A LIFE ON A DIME’S FRUGAL & ECO FRIENDLY FINDS

A LIFE ON A DIME’S FAVORITE FRUGAL & ECO-FRIENDLY FINDS
frugal and eco-friendly finds

THE NEW BEGINNING THAT LED TO OUR FRUGAL & ECO-FRIENDLY EFFORTS

One of the goals I set when we moved into our new house in March of 2018 was to keep as non-toxic of a home as possible. I started small, switching to Thieves Household Cleaner and using a few therapeutic grade essential oils. But I didn’t stop there! I first thought it would be a fun idea for a post last summer, so this post was definitely a long time coming! Here are three of a Life on a Dime’s favorite frugal and eco-friendly finds to date.

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

FAVORITE FRUGAL & ECO-FRIENDLY FINDS: THE ONE THING THAT CLEANS EVERYTHING

frugal and eco-friendly find 1

That pretty much sums up Thieves® Household Cleaner. It is a powerful plant-based cleaning concentrate that literally works for everything! There is a whole line of Thieves® products, but I have found that I get my money’s worth just purchasing the Household Cleaner and the oil itself. Using this one product I clean my kitchen, wash the dishes, do our laundry, clean the showers, and once I’m out of the Ecover, I will also use it to clean the toilets!

One to two capfuls diluted in a full-sized glass or stainless steel spray bottle is potent enough to get all the surfaces in my house clean! There are countless recipes to be found for just about every cleaning need. The best part? Even though I use it to do all those things, one bottle lasts me over six months! This makes it a very safe AND economical cleaning solution!

COLOR-SAFE SHAMPOO FREE OF SULFATES, PARABENS, DYES, ETC…

frugal & eco-friendly finds 2a

I must admit, I did love Young Living’s Copaiba Vanilla shampoo and conditioner. It worked really well for my color-treated hair… until it didn’t. The problem with essential oils and hair color is so many of them will damage or strip the color. The good news is I used the shampoo up and the conditioner that’s left can double as a body lotion! Copaiba is a very relaxing scent, so I think this will be my new bed-time moisturizer. I have heard that vegetable glycerin can be added to natural shampoos to help with this problem, but I have not tried it yet.

I know coloring my hair isn’t that eco-friendly; in fact, I debated just last month if I should cut it short and just stop dying it, but here I am an auburn again! I am seriously tempted to try Madison Reed color. Has anyone reading this tried it? I’d love to hear! But, I digress…

Then I was excited to try a shampoo bar. Just think – clean hair, less clutter in the shower, and only a paper wrapping to recycle?! It sounded wonderful. It said it was safe for color-treated hair so I gave it a try. There was just one problem; try as I might it never fully felt like it rinsed out and by the time I finished blow drying my hair I felt a sticky residue on my fingers! My hair also looked a bit greasy. Not good. Not good at all. But, since I am frugal and like to “use it up” I still used the bar til there wasn’t really anything but a paper-thin sliver left.

Enter my new frugal and eco-friendly favorite: Love Beauty & Planet Murumuru Butter & Rose Blooming Color Shampoo and Conditioner. I could type out the list of items it doesn’t have, but I’ll just show you the label.

frugal & eco-friendly favorites

If you’re still looking for a frugal and eco-friendly Valentine’s Day gift idea or just want to pamper yourself, check out this bath and body gift set or just buy her the whole collection!

And in case you’re wondering why I’m buying new products to try in February, one this is an allowed expenditure as I had almost used up the entire shampoo bar, but I also used a gift card from my taste-testing side hustle to pay for the conditioner! I didn’t feel like making a special trip to the store or online order just for the conditioner.

FAVORITE CLEANSING BASE

I love Castile soap! And when I say Castile soap, I mean Dr. Bronner’s Hemp Baby Unscented Pure Castile soap. It is easy on the skin. Add  Thieves® Household Cleaner and water to it to make a multi-purpose dish and hand soap in the kitchen. I add water and a few drops of whatever oil suits my fancy at the moment for non-toxic scented hand soap (use Thieves® oil for a non-toxic antibacterial hand soap).

favorite frugal & eco-friendly finds

I even make my own body wash using 85% Castile soap and about 15% pure almond oil. Since I wash my face with it, I usually add Bergamot and either StressAway or Lavender oil. It is a very versatile product that is also easy on the skin.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE FRUGAL & ECO-FRIENDLY FAVORITES FROM A LIFE ON A DIME

I am always on the lookout for options that are more frugal and sustainable, so this post may become a regularly quarterly thing. Do you have any favorite frugal & eco-friendly finds you’d like to share in the comments? Have any questions about the items I mentioned in this post? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time, No-Spend February continues so if you’re still hanging in there use the hashtag #NoSpendFebruary and I’ll follow and share updates in my tweets and stories!

