Readers' Tips

Back to Grad School?

Please don't! This economy will not be kind unless you are wise with debt. Deferring loan payments is never a good reason to go back to school. If you do decide on more debt, please ask about and research placement rates. Colleges and universities have become more sales driven and will often "sell" a product because people want the product, not because they can help place graduates in jobs. This is not to say that they aren't training people. They just don't have the push to place students and leave that to the students.
Julie in Spokane

editor's note: Visit here for more on going back to grad school.

Free Moving Boxes

When I move, I go to the nearest attorney's office and gather their cardboard boxes. I visit them every other day for about a month. They use a lot of paper and buy it by the case. The boxes are just the right size for most things, and they have handles. Best of all, they are clean!

Problem Pet Hair

I have found two unusual, but effective ways to lift pet hair from carpets and furniture.

For large clumps of hair, purchase cloth gardening gloves with plastic "nubs" on the fingers and palms. These nubs will catch the hair as you rub your hand over the furniture or across the floor. Keep a trashcan at your elbow, and as your hand gets full, simply pick the hair off the glove and throw it away.

For small amounts of pet hair or for short hair that's hard to see, use static electricity. Inflate a balloon and rub it across the carpet. The static on the balloon's surface will pick up the pet hair, and it will stick to the balloon. Once you use a "side" of the balloon, switch to a clean side or you'll just keep transferring the hair back to the carpet.

Additional TDS Resource: More on removing problem pet hair

Winter Windshields

Unfortunately, we do not have a garage in which to park our vehicles. During the winter, this is very hard on them. We have to let them "warm up" for extended periods just to defrost the windshield. So, instead of running the vehicle longer than truly necessary and to keep from "scraping" the windshield to remove the frost, I use an old shower curtain to cover the windshield at night. I make sure to close the ends inside the vehicle's doors to hold it in place.

When I'm ready to warm up my car, I simply pull the curtain from the windshield! This can also be accomplished with a tarp or other long thin piece of plastic sheeting.
C. L.

Before You Wash Clothes

Turn black jeans and other dark clothes inside out before you wash them. They will keep their color longer.
Jane A.


I break firestarter blocks into two or three pieces when using them to start fires in my fireplace. I find that a third of a block is sufficient to get the fire started and helps save me money!

A Warmer Bed

If you want warmer feet in bed, just get a length of no-pill fleece. Get one about 3' wide and the width of your bed. As you make the bed, place the fleece at the foot of your bed on top of the bottom sheet. Above that put your top sheet, blankets, etc. When you get into bed, from your knees down, your legs will be on the warm fleece. I do not use my electric blanket any more, as this keeps my feet from being so cold.
Judy in Montana

Additional TDS Resource: More articles on heating your home

Why Waste Napkins?

When I go out to eat, at the end of the meal, there are generally extra clean napkins still left on the table. This happens at sit down places where the server brings extra and at fast food chains. I've started picking up these clean napkins and putting them in my purse for use at home. The busser would just throw them away. My friends always laugh, but I can't remember the last time I had to buy napkins.
Heidi in New Orleans

Cleaning Fiberglass Showers

I never buy cleaning products because that stuff is generally just a very expensive way of packaging vinegar, baking soda, ammonia, and/or bleach. For cleaning a shower stall and windows, simply spray full strength white vinegar over the wet area. That's it. You need not wipe dry; just walk away. In fact, it is best to let it dry by itself. My shower stall has not had any cleaning done in over five years, and it looks brand new!
Loretta of Portage, Michigan

Additional TDS Resource: More on cleaning fiberglass showers

Lower Your Electric Bill

A refrigerator needs less electricity to cool objects than it does to cool air. Therefore, a full fridge is cheaper to run. On this theory, I fill my freezer with containers of water. When I first tried it some years ago, the total electric bill went down significantly.

Any covered container will do. Fill them, leaving room for the ice to expand. Rectangular containers can be more tightly packed. Avoid some containers. Paper milk containers break. Glass breaks. Uncovered containers cause the automatic defrost to work overtime.

I move the ice containers in and out as needed to accommodate food.

Dry Winter Hair?

If you're like me, the bottom few inches of your hair becomes very dry in the winter with the cold, dry air outside and the heated, dry air inside. Instead of buying hot oils and creams and expensive deep conditioners, mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite inexpensive conditioner with 1 1/2 teaspoons of any olive oil in a microwave-safe container. I use a paper cup. Microwave for 30 to 40 seconds and stir. Wait for it to be cool enough to be comfortable on your scalp.

Use your fingers to put the hot solution on the areas where your hair is driest and comb it through. Let it remain on your hair for 20 to 30 minutes while you do chores, talk on the phone, read, etc. Then wash and condition your hair as usual.

I used it last night and my hair looks the best it has in months! It really works.

Additional TDS Resource: More articles on hair care

Use Those Broccoli Stems!

I don't know about other dollar stretchers, but I know that a lot of people cut the florets off raw broccoli and throw the stems away. I used to do that. Then I started peeling the stems and cutting them up or just eating them. Recently, I thought about the broccoli slaw that you can buy in the store. If you buy the wrapped broccoli, usually they have very long stems. I started peeling and then grating the stems of the broccoli to make my own broccoli slaw. So, instead of wasting the broccoli stems, I enjoy them to the fullest.
Darci S.

Reducing Cold Drafts

To reduce drafts from exterior facing wall electrical outlets and light switches inside your home, use styrofoam egg cartons. Save cartons (ask friends and family for theirs as well). Unscrew and remove the light switch or outlet covers. Use them as templates. Trace around them onto the flat portion of the top of the egg carton. Cut out the foam and place it between cover and wall.
April Z. in Anderson, IN

Additional TDS Resource: Visit the TDS library for more ideas on winter heating for less

Affordable Hair Care Products

As a hairdresser, I see many people who do not want to pay more for salon products. But if they are used properly, they should not cost any more than drug store brands. First, make sure you are not wasting shampoo and conditioner. Salon products have less water and wax in them, so you do not need nearly as much. You only need a quarter to a half of what you think you need.

Check around for deals and salons with better prices. Most chain salons have their own brand, which can be cheaper. The best deals are found just before Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, and back-to-school time. At back-to-school time, most manufacturers come out with liter deals on shampoo and conditioner.

Also make sure that hair is kept trimmed (every four to eight weeks). Dried out hair will use more product.

Additional TDS Resource: More on affordable hair care products

Garbage Collection Savings

A way to save on garbage service is to check with your local hauler to see if they offer "one time service." In our area, we can call the night before for service. We put it curbside and pay per bag. We do this three to four times per year. By doing this, we avoid the cost of weekly service.

Leftover Lemon? Clean Your Microwave

I saw this microwave cleaning tip on a television program. Take a piece of lemon, place it in a bowl filled with water, and boil until you can't see through the microwave window. Take a paper towel and wipe it clean.

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