Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Water saving tip

When I was a child we didn’t have running water in the house.  We had a well and barrels to catch water off the roof during rain.  Every bit of water used in the house had to be carried inside in a bucket and then carried outside again after it was used.   Grandma Mama would listen to the radio for weather forecasts of rain to know when the rain barrels would fill up and the well would be fuller.  Rain water was used for hair washing and laundry.

In my early married life one of the houses I lived in had a cistern to catch rain water from the roof.  That was all the water we had.  It was necessary to be frugal with the water because we never knew when it would rain again.  I remember following Grandma Mama’s example and waiting for forecasts of rain.  Forecast of heavy rain meant our cistern would be filled again so it was ok to do extra laundry ahead of the rains.  I had a dip stick I could use to measure the cistern water level and keep careful watch that I didn’t use too much.

When I started living with city water I thought nothing of letting the water run freely at any time.  I let the kids play with the water hose in summer to cool off.  I watered the grass to have a nice green lawn and pretty flower beds.  I believed since we have the Ohio River that running water would always be there.  It wasn’t until this area went through a major drought that the Ohio fell to really low levels.  Clean running water is taken for granted much too casually these days.

Let me ask you some questions about your inside the house water use.  When you want hot water do you turn on the faucet letting the water flow down the drain until it turns hot?  Do you do this before a bath? Before a shower?  Before washing dishes?  Before washing hands in the bathroom? Have you any idea how much good clean water you are paying for as you’re watching it go down the drain while waiting for the hot water to get from the water heater to the tap?  Have you thought about how much that water down the drain is costing you?  Well all that wasted clean water started bothering me.  A lot!  It bothers me because I’m paying for that water down the drain— not once but twice.

In my area our sewer bill is based on the number of gallons of water flowing through the meter toward the house.  It doesn’t matter how the water is used or even if it actually goes into the sewer.  This means every bit of that good clean water going down the drain is costing me both for the water as well as the sewer to carry it away.  It truly is money flowing down the drain.  Both the Louisville Water Company and the Louisville Waste Water Management are going to get another raise.  The penny pincher in me simply had to come up with a way to catch and use that clean water instead of letting it go so easily down the drain.  Hmm… just how much water is it anyway?  Would it be worth the effort to catch and use it?

I got a good clean bucket courtesy of the store bakery department.  Before I turn on the shower I place the bucket under the faucet.  I catch the clean water as it runs until the hot water arrives.  It came to about three gallons.  Duh!  It dawned on me that next time I should remove my clothes before turning on the water so none is wasted as I undress.  You probably knew that but I hadn’t thought about it before.

Hmm… now what do I do with the saved water?  Should I use it to flush the toilet?  Naw, I don’t like that the toilet bowl is left without water after a bucket flush.  Flush then fill the tank with the bucket water?  Its not very handy having to move the tank top every time.  I’ll think of something.

I next put a plastic container in the bathroom sink to catch water before washing my hands.  Its the only thing I had small enough to fit.  I’m surprised at how much had been going down the drain before each time I washed my hands.  It was about half a gallon.  I’ve decided to only wash my hands with cold water from now on.   I see no need to use hot water as the soap kills germs.  I lather before turning on the tap.  Rinsing with cold water won’t make a difference to the cleanness.  I clean my dentures when I wash dishes and the grands aren’t allowed to let water flow when brushing teeth.  They each use a cup.  Brush, swish, spit.

The faucet in the kitchen has a drip, drip, drip.  Its been dripping since I moved in.  I do plan to get it fixed as soon as I can.  I have some cabinet repairs to do first.  I never really paid much attention to the water dripping because I was seeing it as only tiny drops instead of the whole total amount of water over a day’s time.  I’m paying for that dripping water so I might as well get a use out of it before it goes down the drain.  I put a dish pan under the drip.  In one twenty four hour time frame the pan fills half way.  About a gallon.  That’s a lot of drips.

I use the same dish pan to catch the cold water while waiting for the hot water to reach the tap before I fill the sink to do dishes.  This pan is also used for rinsing dishes.  I use the sink on the washing side and the pan on the rinsing side so its easy to pick up to pour into the bucket.  The dirty water goes down the drain but the rinse water is saved because its still clean and usable for something else.

