Readers' Tips

How to Start a Babysitting Service

First and foremost, check your state’s regulations on watching children in your home. In CO, if you watch one family’s children without a daycare license, you are okay. If you watch more than one family’s children in your home, then you must have a daycare license. I had a daycare in my home for ten years.

editor's note: For more on how to start a babysitting service, please click here.

Wedding Savings

I am getting married at 47 and wanted to have a great event, but not break the bank. We asked friends to help. We got a great response! We have a friend who is making our cake, another friend who is providing all the flowers from her garden, another who is handling the music, some friends who will take photos and help decorate, and others that will help clean up afterwards. It never hurts to ask.

Also, we are having the ceremony, dinner, and reception all at the same place. This is a savings in itself. We did not order the most expensive options. Instead, we are having a buffet with a variety of options at the lower price point that allows us to invite more of our favorite people. It's a special time to be sure, but it doesn't have to leave you in debt. Have fun and don't sweat the small stuff!
Vicky B. in Bangor, Maine

Ssshh! Decorator's Secret

I just found out about a great decorators' secret, which is applying clear varnish over poster prints! I commented to my friend about her beautiful dining room painting and she confided that it's really a poster brushed with clear varnish to make brush marks. It had a beautiful ornate gold frame, which is an expense, but you might find one at an estate or yard sale. It really looked like an original work of art.

Another idea is to frame pictures from art books. I bought a Currier and Ives book for $15 off eBay and in it were over 20 color and 40 black and white prints ready to be cut out and framed. Not bad for $15!

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on inexpensive home art

My First Stop at the Grocery Store

Shop the reduced price areas first in the supermarket! I save a lot of money buying the fresh veggie and fruit markdowns! In my city, the markdown price may be as low as $.99 when the original price was close to $4!

I eat salads quite a bit. On Sunday, I make them "assembly line" fashion for the workweek. I put each salad in an airtight container and then put a plastic bag on each container before putting it in the refrigerator. Because I do this, they stay fresh for the week.
E. in VT

Safe Deodorant

For a great, safe deodorant, use some coconut oil and then dab a little baking soda on top. You can even make a paste of coconut oil, baking soda, and pure essential oil (like lavender) if you want a scent, but you should be sure to use a good brand and not a fragrance oil.

Time to Stock Up

As a freelance writer, my income is not consistent month to month. For this reason, I stock our family pantry when I'm flush. I buy a case of canned tomatoes or peaches if I can save a few cents per can. I buy extras of kalamata olives and capers to use in tasty vegetarian pasta dishes and jars of salsa and pasta sauce when the price is right. (I keep a price book.)

I buy a three- to six-month supply of rice, beans, flour, cornmeal, and oatmeal in bulk at the lowest available price. I lay in a few extra packages of pasta when it goes on sale for $.99 a package. I like to have about a dozen or so cans of tuna and a couple of extra jars of peanut butter on hand for leaner times.

I stock up only on the things that I use regularly. During the times when work is low or clients are slow to pay, I can bake bread and cut grocery spending to just milk, eggs, and fresh produce.
Nancy H. (via Facebook)

Affordable AC

After children leave home, an easy way to save on air conditioning bills is to install a window air conditioner in the master bedroom. At night, raise the temperature or turn off the whole house air, and use the bedroom window unit for the night. This has paid for the unit that we have in our bedroom many times over.

Free Babysitting

We save a lot on babysitting by belonging to a babysitting co-op. We have a group of families, and we exchange points instead of paying. It is a fairly easy system. We have a bookkeeper and a chairperson, which are "paid" in points each month that they hold their position. It really helps to know that I can just call on these people to watch my children and pay them points, which I can earn back by sitting with someone else's kids at another time.

Natural Flea Prevention

Borax is great for fleas. It is not toxic, and you can sprinkle it on your carpet. Let it sit for a few days and then vacuum it up. You can sprinkle it around the fence of your yard too. I understand that using Skin So Soft from Avon on the animals' coats will repel fleas and mosquitoes. It is also good for the kids' skin, but just make sure you get the original from Avon.

