Readers' Tips

Repurposing an Entertainment Center

Repurpose it into a sewing/crafting/art center. The opening for the TV can be the workspace area. You can put up a corkboard or some pegboard on the wall in the opening area for extra storage/space. The drawers can hold all the supplies, and if you have doors, you can simply close it when not in use!
Heather in CA

editor's note: Visit here for more on repurposing an entertainment center.

Reduce the Cost of Drying Clothes

I have recently discovered something that can help families save money in the laundry room. If you replace dryer sheets with a reusable aluminum foil ball, you do not need to use a dryer sheet. It takes all the static out of your clothes. Also, you can cut your dryer time in half by adding a dry towel to your load.

The average American family of four does eight loads of laundry a week. It has saved me hundreds of dollars per year in not having to buy dryer sheets.

Finding a Job

As a former career counselor, I could write a book about finding jobs, even in tough times. I will focus on three resources here.

First, decide what sort of work you wish to do. Then, contact your college job placement center to see what help they can give you. They should be able to help you polish your resume and refer you for job openings at a minimum. Be sure to ask for a comprehensive list of the services they can provide.

Second, buy a job-hunting book like What Color Is Your Parachute? The advice in this book is invaluable and is updated yearly.

Third, contact people in your field and ask for a 10 to 15 minute interview in which they might help you in some way, perhaps explaining the ins and outs of such jobs or reviewing your resume in order to help you aim it more precisely at your chosen field. Before you leave, ask if they know anyone else you can interview with. This is one of the best ways to get your foot in the door and distinguish yourself from all the emailed resumes they receive. Eventually, someone will be able to refer you to someone who has the opening you are looking for. That's how I got two of my most exciting jobs.

Don't ask about wages and perks until after you have a job offer. Show interest in the company and its goals. Do your homework before your interviews.
Barbara in CT

Additional TDS Resource: More help in finding a job

When You Order Checks

Recently I ordered "cute" checks from one of those mail-order places. I thought it would be fun to have something other than plain blue. The cost was $35. (I have since learned that my account gives us free checks!) When the order arrived, I neglected to verify the account number.

Well, if your account number is not correct, your bank will refuse to pay the check! In addition to a lot of aggravation, this goof has cost me a lot of money in returned check fees and late charges.

Be sure to verify everything on a new check order.
Madeline in VT

Picky Eaters?

I have a large family and inevitably there is at least one person who doesn't like what I cook for dinner on any given night. Every weekend, I make one back-up meal that is usually some kind of soup, stew, casserole, or baked pasta dish. It is always something I know everyone likes. This way, the picky person can choose to reheat that meal if he/she doesn't like what's for dinner, and there is always a quick back up lunch to grab if needed.

Measuring Detergent

The main purpose of detergent is to lower the surface tension of the water in which it is dissolved, thereby allowing the water to do the actual cleaning. The effectiveness of detergent at achieving this purpose depends quite a bit on what else is in your water.

If you have hard water, your clothes (or dishes) may not come clean unless you use both the recommended amount of detergent and a water softener.

If you have soft water, you can probably get by with a third to a half of the recommended amount of detergent.

If you have average water, you'll probably get best results with around the recommended amount of detergent. Just make sure to use less on smaller loads if your washer allows you to also use less water.

A Fun Goal

A friend of mine set a fun New Year's Resolution that is free and recreational. She set a goal to see every Academy Award winning movie from the year of her birth to now (around 55 years). Movies are available at the library because they are classics (you can reserve them in advance or have them forwarded from other libraries if yours does not have one). It's very simple to google the list of winners.

Why Print?

I used to print out so many useless sheets of paper from my printer. Even if you use the reverse, you're still wasting expensive ink. Then, I found the "save as PDF" button in my printer screen. It may be a "print to file" button in your computer.

I started using this feature for items that I might need later. Now I think twice about printing. I have a flash drive that I use for most documents. If I still need a hard copy later, I can always go back to print it out.

Dust Mites

I found this information in a health newsletter. It stated that dust mites are one of the most common household allergens and a major risk factor for asthma sufferers. The article suggested that washing your bedding with eucalyptus oil virtually eliminated these pesky critters, according to researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia.

