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Category: Earning & Managing Money

Guest Post: Making Your Own Household Cleaners

Cleaners

Guest Post by Michelle from

When I first started making my own household cleaners, I was
looking to save money. And did I! Making your own cleaners does involve a
small upfront investment for ingredients and containers, but over time, you
will enjoy a tremendous savings over continuing to purchase commercial cleaners.

In addition to saving money, I have discovered that there
are other benefits to making my own cleaners:

::My kids can help me clean and I don’t have to
worry about them being around toxic chemicals.

::Our house is free of chemical cleaners; my allergies
have improved greatly since I cut own commercial cleaners.

::Making my own cleaners simplifies my life. I don’t
need to put the cleaner on a list, get to the store, bag it, unpack it and so
on. I just take out a few simple ingredients and make it myself when it is
convenient for me.

::Making cleaners is much better for the environment. No
more chemicals going into the water supply, no more empty containers being
tossed.

Ingredients

The basic ingredients for making your own cleansers are
baking soda and white vinegar. Both can be purchased in bulk at discount
stores like Target and Wal-Mart, as well as wholesale clubs such as Costco and
Sam’s Club. If you just want to give a cleaner recipe a try, odds are
pretty good that you have enough on hand to make one or two cleaners.

Other
key ingredients will be soap (either dish soap or liquid castile soap–found in
health food stores), olive oil, club soda, glycerin (look in pharmacies or
health food stores for vegetable glycerin), and sometimes borax (a powder
laundry aid found in the laundry aisle of your local store).

I prefer cleaner recipes that use essential oils. Tea tree
oil has antiseptic properties, scents like lemon, eucalyptus and lavender add a
lovely, clean scent and disguise the smell of the vinegar. You can add oils to
any cleaner recipe; the general rule is about 10 drops for a 16 ounce bottle,
but feel free to experiment. You can even mix scents. 

Purchasing essential oils will be the
bulk of your initial investment. These are available at health food stores and
some natural/health sections of large grocery stores for about $5 a bottle. The bottles are small, but you use only a few drops per recipe, so a little
goes a very long way, I promise! I have been making my own cleaners since 2000
and have only replaced three bottles of essential oils.

The book that I turn to again and again for cleaner recipes
is by Karen Logan. Check your library or for this book. It has over 100 recipes for just about any
cleaner you could need, including pest control. You can also find a lot of
recipes online by searching for  ‘homemade cleaners’ or ‘nontoxic
cleaner recipes’ on your favorite search engine. also has come great cleaner recipes
and cleaning tips.

Once you have the basic ingredients, it is time to find
containers to store your cleaning supplies. I used basic Spray Co bottles
found in the gardening section of Wal-Mart. I have also heard that stores such
as Fleet Farm or Home Depot have spray bottles as well.

I like the 16-ounce
bottles, as these are the most comfortable size for me to use and my kids can
use these as well. I mix my recipes right in the containers. No mess, no
fuss! For the first few years I just tried to get the ingredients into the bottle
from the measuring instruments, but I have found that using a funnel is easier.

Here are three of my favorite cleaner recipes, all are from the
book Clean House, Clean Planet

Club Clean Glass Cleaner–This is one of the easiest recipes around! To make glass cleaner, simply pour club soda into a spray bottle and put the
lid back on. Yes, it is that easy! I use this cleaner on windows, TVs,
computers, the washer and dryer tops, etc. You can wipe it off with a paper
towel or a microfiber cloth. 

Go Spot Go! Laundry Stain Remover–This cleaner smells so good! To
make it, simply put ¼ cup liquid dish detergent into a spray bottle. Add in ¼ cup vegetable glycerin and 1½ cups water and shake well before each
use. 

Diaper Pail Deodorizer–Just put some baking soda into a container, add about 3
drops of an essential oil, and stir with a fork or shake. Sprinkle this into
the diaper pail when you change the baby (especially after a really messy
diaper) to keep the smell from taking over.

To find more cleaner recipes and more cleaning tips, you can check out these other posts on my blog on , , and .

Once you start making your own cleaners, you will realize
how useful the main ingredients to these cleaners really are and how much you
can use them to make a lot of household and personal hygiene solutions for
yourself. I hope that you will give making your own cleaners a try soon!

Michelle is a CPA turned stay-at-home mom to four. She challenges the excesses that society tells us
we need and experiments with living a simple, uncluttered life on her daily blog,

Guest Post: Ten Simple Ways To Reduce Your Grocery Expenses

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Guest Post by MaryEllen from

While picking up my milk for the week, I stopped to consider how many people might wonder why I was digging all the way to the back of the refrigerated section. Then I started thinking about how easy it is for anyone to reduce their grocery budget just by following a few simple guidelines. I’m not talking about spending hours every week clipping coupons and scouring the sale papers for deals.These are simple strategies that everyone can use to help keep their food costs down.

1. Look toward the back of the refrigerated section for the latest-dated milk, cheese, meat and other perishables. It certainly won’t help you cut expenses if your food goes bad and you have to throw it out and buy more. 

