Thrifty Living: Washing on a Budget

Editor’s note: This is the first post in our new Thrifty Living series, which explores simple, concrete ways military families and consumers can save money without sacrificing quality or peace of mind.

When you’re trying to pinch pennies, the best place to start is the everyday stuff. We’re going to tackle your everyday grind and find where you can cut costs.

For this first installment, we’ll begin with that ever-present chore: laundry.

Get thrifty with your detergent

You can make your own laundry detergent with easy-to-find supplies for pennies a load.

Find Fels Naptha, Washing Soda (not baking soda) and Borax in the laundry aisle of your grocery or hardware store. Put 1/3 of the Fels Naptha bar, 1/2 cup of the Washing Soda, and 1/2 cup of the Borax in the food processor. Just blend, and you’re done. Use one tablespoon for light loads and two for heavier loads.

If you’re not a Do-It-Yourself kind of person, buy powered detergent (in bulk if possible) instead of liquid. It’s cheaper and will last for more loads than liquid.

Wash with thrift

Use cold water instead of hot water. Modern detergents work just as effectively in cold water, so you might as well save the energy costs.

Here’s another key: Raid your pantry. Substitute a cup of white vinegar for store-bought fabric softener. The smell doesn’t linger, and the vinegar will actually freshen your clothes.

And if your washer is more than 10 years old, you might consider buying a new one. When you do, opt for a front-loading model. They’re a couple hundred dollars more than traditional top-loaders but they use less energy. You’ll likely recoup the cost difference in about four years.

Dry thriftily

If you can, hang your clothes out to dry. Sunlight is a natural bleaching agent, gentle on clothes, and uses no energy. Instead of dryer sheets, try using dryer balls. They’re almost infinitely reusable, and in conjunction with that cup of vinegar in the washing machine bring all the fluffy freshness dryer sheets are known for.

If you pick one day to do laundry, you can run loads back-to-back, which keeps the dryer from reheating completely each time. And for efficiency’s sake, take a couple hours and give your dryer’s lint drawer and ventilation pipes a thorough inspection.

Shopping around

Just like with most appliances, a newer washer or dryer is generally more efficient. If you’re shopping around, look for models with the Energy Star label. That’s come to be the industry standard for energy efficiency. Also look for smart features like moisture-detection, water level options and automatic temperature regulation. They’ll make up for their added expense with efficiency.