Readers' Tips

Abusive Debt Collectors

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (enforced by the FTC) gives a debtor many rights. You can tell a collector you are not allowed to receive calls like theirs at work, and they are legally bound to stop calling. They may not call you before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM. You can send them a letter telling them not to call you anymore, and they are legally bound to stop.

Do an internet search for the FDCPA. There is a lot of information, including what you need to do if you decide to write a letter.

editor's note: Visit here for more on dealing with abusive debt collectors.

Makeup Remover

No tears baby shampoo makes a great cheap makeup remover. You can use it undiluted on a cotton ball for eyes, lips, and face. Or you can dilute with a bit of water (distilled or other). I like to use rose water from the health food store. (You could probably make that yourself, too.) I soak the cotton ball with rose water and then add a drop of shampoo. Consider mixing the two together in a pretty bottle and give it as a gift.

Additional TDS Resource: You can find many more money-saving beauty tips in The Dollar Stretcher library

Affordable Fat-Free Foods

To find affordable fat-free foods, you need to understand what labels say. One of the best plans is to avoid prepared foods to the greatest degree possible. The greatest thing to eat is fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat milk and milk products, low-fat meat and fish (buy chops or chicken, etc. and trim off any visible fat before cooking), whole grain bread and cereal, nuts, and dried beans. Vegetables slathered in butter are to be avoided, but some people don't realize that vegetables or bread slathered in margarine or cream cheese isn't any better.

Additional TDS Resource: More on affordable fat-free foods

Fruit Flies

We have had a fruit fly infestation of biblical proportions this year. Fly strips were covered in little more than a day! Our apartments do regular bug sprays, and the exterminator saw all our fly strips. He gave us the inside scoop on fruit flies. They nest up under the lip of your garbage disposal. To fix this problem, drench a paper towel in bleach and scrub under the upper lip of the disposal to remove the eggs. This is gross but necessary. Then pour bleach and hot water down the drain and run the disposal. We did this and were fruit fly free immediately. Took about a day for the few rogues to die off, but haven't seen a fruit fly since.
Regina G.

Additional TDS Resource: More on eliminating flies and mosquitoes in The Dollar Stretcher library

Drink Mixing

Do you have problems stirring powders into liquids, such as protein powder into milk or fiber powder into juice? Don't buy expensive gadgets with a screen at the top to bust up the clumps. Just use a fork to stir it with instead of a spoon. The tines of the fork don't just push the clumps around like a spoon does. The tines break up the clumps, so you can use less and get a better mixture to drink.
Lisa R. in St. Joseph, IL

Free Water

My husband put the hose from the central air conditioner into a large tote container and some days that tote gets nearly filled with water that he then takes with a bucket to water plants in the garden. This can also be accomplished by placing a container under a window air conditioner to collect water. We seldom use a hose. We frequently fill an oversized tote that we have near the garden, and by the end of the hot day, we have warm water that can be used for the garden.
Mary Lou

Cash for Clutter

My hubby and I have been cleaning out the junk we've collected over the past 15 years and decided to see what we could make money on. We called the local metal recycler and asked what they would take. We took junk to them, thinking we'd get $10 to $20 for it. But, we came home with $69.

Iced Coffee Recipe

Like so many, I enjoy the fancy "iced coffee" so many places are now offering, but hate the expensive price. I decided to start making my own at home and have now become so spoiled by my own homemade drinks that it's almost like saving $5 every time I fix one at home!

To make an iced mocha coffee that rivals Starbucks, McDonalds, and/or Dunkin Donuts, I brew a double strength pot of coffee (12 cups). I use approximately 2 Tbsp. of sugar per cup, added while the coffee is still hot. (I actually use a natural sweetener that equals 2 Tbsp. of sugar.) I chill the fresh, sweetened coffee in a pitcher in the fridge.

