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Six Money-Saving Tips, the Andean Way

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These six money-saving tips are part of a lovely, environmentally gentle and culturally sensitive cycle that will improve your health and save you money!

1. Use old clothes as rags.

You don't need to buy Swiffer covers or special Handi-Wipes or anything.

2. Use white cotton rags instead of Band-Aids.

Got a little cut or owie? Grab a strip of those old clothes (that you have sterilized by boiling) and tie it around your finger, or wherever your owie is. Stops the bleeding and keeps the wound clean to heal quickly. No more money spent on Band-Aids!

3. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable.

Whether for babies or anybody with bladder control issues, save money by not buying disposable diapers. You save at the checkout stand, and you save in the long run by not polluting with yet more garbage, or supporting plastics industries that by their very nature pollute. Your air will be cleaner, the climate will bit by bit stabilize, you will be healthier. When I was a little girl I remember that the babysitter washed cloth diapers by first soaking them in the toilet bowl to remove the solid matter.

(Guys, if you get grossed out by the thought of feminine bodily fluids, you might want to stop reading here.)

4. Cut up old cotton clothes into strips and use instead of sanitary napkins or tampons

That's right. Save money. Don't buy any more tampons or sanitary napkins! That's what I'm doing. Actually I got the idea from my step-mom, who grew up on a farm in the Midwest. She said that is what they used. Plus, you are protecting the environment by not adding more garbage to the world.

5. Sell your washing machine at a garage sale.

Save money on your electric bill. Don't throw those bloody strips of cloth into the washer machine. Wash them by hand. At first it kind of grossed me out. But I got over it. Wash all your clothes by hand! That's what most of us do, here in the Andes.

The rag I spread out on the drainboard next to the sink. I use a block of soap that is made locally. No colorants or deodorants. Just lard and lye and … well, I don't know if there are any other ingredients. It is the beige color of animal fat, and has a bit of that earthy aroma. With the soap I use a scrub brush, like I saw my neighbor using. I rub the brush over the bar of soap then dip it in water (cold, or warmed in the sun — save yet more money on gas and electric bills!) and scrub away. I scrub in the direction of the sink, so the spatters mainly end up there, ready to get rinsed down the drain.

The neighbor, who taught me the scrub brush technique, uses a chemical laundry detergent. It is packed with environment-killing phosphates that were long ago banned in the States. So, those companies started exporting them to the Third World. (Neighbor washing clothes in Bolivia. Photo by Lynette Yetter)

The soap idea I learned from a rural family, with whom I lived for some time. They told me they used to use a fruit from a certain tree that lathers up, much like the soap root native to the central coast of California. But, with U.S.-style consumerism being promoted worldwide, they started buying soap.

I wonder how the environment reacts to the soap I use. Anyone know if natural animal fat soap water is good for irrigating organic vegetable gardens?

In the countryside, we washed our clothes on rocks in the river. They had a special rock that was flat and angled into the water. You spread each item of wet clothing, one at a time, on the rock. Then you rub a bar of soap all over the surface of the clothing. Then grab a wad of the bottom of the clothing, and pin down the top with your other hand, and scrub. Every now and then you pour water over the item of clothing. And scrub some more.

You can even make your own soap! Sell it and make money. 

Washing by hand is good exercise. Save yet more money because you won't need to go to the gym or an exercise class. Get your workout in the Andean way. Labor with your hands.

6. Don't buy new underwear.

Did you know that underwear is a recent invention? That's right. Check it out for yourself. Google "history" and "underwear" and see what you find.

Traditional indigenous women here in the Andes often don't use underwear. It is a very practical habit. When you have the urge to urinate, you just poosh out your big skirts like a tent and squat in the field or the street or wherever. Guys no longer have a monopoly on using the world as their urinal.

You save money! As your old cotton underwear falls apart, you can cut it up and use it for when you are "on the rag."

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About Lynette Yetter

Lynette Yetter is the author of the books "72 Money Saving Tips for the 99%" and "Lucy Plays Panpipes for Peace, a novel." Lynette is a permanent resident of Bolivia and a graduate student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program at Reed College.