Readers' Tips

Less Expensive Cars

My husband and I agree that having two car payments causes our car expenses to be way too high. We typically pay on a car for four years. When one is completely paid for, we keep it for another four years while we pay on the other person's new car. By doing this, we alternate who gets a new car. This keeps our car expense to only one payment plus insurance, maintenance, and fuel.

Insurance is also considerably lower on a car that is over four years old. For family trips or special occasions, we always have one fairly new car to use, while enjoying a smaller expense from our budget.

editor's note: Good idea! If you wanted to be without a car payment, cut the length of loan to three years and keep the car for eight years. Quickly the money that went to a car payment would be available to pay cash for the next new car.

Finding Inexpensive Sheets

I am a massage therapist and my sheets go through the wash several times a week, sometimes daily. I have several sets of very inexpensive sheets that I bought at the local department store for $5 to $10 per set (singles) and I have a few more expensive sets as well. To be honest, I have found that the more expensive sets are more comfortable and more luxurious feeling, but the cheaper sets actually hold up just as well, sometimes better, to repeated washings (except for the stitching). So go ahead and buy the cheaper sets. Just use a good fabric softener to make the cheaper ones more comfortable and sew up the hems if they come loose.
Brenda B.

Additional TDS Resource: More on buying sheets inexpensively

Homemade 'Oxygen' Cleaner

I love to use an oxygen cleaner for my laundry, but the name brand is so expensive! I have learned to make my own from a mixture of one cup hot water, 1/2 cup baking soda, and 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide. It removes even old blood stains! Just soak the clothing in it for 20 minutes to overnight and then wash as usual. This will not harm fabric like bleach. It doesn't harm colors either!
Christine U.

Why I Check Receipts

This is just another reminder for folks to always take the time to look over store receipts for accuracy. Today, at the grocery store, I was charged for an adult circus ticket of all things. I had to take it to the service desk to get my $7 back!

Garage Sale Trick

At our recent garage sale, we had more merchandise than table space. Wanting to keep our goods on tables, not the ground, we got creative. Bi-fold closet doors, which removed easily, were placed across the backs of two kitchen/dining chairs, which gave us instant tables! We received many comments about these quick and easy tables throughout the day, and kept merchandise at browsing level for the customers.

Additional TDS Resource: Suggestions on how to price garage sale items

Summer Kitchen Heat

My family loves my meatloaf recipe, but during the summer, I hate to heat up the kitchen for an hour while it cooks. Here's how I cut the time in half!

I make the normal meatloaf recipe. Instead of using a loaf pan, I shape mini-loaves with my hands and put them on a baking sheet. I usually put down a wire cookie rack inside to set the loaves on, which helps drain off the grease! I top with regular ketchup or a mixture of ketchup and barbeque sauce. Then I bake them at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes.

This makes for a cooler kitchen, and I don't have anything to slice up!
Debbie C.

Window Shades for Cooling

If you have a room that gets hot when the sun shines in, get a 4x8 sheet of 3/4-inch white foam insulating panel. Cut it to fit the window opening and pop it in. From the outside, it looks like a curtain. On the inside, if you close the shade or curtains, it isn't seen. You can easily remove it any time you wish. This saves big money on cooling bills, and it even helps keep in the heat during the winter months.
Ken P.

Family Reunion Fun

During the first weekend in August, we have a reunion every four years with about 55 descendants of my parents on the family farm.

In the past, we had our own "Olympics" with a plastic boomerang throw, an egg toss, a bubble gum blowing contest, a water balloon toss, etc.!

We had a talent show. It was fun to see all the different things people came up with. You will probably want access to electricity and a sheet of plywood on the ground might be helpful if you don't have a slab of cement to stand on.

One year, we had our own "Wheel of Fortune." It was complete with the host and hostess. The puzzles pertained to our family, of course. We even had a couple of commercials.

We drew silhouettes and had everyone try to guess who they were. Most of all, we just had fun being together.
Kathy M

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for family reunion fun

Garden Supplies for Less

When my husband shops for fertilizer, soil, and all the things sold in plastic bags, he goes to the larger stores with garden departments and asks if they want to sell the ones with ripped or torn bags. They always do, and they practically give them away to him just to get rid of them. It's really a big savings.

editor's note: Not that any of our frugal readers would consider this, but remember that it's not fair to tear the bags yourself!

Non-Poisonous Ant Repellent

We've had an ant problem in our house ever since we moved in about 17 years ago. I have always hesitated using chemicals to kill them because of small grandchildren and pets. However, recently I found out that ants don't like chalk. I got some colored sidewalk chalk, chose the color closest to my linoleum, and rubbed a chalk line where the ants had to cross. Within a couple of days, the ants were gone!

Additional TDS Resource: More on natural ant repellents

Frozen Pancakes

I have two boys and a husband who love silver dollar pancakes. We were buying the frozen ones from the store, but I have found that I can pay make my own. It takes about 30 minutes to make enough to last a few months. I let them cool, and then I put each serving into a snack size resealable bag. It only takes seconds in the microwave to warm them.

Gift Bag Decoration

While trying to come up with filler to add to a gift bag, I found an easy answer! I took pieces of wrapping paper I had saved that were too small to use and put them through the paper shredder. It's an easy way to come up with colorful filler for the gift bag!

Learning Food Canning

I remember my grandmother canning when I was a little girl and especially how good everything would smell. After I got married and had two sons, times were tough and I took up home canning.

If you want to know how to acquire good, cheap produce to can, I suggest you barter with friends or family that have ample gardens. We had room and I had the time to garden and can most things.

We live near Dallas and there was a branch of the Dallas Farmers' Market nearby. This market was not very busy on Sundays, and many venders would not be there on Sunday. So, late Saturday afternoon, many of these guys would accept ridiculously low offers for what was left over. I bought all of the Italian green beans that one man had left and he threw in all of his carrots, onions, and beets, so he could pack up and go home.

As far as cheap actual canning, I would give the following suggestions. Ask around and see if any of your friends or family have canning jars and equipment that you can use. My husband's grandmother gave us her Presto canner, water bath canner, and around a hundred jars. I have acquired more jars over the years, and I've only bought some fancy jelly jars for gift-giving purposes. I also suggest that you freeze some things, such as corn. You have to pressure home-canned corn for so long that it doesn't save any money. Corn that is cut from the cob and blanched freezes very well and is delicious.

Finally, don't can or freeze any produce (even free produce) unless you know that your family will eat it. I was given free beets one time and spent a whole day canning them. I then discovered I was the only person that liked beets. It is hard for one person to eat 28 quarts of beets before they go bad.

Additional TDS Resource: More on learning food canning

More Efficient Air Conditioning

One way to drop summer cooling bills is to shade the outdoor unit. Bushes, trees, and trellises can be very attractive and effective. You need to be careful to put the shade source far enough away to not impede future service to the unit, and choose plants the will not go wild and try to grow into the unit. Also, leave enough room for air to circulate around the unit.

Dinner at the Ready

When I bring leftovers home from a restaurant, I immediately put them in the type of dish I will reheat them in and cover them. The next day, I just have to pop them in the oven or microwave. I find that the leftovers stay fresher this way, and it takes less time to reheat when I don't have to find the correct dish to reheat the leftovers.
Kathy H.

editor's note: You can treat your leftovers at home the same way. Put a complete meal on your plate and put in the fridge or freezer. Ready for the microwave.

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