Monday Q&A | Laundry Detergent, Haircuts, and Goodwill

by Kristen on May 17, 2010 · 31 comments

in Goodwill, Haircuts, Laundry

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

Do you make or buy your laundry detergent? I am considering making my own detergent using washing soda and borax. I have read articles saying things such as you spend 2cents per load by making your own and it lasts longer than buying. Just wondering if it does anything strange to clothes (smell, extreme color fade, etc.). Thanks, Ashley

I did try making my own two summers ago, but my experience was less than fabulous. For some reason, my clothes started to smell like stinky feet, and I wasn’t too fond of that. I don’t know if I did something wrong (I’ve since heard that I should have used Fels Naptha soap), but I’ve been kind of scared off from trying again. I currently buy Costco’s private label laundry detergent because Consumer Reports rated it as highly effective. I’m thinking of giving Aldi’s detergent a try as well, though I need to look and see if it’s cheaper than the Costco variety.

I have just recently become a stay at home mom and I have found your blog inspiring. I want to continue to be a stay at home mom and for that to happen I will have to save save save!

So my question for you is how do you be frugal with your family about hair care? hair cuts? coloring hair to cover grays? and just personal maintenance in general?


First, I think it’s so awesome that you’re trying to find ways to save so that you can stay home with your kids. Go you!

To save money on haircuts, I cut my son’s hair, and I also cut Sonia and Zoe’s hair. Boy hair is pretty easy to do, and Sonia and Zoe both have hair that is thin enough for me to cut.

home haircut

Lisey, on the other hand, has a head full of very thick, straight hair, and I feel like I’m out of my league when it comes to cutting her hair. Thick hair is hard just because there’s so much of it, and straight hair is not as forgiving as curly hair (curly or wavy hair masks cutting mistakes pretty well!).

So, I don’t cut Lisey’s hair, and I also don’t cut my own hair because I’m pretty sure I’d screw it up. So, Lisey and I get our haircuts at the home salon of a friend. She can give Lisey and me both a haircut for $25 total, and since we only get our haircut maybe twice a year, we only spend $50 each year on our hair.

I also don’t cut my husband’s hair, though I did for a while. I’m pretty slow at cutting his hair, and I find it to be kind of stressful (if I mess up Joshua’s hair, it’s no big deal, but it is a big deal if I give my husband a rotten haircut. He has to go to work, after all!). He has very, very straight hair, so errors are super noticeable. Because of this, I feel like it’s worth it to pay for a haircut for him, and we’ll probably keep doing that unless we find ourselves in a bad financial position at some point down the road.

Hair Products
For hair care products, watch sales, match coupons up with sales, experiment with cheaper brands (I’ve found that pretty much any brand of shampoo works fine), and try using less (ignore the lather, rinse, and repeat directions!).

Hair Color
I don’t color my hair often, (I did get highlights last summer for the first time in my entire life!), but if I did, I’d probably look into learning how to do it myself at home. Haircolor is awfully expensive, especially if you want to be faithful about maintaining root coverage. Maybe some of my readers will have some tips on home hair color for you.

I don’t really do a ton of other personal maintenance….manicures are pretty pointless for me because I use my hands so much, the manicure doesn’t last for even a day. I paint my own toenails when I want my feet to look a little nicer, and I pluck my own eyebrows. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to spend money on those sorts of services, but I’m not THAT particular about my appearance. I’d rather save my money and spend it on camera equipment! ;)

You find great things from Goodwill and I’m guessing that some days you find better things than on other days. I am curious how often to stop at Goodwill to look around and if there is anything you WON’T purchase from Goodwill. Also, do you shop at any other thrift stores besides Goodwill?

-Steady Plodder

I shop at Goodwill usually once a week.

There are plenty of days where we leave Goodwill empty-handed, but then there are days where I find several good bargains…we just never know what we might find! Since our Goodwill is conveniently located, I don’t really mind it when we leave with nothing.

I don’t have any particular category of items I won’t buy at Goodwill, but I do try to make sure that what I buy is either in very good shape or can be easily modified to be in good shape. Unlike some diehard thrifters, I shop at stores that stock new goods, and I am not opposed to buying items at other stores when I can’t find them at Goodwill. For example, I couldn’t find snow boots for Joshua at Goodwill despite repeated attempts, so I bought him a pair at Aldi.

