Category Archives: clothing

Hang Dry Your Laundry: Just Do It!

Speaking of laundry… Hang-drying your laundry is so easy, it’s something everyone should do! The sun is just sitting out there waiting for some laundry to dry for free. Even in Seattle, we keep the clothesline up year-round (though it doesn’t get much use from October – May).

We hung some rope from the house to a spare bamboo pole, and then back again, to provide two lengths of clothesline from which to hang clothes. And we added a drying rack for increased capacity. You can also see stuff hanging from chairs and even toys.

We’re blessed with a large deck that has Southern exposure, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do this inside, or on a small scale if you have a smaller yard.

There are plenty of other tips to increase the space on the clothesline: hang clothes from hangers or even an old umbrella frame.

And the proof is in the financial pudding. Dryers are one of the biggest energy consumers in the house. We just got our electricity bill for June/July (when we’ve been able to hang-dry almost exclusively). We used 387kWh per month.

According to the Government, “In 2010, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 11,496 kWh, an average of 958 kilowatthours (kWh) per month. Tennessee had the highest annual consumption at 16,716 kWh and Maine the lowest at 6,252 kWh.”

So we’re at about 1/3rd the national average. Granted, energy costs are lower for us in the summer, so let’s look at our family’s yearly average (the Seattle City Light bill gives you a nice graph of your yearly consumption), 811kWh per month. Lower than average, but we still have some ways to go before we can beat Maine! In February, our most electricity-consuming month, we use over 4x the amount of electricity we use over the summer!

Not only are you saving money, by hanging your clothes to dry you’re also helping save the earth. I love when those two things go together!

PS: Washington state enjoys the 2nd lowest energy costs in the nation (probably due to all our hydroelectric). But that doesn’t mean you can waste it!

A Supposedly-Frugal Thing I Actually Did Try Again

I previously tried a powdered laundry soap recipe, and concluded that it was too much effort and not worth the trouble for the minor cost-savings. As a footnote to that post, I mentioned a different, liquid recipe that looked promising.

When the homemade powder ran out, I decided to try that liquid recipe. Now that we’ve been using it at home for a few weeks, I’ve concluded that it’s great!

The recipe is from The Duggar Family, and is as follows:

  • 4 c water (heated in saucepan)
  • 1 bar of soap (I recommend Trader Joe’s oatmeal soap, it’s $1 and mostly free of weird ingredients)
  • 1 c washing soda*
  • ½ c Borax
  • 5 gallon bucket
  • Empty liquid detergent container (or any large-ish container with top)
  1. Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves.
  2. Fill 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved.
  3. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover and let sit overnight to thicken. (You’ll either need a very-long-handled ladle or a brave, clean arm)
  4. Next morning, stir well.  Fill a laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of way with water.

Shake before each use, as the mixture will gel. Use ¼ c per load in a front-load/HE washer or ½ c in a top-load/conventional washer.

Cost Savings:

The recipe yields 320 washes for top-load and 640 washes for front-load, so you might want to half (or even quarter) it as a trial run the first time. The ingredients cost about $6 total, so that’s less than $0.02 per load.

We used to use Trader Joe’s powder detergent which is $0.16 per load. We do about 200 loads of laundry a year and I estimate the recipe took about 30 minutes of my time, so I’m saving about $28 for a half-hour’s worth of work, or $56 an hour (more than I make at work). Plus, I know exactly what’s in the detergent and that all ingredients are safe, which is a plus.

In conclusion: totally worth it!

* To make washing soda out of baking soda, bake it for an hour at 400 degrees.

Update: This batch of laundry detergent lasted exactly one year for our family of 5.

Turn onesies into t-shirts

Lillia is potty training now, so she can’t wear onesies any longer. It would be a shame to get rid of them, so we just cut off the bottoms and turned them into regular t-shirts. Bam! New wardrobe!

That zig-zag pattern is accomplished by cutting with pinking shears, and it helps prevent the fabric from fraying. If you don’t have a pair of pinking shears, get a solid used pair and they’ll last forever. They probably feature in a craft project at least once a week around here.

(Dudes, I know it has the word “pink” in it, but they’re just scissors with sawtooth blades and that’s pretty manly when you think about it.)

New Kicks

On the way to work today, I walked pass this line of people waiting for a shoe store to open so they could buy the new Air Jordan shoes. The folks at the head of the line had been there overnight.

I remember when I was about 12, a new version of Air Jordans came out. I begged and pleaded with my mom to buy me a pair. She finally gave in and bought them while I was at school one day. I came home and tried them on. I looked at myself in the mirror and realized I looked ridiculous, and had her return them the next day. I bet I never even apologized for making her go out of her way to the shoe store twice.

I’m sure there’s a moral somewhere in this blog post. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Now the internet knows how much I spend on socks

I got this cute drawing on a receipt for socks I ordered online, and I decided to share it on reddit, the social news website. Not sure what I was thinking.

The first comment, from MikeOnFire, was actually a good question that got me thinking:

$44 for three pairs of socks? Wow, either I’m missing out or I’m pretty good with my money

To which I responded

Whether or not you’re missing out depends on how much you currently spend on your socks, how often you need to replace them, how much you like shopping for socks, the value you place on fashion/style, etc. Spending more or less for a particular item doesn’t necessarily make you good or bad with your money. It’s all about how much value you personally get out of the amount you spend.

In other words, nobody can impose their money values on another person. Beyond spending less than you make, being “good with money” can mean different things to different people. I don’t spend much on clothing over the course of the year and I’m not a fan of clothes shopping. So when I buy an article of clothing, I choose something that will hopefully provide good value, and last a while.

The most important things when it comes to money are having a healthy attitude, and sticking to your goals/values.  Actually those might be the most important things in life in general. Funny how that works.

My secret about jackets

Speaking of jackets, I have a little secret that I’ll let you in on:

My ski jacket is as waterproof and as clean as the day I bought it. That’s a pretty bold statement considering I live in rainy, outdoorsy Seattle, and the jacket is 10 years old.

The secret is a product called Nikwax. It’s really two products purchased together. The first preps the jacket by cleaning it. The second is the actual waterproofing agent.

A kit costs $20 and is good for about 5 jackets. I figure for that price (plus the negligible cost of running the washing machine twice and the dryer once) I’ve extended the life of our family’s jackets by at least 10 years. (The kids get cheapo thrift store ski jackets that they lose or grow out of in a year anyway.)

Frugality doesn’t mean not buying nice things. But it does mean taking care of the things you have so you can get the most use out of them.

Not caring what other people think. It’s hard.

The hardest part about being frugal is not caring what other people think.

I bought a coat at Value Village for $5. I assume it was priced low because it had a rip in the back, since it’s an otherwise amazing jacket that packs down small.  I’m not good with sewing but I’m really good at duct taping things.  So I taped the hole closed with waterproof duct tape.  That was 2 years ago and it’s still going strong.

Since the hole is in the back, I usually forget about it anyway.  I probably saved myself $50 – $75 compared to buying a comprable coat new.