Readers' Tips

DIY Backyard Waterfall

If you have a Craigslist for your area, check under the “free” section. Locally, I see people giving away free landscaping rocks all the time. Sometimes it's a partial pallet they didn't use and sometimes you need to go dig up their rocks yourself because they've decided to change their landscaping. But free is free!

Also you might check at landscaping or rock businesses for partial pallets or clearance rocks they might be selling at a fraction of the cost.

Lastly, if there's a large lake in your area, there just might be large rocks for free! Check with local authorities first, but I loaded up an entire pickup truck once with rocks from around a lake where they'd dug out a foundation for a new playground.
Deb C.

editor's note: For more on DIY backyard waterfalls, please click here.

Broken Dishes

I like to set a reasonably nice table. I don't like mismatched dinnerware and I also don't like spending on replacing broken dishes. With children, broken dishes were an inescapable and frustrating fact of life until I bought vitrified restaurant chinaware. The dishes all match, they have an appealing retro look, they are family hardy, and I can buy replacements on the very rare occasion when it has been necessary.

Ten years ago, I bought a service for eight (dinner plates, salad plates, soup/pasta bowls, cereal bowls, cups, and saucers) from a company that sells the restaurant china individually (rather than by the case), and they are still in great shape. Prices are very reasonable, but splitting cases with three other families would probably be even more economical. There may be other sources, but I bought mine from Bryan China Company.
Nancy in California

Cheap Kitty Litter

Ground corn works beautifully as a cheap kitty litter. It clumps well, has a soft texture, and is non-toxic. Adding a shake of baking soda after filling the litter pan increases odor absorption. After scooping out the waste, the remaining corn litter may be put into the compost or tossed around the yard for fertilization. Ground corn makes an excellent fertilizer with anti-fungal properties. It can also be mixed with water to make a soothing dip for pets with flea or skin allergies. Ground corn may be purchased at feed stores, farm and ranch supply stores, and many nurseries for about $6 to $8 for a 50-pound bag. Be sure to ask for ground corn, not corn meal.
Kristie in Boerne, Texas

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on inexpensive kitty litter

Yes, You Can Freeze Them

When buying grapes and bananas, most people cannot eat all of the grapes/bananas in a timely manner without spoilage. By freezing them, you will be able to eat them whenever you want. You can put them in smoothies later and save money.

Frugal Romance

Here's a tip for frugal romance that anyone can afford, and it's far more romantic than a movie and popcorn! Pack a picnic, go somewhere pleasant, and share a book. Choose something that appeals to both of you, including love poems, humorous essays, a mystery novel, etc. Enjoy your picnic as you take turns reading to each other. If you can't find/afford a sitter, this one even works in your own backyard or on your living room floor after the kids are asleep.

Most of us have far too little time in our lives to enjoy a good book, and how wonderful it is to hear one read in that special person's voice! If you can't finish the book, you simply have something nice to look forward to on the next date.
Jennifer R.

Affordable Band Instruments

Look at pawn shops when shopping for musical instruments. These stores are filled with almost new instruments for a fraction of the price of new.

No Squirrels Allowed!

Animals avoid cayenne or red pepper. It keeps squirrels away, but it does not deter or harm birds in any way. I have a yard full of birds and no more squirrel problems. I put cayenne in the birdseed. Then I put it in feeders as well as on ledges. In fact, the squirrels have left my yard altogether, and the birds love it. We love it too.

My Final Offer

One way to get around the high cost of good furniture is to watch for "Moving! Must Sell!" ads. I needed a new sofa for a new house. I wasn't too picky as I didn't have much furniture in the new living room to begin with. I started scanning the ads and called one that had a new sofa and loveseat for $699. It was indeed nearly new and very well made. I offered $300 for the set. When the owner turned me down, I handed her a card with my name and phone number and told her that if she still hadn't sold it by the time she needed to move (in less than a week), I would still take it. She called back in less than 24 hours and sold me the set for $300. She'd rather take the $300 than lug the furniture with her or continue to be bothered by lookers. Think about it. Wouldn't you?


We live on ten acres and have two dogs and three cats. We also had a terrible flea problem last year. This year we're trying to get a jump on preventing the fleas from taking hold. We lightly sprinkled boric acid on carpets and left it for 30 minutes and then vacuumed. For dark carpets, you can try diatomaceous earth (available from organic gardening catalogues). With the dips, make sure you're dipping long enough. We dipped our kittens this weekend, and it took three dips to kill all the fleas. Also, with the drops for the dogs, if your dog is over 45 pounds, it takes twice as much drops. I just bought Bio-Spot® from our farm supply store for half of the price of the brands the vet sells. Also, we have over 50 chickens running loose on our farm and have noticed that the tick and fly population is much lessened. I don't know if they'll help with the fleas too.
Sandy C. in Illinois

Additional TDS Resource: More on removing fleas

Garage Sale Strategy

My mother, sister, niece, and daughters hold an annual two-day garage sale from daybreak until around noon each day. On day two about two hours before ending, we tell our customers that everything $3 and under is half off! Any of our higher priced items or bigger items seem to sell fast! This puts more money in our pocket. Plus, it gets rid of more items, so packing up is easy. The difference we have seen has been amazing! Give it a try.

Cheaper Kitty Litter

My husband works for AutoZone® (a car parts store), and they sell an inexpensive 40-pound bag of oil absorbing pellets. We use it for kitty litter, and it works great!
Mary Lou

Broken Tacos

I love tacos, but they break when I am eating them and the contents fall out. Putting a lettuce leaf in first before adding ingredients allows the shell to break while the contents stay!
Shirley M.

Easy Fabric Softener

Recently someone passed on a hint on Facebook to use balled up foil in the dryer to save money on fabric softener. I tried it, and it works great! Clothes come out soft and static free. I have not used anything else for two months now.
Linda H. in Warsaw, IN

editor's note: Here's how to find TDS on Facebook

Great Gift Basket Ideas

One of the best gift basket ideas I've ever come across was an "Ice Cream Sundae" gift basket. You can make this very frugally or extravagantly. Just place sundae or ice cream bowls (can easily be found at a dollar store), some spoons, an ice cream scoop, sprinkles, ice cream sauces (homemade or store bought) and napkins (paper or cloth) in a basket and bring to a shower, birthday party, or housewarming. I plan on giving this to my brother for a wedding present along with an ice cream maker and an ice cream cookbook.

Additional TDS Resource: More great gift basket ideas

Keeping Pets Cool

In the hot summer weather, my pet chickens can suffer from the heat. They do get to free-roam around the yard with shade trees. I put out a couple plastic containers of water for them, but the water gets warm quickly.

So, when it's hot out, I have an additional trick to help keep them cool. I cut two-liter soda bottles in half, fill them within an inch of the top with water, and freeze them. I keep two or three going all the time. I cut the bottle, remove the ice from the bottle, and drop it into their water dish.

Adding a large block of ice like this cools their water for hours. I replace it a couple times per day. They really enjoy it. You can also put a block in a standard chicken waterer. The ice floats, so it doesn't plug the outlet.

You could probably use the same trick for other animals. Put the ice in a large dog water dish, for instance. It works great and lasts much longer than little ice cubes. Don't forget your animals in the summer heat!

Our 'Summer Towels'

If your household is like mine, summertime activities are very hard on bath, kitchen, and other towels that we use on a regular basis. Buy gently used towels at sales and thrift stores and put your nice towels away during the busy summer months. Good quality towels can be expensive, and it is discouraging to "lose" guest towels to stubborn stains and summertime use! I have saved quite a bit with this simple tip!
Debra S.

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