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How We Manage Without a Washer and Dryer

Guest post from Laura of Unpunctuated Life

We moved from a mid-sized city to a big city last April; and in the process, I discovered that apartments with a washer and dryer included are fewer and farther between than I had imagined.

“Washer/dryer” and “laundry room” were high on my list of “necessities” in a new place, but as we visited more apartments with only hookups (if that) I realized they weren’t as common as where we came from.

Our choice came down to location, and in the neighborhood where we wanted to live, the apartments just don’t have washers and dryers. We could have lived in a cheaper place, in a less desirable neighborhood, and had a washer and dryer, but we were charmed by the location and felt the sacrifice worth making.

Our apartment complex has a four-washer, four-dryer laundry room that is open to all residents. It costs $1 to wash and $1 to dry. The property manager recommended we look into an appliance rental place, where we could rent a washer and dryer for $35 a month. I also knew that we could find a great deal on them on either Craigslist or at a scratch-and-dent sale.

But the appliances themselves are not the only cost. Dryers are energy intensive, and we knew that in our new city, with its higher cost of living, the utility bills would already take some getting used to. So we’ve placed storage shelves in the space for a washer and dryer, making our 853 square foot apartment feel much more spacious!

Our New Laundry Routine:

Once a month, we walk to our local credit union and withdraw $30 in quarters. Sometimes the teller looks at us like we’re crazy, but other times he or she smiles and says, “Laundry money?”

My laundry budget for the month is $20, if all goes as planned. I wash our sheets and towels in two loads every other week, and clothes in 3-4 loads on the in between weeks. (Yes, we have a lot of clothes to be able to go that long!) I can do up to four large loads at once while I either read in the attached business center or exercise in our complex’s gym, so it’s a very efficient use of my time.

It’s impossible to calculate exactly how much using the washer and dryer would raise our utility bills, but it’s not just about the monthly expense for us. We save by not renting the machines, and we have peace of mind from not worrying about their depreciation if we owned them and the hassle of getting rid of them when the time comes.

It’s perhaps an unusual frugal decision, but one that works for us. For our stage of life it’s perfect!

Laura is a part-time administrative assistant at a Christian non-profit. She and her husband are settling into life in the big city and making frugal choices along the way! Laura is a voracious reader, a homebody with a streak of wanderlust, and a follower of Christ. She blogs about life, recipes, and thrift store bargains at Unpunctuated Life.

photo source

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  • John Bartal says:

    This is great advice! My roommate and I live in an apartment that doesn’t come with a washer and dryer and no hook-up. That laundry schedule will save me a LOT of time and money! Thanks so much for the article, Crystal!

  • We just moved to a new city and a new rental, and decided to spend $300 on a washer and dryer at a garage sale. After hooking them up, both needed repairs to be ready to use. Then our utility bill went way up! I think we’ll be back to hanging our laundry to dry once the weather warms up.

    It’s important to remember that we pay a price for conveniences like a washer & dryer. Maintenance and energy costs are a part of the purchase price too. Thanks for writing!

  • Amanda Cowgill says:

    I could not live with out my washer and dryer! We have two adults and four children (two of whom are two and under). I typically do about 1-4 loads each and every day! Between clothes and bedding and towels we do a lot! I used to do cloth diapers with my second youngest but when my newest baby came along it was just too much washing for me. Every so often I do drive to the laundry mat and do all the laundry at once if I feel I need to catch up- but it will cost me typically 20-30 just to do most of the laundry (not all). Our laundry mat costs between 2-5 for a washer and usually like 3 to get a load completly dry. I cant imagine trying to get to a lundry mat all the time. But we also live in the suburbs so we can have the machines. We are actually building a new home and the model chosen was choses in part for the fact that it has a second floor laundry room- cant wait to have my laundry right where the bedrooms are 🙂

    • Andrea says:

      I’ve had laundry rooms on the top floor and the bottom floor. I preferred having them downstairs, away from the bedrooms, because I could do laundry at night after the kids were sleeping without worrying about waking them up. Plus, carrying it up and down stairs is good exercise!