2. Buy whole milk and mix it with water. It will taste different at first, but you’ll get used to it after a while. If you can bring your taste buds to agree to mixing your milk half and half with water then you’re getting two gallons for the price of one! (Note: Keep in mind that if you have young children, watering down your milk will affect the nutrition of it.)

3. If you’re buying individual fruits (e.g. apples, oranges, etc.) by the pound, pick out the smallest ones. The total weight will be less, and therefore you won’t pay as much, but you won’t notice the difference when you’re eating your apple.

4. Shop early in the morning if at all possible. That is when you’ll find most of the marked down produce, meat, and bread. Even if you can’t shop in the morning, be sure to still keep an eye out for products that have been marked down.

5. Don’t buy too much produce at one time. Produce (especially if it has been shipped a long distance) will not last very long before it has to be thrown out. Try to buy only enough for about one week at a time.

6. If you find a good sale on something you normally buy that has an extended shelf-life or freezer life, stock up. Why wait until later and pay full price when you can buy several now at a much lower price?

7. Be creative and cook with what you have on hand. Make your weekly menus based on what is already in your pantry or freezer. Then you’ll just need to buy a few ingredients to fill in the gaps.

8. Make a list and stick to it when you shop. Unplanned “extras” add up very quickly.

9. Consider how badly you really need something. For example, it doesn’t really take any longer to make pancakes or biscuits from scratch than from a box mix. Yet those box mixes cost quite a bit more than just buying the ingredients would cost. (Cooking from scratch is much better for your health too!)

10. Use coupons. Like I mentioned earlier, I’m not talking about spending hours each week on clipping coupons and scoping out deals. But if something is on your list, you should at least check to see if there is a coupon out for it. A good place to check is the coupon database at . You’ll be surprised at the difference fifty cents here and a dollar there can make!

MaryEllen is a stay-at-home wife and mom living in North Carolina. In her spare time, she enjoys sharing money-saving tips on .

Ask the Readers: Where do you find quality children’s shoes at a great price?

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Priscilla asks:

We are a family of 8. Our children ages range from almost 15 to 9 months old. So, every penny we can save does add up.

I was wondering where best to find good quality shoes for the lowest price? Do shoes usually go clearance certain times of the year?
 
Our oldest has gone through shoes faster over the past 2 years and it is becoming discouraging to shoe shop.

Since we only have younger children, I can’t speak from experience on how to get larger sizes of children’s shoes for great deals but I will tell you our secret for getting small sizes for great deals–consignment sales!

I don’t know that all areas have great consignment sales, but in our area, there are regularly large consignment sales put on by groups of moms. We have purchased the majority of our girls shoes at these. I can often find name-brand shoes in very good condition for $3 or less.

I also recommend consignment stores, thrift stores, and garage sales for little kid’s shoes. They seem to be plentiful and cheap. Best of all, you can usually get good brands in great shape.

That’s just what has worked for us so far, where do the rest of you snag shoe deals?

Guest Post: Finding a Work-at-Home Job

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Guest Post by Emily Howard from

Two years ago I was a working mom of one with one on the way. All I thought about was staying home with my children. I just didn’t want to miss a single thing that they might do during the day while I was sitting at a desk and they were with a sitter. Not to mention, by the time we paid for two children in childcare it almost wasn’t worth it for one of us to work to pay that bill. Just before our daughter arrived, my job started to change. My husband and I discussed it and decided it was time to make a change.

I know there are so many people out there who feel the same way and you just wish there was an alternative. If you’re like us, simply quitting my job simply wasn’t an option. I had to have some kind of income because we were in debt and my husband’s paycheck simply wouldn’t pay the bills. So I got to work.

The first thing anyone who wants to work at home must do is consider what you can do. What skills do you have? What degree or certifications do you have that may lend itself toward a certain type of work?  What do you like to do?

There are many types of work-at-home jobs that will require specific training or certification, such as scoping, coding, and . But there are many jobs out there that will not require anything more than the training the company provides.

You must also consider what your working environment will be. Do you have an office or workspace that is isolated from the rest of the house? Will you be working while your children are home?

These things matter because there are basically two types of work-at-home jobs: those done entirely online and those that
involve phone work. Online positions are more flexible, because it typically doesn’t matter where you’re working. Phone positions, however, often require specific working conditions, including no background noise.

One of the biggest obstacles for those who want to work at home is not knowing where to find the jobs. I suggest forgoing the do-it-yourself search and going straight to the experts. and are two very reputable work-at-home websites with message boards featuring people who are actually doing these jobs.

The discussion all day, every day on these boards is which companies people work for, who is hiring and what is a scam. Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, visit these sites. I spent every single night for a month on the message boards at and I covered an entire 8.5 x 11 inch paper
with ideas!

While you’re busy looking for companies and positions, you’ll want to dust off your resume. A work-at-home resume will look very much like a typical resume, but you’ll want to tailor it to highlight any skills you have that will make you more marketable
to companies who hire virtual employees. Highlight your computer and technical skills, your ability to work independently, meet deadlines and any experience or specific skills you may have in the field you’re looking at.

