Posts Tagged 'resources'

We love LaundryPure!

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this handy gadget that you can hook up to your washing machine. It’s gotten some good press in the last couple of years. Watch the video below for a basic overview of what it can do:

I first learned about the LaundryPure about 18 months ago, but the $700 price tag was extremely off-putting. There was just no way I could justify spending that kind of money, even if the unit would eliminate the need for detergent, bleach, fabric softener, and hot water. I figured I could just stick to homemade detergent recipes and pinch pennies elsewhere.

money-down-drainHowever, in a family with as many children as ours has, laundry is a daily ordeal activity. We simply have to do it every day or it will pile up to levels unheard of outside of a hotel. 😉 And hot water for whites was absolutely necessary with the kinds of messes my children can generate (they’ve never met a mudhole they didn’t like!). But hot water heater expenses are what nagged at my brain the most, because keeping water hot in a tank all day eats up one third of the electricity bill. OUCH. Any way you can eliminate the need for hot water is going to help the bottom line. I just shudder at the thought of money going down the drain….

So we tried the experiment of turning off the water heater for most of the day, turning it on late at night to cover morning showers, dishes, and the first load of laundry. Then we’d turn it off until just before supper time so we’d have hot water for the evening dishes and baths. This helped quite a lot. Our average electricity bill dropped by 25% over the next month, which was great. But we still couldn’t get around the fact that we needed hot water for laundry (whites just don’t get as clean without it). So I started investigating this LaundryPure thing again….

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Several independent dealers had “discount” prices around $450, but I still wasn’t tempted. So I started haunting eBay. Lo and behold, a barely used LaundryPure unit in its original box showed up with a starting bid of $19.95. Sounded too good to be true. I wanted to make sure the unit wasn’t broken. I contacted the seller, who turned out to be a military guy whose family was being stationed overseas. He couldn’t take the unit with him, so he was parting with it. He assured me that it worked fine and came with all its documentation. He’d even throw in a new water line to hook it up. Well, that was enough for me. I bit and put up a maximum bid of $159, figuring there was no way I’d win, but it was worth trying. Yet five days later, I won! Even with shipping added, the unit came in well under $200, and I was thrilled with my “steal.”

The box arrived just before we moved from the trailer, so we left it boxed until we could set it up here at our “new” vintage house. That’s when the real adventure began. My intrepid husband mounted the LaundryPure on the brick wall next to our washing machine and hooked up the new water line, tightening everything with a wrench. Then he turned it on and stepped back. The blue light from the ultraviolet purifier glowed, but the spraying/splashing noise alerted us to an oncoming flood. DH quickly turned off the washer and checked the unit. Sure enough, water was pouring out the connection between the LaundryPure and the water line. I had a faint foreboding that perhaps I’d been “had” and that the unit would turn out to be leaky no matter what. But my husband wasn’t ready to give up. He ran five minutes up the street to Lowe’s and got another $3 water line.

laundryhose20 minutes later, he triumphantly turned on the washing machine again, only to have water come spraying out yet again. He decided to completely remove the LaundryPure and check the insides to see if the leak came from something broken in the unit itself. Nope. It was all in good working order, so he decided it must be the cheap hose. Back he went to Lowe’s and bought a $15 water line. 20 minutes later, we held our breath while he turned it on. BINGO! Total success. Lesson learned: buy the pricey hose to hookup the pricey gadget! Three-dollar hoses just don’t cut it.

laundrypureAt right you see our unit doing its thing–ultraviolet lamp killing bacteria while the silver ions and oxygenation thingamabob make plain old cold water work like detergent. And how does it stand up to our kind of constant usage? I’m delighted to report that this is probably the single best investment in a household tool we’ve ever made. You really do not need any laundry detergent at all. No bleach. No fabric softener. I do keep a squirt bottle of Shout on hand for really stubborn or dark, set-in stains, but here’s what I’ve learned after using LaundryPure for three months:

  • Stains get lighter with each washing, even if you don’t pre-treat them. The unit really does what it says, and the oxygenated water lifts stains and grime out of the fabric (regular detergents just scrub at the stains).
  • Colors actually brighten over time as you wash them with the LaundryPure. Regular detergent leaves residues in your clothing, which can cause allergic reactions–not just make colors look dull. The LaundryPure really is pulling gunk out of your clothing with each washing.
  • Our sheets and towels have never felt softer, and we use NO fabric softener whatsoever. I don’t like fabric softeners anyway, since they just leave chemicals behind in your clothing, but I couldn’t get around all the static cling. Well, for some strange reason, clothes washed with the LaundryPure do not get staticky in the dryer! It’s amazing.
  • No more hot water to wash whites!!!! This has to be perhaps the best benefit of all.