So far I’ve saved clean water in the bathroom and in the kitchen.  Now what do I do with it?  Water the garden?  Don’t have one.  Flush the toilet?  Doesn’t need it.  There has to be a way to save all that clean water and make use of it.   But how to save it?  More buckets?  A water barrel?  How to use the water after I save it?

Umm, the light bulb goes off.  Now why haven’t I thought of this before?  I have a washer.  A washer is just a big bucket or barrel.  I can put all the saved water in there and use it when I wash a load of clothes.  I wash with cold water so that’s not a problem.  The water can stay there for a few days if necessary because its clean.  It won’t sour like grey water would.  Yes, it is a bit bothersome carrying a bucket of water through the house to the washer.  But who cares?  I’m paying for the water whether I use it or watch it go down the drain.  I’d rather get a use out of it first.

I keep a bucket by the bathtub, a small pan in the bathroom sink, and a pan in the kitchen sink.  I wanted to have a rough idea of how much water I’m saving so I measured.  I poured one quart of water into my bucket and measured.  One inch.  I poured another quart.  Two inches.  So, about one inch per quart.  I marked the bucket with a marker.  The bucket holds two gallons.  All captured water is first put into the bucket to measure before going into the washer.  I can keep better records this way.

The first couple of days I kept a rough count of how many gallons I saved in a day.  It came to about 10 gallons each day.  In a month’s time that could be 300 gallons kept from flowing away unused down the drain.  That’s for one person.  Imagine the savings for a family of four or six.  I do plan to keep a written count of the amount I catch and use.  It will be interesting to know.  My water bills have been based on 2,000 gallons used every two months.  They don’t count partial thousands.  If I can somehow prevent 500 gallons a month from going unused that could be half my water bill.  Am I figuring that right?  Geeze, I can’t believe how much money I’ve casually let flow down the drain all these years.

Now that I’ve started saving the clean water I remembered the way Grandma Mama always had a water bucket in the kitchen.  Of course.  Duh.  My brain is kinda dense.  It would take a lifetime before realizing how thrifty that water bucket actually was.  Without indoor plumbing that was our water supply and it was used wisely.  We used it for washing veggies, filling the canner, cooking, dishes, sponge baths, and so forth.  I can do the same thing with my own water bucket.  It may not have come from a well but its good clean water except for the dish rinse water.   Anything that requires water can come from the bucket because it originally came from the faucet.  At the end of the day the left over water can then be put into the washer or saved for the next day.  Hmm… a water bucket needs a dipper don’t you think?  A soup ladle works fine.  I think I’m gonna have fun finding ways to rescue water before it heads down the drain.

How about you?  Do you rescue water too?  Am I last one to discover this savings?

22 comments on “Water saving tip

  1. Melinda
    June 23, 2017

    Anita, great water-saving tips. One thing though. Unless it is antibacterial soap, it does not kill germs. The soap just helps the germs slip off your hands as you run them under the water.

    • Anita
      June 23, 2017

      You’re right Melinda. I had forgotten that part. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Margie in Toronto
    June 17, 2017

    All my water is included in my rent (common here) but I do try to be more conscious of wasting water simply because it is a limited commodity. As my father used to say”Use it – don’t abuse it”! I keep a plastic basin in the kitchen sink to catch the water being run before it’s hot or cold enough and then use it for dishes or cleaning. I don’t run the water in the bathroom sink continually while washing or brushing my teeth – and since it’s just me here I also follow the “if it’s yellow ….” policy for flushing. The one bit I need to do better at is the running of water before the shower gets hot enough!
    I have a laundry room in the building and they have recently installed new washers that adjust the water to the size of the load and I usually use cold or just warm water. I have also gotten better at not just doing small loads and the only items that I use a dryer for is the sheets & towels – every little bit helps.

    • Anita
      June 18, 2017

      I understand how challenging it would be to save water without a washer to store it but as you say, every little bit helps. I’m actually having fun with my water rescue game. Us old folks gotta find free entertainment where we can. 😉

  3. T
    June 13, 2017

    I used to read one website about frugality which showed people how to save money on expensive things no frugal person would buy anyway! So that’s for the advertising?

