Readers' Tips

Family Reunion Food

We hosted a three-day reunion where each evening had a food theme and lunches were leftovers. People knew the theme at the invite and were asked to bring their favorite dishes. Mexican, German and Italian were our themes. Potato bars and taco bars also always work well. Leftovers work well if you feel the need to make breakfasts (think smothered fried potatoes or omelets). Go with "make your own" set ups, so there are no complaints about over or under cooking.

editor's note: Visit here for more on family reunion food.

Travel Sized Toothpaste

Repackaging toothpaste into the smaller travel size is easy! Use a small sample tube or one you bought. Once it is empty, put your regular home tube of toothpaste snout to snout with the small one, hold firmly, and slowly squeeze toothpaste from the full tube to your small travel one. It works like a charm! You can do this with small and large tubes of hand cream as well, if the openings are compatible.
Katie in AZ

Additional TDS Resource: More budget travel tips

Furniture for Smaller Rooms

I have a small bungalow and needed furniture that would fit. Older furniture is usually smaller, but still classy and one of a kind. For my living room, I went to an antique auction and picked up two upholstered chairs and a smaller sized couch from the 20s for $350. They have carved wooden legs and are very comfortable. I had them reupholstered for $850 and have a beautiful, functional living room as a result.

For a room over the detached garage that was to be a teen hangout, we found a large selection of furniture from IKEA at great prices. They have a catalog if you don't have one near you. The very small sectional we bought is cute and contemporary
V. Powers in California

Additional TDS Resource: More on finding furniture for small rooms

Seek and You Shall Find

Until a few years ago, if I wanted something, I'd go out and buy it. It wasn't long before I got into credit card trouble. It took me three years to dig out. Now when I want something, I play a game I call "seek and you shall find."

For instance, I wanted some bar stools for our kitchen counter area, but I didn't want to pay full price or even a discounted price. So I started seeking. I thought that a furniture store going out of business might have some, but I had no luck. After about three months, I found some on Craigslist. They cost me less than a quarter of full price! Now I always think about where I can find something before I go shopping.

Kitchen Clutter

Over the years, I've collected a large number of kitchen gadgets. And, despite the jokes about Ginsu knives, I use them all. I just don't use them that often. The result is a cluttered kitchen. Finally I had an idea that solved much of the problem. I bought one of those hanging shoe bags and put it on the inside of my pantry door. In each compartment, I can put one or more of my gadgets. They're easy to find and out of the way. It's a wonderful solution for just a couple of dollars!

Additional TDS Resource: More on organizing kitchen and pantries

Very Berry!

We're getting to the time of year when you can buy berries very cheaply. Each year, I buy big baskets of blueberries for very little. When I get them home, I wash and dry them. Then I spread them onto cookie sheets and put them in the freezer! After they're frozen, I put them into zipper bags.

They're great for desserts, pancakes, and smoothies! All winter long my friends wonder how I can treat them to fresh berries. Then I tell them my freezer secret!

More Efficient Air Conditioning

We reduced our summer electric bill by checking our air conditioning ducts. We put aluminum insulating tape over the joints. We must have been losing a lot of cold air because the difference in our bill is significant. It was easy to do since all the ducts were easily accessible from our basement. An hour or two of effort saved us big bucks!

Rental Warning

Our family just finished a battle with a truck rental company. We rented a truck to move a dining room set we found on Craigslist. When we went to load our stuff, we noticed a hand truck and some blankets tossed in the corner. We had brought our own, so we didn't use them.

We didn't know that they should have had a security tie in place. The dealer said that we broke the tie and were liable for a charge for using them even though we hadn't. No amount of arguing would change his mind. If I ever rent another truck, you can be sure that I'll inspect both the inside and outside before we leave the rental center. They won't get me again!

Cleaning Blinds

I used to manage an apartment complex and we used one of two methods for cleaning blinds. In winter or inclement weather, I put the blind in the bathtub with just hot water and automatic dishwashing detergent. I let it sit until cool and cleaned the blind with a 'bowl' brush or other long handled brush. Then I rinsed it in cool water with a little vinegar or alcohol for a nicer finish. Finally, I towel-dried the blind and hung it to completely dry.

In summer or nice weather, I took the blind to the nearest self-serve carwash and used the car brush and detergent. Sometimes I even gave them a light waxing for a nice finish. Then I towel-dried the blind and hung to completely dry.
Elizabeth B. in West Valley City, UT

Additional TDS Resource: More on cleaning blinds

Traveling by Air?

I fly often for business, and I hate paying the inflated prices for the small 3.4 oz. containers of toiletries. Therefore, I bought empty small refillable bottles that could be refilled from full size bottles.

Before I leave, I refill them at home and place them in the TSA approved zipper bag. I still haven't figured out how to repackage toothpaste, but I'm working on it!

Getting a Raise

I learned this trick from an HR professional. Before you go in for a review/raise, check with the HR department and find out your salary range. That's the low/high number for your job classification. If you're in the lower portion of the range, it's easier to ask for a raise. If you're pushing against the top, you might be better off trying to get a promotion or a classification change.

Kids Travel Entertainment

After a long day's drive, your kids are probably tired of their video games and DVDs. Check with the hotel to see if they offer free kids' amenities. Some do, and they include crayons to bathtub toys. Just the fact that they're different from the toys they have at home is enough to make them desirable for the evening. Ask when you check in. It doesn't cost anything to find out!

Additional TDS Resource: How to save on road trips

Shampoo for Less

You can buy a gallon of concentrated shampoo online for less than $6 and the shipping costs about $10. You mix one part shampoo to nine parts of water. For about $16, you will have ten gallons of shampoo, which makes it only $1.60 per gallon of shampoo.
Joann S.

Additional TDS Resource: More on DIY beauty treatments

Dry Clean Only? Not!

Believe it or not, the best way to freshen up those "dry clean only" garments is to put them in the dryer on a low to medium heat setting with either a dryer sheet or a sachet and a damp (not wet) towel. The heat will make the damp towel "steam" your clothes and the dryer sheet will freshen the scent and eliminate that static. It's a wonderful way to make your dry cleaning only an occasional occurrence.

Additional TDS Resource: What to do instead of dry cleaning

Next Winter's Heating Bill

I am so excited! Just by chance, I came across a website this morning about propane gas. It had information about pricing and how to get the best per gallon price. I just finished paying off last year's winter gas bill for heating and am thinking about the coming winter. Following the suggestion on the website, I called the gas company that supplied my tank originally and supplies my gas currently to ask about the best time to buy propane. He responded that now is the best time. I asked about the current price and he told me it was $2.19 per gallon. You will understand my joy and excitement when I tell you I paid $3.79 per gallon in February of this year. They will be filling my tank next week at the quoted price per gallon. Let's keep sharing information and saving money wherever we can!

Additional TDS Resource: More on insulating your home

Best Moving Boxes

Wine boxes with dividers make great moving and storage boxes for drinking and wine glasses, vases, and other fragile items. I find there is no need to wrap glasses in paper since the dividers protect them, but small fragile items stacked in a bottle slot should be wrapped. If a glass is too big to fit nicely, the divider will flex, expanding into a neighboring slot, but I just put fewer glasses in that box or alternate with smaller items in between. These typically have the box tops cut off, but a folded towel or newspaper with some tape across it can substitute. Just be careful what you put on top of it.
Lorraine in NH

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to save when you move

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