Freakishly Frugal

Frugal Idea #1. - Eliminate as many paper consumables as you are comfortable with.  
Notice I did not say as possible, because there are a few paper consumables that are possible to eliminate that I am just not comfortable with yet. *Though I make it a point to never say never anymore - Because I have previously and adamantly said no to most of the things on my current list.* 

WARNING:  I am about to get very personal here.  You are probably going to find out things about me, that you may never have wanted to know.  Also, I know this list is not going to be for everyone.  We all do different things to cut costs, and that is what makes sharing our adventures so much fun!  

I looked for a list of paper consumables on the internet, but was unsuccessful, so I will just let you know what we have replaced around here.  

These diapers were made as a gift and aren't made out of t-shirts or receiving blankets.
The first thing I replaced was disposable diapers.  This was something that terrified me for years.  I would research and then chicken out.  It seemed like a good deal, but just too gross to tackle.  Then there was the upfront cost.  Since I was starting this with my 4th child and not my 1st it was hard to see purchasing diapers as a real long term investment.  But after some encouragement from a friend we took the plunge.  It's not for everyone, and it's certainly not glamorous, but it has worked really well for us.  I ended up making all, but a couple of our diapers out of t-shirts and receiving blankets, so our investment was minimal.  We still purchased a diaper sprayer and covers.  I also had to buy things like elastic, PUL and snaps to make the diapers.

If you are using cloth diapers it's actually easier to use cloth wipes.  You can just wipe their little bums and then throw the wipes in with your diapers.  I tried to continue to use disposable wipes for a while, but it wasn't very practical.  I always found myself wandering around with a befouled wipe in my hand looking for an appropriate trash receptacle to throw it away.  

The cloth "paper towels" at our house are just squares of cut up receiving blanket.  I had quite a few blankets from my own kids and then had some graciously donated by Sarah when she found out I was turning them into other things.  I use the cloth towels just like you would a paper towel.  If the spill in question it too gross for me to consider washing and reusing - I just throw it away.  I know that that is not super "green" of me, but I'm doing this for the savings first. 

With all the other changes, napkins just seemed like the logical next step.  I used receiving blankets for everyday, and then "real" cloth napkins, from when we got married, for company.  Just yesterday I made some new everyday napkins that the girls and I are going to embroider during "Pioneer Days."  Those are the ones in the picture.  
In case any of you are wondering, after using the cloth towels
 and napkins, I throw them in a tiny lidded trash can in the kitchen.  
When it is full I wash them with a load of towels.

#5 ok...now...deep breath....MENSTRUAL PADS-
I seriously considered not putting this one on here.  Now I feel like when I see some of you face to face, you are going to be wondering "Is she wearing one right now-ewwwwww!?"  But I'm trying to keep it real, and part of being real is being vulnerable.  This one was my biggest mental hurdle.  Fact is, I didn't even like pads, much less reusable ones.  And though I could handle the washing out of poo because, after potty training 3 kids, it was already something I had experienced.  Washing out blood, not something I ever wanted to experience.  Yet here I am.  I could probably write an entire post on this subject alone, but I am going to spare you the details and just give you a few quick reasons that I use them.  
a. Cost savings
b. Shorter periods
c. Minimal to no cramps
d. Comfort
d. I'm stark raving mad.
In case you are curious, here is what they look like.
I have never actually tried purchased cloth pads,
but my homemade ones work just fine. 
Folded up and ready for travel.
Now these are the things we are doing.  The next one that I will probably add to my list is cloth kleenex. I am ridiculously uncomfortable with snot, so a hanky is out of the question, but cloth kleenex I just might be able to deal with.  

Now I know some of you are probably thinking, "How much does a person actually spend on Kleenex, paper towels, napkins...?" or "How much would I actually save by doing any of this?"  The answer - I have no idea.  All I know is that if I'm not buying something I'm saving money, even if it's only $5 a month by foregoing paper towel purchases.  

