This topic keeps coming to my mind. I’m really curious as to what other people spend on their groceries so I’ve made a poll out of it! I want to know how much the rest of you all spend and here’s why;

I wrote in this post that I’m trying to lower my grocery bill. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, such as cooking more efficiently, making more myself and buying on sales but… I need to spend even less. I want to get out of debt and that means I’m willing to sacrifice some of my food luxuries. I need to hit my goals this year!

When I’m browsing around some of the ‘frugal’ sites I’m usually stunned at how wasteful I still am with my food! For February I’ve set a total food budget of $200, $45 bucks a week for groceries and a restaurant/take out budget of $20. Yup that’s right… I’m quitting the coffee/tea buying! So, without further ado:

I gave four options in the poll, and I’d like to how how much you spend per person in your household? I usually include hygiene items like toothpaste and shampoo but not laundry detergent because I make that myself. What’s included in your grocery budget, do you think it’s high low or just right? How do you save money on your groceries, I’d love to hear from you below!

Edit; so I was reviewing this post before publishing and I noticed that J Money on Budgets Are $exy posed the exact same question in his Jan 10th article “How much do you spend a week on groceries?” interesting stuff!!
Edit #2; Someone in my family just reminded me that students get 10% off on Tuesdays at the store I shop at. :/ Why I didn’t know about this is beyond me! I’m going to be taking advantage of that for sure!

Lifestyle inflation is a topic that has already been covered quite a few times on the web, more than two million times in fact! Nonetheless I still want to cover this topic today because I’ve fallen victim to it many times over and this time I would like to stop it in its tracks before I do it all over again, maybe you can benefit from this too.

Lifestyle inflation means that as your income rises so do your expenses, when you get a better job it  often means a nicer house, a nicer car, more brand name clothing ‘because you can afford it now’  a little splurge here and a little splurge there. I’ve done this myself;

When I first moved out of my parents home I was about 20 years old with very little debt, before I moved  I saved up a lot of things I would need for when I moved out on my own such as dishes, a little bit of furniture, linens etc. I moved far away from my parents with my boyfriend at the time and quickly got promoted at my job. I wanted to make us a home together and since it’s hard to make a rental look cozy we spent quite a bit of money that we didn’t have to buy ‘necessities’ such as a couch, a table and chairs , decorations and other furniture. That left us both in a lot of debt that we had to pay back and we were still living paycheque to paycheque like we were before we got good jobs. At times we were so broke that we paid our rent with our credit-card. This is a classic example of lifestyle inflation, we allowed ourselves to spend a little bit because we thought we deserved it and it was just too much too soon.

That is all behind me now, but I am now once again at the point that my finances are starting to look better and I am getting bigger paycheques. It is SO easy now for me to say, “I deserve to go out and spend $60 on a dinner because I can afford it now and I couldn’t before!” This is not to say you can’t treat yourself every once in a while, but can you do it without spending a boatload of money? It takes a bit of thought and I guess the trick is moderation.

I’ve made my first lump-sump mortgage payment this month, only a hundred dollars, but that signifies I am entering a new stage in my debt repayment and financial overhaul. I am inching closer and closer to not living paycheque to paycheque any more and I am also finding it harder and harder to not let my expenses go up as my income does. I will never get out of debt if I allow that to happen, I must keep my expenses proportionally lower as my income rises so I can slowly climb out of this financial hole.

Do you have any tips for me, or perhaps you’ve been through the same? I’d love to hear from you below!

… making your own laundry detergent.

I am becoming more and more aware of environmental issues, add that to my interest in personal finance and the result is home made laundry detergent. My primary motivation for wanting to make my own detergent was money, I knew that store bought detergent had a mark-up and figured that making it myself would be cheaper no matter what. My second motivation for going home made was that I am very sensitive to chemicals and have several environmental and food allergies. Eliminating even just one of those would be a plus! So I started searching for some recipes and reviews on what people thought about them. I wanted a simple, easy to make, budget-friendly and if possible also environmentally friendly detergent. I chose this recipe:

Home made detergent

Powdered Laundry Detergent:
12 cups of Borax
8 cups of Washing Soda*
8 cups of Baking Soda
8 cups of grated bar soap

I used a food-grade pail and doubled the recipe then simply measured cup by cup all the ingredients and stirred it around in the pail. The only hassle with the recipe was grating the soap, I grated it all by hand until I had enough and also some very sore fingers. You can use different kinds of bar soap, but it has to be a PURE soap. Don’t use something like a Dove bar as it won’t wash properly. I used Sunlight laundry bars, since they are already meant to be used with laundry and smell nice and fresh, and I am not known to be sensitive to them, I thought they were a safe bet.  All of these ingredients are available at a local grocery store and are usually reasonably priced.

With the detergent made I found I wanted to add a little bit more scent to it, the Sunlight bar soap already gave it that lemony-fresh smell but I wanted a bit more, so I added about 20 drops of PURE high quality essential oils in my favourite scent to the detergent. This is an optional step. It’s important to get good quality oil since it will be touching your clothes and you don’t want it to stain your favourite shirt. I bought my small bottle of oil for more than 18 dollars, so it is definitely not cheap. Without the oil the detergent would be even more cost efficient than what I calculated below;

Costs to make the recipe, approximately;
Home made det. total cost: $20.28 or $0.07 per load assuming 288 loads per recipe.
Store bought det. X 2.2KG total cost: $8.99 or $0.22 per load assuming 40 loads per box.

WOW! Big difference huh, store bought laundry detergent X is almost 60% more expensive than making your own! Did I do the math right…? I don’t know about you but I am pretty much stunned by the difference. At this point I was convinced this was the right choice but I was still a little concerned about how well it would actually work on our laundry. Who wants dingy clothes? So I used up my store bought detergent and started using only home made. I made the detergent in December 2009.

Looks just like store bought..

{Updated Oct 1st] Fast-forward to today, Oct 1, 2010 :
It has been 9 months since I started using this detergent, I am still using the same pail… I’m not even halfway through it yet!  I find that sometimes I have to add in a little more washing soda, baking soda or a cup of vinegar to help release some of the grime. Since all of my towels are white I wash them all once a month with a little bleach and baking soda to really keep them bright white. I also find that occasionally I ‘both’  a load of laundry, it’s usually some fault of my own and not the detergent. The wash comes out smelling funky and I rewash it with some vinegar and detergent to solve the problem.

All in all I am very happy I switched, stains come out reliably well, clothes come out fresh and clean. I would recommend homemade detergent to anyone! The only hassle is grating the soap for the rest it only takes about 5 minutes of measuring and stirring and you’re set for quite a while.

Thus far the only negative point, if you can call it that, is that I have noticed that clothes come out smelling like… nothing. They’re clean so they don’t smell like anything, if you are sensitive like me this is a good thing but for those people that like the ‘fresh linen’  or other fragrance you are best off to use a scented dryer bar or scented dryer sheets.

PS: The environmental impact of some of these ingredients can be argued, and I know that I should also find an alternative to using bleach, I think however that by eliminating additives, fillers, artificial colouring and others this recipe is already strides ahead of your regular detergent when it comes to the environment. I should also mention that I have not had any itching or allergic reactions I associated with other detergents since I have started using this recipe! + to make it better the next time I make it intend to look for even better sourced ingredients.

* Washing soda IS different from baking soda. It can usually be found on a top or bottom shelf at the grocery store in the same area as other laundry detergent.

So tell me! Have you tried this recipe, what do you think? Or… do you use something different already, does it work better? I’m always looking for bigger and better things and would love to hear any comments below