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.

Cheaper Kitchen Cabinets

Quite by accident, we discovered that our local building supply store sells their scratched, slightly damaged, or discontinued display kitchen and bath items at a huge markdown. We were redoing our laundry room at the time and bought the wall and floor cabinets we needed for less than $200 total! The styles aren’t exactly the same, but by checking often, we were able to buy cabinets that are the same color and go very well together.

Ask your local building supply store what they do with their damaged merchandise, and if they sell them, you might find exactly what you need for just a few dollars!

additional TDS resource: Renew Your Kitchen Cabinets for $100

Do You Really Need Storage?

When we moved to take a new job, we opted to rent for awhile until we learned more about the area and various neighborhoods. We owned a large refrigerator and the apartment we rented had one already. When I checked into a storage unit where we planned to store the fridge and some boxes of other stuff, I discovered that, with a year’s worth of payments, we would have been able to purchase a “new” fridge just like the one we had. Instead, we asked the apartment complex to move out their fridge so we could use ours, and we opted to get rid of enough stuff so that we didn’t need extra storage. We saved over a $1200 on storage fees that year for stuff that we didn’t really need to store after all.

So think of what you have stashed at the local storage. Does the contents’ value exceed the rental cost? What about two or three years of rental fees? Is the stuff’s value still

Cheaper Produce

Recently, I was at my local grocery store and noticed that the produce manager was throwing away several tomatoes, which looked perfectly fine to me. I approached her to ask her about it, and she said that they had spots or had broken a bit. After talking for awhile, she agreed to save all her “bad” tomatoes for me. A few days later, I came back and she had a whole case for me, along with a few peppers, etc. After sorting through and cleaning them up, I was able to make nearly 20 pints of salsa and spaghetti sauce! All for free!

Some of the veggies were beyond help, but the majority of the veggies were just fine after cutting out spots, etc. The produce manager explained that it wasn’t cost efficient to go through and “fix” them for sale, so they just tossed them! It doesn’t hurt to ask. This lady was more than happy to save them for me!
Kat of Iowa

More Efficient A/C

I recently bought aluminum insulating tape and taped over the joints on our furnace ducts. This is not duct tape. Duct tape dries and cracks. This is found in the heating section at the hardware store, and just covers the joints and stops air from leaking out of the ducts.

As soon as we did this, we noticed a marked improvement in airflow to our upstairs bedrooms. Our daughter’s room never was warm in winter or cool in summer, and now her room is much more comfortable. We paid special attention to taping the joints on the ducts that ran to her room.

Our basement is no longer freezing cold with all that air leaking out through the ducting. Our A/C doesn’t run non-stop anymore either! Paying attention to small details can make a huge difference.

How Much of My Life Would I Give?

My favorite way to limit spending is to figure out how many hours of work I have to work in order to be able to pay for the “thing” that I want to buy. For example, there is no way that I am going to work a half of an hour every day in order to pay for a daily fancy coffee drink. I will bring my beverage from home instead.
Janet H.

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Little Luxuries

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

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10 Minute Preventive Maintenance

This tip will cost you no more than ten minutes of your time twice a year but it may save you thousands eventually.

Twice a year, such as New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July, turn every water valve in your house on and off, each sink and each toilet. Consider also turning on and off the valve at your water heater and the turn-off at your meter. This keeps them easy to turn in an emergency. If you can’t turn one, try a little squirt of WD-40, give it a minute or two to lubricate and then try again. It will usually turn then. If you must, you can use a vice-grip, but that will often damage the knob of the valve. That’s it. Easy, simple, but worth a lot in an emergency.
Barbara, SC

additional TDS resource: How to Avoid a Plumber’s House Call

An Inexpensive Flea Trap

My husband wanted two cats to control our mice infestation. We got two kittens from different families. Needless to say, we got an infestation of fleas with the two cats.

We put two pie pans of soapy water just under the night light in different rooms. The next morning those two pans were full of dead fleas. There were so many that I couldn’t count them all. I don’t worry about the cats drinking the water because of the soap.
Jane R.

Instead of Lotto

I used to use my loose change and $1 bills to buy lottery tickets. Some weeks I would buy ten or even 15. Often I’d win a small prize. Then I began to keep track of how many I bought and how much I’d won. I totaled them after 3 months. I was surprised to find that for every $1 I won I had spent $3.79 in tickets! I was also surprised at how much I had spent – $217. From now on I’ll put that money in an account that I’ll use for Christmas presents!

Dancers’ Cooling Secret

A friend of mine danced in India a few years ago. She suffered badly from the heat until one of the other dancers advised her to wet two handkerchiefs and tie them around her wrists. This helped dramatically to keep her cooler. Of course, you have to keep wetting the material to keep cool.
Lillian G.

Gourmet Spaghetti Sauce for Less

I love homemade spaghetti sauce, but don’t often have the time to make it properly. But I did learn how to easily make a close imitator. I buy some prepared sauce from the grocery. But I also buy some pepper, onion and garlic. I saute them in a little olive oil for just a few minutes. Add a little chopped basil. I add that mixture to the sauce I bought along with a pinch of sugar to cut down on the tomato’s acidity. This makes awesome gourmet sauce at a fraction of the time and for very little money. Even my great aunt the Italian cook thinks it is great!

