I recently learned that I am shockingly cheap. We had a water treatment/filter sales guy come by the house the other day to give us a fancy presentation and try to sell us his filtration system. In exchange for listening to him talk, we were going to get a $20 Home Depot gift card. With all the house projects we have going on, we could happily use that money, so we agreed to have him come, knowing we weren't going to buy his system.
I always feel a little bad about that kinda thing, letting someone try to sell me something, just so I can get the free stuff. I know we're not going to buy anything, so it feels like we're just wasting their time, and for that I feel guilty.
He was here for about an hour and a half, during which time I got thrown up on twice because it turns out Kylar wasn't quite over his stomach bug yet. His presentation would have been shorter if we didn't get interrupted by vomit, kids needing drinks, neighbors needing the water guy's truck moved, and just life in general. But hey, that's parenthood, right?
Part of his presentation was to fill out this survey, estimating how much you spend on each category of cleaning supplies in a given month. He didn't like my answers. He was impressed at how frugal I was and said (several times, you can verify that with my husband) that I should write a book about how I save all this money. I thought "well, a book might be overkill, but I'll definitely write a post about it!"
According to the water guy, the average family of four spends approximately $75 a month on cleaning supplies. That astounds me. I truly hope that's not true for you, but if it is, keep reading and let me help you change that!
Let's break this down by the categories of his survey, shall we?
I use Charlie's Soap. I prefer the powder, because I know I can get every single tiny granule and not waste an ounce by simply pouring the remaining bit into the new bag. It comes with a plastic green scoop and I recycle the scoop and bag when they're done. I have ours set to send automatically so I can get an extra 5% off from Amazon, and it comes every 3 months. That's right, one bag of laundry detergent lasts 3 months. I love it! And that's with doing 3 loads of diaper laundry every week. Can you imagine how long this stuff will last once we're done with diapers?!
Honestly, we don't really have anything that fits in this category and needs special care. I wash my bras in cold with the rest of the laundry, and I hang them to dry. I don't own fancy lingerie, because I truly don't see the point. Mike's work shirts are all thicker material because he works in a warehouse, and neither of us wears anything that's "dry clean only." I don't have the time or patience to deal with that kind of nonsense.
I switched to wool dryer balls at the beginning of May. I've talked before about my zero waste solution to dryer sheets, and I'm happy to announce that (along with being considerably more eco-friendly) this change has saved us a decent chunk of change, and it will continue to do so over the years to come. Wool dryer balls are meant to last through about 1,000 loads of laundry. That's where they come up with the estimated 2-5 years. I honestly haven't done the math to see how many loads of laundry I do in a week/month/year, but even if I conservatively say these balls will last only 2 years, that's still a ton of savings!
$11.89/2-5 years (average life expectancy)
$0.50/month (assuming the balls only last 2 years)
I bought a bottle of Shout like two years ago. Barely use it, partly because Charlie's does such a great job of getting most of the boys' stains out, and partly because I don't care that much. If a shirt is stained beyond repair, we donate or toss it. That rarely happens anymore, but it was an annoyance when they were babies, learning to eat real food. Now? I rarely use any special stain remover. Our detergent gets out 90% of the stains on its own. Including poop from the cloth diapers, spaghetti all over their pants and shirts, and grass stains.
I completely forgot we even have bleach. I never use it. Mike uses it to mop the sun room sometimes, but when I was initially filling out this survey, I didn't even remember we had a bottle, how long we'd had it for, how long it lasts, or how much it costs. Now that I've had time to think about it, I have some approximate answers. One big bottle of bleach lasts about 2 months, and (clearly) I never use it. We went through bleach more regularly when Riley (my old girl dog) was still around. She was incontinent and would pee in her sleep. A lot. That isn't really an issue anymore.
Hand-washable Dish Soap
I buy Dawn, when it's on sale and when I have coupons. Under my sink right now, I have three unopened bottles and one mostly empty bottle. I use the bigger ones to refill the little one on my counter. One big bottle lasts about six months. Not kidding or exaggerating. Those bottles can be stretched for a long time. A little bit really does go a long way.
$2.00(approx, depends on sale)/6 months
For the longest time, I preferred dish pods, but when we moved into our current home, the dishwasher that came with the house was old and crappy. Those pods would get stuck in the detergent slot and not melt or circulate properly. I ended up washing the same load of dishes twice, just to get them clean. I decided to go "old school" and now I use Palmolive liquid detergent. It's cheaper and it cleans so much better! It's been three months since I bought this bottle and it's still nearly half full. That baffles me. I run the dish washer every other day, like freaking clockwork. I imagine I'll get another two months out of this bottle.
Vinegar: $2.48/2 months
Dawn: $2.00/6 months
Baking Soda: $0.49/3 months
Sponge: 6 for $1/6 months
Toilet Bowl Cleaner: $5.09/1 month
Total Approx $6.99/month
I've been switching us to bar everything because it's cheaper, you use every last bit of it, and there's no waste! It comes in a recyclable cardboard box. What's not to love? I've been trying out different bars, but my favorite has been Softsoap Earth Blends. They smell delightful and leave my skin feeling clean without drying it out. One bar is still going strong after about a month of use. We started this bar while on vacation, and I expect it will take another month or two to finish it off.
We buy Johnson & Johnson for the boys. The shampoo/body wash lasts about 2 months.
Adult soap: $3.47(2 bars)/6 months
Kid soap/shampoo: $4.19/2 months
Designer & Medicated Soaps
I'll put face wash here, because there's not another space for it. I was using this Walmart brand liquid face wash, and a bottle would last about a month. I finished my last bottle off a couple of weeks ago and have since switched to this Walmart brand facial bar. It smells AMAZING and it leaves my skin feeling clean and light. I have no idea how long it will last, so I'll have to update this post when it runs out. Until then, we'll use old math and go based on the liquid price.
Hand and Pump Soap
When I was teaching (4 years ago) I stocked up on a bunch of $1 bottles of what I thought were hand sanitizer for my classroom. Turns out it was soap. I'd bought 10 bottles of this stuff. I'm still using those throughout the house. That's $10 for soap, and it's lasted at least 4 years. I like that math. Not to mention I still have 5 bottles under the sink!
Lotions and Body Oils
I never buy these. I get gifted lotion at Christmas, sometimes by multiple people. I don't remember the last time I paid for lotion.
Shampoos, Creme Rinses & Conditioners
I've switched to bar shampoo and it's wonderful! Zero waste win! A two ounce bar of this shampoo lasted a month, almost exactly. I'm also using this conditioner. I have been using .7 ounce sample bar for about a month now and it still has a few weeks left in it. I bought 2 of the sample bars. If each one lasts 6 weeks, that's three months of conditioner!
Mike doesn't like the bar shampoo, so he's finishing off the stuff I bought before. Some Garnier that I bought when it was on sale.
Bar Shampoo: $5.91/month
Bar Conditioner: $7.26/3 months
Bottle Shampoo: $2.00/3 months
Total Approx: $9.00
Time to total it all up!
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