12 Ways to Save on Household Expenses

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Household expenses like cleaners, soaps, furniture, maintenance, and energy costs are all things that you can adjust with a little creative thinking.

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Five years ago, our lives were turned upside down. We finally faced the music of the consumer debt we had piled up. It amounted to over $16,000. We decided to get serious about the debt.

It was hard.

We looked at our expenses and combed through them with a fine tooth comb. We did things that previously we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing. We literally sweated away our debts.

There are some expenses like mortgages and car payments that are static. You can’t really change them. But other costs, like household expenses, can be finessed and massaged. You can reduce them if you think creatively and are willing to be weird.

Here are twelve ways to save on household expenses:

1. Make your own cleaners or get them cheap with coupons.

There is no reason for you to pay exorbitant prices on household cleaners. Years ago I found that I could combine coupons and sales and get everything we needed for very, very cheap. I still do this for laundry detergent, rarely paying over ten cents a load.

In recent years, I’ve gone green with many of our cleaning products. I buy a ginormous bottle of vinegar at Costco for about $3. We use that to wash windows and clean countertops and other surfaces. We pay virtually pennies for all-purpose cleaner.

Spray bottle and cleaning rag on a wooden table.

2. Use less soap.

Years ago in an interview with dishwasher manufacturers and repair specialists, I read that most “detergent cups” in automatic dishwashers hold more soap than you really need to use. In fact, they said don’t fill the prewash cup at all and only fill the wash cup halfway full!

We’ve been doing this for ten years and have had great success with using less soap, not to mention saving at least 75% on our dishwashing detergent.

3. Go ‘poo free.

I didn’t think it was possible, but my boys really prefer Tsh’s method of hair washing over traditional shampoo. I don’t buy them any shampoo at all which saves us a tremendous amount in toiletries expenses.

This is a good thing because on a recent trip away from home, I explained to one of them that he only needed to use a dime sized amount of hotel shampoo. Apparently, he was using A LOT more than that previously.

(Full disclosure: Over the last year I’ve splurged on my hair care. Age is catching up with me. ‘Nuf said. So, this isn’t a method I personally use. I don’t  impose it on my kids, though. It’s been their choice — and hey, it saves us money.)

A wood dining room table with a stack of napkins.

4. Look for used appliances, furniture, equipment, etc.

I love IKEA with the best of them. And when our budget allows, we go there for what we really want at a fair price. However, we’ve also had great success shopping off Craigslist. We’ve even found practically new IKEA pieces to match the ones that we currently have.

We’ve find some great deals on Craigslist over the years, like this grill and these chairs that are still going strong three years later.

5. Look for coupons or deals on maintenance services.

If there are regular repairs and maintenance that you need done, write up a list of those things and keep your eyes open for coupons and deals. If you have a list of yearly jobs that need to be done, you’re more likely to be mindful of those things than when you need to get it done on the spur of the moment.

6. Do it yourself.

But, if it’s a job that you can do well and have the time to do, consider doing it yourself. You’d be surprised at what you’re capable of doing — without a “professional”.

For instance, years ago when we lived in Kansas City, we need to run the sprinkler lines clear every fall so that we didn’t have water in the lines that would then freeze and bust pipes. Guys would drive down the street with big compressors, offering their services for a fairly steep fee. Hubs researched the procedure and found out he could do it himself — for FREE.

If you know how to fix things, you can save a lot of money.

7. Keep a record of your household possessions.

We talked about this last year; having a record of your household possessions can save you much stress, heartache, and expense in the event of a theft or natural disaster. It doesn’t cost you more than a few hours to make this record, but it can pay off big time if the unexpected happens.

8. Set your thermostat for money-saving temps.

We sweated it out in extreme summer heat years ago. Setting our thermostat at 82 in the summer was one way that we could cut our costs. Yes, it was miserable — Crystal remembers how much so — but debt was worse. Likewise, in the winter we set it at 62 and wore lots of sweaters.

A programmable thermostat is invaluable in helping you shave off some big dollars in heating and cooling costs. Check out Rachel’s tips for AC maintenance to make your home cooler and save you money.

9. Weatherize your home.

Weatherizing your home for the heat of summer and the cool of winter is another way to offset your energy costs. Consider window stripping, storm windows, and other energy-saving tweaks to keep the cold air where it should be, depending on the season.

A close up of a recyclable bin.

10. Recycle to reduce trash service costs.

Depending on how your city manages waste, you may be able to reduce the costs of your trash pickup by recycling more. We found this to be true in the past. By sorting our recyclables out of the trash, we were able to use only one trash can and reduce our pick up costs.

11. Dejunk and organize.

When I clean out closets and storage areas, I’m always surprised by the treasure I find. It usually does one of two things:

  • Convinces me that I never need to buy another thing for the rest of my life.


  • Reveals some household items that we could put to better use, thereby avoiding expenses in other areas.

Cleaning out your “stuff” can help you spend less or make better use of what you have. Plus, you can sell your discards and put some coin in your pocket.

12. Don’t compare.

This is probably the hardes t thing when money’s tight. Or even when it’s not. When we compare ourselves and our situations to other people, we can often think that we’re lacking.

Keeping up with the Joneses rarely pays off – in our pocketbooks or in our hearts. Be content with what you have – and try hard to do the best you can with it.

Certainly these aren’t the only ways to save on household expenses. But, they’re a start. Depending on your family’s goals, preferences, and lifestyle, you can put these to work for you and help you save money.

This post was originally posted on July 20, 2012.

