The Thrifty Librarian

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Save on Soap

Post date: Wednesday, February 22, 2012 - 10:57de la mañana

I’ve been on a do-it-yourself kick lately and I found an awesome DIY project over the weekend: making my own liquid soap! All you need is a bar of soap, a bottle of glycerin (I found mine at Hobby Lobby), a cheese grater, a pot and a container to put your liquid soap in. I made a half-gallon of high-quality hand soap for about $4.00. When I compare that to what I paid for all-natural hand soap ($5.99 for 10 ounces) I can’t believe I didn’t learn about this sooner. Here’s what I did:

First, I gathered my ingredients. Pretty simple, right?














Next, I grated the soap. I like the way it turned into little curls.












Now comes the hard part: Dump the soap curls into a half-gallon of tap water. Whew!












Now add 1 tablespoon of glycerin and stir over medium heat until the soap curls dissolve. It’ll look like soapy water but don’t worry! It will thicken.












The next part was the hardest for me because I’m so impatient. You have to let your soap sit overnight to thicken. When I checked mine in the morning it was the consistency of Jell-O so I beat it with an electric mixer to liquify it again.













The last step is to pour your new liquid soap into a container. I used a funnel because I am accident-prone!

Will you try making liquid soap? If you do, let me know how it turns out!

Last-Minute Valentine's Day Decorating

Post date: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 12:44de la tarde

Can you believe we’re halfway through February already? Before we start whistling tunes of springtime, we have one more winter holiday to celebrate: Valentine’s Day! If you’re like me and forgot to decorate, here’s a quick, cheap project you can do to dress up your house: Simply string paper doilies from a spare piece of ribbon, and festoon from anything you like. I attached my garland to a bookcase, a big picture frame, and my antique sewing machine.

I borrowed this idea from Mexican paper cutout banners I saw hanging in Jerry’s Tacos right here in downtown Waukegan. Happy Valentine’s Day!

(Almost) Free Decorating

Post date: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 12:12de la tarde

I just love getting something for nothing. A couple months ago, I found a neat wooden frame sitting out on the curb. It was designed to hold a mirror above a dresser, but the mirror was long gone. The owners must have decided it was no use anymore. Their loss was my gain! I had been looking for something big enough to put on a large expanse of wall in my living room. Here’s what I used for my project:

  • A wooden frame: free, of course
  • Botanical prints: free(ish). I bought a book of prints for 3 Euro several years ago and have clipped most of my wall art from it
  • One small can of spray paint: $2.99
  • Three clip frames from Hobby Lobby: $14
  • Four pieces of scrapbook paper: 80 cents


This project was very quick and easy. I used two coats of spray paint on the frame and left it to dry overnight:







I cut the scrapbook paper to fit the frame, and centered the Audubon prints. Then it just took a few nails to hang the frames. The large pink frame is hung from a screw because it was a tad too heavy to hang from a nail.







This is the first wall I see when I come home and I love it! How do you decorate “on a dime”? What is the best decorating deal you’ve ever scored? 

My love affair with baking soda

Post date: Sunday, January 8, 2012 - 5:10de la tarde

Ever since I moved to a smaller home, I can’t stand the smell of strong chemicals. I stopped buying silver polish, oven cleaner, Brillo pads, and all-purpose spray for the kitchen. What did I replace them all with? Baking soda.

I use baking soda for almost every cleaning task in my home. Stuck-on food in a pan? Baking soda. Time to scrub out the oven? Baking soda. Got rust stains from a can you left on the counter? Baking soda. I just make a paste with water (or vinegar, for stubborn stains) and scrub with a sponge. The results are impressive. You can buy 12 pounds of baking soda for $9.16 at or just pick up a package at the grocery store. I also use a paste of baking soda and rose water to exfoliate my skin. It’s simple and so much cheaper than storebought scrubs.

If you’re interested in more uses for baking soda, check out the book “More Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things” and tell me how you save money by using everyday things in unconventional ways.

Post-Christmas Cleanup

Post date: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - 12:16de la tarde

Christmas is over and I have a renewed determination to keep my home clean and clutter-free. Step one in my clutter-free home plan: pack away the Christmas decorations. Over the weekend I saw an advertisement for ornament boxes — for $20! I don’t think so. I made my own storage with a piece of cardboard, some party cups, and hot glue. Just glue the bottoms of the cups to the cardboard and drop your ornaments in.

I layered three sheets of ornaments in my living room ottoman (it serves as Christmas storage in my small home). By stacking ornaments in this way, weight is distributed on the cups, not the ornaments. This reduces the chance the ornaments on the bottom will break.

Instead of buying tissue paper to wrap other decorations, I used my stash of plastic grocery bags . Everything will stay clean and dust-free until next year, and I only spent $2.99 (for the party cups). Happy New Year’s cleaning!

Have a Holly, Jolly (and Thrifty) Christmas

Post date: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 8:37de la tarde

Nothing blows my budget like Christmas! I love decorating and even handmade decorations can get expensive. Here are a few thrifty alternatives I made this year — almost for free!

Decoupage Christmas ornaments. I bought plain glass ornaments from a craft store for $2.99 and decoupaged them with paper from old books I got at the library’s booksale (they have a cart of books they give away FOR FREE!). Instead of name brand decoupage glue, I used a half-and-half mixture of Elmer’s white glue and water and added some glitter at the end for some sparkle. Cost per ornament: 65 cents.

Ruched tree skirt. Pretty tree skirts can cost $50 or more. I made my own tree skirt using this tutorial and a tablecloth I bought at a thrift store. Total cost: $3.99 + tax.

