Saving money doesn't always have to mean going without or going through exhausting extra effort. There are so many simple things you can do at home to cut costs that will add up to significant savings.
Have a clothesline - I love my clothesline. It's a nostalgic thing for me, as much as a money saver. My mother hung our clothes on the line in the summer since before I was born. I loved the fresh air smell on them. I've traveled Europe several times and always loved the lines of clothes hanging across the narrow streets and between buildings. Even if you are in an apartment and don't have a yard, you can still have a clothesline. If your apartment has two windows on one wall, it's pretty easy to attach a short rod next to each one on the outside wall. A couple of simple pulleys from the hardware store with your line strung through them in a loop - just reach out the window and clothespin the clothes on one at a time, pulling the rope through the pulley each time to put the next one on. If you only have one window, you can go outside with a ladder to attach the other rod, or string it out to a tree, fence, or another building. Get creative and you can have a clothesline just about anywhere. There's nothing like fresh linens blowing in the breeze. For inside, you can buy retractable clotheslines that easily install over a bathtub or in your laundry room, like the kind you sometimes see in hotel rooms. In the winter, I hang coats, blankets and other bulky items that take longer to dry, on a drying rack next to the wood stove. It saves a a very significant amount on our electric bill!
Watch the refrigerator door - Your clothes dryer and refrigerator are the two most expensive appliances to run. If you can cut down on how many times the door gets open and shut, you will cut down on how often the motor has to kick on. When I come home with groceries, I set all the items that go in the fridge, next to it, and then open the door once to put them all in. It's better to have the door open for a longer time, than to open and shut it several times in the same time frame, because of the seal on the door. Every time you pull it open and break the seal, it sucks air in quickly which circulates the air in the fridge, exchanging the cold air with the air from the room.
Have a tasty house plant - Even in a small apartment you can find room for a house plant or two. Tomato plants can be just as decorative as a common green house plant. If you attach a small hook to the ceiling above it and run a cord from it to the plant, you can keep tying your tomato plant to the cord and it will continue to climb toward the ceiling, bearing fruit all the way. Many herbs are easy to grow and make a perfect window box or potted plant. Unless you buy herbs in bulk quantities, they are pretty pricey in those little bottles they come in. You can grow them for a fraction of the same cost, enjoy the beauty, and eat them fresh!
Recycle candle scraps - If you love candles, like I do, you know they can sometimes be expensive - especially the higher quality ones. If it's a free-standing candle, they often drip and puddle. Jar candles almost always have at least a little wax left over in the jar, but sometimes it's a lot. Some wicks aren't very sturdy and they fall over in the melted wax and disappear. I keep all those unused wax portions, and when I get enough, I melt them down and pour new candles. Just save a tin can, wash out the beans or whatever was in it and remove the label. Set it in a pan of water and heat the water up until the wax melts. You can buy nice sturdy wicking by the yard, and those little anchors to put on the bottom at any craft store. Tie the top of the wick to a pencil and set the pencil over the opening of your candle jar so the wick hangs down in the center and reaches the bottom. Pour in the melted wax and trim the wick when it's cool. Or you can make hand-dipped candles by just dipping your wick in the can of melted wax. Dip it quickly, pull it out and let it cool for a few seconds and dip it again. You have to dip quickly so you don't melt off the wax you already have on. As you can see in the picture, my kids got creative with some of their candles! I've made a lot of candles over the years out of what would have been wasted. Most of them I pour in jars, but dipping is always fun. Although candles add a wonderful ambiance, you should always have them on hand for emergency lighting, too.
Save nice bows and wrapping paper - My husband and I were just discussing, and decided that in the 21 years we've been married, we've probably only bought new bows 4 or 5 times! I don't like "tacky", so if they get a little crushed or crumpled and don't look new, I toss them. They just seem to last forever. When we unwrap a present and pull the bow off and it still looks brand new, I just don't have it in me to throw it away! I put it in the "bow box". Wrapping paper certainly doesn't last nearly as long, but most of our paper gets used at least several times. After it's used for a present, if there is still a nice big center that looks unused, I cut off the edges and put the now smaller piece in the "paper box". I'm sure we've saved a small fortune over 21 years of birthdays and Christmases!
Well, that's just a few of my ideas. There are plenty more and I'll share more on later posts. If you have any great ideas to share, please leave them in the comments.