PLASTIC-FREE DECEMBER CHALLENGE RECAP

plastic-free December challenge

I’ve tried to make choices this past year to make my family’s new home as non-toxic and safe as possible. I’ve learned a lot over the course of several months on just how much of an impact this can have on our budget as well. This post will serve as a recap for my experience with the Plastic-Free December Challenge.

We try to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” What doesn’t meet the safe, non-toxic, natural standard we set and fit in our budget, we just don’t buy anymore. If it is a more durable good we either donate it or continue to use until we find a frugal and sustainable alternative.

To make things more complicated, in the early stages of switching to glass our son pulled down one such glass item and cut his hand in the process. We switched gears and started purchasing stainless steel wherever possible instead of glass.

This is expensive and takes time. While we have replaced a lot of the glass items in our kitchen (safety issue) with stainless steel, we just moved some glass items out of the kids’ reach. In the kids’ bathroom, they currently use a plastic soap bottle until I find a suitable replacement. It is filled with all-natural, non-toxic soap.

THE PLASTIC-FREE DECEMBER CHALLENGE 

When Angela of Tread Lightly Retire Early asked on Instagram if anyone would be interested in doing a plastic-free challenge in December, specifically purchasing no new one-time-use plastics the first week of the month I was so excited to try. I figured we were already eliminating plastic around the house, how hard could it be? It was hard, very hard in fact.

One thing worth noting is that my family is blessed with our health, which I know isn’t the case for everyone. We don’t need one-time-use plastics for medical reasons, which made it possible to do the challenge in the first place. In no way do I  want to appear to place blame or come off as ableist in this post if you need one-time-use plastics or just cannot afford alternatives. I sincerely hope no one is made to feel that way after reading this. 

I do not know where to purchase affordable meat in my area that isn’t wrapped in plastic. There are local meat farms, but the prices have been a bit steep for me when I looked them up in the past. I’m also unsure of the packaging used. It’s not exactly the farmer’s market season either. I also walked into this challenge completely unprepared!

WHAT I DID WELL IN the CHALLENGE

This challenge definitely forced me to be more conscientious of my purchases. I delayed some until I figured out a better alternative, even forgoing a few. I cooked a new dish rather than stick with mashed potatoes for a church potluck rather than buy a plastic bag of potatoes to mash. We didn’t come home with leftovers, so I guess people liked my dish!

I avoided some processed sugar the first week of December due to the fact that I chose a carton of half and half rather than my usual flavored creamer. Initially, I thought I would get used to the taste and just add vanilla to my coffee. In reality, I lost my appetite for my daily coffee and mostly did without that week.

I also probably consumed less sodium as a family that week due to refraining from any ramen noodle purchase. Additionally, I made a few healthier choices by shopping at the local natural foods co-op for what I could (within budget).

The socks we ordered for our son’s stocking surprisingly arrived in a little box with no plastic. This was a pleasant surprise. It actually resembled a cell phone box. I also didn’t need to buy wrapping paper. I did use what I had and plan to continue to use it or otherwise donate it since I have almost a whole roll left from years prior. Now I buy paper gift bags and boxes that can be reused if possible or recycled once ripped. 

I ran out of shampoo in the first week of December. Rather than reorder my usual, I purchased a bar of shampoo from the natural food store. I was excited to try it and am pleased for the most part with it. The paper wrapping stated it contained essential oils and was safe for color-treated hair.  Once it runs out I think I will try to find a frugal, oily DIY recipe and try to make my own. 

WHAT I DIDN’T DO SO WELL AT IN THE PLASTIC-FREE DECEMBER CHALLENGE

That half and half carton I was so proud of myself for purchasing isn’t recyclable locally. I forgot that when I was busy my own back for not buying my usual creamer in the recyclable plastic bottle. 

Recycling in our area is mostly limited to glass bottles, cans, cardboard, paperboard, mixed paper, and plastics 1 and 2. But this does NOT include clamshells or waxed cartons. I did recently read online that it is okay to leave the caps on, which is great news. I hate throwing them away AND hate leaving the bottles open so I usually remove them at the recycling center. Now I don’t have to! 

CHRISTMAS POSED A CHALLENGE WITH THIS CHALLENGE

The signs at drop off centers state that I can recycle shoes, glasses, and all sorts of other random stuff, to ask an employee. There typically isn’t one when I am there. I need to look into this further; we have a bag of non-rechargeable batteries at home waiting to be recycled.

I purchased a few items in plastic packaging the first week of December that I had already committed to purchasing; we adopted a “cardinal” from the school tree, which is the district’s equivalent of an angel tree. 