Shabby chic gift wrap. The idea of spending money on paper that’s just going to get torn up and thrown away is crazy! I’ve been wrapping my gifts in brown grocery bags and scrap ribbon from old craft projects. When the ribbon runs out, I’ll switch to leftover embroidery thread. Cost: free.

Yarn-wrapped letters. I bought papier-mache letters at the craft store for 99 cents apiece and wrapped them in some extra yarn I had from an old crochet project. I spelled the word “peace” and hung it on my kitchen wall from some ribbon I found languishing in my craft bin. Cost: $4.95 + tax.

Advent wreath. I admit, I have a TON of extra yarn (I always buy too much for crochet projects). I made my own Advent wreath by carving holes for candles in a foam wreath form ($4.99), then wrapping it in yarn. I made a few crochet flowers for decoration. After Christmas, I can replace the purple and rose candles ($3.99) with white ones for a neutral tabletop decoration. Cost: $8.98 + tax.

How do YOU live within your means at Christmastime? Share your ideas with me and I’ll post them for everyone!

Free Fun at the Library

Post date: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - 5:01de la tarde

Are you free this Tuesday from 6:00 to 7:30p? If you are, plan on heading to the library to meet a #1 New York Times bestselling author! We’re thrilled to welcome Chris Bohjalian to the Waukegan Public Library to discuss his new book The Night Strangers. Mr. Bohjalian will read from The Night Strangers, talk about his motivation to become an author and take questions from the audience.

Books will be available for purchase on Tuesday evening, but this is a completely free event! You can enter a raffle to win a free signed copy of The Night Strangers and snack on homemade baked goods. Sign up here:

See you on Tuesday!


Goodbye Summer

Post date: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 2:41de la tarde

The air is crisp, the leaves are starting to change, and it’s time to pack away your summer clothes. You scored some gorgeous outfits at thrift stores this summer (right?) and you want to make sure your items will be just as beautiful when you pull them out of storage next summer. How? By implementing the basic concepts outlined below:

  • Clean. Dirty clothes attract bugs and stains you may not notice now will have plenty of time to set during the long winter months. Wash and thoroughly dry clothes before stacking them loosely in a plastic storage container (not cardboard).
  • Cool. Warmth encourages condensation, which encourages mildew, which is gross! Choose a cool place to store your clothing like under the bed, in the garage, or in the basement.
  • Dry. Wet clothes will grow mildew faster than your front lawn can grow dandelions. Make sure the clothes you store are completely dry. Even the smallest amount of moisture is enough to leave that musty smell that never seems to go away.
  • Dark. Light is the enemy of your vibrant wardrobe! Keep your stored clothing away from direct sunlight to keep it looking fresh and new.

Some clothing experts recommend that you have all your clothes professionally dry cleaned before storing them, but that’s not very thrifty, is it? Dry cleaning is recommended because it kills moths and their larva, but putting your clothes in the freezer does the same thing. Just keep your new skirts away from the chocolate ice cream!

Money-Saving Websites!

Post date: Monday, August 15, 2011 - 3:29de la tarde

The Internet puts all the answers we need at our fingertips, but there’s so much information to sift through. But today is your lucky day! I’ve sifted through all that information and found the very best websites to help you save money. Don’t you just love this blog?

  • Find online discount codes and manufacturer’s coupons here. Before you print a coupon, ask yourself whether the value of the coupon exceeds the cost of printing it.
  • is full of grocery coupons! As a bonus, you can learn the art of “couponing” from the Coupon Mom
  • I love this website’s gas station finder. It searches for the lowest gas prices along your commute route. It even finds filling stations that are near your drive and factors in the cost to drive out of your way.
  • This site was a big help when I switched cell phone providers. I was able to find a wireless plan that fit my needs and my budget — all without talking to a pushy salesperson!
  • I use this website every time I purchase a plane ticket or book a hotel room. It collects the best prices from travel sites all over the internet and puts them in one window for your perusal.
  • If you only use one website on this list, make it this one. connects with your bank account and helps you analyze where your money is going. I was shocked to learn how much money I spend at restaurants… what will you learn?

Staycations: They're Still Cool

Post date: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - 8:49de la mañana

I’ve been thinking about taking a vacation lately. First I looked into flying to Europe — ha! That’s not going to happen on a thrifty budget. Next I thought about a drive to one of America’s national parks. Ha again! Gas is getting pricier all the time and the hotels in those parks are steep (can you tell I’m not a camper?). So what’s a thrifty person to do with her vacation time? Have a staycation, of course! I’m going to be a tourist in my own town. If you’re interested in having a staycation, check out these links for lots of fun (and thrifty!) things to do around home:

  • Waukegan Community Calendar of Events See a listing of events sponsored by the city. Almost all of these are completely free!
  • Waukegan Park District If you’re not an expert on the programs and events offered by the Park District, you need to study up on this awesome service! Take dance classes, learn a language, or take group trips to local attractions for a fraction of what you would pay alone.
  • Museum Adventure Pass I know, I know. I can’t stop talking about the Museum Adventure Pass. But they can save you so much money! Check out a pass to the Chicago Botanic Garden or Brookfield Zoo for maximum savings.
  • I like to do some shopping while I’m on vacation, and a staycation is no different. Use to find estate sales in and around Waukegan. You can find directions to the house and view photos of items that will be in the sale.

Just because you’re not leaving the state doesn’t mean you can’t leave your worries behind — at least for a week or so. Happy staycationing!