Spring Cleaning on a Budget
6 Tips to Keep Your Finances Fresh
March 23, 2016 by Jake Butler
You may think spring is an arbitrary time to take on the challenge of cleaning your entire house, but the tradition has some pretty interesting history behind it. Some researchers believe spring cleaning can be traced back to ancient Hebrews, who often cleaned their homes in anticipation of Passover. There are even bible verses in Exodus about ridding the home of leavened food, which traditionally included hunting by candlelight for leftover crumbs.
In early 19th century America and northern Europe, prior to the invention of the vacuum cleaner, March was considered the best time for dusting because it was warm enough to open doors and windows during the day, but still cold enough at night to keep insect populations low.
History aside, it’s just nice to get a fresh start each spring. But if you’re on a tight budget, funding your spring cleaning adventure can be a challenge. So we put together this list of six tips every frugal spring cleaner should keep in mind.
Before you start, take some time to survey your home and create a plan of action. This is a good opportunity to get organized, create a to-do list and take inventory of your supplies. If you do need to run to the store to shop for supplies, make sure you have a list and stick to it.
LOOK FOR FREEBIES
Before you buy anything, look for freebies first. Many cities are starting cleaning supply recycling programs where people can drop off unwanted items instead of throwing them away in the garbage. Then others can come browse the selection and take what they need. This is not only eco-friendly, it’s economic as well! Check with your local city government to find out if they do something similar. You can also check websites like Freecycle.org or ask around on Facebook to see if you can get anything you may need from friends, neighbors or family members.
One way to save money is to avoid buying cleaning products unless you absolutely need them. You don’t want a bunch of bottles of expensive cleaners left over that you’ll never use again. Along the same lines, you want to focus on versatile cleaners that work on a number of surfaces. It’s best to avoid specialty or niche products that can only be used on one kind of surface.
Next, make sure you’re looking at weekly ads online and in the newspaper to identify sales at stores near you. If you stop by the grocery store, check for coupon inserts from the Sunday paper – if they have them, they’re usually near the entrance. It might not seem like a lot of money at first, but couponing can really add up quickly, and you can even get some products completely free of charge.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to check out the dollar store. The quality and selection may not be as good as other retail stores, but you can find some great deals on reusable items like cloth diapers, microfiber cloths, scrubbing pads and things like that. If you do end up buying a cheap product you don’t intend to use in the long run, at least it only cut a dollar out of your budget.
AVOID SINGLE-USE ITEMS
Single-use items include anything you use once and then throw out. One of the biggest culprits is paper towels. Buying them in bulk at a wholesaler like Costco or Sam’s Club can help cut costs, but the best way is to avoid using them whenever possible. For example, instead of using two paper towels to clean up a mess in the kitchen, use a dishrag you can toss in the washer and reuse over and over again.
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. I personally love the “magic” scrub pads – the ones that are basically low-grade sandpaper. They don’t last very long, but they work wonders. Sometimes it’s worth it to use a single-use item if it gets the job done better, faster or more effectively.
MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING PRODUCTS
Don’t be afraid to try your hand at DIY cleaning products. Many recipes call for simple, cheap ingredients you may already have on hand under the sink or in your kitchen pantry, like dish soap, vinegar, baking soda and essential oils. Not only is this route cheaper, but you can also control exactly what ingredients go into it, which helps you avoid harmful chemicals. Consider this the green approach to household cleaners.
CONSIDER THE VALUE
You may have to go out and buy some supplies, and that’s okay! In addition to looking for sales and couponing, there are a few other subtle nuances to understand when shopping. First, ditch the brand names. Brand loyalty means very little in the cleaning space. Consider ingredients and online reviews when comparing brand names to their generic counterparts. Many times the generic stuff is just as good.
Lastly, value can be a difficult thing to judge. While it’s fine to shop at the dollar store for certain items, you wouldn’t want to buy everything there. Value is the relationship between the cost and the quality of a given product. You can try to make extra room in your budget by buying cheap stuff, but what happens when it breaks and you have to throw it out anyway? Is that really a good value? Just because you saved money initially, that doesn’t mean you got good value out of the product. You always need to consider how long it will last and the quality of the end result when you’re deciding whether to spend a little extra or to be frugal.
Whatever your plan is this spring, we hope you’ll use these tips to keep your wallet just as happy as your home.