  • Rhonda Hall says:

    I feel horrible for taking my washer/dryer for granted….
    Bless you all with children and dealing with laundrymats, the money spent, and carrying all that laundry…When I do my next load of laundry I will say a Big thank you to them and not take them for granted….
    sometimes it takes reading posts like this to make us stop and take a moment to see how blessed we are in certain situations….

  • Tina says:

    It sounds as though you do not currently have children. I could not imagine not having a washer and dryer with children in the household! For me, my time spent at the laundry area would cost way more than any money saved in not owning a washer and dryer (although around here our laundromats are quite expensive compared to your available laundry facility–it would cost more for me to go to the laundromat–even the poorest folks here try to have them because laundromats are few and far between as well). With hours spent weekly working and doing all of the other chores, there is no way I would want to spend even a minute at a laundromat if I didn’t have to do it! I do multiple loads of laundry per day having pets and children in the house. Also, like one other gal mentioned–when a “bug” hits the house, thank goodness they are here and handy! I am thankful quite often that I live in a society where it is an option to even own laundry machines! I try to hang my clothes out to dry on the clothes line, wash large loads in gentler cycles, and use cold water in order to save on doing laundry–otherwise, I’m just going to spend what it costs to have this luxury. It is worth it to me!

  • Suzy says:

    I miss the days of a laundry mat! I know that sounds crazy but I could get all my laundry done in 2 hours instead of a 2-4 day project.

    I would go in and put all my clothes in the wash, go and get my car washed, come back switch the clothes to the dry. While the clothes were drying, I would vacuum out my car in the parking lot with my car vacuum cleaner. It was fabulous! I miss those days.

    In two hours max, I had all my laundry done and a clean car.

  • Liz says:

    We have been living without a dryer for almost the past year. I can thankfully still wash here, so I hang our shirts to dry in the bathroom on the shower rod (the heat vent blows right onto it). Pants tend to get hung over the backs of chairs overnight, or put in front of a fan. I take socks, underwear and towels to the laundromat to dry. In the summer, I line dry. It’s not ideal, but there are 5 of us, and there is no way we could afford to do all the wash and drying at $1.50 a load (the cost at places here). We’re in the process of saving for a new set, but because of space issues we have to have a stackable unit and those are not cheap!

    • Jessica says:

      Just something to think about, maybe it could work for you… old apartment complex had some kind of metal/steel shelf that held a regular dryer over the washer. It would probably work better with a front loading washer but we had a top loader and the washer just needed to be placed a little farther away from the wall to make sure that there was room for it to open.

    • Kendra says:

      I kept up better with laundry when my dryer was broken! I hung everything to dry- our socks, undies, towels, sheets, blankets on the plastic hangers with clips. We rented a duplex with a long bar between the kitchen and living area, and I would hang stuff there to dry. The towels, sheets and blankets I would have to fold, later shake them out and fold the other way to dry. Heavy blankets I would drape over the kitchen table to dry.

    • Val says:

      Washer and dryer combo. Popular overseas I own an LG one.

  • Laurie says:

    Not to get on a potty rant,BUT why would one ever want their child to sit in urine all night? If you have a child that does wet the bed, please put them in pull ups or overnights. I know this is a frugal board,but there are coupons etc out All the time to decrease the cost. I have a DD who is 4 and she needs a pull up at night. Out of respect for her comfort and dignity I would NEVER let her wet herself. I know that many on this board will heartily disagree with me and that is ok. My washer and dryer are the best things I have ever bought. We are a family of 3 and I don wash once a week.

    • Andrea says:

      I agree, Laurie. My daughter turned 7 in January. She’d been dry for about three weeks, so she stopped wearing pull ups to bed on her birthday. It was a very special day 🙂

      I posted this above, but will share again…because we have a propane dryer, it would cost about $2 per load to wash & dry her bedding. Pull ups are much cheaper!

    • Maegen says:

      I think it probably depends on the child.

