Readers' Tips

How to Find an Affordable Personal Trainer

In my 15 years of gym membership, I have been shocked by the aggressive training programs deemed acceptable by some trainers, causing increased risk of injury and much more soreness than needed. Learning the principles yourself through reading fitness magazines is the best way to self-educate in my opinion. These subscriptions are very low cost at $12 annually sometimes. If you have your heart set on a trainer, YMCA offers this free when you join and city rec centers offer personal trainers too. Sharing a trainer with group of folks with similar goals and starting points makes sense too.

editor's note: Visit here for more on how to find an affordable personal trainer.

Postponed Christmas

Were you low on money for Christmas this year? You should plan ahead for Christmas 2014. During the year, talk about celebrating Christmas on New Year's instead. Our family almost always celebrates Christmas around New Year's because of our grown kids' work and family schedules. This will allow your family to shop after-Christmas sales and get more bang for the buck. This includes sweets, clothing, toys, electronics, etc.

So what do you do on Christmas? Volunteer at a soup kitchen (your kids will realize how fortunate they really are). Go to Christmas church service or event. Host a potluck for those who do not have anywhere to go. Spend the day baking/cooking with your kids. Make sweets or part of the meal for New Year's and freeze. Make your own or use coupons to order pizza and have a movie day where everyone votes on two to three movies to watch and have popcorn, junk food, and sodas. Plan a staycation with special activities, games, etc. Who says Christmas has to be on Christmas?

Another possibility is to give your kids their allotted amount of cash you spend on them somewhere between the 26th and the New Year and take them shopping. Let them pick out their gift and have a lesson on choices and budgeting to get the most bang for their buck. Have them make a realistic list of items they would like and research prices before going to the store/stores. This will save time and frustration. When they get home, help them wrap the presents they purchase and put them under the tree. Having money in hand, kids seem to be a bit more conservative and careful about spending. They know what they are getting, but from experience, this prevents disappointed and pouty kids on that special day.

Keeping Toddlers Warm at Night

The key to keeping your toddler warm at night is layering. I turn the heat down at night, but my grandson stays warm. I start with a t-shirt, socks and his diaper. I then add a long-sleeve onesie. Then, I put on a toddler blanket sleeper with feet. They zip up easily. If it is very cold, you might want to include tights instead of the socks for an extra leg layer. When we dress my grandson this way at night, there are no worries about him kicking off the blankets. Often, he only requires a very light blanket at night and keeps nice and warm even though the heat is turned down to 60 degrees.
Elizabeth in Denver, CO

Additional TDS Resource: More on keeping your toddler warm at night

The Many Uses for Rice

My grandmother always made a big pot of rice on Sundays and then used it in every meal, as rice takes on the flavor of whatever it is placed with. She had beef stew with veggies poured over a bed of rice, or she mixed rice in soups. Sometimes she'd put rice in meat balls as meat extender, etc. Black beans and rice was one of our favorites as it was a complete meal. Today my family enjoys and celebrates the usefulness of rice. Rice is healthy and filling.

Fabric Scents

I use dryer balls instead of chemical softeners, but missed the lovely scents some of them give the clothing. I had a sample of the new scent crystals and loved them, but the price was scary. Plain Epsom salts scented with a few drops (about 30 drops per quart of salts) of essential oil work great as scent crystals to add to the washer. The clothing comes out soft and smelling great.

Better Than Wrapping Paper

Take the insanity out of the wrapping paper dilemma and save the environment while you're at it! Go to your local fabric stores, looking for sales on Christmas fabrics, bows, ribbons, etc. I recently purchased 50 yards of wonderful fabrics, all for only 50 cents a yard! Spools of satin ribbon were 10 cents a yard!

Once you get the stuff home, run all the fabric through your washing machine and dryer to pre-shrink it. Now comes the fun part. Simply cut the fabric into various size "gift bags" (simple squares or rectangles). Serge the sides, make a "cuff" at the top to draw a strand of ribbon through, and you've got beautiful, reusable gift bags.

If you don't know how to sew, just cut the cloth into large squares that can be used like wrapping paper. Don't cut off any extra. Just fold it under. That way you can reuse the cloth again next year!

Preparing for Christmas Next Year

Every year I buy a plastic container to put my three granddaughters' Christmas gifts in for the next year. Throughout the year, if I find things on sale, I buy them and put them in the container. I look at garage sales, estate sales, and thrift stores to see what I can find for them. I also make each child a quilt, a crochet blanket, clothes, and a knapsack for their adventures in life in their specific colors (also saves on gas and my sanity at Christmas time).

Then just before Christmas, I organize their container so all they see is the quilt through the container. They can't see the many things I have found, bought, or sewed for them inside. I save on buying wrapping paper, ribbon, and tape by doing this. Plus, the girls have a container to put all their "goodie" items in throughout the year.

Cleaner Chimneys

This is for wood burning folks. I thought everyone knew this old tip, but I was surprised to find that is not so. As a senior, this is what was done by my parents and grandparents and now me. I put my potato peels in my wood burning stove and clean my stove pipes. It makes for less work later and helps to prevent fires up the pipe. So next time you have a fire going in your wood stove, just throw in your potato peels and let them burn with your wood.

Hazy Tile Floors?

When we first installed tile floors, I quickly discovered that most floor cleaners leave a hazy film on ceramic tile. Being a potter, I knew that the glaze on ceramics (including tile) was really a form of glass, so I tried glass cleaner. It worked great! Then I figured that the active ingredient in most window cleaners was ammonia, so I tried regular cheap ammonia. And it worked even better! Be sure to purchase the "no sudsing" ammonia because the regular kind has some kind of soap product in it that will still leave a haze on the tiles.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on cleaning tile floors

Cold Feet?

During a season as a professional bell ringer for the Salvation Army, I discovered that wearing two socks with a plastic bag (bread wrappers are ideal) on each foot keeps feet warmer. I didn't believe it, so one day I wore the bread wrapper between socks on one foot and just the two socks on the other. It definitely made a difference!

My Insurance Claim

Our home was robbed and we had a terrible time with the claim. As a result, we now take photos of jewelry and valuables. When buying jewelry, I always request a detailed description.

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