Also Sarah mentioned in the comments earlier that some friends of hers had to discontinue using cloth diapers because of their water bill.  This really peaked my interest.  I certainly didn't want to be saving money in one area only to be losing in another, especially when poo is involved.  So I checked our water bill.  Our water bill went up $3.00 a month when we started doing cloth diapers.  It has gone up another $4.00 since this summer.  I'm not sure what changed in the summer, but there you have it.  I wash the other cloth things with loads I would have been doing anyway, and I don't think they make too much of an impact.  So, for us, the water cost doesn't outweigh what we are saving, but that is something that you would need to examine for yourself.  In case it makes a difference, we just have a regular old washing machine - it is not high efficiency.  Now as far as the impact the water usage has on the environment vs. less waste in the landfill - I have no idea.  This is just what is working for us right now.  In the future, who knows?

If nothing else I hope you enjoyed a tiny peek into my world.  I know I am always curious how other people do things in their homes.


  1. You must have A LOT of receiving blankets!! This post was very enlightening. I would have to say the reason that I don't do all of the things you mentioned is because I have never really thought about it too much...mostly the cloth paper towels and napkins. My husband has said if we switch to cloth diapers he will never change another diaper, so since we plan on having more children, I'm not going to test that threat out (I'm assuming that goes for cloth baby wipes as well). Thank you so much for being so honest!

  2. I have quite a few receiving blankets, but probably didn't use as many as it sounds like from the post. I also remembered that Elisa gave me a couple and I want to give credit, where credit is due!

  3. Great post, and way to take the plunge on sharing about the pads ;) I think that changing diapers and potty training totally changes ones perspective and handle on what is "ewww". You forgot reusable nursing pads- remember when we thought those were gross? =) That was one cost I was so glad to give up- there are never sales or coupons for those. Question: What is the difference between a handkerchief and a cloth kleenex? If you're going to throw it away, why not just throw away a tissue instead of cloth, which, as you have shown us, has so much other potential? And if you are just going to wash it, than isn't it a handkerchief? I'm so curious now...

  4. Sorry. I guess I consider a handkerchief something that you keep in your pocket and use multiple times before washing. I am thinking of just making like 20-30 "kleenexs" and washing them after one use. Does that make sense? I've heard/read that they are much easier on a red nose. We'll see what happens. And you are right, I did forget about nursing pads. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Wow! Thanks for being so practical. When I answered your questions about what paper products we replaced I never thought to mention handkerchiefs. I grew up using cloth hankies and never thought that others would think them gross! And I loved cloth nursing pads too.

  6. I like to think this is me outing myself as a lurker, but Sarah N. has known I read this blog too! :) I just wanted to say, way to be brave about the pads! And I wanted to offer a similarly themed saving alternative: I use a Diva Cup, and I previously had the Keeper. It's more a tampon alternative than a pad. Takes a little mental adjustment to get all up close and personal with such things, but it's uber easy to use, extremely easy to clean and care for, and is not actually that gross. And while it's about $30 up front, it's saved me a bundle: the Keeper lasted me 9 years, I kid you not. That's $3 a year. I don't think I would have survived Peru without it. It is a traveler's dream because you can keep it in for up to 12 hours without leakage or TSS worries. A fact I can personally attest to. Just a frugalicious thought! (Oh, and they have two sizes...one for you fine ladies who have brought life into this world and one for those of us who haven't quite yet.)

    Love the blog, ladies, even as a non-contributing lurker! -Liz (Sarah N's lifelong friend)

  7. Gina-Like I said, I'm personally uncomfortable with snot. I'm not sure why, but it makes me gag. So I don't think you are gross at all, I just have a hard time with it myself.

    Liz-Ha ha, you've been outed - In more ways than one I see. Thank you for sharing about the Diva Cup or Keeper. I have often wondered about them, but didn't know anyone that used one. It's always nice to have a personal testimony and not have to trust advertisements. You are now the second person in 30 minutes I've found that uses one. I just may have to pick one up!

