Readers' Tips

Buying an Espresso Machine

I bought two electric espresso machines, which just barely outlasted their guarantees. After living overseas, I remembered the stove top espresso machines used there. The brand name is Bialetti, and they can be purchased online. You can choose an aluminum model or a more expensive stainless steel model and the replacement parts are available from the same supplier. I've replaced rubber gaskets and screens, so it's pretty much a "forever" coffee maker!

editor's note: For more on buying an espresso machine, please click here.

High Quality, Low Cost Paint

I have worked for two different home improvement stores that sell paint. While the brand of paint really doesn't matter (in my personal opinion), the level and finish makes the difference. Many stores offer different quality levels of paint with the cheapest being, well, cheap! It rubs off and doesn't last longer than the next tenant renting the space, which is why many landlords use it. The middle and high-grade paints are fairly equal in quality.

Next, you want to look at the finishes. There are four main finishes and each has its own benefit. Flat finish doesn't shine or reflect light and gives a warm appearance. It doesn't wash well, unless you get the flat enamel, which may cost a bit more. Egg shell finish has very little shine with a bit of enamel for easy cleaning. Not all stores carry this finish. Semi-gloss is very kid-friendly because it's easy to clean. It may not have a warm feeling because it does have sheen to it. Gloss or high gloss is easy to clean and great for trim. It's very shiny and not recommended for walls. Generally, the higher the sheen, the higher the cost of the paint due to the amount of enamel used.

Today, most stores that sell paint have a spectrometer that will match just about any color paint you want. Take in a sample that is about the size of a quarter and they should be able to match it. Make sure you check a dried sample piece before you leave the store!
Alison in Virginia

Additional TDS Resource: More on getting quality paint for less

Roadside Assistance

I recently learned something I wanted to share. I have a 17-year-old driver. He is not driving by himself often, but like most teenagers, he is out with friends most days. I decided to add him to our AAA membership and learned that AAA is for the person, not the car. This means that when he is with a friend or family member who is driving and the car breaks down, has a flat or runs out of gas, he has the benefits of AAA. The sales lady I spoke with said that she has her 13-year-old added to hers because a neighbor is usually driving her to and from school. This gives me some peace of mind, knowing he won't be stranded somewhere.
Tracy M.

My Password Book

I recently received a small address book as a birthday gift from a local card store. I wasn't sure what to do with it and was about to donate it when I had a thought. It was the perfect size to keep up with all those usernames and passwords I have so much trouble remembering.

Lice Protection

We used to put vinegar in a spray bottle, and after our kids had their bath, we sprayed their hair with vinegar. Not only did it keep lice away, but it also made their hair shiny. It's great for conditioning, and no one was the wiser.

Additional TDS Resource: More on getting rid of lice

Surprising Lettuce Saver

I am not a big lettuce lover, but I do like a salad once in a while. I was constantly throwing away heads of lettuce. Then I read if I wrapped it in aluminum foil, a head of lettuce would last for at least a month. I bought a head of lettuce to see if this would work.

I wrapped it totally in foil and put it in the bottom drawer. I actually forgot about the lettuce. My boyfriend asked for a salad, and I then remembered what I had done. It had been at least a month since I wrapped it. I opened it very slowly thinking it was going to be gross. I just stood there looking at it. The lettuce was perfectly fine. I was amazed. I pulled it apart, and the inside was fine. I made the salad and asked my boyfriend how it tasted. He said that it was great. I re-wrapped the lettuce, and it lasted another two weeks. I was able to use every last leaf of that lettuce. I now have another head in my drawer waiting for me to remember it's there.
Kelly J.

Take It Home!