Additional TDS Resource: More on how to prevent fleas naturally

Wedding Savings

We are planning for our daughter's wedding and have run across a few money-saving ideas. We have found that we can use photographers and caterers from a smaller community, about 25 miles outside our metropolitan area, for about 20 to 30 percent less. The business people that we have gotten estimates from are more than happy to make the trip into town and don't charge extra.

Know Your Insurance

I was an idiot to use the local urgent care center rather than the emergency room. Like many other people, I have Medicare plus a policy that supplements it. If I had gone to the emergency room rather than the urgent care facility, I would likely have paid nothing out-of-pocket other than a co-pay for prescribed medications. Instead, I recently went to an urgent care office (that did not take insurance and did not accept assignment) where I was treated for bronchitis with two injections at $85 each and $125 for the office visit for a total of $295. I sent the bill to Medicare, and they approved $1.69 and $1.32 respectively for the injections. Medicare's approved amount for the office visit was $66.70. Of course, I had to pay the difference.

Also, this did not include the cost of the prescribed medications that I had filled while at the urgent care center rather than going to a pharmacy (another mistake). They charged $23 and $75 respectively for a cough suppressant and a Z-pak. A quick online check revealed that had these prescriptions been filled at one of the local drug stores/super stores, I would have paid no more than $15 for the same cough suppressant and $28 for the Z-pak.

I should have known better than to use this facility, but I was feeling rotten and it was super convenient. That said, I wasn't so sick that I couldn't have done a little research before I made a decision about where to get treatment. I've learned my lesson.

editor's note: Whether you're on Medicare or not, it pays to know what your insurance will cover before you get sick. Now is a great time to review your policy!

Adapting Ideas

I am always looking for ways to save money, but as a working mom, I often can't spare the time required for most money-saving tips. Instead of just "throwing away" a tip, I try to modify it, so I can still save some money but not cut into my time as much.

For example, a very popular money-saving tip is to bring your lunch to work instead of buying it. I don't have time to make lunches, but I bring soda, fruit, and a yogurt from home.

Money-saving tips are not one-size-fits-all. Adapt them to suit your situation and lifestyle.

Stale Chips?

Having a love affair with chips and salsa, I frequently buy the giant box of tortilla chips at Sam's Club to save money. It's a real bargain. However, once the bags are open, they tend to go stale quicker than I'd like.

I was tossing away bag after bag of these stale chips before I figured out a wonderful way to "re-crisp" them. I spread stale tortilla chips in a cake pan or on a large cookie sheet. Then I set my oven to broil and broil the chips for about one minute. I check them after about 30 seconds (maybe stirring them around once or twice) and don't let them go too long. It takes only a minute or so, but my chips are no longer stale. In fact, they are actually crisper than they were when I first got them! Plus, as a bonus, they are nice and warm, which is great for dipping into a favorite salsa or nacho sauce.

Removing Rust Spots

To remove rust spots from tubs and sinks, cover the rust spot with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide and sprinkle with cream of tartar. Let this sit for 30 minutes and wipe off with a sponge.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to remove rust stains

Making Drudgery Tolerable

This is really not a money-saving idea. Instead, it's a way to get some tasks done that you have been putting off like the plague. I have discovered that listening to podcasts or books on tape makes it tolerable to do the chores that I've always avoided. I don't even realize how much I am getting accomplished or how monotonous some of these tasks are because I am being entertained. I know a lot of people do this while exercising or running, but I never thought of it for household chores. I'm so glad I discovered it!

Easy Sticker Removal

An easy, free way of removing price tags, stickers, etc. is to just use your hair dryer. Aim it at the label for several seconds and the heat of the dryer dissolves the glue on the label. The label or tag will come off easily. If it doesn't come off with the first try, keep the hair dryer aimed at the label a little longer and try again.

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