shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

The Things We DON'T Buy

December 28, 2015

A budget is a strange thing. Not only does it tell us how much money we spend, but it is an insight into the types of items we spend our money on. I was balancing our checkbook the other day and realized that there are basically 3 entities we pay: marinas (for fuel, water, some boat supplies like oil, the occasional dinghy dock and even rarer slip dockage), grocery stores, and internet (necessary for my work and keeping in touch with the kids). Obviously there are other things we pay cash for, like public transportation, and we do buy propane every few months, but the way we can get away with spending so little is that we simply DON'T buy a lot of items that most people do. The list of things we don't EVER buy can be a shocker to "normal" people.

We'll start with non-food items because when we start to talk about what we eat listeners often tune us out, thinking we're just crazy old hippies whose opinions are too radical to even consider. So we'll save the food that we don't buy for last. Even the non-food items that we no longer purchase can save hundreds of dollars a year. Take a look.

Laundry Detergent:
I found and adapted a wonderful laundry detergent that cleans better than any store-bought brand I've ever used. But, you say, you still have to buy the ingredients to make the detergent. True. Each batch costs me 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap and a couple of cups of powdered cleaners: less than $3 per batch. The last batch I made lasted 6 months. I can't imagine how many $6 jugs of detergent I would have purchased in that time before I found this recipe. (NOTE: Don't skimp on the tea tree oil in the recipe. Without it the detergent leaves clothes smelling like maple syrup. I can't fathom why, but that's the reality.)

That's not entirely true. We DO still buy deodorant, about once every 4 years when my Thai crystals run out. Most deodorants leave you smelling like deodorant and BO. The Thai crystals kill the bacteria that cause body odor rather than masking it. (Less than $2 a year we spend on deodorant.)

Again, I found a great recipe for homemade shampoo. (I haven't posted it yet, but I will soon.) The ingredients were a bit pricy initially, but it will average out to $5 a year for shampoo for both of us. The best part of this natural shampoo is that it does not strip your hair, so there is no need for conditioner. Another item we no longer buy.

Are you seeing a theme? We make our own out of baking soda and coconut oil. The ratio depends on the temperature. The warmer it is, the more baking soda we put in to try to thicken it. But in cooler climates, you can use just enough baking soda to feel it when you rub some between your fingers. It cleans and whitens better than any store-bought toothpaste, for pennies a month.

Make-up and hairspray are other items on a long list of cosmetics I don't bother with. Give me some sunscreen and a homemade bar of soap and I'm good to go.

I know there is at least one boater out there who just gasped. "You don't buy ziplocks? How could you survive without them?" That's what we thought for years. Then, within the last few months, we realized that ziplocks must be designed to quit zipping after two uses. They probably caught on that people were reusing their product, so they simply made it wear out. (That's my theory anyway.) We found our solution hidden with the other products nobody buys anymore: storage bags that are designed not to zip in the first place. Twist the top, close it with a twisty tie and BAM, super cheap non-zipping bags that actually seal. Over and over. I know, in this age of vacuum-seal-everything mentality, this is one change many of you are not willing to make. I'm just explaining how we live on next to no money. It may require some changes in the average thought process.

Paper napkins:
I bought cheap scraps of material, hemmed the edges, and we've been using these cloth napkins for 15 years. I made two each of 5 different patterns so we always could identify ours and washed them as necessary, a clean back up always in reserve. Do the math on the amount of money you spend on paper napkins in a year. You might be shocked. We were.

I buy printer paper, but for notes and other general writing purposes, we save every scrap of paper that we get with at least half of one side blank: invoices, junk mail, bills, receipts from internet orders, everything. Our pile of scrap paper varies, but it is currently about 3 inches thick. When our grandson wants to draw on something or build a paper airplane, though, we have paper for him.

Cleaning supplies:
We see bottles of cleaners in the marine store (when we're forced to enter one) that astound us. $18 for a cleaner that is basically watered-down bleach. The only cleaners we use are ammonia, vinegar, bleach, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and salt. There isn't anything you can't clean with those and they're cheap enough that you can buy an entire year's worth for the price of one bottle of cleaner from the marine store.

Time for the groceries that we don't buy:

Again, do the math. We can eat for an entire month on what some people spend in this category. We won't even get into the health problems (and adverse personality changes) that they cause.

Dave makes yogurt aboard. We have no refrigeration, so it only lasts 3 to 4 days, which means he has to make it often. It's relatively easy and costs about 15% of what store-bought yogurt costs.

Ditto on the granola. It's healthier and cheaper than anything you can buy in the store. He makes a batch every 10 days or so.

The other day we were getting the fixings out for burritos and realized we didn't have tortillas. Dinner was a little late because he had to make them. But when it only takes half hour to make, what could be better than fresh, homemade tortillas?

Sour cream/soft cheese:
Drain the whey off of some yogurt and you've got a suitable substitute for either.

Dave grows our own. He also makes pickled jalapenos and kim chi.

We live on a 34-foot boat without refrigeration. We travel and live on the hook as much as possible. Don't let size of your boat or your lifestyle deter you from making better choices for yourself. Not only do the items we don't buy save us money, but their substitutes are better for us, making us healthier and able to continue doing what we love for longer. And don't try using the excuse, "But I DESERVE expensive shampoo!" (or whatever) No, you don't. You deserve better.

The best way to stay safe and comfortable while cruising is to stay flexible. MONDAY we'll share what this philosophy looks like in our world.

Recent Articles



People and Places

Yarns and Opinions




Bolger AS-29


Can't find your favorite post?

Did you find something of interest? Consider donating $1.
Thank you.