Friday, May 31, 2013

Homemade Cleaning Products

So once again, I am tired of paying top dollar for WATER. Yep, that’s right. WATER. What is the #1 ingredient in your cleaning products? You guessed it, water. I’m pretty sure this is the biggest scam of all time!

How do we make cleaning products that are just as effective as store bought products? I’m glad you asked. It is super easy. And you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry. 

Basic cleaning spray/409: Take your old cleaning spray bottle, fill half with vinegar and half with water. And you are done. Easy! It costs about $.17/bottle to make!

I use about one bottle every 1-2 months, that's $1.02 for basic cleaning spray that I spend on for a whole year! Now with the store bought version it would cost me $4/bottle, $24 per year with the store bought version. Saving me $22.98 a year with the homemade version!

Windex: Take your old windex spray bottle, add ¼ cup of ammonia to the bottle. Add ½ cup of rubbing alcohol. Fill the rest with water.  It took maybe 2 minutes for me to make this. It costs about 13 cents to make this at home.

I use one bottle of spray about every year (we don't have very many windows or mirrors in our apartment). Costing me $4 per year with the store bought version. Saving me per $3.87 a year with the homemade version.

Sink cleaner/Tub cleaner: Sprinkle baking soda over the targeted areas (rings in the bathtub or sink, mildew areas, anything that is grimey, etc…). Take your homemade 409 cleaner and spray the baking soda, creating a paste. Scrub and rinse with water. This recipe can vary in cost because it depends on how much surface area you need to scrub. I would estimate maybe 7 cents per bath tub, it depends on how much baking soda you use. The store bought version is about $2 and I use maybe two a year (that's $4 a year).

I use this scrub once every 2-3 months, costing me 28 cents a year! Saving me $3.72 a year.

And of course, you can always "google" for more homemade recipes that cost way less than store bought cleaning products.You can pronounce all the ingredients and it keeps more money in your wallet.

The only cleaning product that I do not make myself is toilet bowl cleaner. I haven't found any recipes that I like so far. I buy the Clorox toilet wand to clean my toilets. So I spend about $5 every six months. That's $10 a year. I know, I know, I can do better than that. Maybe this will motivate me to do more research on this.

Cost of homemade cleaners for 1 year: $11.43 ($10 for toilet bowl cleaner, $1.02 basic cleaner, $.13 windex, and $.28 for scrub)
Cost of store bought cleaners for 1 year: $32

Savings per year (aka money in the bank): $20.57

Do you have homemade cleaning product recipes? Please post them below.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adobt Debt Free With Your Unwanted Change

Everybody has change just lying around in their house. Most people don't worry with such small coins as they would with big bills. So why not put that money to good use and help your adoption fund grow. This project is low cost to start up, maybe even free. All you need is a container to store the change that you collect. This is an easy way to make money without having to work hard or sacrifice a lot of time. You can get your friends or family members to collect their change on your behalf to help save for your adoption. It is a great way to get the whole family involved with saving money to help bring home the newest family member.

So here's how you do it: get a container about the size of a coffee can (that is actually what I use), preferably free. You could also use a plastic coke bottle. Once you have a container, go around your house (underneath the couch, inside bed side tables, baskets where you store random pieces of paper, etc...) and gather up all your change and put it in your change container.  Every time you buy something with cash, keep your change and put it in your container.  Keep up with this cycle for a couple of months until your canister is full of coins. And since I'm so cheap I go a step further. If I find a penny or other change on the ground, I will definitely pick it up and add it to my canister. Just imagine picking up one penny a day for a whole year, that's $3.65 that you didn't work for or spend time doing a fundraiser for your adoption. I know some people who think this is unsanitary but hey, I didn't have to work for it and that's what hand sanitizer is for!

Collecting change will add up super fast. Once your canister is full, take it to Coinstar or you can roll the change yourself and take it to your bank to trade your change in for dollar bills. Once you do this a couple of times you will see how much one full canister of change is equivalent to in dollar bills. My canister is equal to $100! If I keep this up twice a year, that's $200 that I have saved without any effort.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Homemade Febreze

Febreze has not been on the market for a long time. It made its way to the shelves in 1998. But it is a product that I cannot live without. It makes your house smell fresh and clean, especially if you have pets or kids. I just love spraying all the fabrics that cannot be put in the washer with Febreze.

But the cost of febreze is outrageous! You could pay $5 or more dollars on a small bottle. What a rip off! And it's more water than any other ingredient, which upsets me even more. So there has to be a cheaper homemade version right? Of course there is! And once again, you will use ingredients you probably already have.

