Readers' Tips

Affordable Homemade Shampoo

We use plain old baking soda mixed 50/50 with water. We have an old squirt bottle that we add the baking soda to, and then while in the shower, we fill the bottle with water, give it a shake and squirt it on our hair. It works great. Vinegar is also great; it will remove dandruff and make your hair shiny.

editor's note: For more on Affordable Homemade Shampoo, please click here or check out the discussion in The Dollar Stretcher Community.

Time to Negotiate

I recently called my alarm company. I am a long-time customer. I asked for a monthly discount. I was currently paying $24.95 monthly. I was told that they could lower my monthly payment to $19.95 if I signed a three-year contract. I told them that I wanted a $15 monthly charge, and I would be happy to sign a five-year contract. I have been with them for fifteen years. She put me on hold to talk to her supervisor and came back with a $16.95 monthly bill with the month of February free and I would have to sign a five-year contract. I agreed. Now is the time to negotiate your current monthly charges at places that are competing for your business. This is a savings of $8 per month or $96 per year to put into savings. And all I had to do was ask.
Dominick in Metairie, LA

Protect Your Data

Whenever you use any of your credit cards or cards with personal information in public, hold them with all your information covered until the cashier needs them. Should you lay them down face up, the people around you can take your information by taking a picture with their cell phones. A neighbor learned this the hard way.


Got a splinter? Before you start poking around with a needle and tweezers, try removing it with regular white glue! Spread the glue over the injury and/or splinter and let it dry. Then peel it off to pull the splinter out!
Arlene in Raleigh, NC

Save the Bananas

Bananas stay brown spot free much longer when you separate them from the bunch. Separating them stops the chain reaction of all your bananas getting mushy at once. I have some bananas right now in my kitchen (separated) that are a week and a half old, and only have a few small spots on them.
Sarah L.

Romantic Intentions

My fabulous husband regularly had flowers delivered for all occasions at work and at home. I loved getting flowers, but each time I threw out those dead flowers, I saw dollars being hauled away. He came up with the perfect solution: He keeps a dozen beautiful silk long stem roses hidden away. Whenever he wants to do something romantic-valentine's, anniversary, etc. - he'll bring out the roses. I may find them on the bed, in a vase, at the office, at home, on a cruise or a hotel room. Sometimes he'll add a card, a happy, or a fantastic present. Each time I see those reused silk roses, I think of all the memories we've shared and look forward to many more.
Marilyn H.

Lint Removers

If you mail order items, often companies will enclose postage-paid labels to send back merchandise. If you are not going to use the labels, hold on to them as they make great lint removers for coats and clothes.

I find this label tip to be great as it allows one to accomplish one of the three R's, Reuse, before throwing the labels into the garbage.
Rachael I. in Phillipsburg, NJ

Winter Handiwork

During this cold time of year, I search my fabric remnants for fabrics. I use them to make pillowcases for friends and family. I make the pillowcases out of solids, and add an edging in something personal to the person I am giving it to. My brother got one with hot peppers, my uncle's had race cars, and my sisiter-in-law got tea cups. Because I need so little special fabric, remnant bins are my source for most of what I buy. The gifts are well received and take little time or money to produce. I am working on next Christmas now. I plan to save money and not be so harried in December.

Entryway Wind Barrier

Using a tension rod, I hung a bedsheet between our entryway and living room. What an improvement! The temperature differential is at least fifteen degrees between the entry and the living room. We no longer watch our heating dollars fly out the door.

Dry Goods Storage

Keeping dry goods like rice, flour and sugar fresh is easier by using empty metal coffee cans. The labels on the brand I purchase come off easily. I just write the name of the contents on the lid and on the side with a permanent marker. They stack easier in the pantry and keep out ants or any other invaders.
Shawna P. in Barberton, OH

editor's note: The same can be done with the new plastic coffee cans (is it still ok to call them cans if they're made of plastic?)

Coupons at the Ready

How many times have you been out and about and realized you had a money-saving coupon for that particular store or restaurant but left it at home? I solved that problem by keeping a two-pocket folder between the front seats of my car filled with coupons.

Every Sunday, while cutting grocery coupons, I might come across a coupon for a restaurant or store. I cut these out and put them in my car folder. One side of the folder is for restaurants and the other side is for stores. It's always in the car so I never forget a coupon while shopping or dining!

And, if I'm in the car waiting to pick up my kids at school and sports activities, I use that time to go through my folder and weed out expired coupons. It's a great system that works for me!
June C.

editor's note: Don't forget that we have printable coupons available from SmartSource and MySavings.

Take Your Own Advice

Here is a tip for helping one navigate the frugality waters. Become your own advice columnist! When I try to save money, be frugal and generally stretch my dollars, I often run into some problems, tough decisions, etc. I have been enjoying reading various advice columns in magazines or on the Internet, and naturally grew into a habit of sometimes thinking in Q+A mode.