The researchers got rid of 99% of the mites on wool blankets by soaking the blankets for 60 minutes in a solution of 6 tablespoons eucalyptus oil (0.4 percent concentration), 1 1/4 tablespoons liquid laundry detergent, and 13 gallons of water. They then rinsed the blankets in cool water. Without the oil, the laundry detergent alone got rid of only 2.4 percent of the mites. You can purchase eucalyptus oil at most natural food stores or wherever essential oils are sold.

Additional TDS Resource: More on killing dust mites

Credit Card Protection

It's important to keep a copy of your credit cards in case they get stolen or lost. Either photocopy or take a digital picture of them. Make sure you also photocopy the back. There are numbers on the back that you may need. Most credit cards also have their "call if lost or stolen" number on the back, which can save you time in finding that as well.

My 3 Health Rules

Here are three easy ways to achieve better health in 2014. If you follow these three suggestions, at the end of this year, you'll be able to say that you honestly feel and look better.

  1. Eliminate fast food - Make the decision to cut fast food from your diet. However, take it slow because if you eat a lot of fast food, your body will go through withdrawal feelings and you may get discouraged and go back to your old way of eating. Start by eliminating one or two fast food meals per week and work your way up until you eliminate it entirely. I have a close friend who did this without changing any other behavior, and after six weeks, she lost 13 pounds and claimed to feel much more energized.

  2. Replace soda with water - Again, take this slowly if you're a big soda drinker. If you go too fast, you'll suffer and may give up. Eventually you'll want to get to the place where you'll reach for a glass of water instead of soda every single time. I gave up soda two years ago and I no longer miss it. But, it took patience to get to this place. On the occasion that I just want something sweet to drink, I'll mix 1/3 100% juice to 2/3 filtered watered and some crushed ice. Takes care of the "sweet" craving every single time.

  3. Resolve to move more this week than last week - This is not a "one size fits all" suggestion because everybody is at a different fitness place. For one person, it may mean that this week you run 10.5 miles instead of the 10 miles that you ran last week. But, for another, it might mean you walk around the block one time every day instead of one time every other day like you did last week. About four years ago, I started this. I had been a runner in my younger days but gave it up, using a busy life as an excuse. My then 7th grade daughter suggested I start running again. At first, I could only go a couple blocks. Each time I ran, I went a little farther. I never pushed myself so hard that I got hurt or discouraged, but I always added just a little. Long story short, it's four years later and I ran my second half-marathon this last fall. I still practice this in my training. As I'm heading towards another race, I slowly but consistently add mileage every week.


Neater Bathroom

To save space on bathroom counter tops and in the tub/shower, for a small initial investment, I purchase travel size bottles and containers or small versions of my favorite body and hair products and then fill or refill them from more economical, larger size versions that I store in a closet.

I have a plastic basket from a dollar store for the counter and one on the corner of the tub to keep everything together and looking neat. This also saves a bit of time and energy when cleaning since all of the products can be moved out of the way simply by picking up the basket. Plus, I find that smaller containers are easier to handle in the shower when hands are wet.
Lorraine in NH

Dry Indoor Air?

My grandmother used a copper boiler to humidify the house. I use a teakettle that I set on boil and then turn down the heat and keep full. You can also use a large soup pot full of water, bring it to a boil, and then turn the heat down to medium, so there is steam coming up from the pot.

Doing this does two things. First, it humidifies the air. Also, the warm, moist air will help heat the house. Keep an eye on the pot and refill as needed. When there's condensation on the window, you've reach saturation point.

Additional TDS Resource: More on combatting dry winter indoor air

Wedding Showers

I attended a shower that had the "holidays" as the theme. Each of us was assigned a holiday and asked to bring something for the bride/groom/home that pertained to that holiday. I had the 4th of July. The couple automatically had decorations for every holiday.

Additional TDS Resource: More wedding shower ideas

The Refund Strategy

Whenever I receive a refund of any sort, I put it directly into savings. When I purchase things for work or my 4-H club, the reimbursement check goes straight into savings. I didn't realize how much it helped until I saw my year-end statement from my savings account.

Photo Prints

We print out a lot of photos for family and friends. The special computer photo paper is too expensive for us to use. At a paper supply store in our city, my husband found a high-gloss paper and a semi-gloss paper that we use as alternatives to the expensive computer photo paper. The quality turns out better than you'd expect, and best of all, we have beautiful photos to give/frame at a fraction of the cost!

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