Generation Cedar

It may be very obvious, and then again, maybe not, but to me, the best theory about saving money (and what few take time to understand), is not under-estimating the small savings. I talked a lot about this in Finding Financial Freedom.

When you read a book like The Tightwad Gazette, it is tempting to think “re-washing ziplock bags doesn’t save very much money”. But the trick is that the mentality of “using less and re-using everything” multiplied across thousands of daily practices becomes a big savings–IF it is a mentality.

How far can you stretch it? How little can you use? There are so many areas to apply this! (Shucks…we’re still making a game out of how many little people we can stuff in the bathtub together 😉

My hairdresser was talking about how many people over-wash their hair–that washing it every day is not healthy for it. So how could washing your hair every other day save that much money? Hot water, shampoo/conditioner, electricity for hair dryer….Now, multiply that across the whole family. That’s just one small area.

Apply the same concept to food, washing detergent, peanut butter, toothpaste–anything consumable. It will add up!

Just an extra bit of inspiration!


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17 Responses

  1. It’s like having a second income, if, the wife is looking for every way to save a penny. It could “pay” for her to be home/home-school. 🙂

  2. I agree with a thought that someone mentioned recently. Menus are wonderful! We have used menus for years, and it not only saves money, it also saves time! I don’t have to stand in the kitchen at 4:30 and wonder, “What are we going to cook?!”

    It saves money, time, sanity, and removes the temptation to order pizza! :0)

  3. I’m just wondering… if the every day hair-washing that you mentioned was hypothetical or is it a unique situation with Caucasians. I’ve never heard of anyone of African descent washing their hair on a daily basis unless it’s ultra-short.

    You can tell on which side of the divide I fall for sure. So which is it? I really do want to know.

  4. Ruth (Love your name!!!)

    Some caucasians can go many days without washing their hair. I have thick, curly hair and can go a week without washing it. It does tend to get frizzier, bigger, but, never greasy or oily. I acutally have to put products in it to make it have shine/control it.

    My husband, can only go a couple of days. His hair is finer and looks greasy if he doesn’t wash it as often.

  5. Kelly, this is true! Being thrifty becomes a mind-set, and a good one. I wash out zip-lock bags, too. Here is another savings tip (I get made fun of for this one, and it probably doesn’t save much money, but it is part of the mind-set, like you said):
    I like to use paper napkins. What I do is (don’t laugh) I cut them in half. My grandmother did this. It seems wasteful to just wipe your mouth once on a thick napkin and then throw it away.
    I grab a handful of them, with the folded side facing you, then get the scissors and snip them in two, one after the other. It takes almost no time and you can do it while multi-tasking something else. Fold them in half or in triangles when you are done cutting them in half, so that they are easy to grab out of the napkin holder. Two packages of napkins for the price of one. A child could do this pretty easily and not cut herself, if watched.
    I keep some uncut napkins for guests, because I got tired of people saying, “What’s with these napkins?”
    Lots of people use cloth ones, too, which is a savings. When I was growing up, families simply passed around a cloth dish towel for the purpose, and threw it in the wash when they were done.

  6. Oh, washing your hair didn’t come into vogue until the 60’s. They even had a product called “Every Night Shampoo”. Before that, I remember washing my hair only once or twice a week.

    We didn’t bathe every day, either. Gross! But, that was the ’50’s. We used to think that your hair would fall out (really!) if you washed it every day.(But your eyebrows don’t fall out, and you wash your face every day!)

    But, in the ’60’s, hair was long and loose (the hippies!) and seemed to need washing more often. Before that, it was set on curlers and sprayed in place. If it was greasy, we didn’t notice.
    In the ’60’s and ’70’s, the “wet look” (hair plastered in place with Vitalis) was out, and the “dry look” was in. There was even a TV commercial that told us so! You had to wash your hair every day to achieve the dry look! A girl in my H.S. class put talcum powder in her hair to make it less greasy between washings. And, you could buy dry shampoo.

    How is that for a history lesson?
    I did a blog on grooming in my series on the 1950’s Housewife.

  7. Civilla,

    Cutting napkins–that sounds just like something I’d do, but actually haven’t–new stuff, I love it! I have torn paper towels in half.

    I also wash aluminum foil if it’s not too dirty.

  8. Good Points! It has to be a mindset first. We’re working our way toward that.
    I started using an organic shampoo/conditioner which is unfortunately more expensive, but it allows me to wash my hair every 3 or 4 days. Hubby has switched to the old soap and straight-razor method of shaving. More expensive upfront (for the re-usable razor and brush) but far more economical in the long run (no expensive blade refill/cartridges or shaving cream.)
    I know we have a long way to go – we had a dairy goat for a while for milk, but it was becoming alot more expensive than buying it : ( She required alot of grain to keep her supply up and she kept getting mastitis so $$ for meds was expensive.
    Gardening also doesn’t work well up here…it doesn’t help that I can’t even keep houseplants alive.

