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How to live like a Cheapskate: Part 1

Welcome to the first of our 2-part Cheapskate series - ingenious hints and tips to help you win the 'Battle of the Bills' and save money around your home.
This week in honour of the start of Spring we’re focusing on spring cleaning. We spoke to Cath Armstrong, founder of Australia’s most popular budget-tips website, The Cheapskates Club.  We asked her how the club began, her favourite uses for essential oils and her top ways to save money in the cleaning aisle.
Plus, she shares with us the recipe for her famous DIY “Miracle Spray” as seen on Channel 9’s A Current Affair.  Read on to find out just how easy it can be to live like a Cheapskate…

Q: Hi Cath.  How and when did The Cheapskates Club begin?
Cath:  It started unofficially in 1995 after our daughter was born.  We’d been without work for almost a year, and people had started to become curious about how we were still managing to live so well.  When ‘disaster struck’ we really had to change a lot - but they were little things; things friends would never notice like buying generics, cooking from scratch, home haircuts and keeping an eye on the bills.  
I still remember the day a mum from playgroup mentioned her water bill and when I said ours was $60 she asked me in a shocked voice “don’t you people wash?”.  We did.  We just didn’t - and still don’t - waste water.
I started sharing what I was doing with playgroup mums, friends at church, neighbours, family – anyone who asked.  Then one day I gave an impromptu workshop at playgroup and my hints and tips were lapped up.  Everyone wanted to know how to save money.
Officially the website went live on 7th May 2001 and the Club (then known as the Cheapskates Journal) was born.  Since then we’ve had a couple of makeovers – in 2006 changing to The Cheapskates Club, a name that better reflects what we are: a group of like-minded people all on a journey to living life debt free, cashed up and laughing.
Q. What are the aims of The Cheapskates Club?
Cath: The Cheapskates Club teaches you how to cut the costs of everyday living, save money, time and energy and still have fun.
Q. What is the biggest waste of money in most households?
Cath: Food and then cleaning products.  There is no need to have a bathroom cleaner, a shower cleaner, a basin cleaner, a toilet cleaner, window cleaner, glass cleaner, something for the floors, another cleaner for the oven and one for the cooktop, then a spray for the benches and something for the walls and of course a spot cleaner for the carpets.

It is possible to clean your whole house, from top to bottom, with just six everyday household products:
1.White vinegar
2.Bicarb soda
3.Eucalyptus or tea tree oil
5.Washing soda
6.Laundry soap or dishwashing detergent
With those six ingredients you can make products which will clean everything in your home from top to bottom - shower, bath, basin, toilet, tiled floors, vinyl floors, stains on carpet, benchtops, kitchen cupboards, cooktops, walls, doors, cupboards, whitegoods, windows and mirrors included.
Q. What is your philosophy around using natural/chemical-free products?
Cath: I believe the closest to nature I can get is best for my family.  That doesn’t mean we don’t use processed or synthetic products; it means I look at what I want to achieve then do my best to find the most natural, safe and frugal ways to reach my goals.
If a cleaning product or grocery item has more than 5 ingredients or has ingredients I can’t pronounce I will usually choose to leave it and find one that is less complicated and more natural, less processed and simpler. 
Q. Do you use essential oils very often?  What are your favourite uses for them?
Cath: I use essential oils every day.  Eucalyptus oil in the Miracle Spray (see below), lavender oil in air freshener and on a cotton ball tucked into my pillow slip to help me sleep.  Geranium oil on a cotton bud tucked into my bra to help me cope with the hot flashes of menopause.  I use a combination of lavender, lemon and peppermint oils to ease the symptoms of hay fever.
Q. Can you share with us your all-time favourite DIY product for around the home?
Miracle Spray
This spray can be used to clean ANY surface of the house (except wood), on greasy pots and pans, ovens, toilets, even as a pre-wash for grubby shirt collars and to lift carpet and upholstery stains.
You’ll need:
1.5 litres of water (1 cup boiled)
300mL vinegar
60mL dishwashing liquid
3 desertspoons “Lectric” soda
Directions:  Mix Lectric soda with about 1 cup of boiling water to melt, add remainder of ingredients and pour into a 2 litre bottle. Label.
To use:  Decant into recycled spray bottles and keep in different areas of the house (laundry, kitchen) and refill old toilet cleaner bottles to squirt under the rim of the loo.  Simply spray, leave to sit for a couple of minutes then wipe over with a wet cloth and dry.

Keen to learn more?  Part 2 of our Cheapskates Club interview ishere – and for more info on the club, or to sign up for their free newsletter visit www.cheapskates.com.au.