      Our six year old still has accidents, but there was no way in the world he would wear any kind of pull-up after he was potty trained. He called them diapers no matter what they looked like.
      We’re working on helping him learn to wake up (a whole different subject) and how to find dry things if he doesn’t make it.
      I’m glad you’ve found a system that works for you, though.

      And, I agree 100% on the laundry. I did without machines in college, and that’s one thing (among many) I don’t miss about that season of life.
      Take care!

    • Beth says:

      I totally agree with you, Laurie! It is embarrassing enough for my 4 year old to still wear a Goodnite to bed. He just figured out recently that not ALL kids have to do that…and he cried. I can’t imagine the effect on his self-esteem having to wake up covered in his own URINE! Even if he didn’t get embarrassed about it, it’s a sheer comfort issue! I wouldn’t want to sleep all night in soaking wet bed linens! YUCK. Come on, people! If you can’t afford $20 a month (or LESS if you get generic ones!) to put sleep pants on your kid at night, you probably shouldn’t have had them! Everyone can shave a few bucks a week off their budget to ensure the comfort and cleanliness of their kids! Why don’t you pour a few cups of water on your bed tonight before you lay down!!! 🙁 I’m sorry if this seems snarky, but I was a bedwetter, and sleep pants weren’t available then. I remember every morning waking up freezing cold, smelling like pee, and sad that I couldn’t hold it. It would have been so much easier on me in SO many ways to chuck a wet pull up in the trash and go about my day!!!!!!

      You can take frugal too far!!!!

  • Diane says:

    When I lived in an apartment (before children) I washed all my clothes by hand and hung them up around the apartment. I am thankful for a washer and dryer now (although I rarely use the dryer) and that is one of the biggest things I was excited about when moving to a house.

  • Liesl says:

    You would be surprised about how cheap you can find a washer/dryer on Craigslist. My husband bought ours when he was living on his own almost 4 years ago for $250 total. They are still in fine working condition and we plan on taking them with us when we move into our first home this spring.

    With the $30 budget mentioned, we “recouped” our investment in 8 months. Seeing as we have used them going on 4 years…and plan to use them until they die…buying was a much better option!

  • This was a good read, and I appreciated the link above that lets you calculate how much you spend on your washer and dryer per year – thankfully, our costs weren’t too bad, and that was with two in cloth diapers and one who needs a cloth overnight trainer at night for bedwetting. I used to live in an apartment building where we had to do laundry there, but each load ended up costing about $3, which added up when you had about 5 loads a week. Now we live in a house where there is not just a washer and dryer, but an entire laundry room for them with plenty of space to hang up clothes, a folding table, etc. Pure BLISS. I’ve lived overseas too where there were washers if you were wealthy enough, but no dryers, even in the ice cold winters. You could see how quickly it made sense to not have too many outfits to wear, and to wear them until they really needed to be washed (cleaning spots along the way). I still do that now – it really keeps down the amount of laundry we need to do, and puts less wear and tear on the clothes.

  • We do own a washer and dryer but we only run the dryer long enough to get wrinkles out of our clothing (we then hang the clothes on hangers on our bathroom shower curtain rods to completely dry). With 4 people in the house, we have to do laundry at least 3 times a week to keep it from getting overwhelming so it’s convenient to have the washer and dryer in our home. However, we lived in an apartment when we were first married and also used the community washer and dryer without any problems.

  • Patti says:

    When I was a newlywed, we did not have a washer and dryer so I had to do the laundry mat thing. My husband “worried” about me so he took over that chore and still does our laundry today. (That may or may not be a good thing – after 35 years he still ruins some of my clothes regularly. LOL ) I remember the excitement of finally buying our first washer and dryer (not at the same time) and the luxury of it. We just had our basement waterproofed and had to move everything out for almost 2 weeks. We did no laundry and our repairmen kept saying they would hurry so we could get to the laundry. I was glad we were able to stretch our clothing, bedding,etc. but it made me remember to be thankful for my machines. These posts are also reminding me not to take them for granted. I might have to invest in one of those hand washer things. And I do dry clothes on a line and dryer rack all the time.