Homemade Febreze: Take your old Febreze bottle. Put 2 tbsp. of baking soda in the bottle. Add ¼ cup of liquid fabric softner (one that smells pleasing to you and cheap). Then fill the rest of the bottle up with hot water and shake to mix all the ingredients. It's that easy.

Cost of homemade febreze: $.50/bottle
Cost of real Febreze: $5/bottle

I use about 1 bottle per month. That’s 12 bottles a year, costing me $60 just for Febreze. Instead with the homemade version, I spend $6 each year. That’s a $54 savings each year!

This homemade Febreze  works better than the store bought kind. It stays on fabrics longer. And it’s ridiculously cheap. With homemade recipes like this one, I'm sure my adoption fund is going to grow!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Homemade Homemade Mouthwash

Since we are on this adventure of adopting debt free, we have to be wise on what we spend our money on. In the last six months I have become a “homemade junkie”, which is a nickname I came up with that basically means “if it can be made at home for cheaper we are trying it”.

The other night we ran out of mouthwash, bummer. Another item to add to the grocery list, but wait let’s look at the ingredients to see if it can be homemade. First ingredient: Water. Wait what?? Mouthwash is expensive and I’m paying $5-7 for water? I don’t think so. The next couple of ingredients are alcohol, sugar, flavoring, and preservatives. Now of course all of these ingredients have really long names and I can’t even pronounce most of them and had to google to see what they were. But seriously, do we really need all those ingredients in mouthwash. So we googled "how to make your own mouthwash" and tons of recipes came up. We have modified some of the recipes from our search and came up with one that works really well for us. And it is versatile to fit all types of bottles.

So here’s how we made our new inexpensive mouthwash:
Take your old mouthwash bottle. Fill ¼ of the bottle with Vodka (the cheapest you can find). If you prefer a stronger alcohol content you can increase the amount of alcohol in the bottle, but 1/4 of the bottle is a good starting point. Add 4-5 tsp. of peppermint extract (or lemon juice). And then fill the rest of the bottle with water. It’s just that simple. It takes maybe 5 minutes from start to finish. So let's look at the numbers and see how this can increase money in our adoption fund.

Generic Brand (not name brand) Mouthwash: $6 for 1 bottle

Homemade Mouthwash:  $13 (vodka: $7  peppermint extract: $5 water:$1 (water probably cost less than this, but I like to be conservative with numbers)) for 5-6 bottles-depending on how strong the alcohol content you prefer the mouthwash to have. Each bottle is about $2.16 each.

This homemade version doesn’t taste bad at all. I love the peppermint flavor. And I can even pronounce all the ingredients. 

If I buy one bottle a month ($6) for 12 months, mouthwash would cost $72 a year. Crazy! Just on mouthwash! Can you believe that? With the homemade version, I am saving $3.84 each month and $46 per year!

This is such a simple idea. I wonder what else I can make from scratch that saves us tons of money.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Adopt Debt Free: Internet & Netflix

This past week in the Barnett household has been one of the toughest! We have temporarily given up our internet and Netflix. Yea I know it is crazy! Since we are not able to get many grants for our adoption because we are on the Dave Ramsey plan (paid off all our debt and have a fully funded emergency fund), we have to be creative in ways to save our income for adoption expenses. One creative way is no internet and Netflix! Crazy I know! But let me tell you why.

In the past month our internet doubled to $43 a month. That is not ok! So we downgraded to a slower internet to $33, still paying more than our usual $20/month. So Wes and I have decided that we will get rid of internet completely to save that $33/month. It's not going to be easy to NOT have internet readily available at our house, but I think we can manage. The first night we didn't have internet was the hardest. We felt so lost and disconnected from the web. Like we had lost a dear friend (silly, I know). Since we have not had internet access for the past week, it hasn't been so bad. We have been on walks through our neighborhood (actually getting to meet our neighbors) and visited more with friends. I think having no internet access at our house has been a positive improvement.

Since we disconnected our internet, we knew we had to get rid of Netflix. Bummer. We are only paying $7.99/month for Netflix streaming, which is not a lot. It's not a bad price compared to the cable company's prices. Since we no longer have internet we couldn't watch Netflix at our house. I literally cried! I mean it's Netflix. I have watched it almost every night for the past 3 years and we are going to quit cold turkey. I have a huge emotional attachment to Netflix, so this wasn't going to be easy. I knew adopting debt free meant that we would have to sacrifice but geez. So we will have to be creative with ways to entertain ourselves.

By saving on Netflix and internet our monthly savings is up $40.99. That's $491.88 a year! Wow.

