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.

Fixing an Out-of-Balance Ceiling Fan

We had a ceiling fan years ago that seemed ‘unbalanced’ and made a lot of noise. We added several pennies (or you could do small weights), taping them down to one blade at a time until we found the one that was throwing off the balance. We cleaned the top of the blade very well and duct-taped the pennies on the correct blade. It literally cost us a few pennies to fix the problem rather than going out to buy a new one. I believed we ended up using 5 pennies.

additional TDS resource: DIY Ceiling Fan Cleaning and Maintenance

Simple Instant Espresso at Home

Since last year I’ve been working from home. One thing that I really missed was my daily espresso. After a bit of experimenting I came up with this. I use any good ground coffee and add a tablespoon of sweetened condensed milk. There is even a low-fat version. This will make any cup of coffee delicious. And a can of sweetened condensed milk lasts a long time and costs very little. Who said you can’t get your caffeine fix at home?

additional TDS resource: 10 Things You Can Do With Leftover Coffee That Saves You Money

Healthy Doggie Treats

We all know how healthy broccoli is for us, but did you know that most dogs like it too? When I am preparing broccoli or cauliflower, I slice the stems into “coins,” stick them in a baggie, and pop them in the freezer. My dogs love the “frozen treats” and come running when they hear “bag noise” coming from the freezer!

additional TDS resource: 7 Simple Affordable Pet Treats

Family Gathering Fun

It won’t be long before we’re celebrating the holidays. Last Thanksgiving we did something that was really fun. We played Bingo. But my Mom added a twist. She had wrapped little prizes for each winner. Some were thrift shop items. Some were family memories. Still others were silly things. We had a great time playing. Can’t wait for this year’s family gathering.

additional TDS resource: Frugal Family Reunion Food and Fun

Saving Barbershop Bucks

Last year I was afraid to go out and get a haircut. But I hated feeling unkempt. So I asked my wife to shave my neck like the barber did. She used my regular razor. It only took a few minutes and I felt like new! I’m back visiting the barber now, but I stretch my visits by a few weeks by having my wife shave my neck.

additional TDS resource: DIY Home Haircuts

Little Luxuries

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Selling Online?

I wonder how many know this? I got slammed with a 1099 this year for my 2020 online sales. They count your shipping (which you use to buy labels through eBay and you don’t ‘receive’ this money) as well as your fees for both eBay and Paypal as INCOME. At the end of year, you have to sort all this out as you will get a 1099 for FAR more than what you actually realized in sales. You get a 1099 for almost twice what is truly your profit.

I’m in Virginia and was one of just a few states apparently that got a 1099. Going forward, it seems everyone will get one. Just FYI. Luckily I was ready, but stopped selling on eBay after 20 years as it is no longer worthwhile. The long-stated rule of $20,000 with a minimum of 200 transactions will no longer be the standard. It was hard in recent years as other places (Amazon, etc.) give free shipping and made it increasingly hard to compete.
F. from Virginia

additional TDS resource: 10 Steps to a Profitable Online Sale

Save on Cleaning Supplies

One of my most frugal sources for cleaning supplies is an estate sale! Estate sales occur when someone has passed on, or moved to an assisted living facility, so they are different than a garage or yard sale. Unlike a garage sale, the entire contents of a home may be for sale, including the contents of the kitchen/laundry room cupboards.

Most people go to estate sales for household items and collectibles. Not me. I go for cleaning supplies. I just got back from a sale where I bought unopened bottles of Murphy’s Oil Soap, Castille soap, Oxy-Clean, Febreeze, and many other name-brand items for which I paid 25 or 50 cents apiece. I probably saved at least $25 for a half hour invested.

I do check to make sure that a house is clean and well kept before buying. But if it is, I have no trouble buying a half used box of dishwashing detergent.

additional TDS resource: 5 Reasons to Go to an Estate Sale (Even If You’re Not a Collector)

Preventing Clothes Line Color Fade

I use our solar-powered dryer (clothesline) whenever possible. To keep bright and dark colors from fading when using the clothesline, I simply turn the item inside out before pinning it to the line. That way, the wrong side of the item fades instead of the right side.
Pam in South Carolina

additional TDS resource: How to Air Dry Clothes without Stiffness

Family Digital Recipes

Years ago my Mom made copies of Grandma’s recipe book for each of us. I love it. But I really like to use my iPad when I’m cooking. So I’m taking the time to scan all of Grandma’s recipes and put them in a file. At Thanksgiving I’m going to give copies of the file to my brother and sisters. Won’t they be surprised!

additional TDS resource: 15 Frugal Food-Rescuing Tips from Grandma

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Healthy Comparison Shopping

Comparison shopping usually amounts to comparing per unit costs of different products. But what about the nutrition you get for your money? This idea hit me when comparing two jars of tahini (sesame paste). Although the whole sesame variety cost almost 1.5 times as much as the plain one, ounce for ounce it had twice as much iron and almost three times as much calcium.

