Readers' Tips

Buying an Inexpensive Wedding Dress

Many bridals shops rent beautiful dresses, and you can have the dress of your dreams for a fraction of the cost to buy. My thrifty daughter rented her dress and no one was the wiser.

editor's note: For more on finding an inexpensive wedding dress, please click here.

A New Way to Recycle Plastic Bottles

I just recently discovered a great use for plastic bottles. I use the thin water bottles and cut off the top. I sand around the edges to smooth them and use a clear thumbtack to tack them to the wall next to my oven. I store my measuring spoons in them instead of the drawer.

I use the thicker two-liter ones for heavier items. I put one on the inside of the door under my bathroom cabinets and store my smaller items, such as feminine sanitary products and my small bottles of facial care items. I even put one on the wall by my bed and keep the remote in there.

They can be painted or left in their original state. I am currently waiting for more to be used, so I can organize my child's crayons, markers, and flash cards. I put one in my niece's room, so she could organize her tiny nail polish bottles. The uses are limitless, and they can be recycled and changed whenever you want to refresh the style! My teenagers are coming up with ideas to use these now.

Insulating Sliding Glass Doors

Where I live, it gets very cold. There's a plastic film that adheres to the inside frame/trim of windows and doors, using a special two-way tape included in the kit. It adds an extra pane to stop drafts, and it's perfectly clear like a piece of glass. We did it for years before we could afford to replace our windows, and it made a huge difference. The kits generally cost less than $10 and they make ones specifically sized for patio doors.
Carolyn in Manitoba, Canada

Additional TDS Resource: More on insulating sliding glass doors

Cleaning Coffee Carafes

Glass coffee carafes get a haze after repeated use, and using regular detergent doesn't work at getting that haze off the glass. Try one of these two inexpensive tricks:

  1. Buy a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola when soda is on sale. Pour the soda into the carafe and let it sit overnight. Run a bottle brush around the insides and the muck disappears.

  2. Fill the dirty carafe with ice cubes. Pour about 1/4 cup of salt over the ice and then squeeze half a lemon over that. Stir it up and let it sit until the ice has melted. The crud will be gone.

Ali K. in Mesa, AZ

Treating New Clothes

When you get a new dark or bright garment, try this tip. Add 1/2-cup salt to a sinkful or bucketful of cold water. Stir to dissolve. Place your garment in the solution for 20 to 30 minutes and then wash. This will set the color.
Gail in Houston

Stinky Vacuum Solution

I have a fairly cheap vacuum cleaner and have found that at times, while vacuuming, it smells of dust, even when I have just changed the bag. I've also been told not to use those powder carpet fresheners because they damage the vacuum cleaner's motor. My solution? I place a fresh dryer sheet into the vacuum cleaner bag, and it deodorizes while I vacuum! When it starts smelling like dust again and the bag is not full, I simply place another dryer sheet into the bag. It works great and makes no additional mess!
Dana H.

Softening Dried Beans

I make black beans once every three or four months. I soak about a pound in a slow cooker overnight, drain, cover with water again, and then turn them to cook on low for eight to ten hours. After nine hours or so, the beans are tender, and I drain, bag, and freeze them. Works for me.
Maggie G. (via TDS Community)

The Project Cart

I live in a small home where space is at a premium. I do a lot of knitting and crocheting, and my area to do this is in the living room. My living room was always messy when I was doing a large craft, and I hated to pick it up and put it away every day.

So, I decided to purchase a rolling dorm closet for $30 and put hooks, rulers, etc. in the shoe holders (I use clear plastic bottles that I cut to fit). On the hamper side, I store the yarn I'm currently using. I hang up project bags on the rod, using small hangers. I have a square basin to put scraps of yarn to save for other projects. The bottom shelving has a notebook with projects I want to do soon. There is space for a lot of items. I purchased a $5 black sheet and put a long shoelace through the seam, and it goes over the rolling cart that gets put away each night. My cat loves to sit on my lap, and I have everything in reach and don't have to move her.

Updating Vertical Blinds

When a friend wanted to change the color of her vertical blinds, we bought dye and painted the dye onto the blinds one at a time. It worked beautifully. If your blinds are colored already, you will have to figure out which color dye to use to attain the color that you want.
Rita S.

Additional TDS Resource: More on updating vertical blinds

Creating Canned Goods Storage Space

I found a great way to store canned goods. Find an old dresser drawer or cut down a box, so that it's only about six inches high. Put canned goods in and date them. For instance, an item bought in January of 2013 should be marked "13." Likewise, an item bought in February of 2013 should be labeled "23." Also, mark the date on top of the can.

Put canned goods under the bed. You can get a lot of boxes under the bed. If you use a dust ruffle, no one will ever notice your stash. Put the oldest cans in front, so you can get to them. It works great!

Rotten Eggs?

To see whether your eggs are fresh, place them in a tall water container. If the egg rises off the bottom, it is not safe to eat.

Natural Ant Repellant

I have found that getting rid of ants can be easy! Ants and other insects hate the smell of citrus. When I peel oranges, I leave the peels out on the counter to dry. Then I put them in a mesh bag hanging in my cupboard, so they stay crisp and dry. I put a few of them out on the counter anywhere we tend to spill sugar. I have had ants in the past but not since starting this!

Model's Blush Trick

I learned this trick from a friend, who was a former model. Instead of buying cheek blush, mark each cheek lightly with your lipstick and then rub it into your cheeks. Not only is this cheaper than having to buy cheek blush, but also you always have a lipstick with you. Your lips and cheeks will be perfectly colored matched.

Love My Pressure Cooker

I use a pressure cooker during the winter months. It makes great "comfort food" meals. Because I season the meat to my liking, I get tender meat with good gravy in a short amount of time. The three meals that I make the most are basic round steak, chicken, and pork steak.

I have three children. One will eat anything and the other two are extremely picky eaters, but all three will eat meals prepared in this manner.

Additional TDS Resource: More pressure cooker recipes and resources

Quick Party Decorations

Lately, it seems I've been hosting little gatherings at my home more frequently. Since many of these are fun holiday events for my three young nieces or gatherings for my teenage daughter and her friends, a fair amount of festive decorating is needed to set the mood.

Instead of having to tape so many items up around the room for each gathering, I attached a small hook to opposite sides of my dining room that a cord can be stretched between. This cord can be fishing line, curling ribbon, clothesline, etc. The cord runs the length of my dining room table directly over it. Now, to decorate for each event, I buy themed decorations and tie them to the cord over the table. Curling ribbon the color of the items I am hanging looks very pretty because I can curl the tops of the ribbons over each item I hang.

Preventing Mold and Rust

Two small wattage light bulbs (15-25W) wired in series will burn continuously for years in gun or tool cabinets where rust from humidity is a problem. It's good against leather mildew, too. Wire in series not in parallel for exceedingly long life.
Willie B.

editor's note: Wiring in series is a very simple technique. But if you're not familiar with it or electrical wiring, please look for an online instructional video or get some competent help. Wouldn't want to electrocute anyone!

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