  9. You can iron the tissue paper that comes with those gift bags to make it look almost like new, so that you can use it again.

    Smooth it out on your ironing board and iron it, with your iron at a low setting, no steam. It works!

  10. I have cut napkins for a very long time. I don’t do that any more. Now when our children are at our home for a meal, they call everyone’s attention and say, “look, a whole napkin!? lol I know a very rich lady who washes plastic bags and makes cloth napkins. Each member has a special one and company has a different color. She tears off a piece of the fabric and ties knots at each end to keep the napkins rolled. I iron gift paper, too. I am so bold and gather it after the parties and or showers. No one is surprised at what I will do next. Just keep ’em guessing. Makes life interesting, I say.

  11. It has been my “job” to stay home, take care of the house/kids/animals/bills/etc…while my DH works full time and does a few other things to help us make money (trash picking/metal scrapping). I make it a game to see how I can stretch our money as far as it will go.

    We rarely use plastic wrap – instead when I go to the store and buy anything in a plastic tub, once the food has been used (or coffee, etc.) the container gets washed and then used for leftovers.

    I recently tried to experiment with things like using cloth toilet paper…DH said NEVER that some things were just meant to be thrown out! (Had to try as I had just read about it and thought that cloth diapers are used all the time and washed to be re-used so why not regular toilet paper?!?!)

    I also make our laundry soap – dish soap – hand soap, AND instead of fabric softener I have a sponge and vinegar that I use in the dryer. Surprisingly the clothes do NOT smell like vinegar and it DOES make them soft and static free. Plus you can buy a HUGE bottle of vinegar for less than $3 and it will last for quite a while. I use it as a fabric softener – to clean table tops & counters.

    I save tons of money just keep a supply of white vinegar, salt & baking soda – we use them for almost every cleaning need we have! I haven’t bought any regular cleaning products for so long. When I first started I figured out that I was saving over $50 a month doing it this way.

    I have taught my kids that before you ever throw something out to look at it and think if there is something else we can use it for. If we can’t find a use for it then we decide if it is recyclable or trash. My kids have occasionally found uses for things that even I haven’t been able to! It is a total mind-set. BUT it DOES work…we’re a family of 8 living on right around $20k/year, and while we don’t do trips to Disney every year…we are all healthy & happy!

    1. Erica, that’s great you are doing ok living on 20k. My husband was laid off in September and it took him 6 months to find a new job at less then half his old pay. He had some severance but that’s up now and I’m trying to find out how to make it on 24k a year with only 2 kids (my super slim teenage son eats a ton just to keep his weight up to anywhere normal) Do you have a blog or any other tips on how you do it?

      1. Hi Lisa!

        Funny that you mention the blog…I do not have one YET. I actually was thinking about starting one, but haven’t really figured out what to focus on and the process of starting one kinda scares me. (It’s a BIG job to keep up with a blog!) But I really feel like God has been forcing me to look at blogging because I have run into so many people that are struggling (many making more money than us – with fewer children) and I know that I may have come up with things that a lot of people just don’t think about. So hopefully one day there will be a blog I can direct you to! Most of the stuff I do was started out of necessity, we needed things and couldn’t afford them so I got “creative” to come up with solutions.

        To start we do not use credit cards – if there is no money, then we don’t buy it. Personally, I also don’t have a bank account but use prepaid Visa/MC and Money Orders on most things. When I started I had my husband (and me) keep every receipt from ANY purchase for one month of typical spending. It really helped me see where we both spent money and what we could cut out of our spending without hurting what we need. You will oftentimes be amazed and how much some purchases add up! My husband use to stop and get gas, then buy a pack of gum – pop to drink…sure it may have been only a couple of dollars, but that adds up if you do it a couple of times a week.

        I also went around the house and did 2 things – a quick look for items that we have and are not using that we can sell & to see what items we use the most and try to come up with cheaper alternatives. This led to me making our cleaners/soaps/fabric softeners…much cheaper and without harsh chemicals! Items that I can sell end up on Craigslist or eBay…money gets split in half with part going to bills/expenses and the other half gets set aside for any deals I find to make more money. Perfect example – we just got a Sony Bravia 46″ LCD flat panel TV (OUT OF THE TRASH!)- it was dropped but the screen did not break. Instead it has minor flashing on the screen that is more irritating than anything. Right now I am researching options for the TV. I can just sell it to a local guy for roughly $50-100, or part it out on eBay and make quite a bit for each part. OR I can dib into the money and have it repaired and then sell it for $400-500. Honestly any option will work – we got it for FREE so anything we make on it is “profit”.

