Readers' Tips

Flannel PJ Material

I love having matching pajamas for my family at Christmas. Last year, I couldn't find any Christmas flannel that I liked for a reasonable cost. I decided to check out the cost of flannel sheets instead. The sheets that I found were less than half of what it would have cost me to buy material. Then, after Christmas, I found sheets for the next year on clearance.

Custom Yogurt Flavors

I don't like waste. It makes things expensive coming into my home and expensive going out to a landfill. When I thaw frozen fruit, I save the juice in a glass jar in the refrigerator to add to plain (and usually cheaper) yogurt that I buy in large containers. Then, I just add sugar or sweetener. It's the same color and consistency as flavored yogurt from the store, but it's cheaper. It also cuts down on waste.

Travel Entertainment

I have two small girls who get easily bored on long car trips. We thought about purchasing a portable DVD player so they could watch movies, but these were beyond our budget. Then I remembered my laptop has a DVD player, so now we just take this along with us, placing it where they can see it in the car. When we get to our destination, we charge it back up. Also, instead of buying them a new DVD to keep them entertained, we just rent one from Redbox that they haven't seen and return it when we arrive at our destination.
Julie S.

Lower Heating Bills

Most homeowners have an area or room that they keep warmer in the winter. We set our thermostat at 55 degrees in the whole house, but we keep a space heater going in the main bathroom, and we keep the fireplace going in the kitchen/living room area.

Our home is one of those open plan types that is hard to close off. Our solution is clear vinyl. It's available at our local fabric store. I added grommets and we hang sheets of it up to create an air cushion. The savings are tremendous. It doesn't block any light, and I can pull the sheets down in seconds if company is coming over.

No More Dryer Sheets

I put about three tablespoons of liquid fabric softener on a designated washcloth and use it in the dryer instead of dryer sheets. It lasts for many loads, saves money, and is recyclable! I just add more when I think it needs it.

Colorful Gift Wrapping

I save the comic section from our Sunday paper and use the paper to wrap children's birthday gifts. (I have also asked my neighbors who do not have small children to give us their comic sections instead of throwing them out when they're done.) I cut out a character from the paper and use it on the bow.

Cleaning Silk Plants

The very best solution for cleaning silk plants is rubbing alcohol. Mix it 50/50 with water and spray until the dust starts to run off the plants. It will dry quickly and cleans like a dream. I have used this for many years. It works well for dried flowers as well.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to clean silk plants

Gifts for the Office

I work in administration at an agency with 200+ staff members. I work directly with eight other women in the department, which can make Christmas gift giving rather expensive. I came up with an idea that was very inexpensive, yet festive and useful.

At the local dollar store, I purchased oven mitts with Christmas designs (came in pack of 3 for $1.00), a package of mixing spoons and spatulas (also in packs of 3 for $1.00) that were also Christmas themed, Christmas cookie-cutters (bag for $1.00), and several small bags of cookie mixes ($1.00 each). I placed one cookie mix and one spoon or spatula into each oven mitt. I used some pretty ribbon to tie a cookie-cutter to the small loop on the oven mitt (used to hang up on a hook). Everyone loved the idea and each gift cost less than $2.00 each!

They were easy to bring to work and hand out because they stacked well in a small box and I didn't have to put name tags on them since they were all similar. No one felt that they received more or less of a gift than anyone else. This year I am doing a similar gift, but I'm using coffee mugs, flavored coffee/cocoa/tea, and the coffee "dip sticks" made to flavor a drink. It should cost about the same as last year.
Julie U.

Winter Bird Feeding

I am an avid feeder of birds all year long, and the bird food can get expensive. So, I watch for "Buy One, Get One Free" sales and stock up. After Thanksgiving, dried cranberries often go on sale, and I add those to my bird feed. For the holidays, I always make deviled eggs and save the boiled egg shells. I peel off the membrane from the shell and then run a rolling pin over the actual egg shell, breaking it into very small pieces. Then I just add it to the bird seed. This adds calcium for the birds and helps them digest their food. Plus, it helps make the bird seed go farther. Of course, I sometimes have fresh fruit that gets away from me. A soft apple is not appetizing for me, but the birds really love it when cut into very small pieces and put in the bird feeder. Watching the birds eat is very enjoyable for our household.
Renee S.

Cat Treats

Cat treats can be very expensive, especially if you have multiple cats. Instead of purchasing these treats, I have been purchasing smaller size bags (around 3.5 pounds) of healthy cat food. I usually buy a brand or flavor that my cats don't eat as their regular food and use that as their "treat." This way, I know they are getting healthy treats (instead of kitty junk food), and it is also much, much cheaper in the long run than buying large quantities of small bags of treats. Your kitty will never know the difference!
Laura P. in Canton, OH

Help for a Hospitalized Friend

I learned of a new way to help a friend in the hospital for free. If your friend is going through chemotherapy or surgery and needs blood, ask if they have an ID or account with the blood bank. Each unit you donate is credited to his or her account, reducing how much your friend must pay for blood and blood products. You may even be able to help a friend defray medical costs and earn points in awards programs offered by some blood banks.

Gift Basket Ideas

I like to make theme gift baskets, such as items for a spaghetti dinner, a tea luncheon or party, or a rainy/snowy day basket, which could include a book/magazine, coffee, tea and/or hot chocolate. A "feel better" basket could include some chicken noodle soup, crackers, hot tea (ginger would be good), a magazine or book, a box of tissues, some cough drops, and chocolate candy. Each of these gift baskets could include a crossword puzzle book. There are so many themes that can be used.

Additional TDS Resource: More great gift basket ideas

Buy the Case

I was at the local grocery store visiting with one of the clerks. One of the yogurts I always eat is frequently out of stock. I asked the clerk how we could remedy this issue. I asked if I could buy it by the case. She said that I could, and if I did, there would be a discount of about 25-30% off regular price. She told me I could do that with any item in the store.

So, now when I have extra money, I stock up on my favorite nonperishable items. I get a discount. I am creating a stockpile (live ten miles from any town), and groceries are more than likely never going to be cheaper than they are now. The clerk said that this is like getting everything in the store on sale any day I want it to be.

Dehydrated Snacks

Dehydrated food is a great idea for many reasons. It can also be a source of unnoticed calories. A whole banana, orange, or apple, which might be one or two cups of sliced fruit, is dehydrated into a small handful of slices. Be aware that as snacks, a little goes a long way.
Wanda H.

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