never left a comment before. But wanted to let you know that we too have chickens and goats. Actually we raise meat goats as well as having 3 dairy goats. The chicken feed cost is very minimal. But the goats…well what they eat will affect the taste of the milk. So you’ll probably want to know exactly what they are eating out in your brush. You’ll also need to feed good quality alfalfa especially when they are in milk. We learned the hard way and the milk at first was gross!! Once we learned what to feed, there was a huge difference. Hope this helps.

  12. Re: sediment in tankless water heaters – Much of the country has hard water. I’ve found that a quarterly vinegar wash takes care of any build-up.

  13. J,
    It gets pretty hot in the afternoon and early evening. Outside has been 100 nearly every day in July, and inside normally gets up to the mid 90’s, I think.
    We drink a lot of ice water, mist ourselves with the hose, and eat dinner out on the deck since it cools off earlier than indoors.

  14. Kim – another great idea for an ice substitution – I have see these little plastic ice cubes…you freeze, use them in drinks and then just rinse off and freeze again. I personally have never used them…but it is worth considering.

  15. I’m wondering just how hot your house gets without any a/c at this time of year. We have significantly cut back on using a/c this summer, but we live in Phoenix, and when we came back from a weekend trip a few weeks ago our house was 98 degrees! It was 117 outside, and it took over 24 hours of the a/c running constantly to get the temperature down to 89 degrees! Yikes!

  16. Here’s another recipe for homemade/natural deoderant that seems to word well:

    – 1/4 cup corn starch

    – 1/4 cup baking soda

    – a few tablespoons of coconut oil

    – an empty deodorant container

    1. In a bowl, mix together the corn starch and baking soda.
    2. Then, add in a few tablespoons of coconut oil, and mix. Add more coconut oil, if needed. You want it to form into the consistency similar to that of the store bought deodorants.
    3. Grab the mixture with your hands, and stuff it into your empty deodorant dispenser, and then you’re all done.

    Just another option :o)


  17. i live in pennsylvania so heat is our big must have. when we bought our house we also got a woodstove fireplace insert. we love it. our house was toatsy all winter and even though we have oil heat and hot water we have not had to fill our oil tank sine january. we are also looking into solar panels to off set our water heater and wells electricity pull. our biggest problem right now is too much shade. my husband has even toyed with the idea of chickens. so far that is a maybe until we find out if we can have them in our area.

  18. We line dry most of our laundry unless is rainy, which we haven’t really had to deal with much with this drought.

    We do use a/c. The tent and trailer are not livable w/o it and our freezers won’t freeze in the heat either. This one’s expensive but necessary right now…..Ouch!

    We do buy ice but that’s because our well is new and we don’t have the water tested for safety yet. But, the Ice House in Bandera has 24# of ice for $1.75, which is $1 less than 10 lbs of ice from the market. Their water is also 5 gal/$1 or .25/gal. We fill up our igloos with their bulk ice and then 2 gal of water. A MUST in this hot drought ridden summer. And cheaper and more healthy than any other cold drink.

    Still buying shampoo, but using it less because the vinegar rinse we now use cleansed our hair of the hard water mineral build up requiring shampoo much less often.

    We make our own laundry soap. Just made our first batch of goat milk bar soap. Make our own coconut oil/tea tree oil deodorant.

    We have our free range chickens and only rarely have to purchase eggs. When we have lots of eggs, that makes for a cheap breakfast!

    We have the dairy cow and goats for milk. This doesn’t save us any money, but the milk we have is fresh, raw and healthy. And, we’re learning how to make cheeses and soaps to make the dairy animals more cost effective.

    Rick is working on a passive solar water system right now. Have Perry ask him about it. Maybe they can spur one another on…..ur….I mean….work on our systems together : ) This should save us a lot with so many showers, so much laundry, and constant, unceasing dishes that need washing.

    We just had our first steer butchered. We butcher our own goats and other small meat animals. We cook and bake from scratch. Shop at Costco in large quantities and sales elsewhere. Fix our own vehicles when we can. And are praying that the Lord will provide so we can build our house without a loan.

    We need to improve on the eating out money trap. But, it is easy to get caught in town too far from home making that a necessary evil at times. We also need to learn how to plant our land so the forage is more useful to our animals thereby cutting down on our animal feed cost.

    Recording the Faithfulness and Provision of God for Future Generations

  19. Missylou,
    We’re in south Texas, so a/c is a big deal. Going without is a big savings, but it’s also a bit of a sanctifying experience, especially for certain of our children who shall remain nameless.
    The deodorant is 2 Tbs each of cornstarch and baking soda, plus 1/4 tsp. of tea tree oil. Just dust some under each arm after you shower, and be amazed. I think I figured that it cost 12 cents to make a batch, and it lasts for months.

  20. We have been working to think of simple ways to cut corners as well. Like you we aren’t hurting, but are hoping to pay off our home as soon as possible and every little bit helps! We have switched to homemade cleaning and bathroom products (for health reasons, but hey! we still save money). We live in a fairly “snotty” county so we have rules that we must follow – like no laundry lines. So we hang clothes all over inside the house – I have a wooden sweater hanger and we use the shower curtain rods and hooks hanging on doors and can save a decent bit of money that way. We also use cloth cleaning rags, towels, and napkins in the kitchen. And we keep the a/c almost off.

    I would love to someday be able to have animals and a wood burning stove. It can’t happen here and now, but maybe someday! Those just seem like two very practical options!

    Congratulations on the ways you have found to cut corners!

  21. You need to watch the tankless water heater. Our neighbor installs things appliances for a living. He just built their house and installed one of those. Because of the minerals in their water, it would clog quickly and then they had no hot water. He even called the company that makes them, etc. They tried everything. They eventually sent it back and now have a tank.

  22. Hot water – Consider a tankless water heater with a water activated switch. There are several on ebay, new and in the box. Also, most major hardware stores have them now.

  23. I commend you on your efforts. Well done. I would love to know more about this homemade deodorant. I am also curious about what part of the country you live in that you would be able to give up your a/c?

  24. lili,
    We used to own a Big Berkey water filter, and plan to get one again soon. We just haven’t decided where it fits into the budget.
    But now you’ve got me thinking about it again; if we were spending nearly $50/month on ice, that would pay for a BB pretty quickly.

  25. Hi!

    I’n suggesting something.. why don’t you buy a filter for water? some are really efficient and it’s a one time investment. That would allow you to make all the ice cubs you need with tap water.
    I hope it helps 😉

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