  • Christy says:

    I am glad this works for her! When I was young and single, I got an apt. without a w/d hookup just because I was fresh out of college and just didn’t think about looking for that feature when I was looking. About 2 years in, I thought, maybe I should save up for a w/d… oh, wait a minute–no hook up. So a year later, when I relocated, I was sure to look for a w/d hook up. I coped by doing laundry once every other week. I have bad dust mite allergies so I wash my sheets weekly in hot water. I would just change the sheets and wash both sets on my laundry weekends. I don’t remember how much it cost back then (1999-2002). I used the laundry room at my complex. I also was sure to bring laundry every time I went home (3 hour drive) to my parents. I had to have more clothes than I do now to last 2 weeks–lots more exercise clothes since I exercised almost daily. I don’t know if I saved money like she does, but I do not it would be a pain in the rear now that I have kids–LOL! Way more laundry and way more impromtu this needs to be thrown in the wash NOW!

  • mssample31 says:

    Love the article and the fact that you are able to do what you need to do for your family and not break the bank when I stayed in my apt and was on unemployment and no car I had a small laundry facility in my apts that was about 4 mins away from my apt by foot I would get my clothes together and my money 125 to wash and 125 to dry and do busy work around the house while I was waiting it’s called doing what you have to do if I didn’t have money I would hand wash again love the article my granny had a washer and dryer for almost 3 years from one of those rental places 30 per month finally decided after me telling her for 3 years to look for a used one got her washer and dryer for 150 dollars because she HAD to have it lol always funny to me how people think someone normal is abnormal keep trucking !!!! Also nothing misleading about your title it’s how you get along without a washer and dryer in your home!!!

  • Chelsea says:

    For the first two years of our marriage, my husband and I lived in an apartment with no hook ups and expensive coin operated machines. My mother-in-law graciously let me come once a week to use her washing machine and dryer. It was such a blessing. The funny thing is… I kept up on laundry MUCH better when we didn’t have a washer/dryer!

  • Kristin says:

    We got our washer/dryer during a sale event at Sears with 18 months NO INTEREST. We pay about $30/month and will own our appliances outright before paying any interest. Seems like you could find a deal like this and end up saving lots of quarters in the long run! With little kids, a washer/dryer in our apartment is one of the things I am most grateful for. For years we did not own a washer/dryer and did laundry at my parents house once a week, but this was before kids!
    Also, for the bed wetter, Pull-ups would be such a blessing to the child and save on laundry for mom. It would cost about $20/month.

  • april says:

    our washer quit a little over a year ago, and the dryer about 2 months after that…Ive been taking my clothes to the neighborhood laundromat ever since. It costs about $15 a week to wash our clothes(5 of us, including hubby who’s a brick mason, a 14 year old cheerleader, a 12 year old who plays soccer and track , and then a very rowdy 5 year old girl) plus about 6-8 extra once a month to wash bedding.

    Honestly, Im in no hurry to replace my set…it was great excuse for the kids to par down their clothes, they arent changing 2+times a day, i get it all done in less than 2 hours and i have some dedicated reading time each week 🙂

  • Becky says:

    I was in the Peace Corps and did laundry by hand- with one person this is not a big deal. However, I stayed in the Caribbean after and did laundry for me, my husband and my son for a couple years. Everyday I would get up and do laundry after breakfast. We wore our pants for a few days (my husband wore his work jeans for 5 days before washing them- those were tough to clean!) but would not wear shirts more than one day because they would start to smell. I would spend a total of an hour when I did not have to do pants- First- underwear, then shirts and sheets if needed. Then I would place all the clothes that were washed in a big tub until I could rinse everything outside or in the shower. I would then go outside and hang them (if possible)- however, if the weather was bad I would take them to my brother-in-laws extra room to hang until the weather was nice. After 3 to 4 hours I would be putting all the clothes away.

    When my husband and I traveled for a week- we had TONs of laundry to do. It took him and I combined about 5 hours to wash everything when we got home.