    You mentioned water metering and doing away with staff and using computers, I am starting to look for businesses with an actual office with actual staff I can deal with and ask as many questions as I want. Complain if I have to.

    Even then I think many businesses have the idea that customer service is deal with people from a script and get rid of them as fast as possible, sometimes I feel servers will say anything to get rid of me unless I spend more money!

    I don’t sign up to much anyway these days, am starting to shun new technology and faddy ‘bait and switch’ deals.

    The CEOs and politicians don’t get it- Americans have been forced to spend such a huge amount of their income on health insurance, health care, their kids’ education- there will soon be nothing left for other industries.

    Where I live so many luxury homes and luxury retirement communities- a friend remarked recently: they will all be empty in a few years because no way will our generation have enough set aside for luxury retirement or or children be buying homes on top of their student debt.

    Short-termism. Take the money and run, future be damned.

    • Anita
      June 16, 2017

      Yes, I believe those sites are all about the advertising. Not the reader. They get paid by the click from every ad. More ads mean more income. If I visit a site and there is an immediate pop up screen asking me to join or sign up for their email list I just move on to other sites without looking around. The same for visiting a site that has ad after ad after ad all over the site. I move on. I rarely sign up for anything anymore either. I’m more inclined to eliminate than purchase.

      I fear the days of customer face to face contact is fast becoming a thing of the past. The customer service departments are being farmed out to other countries who don’t give a crap about what Americans complain about. A script to read is flashed on a computer screen based on key words said by the customer. When a complaint can’t be answered by the scripts the screen will flash, hang up.

      So true! Short-termism. You ever see the commercial about becoming nose blind to kitchen garbage smells? Well, how about eye deaf? That’s about a person who climbs the financial ladder. There is a point reached that is high enough they become blind to the sights and deaf to the cry of poverty. Poverty becomes something they escaped and don’t want to know about anymore. We used to tell those who made it to the top “remember where you came from” but that doesn’t seem to be taught anymore. Ok, there are some exceptions to that because I do see it now and then from acts of kindness.

  4. janeisgreen
    June 13, 2017

    Great ideas, Anita! I live in a tiny rural village with no town water. My old dug well’s water isn’t potable even though we did everything possible to fix it. Couldn’t afford a new well and new septic system (the septic collapsed shortly after buying the house). So…composting toilet, and drinking and cooking water from the artesian well in the next village around the lake. For 18 1/2 years, my water was fetched in glass bottles from that well about 10 miles away. Finally, this year I got a UV system through the generous gift of a long-time dear friend. Now I can have a drink of water directly from the tap! I’ve joined the modern era! 🙂

    • Anita
      June 13, 2017

      Jane congratulations on the new water system. Thats a long time to be using bottled water. Is there any special tip you would care to share about conserving water when dependent on bottled?

  5. T
    June 13, 2017

    My water and sewer is on a communal meter with the rest of the building ( don’t ever buy a condominium unless you want someone interfering in your budget by the way! ) so I use cold water for everything except the worst dishes and showering.

    I often brush my teeth with a cup of the kroger carbonated water ( 89 cents 2 litres ) and the colgate optic white toothpaste ( $2 on special minus $1 coupon so I stocked up! ) and it’s a lovely fresh feeling : )

    • Anita
      June 13, 2017

      A communal meter? Does that mean the amount is divided evenly and everyone pays the same amount whether they are conservative or not? We have some apartment complexes here that raised the rent by $50 a month then advertised as giving free water. By being an “industry” they were given a major discount on water and sewer. They made quite a bit of profit from the free water.

      • T
        June 13, 2017

        Not even: the actual individual water charge isn’t based on usage but on size of unit. I asked for the formula once and got some nonsense back! They also stuck everyone with $40 a month cable bill, when I asked if that could be dropped now as cable is old technology I was told they ( HOA ) signed us all up for ten years. Most unconstitutional but they do what they like and it’s in the fine print that they can. The latest bully pulpit was an announcement that we can no longer acquire dogs over 25 lbs. Apparently these things happen all over the country and if homeowners don’t comply they risk fines and a lien on the property.

        I am still in America, right?!

