My husband fixed the dryer. He found the part he needed on ebay for about $30 (1/3 of the price at the local appliance repair places) and in an hour it was back in working order. The hardest part was getting the panels off so he could access the innards. FYI, it was the igniter (gas dryer), and was not difficult to replace. So if you have a decent dryer that just stops heating, keep that in mind!
So I meant to update about my homemade laundry detergent experiment...not much to say, really. It's hard to get a handle on a per-load cost until I actually use up the borax and washing soda, so I can average it all. But so far it looks like, using the Dr. Bronner's soap bars which are hella-expensive, actually, I am coming in at between 7 and 10 cents per load. I've started on my second bar of soap mixture, but I don't think I'm going to buy the more expensive castile soap anymore. I'll try the cheaper kinds of laundry soaps (maybe Fels Naptha) or some Kirk's castile which is something like $1.29 at my supermarket (compared to $3.49 for Dr. Bronner's bars).
I don't know if I love the homemade stuff. It's ok, but I find I miss the "fresh" scent of detergent, however artificial that may be. And the clothes are definitely not as soft, not by a long shot.
Frankly, I'm not feeling very inspired about saving money right now. My husband and I were high-fiving after the dryer repair, and then he said sometimes he feels weird and awkward and almost embarrassed telling people he fixed his own appliance (he's done awesome money-saving tricks like this before...with our oven, with the cars...he is very handy!). This is because, he said, he feels it makes us look like we can't afford to just call someone to come and do it.
When did it become embarrassing to fix your own stuff? I mean, what a strange psychological thing that is. I mend and repair and patch. I'm not extreme about things; my kids get new stuff when they need it, my husband and I do too, but less often (I've recently had to replace some stuff obtained early in our marriage and felt resentful that it finally wore out!). I had a conversation with a family member awhile back during which I mentioned sewing buttons back on my husband's shirts when they pop off, and this person was incredulous, like, "why would you bother?" To him if a shirt loses a button it's broken, useless, done. I can't even imagine thinking that way.
Oh well, inspired or not, it is what it is. The holidays are such a difficult time for keeping the "wanties" at bay. I tried to make one final Target run for the year today but they didn't have what I needed...I might try another location tonight after the kids are in bed. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it, but I pretty much avoid Target and W*Mart between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. I try to do online shopping as much as possible, gather my baking supplies early, etc., both to avoid the awful crowds/parking lots, and to stop myself from wishing for all the shiny, new stuff I see out there. So, one last run for hair dye and stocking stuffers, and then I'm going to try to take deep breaths, relax, and knit/sew/bake/craft my way through the next couple of months.
I'm really proud of Hubs for fixing the dryer.