If I run into some toughie, I often use the technique of formulating a question with the problem (i.e. How can I both diet and keep a budget?). It helps me tremendously to find a solution when I try to "advise" the asker. It is easier to try to find the right thing to do when I formulate it as an answer to a question asked, and this helped me many times.
Jana K. in Praha, Czech Republic

Cleaning Sweaters

Along with the tip for washing sweaters on the "gentle" cycle to save money on dry cleaning, dish soap is fine or get a bottle of Woolite and use 1/3 the amount shown. However, the best tip is to turn them all inside out prior to washing. This will prevent pilling, etc. I also wash many of my regular clothes inside out to preserve color, screenprints, decorations, etc.

Cord Control

I have a tip that I have used for years for organizing all of our cords. I use a large popcorn tin that we received as a gift to store our power adapters, spare computer cords, phone cords, USB cords, etc. Each of the cords is stored in a separate resealable bag for easy access and no tangle. When someone is looking for a power cord or adapter, they always know where to look, and it is very easy to find what you are looking for!
Regina in Dameron, MD

editor's note: You might want to put a slip of paper in each bag saying what product the cord is for.

Grannie's Glow

At the start of a new year, I always "clean out" my makeup drawer. I replace and try to even use less chemical "stuff" on my skin. This year, in the drawer, I found no less than five compacts of blushers. Each one promised to make me look "glowing." I took a clean nail file and scraped all of the colors into one container and mixed all the little pieces into the "new mineral" look. Then with my blusher brush, I put some on my cheeks. Figured if one color would make me "glowing," imagine how five color combined would make Grannie "glow."
Grannie Annie in Suffern, NY

Pet Meds

I came home from running errands today to find my dog limping. He was clearly in considerable pain. I had no idea why. I knew the vet visit would be at least $55, but I couldn't see "waiting it out" a day or so with him unable to move comfortably.

The vet saw us right away, and after a thorough check, he determined that my dog had strained his neck. They prescribed an anti-inflammatory for pain ($17) and a muscle relaxer ($29). They told me that he needed to rest and that he'd likely be fine. I asked the vet if I truly needed both medications. He said that I could just go with the anti-inflammatory for pain. I paid the $72 vet bill and took my pet home. I could always come back for the muscle relaxer, but for now, I had saved $29. Once home, I decided to compare my new prescription with the two others that I still had left from a previous trip to the vet. Guess what? I already had the very same medication. I called the vet to confirm it. However, the vet can't (rightfully so) allow patients to return medication.

So I quickly wrote out a list of the six kinds of medications/ointments/ear solution I already have for my dog (along with the expiration date, dose and quantity left) on an index card and put it in the glove box of my car. Next time (though I hope there won't be one), I will consult this list before I purchase medications for him! Doing so would have saved me another $17!

editor's note: For more ways to save on pet meds, please click here.

The "Unwelcome" Mat

I just read your article about protecting your home from crime. When I was a teenager, I never had to worry about someone climbing into my window because my mother planted a cactus with large spiny leaves outside of each bedroom window. It was years later that my brother and I found out that my mother wanted to discourage us from trying to sneak out of the house! I have tweens of my own now, and each of their windows has a lovely (and prickly) rose bush outside. Of course, they are kept trimmed so you could jump out in case of a fire, but they still discourage anyone from coming close from the outside.

editor's note: You'll find the article Angela is referring to here.

Affordable Fine Dining

I appreciated your article on saving money at restaurants. Another tip is to try eating out at a local culinary school. My local culinary school at Northampton (Pennsylvania) Community College offers an amazing, five-course gourmet dinner for $30 per person. You can bring your own alcohol, which is fabulous also. They also offer lunch.
Rachael I. in Phillipsburg, NJ

editor's note: The inexpensive restraurant article can be found here. Wonder if they're taking reservations for Valentine's Day?

No More Health Club

In looking for ways to cut expenses during these difficult economic times, I had to cancel my gym membership. I know what exercises keep me in shape, so I created an exercise program of my own.

I listed each exercise I need to do every day, such as strengthening and stretching, and those I need to do every other day, such as weights.

When waiting in a line or even when put on hold on the telephone, I can stretch my legs. When in an elevator, I do wall pushups if alone. I can do my deep breathing and neck stretches when reading my email on my computer. I keep my hand weights by my desk, and when reading email or research material, I do my upper body weight exercises. I do my floor weight lifting while listening to the evening news. I live in an apartment building on the sixth floor and walk up and down the stairs. I can now take two steps at a time going up to strengthen and firm my hips and glutes. I walk up to the tenth floor and then back down to my sixth floor. One can walk up steps in many office buildings when going for an appointment rather than taking the elevator. When speaking on the phone to a friend, I sit on the floor and use my stretch band to extend my hamstrings. I even lay down and do my leg lifts. I now can do them so easily I do not pant on the phone.

Now that I have integrated these exercises into my daily routine, they are automatic and not work at all. It's like dancing through life in tune with my body's needs and it keeps my spirit tuned up too. I have taken off weight and look and feel great.
Marian L.

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