I don’t do a lot of other thrift store shopping only because the other stores in my area are not nearly as convenient as my Goodwill! I almost always have my 4 kids with me, so taking an extra trip to another thrift store isn’t too appealing to me.

New readers, if you want to hear more of my Goodwill ramblings and see some of the things we’ve found there, a browse through the Goodwill category is just the thing for you. :)

Leave a Comment

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jill S May 17, 2010 at 10:38 am

As far as haircuts/hair highlighting; I get mine done at the local cosmetology school. All the work is done by instructor supervised students. I have very thick hair and never had a problem. The only con is that it takes A LOT longer compared to someone who is more experienced. The student has to have the instructor approve anything before they do it and double check everything afterwards. It’s extremely inexpensive and it has helped me stay a SAHM :)


2 Laurie May 17, 2010 at 10:52 am

I’ve been making my own laundry soap since the fall, and havn’t had any problems with odor. I follow the recipe from I use Dove white soap with borax and washing powder. It saves me a good $12.00 a month. In fact, I still havn’t run out of the original ingredients I purchased which only cost about $7.00.


3 Ellen May 17, 2010 at 11:12 am

jill had a good suggestion about going to the school… (when I was in school, we had clinical twice a week) very very inexpensive.
I am a hair dresser, and I purchase my own color from a beauty supply place. (logis) And have either my sister or mom put it on….. (I can do it myself, but its a bit harder..)
Matter of fact, My sister and I just did this yesterday, (i highlighted her hair)and she applied the color to mine.
They have all types of color charts at the store, and the people that work there should be licenced hairdressers, so ask them for input, I am sure they could help you..
the two tubes (i mix two colors together) cost me 12.00 yesterday, (and I will get 2-3 uses out of it.. and don’t forget to get the proxide..(think that should be a few dollars) oh yea don’t forget the bottle to apply, and rubber gloves) so if it cost you 20.00 and you get 2-3 uses out of it…. i would cost you 6-10 dollars each time to do… oposted to 50+ at the hair dressers.. (another good suggestion is to see if you hairdresser will tell you what she uses, and you can get the same thing)


4 Shelley May 17, 2010 at 11:13 am

Here is another great, inexpensive way to make your own “any type” of soap…you can use it for cleaning your house, clothes, laundry, body, hair…you name it! A girlfriend of mine sells these, and they’re great! You’d still need to use a pre-treatment for stains, but on the whole, I really like them. (I use them for my cloth diapers…)


5 Heather May 17, 2010 at 11:33 am

Hi! I’m fairly new to reading your blog and I absolutely love it!!

And I love love love that I have found a fellow Goodwill junkie! :p Mine is a bit more of a drive (won’t be in a few weeks when we move!!) but I try to go weekly. I do pretty much the same as you, if I can’t find it at Goodwill I’m fine with paying full price. But I ALWAYS check Goodwill first! Just the other day I got new curtains for our new house. Four panels (and there are four windows in the new living room!!) from JC Penney, $2.99 each!! WoOt!

I make my own laundry soap. The recipe is simple: 1 bar Fels Naptha or Zote (shredded….with my cheese grater from…..GOODWILL! lol), 1 1/2 C Borax, 1 1/2 C Washing Soda. Sometimes I’ll put in a touch of Peppermint EO but I really like the way it smells naturally. And I use vinegar as a fabric softener.


6 LizziLou May 17, 2010 at 11:57 am

Have you asked your friend with the home salon about highlight pricing? My friend (with a home salon) does mine, along with a haircut and eye brow wax, for around $30. Subtle highlights tend to last longer, so I stretch visits pretty far apart … and it’s worth every penny! ;)

And I’m a little surprised about your Costco soap purchase, as I noticed their brand does not brighten as well as Tide or Era, nor is it a “good deal”. I did discover (accidentally) that the large Arm and Hammer soap w/Oxi Clean from Costco was not only the cheapest, but cleans as well (if not better!) than my usual brands. Just a thought! :)


7 Faith May 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Wow. Cutting your own kids hair is impressive. Could you give us some tips on how to do that? One day when I have children I would love to be able to do that. Although, my husband and I both have super curly hair. It might be hard to do with hair like that. Maybe our kids will have straight hair (like my three of my four siblings).


