Readers' Tips

Safe, Natural Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Try black tea if it's not a light-colored floor. Use it very weak with a mop to clean and then stronger for a bit of staining to perk it up.

editor's note: Visit here for more safe, natural hardwood floor cleaner ideas.

My Coupon Binder

I have been into couponing for a while, but I just got around to putting a binder together. I asked a fellow coupon lover where she bought the inserts to put the coupons in. I had purchased some from Walmart, but they were not cheap in price but they were in quality. She suggested our local baseball card shop. The inserts were half the price and a much better quality.
Toni F.

Homemade Bath Salts

I was recently at a MOPS group meeting and we made colored, scented, moisturizing bath salts. Here's how we did it:

2 cups Epsom salts
1 tsp. glycerin
a few drops of food coloring
a few drops of scented oil

Mix Epsom salts and glycerin in a baggie and add food coloring and scented oil to desired color and smell.

I'm thinking of whipping up some last minute Christmas presents!

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for homemade bath salts

Buying Spices

When shopping for spices, I always look in the ethnic section first. I can often find the same spices for cheaper, especially commonly used ones like cinnamon, rosemary, oregano, etc. For example, this week I looked in the ethnic section for curry powder and found it at $1.79 for a plastic jar. The same sized glass jar was $4.99 in the baking aisle.

Buying an Engagement Ring

I am a jeweler. If you're looking for an engagement ring, I suggest that you interview several local independent jewelers and see how much ring they will sell you for your budgeted amount.

Pay in cash and be open to some variables as many jewelers have diamonds come their way that belong to older customers wanting to sell. Often these represent a good value. Stick to the basic solitaire and I am sure you will find a jeweler who is willing to take a little less profit to make the sale today.

Christmas is the biggest diamond selling season and therefore least likely to yield your best deal. Shoot for mid- to late-summer and late in the month when bills are coming due again.
Ellen in Costlyfornia

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to find the engagement ring of her dreams for less

Lots of Gift Bags for Less

I would urge anyone who likes to decorate gift bags to check for a local paper or restaurant supply company. My friends and I go together and get a case of 250 to split. The bags end up costing about 20 cents each. I use my rubber stamps and scrapbooking supplies on them. Or you could let the kids paint or color on them for grandparents and other family members. They can be personalized for any occasion too.

For the holidays this year, I purchased plain wrapping paper in green, red, and blue. I cut strips from brown paper bags with a craft scissors, stamped the strips, and put them around the boxes instead of ribbon. My stamped gift tags double as bows, and my gifts can be stacked or shipped with ease. There are no bows to crush, my packages look pretty, and my creative muscles are getting used (plus it's just plain fun!).
Marianne in Iowa

Gift for Grandparents

My parents are in their 70s and go south for the winter. They have everything they need, so it is really hard to come up with a meaningful present. This year, I am going to take 4x6 pictures of all kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, put them in a 5x7 photo album, and have each person write down a favorite memory or why he/she loves them so much. It will ship easily, and they can show their friends new pictures of the family. It will not cost a lot, and hopefully all the personal notes will touch their hearts.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for gift ideas for seniors

Dryer Reminder

When I put items in the washer that I don't want to go into the dryer, I simply place a clothes hanger on top of the washer as a reminder. If there is only one item, I use one hanger, two hangers for two items, and so forth. After completely ruining a beautiful sweater by inadvertently throwing it into the dryer, this method has saved me from many mistakes.
Sue S. in San Antonio, TX

Cleaning with Club Soda

A professional carpet cleaner in our area came to do my carpeting some time ago. I asked what he really recommended. His company uses a dry-chem powder method of cleaning. His response was simple. He said that the best cleaner for your carpet is club soda! This makes good sense to me. It is fizzy, would likely be very effective in "lifting" any stains that are caught early, and would not leave any odor.

