Readers' Tips

How to Care for Suede Boots

The best thing is to get a suede brush. Once they are brushed and clean, apply a suede spray to help them be waterproof. Keeping newspaper inside of the boots if they get wet helps keep their shape as well. Brush off any salt when they are dry before wearing again to maintain the life of the suede.
Judy in NY

editor's note: For more on how to care for suede boots, please click here.

More Efficient Heating

Heating and cooling can be more efficient and economical when the furnace filter is cleaned regularly. Metal-framed filters can easily be put in the trunk of your car and driven to the nearest car wash for this simple task. One dollar will cover the cost to "high power rinse" your furnace filter. There's no need for soap. Just rinse with the car wash wand. Bring it back home to dry in the sunshine for a few hours, and you'll enjoy a clean filter, save money, and eliminate a HVAC service call.

Family Halloween Costumes

Last year, I dressed our three kids up as Christmas presents! We used boxes we had around the house and cut out holes for the head and arms. Then we wrapped the boxes with leftover wrapping paper. They wore sweats the same color as the wrapping paper, and we put some ribbons in their hair. We had Halloween costumes that only took a few minutes to make and cost virtually nothing!

Additional TDS Resource: More Halloween costume suggestions

Budgeting for Unpredictable Income

My husband has an unstable income, and I'm a stay-at-home mom. I found that if we know approximately what we will make in a year, we can figure pretty accurately. For example, if he makes $36,000, we know we have $3,000 per month to work with. In the months that he brings in more than that, we put away the rest for following months.

I've been able to do this by paying my bills ahead. If I have a car payment for $200, and I have an extra $1,000 that month, I make three or four car payments ahead. Once I'm a little ahead on one bill, I start working on others. When I'm able to get ahead, then the lack of money for one month no longer affects my budget.

Another trick that works for me is to put at least five to ten percent of every check in an emergency account until I have enough funds to cover myself for three months. It's hard to get started, but this gives us the security of an emergency fund.

Design Your Own Lipstick Colors

You can make new colors out of your old lipsticks by layering them. This even works with the ones you thought were the wrong color. Mix and match your colors. Colors may differ slightly by the order you apply. Have fun playing.

Acne Cure

To get rid of acne, a mixture of olive oil and salt works very well. Make a paste and wash with it. Use daily at first and then go to two or three times weekly to maintain. My 13-year-old son swears by it. Try it. It does work!

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for getting rid of acne

Affordable Rice

Rice is a good choice when wanting to stretch a food dollar. We serve rice two or three times a week as a side dish with chili or soup on top. It really helps stretch the food, and we love it. Rice is also versatile. You can serve it plain, with butter, with soy sauce, with vegetables mixed in, or with spices like garlic or chili powder added. The possibilities are endless!

Controlling Craft Supply Spending

I am a craft-a-holic. I made a deal with my husband that I wouldn't spend any money on craft supplies out of our family budget. Instead, I would only use whatever money I made selling my crafts. Also, any money that I made this way was mine to spend as I chose. I put it in an envelope to keep it separate.

This did several things. I was more motivated to market my crafts and didn't let unfinished projects pile up. Also it eliminated any guilt I had when buying craft supplies. And when the money was gone, it was gone. There was no "borrowing from the grocery money."

Updating a Mobile Home

I lived in a mobile home for five years and here is what I learned. There is nothing special about a mobile home. Anything that can be used in a conventional house can be used in a mobile.

To get rid of the paneling, we got some tubes of painter's caulk and filled in the grooves on the panels. It took some work, but we then had a smooth surface. The easiest way to do this is with a three-inch-wide putty knife. After filling the cracks, we sanded a little to get the shine off the paneling and then coated it with Kilz or any other good primer. We painted at this point. By filling in the cracks and smoothing this way, we were able to add wallpaper borders to the walls. Molding is cheap and could have been used also to give the room a different feel.

Doors can be done the same way. They can be taken down and sanded lightly. After coating with Kilz, doors can be painted any color. I know from experience that this is a lot of work, but painter's caulk is inexpensive and so is sand paper and paint. It is also a lot less expensive than replacing the paneling. The money saved can then be used to help fix up the outside.