    Today- we are back in the states. We have a washer and dryer of our own but I am so glad that I spent the time learning how to hand wash clothes- I can get almost any stain out of clothes (esp our 15 month olds stains). We are planning on moving back someday, but I will definitely get a “american” washer and just hang the clothes— handwashing is hard on your back and takes a lot of time. With work, 2 kids and everything else going on, I can not imagine handwashing a couple hours per day!

  • Rachael says:

    When we moved into an apartment while trying to sell our home (we moved to a different state), my husband wasn’t working, and we did use the laundry in the complex. It did mean hauling laundry to another building, and it was very inconvenient. We decided we weren’t saving money. We all have fairly minimalist wardrobes, and only could do laundry on the weekends since it was almost impossible for him to bring our children (age 1 and 3) to the laundry room with him. So, we were at a point where we knew we’d have to all buy more clothing to manage through the week if we were going to continue. We decided we’d rather bit the bullet and buy an inexpensive washer and dryer than have to all buy more clothing. Now that we’ve survived two bits of stomach flu, I’m so thankful we made the investment. When I was single, it worked fine to use the apartment laundry, but it’s very difficult with young children–especially if they are potty training or sick.

  • Melissa says:

    I’ve lived in a tiny apartment with no washer or dryer for over seven years. We take the laundry to the Laundromat every week. I don’t have enough cloths to only go to the Laundromat every other week. Plus you have to be very careful that your laundry is bone dry if you’re going to store it that long because it will start to mold and smell; that’s not easy to do with towels when you don’t have anywhere to hang them that gets lots of air.

    I would love to have a portable washer/dryer that hooks up to the kitchen sink. One unit does both jobs, it washes your laundry then dries it.

    • judy says:

      About the portable washer and dryer hook up to kitchen sink I have been researching tiny homes for 5 years now and there have been others that have purchased them and the one thing I remember hearing about that could not put alot of clothes in them and it took forever to dry them I have lots of pin interest posts about everything tiny or small.

  • Amanda says:

    When we went from just 2 adults to having 2 foster children, our electricity bill and water bill combined went up less than $30 a month (and that obviously includes all electricity and water usage, not just laundry). And, we were doing a lot of laundry because the one kiddo wet the bed.

    It may actually be cheaper to buy a cheap washer/dryer set on craigslist…our washer was a hand-me-down from a friend and our dryer was a freebie on the side of the road, and they have worked decently well for almost 3 years now (totally a blessing :)).

  • I try to figure in the opportunity cost of time. When I lived in an apartment without a washer/dryer, I used a laundry service. It was only a few bucks more expensive than doing it myself at the laundromat, and I didn’t have to spend time moving loads, folding, etc. During that time, I could write another article and earn more than the cost of the laundry service. Part of being wise about money is knowing when you’re better off trying to earn money vs. saving it.

  • Alaine says:

    Washer and dryer was one of the things we compromised on when we moved into this apartment as well. Our last two had washer/dryer in unit, and it was high on my list! But the apartment we found had everything else we were looking for (including garage parking! and snow removal!) so we decided we could do without. The washer/dryer that we share with 7 other units is a short walk down the hall (like walking from one end to the other of our apartment, really) and is $1 to wash and 75 cents to dry, which is super cheap living in MA! It is sometimes unavailable when we want to do laundry, but its very rare that we HAVE to do it that moment, and we can always use the washer on another floor if we need to. It’s also do-able because there’s only two of us, and we’re (usually) cleaner than little kids, so I can see that being a bit tougher. It would be nice to just be able to throw a load in the dryer and not have to worry about being there to take it out when it’s done, but it really hasn’t been that big of an inconvenience, and it works for us!

  • I’m hesitant to buy used appliances but am a huge fan of a scratch-and-dent. As newlyweds, we started out using the laundrymat in our apartment complex but then we purchased a brand new GE washer and dryer set for around $700 from a local scratch-and-dent store. We chose the largest capacity available at the time – King Size – so that we could reduce the frequency of washes by doing large loads (I wash laundry less frequently than anyone else I know!). Both machines have cosmetic flaws but function perfectly. Five years later, we’ve yet to have a single problem with either machine!