Additional TDS Resource: More on dry carpet cleaning

The One-Sided Christmas Tree

Living in a small home with three kids at Christmas time can be a challenge. Last year, I thought it would be nice to have a little more room during the holidays.

We have a large artificial tree. I put up the trunk, and then wired it to a nail already in the wall. We then put the branches on the tree but left off the ones on the back and then decorated it as usual. This huge tree only comes out from the wall about 2 1/2 feet.

Our tree is gorgeous, and there is a lot of room for our children to play. Who says a Christmas tree needs a back?

Grab Bag Gift Idea

Since the holidays are drawing near and so many people are feeling the crunch financially, I want to share a neat idea! We do a lot of gift grabs. So this year, I asked everyone to wrap and give something of their own for which they no longer have any use. It has to be something in good shape, in good working order, and useful. I think this will be a fun thing! What do you think?
Anita K.

Overlooked Heating Trick

I see so many articles at this time of the year about how to save on heating bills. While they are all good pointers, I have one that no one seems to think about. I've added small humidifiers to my most-used rooms. The moisture meets with the heated air and the rooms are quite a bit warmer feeling.

I'm careful to get vaporizers and humidifiers that read "warm air," because the others are cold air and don't seem to work as well in getting the room warmer. I go to a large drug store chain and buy the Vicks® vaporizers that are labeled for warm air. I fill them sometimes twice a day. If moisture forms on the windows, then I disconnect the unit for several hours. I make sure the unit in the bedroom is on during the night, so I can breathe comfortably.

This makes turning the thermostat down a little more doable for me.

Downsize Yourself

A couple years ago, I developed an allergy and could not wear makeup. I made no mention of the problem to co-workers. To my surprise, no one commented on this change, at work or in my personal life! Later I had foot surgery and had to give up skirts, high heels, and pantyhose in favor of slacks and flat shoes with socks. I maintained a professional appearance in this new style and received a promotion. When I questioned my co-workers discreetly, no one had even noticed the change. Now I am more comfortable at work. Plus, I don't have the fuss and expense of pantyhose and makeup.

Making Christmas Memories

Our family has enjoyed the tradition of a special Christmas Eve dinner, celebrating our "roots." Our menu includes one or more ethnic dishes from our family tree. We always have perogies (Polish), a fish dish (Danish), something British (thanks to my daughter-in-law's joining the family), and a Mennonite dish.

Our dessert is always the Danish Christmas Eve rice pudding, which contains a whole almond. Whoever gets the almond in his/her serving expects to have good luck for the coming year!

In the Slavic tradition, an extra place is set at the table in honor of dead family and friends and of Christ. This is a cooperative meal that also honors our origins, and we all look forward to it.

Additional TDS Resource: More on making Christmas memories

Free Food Gifts

This is a gift I have given several times, and it's always appreciated. I collect points at my grocery store during the year. Around Christmas, they always have a turkey "free" for the redemption of a certain number of points. Some years, I have enough points for two free turkeys. When this happens, I give a turkey as my Christmas present to another couple of seniors. They really appreciate it.

For a couple, this gives them several meals of meat, and they know I haven't spent a lot extra on it. During the year, I only buy what is on sale or on my grocery list. I don't shop for points.

I appreciate consumable gifts, and most seniors are like me. We don't need more stuff, but we all have to eat. That leaves them a little extra to spend on goodies that they like and can eat.
Pat S.

editor's note: This is probably a good gift idea for a younger family who is struggling financially, especially for families that are too proud to accept help otherwise.

My 'New' Bike

The past several years, my mode of transportation has been by bicycle. Even though I had an inexpensive lock on it, my bike was stolen. I kept checking the police station and each time they brought me to a shed where they kept all recovered bikes. I finally asked them what they did with the bikes that weren't reclaimed. They told me that they have a police auction twice a year and sell them there.

I went to the next auction and bought a bike for $65. My kids were surprised as they said my bike was like brand new and would sell for around $400.

Also, at the auction were all sorts of things like TVs and paintings.

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