Readers' Tips

Cheap Family Activities for Families with Grade School Kids

Check your local online newspapers and look in the activities or entertainment sections. Also check with news channels. Some post community activities, and some of these activities are free.
Stephanie (via Facebook)

editor's note: Visit here for more cheap family activities.

Why Buy White?

I buy only dark towels and wash cloths for bathing and for kitchen use. I save money by not having to bleach them weekly to keep them looking nice. Plus, the towels and cloths last much longer because they are not be damaged by weekly bleaching.

Updating Vertical Blinds

My mother had verticals for her sliding glass door and window verticals in the family room. She took her vertical blinds down, placed them on the patio floor, and spray painted them in a rose color. Then she took a stamp, dipped it in gold paint, and put a pattern of gold leaves on each panel. They turned out beautiful.

Additional TDS Resource: More ways to update vertical blinds

Check for Seconds

We're sprucing up our old home one frugal corner at a time. We are working on our outside. In our high-desert climate, we've decided to xeriscape our yard, but we found the price of pavers, rock, etc. to be crazy. We went to a rock yard and found that they had "seconds" of several kinds of pavers and offered a senior discount! The pavers supposedly weren't the right color, but they look beautiful and are as durable as pavers from a big box store that cost six times the price.

Additional TDS Resource: Don't miss these 12 frugal landscaping tips

Hiring a Contractor?

Make sure you are informed about permit fees when working with contractors! I recently called around to get bids for having our garage demolished. I also called the city to find out about any required permits and I found out that I would need an $85 permit. One contractor included a permit fee of $500! He didn't get the job. Some contractors were willing to drop the fee if I got the permit myself. So find out about permits and fees before you choose your contractor.

Women's Wide Shoes

I need a wide sized shoe. I wear a ladies' size 8W. Looking for running shoes, I discovered that I can wear a boys' size 6. It was about half the price. So if you wear ladies' size 6, 7 or 8, check out the boys department sizes 4, 5 or 6. You won't find dress shoes there, but for loafers and sneakers, it's a real money-saver.

All-Natural Shampoo and Conditioner

I do not use shampoo and conditioner anymore after trying the tip of baking soda and water as shampoo and rinsing with vinegar and water. I use a tablespoon of baking soda with one cup of water (hot) and spray it on my hair. I shower or bathe and rinse my hair with water. Then I spray my hair with one tablespoon of vinegar with a cup of hot water and then rinse. I do not have tangles when I get out of the shower or after I sleep. My hair looks so much better, and I'm saving money.
Mary J.

editor's note: The recipes Mary was referencing are included in this article on homemade shampoo

Too Many Suds?

A lady in the washateria showed me this trick. If you get too much soap in the washer, don't waste the electricity and water trying to rinse the suds out. Just pour some fabric softener into the washer and it will take the suds right down!
Deb C

Traveling for Graduation

If you must travel to see your child graduate, and getting a hotel reservation is difficult, ask your student if they know anyone out of town for that time and rent their apartment. My son got us a huge two-bedroom apartment for $100 per night when modest hotel rooms were charging $500 per night. It fit my family of three perfectly, and it had a kitchen, amenities, and a resident cat! Be respectful that you are in another person's home, and this can be a great, affordable option.
J. in Oregon

Cleaning Drapes

We bought an older home with lined antique satin drapes. The tops were quite dirty. I received a price quote of $2 per pleat, which would have been around $40 if I had used the dry cleaner in our neighborhood. So, I took the washing machine plunge! I filled my washer with cold water and added a small amount of the liquid detergent. I added the drapes one section at a time, let them soak for three to four minutes, and then agitated them for two minutes on the gentle cycle. They sure came out clean. I put them in the dryer and tumbled them with a fabric softener sheet for just five to seven minutes. Then I ironed them with a steam iron.

I did this with these drapes once a year for many years. Last year, they were sent to their reward when the cotton lining (not the drapes) had big problems. I easily saved $500 or more in dry cleaning, which more than paid for the new drapes (the new kind that can be easily washed)!

Additional TDS Resource: More on cleaning drapes

Easy Hand Painted Borders

I saw a beautiful hand-painted border in a decorating magazine. I wanted to try it but was afraid of getting done and not liking the results. If it meant repainting the whole room, I wasn't willing to risk it.

Then it occurred to me that I could use my daughter's washable watercolors. I did use a real artist brush. And I did make a few errors, which I just washed off and started over. It only took a few minutes to complete the whole border!

I had planned on painting over with latex, but it looks so good I'm going to leave it. In a year or two, I can wash it off and do something different. The room got a whole new look for just a few dollars!

Cheap and Easy Garden Mulch

Cardboard boxes make good garden mulch and are also a cheap alternative to landscape cloth. I get free large packing boxes from local retailers after they get shipments. Once the boxes are cut open and laid flat, they work well to prevent weed growth and retain water in the garden. They also work under bark mulch in the lawn. Eventually, the boxes break down, which is good for the soil, and also avoids the problem of having shredded pieces of landscape cloth all over.
Sue M.

Fruit & Veggie Storage

I just read the tip about green bags not ripening bananas or tomatoes faster than brown bags, zipper bags, etc. The purpose of green bags is not to ripen fruit and vegetables but to keep them fresher longer. I have been using them for the past three years and would not stop using them unless they were no longer able to be bought anywhere on this planet. Grapes stay fresh for three weeks or more. I rinse my bags out and reuse, and they still keep food fresher than any other method I have ever tried.

Additional TDS Resource: More on alternatives to green bags

Apartment Laundry Solutions

I was an apartment dweller who had to drag my family's laundry to a laundromat once a week. Here's how to cut the costs and better utilize your time.

  • Do not buy fluffy deluxe bath towels; thinner ones take less space in the washing machine and also take less time to dry, while they still "do the job." Also consider using one bath towel per person per week. You are clean from your shower, and you just need to dry off.

  • Consider using (double or) triple loaders. Not only is it cheaper, but also it uses 3/4 of the "recommended" amount of laundry detergent, which is enough to get your clothes clean.

  • Do not overload dryers. You will save time and money if you use two dryers for 15 minutes, instead of one dryer for 45 minutes. About 10 minutes into the 15-minute drying cycle, I stop the dryer to pull out the dry items (sheets, cotton shirts, etc.) Thus, the final five minutes is usually sufficient to dry the remaining damp items because with less clothes in the dryer, there is better heat circulation.

  • While your clothes are in the washing machine, don't sit there and watch the clothes go around. Bring your checkbook and pay bills. If there are stores nearby, do errands or get gas in your car. If you really want to watch TV at the laundromat, then bring coupons to cut or items that need minor sewing repairs.

  • Lastly, avoid doing your laundry on Saturdays, which is the busiest day of the week in laundromats. There are many laundromats that are open late, even 24 hours, and you will not have to wait for machines to become available.


Additional TDS Resource: More on apartment laundry solutions

Cleaning Fireplace Glass

I have found the best and least expensive way to clean the inside of fireplace glass. I spray oven cleaner all over it and let this sit a few minutes. Then I use newspapers to wipe it clean. Finally I use glass cleaner to make it shiny on both sides.

Skin Soft Scrub

I have very sensitive, acne-prone skin. Exfoliating is important to keep skin healthy. But, my dermatologist said that washcloths and exfoliating cleansers, like apricot scrubs, can be too harsh. Plus, they are expensive.

She recommended that a few time per week when I wash my face to put a little baking soda into my hand and mix with my normal soap. The baking soda acts as a very gentle scrub. I've found that a just a spoonful is about right.

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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