Readers' Tips

Do I Still Need to Have Paper Checks for My Checking Account?

My husband's company still requires a voided paper check, along with a completed form, to make a change to his direct deposit. We haven't changed credit unions in years, but we did recently change what percentage of his salary we wanted direct deposited to the savings account. We needed a voided paper check for that.

We've been out at restaurants, stores, etc., and on rare occasion, their card machine isn't working. It is nice to have a checkbook in my purse for emergencies like these. Plus, it is slightly safer than carrying extra cash.

Some businesses will pass the credit card processing fee on to the consumer. When we pay our property taxes, they assess a 5% fee if we pay by credit card or debit card, and it is waved if we pay with a check.
Cheryl B. in Texas

editor's note: Visit here for more on paper checks.

Lawn and Garden Tool Storage

You've probably heard that you can keep your garden hand tools from rusting this winter by storing them in a bucket of sand, but that won't work for big items like lawn mower blades or pruning saws. For these items, you should coat them with used motor oil or WD-40®. If oxygen can't get to the metal, then rust can't form. A few minutes now will eliminate work next spring.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on "Lawn Mower Maintenance"

Pet Urine Odors

If your pet has an accident in the house, here's a way to prevent urine odors. Mix two tablespoons of white vinegar and two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid into a quart of water. Spray it on the spot while the spot is still damp. It'll take away the odor. It's cheap and does a great job.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on removing pet urine stains

Cheaper Bath Towels

I buy cheap bath towels. I know that they're thinner and that's why I buy them. They're thick enough to dry me off, but because they're thinner, I can get more in a load of wash and they take less time to dry. Plush towels might feel good, but they're heavier to lug to the laundry room and don't do a better job of getting me dry!

Homeowners Insurance Warning

In most parts of the country, home prices have been on a roller coaster ride the last two decades. If you've owned your home for any period of time, you really should make sure you have enough coverage for your home. It would be terrible to have your home burn down and find out that its insured amount was based on its 2012 value. It's also a good idea to make sure that you have the right coverages, too!

Additional TDS Resource: Find everything you need to know about homeowners insurance

Readers' Tips

Check DIY First

Many service people are experts at the add-on sale. For instance, when you have your oil changed, they'll offer to change your cabin filter for $25. I happen to know that if you release one screw in the glove box, you can replace it in five minutes for less than $10. Therefore, before I agree to any add-on service, I check the price of the part online and check YouTube to see how hard of a DIY job it is. I can check it on my phone in just a few minutes while they're doing the service I already agreed to having done.

Additional TDS Resource: 10 ways to prevent non-essential spending

Fun Meals

Buying rice in bulk has helped my grocery bills, but it can be bland if I serve it more than once or twice a week. Therefore, I've gotten creative and learned to spice it up. If I have leftover soup, I add it to the rice the next meal. Another option is to add the various meat drippings from chicken, pork, beef, or even bacon. Mixing in some leftover or frozen veggies is another way to dress rice up. It's an easy way to cut costs and mealtime boredom at the same time!

Additional TDS Resource: 15 things you don't want to get caught doing in your kitchen

My ATM Schedule

One way to avoid ATM fees is to schedule trips to the ATM. I allow myself two trips to the ATM each week on Monday and Friday. I go to the one from my bank, so I don't pay any extra fees. A second advantage is that it helps me to control my spending. I'm a little less likely to stop for a candy bar if I'm running low on cash. This is an easy way to increase my savings!

Additional TDS Resource: More on avoiding fees

Family Halloween Costume Ideas

If you're looking for a Halloween costume idea that works for the whole family, try this. Dress up as Christmas presents. All you need is an appropriate size box, some spray paint, and ribbon. Cut holes for your head and arms, and paint the box a holiday color. If you want to get fancy, cover the box in aluminum foil. Glue ribbon to the box and you're all set! The biggest problem you'll have is finding space in the car for all the boxes on the way to the party.

Additional TDS Resource: More on family Halloween costumes

Really Saving

If you don't use the money you save to reduce debt or add to an emergency, college or retirement fund, are you really saving money? It's great to reduce what you spend at restaurants, but if you just spend it somewhere else, you're not really saving. One way to solve that problem is to note how much you've saved and either add it to your debt payment or immediately add it to your savings account.

Additional TDS Resource: How to pay off debt faster with less interest

Nasty Stove Hood Filters

Your stovetop hood filter can get nasty quickly. This is especially true if you do any frying. I've found an easy way to clean it. I melt the grease off. I get a large pan and add a thick layer of newspaper to it. I put the filter in the pan. I set the oven on 150 degrees and put the pan in the oven. In a few minutes, the grease melts and drips down onto the newspaper. Once it cools, I run it through a cycle in the dishwasher. It's that easy!

Additional TDS Resource: More on cleaning range hood filters

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