Readers' Tips

How to Clean Greasy Kitchen Cabinets

Sounds like this reader does a lot of frying. To clean greasy kitchen cabinets, mix one tablespoon of Dawn® dish soap (the blue one) with 1/4 cup white vinegar in two gallons of very warm tap water. Scrub using a rag.

To keep cabinets clean in future, turn on the stovetop hood, use a splatter screen when frying, and check out some other ways to cook.

editor's note: For more on how to clean greasy kitchen cabinets, please click here.

Taking in a Renter

My husband and I have had several roommates over the years for short periods of time to make some extra money and help the friend out. I think the key is keeping it short term (one year or less). Because no matter who the person is and how much you like them, after a time, you just want your own space and quiet house back. It was critical for us that the roommate had his/her own bathroom. We have a master bath so the roommate pretty much took over the guest bathroom. We agreed up front that they would keep it clean, but whenever I was having company, I usually had to do some last minute sprucing up.

The kitchen can also be a trouble area unless you can work out a schedule so you aren't trying to fix two different dinners at the same time. We cleared off two shelves in the refrigerator exclusively for the roommate, and we never touched each other's food. We also had to be bold and say something when the roommate was wasting hot water, leaving wet towels on the hardwood floors, etc. It can be a challenge having someone in your home that doesn't have the same house rules that you have. Just come up with a strategy up front. Be frank with your friend and let her know that you need to be free to communicate house rules if there's ever a problem.

We charged one of our renters $300 per month, which included utilities, laundry use, and her own bedroom. Another renter was only there four days per week so we charged her $200 per month. We found that it actually cost us around $75 or more extra if they're home during the day using electricity and water.

We have enjoyed the extra income from a renter for short periods over the years and will probably do it again. But we're better friends with the person after they move out. It definitely impacts your friendship until you work all the kinks out.

Additional TDS Resource: More on taking in a renter

Natural Deodorant

I wanted to find a deodorant that was chemical free and worked. I stumbled upon using baking soda. I put a small amount in the palm of my hand and add a little water. I rub the baking soda and water between my hands and then apply it under my arms. I'm too impatient to wait for it to dry, so I sprinkle cornstarch over it.

This has worked beautifully. I found I am still odor free even if I don't shower the next day, and I don't appear to sweat either. This method not only saved me money, but it is good for me, too.

Cheaper Cat Spaying

If you've recently adopted a cat, then I suggest getting a voucher from the nearest Humane Society. I got one and a normally $150-$200 spay only cost me $45. Best deal ever!
Juliana R.

editor's note: Anyone know if they have the same offer for dogs?

Frugal Meals around the World

Every culture has their version of frugal eating. Here are some of my favorites:

One Dish Italian - Leftover onions, pepper tops, carrot gratings, etc. go into tomato sauce made from two cans of paste and some leftover ground beef (use about 1/4 pound) to make a sauce for spaghetti.

Easy Mexican - Combine those same leftover vegetables from above with day old sausage, scrambled eggs, and tortillas to make burritos. Serve with salad.

Chinese Takeout - Remember that chicken you roasted? Put aside the scraps off the bone for a stir-fry with rice, egg, and leftover veggies (onions, chives, broccoli, and peas). The key ingredient is soy sauce.

I hope this helps create ideas for others who need a change from the meat and potatoes (costly sometimes) meals.
Ellen in PA

School Picture Day Savings

My daughter's school picture day is coming up. I volunteered to help get the kids spiffed up a bit. My motive was to make sure my own child had her hair combed and sported no ketchup stains. The school was glad to have me help out, and as a reward, I will be getting a certificate for a free packet of photos.

Before You Reupholster

Many people reupholster unnecessarily. Knowing how to repair small holes (via darning) or how to get stains out of old upholstery is just as important. Take a darning class or get a book on darning. Your great grandmother saved a lot by knowing how to do this.

As for stains, old sweat stains are best removed by first adding olive oil. After waiting ten minutes, hand scrub with a soft cloth and color safe laundry detergent. Follow this with a one teaspoon of ammonia in a liter of water. Then use a rub of alcohol. Keep repeating, and the stain will go away slowly.

For rips, you can hand sew with a pretty cross stitch in matching thread, continuing the seam to both edges of the cushion. Then hand sew a matching seam at a position that is geometrically pleasing. If you do this to any matching cushions, it looks as if it was part of the original design.

Make sure to buy upholstery needles to make it easier to sew and always use a thimble. When repairing upholstery, use heavy-duty thread. I have saved couches and matching love seats that I would have had to pay thousands for this way.

Another trick is to look for two similar couches and to mix and match them into a combo couch. So many couch designs are the same that two couches can often be interchanged. So, live with that torn seat cushion until you can find a cheap, but complimentary replacement at some garage sale. I did this once and had someone visit and ask where she could get such a unique sofa. I had replaced the bottom cushion and throw pillows with one from a Goodwill.
Van in AL

Who Needs "Portion Bags"?

Recently I have been noticing ads on TV for "portion bags." When you buy a package of meat with several servings in it, you divide it into the portion bags and then place them in a zipper bag before freezing. The premise is that you won't have problems when you want to defrost the meat. You take out only the servings you need and the rest stays frozen.

I have been doing this for years without the pricey bags. I buy the inexpensive sandwich bags with the fold over top. I can get 200 for less than $2 if I buy the generic brand. I rarely have anything that doesn't fit in the sandwich bag. I use them for chicken, pork chops, and even small steaks. They work great and make preparing dinner easier.
Cindy B.