In the long run, we buy food for nutrition, so this is probably the best way to comparison shop.
Leah A.

additional TDS resource: Balancing Healthy Eating with Affordable Grocery Bills

Save On Your Mortgage

Our mortgage rate is low, but we still want to pay it off early. So we add about 10% of our mortgage to the payment each month. We make sure that the extra is allocated to principal (not a prepayment of next month’s payment). That works out to more than one extra payment each year. We figure that even if rates stay low that having no mortgage is like a zero percent loan!

additional TDS resource: 5 Ways to Save On Your Mortgage

Using Up Cheap Produce

My grocery store sells sacks of produce for $2 per bag. Some of the produce is well past its prime, but a lot of it is not. I’ll eat it immediately or freeze the excess for later. These fruits and veggies are especially good in breakfast smoothies.
Hazel in Texas

Reducing Funeral Expenses

When my stepfather passed away, my mother picked out the casket that she wanted, along with the colors. I then went online and found the manufacturer and other places selling the same casket. With a printout, the funeral home price-matched the online store, and I saved my mom $500 at a time when she needed it most.

Also, please remind people that as a veteran of the US military, there are funeral options available, as long as they have an honorable discharge. Since my stepfather was a WWII vet, she saved quite a bit. This information is available on the US veteran’s website at

additional TDS resource: 15 Ways to Reduce Funeral Expenses

A Trick That Can Protect Your Dishwasher

I work for a large appliance company and was talking to another co-worker one day about dishwashers. I mentioned how I always put in barely-scraped-off plates in my dishwasher, and how my grandmother always washes off her dishes before she puts them in the dishwasher. My co-worker told me that they had found out in the lab that in life tests of “no dishes” versus “dirty dishes,” the “dirty dishes” actually increase the life of your appliance. She explained that it was due to the oils in the salad dressings, gravies, etc. These actually “oil” the working parts in your dishwasher. She recommended that my grandmother place a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in the bottom of her dishwasher twice a month before running the dishwasher (as well as her normal dishwasher detergent).

additional TDS resource: Maintain Your Appliances and Save

Stop Wasting Onions

I have had great success in freezing chopped or minced onions and using them in soups, casseroles, meat loaf, etc. You don’t even need to thaw them. Just throw them in the soup pot! I buy huge bags of onions off the day-old vegetable table, chop them up, and put them in Seal-a-Meal bags by the cup and half cup for easy use.
Dona in Denton, TX

additional TDS resource: 12-Hour Slow Cooker Recipes

Affordable Emergency Meals

When preparing for storms, etc., buy the MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) that are now available for civilians. They can be eaten cold or you can buy heating units for the meals. They are delicious and cost less than $5 per meal. You can find them on Amazon or other places online. Most have a shelf life of years so you don’t have to worry about spoilage.

Saving on Next Year’s Garden

I love to vegetable garden. I always have more than I can use. I got permission to take my extra produce to church on Sunday. I set up on my tailgate and offer it. People can contribute anything they want (or can afford). My excess produce doesn’t go to waste and I collect enough to pay for next years new plants.

A Shampoo Savings Secret

I was watching a TV show that was carrying a segment on hair care products, and they told me what I had already figured out myself. (I just love validation by experts!) Shampoo is basically just detergent (soap) and the cheap stuff cleans just as well as the expensive stuff.

Buy inexpensive shampoo, and use the money saved to “splurge” on a good conditioner. By a good conditioner, I am referring to the medium- to high-end brands you find at your local Walmart or drug store. They really do work just as well as the insanely expensive stuff sold at hair salons, and once you find the right one for you, your hair will be just as soft and shiny as if you had spent a lot of money!
Charlene C.

A Simple Savings Trick

One thing that can really help you “trick yourself into saving” is, if you can use automatic deposit for your paycheck, to have the amount you have determined to save taken out and deposited in savings at that time. If you don’t use auto deposit, just be sure and deposit it in your savings at the same time you deposit or cash the rest.

I have found that when I do it this way, I don’t miss the money. It is never “in my hand” so to speak, so I don’t count on it for anything. That way, I am not as tempted to take a little out here and there. I have learned to live on what is leftover after my taxes and savings are taken out!

And it is amazing how fast it will add up if you are consistently putting money in… and leaving it there.

Do you have a money or time-saving tip you’d like to share? Just email your tip to

Little Luxuries

Subscribe to Dollar Stretcher Tips, our free twice-weekly newsletter filled with tips just like these to help you live better for less

Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE!

Your Email:

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