8 Battra92 May 17, 2010 at 12:02 pm

When I started going really bald (as in beyond the point or no return) I opted to shave my head completely. It’s fairly easy to do myself though I usually have my mother or someone spot check it and fix the errors.

I’ll have to see if my faincee is up for taking on that responsibility or if I’ll have to find a barber again.


9 Stef May 17, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Oh wow a haircut page! How funny, I just cut my son’s and husband’s hair for the very first time yesterday! Hahaha and they looked good-enough* to go to church that evening! Hahahahaha! It took some time and my husband kept looking in the mirror and guided me along. Toward the end (of my husbands head) my husband would put his fingers through his hair and I continued to cut away! Hahahhaha…Thank God for curly hair, but anyways….They turned out pretty handsome and no bald spots! ;) I really surprised myself! :) ( just for info, I did use the haircut scissors and a special razor thingy) Kristan, your page is awesome, it was very encouraging to see you do some haircuts yourself , maybe I’ll keep going…it is rewarding oh…and frugal! ;) God bless you Kristan!


10 Kristin @ klingtocash May 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I’m afraid to cut our hair although I do maintain my own bangs. The cosmetology school idea is a great one. Or see if you can barter services with someone who cuts hair. Cut their lawn (or have your kids do it), clean up, or offer some other kind of service. You never know what you can do for other people!


11 LizziLou May 17, 2010 at 1:10 pm

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Arm and Hammer laundry soap with Oxi Clean at Costco. It not only brightens my loads, it was, by far, the cheapest ($9.99 for 200 fl. oz). I was pleasantly surprised. :)

As far as Goodwill shopping goes, my favorite finds are like-new books, especially children’s. I can almost always luck out in that department! I think buliding our home library has become a favorite hobby of mind … and, fortunately, it’s a frugal one! ;)


12 LizziLou May 17, 2010 at 1:15 pm

HeeHee, found it! :D


13 Katy Wolk-Stanley May 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I started cutting my sons’ hair from the very beginning. However, they are 12 and 14 years old now, and want specific cuts that are beyond my ability. However, I do trim it between cuts, which essentially cuts the cost in half.

I do cut my husband’s hair, which is just a buzz cut. Actually, he does it himself, and then I come into the bathroom and tidy up the parts he couldn’t get to.

For myself, I go to an area barber who only charges $10, although they are the best cuts I’ve ever had in my life. I then color it using a L’Oreal product that includes an all over color plus a highlighting kit in one. I’ve been really happy with it and love being able to save so much money. I snip coupons and then keep an eye out for when it’s on sale. It ends up costing around ten bucks.

You can see how my hair looks in this photo:

Katy Wolk-Stanley
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”


14 Frugal Liz May 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

I make my own laundry soap as well using dove unscented soap, washing soda and borax, with great results!


15 Rebecca May 17, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I have been cutting my 2 sons hair as well as my husb for 3 years now. I spent about $45 up front for a new clippers with guide attachments. Frankly, my husb hair looks just like he got it cut at the barbers, and they do the cut the same way I do. I also tend to clip my own hair very short, and then grow it out. I would love to get it long again, but that would require I get haircuts, which I can’t afford, at any price.


16 Condo Blues May 17, 2010 at 1:56 pm

All of my penny pinching paid off when my washing machine died beyond repair and I saved more than enough money to replace it with an HE washing machine. Of course me being me, I got a deal on it at an outlet :) I started making my own detergent because I couldn’t fine a powdered HE detergent that I like. Not to mention that stuff NEVER goes on sale, has a coupon, or is a store brand. I didn’t like the first batch I tried with regular bath soap. I think using a laundry soap like Zote or Fels Naptha cleans a little better. Since I can’t always find laundry soap, I’ll do a cup of 1/2 bath soap flakes & 1/2 laundry soap flakes in my mix. From what readers tell me on my blog, it may not work as well as it does for me if you have hard water. Also since the homemade stuff doesn’t have chemical whiteners in the mix, I add a scoop of oxygen bleach to each load. I can get a big tub of it at Dollar General for $5.