Save a copy of your resume in a text format and make sure it looks presentable that way, so you can easily copy and paste it
into website forms and in the body of your e-mail. Often, companies prefer to see your resume in text format in an e-mail and won’t bother to open an attachment. Pay close attention to the company’s instructions for how to apply, whether it’s through their online form or by e-mail.

A few words on scams; they’re definitely out there. Unfortunately, there is probably no one more vulnerable than someone who is desperately seeking a certain type of job so they can work at home.

First, never pay for a job. I always say you would never pay a bricks and mortar company for an interview, so why would you pay a virtual company for the opportunity to work for them? There are few exceptions to this rule.

Secondly, you can often find out information on a company by doing a simple Google search or checking with the . If all else fails, check with one of the message boards I mentioned. The people on those boards can easily smell a scam. If you’re unsure about a company, search there. If you come up with nothing, ask.

There is just one more important thing you should know about working from home. It’s very important to have a plan for
when you will work and be realistic about it. If your children are in school, then finding time to work should be simple. If you have small children and/or homeschool, you should understand that you will not likely be working if they are at home, unless they’re sleeping or someone else is there to care for them.

If you have a newborn, you should know that the sweet, sleeping-all-day phase lasts about 2-3 months. But don’t worry, the beauty of working at home is that it is often very flexible. Many types of work can be done any time of the day or night. I personally work after my children are in bed and on weekends.

Finding ways to be a work-at-home mom (or dad or grandparent) is not impossible. It just takes work. Sure, there are scams and it might be hard to find a position that suits your needs, but a little hard work will produce results. Regular people do it every day.

If this sounds like something that might be a good fit for your family, don’t be afraid of the unknown. I took my full page of ideas and narrowed it down to the ones I wanted to start with and I started off trying two or three different things to find what
worked best for me. I applied, got hired, and I quit my job. I’ve stayed home with my children for two years while doing my work in my free time. I haven’t missed a t-ball game or a swimming class yet!

Emily Howard is a work-at-home transcriptionist and a mom of two. Her blog, , is dedicated to helping other moms find work at home, as well as other ways to make money, save money, and get out of debt.

Wellness 360: Earn money by tracking your fitness and nutrition

Someone emailed me recently about and how they made a little money each day by tracking their nutrition and fitness. I tried it out myself and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to earn money through this site.

No, you won’t make boatloads of cash from Wellness360, but if you are looking for a program to help you consistently log your nutrition and fitness each day and would love to earn a little money for doing so, you’ll definitely want to check out .

According to the reports I’ve heard, you can earn as much as $150 per year just tracking your calories and exercise for the day. However, if you’d like to earn more, you can encourage your friends and family (and blog readers!) to sign up and  you can earn 25% of whatever they earn. If you get a number of people on board, your earnings could be quite substantial!

So, what are you waiting for? Go and enjoy extra motivation and accountability to lead a healthy lifestyle!

Guest Post: Successfully selling on Etsy

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Guest Post by Marie Cluff, owner of

As a mom of a one-year-old boy, I had to make the tough
decision of whether to stay at home or work. My husband is currently in
school right now, and our budget is extremely tight. I felt the need to
help my family, but just couldn’t imagine being away from my son so I
knew the best solution was for me to find something I could do from home.

I started
making baby slings about a year ago, giving them as gifts for baby
showers. I decided that selling them would be the perfect way to make
some money and still be able to stay at home! I had come across Etsy
before and loved all the homemade products that are sold there, so I started my own shop there, .

Etsy is a site where you can buy and
sell homemade items. You can easily create your own store for free! It
costs 20 cents to list an item and then there’s 3.5% sales fee when you
sell an item. It is considerably cheaper than eBay and I also think it’s much
“prettier”.

I found it very easy to get started with Etsy. You just go to and in
the top right hand corner you can register. It is very self-explanatory
and has a guided process you go through. They also have great which answers any questions you might have and gives excellent tips!

Etsy is the perfect way for an artsy-crafty person to make money. However,
it is by no means easy
  money; you have to work hard getting your name
out there and making quality products that people want to buy.

Just
because you think your product is great doesn’t mean others will. Some
of my very favorite slings which I assumed would sell out instantly, didn’t
sell at all. I found it helpful to look up other products similar to mine and see how
they have sold. This is a good way to decide whether you have a market for
your product or not.
You also have to remember that you may not sell your
stuff right away. I have already sold quite a few products, but it took
some time for people to “find me”. I am constantly advertising my
shop by:

  • Handing out business cards
  • Making fliers and posting them wherever I can
  • Networking on MySpace and other internet sites
  • Relisting my products on Etsy regularly
  • Giving my slings as gifts for family, with business cards
  • Posting often about my store on my

Etsy is a great starting place for selling your handmade products and it is a
wonderful way to make money from home doing something you enjoy.
I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have if you are interested in trying your hand at Etsy. Just email me: blingslings @ hotmail.com (remove spaces).

Marie is a mother to one cute little boy and wife of three years to an amazing husband. In addition to running , she writes a .