This Week’s Readers’ Tips

by Dollar Stretcher Reader Contributors

Readers Tips photo

Each week we publish a new batch of money-saving tips from our frugal readers that can help you stretch your dollars and live better…for less.

Gift Card Extender

With people being afraid to shop and unable to visit, I received a number of gift cards for Christmas. In the past I looked at them as ‘found money’ and spent them quickly. This year I’ve decided to treat them just like I had bought them myself. My plan is to wait for sales to use them. That way I’ll get the most out of each card. Seems smart to me!

Co-Signer Caution

I work for a major lender, and it amazes me how few people consider whether they could handle the payment if they had to before co-signing a loan. My advice for co-signers is never co-sign. Let the person know that it is against your beliefs to agree to pay anyone else’s debts. And that is what you do when you co-sign.

In my opinion, the right way to handle the situation when someone comes to you wanting a co-signer is to tell them that before you co-sign you’ll give them $100 (only if they are someone you are seriously tempted to sign for). Then help them see that debt on a car is going to be 100% their debt, not yours.
Debbie Z.

Protecting Wood Kitchen Utensils

Once or twice a year, I give all my wooden utensils, cutting boards, and chopping block a thorough oil bath to replenish the moisture lost through frequent washing and sterilizing. I usually use vegetable oil.

Simply smear them with the oil and leave to dry. Sometimes a few coats are needed and drying time can take a day or two. I find this bit of time to be worth the investment, as I prefer the wood utensils and kitchen supplies to plastic ones.

Planning a Party This Year?

My son is a senior in high school. If we can get past this COVID thing, we want to throw a graduation party. So I bought discounted 2021 New Year’s decorations. Anything with just the year on it will work perfectly for his party. You probably could use them for other parties during the year. Gotta be cheaper than buying stuff specifically for graduation parties!

Annual Insurance Review

An annual review of your possessions and how you insure them is a good idea. One thing to remember is to look at how you are storing “irreplaceables”, like any family photos (you might want a fireproof box) or items you are keeping for sentimental value only (like Grandma’s coffee cup).

Insurance is not going to be able to replace those items beyond used item value. For example, Grandma’s quilt is just an old quilt to them. It is not any more valuable because love was sewn into every stitch.

Healthy Snacks

This one takes a little preparation at first, but afterwards, it is worth it. I make salad for a whole week, and then have it as a snack whenever I want something healthy. My basic recipe includes salad greens (no iceberg), a little bit of shredded cabbage, a few carrots chopped fine by my food chopper, and a bit of broccoli chopped fine.

The secret to keeping it fresh in the refrigerator for a week is to be sure that you have as little moisture on the salad as possible. Be sure when you prepare it to shake the leaves free of as much moisture as possible. I leave a few paper towels in the bottom of my salad bowl, and then cover the whole salad bowl with plastic wrap.

I love this as a healthy snack. I make a big bowl because it goes really fast. If I want, I can add “wet” ingredients later (tomato, cucumber, etc.), or I often just eat it as is.

Instant Draft Dodgers

I don’t know anyone who’s good at sewing. So I made up a simple draft dodger for the bottom of doors. I use an old pillowcase and put clothes that were slated for Goodwill into the pillowcases. Tie a couple of strings around the pillowcase to hold everything in place. When it gets dirty, I throw the whole thing into the washer and dryer.

Double Duty Fire Starters

When my paper shredder is filled and needing emptying, I empty it into a basket kept for our wood stove. When I’m starting fires, the shredded paper ignites fast with smaller wood and my fire is started. Burning shredded paper with personal information is a sure way of preventing it from falling into the wrong hands of identity seeking individuals.

Using shredded paper is simple, free and safe as long as a little is used and not enough to cause a chimney fire. For years this has worked well for us and we’re not buying any form of retail fire starters, which saves money.

Reusing Baggies

I have been washing and reusing resealable bags for a long time now (although I don’t reuse bags that have held raw meat). Recently, I discovered that these bags can be washed in a dishwasher. Turn the bag inside out and use plastic clothespins to clip it to the top rack. I recommend turning the bag upside down to clip it, so it does not become full of water and come loose from the clothespin. It’s a great method and it saves time and money!
Karen B.

additional TDS resource: Eliminate Disposables and Cut Costs

Affordable Yarn

I enjoy creating and sewing gifts for family and friends. Though the price of fabric can be daunting sometimes. I look for good sales and buy clearance when it fits what I’m planning to do. Recently I wanted to make something out of wool. The price on the bolt was way beyond my budget so I put the idea aside until I was shopping at a local thrift shop and I saw men’s wool suit coats. I looked through the racks for ones that were the tag color of the day marking them at $1 each. I also came across a rack of women’s clothes reduced to $1 each and found 3 wool skirts in the color scheme I wanted. 