Homemade Household Cleansers

I like to make my own household cleaners using how-to ideas found online. Each uses different essential oils and such and they are quite varied, using several different ingredients. After I mix each one, I put it in a clean spray bottle, then I write the ingredients and the amounts of each used on the bottle. Now I never have to look up each “recipe” every time I make more of each cleaner.
Helen of Minnesota

additional TDS resource: 7 Frugal Homemade Cleanser Recipes

Affordable Home Protection

I have a slider as my patio door. Even though it has locks, I went to the local hardware store and bought a 2″ piece of pipe (after measuring) and laid it in the track to block the door from being opened. It cannot be hacked or have a battery run down. I had to tie a piece of string around the pipe to remove it to open the door.

I also had a friend replace the short original screws for my deadbolts with 2-3 inch screws. For the deadbolt and the handles. This gets the door screwed into the framing of the door and cannot be easily kicked in. It only cost a bit of time and a dozen or so screws.
Jeanette L.

Cheap Used Transportation

Anyone who’s shopped for a used car knows that prices have shot up. I wanted a used minivan but couldn’t handle the higher prices. Then my cousin gave me two ideas. I posted a ‘wanted’ note on the bulletin board at the clubhouse of a 55+ community. I also called the offices of lawyers that advertise that they specialize in estate work and told their receptionists that I was looking for a van. Within 3 days I had 4 possibilities to choose from!

additional TDS resource: Buying a Cheap, Reliable Used Car

Save the A/C!

Don’t forget the humidity factor of indoor air. When it is too moist, it can become unbearable and a dehumidifier, even though it adds a bit of heat to the interior, can make it feel much better. That, added to moving air, can often replace the need for an air conditioner, which by its very nature also has the important task of removing excess moisture from the air it is conditioning. We lived for several years in an apartment without A/C that was made more comfortable with a small dehumidifier and circulating air fans. It made a huge difference!
Jerry B. in Minnesota

additional TDS resource: Way Cool Savings: A Guide to Fans

Better Coffee Made Easy

I worked as a barista a few years ago. The one “trick” we had was to put about a teaspoon of sugar into the grounds before brewing. This cuts the acidity in the coffee without making it sweet.

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Power Outage and Your Freezer

Hurricane season is upon us. The Texas ERCOT energy grid is once again having problems. But this tip is for anyone, anywhere. You may lose electrical power at any time. My tip, which can save you thousands in food costs, is to not take your electricity for granted, particularly if you have meat in the freezer.

If raw meat or fish or poultry thaws out and then is frozen again, that spawns dangerous organisms such as E. coli, which causes serious food poisoning. (People have died from it.) So if you are going to stock up on meat, poultry, fish or frozen meals containing it, make sure it says “fully cooked.”

Also, if you “bug out” (evacuate) and need to know if your food thawed and refroze, use the penny trick: freeze a small dish or glass with water. Then put a coin on top of it after it is frozen solid. Always keep this in the freezer and make sure the coin stays in place. If you come home, check your freezer and if the coin is frozen inside the ice, that means it melted and the coin dropped into the water before everything froze again. If this happens, chances are all your food thawed and you need to take action accordingly. Oh, and do this for every freezer you have, including the one on top of your refrigerator.

A Better Way to Do Laundry

Instead of using the recommended detergent (I use powder), mix 1/2 the recommended amount of powder with a dessert spoon of washing soda. Mix in a small bucket with hot water to dissolve it, then use the solution for your next 2 washes. You will survive laundry day with just using cold water and line drying. Fabric softener and excess laundry detergent just wear out your washing machine more quickly. And your clothes. Save money 3 ways!

Day Trippers

When I’ve traveled to other cities for vacations, the hotel lobbies are always packed full of brochures for that city’s attractions. Most have coupons for dollars off the entrance fee or other savings.

I live in a large metropolitan area. When looking for coupons for local attractions, I decided to check out the hotel lobbies. So I stopped at a large chain hotel, ran inside the lobby, and helped myself to brochures on all the attractions I wanted to visit during the summer with my kids. Voila! We saved quite a bit of money with these brochures that are provided for “visitors to the city.”
Deb C.

Swimmer’s Hair

As swimmers, my family and I are constantly battling the effects of chlorine in our hair. Green tint and dry hair being the worst. There is a swimmer’s shampoo available, but it is expensive. We’ve discovered that if your hair is already green, wash it with a pasty mixture of regular shampoo and baking soda. It may take two applications, but the green really does come out.

To prevent green and dry hair, try wetting your hair before swimming. Dry hair soaks in more chlorine. Then put some of your regular conditioner in your hair. Don’t rinse it out. Just swim with it. It helps block the chlorine. Then, after swimming, rinse and wash like regular.

I’m enjoying the best summer at the pool yet, with soft blonde hair.

Natural Ant Prevention

Ants came through a crack between the window and screen frames. I shooed them out and sprinkled ground cayenne red pepper onto the window frame and sill. No more ants!

I also use the cayenne pepper around my plants so unwanted bugs and slugs don’t eat my flowers and plant leaves. It works great, and I don’t have to use pesticides!

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

Little Luxuries

Subscribe to The Dollar Stretcher, our free twice-weekly newsletter aimed at helping you live better for less on the money you already have!

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

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