When I'm ready for a refreshing iced drink, I pour eight ounces of the coffee into a glass and add 2 Tbsp. of half and half creamer and roughly 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. of chocolate syrup (to taste). After I stir vigorously and add ice, I have my very own iced coffee!
Kim C.

Changing Appliance Colors

We've painted a fridge and a dishwasher with melamine paint and a foam roller. They both have looked great for years. They have that "no fingerprint" texture because of the foam roller. We've also painted two range hoods this way with great results.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on changing appliance colors

Hard to Clean Toilets

Regarding tough-to-clean toilets, an environmentally-safe method is to scrub with Borax on a regular basis. Use a bit of well-moistened pumice stone to scrub away hard water stains at the water level. Borax is available in the detergent aisle and is fairly inexpensive.

Homework Time Saver

As your child is headed off to school this fall, take advantage of the back-to-school specials and buy some extras for home. I put them in the "homework basket." Whether we sit down to do homework together or he is doing it alone, he has his basket. There's no need to get up to get anything and no last minute runs to the office supply store because we need a glue stick. I put in already sharpened pencils, markers, colored pencils, tape, a pencil sharpener, erasers, glue sticks, a ruler, paper, etc. That way, there is no reason to get up. It saves us time because he has everything he needs, and it saves us money. It has also taught him to be prepared and he can get his homework completed much faster. I tutor a student that has attention issues and have suggested this for his home as well.
Kelly in Ararat, NC

Lunch on the Go

To save money on lunches at work, I bought an oven. I travel a lot locally from one side of town to the other and I can be anywhere at lunch time. I also get tired of the same old cold lunches, so I bought a lunch box size oven online that is powered by the power adapter of my vehicle. It cost around $40, but by eating eight lunches at $5 each, it has already paid for itself. The oven gets up to 300 degrees, and most of my meals are ready in 15 to 30 minutes.

Limited Shopping?

If you are tight on money or live where there is limited shopping, make a request for items that you are looking for with your local Facebook group. I have found jewelry making items, book cases, kitchen items, etc. The sky is the limit. I have also found that friends and relatives know where certain items may be found. This is a great networking tool.

Cleaning Stove Top Burners

To easily clean any part of the stove which can be removed (burner pans, oven racks, door panels, etc.), remove them from the stove and put them in a sturdy trash bag. Pour a hot solution of equal parts of ammonia and water and let them soak for one hour or more. Tie the bag shut to reduce fumes.

Meanwhile use a single edge razor blade to scrape any built-up carbon and/or grease that has accumulated in or on the stove. Spray the scraped areas with the same ammonia/water solution, and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. The areas can then easily be cleaned with a green scrub pad and wiped with a cloth.

This method works extremely well. To finish this project, I set the oven on warm after all parts are put back in place. Then I put a shallow pan of water in the oven to which I have added a few drops of lemon oil, vanilla flavoring, or other fragrant ingredient and let the water heat and dispense its smell. This will eliminate any residual ammonia smell, and the food cooked in the oven will not inherit your cleaner's smell.
Yvonne O.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to clean stove top burners

"Instant" Oats

There have been a few tips lately regarding instant oatmeal. I want to share what I do. First, I do not use "instant" oats. I use healthier and more filling whole oats. I keep a container of the oats at work, scoop some in a bowl, and add hot water from our instant hot water faucet. The oats are ready to eat in about 60 seconds. One to two minutes in the microwave works as well. I may add a teaspoon of sugar, but nothing else. This is so quick and easy. I don't eat oatmeal because I like it. Instead, I eat it because it's healthy, filling, and inexpensive. You do not need quick or instant oats to make oatmeal away from the stovetop. I used to make my own little "packets" but quickly realized this is pointless and much easier to just prepare from a bulk container.

College Supplies

As a college instructor, I can tell you one way to save big on supplies. Go to your professor and ask. Many students do not go back and pick up their notebooks, etc. after the term ends. I have boxes of jump drives, notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, and even used books left by careless students. I am always willing to give away these implements to the needier students.
Van M.

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