17 LenciB May 17, 2010 at 2:03 pm

I keep forgetting about Goodwill for some reason. Probably since I live in California, we have a million thrift stores…and I have 3 that are my favorites for items for myself. I donate to Goodwill, but I just haven’t stopped in one in years! The nearest one is kinda far from me. But the donation center is just down the street.


18 EngineerMom May 17, 2010 at 2:21 pm

I haven’t seen this particular solution addressed for hair color:

I don’t color my hair, and don’t ever plan to. I found my first gray hair at 18. My hair is a light brown or dark blonde, depending on the season (lightens in summer). My mother has never colored her hair, and was completely gray by 40.

As for haircuts, I’ve tried several solutions over the years (going long and only trimming myself for years, short with frequent cuts at a cheap place), and finally settled on finding a really good hairdresser and only going every 8-12 weeks (instead of the “recommended” 6 weeks). She knows I won’t be back until then, so she cuts my hair to still look nice as its growing out. It’s currently in a shorter cut (just below chin length with layers around the face).

I cut my husband’s hair (he’s quite bald, just a buzz) and my son’s. He’ll get a buzz cut until he’s old enough to express an opinion and save his own money for haircuts if he doesn’t want the home buzz. That’s what my parents did with my brother, and now he’s in the Army ;-)

I wish I lived closer to a Goodwill! Unfortunately, we only live close to a “drop-off center” – in other words, I can drop off things I want to leave my home, but I can’t shop there.


19 Kristen May 17, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Going without color is certainly the cheap way to go! lol

I have the occasional gray hair near the front of my scalp, but it’s definitely nothing that bothers me right now. It’s hard to say what I’ll do when I start going seriously gray….I’d like to say that I’ll do nothing, and let nature take its course, but I’m not utterly positive I’ll be that strong.

I am fairly hopeful that my grays will kind of blend in with my hair as I age, because my hair is a multi-colored shade of light brown.


20 Amy K. May 17, 2010 at 2:37 pm

I just found a great hair stylist that only charges $15. I have been getting by on twice-yearly haircuts for some time now–but I like the way I look much better when I have a short-ish, heavily layered haircut. It is worth it to me to spend $20 once every two months to have a hair cut that makes me feel great.


21 Cynthia May 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm

I have never made my own laundry soap, but my mother did. She made what was and probably still is called Lye Soap. You know how you can take for granted you know how something is made, especially when you saw your mother do something numerous times and over and over again. And when you think to go do that thing you saw, you realize you don’t remember the exact ingredients or steps. My mother pasted away in 1995 and I don’t remember how she made Lye Soap, I just remember seeing it. And she told the story of doing the laundry using the soap and when she hung the clothes on the clothes line, she said she humorously would watch the demons leave.
Earlier this month I did my big grocery shopping and this time I didn’t go over what I had budgeted. I was so happy and grateful to God, because usually I had been going over, trying to get everything I needed. You know that saying, “how do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time”. I’m getting there.


22 Crystal's Cozy Kitchen May 17, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Hair cutting growing up was easy – my mom was a cosmetologist. After leaving the state where she lived, I had to figure out a different way (I can’t stand how much salons charge having not paid growing up.) I like cosmetology colleges because they have instructors that check the student’s work and can fix your hair if they mess it up. (I have only done cuts at these places.) Most only charge about $5 for a haircut, which is nice! I cut my husbands hair with clippers and I’ve started cutting my son’s hair as well – cutting a one year olds hair is a great experience.


23 Tracy @ Sew what... May 17, 2010 at 4:31 pm

I’ve been making my own laundry soap for a few months now. I use two parts fels naptha soap (grated), one part borax and one part arm and hammer super washing soda. I put this in a widemouth mason jar, and it only takes 1 tbsp per load of laundry. However, if you have really hard water it might take 2 tbsp. So far, my clothes are just as clean as they were with Tide and 10$ is very far from running out! I would have already spent that twice over.


