Readers' Tips

How to Buy a Mattress

This is what did it for me. The salesman was about 6 ft. tall and 250 lbs. He told me to lie down on the bed and close my eyes. (My sister was with me, so I was safe.) He took a running leap and plopped on the bed. I didn't feel a thing! I bought the bed immediately.
Michelle (via Facebook)

editor's note: For more on buying a mattress, please click here.

Removing Wallpaper the Easy Way

Here's a great, cheap way to remove wallpaper. Use fabric softener. Put it on the wall with a cloth and let it stand about three minutes or so. It will come right off with a scraper, and it smells good, too.
Helen C.

Newly Divorced Mom

I have been separated for four years now. When my husband first left, I was working part time at a convenience store and in college part time. Also, we had five children at home. I didn't get any support from him for over two years, and even now it is sporadic. By the grace of God, I have been able to stay in our family home and make ends meet.

One of the first things I did was find a roommate with whom to share expenses. It was a plus that she was also a single mom and we could trade childcare.

I now have only two children at home and I homeschool. I find various ways to make ends meet and still be there for my kids. One way is I help the elderly or disabled stay in their homes by cleaning their houses, running errands, or making minor repairs.

There is an organization I have recently become aware of that helps link single moms with other single moms across the US. Their website is I also have an online support group for single parents who homeschool, and you can find out more about it here.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for newly divorced parents

Bell Peppers

When shopping for bell peppers of any color, I seek out the ones with only three "nubs" on the bottom. These are the male plants, and they don't contain nearly as many seeds. It's an easy way to pay less per pound and have less to prep at home, too.

Chicken Gravy Trick

When making gravy from chicken or turkey "juice," let the stock cool and then put ice cubes in. The grease (fat) will adhere to the ice cubes. Simply fish them out and decrease the fat content.

Summer Nights

We installed a ceiling fan and use several other fans (priceless on a hot night), but the best discovery I made was a simple reversal of our wintertime routine. In winter, we often heat up (microwave) little fragrant herbal bean bags we received as gifts one Christmas, and we put them in our beds. In summer, the very same bags can go into the freezer during the day and back into our beds with us at night. My favorite spot is right on my feet, but on the head is nice too. I think you can make the bags out of small beans and dried grains and then toss in some lavender for fragrance.

Summer Tea

In our household, a two-liter plastic bottle is perfect for holding four bags of green or black tea in water; an hour after putting in the sun, it's ready to pour over ice and drink. Green tea is a cancer fighter. Sugar is not required. Removing the soft drink label does make a difference, about an hour's time. One does not get the same result with three bags. I mix two green, plus two black, for my best "sun tea mix."

Cooler AC

A simple overhang made of metal or other material shading an air conditioner at least two feet over it can reduce AC costs up to 10%. Makes sense.

Cleaning Drapes

We bought an older home with lined antique satin drapes. The tops were quite dirty. I received a price quote of $2 per pleat, which would have been around $40 if I had used the dry cleaner in our neighborhood. So, I took the washing machine plunge! I filled my washer with cold water and added a small amount of liquid detergent. I added the drapes one section at a time, let them soak for three to four minutes, and then agitated them for two minutes on the gentle cycle. They sure came out clean. I put them in the dryer and tumbled with a fabric softener sheet for just five to seven minutes. Then I ironed them with a steam iron.

I did this with these drapes once a year for many years. Last year, they were sent to their reward when the cotton lining (not the drapes) had big problems. Think I easily saved $500 or more in dry cleaning, which more than paid for the new drapes (the new kind that can be easily washed)!

Additional TDS Resource: More on how to clean drapes

Veggie Wash

When I'm ready to eat the fruit brought home in those little plastic bags, I make cleaning the fruit easy. I poke holes in the bottom of the bag with a fork and fill the bag up with water. My hands can get in the bag to "rub" dirt off while the water is emptying out of the bag.
Benita E. (via iPad)

Protecting Your Garden

If you have a cat or a dog, don't throw away the hair that accumulates when you brush them. Instead, put clumps of it around any plants that "critters" like. I have found it chases rabbits and squirrels away from my tulip bulbs. It also seems to be keeping insects from feeding on new rhododendron leaves. I just put a small clump at the base of my plants and renew it from time to time. What could be easier?
Barbara in CT

What Do You Spend Money On?

One thing I have learned that has greatly impacted my financial life is finding out that spending money on experiences brings me more happiness than spending on possessions. I used to buy a lot of little things on impulse, which would clutter up my home. When I sat down and really thought about the happiest moments of my life, I realized it was on trips we had taken or when going out to a favorite restaurant.

Realizing this has caused me to stop spending on little things, de-clutter my home because a clean home makes me more peaceful, and save that money instead for doing more of what I really love. This does not have to be expensive. We take day trips to the beach or a lake. We save until we can afford a really nice restaurant, instead of eating take out. And now I have satisfaction and joy that no previous purchase could have given me, while enriching my life with new memories.
Julie S.

editor's question: Which of your memories are most valuable? Are you like Julie and treasure your life's events? Or are there some possessions that hold wonderful memories for you?

Windshield Wiper Maintenance

Instead of thinking you need new wipers, clean them with a rag moistened with ammonia. Wipe the wipers five to six times. You may be surprised to find out that they just needed cleaning.

Keep the ammonia rag on the wiper and glass. Avoid your car's paint. The ammonia will remove any wax that you have on the car. You might also want to use rubber gloves and a mask. Ammonia fumes can be quite strong.

Safe Roach Control

Boric acid is a 100% effective method for controlling roaches since the acid eats the body of the insect! It isn't instant. You just need to put the powder where they walk. Treat under cabinets, behind and under appliances, etc. Boric acid becomes ineffective over time, so it needs to be re-applied periodically, and water makes it lose potency, so using it outdoors isn't as effective. I used to live in an area where roaches were a given in every home, and this was the only sure way of getting rid of them for good. It is also non-toxic, although you don't want kids and pets getting into it.

Additional TDS Resource: More on natural roach control

Natural Deodorant

Regular deodorant sometimes irritates my skin, so I made my own. If you sweat little or moderately, this will work for you. I combine 1/4 part cornstarch with 3/4 parts baking soda in a baby powder shaker. While still moist from showering, I sprinkle it on my fingers and rub it in until it almost disappears. I've used this for several years now and find that it works very well. The cornstarch helps to keep me dry and the baking soda eliminates odor. You might need to vary the proportions, depending on your particular body chemistry. Try adding a little scented powder to the mix for extra freshness or apply a bit of your favorite body splash before rubbing in the deodorant mix.

More Cast Iron Skillet Care

A very critical thing to do when cleaning cast iron pans is to coat the pans with a light film of fresh cooking oil as soon as they are clean and dry (preferably while they're still warm). Put a little in and then lightly spread with a clean paper towel over the entire inside surface. This will prevent rusting far better than just drying the pans, keep the seasoning of the pans intact, and help keep foods from sticking the next time the pans are used.

We have several different cast iron pans, one of which I use almost every morning for cooking hubby's eggs. When I clean (without soap), dry and re-oil that pan properly, the eggs slip out nice and easy onto the plate every time.
Elaine in NJ

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