  • Lauren says:

    I used to wash and dry my clothes at my apartment complex’s laundry facility and it cost me $5.50 a week for 2 loads. A well-meaning friend insisted on purchasing a used set for me for Christmas a few years ago and I have had both repaired several times. I don’t want to sound ungrateful for the gift, but it has cost me hundreds of dollars in repairs over the last 3 years. I told the friend several times that I did not need a washer and dryer, that I liked taking them to the laundry facility, but this girl is PUSHY! Dryer is not working again and for now I am taking the wet clothes back down to the laundry facility. Thinking I might like to sell them and gain my storage space back! It’ll be nice to see that power bill go down as well 😉

  • Glenda says:

    Well….I gather there are only 2 of you….
    Try 5 people and one who works outside lawnscaping every day….whew the smell would kill you if I waited that long to wash his clothes, let alone if he had that many to last:-)!
    $20.00 a month to do laundry is wonderful….yes, it costs me much more, but I easily do at least one load if not 2 loads a day (remember that lawnscaper son). I have a king size bed and while my washer is a large front loader….about all it holds is the king size sheets, a couple of towels and a few small things (and sorry, I wash my sheets weekly) That leaves my other 2 beds, but one is dark blue and the other is cream….not washing them together…
    I also live in FL and the idea of washing our towels every 2 weeks….they would always smell like mildew, clean or otherwise. Down here a towel can only be use 2 maybe three times before it starts smelling (I actually do a load of towels daily to keep them from mildewing)….I would have to have a bunch of towels to only do them every 2 weeks (and the smell!!).
    Not much depreciation in a washer and a dryer (they aren’t cars)….If you buy new (and I would recommend new unless you are married to “Bob Villa” which I am). Buy really good ones; spend somewhere around $1500 t0 $2000 (I said buy good ones) they will last you for 15 to 20 years (at least)….that comes out to about $100 per year. I have been married for 25 years and have only replaced my set once (my husband had a new set when we got married….the washer gave out after 18 years and 3 kids). Now the electricity and water, yes that is a cost, but the convenience in the long run far out ways the cost:-)!
    When single I used a laundry facility (prices sure have gone up) and I loved being able to do several loads at once. I,also, usually went to the apt.’s exercise room, but I do the same thing now….put a load in and clean my house, exercise or run an errand, that hasn’t changed.
    While there are just two of you, I understand using a laundry facility, it works great for you, but as you have children and they grow up, you will find out having your own washer and dryer is a major treat:-) and probably isn’t as expensive as you think once your family grows. I would love to hear what you have to say after….25 years and several kids:-)!

  • Jeff Crews says:

    I opted for renting a washer/dryer combo for my apartment. The convenience s great for me. I was debating what I would do for a while, but I am glad I decided to rent.

  • Natasha says:

    I too have a budget for laundry as well. I costs $1.50 each to wash and dry our laundry and the washers/dryers are not very big. I cap my laundry allowance at $15/week or $60 a month(I just load mine onto a card). Most times though, I’m only washing clothes 4x a week, instead of 5 as I allow. And that is just for 3 of us! I have been frugal though. If I know I have to work that day, I just take a shower right before I head to class, then wear my scrubs there since I have to work after class is over anyhow- no sense in washing clothes that I have only worn for a few hours! The way I break it up is 1 load of towels, one or two loads of blacks/darks(this is just my husband and I), one load of colors(this is ALL my daughters!) and then occasionally whites- alot of the times, I mix the whites with the towels since alot of the whites are just under shirts for me(for work) and socks. If not whites- then I rotate weekly with bedding

  • Robyn says:

    In my twenties, I had a studio apartment and no laundry facilities. I have so many fond memories of going to the laundry mat! I met a friend for breakfast every Saturdaythen went to the laundry mat. I loved being able to do it all at once…and big folding tables. I brought a book while waiting.

    When my husband and I were first married, out apartment had laundry facilities…but it was small. Communication with the other tenants was important, as was punctuality in changing the loads. Not fun, but do-able.

    Now with three kids and my own laundry room, I miss those single days!

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