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  1. I walk to the store instead of driving and i take a cart you can get for 20 at a walmart or kmart store. I repair most things myself.I learned myself or watched utube videos on line.I grow most of my own vegetables and fruits.I cut my hair to use less shampoo.When you get older you don;t need the long hair.I shop at goodwill stores.I take in thrown out furniture and refinish them.I make my own concrete stepping stones with a patern you can get at a hardware store.I shop at garage sales.I check local listings for church food banks.I make my own chocolates and give them as gifs.I bake and cook from scratch then save the rest for leftovers.I shop for the end of summer and winter sales. as well as after holiday sales.

  2. Interesting about the Baking Soda/Vinegar for shampoo. I had to laugh in remembrance to the look on the barber’s face when I told him we used baking soda to get the chlorine “gunk” out of my kids’ hair with being on a year-round swim team.

    He acknowledged it works but warned about how harsh it can be–of course recommending the anti-chlorine shampoos which are EXPENSIVE.. Sounds like a bit of the vinegar rinse would help counter act some of the effects he was describing. Not having that at the time I looked at my boys’ short hair and calculated—- eh, it’s short, it will grow back soon, baking soda, it is.

    Just FYI, For chlorine hair, I lightly dampen hair, sprinkle baking soda all over and rub it in. They rub it in as they rinse it out in the shower and then shampoo as normal. Swimming 3-5x a week, year round, this was a hair-saver. 🙂

  3. I am so glad you posted the vinegar tip, I have never done it but I am seriously considering starting now. What do you do about the smell? It isn’t exactly a fresh and clean smell! LOL…but I guess since vinegar is easier on the pocket I will convince myself to be easier on the nose!

    1. I just put a little peppermint extract (about a teaspoon) in the bottom of the sprayer bottle, then fill it up with a mix of vinegar and water. It smells much better.

  4. I’m trying to save some cash so I’m slashing meat expenditures, ramming through our stockpile, and turning up my thermostat by two degrees. Every teensy tiny bit is helping.

  5. What do you use to clean your floors? I have wood floors and vinyl.

    1. We have tile and vinyl and use a steam mop which uses distilled water.

  6. I think the only time you *need* to use bleach is if you have a stomach bug in the house. I’ve read that is the only way to keep from passing to other members of the household.

    May I ask where you get your spray bottles? Mine always seem to crack within a month of purchase. So frustrating, and so not frugal!

    1. I have bought a few at Walmart and have had hit and miss luck. I’ve also repurposed some Shaklee bottles that I received as a gift.

  7. Great tips! Glad I’m not the only one who uses vinegar in the bathroom and kitchen… I’ve wondered if it cleans them well enough.
    Added my link #30 – 10 Ways to Never Throw Food Away (without resorting Aunt Sue’s Leftover Pie).

    1. Well, if it doesn’t, then we’re both doing it wrong. The bottle of Heinz vinegar says that using it at 100% disinfects all kitchen cutting surfaces.

  8. I’m fascinated with the no-poo tip. With 4 children doing showers, we can go through shampoo so fast. I think the kids can handle the spray bottles suggested by Tsh. I’m not sure how well no poo would work on colored hair, though my hair color might last better and longer.

    1. DON’T use it on color-treated hair. My mom tried that and got busted by her hairdresser.

  9. Do you use vinegar as a bathroom cleaner? I’ve been using Clorox Clean-Up for years, and I’m having a hard time convincing myself that vinegar kills germs as well. I guess I really like the b-room to be sanitary. =)

    1. I use bleach in the toilets and anywhere that might be really gross. But, we use vinegar for counters and mirrors and vinegar+baking soda for tubs, sinks, and shower.

      1. I just saw at Walmart today “cleaning vinegar” made by Heinz to a higher acidity level, especially for cleaning. Curious.

  10. My FIL is an appliance repairman and he’s always said you only need half the recommended amount of laundry detergent. I’m not sure this holds true for the environmentally friendly cleaners (I’m currently using Method and they’re suggested amount seems spot on) but a bit of experimenting should make it clear how much you really need to use.

    Unfortunately, I’ve found I need to use more of greener dish soaps than regular ones. For handwashing at least (no non-human dishwasher in my house). Dishmates is better along these lines than the other brands I’ve tried.

    In terms of DIY stuff I couldn’t agree more. Of course, one needs to be realistic. A few years ago we needed a new garage roof and my husband decided to do it himself. Unfortunately, he greatly underestimated the number of shingles needed. By the time we bought all the supplies and paid a friend to help us we only saved $300. That’s not nothing but considering my husband spent 2 weekends on the garage roof (months after brain surgery so I was nervous the entire time!) and we had bags of the old shingles sitting around for a year I wish we would have just paid a contractor!

  11. My One Rule for a Neat Home keeps the place looking so nice that I feel much more energetic and able to do some (not all LOL) of the things you suggest.

    And I don’t need to hire a housekeeper or an interior decorator like some do.

    But I could never have the house at 62. Even at 68 I’m wearing undershirts, sweathers, and sometimes scarves, in the house and drinking lots of tea…and shivering. Sometimes all I can think about is being cold.

    I used to be able to do it, though, and here’s hoping that when I get healthy we’ll be able to have a cooler house in the winter!

    1. My mom recited that rule all throughout my childhood. It never worked for her. I’m so glad it works for you!

      We use cornbags in the winter to help stay warm. It makes a huge difference.

        1. I’m guessing so? They’re filled with dry feed corn and you can microwave them to heat them up. I need to make some more. We love them!

          My sister made me one filled with flax and lavendar, that is my favorite.

          1. Same idea. We fill socks with raw white rice and heat in the microwave.

  12. I love Ikea too! I have several pictures of leather couches that we saw there on our last visit on my i-touch. They act as inspiration to save money up for a new couch, although we will be searching Craigslist for similar leather couches at a reduced cost as we save, because with children in the house new doesn’t stay new very long, so I am more than willing to save the money buying used.