Readers' Tips

Inexpensive Area Rugs

Look in the patio section of home stores. There are a lot of things on sale now as summer is over. Patio rugs are more rugged and can be washed outside. Also, Target and Wal-Mart have back-to-college sections that have rugs on sale.
Karen (via Facebook)

editor's note: Visit here for more on finding inexpensive area rugs.

Redirected Thinking

You can do what you want if you just redirect your way of thinking. With that in mind, my grandson wanted a pillow with his favorite character on it. I looked for materiel. When I finally located some, it was way too expensive.

So I went on eBay and found an inexpensive man's extra-large shirt with the character of his choice on it already. I bought it, cut it up, and made the pillow. It turned out great!

Updated Kitchen Lighting

I re-did my lights and outlets in my kitchen from an old 1950s setup. I put in recessed cans and put one over the table and one over the sink and installed all of them in a grid fashion. I put a total of 12 lights in a small kitchen, so even when I stand at a counter, the light onto the counter is not blocked.

I have CFL indoor floods in them and the over-the-sink light is on a separate switch, so I can use it as a nightlight. I have nice, even light in my kitchen, and since the bulbs are CFLs, they are cheap to run. Getting rid of the old, dated fixtures has made the kitchen look so much better and upped the value of the house.

Additional TDS Resource: More on updated kitchen lighting

Clearer Car Headlights

For cleaning your headlights, try toothpaste. Yes, it really works. It's cheaper than the kits they sell. Just put the toothpaste on your lights with a light scrubbing motion. Let sit for about 15 minutes and then rinse dry. It works great!

Homemade Carpet Cleaner

At a county fair I attended recently, I talked to a representative for a company that sells carpet cleaner that is guaranteed to remove stains/odors, especially pet-related ones. His product, which sold for $20/bottle, was hydrogen peroxide with some citrus scent.

The next day, I went home, mixed up a few capfuls of hydrogen peroxide and water in a spray bottle, and sprayed it on some old urine stains. Following the rep's advice, I then rubbed it into the padding and let it air dry.

I then proceeded to mix six capfuls in a gallon of water and shampooed my carpet. I sucked up the first application to remove the dirt from the carpet and then squirted more on the carpet, which I let air dry.

It works. Not only is the urine odor gone, but also the stains have either disappeared or significantly lightened. Test this on a small area first to ensure color fastness.

Not Lazy Savings

I find that laziness contributes to being broke! Get in the habit of taking a few extra steps in order to avoid buying pricey "convenience" items. If you don't mix that water and vinegar yourself, you'll always spend a fortune on the name brand cleaning stuff! If you don't learn how to cut up a chicken, you'll always spend needlessly on pre-cut chicken. Laziness costs money!

Easy Bathroom Update

One of the ways that I save money but still have a nicely decorated home is by buying inexpensive bathroom rugs in a lighter color that complements the wall/tile color of our bathroom. When the rugs start to become worn or the colors don't look as good, I buy a package of dye in a slightly darker color and dye the rugs. These rugs come out looking great, and I've had very little expense in updating them.

To go along with the rug, I buy cloth shower curtains that can be machine washed and dyed to match or complement the rugs.

Cheaper Cleaner

The active ingredient in Goof Off™ is xylene. You can buy a quart of xylene for the same price as one of the little bottles of Goof Off™. We just refill the little bottle with the xylene.

editor's note: Always be careful when you're handling any chemicals. Read and follow all warning labels!

Bachelorette Party

If you're hosting a bachelorette party and have space, host a sleepover. Gather up supplies to do manicures, pedicures, hair, makeup, etc. or hire someone to come in and do manicures and/or pedicures for the guests. Have some kind of contest, such as hoola hoop, twister, or other party games. Or learn belly dancing from videos. Have everyone bring a dish and beverage. There is a lot that could be done with this kind of party, and it avoids the expensive limo, drinks out if you are bar hopping, etc.

Additional TDS Resource: More on hosting a bachelorette party

Free Laundry Aid

The number one way to "stretch" laundry dollars is soaking! Soaking works especially great on stained white clothes. I simply use my detergent with bleach, let the agitator work a little, and then turn off the washer for a couple of hours. It acts like a pre-soak, and I've removed some horrible stains this way. Everything comes out whiter and brighter! For those hard-to-remove stains (like blood, chocolate, and sauces), I scrub the stain in the sink with hand soap and then let the item soak overnight! By morning, most stains are completely gone!

Bacon by the Slice

When I get a package of bacon, I open it up, roll each piece of bacon up, put it in a freezer bag, and freeze it. When I want bacon, I just take out the number of pieces I need and leave the rest in the bag! Since they are all individual rolls, they don't stick to each other!
Joann M.

Fun School Lunches

Make a sandwich with one slice of whole wheat bread and one slice of white bread (or that new whole grain bread that just looks white). Then take a cookie cutter and cut a shape out of the middle and flip the cut piece over so that there's a contrast between the two colors of bread. It needs to be a symmetrical shape, like a heart, circle, star, crescent or something, so that it still fits when flipped over. Christmas tree shapes work, too.

Free Containers

Need storage containers? Just visit your local deli or lunch counter at the supermarket and ask for the empty one-gallon mayo jars. They come in both plastic and glass and are perfect for storing cat kibble, sugar, flour, grains, cookies, etc. Naturally, you'll need to clean them thoroughly before using them.

Natural Weed Killers

Believe it or not, vinegar is a natural weed killer. I had moss, etc. growing between bricks in my back patio. I took a gallon of vinegar and spread it around. In a couple of days, I was able to remove all the dead stuff with a broom! It works great, and the smell disappears shortly. This is cheaper and better for the environment than a lot of the "name brands" you can buy. Give it a try!

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on killing weeds without pesticides

Grocery Mark-Down Days

I retired a short time ago and am living on a fixed income. Now that I'm not working, I shop on weekdays instead of Saturday. As a result, I found a surprise in the meat and bakery departments.

Meats and bakery goods that are not sold on the weekend are marked down on Monday for quick sale. I also found that they do the same thing on Thursday to clear out space for weekend shoppers. I checked the packages thinking they would be expired, but they weren't.

I have been saving $1 to $2 on meat packages and almost half on bakery goods. I buy them and put them in the freezer to use later. This not only works well at local markets but at warehouse clubs, too. You have to be flexible because you don't know what will be available each day. However, we are eating better for less money since I discovered this trick.
Cindy B in West Jordan, UT

Local Reading

When my daughter and I go on vacation, we like to go to local libraries and peruse their "paperback books for sale" section. It's a great way to buy new books, and since it is out of our own area, we might even find something inherent to the area we are visiting. Either way, they are always inexpensive and a great way to add to our experience.

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!

If you'd like to receive our Dollar Stretcher Tips newsletter, click here to subscribe.

Dollar Stretcher Tips is a weekly feature of The Dollar If you missed last week's tips click here.

Get Out of Debt
Stay Connected with TDS

Do you struggle to get ahead financially?

Surviving Tough Times is a weekly newsletter aimed at helping you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources.

Debt Checklist

And get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble?
A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt