Readers' Tips

Generic Baby Diapers

A friend and I only buy the Kroger brand diapers in the green box. I think they're great and have only had one leak in eleven months. We save a ton.

editor's note: For more on generic baby diapers, please click here.

Road Trips

As a family, we like to travel, but we go on road trips rather than fly. It takes longer to get there, but we try to stop and see interesting things on the way. We have a pass to our local children's museum that lets us go to other museums throughout the US for free or a reduced charge. We like to look up all the museums on our route and plan to stop at a couple of them for a travel break.

Another thing we have run into is the kids wanting candy or treats at every gas station stop. I say no, but I always have a few extra "surprise" treats that I have stashed in our food box that the kids don't know about. At least once a day, they get an extra treat they weren't expecting. It makes the trip more fun!

When we were traveling across country from IL to CA one summer, I planned special "trip fairy" gifts for the kids every day we traveled by car. They were just inexpensive dollar store toys and coloring books, but the kids really looked forward to them and it made getting back into the car a fun activity rather than an unhappy experience with road weary kids. We also found that a portable DVD player went a long way towards relieving their boredom.
Edie from Illinois

Get Rid of Roaches without Chemicals

Want to get rid of roaches? Use whole bay leaves. Place them in cabinets or other hiding spots. You can steep them in hot water and make a tea to use in a sprayer bottle, too.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to safely get rid of roaches

White Sock Sorting

Everyone in my family wears white socks. What a pain to sort! I bought white mesh bags (the kind that normally holds delicates) and gave everyone a bag with instructions to put their dirty socks in their own bag. I wrote their names on the bags with a laundry marker. When I wash whites, I just throw the whole bag in the washer and then the dryer. When I am folding clothes, the socks are in their own bags and can just be put with each person's laundry.

Free Envelopes

Here is a tip I have been doing that saves money. Go to your local grocery store or drug store the day after a major holiday like Easter, Mother's Day or Christmas and head for the card section.

In the morning, you will usually find one of the card representatives. You can ask the rep for any envelopes that he/she may be throwing away. I use them for bills and for my children to play mailman.

Large Dog Beds

I needed a dog bed for a large dog but did not want to spend the money. As I was folding the down comforter from my bed at the end of the season, I realized how clumped and worn it was. I had purchased it eight years ago at Goodwill for $5. I thought if I folded it just right, it would be a great bed for Pal. I wanted it to look nice in my living room and remembered an unused red sheet I had on hand (my living room is black and red). I made a bag from the sheet to fit over the folded comforter like a pillowcase. It is perfect for him and looks nice in its place with no out-of-pocket expense for me.
Liz G.

Walk, Run or Ride for Charity

There is a free iPhone or Android app at that donates money to your choice of charity (from available choices) for every mile you walk, run, or bike. They donate $0.25 for every mile walked or run and $0.10 for every mile biked. This is a great way to get cheap or free fitness while being able to help charities without spending your own money! No fancy gym membership needed here. It can't log miles if you are on a treadmill or stationary bike, so just head out your front door to the beach or local park. The founders put their own money up to fund the charity donations and hopes businesses and corporations will sponsor the project as well. I hope it is around for a long time!

Backyard Play Areas

Looking for soft landing spots for kids play areas? Call local barns or horse supply companies. Bulk sawdust is usually used to line horse stalls. It is dry, but very absorbent. Sometimes it can be dusty, but it is cheaper than mulch and better than mud!

Also, there is something available called "blue stone." It is basically ground up rubber, which is used to line horse-riding rings. It is soft (a good feature if kids fall hard on it), it doesn't create dust (like sand or dirt), and it won't be tracked in the house. It may cost a bit at first, but it will last longer than mulch, dirt, sand, or sawdust.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on soft landing places

Eliminating Odors

A "magic" cure to eliminate nasty odors is the lemon. Several years ago, a passenger in my almost brand-new car got sick and "urped" in my car. I tried everything I could think of to get the smell out and nothing worked.

Desperation was setting in and I called a detail shop to see about having the carpet professionally cleaned. The guy I talked to told me to take four or five lemons, cut them up in quarters, and squeeze the juice all over the affected area. Then he told me to toss the rinds under the seat, leaving them there until they'd completely dried up. He said he'd done this in a car in which a cooler full of raw shrimp had tipped over. I figured it couldn't hurt to try! Within a very short time, the smell was gone! And the lemon juice did not damage my carpet.
Laura J

An Evening 'Out'

We live on a tight budget, which includes little frills in the food and entertainment areas of our lives. For a romantic evening "out" with my husband, I send the three kids off for the night to family or friends, redo the dining area of our house to get the romantic-restaurant effect (turn lights down, move all chairs but two, and set table with my favorite dishes), and cook a gourmet meal. Since we normally don't eat anything fancy, I try to make a traditionally "expensive" meal. I use all the recommended ingredients (so it is splurging a bit), but I don't pay anywhere near the restaurant price.

I set up candles in the living room (and in the winter a fire is ready to go) and then we settle down to watch a movie I've borrowed from a friend or the library.

One of the big keys to this being successful is unplugging the phone and keeping the lights down. This really helps you move away from reality. After the movie, we enjoy a long shower/massage before bed and this all leads to a late morning wakeup (no kids remember). It's simple, relatively inexpensive, and totally romantic.

My Losing Weight Wardrobe

I am in the process of losing weight and have several good quality pieces of clothing in my large size that I don't want to give up just yet. I have taken them to a tailor to have them altered. This small investment has allowed me to keep wearing some of my high quality, more expensive suits and skirts. This has saved me a ton of money in buying clothes in my "intermediate" size.

Special Kids Sheet Sets

If you wish to re-decorate your child's room with their latest favorite character sheet sets, consider this alternative. Buy a good quality neutral color sheet set. Fabric stores usually carry novelty character prints. Chances are you can find something that will match their theme.

For example, if your child is into racing, pick a checkerboard pattern. Purchase enough to make a pillow case or enough to trim the top edge of the flat sheet and the open edge of the pillow case with the character print. You can also trim the edge of the bedroom curtain with the new print. As tastes change, add a new pillow case to the collection or remove the old trims and replace with the latest favorite.

No Chemical Weed Killer

We have found that boiling water kills weeds just as effectively as those expensive weed killers. Every time you boil the kettle for a coffee, walk outside and pour the remaining hot water onto a weed or two. In a few days, they will have shriveled up and died!
Michael C. in Australia

Additional TDS Resource: More on natural weed killers

Small Cookie Sheets

Sometimes I need multiple cookie sheets and run out. Even though they are not big, I use my stove top burner covers. They are stainless steel and make wonderful small cookie sheets. They are perfect for a personal pan-sized pizza, a couple of sandwiches, bacon wrapped appetizers, etc.


For my project this year, I am purchasing a lower cabinet at a home improvement store from the clearance items. I will put a marble top on it and add some wheels and shelves. The ones that are on the market are so expensive. I need this for the backyard. I currently have no preparation area. This is the year my husband and I are going to make it.

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