When I eat out, I order with an eye toward leftovers to take home. Naturally, I will take home whatever part of the entree I haven't eaten, but I go far beyond that. If I have an option, say, for carrot and celery sticks instead of fries, I will order them and take them home for future lunches or to use in recipes. If I remove a big onion slice or tomato slice from a hamburger, I save it for a recipe. Recently I took home a whole baked potato and turned it into two servings of home fries. I have saved uneaten jalapeno peppers and repurposed them in homemade cornbread. I have grabbed garlic bread that my grandsons didn't eat and turned it into a mini pizza. I really belong to the clean plate club! My mother would be so proud!

Dishwasher Maintenance

I noticed that my dishwasher wasn't quite as "perky" as before. Having read numerous tips about the power of vinegar to cut through grease, lime and scale, I merely took a gallon ($2.58), poured it on the bottom, and ran a regular cycle. What a change! Perky is not the word. Sparkling is more like it! My dishes come out super clean now, and vinegar is also a disinfectant. I'm delighted and will continue to use it occasionally to keep my elderly dishwasher clean and running optimally.


I am an LPN at a high school. Yes, even high schoolers get head lice! Some of the students are repeaters, and I have to stay on top of the problem. I have one young lady that comes from a low-income home, and they use kerosene. This is a "no no"!

One solution to remove those stubborn nits is to put some alcohol on a cotton ball and pull it over the nit that is on the shaft of the hair. It is time consuming, but it sometimes is necessary.

Additional TDS Resource: More on eliminating head lice

Free Fertilizer

If you have fish, when cleaning their bowl, save some of the water. It is full of nutrients for your indoor or even outdoor (hanging) plants. I clean my fish bowl once a week, strain all the water into a watering can, and then I water my plants with it. My plants love this treat. They have more blossoms, and the greens just perk up after this watering.

Rental Car Warning

We recently rented a car. We did not check it over before we took it off the lot. We drove it for a couple of days and dropped it back. Because we had never rented a car before, we did not ask a rental employee to look it over. A few hours later, an employee called us and said, "Sorry, but there is damage." We ended up being charged $900 because of a couple of small marks. We had no recourse.

Here is my advice. Never rent a car without taking pictures using your cell phone. Take pictures of every angle, and when you return the car, tell the employees that you have before and after pictures. Also, ask that an employee check the car out before you leave.

Kids' Birthday Gifts

My kids get invited to a lot of birthday parties for classmates. For inexpensive gifts, I picked up several beach towels on clearance at the end of season last year for $4 each. The towels are appropriate for a boy or girl. We don't even use wrapping paper; we just roll it up and tie it with a ribbon with a lollipop or container of bubbles tucked inside (from a multipack bought at a dollar store) and a homemade card. I never spend more than $5. I don't have to spend time and gas running to the store, and the gift is always appreciated by both the birthday boy/girl and the parents.
Ann F.

Organized Refrigerator

I got tired of searching in my fridge, so I bought three- to four-inch high plastic containers that just fit on the shelves and store everything in them. When I need something, I pull out the trays. Plus, if something spills, it is contained in the tray.

Wonderful Facial Masks

The best facial mask that I have found is honey. Use a warm cloth to open pores and then smear on the honey. Leave it on for 15 to 30 minutes, rinse it off with warm water, and then use cold water to close pores. Use for three days in a row and then once a week. Sometimes I mix a little ground oatmeal with the honey, which makes a great mask.

Additional TDS Resource: More great facial masks

Repair It!

When a doorbell fails, the button, which is exposed to the elements, is often the problem. But, that does not mean it must be replaced. I recently fixed the old button by unscrewing it from the door post and cleaning the wires and contacts with WD-40®. An electrical cleaner would be even better. I screwed it back together, and it works fine now.
Barbara in CT

Feeding the Ants

I would never have believed this one had I not seen it myself! We had a bunch of ants gathered at the edge of our sidewalk, and a friend suggested getting rid of them by feeding them oatmeal. They'd eat it, the oatmeal would expand, and they'd die. This way, there would be no smell or chemicals around for children or pets. So, my four-year-old daughter and I poured oatmeal on the ground for them. The next morning, nearly every ant was dead. Who'd have thought?

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