Now, let’s be realistic and take a look at the money angle of all of this. In a large family with six or more children, you’ll do an average of two to three loads of laundry every day (with perhaps an occasional break when you’ve managed to catch up!). Make it five loads of laundry on weekends when you change all the sheets. That adds up to 1,040 loads of laundry each year (not counting Sundays — we all take a break then!). Even if you purchase bulk detergent from a warehouse store (120 loads for $10), you’re looking at roughly $90 a year just for detergent. Add in fabric softener sheets, and that adds another $70 (60 dryer sheets per box at $4 a pop). Now take the electric bill and grab 33% of it right off the top for hot water. You’re not going to completely eliminate the need for hot water, but you’re going to significantly cut it down if you don’t use it to do laundry. When we turn off our water heater, our bill drops 25%, so let’s just estimate 25% savings. In our household, that means about $62.50 per month we can eliminate from our bill. That’s a total of $750 per year. Add in the detergent and fabric softener (I’m not even counting bleach here), and your total savings in one year would come to $910. Starting to see the light? I sure can! That means that, even at the original price of $700, the LaundryPure would easily pay for itself in a year. But if you find it at a bargain basement price, you’re sitting pretty after a couple of months.

silverprobeBut surely there has to be a catch, right? Well, there is a small one. The silver ion part does need to be replaced every 12-18 months, depending on how much laundry you do and how hard your water is to begin with. But the cost is minimal when you consider all your savings: About $35 including FedEx shipping. When our unit arrived, the silver ion assembly was almost used up, as we learned when the LaundryPure started leaking again this month! My husband quickly tracked down the cause of the leakage, and we ordered the replacement part. Now we know to keep an eye on it and watch for the indicator light that tells us when it’s time to replace it.

All in all, we are extremely pleased with this purchase. I am delighted never to have to worry about running out of detergent and about eliminating the need for hot-water washes. My oldest children just enjoy the space-agey thrill of watching the unit run with its friendly blue glow. And my husband is happy to see the additional “fat” we can trim from the budget. It’s a great investment that we’ll enjoy using for years to come.

To learn more about LaundryPure, visit the EcoQuest site–and then start Googling for your own bargain!

Some Wonderful Links!

Just a quick post today to share some excellent articles and resources I’ve run across in recent days:

  • How to Practice Hospitality on a Budget – Hosted on the marvelous MoneySavingMom.com, this is a gem of an article with super tips for blessing others while living on a budget.
  • Tips for Reducing Electric Bills – Fantastic information from the great people at LivingonaDime.com. Lots of common-sense ideas, but you’ll also find some that make you say, “OH!” Great stuff.
  • Promotional Codes – This is a fantastic one-stop shop for online coupons, discount codes, and more. I love to find discount codes I can use when placing an order online. This is by far the most user-friendly way to discover new coupons!
  • Soda Stream – I admit it, I absolutely love sparkling water. It’s one of my big addictions. But it is SO pricey if you purchase it in the stores ($1.49-$1.99 a liter — ouch!). I was thrilled when I discovered this handy gadget that allows you to make your own sparkling water (and flavored drinks) at home for 20 cents per liter! I’ll be reviewing this nifty tool later on.

Enjoy!

© Podius | Dreamstime.com

© Podius | Dreamstime.com

The Contest Results!

img_budgetmakeover_1aThank you all for your patience during our busy weekend and the crazy ER trip day! It has been really fun to see your budget remodels — you beat DIY all hollow! A few ladies didn’t post their entries as comments but emailed them, and, though I wrote to ask them to post, they never got around to it. If those of you who emailed want to repost even now, you’re welcome to do so. It’s just fun to see what you’re able to do!

Rather than forcing you to go back and find the posted re-dos in the comments, I’ll put them here so you can see them all in one place. First I’ll share mine:

  • Knobs – $4.36 (4 @ $1.09/ea on eBay)
  • Cup pulls – $15.42 (6 @ $2.57/ea on eBay)
  • Light fixture – $39.99 (on eBay)
  • Faucet – $24.99  (on eBay – Someone bought it after I saved the link, though!)
  • Frame – $24.95  (on eBay)
  • TOTAL: $137.19

I didn’t include shipping, nor did I expect others to do so. If I added in all my shipping, I’d come right in around the $190 mark, though. Now, here are the other entries…. First, the winner!

