Readers' Tips

Do-It-Yourself Dog Grooming

For dog grooming, I would start by searching YouTube tutorials on the subject, as well as doing a Google search. If you have trouble or if something is unclear, I would pay for a groomer the first time, but stay, watch, and “help.” Ask questions, but remember to respect that this is their profession, so don't overstep your bounds by being obvious in your gleaning of information. By being watchful, you'll probably find ways they help the dog stay calm or how to trim fur when the dog is in an odd position. If you've done your homework beforehand, this should just help you clarify things. As with anything, the first time might not be so pretty, but it should get better with patience and practice!

editor's note: For more on do-it-yourself dog grooming, please click here.

Winter Basil

During the summer, we plant a lot of basil. When I pick the basil, I clean it and put it in the food processor with fresh garlic, olive oil, and parmesan cheese. After blending a large amount, I spoon it into ice cube trays. When frozen, I put the "ice cubes" into a plastic bag to use all winter long. I drop a "cube" into soups, tomato sauce, pasta dishes, etc. There's nothing like the taste of fresh basil and garlic all winter long!
Marlene M.

All-Day Slow Cooker Recipes

I've used a slow cooker for 30 years. On the lowest setting, meals are rarely overcooked after eight to ten hours. I assemble ingredients the night before (so all the peeling and paring is done) and place them in a bowl in the fridge overnight. Because the ingredients are cold, they take an extra hour or two to cook, which gives me the extra time I need.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions for all-day slow cooker recipes

ATM Warning

When you are at your bank's ATM, always finish your transaction. I was behind a woman at my bank's ATM one day. She drove off, and I drove up to get cash. I found that she had not finished her business. The screen still had the question, "Would you like another transaction?" If I had been a thief, I could have chosen "Yes" and cleaned her account out. I am not a thief, so I chose the "No" option. I waited until it got back to the beginning, did my withdrawal, and finished my transaction before driving off. Always make sure that you see that beginning screen after you have finished, or you might not have an honest person like me behind you.
Pamela M.

Homemade Fabric Softener

You can save money by making your own laundry detergent, but you can also make your own fabric softener to keep your clothes smelling fresh!

Homemade Fabric Softener

2 cups hair conditioner
3 cups vinegar
6 cups warm water

Mix. Store in container of choice. Use 1/2 cup per load.

I love this because it only costs a couple pennies per load, and I can pick my own scent!

Additional TDS Resource: Find more homemade recipes for the laundry room here. For additional ways to save on fabric softener, visit here.

Don't Toss That Lipstick

When I buy cosmetics, I usually buy when there is a bonus involved. However, sometimes, I get lipsticks with colors that I don't particularly like on my lips. Instead of throwing them out, I use them as blush. I rub a little on my fingers to warm it up and then I blend it on the apple of my cheeks, and it looks natural. It looks so fantastic that I never want to go back to blush. A tube of lipstick lasts for a long time and is much more cost effective.

Newly Released Books for Less

I love to read current, newly published books, but I often find the prices at the bookstore too high. These books are also hard to find in the local library because they are new and popular.

So, I always check eBay first. I often find the books that I want, and I usually get them for 50-80% off the retail price. And when I'm done reading the book, if I don't want to keep it, I can resell it again on eBay, often for the same price I paid! Using this method, I have saved hundreds of dollars on my book purchases.

Instant Espresso

Before fancy coffee machines and stores opened in India, we used to make delicious frothy coffee at home, and this method is still popular. Mix instant coffee and one teaspoon of sugar in a mug (without the sugar you will not get a creamy result). Add a few drops of water and keep stirring/beating with a spoon until it's light in color. Gently add milk or half milk and half water and microwave until hot. Stir and enjoy.
Sunita in Powell, OH

Seedling Starters

I put two rows of seeds, evenly spaced, in between two wet paper towels. Then I place the whole pack in a zipper freezer bag to hold in the moisture. I then place this on top of the refrigerator (near the back where the motor is). The heat from the fridge running and the moisture of the towels make the seeds germinate. Once they are showing roots and stems, I cut the paper towels apart (be careful not to cut the roots) and plant the tiny towel square with a seedling in it.

To plant, I use window boxes indoors, planting long lines of seedlings and culling as they get larger. It is important not to use old cloth towels instead of paper towels, because they will not decompose fast enough and will rot the seedlings. Also, do not pull the seedlings off and try to reuse the paper towels, or you will rip the stems and roots.

Additional TDS Resource: More on seedling starters

Tempting Kids to Try It

To get you kids to eat healthy fruits, vegetables, or new things that they're afraid to try, put the item on a toothpick! It's guaranteed that they will either eat the whole plate or they will at least try it!

I use this with all kinds of things like sliced up cheese sticks on a plate with fruit. Normal size brownies are too big, so I cut them into quarters for a nice tiny treat on a toothpick. Just a few are perfect! It keeps the brownies on the plate instead of in your belly! Want to have some fun? Try this with Jell-O!