Since this wool will be used in a patchwork design, the amount of fabric I yielded from each piece doesn’t matter to me. I paid $5 for the fabric to use in a gift instead of the double-digit price on the bolt at the fabric store. I’m thinking of looking again next time for another color scheme to have on hand for future projects. 

additional TDS resource: 9 Ways to Extend the Life of Clothing

No Heat!

If you turn on your heat and nothing happens, don’t call a repairman until you’ve tried a few things first. The first obvious thing is to make sure that your thermostat is set for heat with the right temperature. Next, try replacing the battery in the thermostat. While the cover is off, gently blow on it to remove any dust that could be blocking a contact. Finally, check the breaker. If it’s off, turn it on. If it’s on, turn it off for a minute to reset any memory in the thermostat. Sometimes a reboot is all that’s needed. If none of those things work, call the repairman!

Easier Snow Shoveling

Spraying non-stick cooking oil on a snow shovel keeps snow from sticking and makes shoveling a lot easier.
Amy and Rex in Bozeman, MT

Reducing My Debts

In just 3 years I’ve eliminated $11,500 in debts. I did it by taking 5% of my take home pay and adding it my payments. I started with the highest interest rate. I thought that it would be tough living on less, but I found that all it took was giving up a delivery pizza or three each month. Now that I’m without any debts except my mortgage, I’m going to apply the extra to that. Can you imagine owning your home without a mortgage?

additional TDS resource: Paying Down Credit Card Debt Faster

A Solution for Big Bills

I got tired of always scrambling to find money to pay for my homeowners insurance and taxes. So last year I decided to do something about it. I figured out how much I’d need and had 1/26th automatically deducted from each paycheck into a separate bank account for my big bills. I was short at first and had to make up the difference, but this year I should have enough for each bill as it comes due. It may not save me any money, but it sure does make paying those bills less stressfull!

additional TDS resource: Reduce Your Debt With a Sinking Fund

Heating Your Home

It can be a good idea to save money by keeping your thermostat as low as possible.  However, I find that I keep my heating bills in check simply by managing passive solar energy.  I open all blinds and raise the ones I can, letting the sun stream in during the day. As soon as the sun goes down, I close all the blinds to trap as much heat as possible.  I also lower the thermostat at night when I am in bed. It’s easier to breathe in a cooler room anyway.  If my feet get cold, I wear slipper socks so that if I get up in the middle of the night, I don’t slip on bare floors. 

If you are an older person, beware of lowering the thermostat too much.  Older bodies often don’t retain heat as well as younger bodies.  I find that keeping the house at 68 during the day and using a small space heater if I get chilly works well and keeps the bills down.

Finally, if you still have trouble paying the larger bills, talk to your fuel company. Some have payment plans that allow you to spread out the cost more evenly over the year.  Some electric cooperatives even have funds to help needy people so their power won’t be shut off. 
Barbara in SC

additional TDS resource: 12 Frugal Home Winterization Tips

Best Way to Clean Silver

Line a bowl with foil (shiny side up) and add baking soda and boiling water. Place your silver into the bowl and leave it there for 1/2 hour. Rinse off the soda.
Leah A.

additional TDS resource: 7 Household Baking Soda Savings

Flyaway Hair

I hate what the heat does to my skin and hair. They get so dry and uncomfortable. My skin cracks and my hair is full of static electricity. I use skin cream on my hands, arms, legs and feet. For my hair I’ve found that using a metal dog comb to comb my hair gets out any tangles and takes out the static electricity!

Storing Leftover Gift Wrap

While wrapping up the gift wrap, I discovered that the empty tube from one roll made an excellent container for the half used rolls. I sliced it open lengthwise, opened it up and slid the other roll in the tube. No tape, no unwound rolls. Why didn’t I think of this years ago?

Warm Bedtime

Last year our electric blanket quit working. I wanted to wait for the end of season sale to replace it. So I came up with this solution to warm up the bed before I get in. It worked so well that I didn’t bother replacing that electric blanket! Take a washcloth and lightly moisten it. Put it in the microwave for just a few seconds. Usually less than 30. It’ll come out dry but warm to the touch. Put in under the covers where your feet will be. You’d be surprised how much warmer your bed will seem.

For the Birds

When making popped corn, use the unpopped kernels for bird feed. I use them with peanut butter and seeds on pinecones for bird treats!
Teresa M.

Do you have a money or time-saving tip you’d like to share? Just click here to submit your suggestion.

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