        Sometimes I think I have fallen down a rabbit hole…

        • Anita
          June 13, 2017

          You are so right about that! I feel like I’m in the rabbit hole too sometimes. Still in America? Hmm… you think the politicians voted us into a dictatorship without our knowledge? 🙂

          I’ve heard some nightmare things about neighborhood associations but not about condos. In this new to me neighborhood there are strict regulations I didn’t know about before buying. I can live with them but sure don’t like them.

  6. Julie
    June 12, 2017

    About 20 years ago I lived in a village in Western Alaska. The water was delivered once a week to a 500 gallon tank. There were 5 of us in the house so we had to be very careful about the water unless we wanted to pay for an extra delivery. we kept the tub plugged during showers and used the water to flush the toilet. And we’d do the tooth brushing with a cup instead of letting the water run down the drain. After a while it was a habit. Served us well when we went off the grid a few years later. When you have to pump your own water with a big old hand pump like they have in the parks you get very thrifty with water usage.

    • Anita
      June 12, 2017

      Ooo, that’s not a lot of water. Are you still off grid? In Alaska? I’m not legally allowed to be completely off grid here but nothing says I have to use any while staying connected. I’ve been thinking there should be a way of saving my shower water to maybe wash clothes and mop floors. I wouldn’t do that after every shower but even one time saves money.

  7. Donna
    June 12, 2017

    When I was a young girl, before we moved to Ariz, we lived in a small rural area in Ky. We had a cistern too, no inside running water. A big porcelein white bucket sat on the counter with a dipper in it. When you wanted a drink you used the dipper. When you needed water for cooking you used the dipper. When mom washed clothes she had to pump water out of the cistern. When we washed dishes we heated water in a pan and had another pan with hot rinse water. The rinse water was used to water flowers after dishes. You my friend, are a genius! Why didn’t I see all the water going to waste! The washer is a great place for water storage! I am going to implement your ideas immediately. I already cringe when I see “you tubers” letting the faucet run when they are washing dishes! This may sound awful, but we don’t flush our toilet every time we “go”. We don’t put paper down the toilet if we just go water. We have a finicky sewer system and it has helped keep the “roto rooter” calls down. Of course #2’s get flushed right away (have to say that so people don’t think we are awful). But why flush every time you “moisten” the porcelein. It doesn’t make the bathroom smell, and doesn’t hinder the toilet cleaning. Sorry this is so long, just had to share. Too much info? I am going to be filling my washer from now on with water I am no longer wasting. Good for the Ariz water supply too!

    • Anita
      June 13, 2017

      Where in KY? Are you a KY cousin? The more I remember from the past the more I realize how thrifty people were back then.

      Yes, I’ve heard of that “if its brown flush it down, if its yellow let it mellow” rule. I use it too. I cringe at those youtube water wasters too. People like that are usually the ones who can’t understand why the paycheck doesn’t go far enough.

  8. Linda S
    June 12, 2017

    Yes, I’m a water rescuer too! I have a son & grandson who live here & aren’t as thrifty as me (they don’t pay the bills) so it’s a little harder to do. I use the water to water the lawn & container garden as well as the washer.

    • Anita
      June 13, 2017

      I know what you mean. I mentioned to my daughter that she could save lots of water if she simply caught the water before each person showered. There are times when she has between 8 and 12 kids in the house. Her kids, step kids, nieces, and nephews. That could be significant savings but as she said training all those kids to catch the water would be near impossible. They don’t pay the bill.

  9. kathi
    June 12, 2017

    some GREAT ideas Anita. hmm? i do run the water often until it gets warm. I pretend i’m “rinsing the rinse sink” etc, but am sure that’s quite a waste. Seems i need to get some clean buckets all the way around. Watering the garden is a big one for us this time of year. Hmm? THANKS.

    • Anita
      June 12, 2017

      Kathi I probably should be taking some hints on water saving from you. Have your city water conditions improved or are you still relying on bottle water? If you save your grey water from doing dishes its very good for the garden. The soap in the water gets rid of insects.

    June 12, 2017

    So many good ideas that would never show up on those “simple ways to save $$” articles.

    • Anita
      June 13, 2017

      Thank you very much. A great many of those sites are all about the money from advertising. My ideas come from my heart and are meant to be helpful not profitable. There is enough greed in the world already, I don’t want to be a part of it.

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