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15 Things I don’t pay for anymore

I wish I owned a couple of colleges with highly competitive football teams (read “teams that bring in a gazillion dollars to my college”) and the college bookstores to match. I would be one wealthy so-and-so.

Until recently, I had no true concept of how many different things a university charges for, not to mention the textbook market that they’ve cornered. You don’t simply pay tuition, books, room and board.

No, you are also assessed a health center fee, “green” fee,” technology fee, athletic fee, recreation fee, transportation fee, activity fee, “special institution” fee, lab fee, program fee, land fee, student facilities fee and parking fee.

You must outfit a dorm or an apartment, purchase requisite software (assuming your student has a laptop already, otherwise add that to the list, too), order football tickets, pay dues and fees for various clubs, perhaps get a bike, new headphones, bigger backpack, tiny refrigerator, awkward futon and an ample supply of contact paper and Solo cups.

At any rate, lessons learned and adjustments happily made.

DH and I took a hard look at the things we thought we could live without, make ourselves or cut back on. Some things that others are able to do away with were simply not up for discussion at our house … like cable. We (where we=DH) are not able to live without “our” four channels of EPSN and Law & Order/NCIS/King of Queens/MASH reruns.

And I (in this case “I” really does mean me) am not ready to give up my feminine hygiene products for the much-touted Diva Cup. I’m truly hoping that I’ll find myself in Menopause World before I have to revisit that subject again.

There are, however, some things that we’ve easily, for the most part, been able to substitute or stop buying. Here are some examples from our “Don’t Buy This Anymore” list:

1. I’ve become a pretty aggressive couponer and have resolved not to buy toothpaste, shampoo or deodorant unless I can get them for free or pennies. I stock up when I do find a good deal, and we have a good stockpile of that stuff now.

2. Cleaning supplies. I am learning how to clean with baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar. I use it for general cleaning, mirrors/windows, fabric softener, etc. I’m still a little hung up on cleaning toilets with Comet, but I’m making progress.

3. Magazine subscriptions. I’m a magazine hound and can’t imagine not having one by my chair at all times. I will only pay for them using My Coke Rewards points, though.

I use the points from the 12-packs used to fill the machine at work and earn subscriptions. I also get subscriptions as gifts at holiday time. (Thanks, Mom!)

4. Envelopes. I save the envelopes that come with bills and junk mail and put an address label over the preprinted address/window. We don’t use a ton of envelopes because we pay most of our bills online, but these still come in handy.

5. Frozen meals. Need I say more here?

6. Paper towels. I’ve started cutting up our old towels and putting a hem or binding on them to use in place of paper towels.

7. Laundry detergent. A couple of years ago, I started making my own laundry detergent — the powdered version — from a recipe I found on Pinterest. It has worked wonderfully and costs only a few pennies per load. I love it. Here’s the mix I use.

8. Herbs.

Basil: I grow and dry enough basil in the summer to last all year.

Rosemary: I have a giant bush in a container on my porch that looks like a little Christmas tree. I use it all year long for seasoning. We also love to use the woody stems to skewer our shish kabobs.

Green onions: Once you’ve purchased the first two or three, you very seldom have to buy them again. After using the green tops, place the root end in a cup or jar of water on a windowsill or sunny spot. Those suckers will grow like weeds and you’ll be able to cut fresh green onions every few days or so, and they’ll keep coming back.

9. Jam/jelly. I’ve learned how to make and can jams and preserves over the last couple of years. We enjoy going to u-pick farms and I always try to put up a batch or two of whatever we get.

I made peach preserves, strawberry jam and applesauce this year. My latest is a batch of fig preserves I put up this weekend.

10. Landline. Still working on DH to eliminate our landline. I don’t see the need for it; he doesn’t think he can hear as well on a cell phone. What are your thoughts?

11. Bread. I’ve had a bread maker for a while. Now I’ve actually started using it.

The trick seems to be leaving the machine on the counter where it’s easily accessible. I think our cost for a homemade loaf of fresh bread is about 45 cents! Tastes so much better and has no preservatives.

I’m looking for a good way to make the loaf last longer now. With just the two of us, it gets stale before we eat it all. I make breadcrumbs and croutons a lot!

12. Hand soap. I just learned that dissolving a bar of soap in hot water makes liquid hand soap. I love this one! I can usually get bars of soap for free with coupons.

13. Salad dressing. Tastes better. No preservatives. Better for you. I gained a ton of space in my refrigerator door as I eliminated our collection of opened salad dressing bottles. Boom.

14. Vanilla. I made homemade vanilla extract to give as Christmas gifts a couple of years ago. The flavor and intensity is so much better than the artificial kind and so much less expensive than the pure vanilla you get in the store, I’ll never buy it again. The initial investment is well worth it.

15. Miscellaneous stuff. I love getting mail and especially love getting packages in the mail! I’ve combined this with our need to cut back on purchases by requesting free samples from companies.

I have a goal of emailing (free!) at least three companies that I like every week and requesting samples and/or coupons. More often than not, a well-written, meaningful email of praise (or complaint if you have a legitimate one) will result in a freebie.

Companies also promote new products with free samples all the time. Try visiting She SpeaksKraft First TasteFree Stuff Times and Hey, It’s Free! All You magazine also hosts a Daily Free Sample calendar on its website.

You can also get free samples from your doctors (dentist, optometrist, dermatologist, etc.), from in-store promotions (warehouse clubs are good for this) and department store makeup and perfume counters. The lady at the perfume counter said the best times of year for this are a couple of weeks before Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day.

I encourage you to think of things you don’t need to buy anymore and create your own “Don’t Buy Anymore” list. Have any great ideas you can share with us?

Originally posted on Nest Full of New.

Tracy Knutsen (@nestfullofnew) from Nest Full of New is a mom, a grant writer and a lifestyle blogger who enjoys traveling, cooking and spending time with her husband and sassy dachshund at their home in Atlanta.

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