        I also started going through the house with a changed mentality…if I don’t have it to use, then what will I use instead? No plastic wrap – plenty of butter storage containers and the like were already piling up in the trash weekly, so I started washing them out! I keep glass jars from spaghetti sauce & pickles, etc and use them to can with instead of buying canning jars.

        For meals – we have a garden that I use to can/freeze from. I also utilize a “food pantry” that I found locally that sells meat from a Trader Joe’s at 1/3 of the regular price. (For less than $20 I can get enough meat for a week for the whole family.) I also double check prices on food that we buy – make sure I am getting the best value and not what looks like the best price. (Some stores actually break down on their price tags the price per oz/unit. If they don’t make sure you take a calculator so you can quickly figure it out.) Also – we do NOT eat out, and I make everything from scratch. Exception would be bread, because sometimes the kids refuse to eat homemade bread for their sandwiches. I use a simple Amish “Friendship Bread” recipe that I got from an Amish lady while visiting her farm years ago. It can be made like regular bread, or have extras added to make it more like a meal (pepperoni, peppers, etc.), or add items to make it sweeter (pudding, bananas, chocolate chips, etc.) – so it’s a real good one to have around. (I keep the starter all year and add to it as needed…I also use it to make gift baskets for Christmas gifts!) Make as much as you can from scratch – it will save you a lot. I even have an herb garden that I dry out to have them without the high prices the stores charge.

        A basic rule of thumb we use is the Reduce – Reuse – Recycle. Before ANYTHING goes into the trash it has to be looked at to decide if it really IS trash or not. I save old paper to make “new” recycled paper out of with the kids – this can also be used to make as a gift – or use it in our bonfires. Metal cans get labels removed & washed out then set aside to recycle (get some of your money back from purchasing them). Glass/plastic jars get the same treatment. Food scraps go into the compost pile for the garden(s). For bigger items we have started going through them as a family to see if anyone can find a use for them. Even the kids can get involved in this – my youngest has helped me see a Barbie house out of an old broken down book shelf…a couple coats of paint and some imagination…all of which we had on hand so it cost us nothing but time. And before you throw stuff like this out if you can’t find a use for it try posting it for trade or free on Craigslist depending on what it is. I have met some like minded people on Craigslist that have helped me come up with ideas & suggestions to help us out.

        This one get some people – trash picking. Many people turn up their noses at this idea…I use to also. But then I started seeing what some people threw out and realized that we are definitely a throw-away type society. We have gotten a lot of items to sell from other people’s trash. We have also gotten into scrapping doing this – we can fill up our scrap trailer each week and make a ton of money doing it. I also discovered that getting the kids involved in this can be helpful. When the older kids aren’t doing anything they can help tear an appliance apart so we have different types of metal – basic scrap, copper, motors (they will pay separately for these at most places if they are already removed from the item they came in). The least we have ever made scrapping was $50 for a van full – and it has gone as far as $600 when we spent the time tearing items apart & separating the types of metal. Best part is even if you sell an item for $5 – it didn’t cost you anything but a little time and maybe some gas.

        Basically it really does boil down to mind-sets. If you make up your mind and say there is NO money and I have to provide this…this…and this…then start looking for ways you can do it without digging in your wallet. To be fair, I did set aside a ‘nest egg’ to be used if we NEED something and don’t have the money…but I refuse to use it unless I REALLY need it AND I always make sure to put the money back that I take from it because sometimes you forget and then get hit with an emergency like a blown tire that you don’t have the money to replace!

        (Which remind me – BUY used as much as possible! Clothes, toys, movies, tires, etc…you will save a TON! I don’t buy new items for Christmas & Birthdays but shop on Craigslist, eBay, the trash and then clean the items up and maybe add something homemade to them…the kids don’t realize it’s used and you can stretch your money further. I was able to get a laptop for $50 for one of the older kids for Christmas on Craigslist instead of spending a fortune, or just giving him stuff he didn’t want.)

        If/when I get my blog going I will try to let you know…maybe Kelly can help me let you know when I get it going. My oldest son has begged me to let him create my blog and I think I may just let him help me out so I can focus on posting the blog contents. (Sorry this was so long but I was trying to just hit on key points that I use since I really didn’t have anywhere else to direct you to!)


        1. Wow, thank you for taking the time to write all of that! As my husband now has employment I have been praying and praying how to make money myself that wil help fill in the gaps that his eduction in pay has caused. You have given me several. An additional blessing is that my 16 yo son is very intereted in entrepreneurship made more so that his dad was laid off from a corporation and struggled to find another job. My daughter is 15 and adopted from China 2 years ago. She is very into the lifestyle of ‘less is more’. Please let me know if you do start a blog. I’m working on that myself. I am leaving my e-mail address and would love to hear more as you have time. Blessings,Lisa

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