We adopted a four-year-old girl because could afford her requests. The card listed clothing sizes, needs, and a few wants. We were instructed to purchase two needs and one want form the list. I ordered a baby doll in a plastic crib with accessories and a two-piece outfit from Amazon at the end of November. 

I stopped at the local Dollar General and purchased socks and underwear as well. Both were wrapped in plastic. Our daughter’s socks and decorative ponytail holders also arrived in plastic. The wooden Thomas the Train we bought our son also had plastic attaching it to its cardboard backing. 

We thought we did well purchasing our son the wood toy excavator set, but the excavator’s arm is plastic. We’ll see how long it holds up. There was also a lot of plastic packaging around the gifts our kids received from family, but I pulled all the cardboard off for recycling that I could. It’s not like we told anyone not to buy us anything wrapped in plastic for Christmas. We made a run to the recycling center and dropped off some stuff to goodwill two days after Christmas. 

It wasn’t in the budget to buy produce “naked” at the natural food store and most of it at Aldi isn’t naked. I thought it was a win buying sweet potatoes in a net, but that’s probably plastic as well. I definitely can’t recycle it. 

WHAT I TOOK FROM THE EXPERIENCE

I failed miserably at this challenge! Admittedly, I didn’t make it one week of the month without purchasing one-time-use plastic, even overlooking Christmas! I do not foresee accomplishing this in the future without making my own toothpaste as well. I’m not quite there yet, as I love my current toothpaste. But in my failure, I learned a lot. 

I was forced to be more conscientious with every purchase I made. I hope to carry that lesson going forward. And while some items we regularly consume have plastic-free package alternatives I will continue to use the one-time-use plastic if it is the most easily recycled option. 

I may not have achieved a plastic-free goal, but am definitely more thoughtful about an item is BEFORE I buy it as opposed to just deciding if goes it in the trash or recycling bin. That in itself was worth accepting the challenge. 

I definitely plan to continue putting more budgetary and environmental considerations into my purchases in 2020. And Angela, if you plan a plastic-free week or month for this year I will definitely be more prepared! 

 

THRIFTED CHRISTMAS: 5 UPCYCLED CHRISTMAS DECOR IDEAS

upcycled Christmas Decor

5 Creative Projects to Stretch Your Christmas Budget

If you’re like me your Christmas budget may already be stretched just buying gifts and extra food. But what if you’re on a small budget and still want to decorate (or give decorations) for the holidays. I’ve got you covered with five upcycled Christmas decor ideas. Spread some holiday cheer around your house (or even the neighborhood) with these great ideas that are also easy on the budget!

*This page contains affiliate links. At no cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase after clicking my links.*

1. Use a Tree Stump or Log for a Beautiful Table Setting or Even Ornaments to Make Upcycled Christmas Decor

If you have cut wood for burning in the fireplace or just trim a small piece off the bottom of your real Christmas tree, you can use that for beautiful, rustic decorations!

Simply cut the diameter of the wood into slices, leaving the bark on, place on the table and decorate using greenery, holly, or even just placing LED candles on them for a little ambiance (without the obvious fire hazard of open flame on top of wood). The awesome thing about these is they work year-round!

pinecones and a fishbowl on top of a slice of wood
fishbowl not required, but the pinecones are a nice touch!

If you have a branch or log that is not as large in diameter drill a hole toward the top and hang the slices as ornaments! Stencil some initials or brush on some glitter for a little extra detail. They’d be adorable with snowmen, stockings, deer silhouettes, or stars painted on them! This is a simple, oh so easy form of upcycled Christmas decor! If you have kids this would make a great craft to do over the break! Have them help paint the ornaments (maybe not cut them). Gotta keep them entertained for two weeks after all…

Related: For more Christmas craft ideas see my latest YouTube video: Episode 108: Christmas Crafts featuring my sister, Cara Davis, and two of the crafts from her Etsy Shop!

2. Wreaths Made of Grapevine or Tree Cuttings Make Great Upcycled Christmas Decor

I was literally just in Goodwill today and saw a substantial grapevine wreath for $5.75. Alas, I was there looking for counter height barstools and don’t have a wreath in the budget, but my point is these can be picked up cheap! My frugal instinct tells me $2 can probably score a pretty good one at a yard sale or other thrift store.

You could even pull the sunflowers off an old summer wreath stored in the attic and upcycle yourself some great Christmas decor! Or, save yourself some trouble, head to Dollar Tree, and pick up a wire wreath form. They even come in 3-D! If you use a real tree and have to trim a few boughs use the greenery to fill the wreath! It’d make a beautiful advent wreath or look great on the door. The best part – you only have $1 in it!

