Whether you’re trying to be more self sufficient, more green, saving the extra money to go towards other projects, or just plain cheap - here are 5 steps may help you towards your goal…
1. Reduce the amount of disposal things you buy.
Things like Razors, soap, body soap, shampoo and tooth paste are all consumables - things you just use up and have to keep buying . While no one wants to give up all their consumable products (think toilet paper) there are some things you can give up. The easiest are things like paper towels. I haven’t purchased paper towels in years and I don’t even miss them. Dish rags work better, last longer, do more jobs more efficiently and are reusable. I use white ones and wash them in bleach to sanitize them. A bigger step would be that you can start using a straight razor instead of a disposable one. Once you buy it, a little honing can keep it going for a long time. If a straight razor is too intimidating, you can opt to use safety razors. While they do use “consumable” razor blades, they are far cheaper and have a lot less waste than the typical disposable razor. For the soaps, there's many tutorials online that show how to safely make soap and shampoo. If you aren’t comfortable working with lye to make it “from scratch”, there are lots of “semi-homemade” recipes as well. If that’s still too big of a step, try reducing the number of soaps you buy as a first step. Many years ago, I decided to compare the labeled ingredients between soaps marked, “hand soap” vs ones marked “body soap”, etc. to see what, if any differences there were. You know what I found? Most soaps are made with the same basic ingredients. In fact, one particular manufacturer actually had an identical ingredient list, in the identical order, on both their “hand soap” and there “body shampoo”. The only difference…The Price. They were charging almost 3 dollars more for the same amount of the same product, by labeling it under “body shampoo”. Sometime just being mindful what you throw away can tell you what money is being wasted. Smart Shopping, as I like to call it, only takes a few minutes to compare 2 items in the store (or online) but can save you a lot of money in the long run. Furthermore, while making your consumables might take some up front cost now (and some trial and error to find what you like), it will be pennies to the dollar later, and gives you the benefit of reducing the amount of harmful chemicals that you come into contact with on a daily basis.
2. Repurpose items and containers
The possibilities for this are endless, but there are a few, really easy ones you can try now. Start by focusing on your waste. Take old food or coffee containers and use them as storage buckets and bins. I would use food or other containers not previously used for chemicals to be safe. Old, clean paint cans, paired with a roll of toilet paper and some rubbing alcohol, can be used as easy, makeshift outdoor burners. You can use that for heat to stay warm or as a cooking tool. Another way to reuse is to look for old buildings in your area that are going to be torn down. Sometimes the owner will be selling the materials for salvage, but many times they just want the building gone. You can contact the owner to see if they are willing to let you keep any of the materials, if you are willing to remove them yourself, and free of charge to him. Another good source of free/recycled building materials are community service projects and/or volunteer clubs that help in building (or rebuilding) houses. You may able to find ads in local papers or online places like craigslist, and I wouldn't pass up the barter section just in case someone wanted to trade their materials for your general labor.
3. Learning skills that can save you money in the long run
Learning how to maintain your automobiles, tractors and general equipment can help them last longer and save you the markup on parts and the cost of labor. Sewing sounds like something that doesn't come up much but sewing your favorite jacket or jeans back to a wearable condition can keep you out of the store. Likewise, being able to repurpose Mom or Dad’s old shirt, into Baby’s new gown saves the expense for something they are likely to outgrow quickly (and saves the landfill). Another good skill is Cooking from scratch. Yes - it does take a little more work than popping a pre-made dinner in the oven, but you know what's in it and how fresh it is. If time is a factor, see if you can make larger batches of it and freeze the extra for later use. These next skills are not are not learned over night however there is a lot of free classes at hardware stores and books that can help you get more of a grasp of the theory and practice when you can. Things like basic electrical trouble shooting, basic plumbing, light carpenter work/wood working, drywall repairs, painting /staining and mason work are construction based skills but the more you know, the less it costs you. Getting the basics down will help you trouble shoot and do repairs at your house, homestead or farm which will save you thousands over your lifetime. A commonly overlooked skill to learn is Medical / Vet basics . Everyone knows how to apply a bandage, but what do you do if it's a large puncture wound or a serious infection? Yes it's recommend to ALWAYS see a doctor, but if you’re hours away from a hospital it would be good to learn how to stabilize someone in an emergency as you’re traveling to get help. Basic first-aid classes are available at most community colleges and YMCA/ Recreation facilities, sometimes even free of charge. The same goes for animals - whether it’s a cat, dog, horses or livestock - any information you can learn to keep them healthy too, helps.