So now we have tons of free time, what are we going to do with ourselves?? First, we are getting library cards. I didn't realize that the local library has most of my tv shows that I could just check out. Great! Netflix just became history! Plus my friend Kelly watches the same shows that I do and she buys them when they come out on DVD! Yea, she is totally my new best friend!! But what about internet? Yea that's a tricky one that will require additional patience. Luckily, Wes attends Tulane University which has free internet. Wes also has a smart phone if we need to look up something quick. And of course the library has free internet access. So I think we can survive without internet. It is definitely a life style change. It will be hard to get use to not checking my email every hour. And yes, we will still have our blog going. It will be a fun adventure to see how long we can live without these nice conveniences. We can always re-activate our accounts if we want these services in the future, so it's not a huge deal if we decide to change our minds later. I will keep you all updated on our status of not having internet and see how we manage to gain free internet access without paying.

Have you disconnected your internet to save money? What about you? What is the hardest thing for you to give up in order to save some money? We want to hear how you save and hopefully get some ideas from you. Leave your comments below.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Adopt Debt-Free: Energy Bill

"Girl, you crazy", is the most often phrase I hear when I tell people that we are adopting with out taking on ANY debt. Of course their follow-up question is "how you gonna do that?" Well hopefully in these next set of posts we will explain how we are "gonna do" just that.

Can I just say that I am sick of giving my hard earned money away to the grocery store, energy bill, cellphone companies, and any other company that loves to do business with me. In the last year or so, I have become a self-proclaimed "frugalist". No I am not one of the crazy coupon ladies, or at least not yet. But I do love to save money! Hopefully I can give you some ideas to implement in your own home.

First lets take a look at your energy bill.


Living in South Louisiana with tropical heat is a killer, especially in August. So how do we save money on our electric bill without dying?

Let's start with the easy stuff:

1. Unplug everything! I'm talking about the TV, microwave, coffee pot, toaster oven, and  any other appliance (except refrigerator, freezer) that has a button that is glowing full of energy. Do you really need that light on in the corner of your TV? Yea, I know it is a hassle to sit down on your couch and realize the TV needs to be plugged in and so you get back up to plug it in. Look at it in two ways: FREE gym membership and you save money on your electric bill! WIN, WIN, WIN!! (reference from my Michael Scott friend, Kelly). And one more important thing: don't keep your laptop or laptop cord plugged in constantly. There is a shiny button on your laptop cord that glows!

2. Air dry your clothes. The dryer is a killer of energy. Towels, jeans or any article of clothing that has thick fabric takes up a lot of energy in the dryer. Your towels are actually more absorbent if you air dry them. I usually wash my clothes right before I go to bed and then when I wake up I hang my clothes on the dry rack. By the time I'm home from work, my clothes are perfectly dry. If you have to wash your clothes at a laundry mat, this is a great tip for you as well! Now you don't have to use up lots of precious "coin money" and lots of time sitting at the laundry mat waiting for your clothes to dry.

3. How is your hot water usage? This is another easy fix on your energy bill.  Lower the temperature of your hot water heater. You can start out a couple of degrees less and gradually decrease it to a lukewarm temperature. Or if you're not into that just take quick showers and try to minimize your hot water usage. Wash your clothes in cold water instead of hot water.

4. Peak Hours. Don't wash clothes during peak hours. The energy company will charge you more per kilowatt if you use energy during the day Monday thru Friday, 8am-8pm. Start a load of laundry before you go to bed or wait till the weekend (but who wants to do that??). Use the least amount of towels throughout the week. Towels are made up of thick fabric and it takes more energy to spin them around and rinse. Another thing to avoid during peak hours is heavy baking, unless you need to bake something for you cousin's aunt's sister who is sick. Try to do all your heavy baking on the weekend. See how much your energy company charges for usage during peak hours and off-peak hours. 

5. Air conditioner. Don't worry, I don't want us all to sweat to death in this Louisiana heat. But do you really have to keep it at 60 degrees? Try around 75 degrees and add some fans. Fans will help circulate the air and keep it a couple of degrees cooler. And don't forget to drink water. Keep hydrated so your body temperature will be cool.

6. Wash your clothes once a week or every 10 days. Do you really need to wash everyday? Unless you have 10 kids or so and they only have 3 sets of clothes each, then I could understand your need to wash everyday. Make sure you are washing a full load and not just a couple of articles of clothing. Make every wash count. Same thing with your dishes. Make sure your dish washer is full, but not too loaded to not properly wash your dishes. And pass on the heat dry setting for your dishes. Just let them dry the old fashioned way or dry them off with a towel.

7. That pretty lamp that is in the corner just ties your whole house together when it is on. So turn it off. Do you need it to function throughout the the whole entire day. I am all for pretty lamps. Looking around as I type this, I have 6 in my living area! I try to turn my lamps on only when I have company over.

8. Drink plenty of water. Stay hydrated. It will lower your body temperature so you could keep your thermostat around 75 degrees.

