• Like a bad penny, debt always turns up…

    unless we change how we interact with money, of course!

    The Bad Penny is dedicated to two pursuits: getting out of debt and staying out of debt! It recognizes that frugality and caring for our planet go hand in hand, and that our unsatiated need for stuff is hurting us in so many ways.

    Easier said than done!


    I am not a finance professional. I write about the world as I know it, and my advice may not be the best course of action for you! Please seek qualified advice for your particular situation.

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Cleaning on a Dime

A lot of people, including myself, swear by the “magical” powers of vinegar.

Okay, I don’t think vinegar is magical, but it’s some pretty good stuff.

I started using vinegar as an all-purpose cleanser when frankly, I didn’t want to afford the $3 bottle of bathroom cleaner, the $4 countertop cleaner, the $3 bottle of degreaser…and the list goes on.

But vinegar isn’t the only substitute for commercial cleaning supplies!  Check out this list:

The Bathroom:
The Toilet bowl: 
Dissolve stains with two denture tablets.  Even cheaper?  Scrub it!  Hydrogen Peroxide will disinfect any surface- pour it in at full Over-the-Counter strength and let it sit for several minutes.   Scrub and flush.  Peroxide can bleach colors a bit, so use caution when using.

The Counter:  This is where I love vinegar.  It has disinfecting qualities and does a nice job removing those dried water marks on the counter without leaving streaks.

The Shower/Bath:  I generally use vinegar on these as well, and baking soda to remove stains and soap scum (it freshens the drains a bit at the same time!)  I’ve been told Washing Soda is great as well.

The Kitchen:
Spray diluted vinegar and wipe off.   Anything that is extra greasy can be washed with diluted Dawn dishsoap, including the top of your vent hood and cabinet fronts.

Glass:  I have to admit, we still use Windex.  My husband insists.  But you can use a damp microfiber cloth, too.  Many people swear by diluted ammonia and a newspaper wipe afterwards to eliminate streaks.

Tile/Linoleum floors: That vinegar and water mixture?  It’s a great floor cleaner.  I discovered this mixture after the extreme dissatisfaction of using a Swiffer mop – the solution you buy to put in the mop made my floor sticky!  (Bad for me, but good for Swiffer accessory sales.)  Vinegar and water cleans well without having to rinse and without getting sticky floors.   As far as I understand, the vinegar/water mixture is safe for hardwood, too.

The rest of the house:

Wood Surfaces:  Real wood furniture craves moisture, especially in the dry months like winter.  To keep wood looking good, you should oil it weekly – I use lemon oil, which is available in the cleaning aisle, but  you can also use olive oil, walnut oil, or almond oil.  Lemon oil just smells good!  You can give your wood surfaces a sweep with an oiled cloth and it will moisturize and dust all at once!   This will also drastically improve the appearance and condition of your piece over time since it will prevent cracking and give the wood a nice luster.

Carpet Stains: If you have light colored carpet, a great stain remover is Hydrogen Peroxide (drug store dilution, as always.)  Be sure to spot test first, though, and you do this at your own risk!  I found that hydrogen peroxide will stain one piece of fabric and leave a near identical piece untouched.   Pour the hydrogen peroxide onto the stain, saturating the surface completely.  Use a scrub brush to work the peroxide into the stain, and let it sit for about 60 seconds.  Grab an old rag, double it several times so it’s nice and thick.  Place it on the stain.  Jump up and down on the rag (to soak up every last drop of peroxide.)  When you remove the rag, the stain should be gone.

If you have any color carpet, you can use a Dawn/water mixture instead of hydrogen peroxide.  One other method my father swears by (and his carpets are immaculate) is a diluted spray-on clothing stain remover mixture scrubbed into the carpet.  Of course, the most effective way to deal with stains is to get to them quickly!


On the Path to a Paper-less Kitchen

One of the principles of both environmentalism and of frugality is easy: “Don’t waste.”

If you don’t waste it, you don’t have to buy more. You don’t have to use up more resources. You don’t have to throw more away.

In that mindset, a few months ago I started avoiding the use of paper towels and napkins, among other paper products. In fact, I went so far as to go out and buy a pack of bartender’s cloths at Walmart for several dollars.

The Bad Penny's

I’ve also salvaged dish cloths, including many my mother-in-law gets during Christmas from her 3rd grade students. It’s not a pretty picture, but you can see my towel drawer above.

I avoid using these for the really icky things – the mice the cats like to kill and leave for us, blood from hamburger meat that gets on the counter. In the case of the blood, I don’t trust that our washer gets hot enough to kill any pathogens involved, and as for the mice, well…the thought of something touching my counter that picked up a dessicated mouse – no matter how many times it’s been washed – is just really disgusting!

I keep a small plastic wastebasket under the sink, and I throw the used cloths in there (another reason not to use it for hamburger blood!) When I go around collecting laundry, it’s just another stop.

To be honest, it’s so ridiculously easy, I don’t know why I didn’t do it before. It really doesn’t add any strain to my workload, because normally the small cloths will nicely fill up the last little bit of the washing load. And it sure beats going up to the Sam’s Club every couple weeks to buy another pack of paper towels!

But does it save money? Definitely.

We were buying about 4 – 12 packs of Bounty paper towels at Sams Club every year.   That’s $60 a year of paper towels. We were going through about a roll every week.

In the past six months since we’ve started using cloth, we’ve only had to buy a pack once – when we moved into this house. We still have about 5 rolls left. That means we’ve used about a roll a month! We’ll only buy one pack of Bounty in the entire year, saving us $45 (and considering our grocery budget right now, that’s a large amount.)

Of course, we have to look at the cost of the cloth, too. I can’t remember exactly how much I paid for our 10 bartender’s cloths, but I want to guess it was around $7. The rest of the towels were given to us or we’ve had them for years. Washing doesn’t cost any extra, because I’d be running that load with or without the cloths, so there’s no need to add anything for that.

This year on paper towels, we will save a net amount of $38 compared to last year. Next year, we’ll spend even less since we won’t have to buy more towels. Not to mention the amount of trash reduction! (It scares me to picture taking three of those 12 roll packs and just throwing them away. That’s a lot of trash!)

I’m keeping my eyes open for more dishcloths that  people are getting rid of!