Readers' Tips

Heating Unused Rooms

We're retired, but we don't want to downsize. We love our spacious home, but a spacious home can mean big heating bills. Therefore, we've purchased a room heater for our family room and bedroom. Those are the two most used rooms in the house. We set our central heat at about 60 degrees (or even 55 at night). The family room heater is on during the day. The bedroom one at night. Our bills are tiny for a big home!

Additional TDS Resource: Where to find free firewood

Can I DIY?

Every project looks easy on TV, but they don't always turn out that way. Before deciding whether to try a DIY project, I always check YouTube and also do a search for articles on the topic. So far, this has helped me save money on the projects I can do, and I have avoided wasting money on projects that are above my ability.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on "Home Repair"

A Special Christmas Gift

Each year, my kids and I buy groceries for the local food bank. We bump it up a few dollars for inflation from the year before. This year, we'll spend $42. It's a good reminder to the kids (now in their teens) that everyone doesn't have it easy. I've noticed that it tends to keep their Christmas wish list more realistic, too. I'd recommend it for every family.

Roof Inspection

After the first snowfall of the year, I check my roof. If there are any spots with little or no snow, I note where they are and then check the attic to see what's causing the hot spot on the roof. Often I'll find that I need to add a little extra insulation to keep heat in the house. The first year I checked I found three spots. Last year, I found only one spot. This year it looks like I've gotten all the bad places!

Better Ground Meats

If you speak with a butcher, they'll tell you to pay attention to what kind of meat you're buying. For instance, ground turkey could be any meaty part of the turkey. If you get ground turkey breast, you know exactly what you're getting. The same thing is true for beef. I look for ground chuck or ground round.

Additional TDS Resource: How to stretch ground beef

My Own Deli Counter

I put my electric carving knife to good use. Whenever I make a roast or bake a ham, I get one that's larger than we need. Instead of letting leftovers go bad in the fridge, I slice what's left for lunchmeat. Most is frozen. My lunchmeat costs a fraction of what it would cost at the deli counter, and I never have to wait for them to call my number!

Additional TDS Resource: How to reduce the cost of lunchmeat

Free Gym Membership?

Before you sign up for a gym, contact your insurance company or the HR representative where you work. Some plans pay for gym memberships. It only takes a minute and could save you money while you get in shape.

My New Year's Financial Fast

I don't do New Year's resolutions, but each year I begin a financial fast on January 1st. Except for things that I absolutely cannot control (like utilities, gas for my car so I can work, minimal groceries), I refuse to spend money for as long as I can. Usually I can go between 15 and 20 days. I use the money I save to pay the Christmas bills that always come due in January. My family used to complain, but in the last two years, they've actually joined in.

Family Gatherings

Last year, money was tight, so my extended family decided to keep presents to just a few. Instead of unwrapping presents, we each brought old family photos and passed them around. Some were from when we were small and others went back to our parents' and grandparents' generations. They triggered a lot of memories and stories. If you're tired of party games, you might want to try it.

Giving Gift Cards

Gift cards make shopping easy, but everyone knows what a credit card sized package under the tree means. This year, I took some of the plastic cases that CDs come in and used them as carriers. I cut out a page from a catalog or picture I printed to make an insert for the container. I chose pictures that represented what I thought they might buy with the gift card. By doing this, they will know that I was thinking of them and not just taking the easy way out!

Additional TDS Resource: More on wrapping gift cards

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