24 Rebecca May 17, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Do you have a HE machine? Am wondering if it would work with that. I have been able to find a “green” detergent brand, Ecos, which gives me 100 loads (yep) for about $7.50. But might make my own if still cheaper and working with my machine.


25 Jan May 17, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I get my hair cut wherever I can get it cut for under $10 if possible and get it cut very short. 2″ top, 1″ sides, 1/2-1″ back. Because of this, I do an all-over home haircolor that I get with coupons on sale. (Nice and Easy is often on sale and if I have coupons, I buy several to stockpile) Being over 50 with dark blonde hair/no gray, I can just color it when I have time and not worry whether “my hairdresser” is working that day.


26 hiptobeme May 17, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I like your sensibility Kristen. I tried to find a winter coat for my son this past season and despite repeated attempts, was unsucessful. I ended up buying one on sale, a tad too big, and I hope it will do for fall again this year. We will be moving to a colder climate, so I think a new coat is in our future. You can bet I am starting the search now. Clearance! Recently, I also had my hair done in the salon with my best girlfriend, who came to visit me. It was a big luxury (and soooo fun), but beforehand I purchased the foils, matching root touch up colour, brush and other stuff from a beauty supply store. I learned how to do highlights on youtube. I’m pretty good at it too!


27 ebrock May 18, 2010 at 8:59 am

I have been using homemade granular laundry soap for about two months and have been very pleased with the results. The recipe is as follows:
1 bar Fels Naptha Soap; finely grated
1 cup Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
1 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

Grate bar soap using finest side of a cheese grater; mix in one cup each of the washing soda and the borax. To wash use 2 Tbsp per load. Everything has come out smelling fresh and the laundry is clean. The goop soap was not appealing to me due to the space that it would take up in the laundry room and the fact that it needed to be stirred or shaken (potential disaster). This soap is stored in an unused tin and the cheese grater is dedicated to this purpose only, as well as the plastic measuring spoon that is left in the detergent. My previous cost for laundry soap weekly ($5.99 32 load Tide – $1.00 coupon) $4.99; now it is ~ $1.50!!
Thank you Kristen! Your site is wonderful!! I have really enjoyed the Wednesday baking posts! The photography is so helpful and well done!


28 Jennifer Chess May 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I’ve been cutting my husband’s hair since we first starting dating. I also dye his hair (he likes to bleach his hair, go all black, green, red, blue, etc.). Over the past 5 years, I’ve probably saved us hundreds of dollars. However, I recently saw a coupon in the newspaper for a $5 men’s haircut at a local cosmetology school. $5 is worth it for the time and effort (and frustration) it eliminates. While I would do it again, next time I need to watch the hairdresser cut his hair. I’ve had years more experience and I know exactly how long certain parts should be and how short other parts should be. However, it was still worth it. While he got his haircut, I splurged on a lovely facial that only set us back $15!! I can’t wait to try their other services.

I have made laundry detergent in the past, but I grew up with Tide and now I associate clean clothes with the Tide scent. Now, I have a high efficiency washer and would be willing to try making my own again. Anyone have any suggestions for HE washers? Thanks!


29 Elisabeth May 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

I make my own laundry soap also and I love it! I added some lavender essential oil when I used ivory soap to make my first batch, but now that I found Fels Naptha soap it smells nice and clean. I make the liquid kind and love it! Even my husband who has been picky from the start about laundry detergent (for his uniforms) likes it and thinks it gets his uniforms cleaner!


30 susan February 27, 2011 at 11:48 pm

Elisabeth, I read your comment regarding making your own laundry detergent, liquid type, would you be willing to share your recipe? I am looking for one that is liquid to use in my HE machine as well. thanks


31 Elisabeth February 28, 2011 at 8:53 am

Be delighted to! I got it from another blog so I’m including the link. The only things that I do differently then she suggests is I purchased a ladel to use just for making and measuring out the laundry soap (totally optional, but I find it nice since it stays in the bucket) and I recently discovered that grating the soap in your kitchenaide mixer (if you have the attachments) is SO MUCH EASIER then doing it by hand. Here’s the link:


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