Readers' Tips


How to Clean Copper Pots and Pans

Ketchup works wonders on copper pots! Put on a thick layer and then wash off. This is just another use for all of those extra ketchup packets from fast food restaurants!
Brenda

editor's note: Visit here for more on how to clean copper pots and pan.

Before You Travel

Did you know that your cell phone can make a trip easier and more enjoyable? You can use it to take and store pictures of your driver's license and passport. This is very handy if they turn up missing. Take a picture of the inside of your packed bag. Now you have proof of its contents if it's lost. Have trouble remembering where you parked your car at the airport or theme park? A picture of the nearest location marker solves the problem. And, that's not to mention all the available apps that can help you find the cheapest gas or nearby restaurants!
Sergio

Air Fresheners

Scented rocks make a great air freshener. Mix 1/2 cup salt and 1/2 cup flour in a bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon of a favorite essential oil, 2/3 cup boiling water, and a few drops of a food coloring to create a desired shade. Blend all ingredients, form into balls, and allow to dry.

For the bathroom, dampen a cotton swab with your favorite perfume or cologne and swab the inside of a toilet paper roll. Each time the toilet paper is rolled, a fresh scent will fill the room.

Another way to purify the air is to dampen a cotton ball with pure vanilla extract, place it in a dish and set the dish in an odorous area of the house. A dish with three cotton balls is great for the living room. A room in which heavy smoking occurs might require another dish.
P.K.

Additional TDS Resource: More on homemade air fresheners

Meal Prep

I chop, slice, and dice a bunch of veggies shortly after my return from the grocery store. I also wash apples, pears, strawberries, grapes, etc. Then they go into the fridge.

When I get home from work it's much quicker to prepare meals. The onions, carrots, and bell peppers are already chopped. A stir-fry only takes minutes if everything is already cut. It's not a huge time saver, but often just knowing that I don't have to cut anything is enough to prevent me from calling the pizza delivery guy!
Heather

Shady Characters

We live in an apartment that has a balcony that faces west. It used to get very hot in the afternoon and much of that heat ended up in our apartment. Last summer, we installed a shade at the outer edge of the balcony. We can raise it when we want. In the afternoon, it's down and blocks the sun. This cut our air conditioning bills a bunch!
Shiloh

Bug Patrol

I buy fresh bay leaves every year and place them in all my kitchen cupboards and drawers, closets, and out-of-season clothing bins. It is a safe, clean method to keep bugs out of food and clothing.
Denise B.

A Willing Subject

Here's a way to make some extra money if you live near a university. Call the Psychology Department to ask if there are any ongoing experiments that need human subjects. The pay isn't huge, but it's pretty easy work. Once you get on their list, you'll get calls asking if you're available when they have an experiment. Many months, I can pick up an extra $50 or so.
Ally

Caret-less

Many of our friends struggle with debt. Most of us have student loans that we're trying to repay. So when my husband and I got engaged, we decided that we wouldn't buy an expensive diamond engagement ring. We thought it was better to put our energies toward loving each other instead of worrying about how we'd pay the bills.

We've been married a few years now and I'm so glad we made that choice. Yes, our wedding rings are simple. But we're quickly digging our way out of debt, and our relationship has never been stronger!
Maylissa

Moths!

We had a terrible time with moths. It seemed they were taking over the house. I now take one hour each month (or every other month) to take all foodstuffs out of my cupboards and wipe them down with the paper towels that I use for the liner. This saves time and money. I then reline the cupboards with paper towels and put a cotton ball or two that has 10 to 15 drops of eucalyptus oil on it. I also put these moistened cotton balls in the plastic container where I keep our bulk bag of rice, in the coat closets, on the shelves where I keep my yarn, in my sweater box, etc. The eucalyptus oil is very inexpensive. I buy NOW® brand at my health food store for $3.95 for one ounce and it lasts about two years. Although I get an occasional moth, it is usually because I let my cotton dry out, and as soon as I replenish, my moth problem is solved. This makes my house smell nice and clean. There are other oils that work as well, including lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, and citrus oils.
Sharon

Additional TDS Resource: More on how to handle a moth invasion

Easy Silver Solution

If you have silver, you've dealt with tarnish. Most of us don't use our silver often because we hate to clean the tarnish. So here's an easy solution. Boil water in a pan large enough to accommodate your silver. Add a tablespoon or so of baking soda. Turn off the heat. Wrap the silver in aluminum foil and drop it into the water. Then let it sit until cool enough to handle. Remove from water, open the foil, and the tarnish will be gone.
Arlene

Save the Water Heater

Is your water heater over five years old? You can increase its life by replacing something called a sacrificial anode. It's an easy DIY job that I do myself. You can find tutorial videos on YouTube. The anodes can be purchased at hardware or plumbing stores for about $20. This is much cheaper than hiring a plumber to replace a water heater!
Cheryl

Spring Clean Your Deck

Vinegar is wonderful for cleaning a dirty deck! I use it straight. It cuts the dirt much better than any deck cleaner I have ever used! And it's cheaper!
Sonya

Grouting Ceramic Tile

Here's a trick I learned about ceramic tile. Instead of using a grout float, use a cake decorating bag to fill in the grout lines. You won't be pushing so much grout around and will save a lot of time. Check your hardware store. They may sell grout bags. You'll want to check the tip size. Some are too big for most home jobs.
John

Quality Paint for Less

I have worked for two different home improvement stores that sell paint. While the brand of paint really doesn't matter (in my personal opinion), it's the level and finish that makes the difference. Many stores offer different quality levels of paint with the cheapest being cheap! It rubs off and doesn't last longer than the next tenant renting the space, which is why many landlords use it. Next, there are the middle and high-grade paints. They are both fairly equal as to the quality.

Next, you want to look at the finishes. There are four main finishes and each has its own benefit. Flat doesn't shine or reflect light and gives a warm appearance. It doesn't wash well unless you get the flat enamel, which may cost a bit more. Egg shell has very little shine with a bit of enamel for easy cleaning. Some stores don't carry this finish. Semi-gloss is very kid friendly because it's easy to clean. However, it may not have as warm and fuzzy a feeling because it does have sheen to it. Gloss or high gloss is easy to clean and great for trim, but it's very shiny and not recommended for walls. Generally, the higher the sheen, the more cost of the paint due to the amount of enamel used.

Today, most stores that sell paint have a spectrometer that will match any color paint you want. Just take in a sample that is about the size of a quarter and they should be able to match it. Just make sure to check a dried sample piece before you leave the store!
Alison in Virginia

Additional TDS Resource: More on quality paint at bargain prices

We Have a Winner!

Do you like to enter contests but think the odds are stacked against you? Try entering local radio call-ins. I've worked for radio stations, and advertisers often want to do a promotion that includes a giveaway. Sometimes they give away tickets, trips, or even cash. You'd be surprised how few entries are received. I can't enter, but I've encouraged friends and they've done great! Try it. You might be the next big winner!
Cate

Garage Saling

I really don't like bargaining at garage sales. It's just not my style. But I have learned to ask, "What will you take for this item?" Often, I'll get a "negotiated" price!
Jocelyn


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