  8. HAHAHAHA!!! Jeni, I heart you! I was with you until I read #5!!! YOU GOT GINORMOUS BALLS. :) I wish I was that comfortable with all things girly girly.

    You're my hero!!!!!!!!!!!


  9. Jeni - I recently found your new joint blog of course at your other blog!! Love the pretty design. And, the direction of sharing.

    After reading through this whole post I thought I should share with ya'all an even far better reason to switch from disposable to cloth whether be it diapers, personal pads, nursing pads, etc..One I learned years after my last diapering.Actually just a few years ago. Yes, landfills are filling up, the statistics apparently are out there of the horrendous amount of disposable diapers dumped, read an article once. I would like to know who surveyed the landfills of America for their stats!!! Aside from that the clincher to going cloth is that all the above have chlorine in them that is harmful to the skin and your skin absorbs it. Purchasing clorax and its use has the same effect as these products so against your skin. An product that has been hard to stop purchasing but I think I have finally gotten to where I can go totally over to white vinegar.

    So just for the pure fact of better health what one has to pay in the end washing cloth really doesn't amount to much in my estimation. Because in the end your saving far more money not buying disposable anything.

    And gals to let you know I along with another friend, unknown to each other calculated an estimation of how many cloth diapers we changed the day our last one graduated to big boy / girl undies. We both had 2 girls / 4 boys. We both had even accounted for the fact that boys go through far more diapers than girls ( we had put 4 cloth on at night for the boys / take into account these were not the fancy cute cloth diapers they have today ). After calculating time period per child from first diaper on until they were potty trained and all the other variables we both came up with very close to 7,000 diapers!!! Now consider this in cost of cloth versus disposable. I cannot even imagine what our monetary costs for that many would have been back then if we had used disposable.

    Another great money saver is making your own laundry soap - I've been doing it for 2 years now and it's costs about 3-4 cents per load to wash a full load!!

  10. Guess what! There are many people in the world that can't drive over to Wal-Mart and buy Pampers or napkins. Glad to hear that finally someone in this country has figured out you can do without these conveinent things and still have a life!!

  11. All I can say is ... you are awesome, amazing, and yes, thanks for not asking us to live up to that, because I has some serious gross-out issues (not with you - with me), that maybe I need to work through! BUT, thanks for being honest and sharing about it all, even as you were hitting "post" it might have felt risky. I kinda feel like a resourceful-flop, but I'm okay with it and maybe I can stretch myself a bit here ...

  12. Jeni, and all of the other brave women out there. there was a time when we didn't use disposable anything and our best choice in these times is to run back to what is tried and true. My Grandmother had it right when she said we are all so spoiled these days. I believe she had the truth of it. I, too, am trying to do the right thing and stop being lazy, spoiled, and wasteful. The only thing you listed that I'm not doing is the menstrual pads, Reason is that I don't menstruate any more. Had I seen this Idea long ago It would have been one I would have tried. I am recomending them to the daughter in-laws and Grand daughters. There is one idea we have started using in our home that I didn't see here and it has saved us lots. We no longer use toilet paper. I know ewwww. Well I love it as we use cloth wipes after using a squirt bottle to rinse with. I feel cleaner by washing rather than taking paper and just smearing it all around. I used old t-shirts to make little squares for our "wipers". I have a small trashcan with a lid for them to go in beside the toilet and I wash them with the washcloths and towels. Works good for us. Hope this helps others.

  13. Thanks for being brave enough to share. I didn't put it in this post, because it wasn't something I thought I would ever be comfortable enough to do. I have since used them off and on, but haven't converted my family and haven't been consistent with them. This is on my to do list for this fall and winter. I think I can, I think I can. It's always encouraging to hear that I'm not the only "weirdo" out there!