9. Use fans. The cost of energy for a couple of fans isn't near compared to running the A/C. Fans will help keep your house a couple of degrees cooler.

10. Invest in curtains. Curtains will block the sunlight (aka heat) from taking over your house. Along with curtains, you might want to consider investing in pleated shades. You can buy pleated shades around $10 or so.

11. Update your light bulbs. Compact fluorescent light bulbs use less energy and will save you money in the long run. Yea, they may cost a little more at the beginning but they will save you some money in the end.

12. Clean your air filters. If you have dirty air filters your A/C has to work extra hard to the air through the filters. So keep it clean so you can save money on your energy bill

13. Use less dishes. Use 1 cup per day instead of four and rinse between beverages. It will take less hot water to clean a couple of dishes than a whole sink full of dishes.

I hope these tips can help lower your energy bill and save you more money! If you have any other tips you would like to share please leave a comment down below!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Republic of Poland


Population: 38 million

Peoples: Slavic 98.8% (include Polish 96.7%, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Silesian, Kashubian, and Russian)

Literacy: 99.7%

Official Language: Polish

Economy: Historically an agricultural economy until Communist rule added heavy industry.

Politics: Poland has been weakened, divided, and conquered by many nations since the 10th century. One quarter of the population died in World War II. Major protests in 1989 which led to a multiparty democracy. Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Most recently, in 2010, the Polish President and other leaders were killed in a tragic air crash. 

Religion: Catholic 85.69%
                     Protestant .44%
                     Orthodox 1.44%
                     Jewish .01%
All religions have equal rights before law, but the Roman Catholic Church exercises its traditional pride of place in the Polish Society. Mary is considered the Spiritual Queen of Poland. Pope John Paul II came from Poland.

Capital City (and the largest city in Poland): Warsaw

Food: Poles love food and consume large portions of it. The food can range from simple to exotic, which depend on the region you visit. They eat lots of root vegetables, potatoes, beets, etc... They are famous for their pierogis, which can be cooked in a variety of ways.

Their drink of choice is vodka.  The also consume drinks with lots of fruit, called "kompote". Another choice of drink, which is alcohol free, is Oranzada (similar to Fanta). And how can I forget kawa or coffee. They do enjoy coffee almost as much as vodka. Their breakfasts are very heavy with lots of meat. 

Music: Frederic Chopin is Poland's most famous composer. In the 1980s, heavy metal music became very popular among Poles. But in the 1990s, death metal started becoming more popular. Vader, a Polish death metal band, is considered the most successful act in Polish death metal history. Their career spans over three decades. Poles also enjoy alternative music as well.

Here is a radio station I've been listening to:

Popular Attractions: 
Baltic Sea:

City of Krakow:

Great Masurian Lakes:


 Black Madonna of Czestochowa:
(A shrine where Poles can make pilgrimages each year)

And of course there are countless of museums and WWII sites to visit.

Sources: Operation World and

How Can We Afford Adoption?

That is a big question. How can we afford an international adoption and adopt debt-free? The answer is simple. We can't. But we know our Father can! We had to have faith that He would provide, and we had to budget. Thankfully we were already on the Dave Ramsey program of using the envelope system and his budget sheets. We wanted to do everything that we could with the money that was given to us through our jobs. Knowing that we couldn't just save $30k or more, we did some fundraisers to help supplement our savings. Now we are in the waiting stage of our adoption story and we are heavily resorting to fundraisers to help finish paying for our adoption.

Our fundraisers included selling Just Love Coffee, garages sales, and raffles. Our longest-running fundraiser is our coffee. It is the best coffee you can buy on the market and is fair trade. I couldn't tell you how many people tell me how great it taste. We had one garage sale and it was a big hit! We made $2400 in two days. Our friends and family donated a lot of home goods to make this happen. I would love to have another sale but we moved to an apartment complex recently so we are not able to have one. Garage sales are great if you need quick cash. We only had one raffle so far. And it went really well.  Another fundraiser we recently have adventured onto is Olive Tree Promise. They sale t-shirts, jewelry, hats, scarves, canvas paintings and many more. 30-50% of the proceeds that you purchase come to our adoption fund. It is very similar model to Just Love Coffee's program. My favorite t-shirt, which I'm currently promoting, is "superman was adopted" logo.

Another idea to help fund your adoption is grants. I literally spent hours if not days looking/googling different types of grants. I am actually kind of disappointed at the lack of grants that are out there. Grants are amazing for any adoptive family, any amount great or small. Unfortunately most of the ones I found have a $50-$150 application fee. I am very stingy with the adoption money that we have saved up and I don't want to pay any amount just to see if I qualify for their particular grant program.

I hope to post more on our budget and how we are/continuing to pay for our adoption debt free.