Sibyl’s $160.47 remodel:

Congratulations, Sibyl! That was almost $30 under budget — and almost $740 under DIY’s budget! Woo-hoo!!! You’ve won a year’s subscription to Mary Jane’s Farm!

Now for our second-place winner:

Sandy’s Redo:

Great job, Sandy! This comes almost $20 below my top end and $730 under DIY’s!
Finally, here’s our third-place winner, who would have come in first except that she linked to a quart of paint rather than a gallon — multiplying out the quarts is what killed the win. OUCH! Still, this remodel is almost $14 under my $190 limit and beats DIY by almost $725! Fantastic!

Michelle Z’s $176.23 bathroom redo:

This was so much fun, I think we’ll have to do it again sometime with another remodel challenge! Maybe a kitchen refresh on the cheap? Thanks so much for participating!

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This is a “budget” remodel?

Anyone who’s followed my blog for even a short time will know I’m big on bargains and remodeling on the cheap. I love do-it-yourself features in magazines and online, so I immediately clicked through to an article titled “Budget Bath Makeover” in the latest DIY newsletter. There I found a photograph of a very pretty master bath that had been remodeled on a budget:

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And here are the first couple of paragraphs of the accompanying article:

This master bath had many advantages: a separate tub and a shower, a window, and clean white fixtures. The effect, however, was cold and impersonal. A color cure and pretty accessories much improved the look.

Instead of damaging (and then fixing) the wall by removing the plate mirror over the vanity, the homeowner hung an antiqued flea-market frame in front of it. Then she switched out the contemporary light fixture for a classic three-bulb affair; replaced the basic faucet with a porcelain-handle Victorian-style model; and ditched boring cabinet pulls for brushed chrome knobs and cup pulls.

Okay, so far I’m all there. I’m all about painting, replacing ugly pulls, updating light fixtures, and repurposing antique frames. But here’s where the jaw-dropper hit:

The total cost for the room redo: $900.

Wait a second. Was that nine-HUNDRED dollars? Surely you mean a hundred and ninety dollars, right? Um, no. In the alternate reality of today’s crashing economy, it seems there are “budget” remodels and then there are BUDGET remodels. I wouldn’t class spending $900 on a few bathroom fixtures as a real saving accomplishment. In fact, I feel a challenge coming on! I bet you that any one of us could re-do this room in the exact same way for under $190. Wanna try?

Okay, here’s the challenge: Get online and see if you can price out this remodel for under $190. That means finding bathroom paint (one gallon does it for this size room), pulls similar to the ones used in the photo, a three-light fixture, vintage-style faucet, and a frame to go around the mirror (antique or otherwise–just see what you can find). Post links to your finds as well as prices and your grand total (no need to figure in taxes, as we’re all in different states) in the comments section. Whoever gets this remodel done at the lowest price wins a year’s subscription to Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine.

I’ll play along with you and post my BUDGET remodel on April 10. That gives you six days to get cracking! Invite your friends — pass along this post. The more, the merrier! I bet we can show DIY Magazine a thing or two about real budget remodeling!

PS (4/7/09): I’ve removed the current comments with their running totals and will wait until the contest is over to reveal everyone’s finds. That will make it more fun and won’t discourage anyone from trying. Keep the budget challenge going!

A Fantastic Frugal Homesteading Kit!

I just got an e-mail newsletter from Vision Forum with this wonderful package in it on sale (I ordered it!). I thought I had all the frugality and homesteading books out there, but these two were new to me, and I’ve not had a chance to see the videos yet, but I’ve heard rave reviews of them. Just click the banner below to read about the sale. You can get the books bundled, the videos bundled, or everything bundled together. There’s also a deal on the Entrepreneurial Boot Camp CDs. Check it out!

Fantastic Article Link on Building Smaller and Smarter

I’ve been out of the loop here for a while with family coughs and colds and general late winter ickies.  While playing catch-up, I ran across this excellent article about the sudden boom in smaller house plans–no more McMansions! Here’s a little blurb from this piece:

“You can save thousands of dollars” by using simple materials in a well-designed space, says [Sarah] Susanka, author of the best-selling 1998 book The Not So Big House.