Additional TDS Resource: More on updating a mobile home

Welcome to Our Home!

An Asian tradition of leaving shoes outside has helped me reduce the amount of indoor work to vacuum and sweep dirt off our floors. It has also preserved our hardwood floors from wear and tear. To make things easy for our family and house guests to follow our tradition, at the door, I have a large basket filled with various sizes of slippers from which our guests can choose. They are also welcome to wear their own sock socks or go barefoot. Our regular guests no longer have to be told because they know the rules. Our floors always look clean and new!

Winterizing Windows

Use bubble wrap to create double or triple pane solar windows. Large rolls of bubble wrap can be bought for around $20 at home and discount stores and will take care of the windows in an average size house with a lot left over. Cut your wrap to fit the glass. Spray the window with water laced with a bit of dish soap and place the wrap with the bubble side facing your room. Butt up sheets to fill whole pane. Sunny days will heat the air in the bubbles and actually help warm your rooms.

Great Steaks!

We went to a very fancy restaurant and ordered steaks for a special occasion. I asked the waiter why the steak was so much better than my homemade steaks. He simply told me to cook it on high heat for five minutes on each side for medium rare. Before serving it, he suggested that I top it with some butter and then let it rest for five minutes, so the juice does not run out. That's it!

I now get my steaks on sale and do this simple method. At the end, I sprinkle with salt and sometimes garlic powder. I have even tried melting the butter with a clove of garlic to infuse the flavor and pour on top of the steak. The high heat sears in the juices and gives a nice crisp outside with melt-in-your-mouth flavor. I no longer go out for steak dinners.
Judy in NY

Easy Roof Cleaning

To remove the black stains off of your shingles on your roof, pour a cheap, powdered clothing detergent over your entire roof. Let it stay on there while the heavy dew helps it to sink into the shingles. Once it has dissolved and been on your roof for about one week, spray it off with a hose or pressure washer. Your roof will look brand new! Try it!
Lynn H.

Natural Congestion Relief

When you are congested, try drinking hot liquids every hour. Peppermint tea, herb tea, and broth will all work. Even warm water will work. This will help thin the mucus in your lungs. Also, take an expectorant like Mucinex® to loosen the congestion and bring it up, so you can spit it out.

I also suggest having someone "clap" your back by cupping his/her hands and hitting your back. This technique is used for cystic fibrosis patients, and it really loosens up congestion.
Gail in Houston

Additional TDS Resource: More on natural congestion remedies

Easier Mornings

I enjoyed reading "Jump Start Your Morning." I am also one of those people who sometimes has trouble getting the day going.

I take my lunch to work every day. So right after supper, the dishes go in a pan of hot soapy water to soak while I make tomorrow's lunch. I make either sandwiches or a complete meal made from that night's leftovers. These are stored in the refrigerator overnight.

My son doesn't care what he wears to school. As I fold laundry, I lay out a pair of pants, a shirt, and socks and then fold the whole pile in half together. I then put a pile of these pre-assembled outfits on top of his dresser. In the morning, he just grabs one, and he's ready. If he wants to wear a particular shirt or pair of pants, all of the matching pieces are there.

Great Party Idea

I have a great party idea that is very inexpensive to host. We host an annual "Pumpkins & Potluck Party" on the Sunday before Halloween. We usually start about 4 p.m. Everyone comes with a pumpkin to carve and a potluck dish to share. Friends and their children are invited. Usually the adults don't wear costumes, but the kids do. The kids love it because it is one more chance for them to wear their costume.

We set up folding tables and old doors on saw horses for carving stations in our driveway. I've saved several years of Halloween magazines for unique carving ideas. After carving our pumpkins, we all enjoy a meal that everyone has helped to prepare, which is great for me as the hostess. I usually just supply the main dish and drinks. After dinner, we light all of the jack-o-lanterns and give awards (certificate I made on the computer) out for the most creative design, scariest, etc.

It is a fun event that our friends really look forward to attending!
Kelly P. of North Hampton, NH

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