Readers' Tips

How to Create an Outdoor Room on a Budget

I am a home stager and always work with clients on a budget. You can have your dream deck area very inexpensively! To give your deck a softer look, you can purchase an inexpensive area rug or even a sisal rug that you can stencil some pretty chevrons or botanicals on. For some height and privacy around the deck perimeter, plant various ornamental trees in large pots or hang large ferns. New deck furniture cushions are easy to make with some indoor/outdoor fabric that is on sale. Make a few throw pillows with leftover fabrics. A few inexpensive citronella candles should keep the bugs at bay. You may also want to check Pinterest for deck/outdoor furniture made from old pallets. It's easy and almost free! Once you are done, enjoy a cold lemonade on your new deck space.

editor's note: Visit here for more on how to create an outdoor room on a budget.

Stocking Stuffers in July

There are a lot of coupons for beauty care products that I don't use, but my three adult kids (all employed and living independently) do. When I see a great coupon for shampoo, deodorant, or gel in a brand they like, it's also usually on sale that week at my local Walgreens or similar store. I combine the coupon with the sale price (like most people do), but then I stash those items in a box in my closet. For any gifting occasion, each kid gets a "real" gift and an item or two from my stash. When I can buy a quart of shampoo for $2, it probably saves my busy kid $4 or more. They seem to appreciate it, and it saves all of us a lot of money in the long run. I have even used this to donate to local women's shelters since health and beauty items are greatly needed by them.
JD in St Louis

Saving on Rental Cars

There are several ways to get a cheap rental car. First, check into any associations you may belong to, such as a union, AAA, or a wholesale buyer's club. Take note of the discounts offered through these associations.

Also, sign up for memberships with the various auto rental companies. There are often "member-only" upgrades and discounts. And membership is free.

Check online for a map of the city that you will be visiting. Check to verify the distance that the car rental office is from the airport. Often, the rates drop because there is less demand away from the airport.

Finally, call the rental places in the city. Tell them what the best rate you've gotten is and ask if they can match it.

Using these tips, I saved $126 (I had to pay a $23 cab fee, and I deducted that) when I flew into Florida.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to save on rental cars

The Travel Budget

Last year, we learned an important lesson. By the time we returned from our vacation, we had spent much more than we planned. It took months for us to pay off our credit cards.

This year, we're setting a budget for each day of our trip. When we're faced with the $6 theme park drink, we can decide whether we really want it or not. We'll use cash to avoid overspending our budget.

I expect there to be a few groans when the kids don't get something that they want, but we won't be writing big checks to the credit card company in October and November this year!

Additional TDS Resource: More budget travel tips

Right-Sized Dessert

My hubby and I were enjoying a dinner out the other evening. We had just finished the meal when the server asked about dessert. Naturally she hoped that we'd pick one of their $5 dessert specialties. We usually don't want to eat that much and often split a dessert. But tonight I noticed that they had kids' sundaes on the menu. I asked if we could order those. She said that we could and we each had a small sundae that was just right!

Easy, Cheap Veggie Wash

Instead of buying veggie wash, I just put a few tablespoons of vinegar into a bowl of water. After letting the fruit soak for a minute or two, I towel it off. It's amazing what shows up in the towel.

Additional TDS Resource: How to store veggies for freshness

Kids Gift Bags

I got tired of spending money on gift bags that get tossed with the trash, so I started watching for sales on children's pillowcases. When I find a good sale, I buy a few. Then when a birthday party comes up, I put the gift inside and use a ribbon to close the opening. Along with the gift, the birthday child also gets a special pillowcase.

Flight Snacks

Lately airlines are cutting back on everything or charging for it. Therefore, I started bringing my own snacks with me. I bring carrot sticks, radishes, apples, cherries, nuts, etc. To make it less conspicuous, I use a restaurant carry-out box that looks like I picked it up at the airport! Also, I add to that an empty plastic bottle I fill after I've cleared security.

Natural Mosquito Control

Mosquitoes hate lemon scent. I spray my entire yard with equal parts of lemon dish soap, lemon ammonia, and lemon juice. I do this every two weeks with a 20-gallon sprayer, so I won't be on the mosquito menu this summer.

Additional TDS Resource: More on mosquito control

A Rental Car Warning

If you rent a car, you know to check the vehicle for damage when you check it out and when you return it. But did you ever think to check the underside of the car? I recently was charged for damage that they claimed I did to the underside of the car. Since I had no proof, I was out of luck. Next time I'm going to add that to my checklist.

Cheaper Wedding Bells

Our daughter's wedding is coming up in a few months. We've found a few money-saving ideas. First, although we live in a pretty good sized city, we've been shopping for photographers, florists, and caterers from smaller surrounding communities. We're finding that they're quite a bit cheaper. We ordered the invitations and bridesmaid dresses online, which saved us some money as well. We're finding that if we can save on these things, it allows us to spend a little more on some other things that are more important to us.

Safe Roach Control

If you have little ones or pets around the house, here's a perfectly safe method of roach control. Take a glass jar (about one quart size). Put some peanut butter in the bottom of the jar and coat the inside lip with veggie oil. Then set it out overnight.

The roaches love peanut butter and will get inside the jar. With the oil making the glass slippery, they won't be able to get out. When you get up in the morning, screw the lid on and throw it in the trash. Mission accomplished!

I know it works. We moved into a house that was vacant for a while and swarmed with roaches when we moved in. At first, I'd find a dozen or more in the jar in the morning. After a week or so, the quantities shrank until now I rarely catch one. All this was done without any poisons!

Additional TDS Resource: More on natural roach remedies

Before You Move

I've worked for a moving company and something has always baffled me. Why do people move old, heavy stuff cross country that they can easily replace when they get into their new home?

For instance, I've seen people pay good money to move old refrigerators and sofas that they could have sold before the move. Get $50 or so on Craigslist and add to it the amount you saved by not moving it. Buy a used one when you get settled. Chances are you'll come out ahead!

Additional TDS Resource: More moving tips, tricks and hacks

Hardwood Floor Urine Stains

We had a problem with black urine stains on a hardwood floor at a home we bought. We found the best thing was to put a thin coat of hydrogen peroxide with a paint brush on the spot and let it dry. Sometimes we had to coat it several times with the spot becoming lighter with each application. We couldn't get some stains completely out of the wood, but for the most part, it worked pretty good.
Pamela N.

Additional TDS Resource: More on removing urine stains on hardwood floors


My husband and I don't cook often, but when we do, we intentionally overcook, meaning that we cook enough for three or four meals. Most of the food ends up in the freezer for future days. I found that all kinds of things freeze well, and with a microwave, we can take a meal or prepared ingredients (like cooked noodles) from the freezer to the table in short time. Try it. You'll be surprised by how much kitchen time you'll save!

Additional TDS Resource: What foods don't freeze well?

Mobile Power

If you're traveling and forget a power cord, your first stop doesn't need to be Best Buy or the phone store. Try asking at the hotel desk if anyone has left a charger like your charger. Most hotels have a collection of charging devices that were left behind. Usually they're glad to give you one to use or even to take home!

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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