For more than a decade, she has urged people to build better, not bigger. Now, as the U.S. economy struggles to climb out of a tailspin and environmental concerns rise, her message has gone mainstream.

New homes, after doubling in size since 1960, are shrinking. Last year, for the first time in at least 10 years, the average square footage of single-family homes under construction fell dramatically, from 2,629 in the second quarter to 2,343 in the fourth quarter, Census data show.

The new motto: living well with less.

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I own Susanka’s Not So Big House books and have admired her ideas for years while collecting my own folder of plans and ideas for the house we hope to build. Even with a large family, it is not necessary to build sprawling mega-houses with bedrooms in every corner. In fact, it’s far better to build smarter, making public areas (kitchen, dining room, living room) the focal point and devoting greater space to those. Bedrooms are really only necessary for sleeping and dressing, and I’ve never seen the sense of having a gargantuan master suite that you hardly spend any time in when you’re awake! We’d much rather have plenty of room to have guests around the table–not to mention places to spread out homeschooling projects, read books together, etc.

I’ll be posting more about our home plans/ideas here in the future, sharing what I’ve gleaned from years of tearing out magazine pages and reading dozens of books. I inherit all of this from my mother, who was designing “green” before it was ever in fashion. Being green may be hip today, but it’s really just going back to older principles of building to last for generations and using materials that don’t have to be replaced every few years. We’ve got high hopes of using reclaimed barn wood, as one of our neighbors is frequently called upon to tear down old barns and sheds and recycles the lumber. We’re looking into passive and active solar options,  structural insulated panels (SIPs), and  talking about tankless water heaters (did you know roughly one-third of your electricity bill is due to keeping a tank of water hot?).

It is a really fun challenge to figure out where you can cut costs without cutting any real corners. Who cares about granite countertops when the extra money you’d spend on those could go to a high-efficiency tankless water heating system? We love to think outside the box. Below are some of my favorite links I’ve bookmarked over the past few years as we plan and dream. If you’ve got favorites, post a comment and share!

Architectural Salvage Yards – Because salvage is now “hot,” it can sometimes be pricier than new, but check locally, because that’s where you find the savings. We have three salvage places within 50 miles of us, and their prices are much lower.

Valuebuild Panel Home Kits – These kits use the SIPs I mentioned above, which have an incredibly high “R” factor when it comes to insulation. Energy bills in SIP houses are typically 60% lower than in stick-built (i.e. “leaky as a sieve”) houses. And if you’re not brave enough to literally put your kit together yourself, a local builder can easily do it for you with far less waste than a stick-built home entails.

The Affordable House – These plans are so much fun to look at — like little storybook cottages. The designer works to put lots of usable space into a small footprint with charming results.

SIPA (Structural Insulated Panel Association) – This site explains how SIPs work and why it is better (and faster!) to build a house with them.

Greenblock Insulated Concrete Forms – Another alternative to stick-built, these pre-molded forms go in quickly and are solid and long-lasting. There are some drawbacks when it comes to certain heating methods, but if you’re in a hotter climate, they’re a really good option.

The Natural Home Building Source – A great place for information on passive solar design, graywater reuse, heat storage tubes, and more.

Hello, 2009! Let’s start the year off with some frugal links!

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I hope y’all had as wonderful a Christmas and New Year’s celebration as we did.  We had a fantastic time with family and friends and celebrated several birthdays in the process, too. It was a great way to end 2008!

As the economy continues its tumble (and we all start to wonder if it will ever hit bottom), I’ve been pulling out all my old favorite resources, including the following excellent books:

  • Back to Basics by Reader’s Digest- I pored over my mother’s copy of this book growing up, fascinated by all the amazing information it contained (how to site a passive solar house, how to build an underground root cellar, how to find a water source, and so much more). You can find copies of the original 1970s edition and the 1980s update on eBay — both editions are great.
  • Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery – This book has been through numerous editions. Mine is about ten years old and well-thumbed. This book covers everything from gardening to grinding grains, quilting to tending your own plot of mushrooms. Very helpful and fun to read, too!
  • The “Have-More” Plan by Ed and Carolyn Robinson – This is another book I just love to sit and look through (as do my children). It was written in the 1940s by a couple who moved out to the country and steadily built a self-sufficient lifestyle on a small homestead. It shows that a family does not need dozens of acres and a giant farming operation to live very comfortably. And even if you have no intention of moving to the country, the book shows what you can do on very little land with smart placement of plants and careful management of the pantry. I totally ignore the advice on insecticides (yikes!), since we do organic gardening, but the rest is a treat! This is available as a reprint from Storey Communications and as an e-book!

I’ve also been going through my favorite frugal bookmarks and gleaning from sites that provide coupons, links to special giveaways, tips for budgeting, etc. Here are some of my very favorite sources online:

  • Money Saving Mom – This one always gets top place. Mrs. Paine is a frugal whiz and pulls together the most fantastic deals every week. Be sure to subscribe to her feed so you don’t miss anything!
  • My Penny Pile – Another super site for coupons, deals, and freebies, from one penny-pinching mom to another.
  • TipHero.com – I have learned so many things from reader tips and tricks. Did you know you can cut drying time by 1/3rd if you put a dry towel into each load of laundry? Lots of practical, down-to-earth helps here. Get the feed, and pass on a tip if you have a good one!
  • Better Budgeting – This site is jam-packed with articles, ideas, practical how-to helps, and more. Get a “black belt” in frugal living here!
  • Living on a Dime – I love their fun sense of humor – this is a site that will encourage you and make you smile, even if you’ve got to dig your way out of serious debt or work hard to scrape together savings. Fantastic e-books and e-newsletter!
  • Sufficient Self – A forum for folks to share frugal ideas and tips for making do or making it yourself. Great place to ask questions.

Finally, let me share some favorite helpful articles that have inspired me:

  • “Seven Good Lessons from the Great Depression”We may not be getting ready for bread lines or seeing hobos selling apples for five cents on the corner, but all this talk of another Great Depression should have us looking back in history for lessons that we can take with us into the future of this wild and woolly economic mess.
  • “The Perfect Pantry”Stock up on the basics below for easy home-cooked meals. [If you’ve never stocked a pantry, this is a great starter article.]
  • “Frugal Living in a Tiny Town”Although far removed from bargain shopping and mainstream entertainment conveniences (we live 15 miles from the nearest grocery store and 55 miles from any real shopping), we have found that Tiny Town living lends itself nicely to our frugal lifestyle. [Reading this piece is like hearing from a kindred spirit. I love this!]
  • “Pantry 2009: Groceries and Your Budget”I love trying to cut costs and increase value at the same time.  I love a bargain but don’t like skimping on quality.  I love to be rich cheap.  I love the challenge of building a pantry.  I love buying bulk.  I love couponing.  That is why my dream outing is going grocery shopping with a load of coupons and stopping in at Goodwill on .99 cent day. [I look forward to reading more articles in this neat series.]
  • “Salvage Your Way to a Kitchen Remodel for Less”We bought a small 2 bedroom house, and put a new addition, with 3 more bedrooms, living room and bath. Four years into the project, I declared war against the original kitchen, which consisted of one wall of upper cabinets built with plywood, and a counter top below, that held the sink. This was the only storage/work space in there! My husband and older son said “There is no way you can even start this project without $5-10,000.” I said “Watch me!” [If you’ve read my kitchen re-do posts, then you know this is a topic I adore!]

Enjoy! I hope to be back soon with more stories about some remodeling fun (and serendipitous mishaps!).

Happy New Year!

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About the Queen…

Amanda Livenwell is the pen name of a stay-at-home mom who shares the adventure of living large on one income in, yes, a double-wide trailer! Join our family as we say goodbye to suburbia, trim down, and start saving to build our own home. We're going to talk about doing it yourself, living beautifully on less, making do or doing without, and counting it all joy in the process. We'll cover prep-work and painting, refacing kitchen cabinets, flooring on the cheap, tiling over laminate, upholstering furniture, and just rolling up our sleeves in general. If you love home improvement, this is the place for you. Let's get cracking!

Favorite Frugal Helps!


MSM is Frugality Central! Bookmark, visit often, subscribe to the feed, and save!

Organic Valley Family of Farms - Get coupons and special offers for delicious, healthy food!

The Coupon Mom - Another fabulous source for discounts and freebies!

Dave Ramsey will help you break the chains of debt and run to freedom!

What Inspires Me Most!

"She seeks wool and flax, and willingly works with her hands. She girds herself with strength, and strengthens her arms. She perceives that her merchandise is good, and her lamp does not go out by night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, and her hand holds the spindle. She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness." ~ Proverbs 31:13, 17-19, 27

"Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings;he will not stand before unknown men." ~ Proverbs 22:29

"The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; but the soul of the diligent shall be made rich." ~ Proverbs 13:4

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