3. Upcycle Pinecones as Ornaments!

Several years ago I made ornaments for a church Christmas bazaar using only pinecones and ribbon. They sold pretty well. Amazingly (to me) they held up pretty well also; I still have a few on my tree! Simply make a loop to hang from the tree out of ribbon, hot glue it to the top, and fashion a simple bow out of ribbon to hide the glue. Easy peasy lemon squeezy as my six-year-old says. And very neutral; it could go with several color schemes or tree themes.

4. Make a Christmas garland with old cards for Upcycled Christmas decor

I used to make gift tags and scrapbook pages out of old card pictures. It was fun, economical, and they were all one-of-a-kind. Even if you’re sentimental about cards, you can still keep the message! Even just hanging them by clothespins on a line of jute rope would be a pretty way to make a blank wall feel festive.

stack of Christmas cards

5. Repurpose Some Childhood Favorites

This requires zero effort and has all the nostalgia. If like me you were allowed to pick out an ornament a year as a child (I picked very random ornaments) why not pull them out and use them with your kids? We have two small trees we use in our kids’ rooms. There was nowhere “safe” to display the tree in our toddler son’s new room this year, but next year I will find a spot for it. He’ll likely have a different furniture arrangement by them.

Most if not all of the ornaments on the tree in our daughter’s room were ours as children! She loves that. Earlier this week I had the opportunity to go through a box of old ornaments with my sister. Some of the wood ones are now on our tree in the living room.

My kids will grow older, be safer around baubles, and our tree will eventually get fancier. For now, I like being able to look at almost every ornament on the tree and have it mean something. Most of the ornaments on our tree were made by yours truly or someone I love; I have ornaments from my sister in years past, ornaments we made together (see the link above), ornaments my kids made, some my mother made, and a few that were made by ladies who were very special to me growing up who have since passed.

upycled Christmas decor

Do You Have Favorite Items to Upcycle for the Holidays?

I love finding new uses for things in general, but there’s something really magical about the holidays. Anything that adds to the magic without upsetting the budget is just grand in my book.

That’s one of the reasons I love upcycled Christmas decor; it saves you money and keeps items fresh and in use. I’d love to hear your frugal and upcycled decor ideas in the comments. Do you have any special ornaments that you hold dear? Tell me about them! Until next time, and stay frugal this holiday season my friends!

KEEPING A NON-TOXIC HOME ON A BUDGET

HOME

Home. First of all it’s where you raise your family. It’s where you spend your time. It’s where you keep your (hopefully well organized) stuff. It should be a healthy place. Your health is an important resource. It’s hard to improve other aspects of your life if you don’t have your health. Home shouldn’t be a place for toxic anything. And, contrary to popular belief you can keep a non-toxic home on a smaller budget. Here’s how we do it.

TO KEEP A NON-TOXIC HOME ON A BUDGET YOU NEED TO KEEP IT SIMPLE…

Contrary to what you may think, living healthy and keeping a healthy and non-toxic home does not have to be really expensive. While I want to keep antibiotics and hormones and pesticides out of my food as much as possible, but still have to keep it within the constraints of my budget.

And so when we started building our house we were already making healthier choices for our family. I decided that in the new house we would not use harsh chemicals and household products with questionable ingredients. My approach was not to dump everything out and start fresh, but each time I ran out of a household item I would replace it with a better alternative. Small changes over time have cumulative benefits without the cost of a complete and sudden overhaul.

Thieves® clean

One of the ways you can save money keeping your home clean and healthy is to keep it simple buy buying in bulk and using multipurpose cleaning solutions. Thieves® by Young Living is a concentrated plant-based cleaner that can be diluted in water to different concentrations to clean literally almost everything in your house. I put one or two capfuls in a spray bottle to clean countertops and showers. For a more concentrated clean, I may mix in some baking soda and lemon oil. I am a Young Living Distributor and this is the product that made me fall in love with the company.

SAVE MONEY BY MAKING YOUR OWN CLEANING SOLUTIONS

Unscented castile soap and choice of oil(s)

Likewise, you can also create your own cleaner from scratch. There are many different non-toxic cleaning recipes to be used at home using inexpensive ingredients. These include vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, and castile soap to name a few. I add a few drops of oil to unscented Castile for bathroom hand soaps. It smells lovely and is antibacterial with the right oil choice.

When you use essential oils in your cleaning solutions it is best to use a glass bottle. Take a used glass bottle from your kitchen of an item like apple cider vinegar or sparkling water, wash it, peel off the label (hint: lemon oil works well for this), and voila! Pair it with the sprayer from a dollar store bottle and you’re in business!

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As a result of careful consideration and a little mixing of ingredients, you can save a lot of money and keep a lot of harmful toxins from your home.