You can also get kids to try things by putting something new on a plate along with some mini marshmallows and tell them they can only have a marshmallow if they eat the other item first. Does your child claim to be full? Cut the item up, add a toothpick, and watch the item disappear.
Lisa K.

Cutting Dryer Use

Dryers are hard on budgets and clothes. When doing laundry, hang up t-shirts directly out of the washer in doorways to air dry. This cuts the time that the dryer has to run, makes the t-shirts last longer, and you won't have to fold them. Preserve expensive elasticized items like bras and panties similarly. This practice saves money and time. If you clean your lint halfway through the cycle, your drying time will be cut down as well.
Janet in California

How Much Detergent Do I Need?

I have a 32-year-old Maytag washing machine that is still working fine since I have a wonderful Maytag repairman. Recently, he told me that I should determine how much detergent is needed by the 'slipperiness' of the water/detergent solution and not what the detergent package indicates. Heat and hard/soft water are all factors. Warm water will give more of a "slip" to less detergent.

I began trying different amounts, and now I can tell by feel if the amount I have is right for the load. To do this, I put (I use half of the package recommendation) detergent in the bottom of the washer first before adding clothes and then water. I let the machine agitate for one minute and then I feel the water. Does it feel a bit slippery? If not, I add a bit more detergent, let the machine agitate for about 20 seconds, and check again.

I have saved tons of detergent with this method. Also, my repairman indicated that a 15-minute soak in warm water is worth five minutes of agitation. So I agitate one minute, let it soak 15 minutes, and then agitate again for five minutes. This saves wear and tear on the machine and the clothes!
Sandra A. in Albuquerque, NM

Easy Patio Door & Window Insulation

To reduce cold air from patio doors and windows, use bubble wrap. Just cut the bubble wrap to fit the size of your glass and then spray mists of water onto the glass (adheres the bubble wrap to the window). Apply the flat side of the bubble wrap to the glass with the bubble side facing the inside of the home. The bubbles keep the cold air out, but during the day, it will let in enough sun to still solar heat your home.
Jill L.

Natural Flea Control

The green branches of the black walnut (preferably with nuts) has a repelling effect on fleas. Keep carpets vacuumed daily and using borax powder to sit overnight on the carpet also helps. As treatment for a yard, you can make a spray from the crushed flower heads of the pyrethrum (chrysanthemum cineraiifolium) mixed with water and a little dish soap. It is safe to use around pets and kids. But, it does also kill beneficial insects in your yard. Other treatments include diatomaceous earth (from a nursery) and nematodes. Both are helpful but also carry their own sets of drawbacks (nematodes, for instance, can plague a vegetable garden and sap the life out of tomato plants). Planting pennyroyal, lemongrass, and lavender may also help to deter an infestation, as will herbs like tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), rue, yarrow, mints, coriander, marjoram, and lemon balm. Garlic, onions, and wormwood are also helpful for fleas and other garden pests.
Jessica M. (via Facebook)

Additional TDS Resource: More on natural flea control

Dialing for Dollars

A few weeks ago, my husband started doing our taxes. He noticed that our insurance bill seemed high. I called my independent insurance agent and asked if this insurance company had raised their rates. She checked and found out they did indeed. Of course, we have all our insurances with them. Our new insurance policies will be split up between three companies. As a result, we are saving almost $592. That's a chunk of good change!

Then I received a repair bill from a heating company that installed our thermostat and furnace in the first place. I couldn't believe that they would charge so much to correctly attach it. I asked them to waive this charge since we've done so much business with them over the years. It's awful that I had to ask, but we saved $95.52.

Our 1998 VW needed a muffler and tailpipe. I remembered that I had some warranty papers in the glove compartment. I called the company to see if they would honor this old warranty from another company that they bought out. They agreed. The entire charge was for labor only, and we saved over $262.

Over a month's time, I saved $949.52 just by calling and asking. I encourage everyone to do the same. It's not that hard. Everything is so expensive today, so it's worth it.

Kids' Birthday Parties

I just read the entry in this week's Dollar Stretcher newsletter about birthday parties and how the mom keeps it simple and the kids have a good time.

On the other side of this coin is when your child is invited to a party, and there is a tendency to keep up with the Joneses, so you don't look cheap to the other families. When my kids were young, I adopted the "I don't care" attitude and started doing things like having my child make a card for the gift and wrapping gifts in comic paper or plain paper that my child decorated. I was a little nervous about doing it at first, but I soon noticed that a lot of other kids were starting to show up at parties with homemade cards and "creative" wrapping paper, too.

I also put a limit of $10 on the amount we spent on a gift. I figured at the end of the day, the birthday kid would not even remember who brought what, and if I was good with sales, I could usually find a pretty good gift for under $10. This also brought the "bar" down for other families who might have been spending more than they should to "keep up."

So, be the example for the other parents. There's no need to make a big announcement. Just start doing it. You'd be surprised at how many other parents will be relieved that you have given them "permission" to be more frugal, too.

Do you have a money or time-saving tip you'd like to share? Just click here to submit your suggestion. If we use your tip in any of our publications, we'll send you the next three issues of our print newsletter as a thank you!

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