Pet Urine Stains

I had a wonderful, well-trained dog that never soiled the floors, but unfortunately after three years, he suddenly developed epilepsy. This caused him to soil the floors often. Someone told us to use about one quart of water with a squirt of dishwashing liquid and two tablespoons of white vinegar on the spots where there was urine to prevent odor.

This worked perfectly. After four years of doing this, we never had an odor. Of course, I have to get to the spot while it is still wet. If it dries, I don't know anything that will take it out.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to remove pet urine stains

A Warm Bed

I love a cozy bed, and in the winter, it gets miserably cold where I live. This fall, I thought it would be nice to have some flannel sheets, but they are so expensive. I walked into my favorite thrift store one day recently, and there was a brand new set of heavy flannel sheets! I immediately bought them, took them home, washed them, and then had another idea. I decided to use only one of the sheets at a time. Instead of putting both the fitted and flat sheet on the bed, I just put one of the sheets on and alternate with cotton. Not only is it warmer, but also I always have the other sheet washed and ready when I change the bed. I had some leftover flannel from another project and made two large pillowcases. Since most of our heat leaves our head, it made sense to me to have these warm pillowcases. This is the most comfortable and warmest bed I've ever had! I'm looking forward to hunkering down with a good book this winter!
Karen K.

Stick Deodorant

I found I had several bottles of stick deodorant where there was about an inch left in each container. Towards the end of the stick, it would fall out of the container and make applying it difficult.

I took a small stainless steel bowl (cat food size) and placed all the deodorant from all the loose containers in the bowl. I placed the bowl on a candle warmer to slowly melt the deodorant. After mixing it, I poured it back into one of the deodorant containers. I let it cool, and now I have almost a whole new deodorant.

Better Ground Meats

Just read the tip on grinding your own meat. It is a great article. However, I have a tip I have been using for years that is less expensive and less time consuming. Simply select the cut of meat that is on sale and ask the store butcher to grind it for you. They will be more than happy to do this for you. You can specify how much fat you want trimmed off. I usually leave all the fat for better flavor, and if I'm making burgers, they hold together better.

Professional Make-Up Trick

While standing backstage at a play my daughter was in, I watched her being worked on by the troupe's make-up artist and learned some valuable tips. Tired of your eyebrow pencil wiping off or running down your face when it's hot and steamy (like it is under the stage lights)? Have you given up on eyebrow make-up because it simply doesn't last long enough, but then find yourself looking older or tired?

The make-up artist said that she uses a simple waterproof mascara in a color near the actor's hair color (not one that lengthens or volumizes), and then carefully wipes the brush fairly dry and grooms each hair with the mascara. The effect was a much more natural looking brow with individual hairs rather than just a long line, and it lasted through all the hot scenes perfectly. I tried it, and it works great. Another tip she told me was to make sure brows are one to two shades lighter than hair color.
Kamia T.

Family Halloween Costume Ideas

Here's a fun idea that my family did a few years ago. We were Christmas presents! For each kid, we found a box of the appropriate size, cut off the bottom, cut a hole in the top that was big enough to put his/her head through, and cut comfortable armholes in the sides or front. Then we covered the box with Christmas wrapping paper, and neatly cut the paper around the holes. We added a stick-on bow or ribbon on his/her head. We used our Christmas stockings for goody bags.

Dad was a Christmas tree. We made him a silly star hat out of foil. We wrapped and safety-pinned a green sheet around him and pinned garland and ornaments to the sheet. As a warning, do not use breakable ornaments!

It was a fun group costume that got a lot of compliments. Best of all, it cost us nothing. We used stuff that we already had on hand.

Additional TDS Resource: More on Family Halloween Costumes

Outdoors? Or Indoors?

I have a 12-year-old glider rocking chair that I used for all four of my kids. The chair itself was in great shape, but the cushions were looking worn and out-of-date. I started looking online for replacement cushions, and they ranged from $44 to well over $100!

I checked out Walmart's fall clearance gardening section and was thrilled when I found a soft and comfy lawn chair cushion for only $5! I tied it on, and it looked great. Plus, I can easily get a new one every year for that price.
Brigitte in Fort Stewart, GA

Creative Gift Boxes

Regarding the "how" of getting free or low-cost gift boxes, here's a great idea that I read about just last night in a book on gift-wrapping. Use spray paint on ordinary boxes that food and consumer goods are packaged in to hide any lettering, logos, etc. that may be on the outside.

You can apply embellishments like stenciling, sponging, stamping, charms, stickers, decorative painting, yarn, small toys, fabric scraps, snippets of lace, silk flowers, ribbon roses, old greeting cards, etc. to make your gift package look even prettier and to camouflage any damaged areas on the box.

Not only will you be spared the expense of buying those expensive, store-bought gift boxes, but also you're helping the environment by recycling what would normally end up in a landfill into a gift box that's truly distinctive and one-of-a-kind!

Do you have a money or time-saving tip you'd like to share? Just click here to submit your suggestion. If we use your tip in any of our publications, we'll send you the next three issues of our print newsletter as a thank you!

If you'd like to receive our Dollar Stretcher Tips newsletter, click here to subscribe.

Dollar Stretcher Tips is a weekly feature of The Dollar If you missed last week's tips click here.

Get Out of Debt
Stay Connected with TDS

Do you struggle to get ahead financially?

Surviving Tough Times is a weekly newsletter aimed at helping you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources.

Debt Checklist

And get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble?
A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt