Readers' Tips

Cleaning Tile Floors

I have had the same tile floor for 15 years. I generally use plain warm water to wash it, but to remove a haze, I add a little vinegar, about 1/4 cup to two gallons of water. Vinegar also acts as an antibacterial and the smell disappears once the floor dries. It really is that simple.

editor's note: For more on cleaning tile floors, please click here.

More Flavor!

I have a couple of suggestions to boost the flavor of everyday foods. A tablespoon of sherry jazzes up cream soups and canned gravy. A grating of nutmeg is great in milk- or egg-based dishes. Stir in a tablespoon of instant coffee granules to a pot of chili. In an unused salt or spice shaker, mix equal parts lemon pepper, granulated garlic, and white sugar. A sprinkle of this boosts the flavor of cooked vegetables, fish, chicken, tomato sauce, and casseroles. Plus, it's sodium-free! Add this mixture just before serving.
Evelyn S.

Inexpensive Office Gifts

I got this idea while shopping for Christmas tree ornaments to pass out as gifts in the office. In the store, I saw the prettiest display. Clear wine glasses (which were for sale) were filled with gold tinsel. The glasses sparkled and looked absolutely gorgeous under the lights. I decided instead of purchasing gifts bags that I would purchase clear coffee mugs ($1 each), fill them with gold tinsel, and put the ornament ($1 each) inside the mug and tinsel. Then I "fluffed" the tinsel to hide the ornament. It was gorgeous, especially under the bright office lights, and the "package" turned into another gift!
Lynn J.

Alternatives to Soda

Itís hard to believe this works, but I am a soda addict and it works for me! Here's what I do. I can drink as much soda as I want, but before I drink that soda, I have to first drink an eight-ounce or larger glass of water.

Everyone knows all the benefits of drinking more water, but when I drink it, I honestly feel better! I have more energy, and I feel like my metabolism is on full-speed. My weight loss attests to that fact (altering nothing else)! And it isn't due to a reduction in sugar, because my soda is diet.

I've tried mixing juices with sparkling water and all those other concoctions. When I want a diet cola, that's what I want! And that's why this little trick works for me.
Denise S.

Additional TDS Resource: More alternatives to soda

Great Kindling

When we take our Christmas tree down after the holiday, we cut off all the branches on it to make kindling. These kindling pieces start a fire in the fireplace fast. Plus, the smell of the pine fire makes any home smell wonderful.

There's nothing like snuggling up to a cozy fire in the fireplace on a snowy evening with a hot cup of cocoa and left over holiday cookies to munch on.

Christmas Gifts for Seniors

Please don't give rental movie subscriptions or the like. Any gift you give that has the person spending a monthly fee is not a gift. Gift cards to stores are also not acceptable. The recipient must shop at that store and buy high-priced merchandise. Supermarket gift cards are great and can be used to supplement food allowances. Why buy magazine and books? They can be found at the library for free. Gas cards from the local gas station are also a great idea. Think simple.
Grannie Annie

Cleaning Fireplace Glass

Old newspapers and ashes from the fireplace work beautifully on the glass of fireplace doors or clear woodstove doors. It's free. There are no fumes. Best of all, you are recycling!
Jann in Maine

Saving on Baby Wipes

Even though many parents are going back to cloth diapers instead of disposables, they often still use packaged baby wipes, adding to the significant cost of diapering a baby. Cloth diaper wipes can be very expensive, sometimes costing a dollar each for what amounts to a piece of flannel fabric to wipe off poop!

We've found that the white flannel diapers used as burp cloths or diaper inserts can be cut up and used very effectively as baby wipes. One diaper will yield six wipes. Simply cut them into thirds following the seams and then cut each third in half. All the sides can be hemmed, but it's not at all necessary.

We purchased a small diaper wipe warmer that has lasted three years now and keep four to five wipes in it at all times (first they are moistened simply with water). The cloth wipe stays warm for longer than the disposables, and usually one wipe is sufficient for all but the messiest jobs. Simply drop the wipe in the cloth diaper bag or bucket for washing with the diapers as usual. When we are out and about, we keep the moist cloth wipes in a zipper bag in our diaper bag.

Waterproofing Suede

I have two jackets that I acquired the same way. I cleaned them well first with a stiff brush (being careful not to scratch them). I used Scotchgard™ waterproofing and let it dry. Then I added a second layer, which did the job.

There are a few suede cleaners, but I have not found one that will not stain suede darker. If you have not paid much for the jacket, you can try just about anything since most will not hurt a good quality jacket in the first place.

Additional TDS Resource: More on waterproofing suede

Great Gift for Seniors

My parents are in their 80s, and their baking is limited, so I created cookie of the month. Each parent got to pick a cookie that sounded good to them. I then baked up a batch and mailed them, so this even works for parents that don't live close to your home. Mom and Dad told me they were always excited to get the packages. They even said that they rationed the cookies, so they could savor them. And I enjoyed baking the goodies.
Kris from Michigan

Natural Facial Scrub

Here's a tip that I learned from a friend. She makes small muslin pouches, adds a couple pinches of oatmeal, dampens with a little water, and scrubs her face and neck lightly. The oatmeal makes up a wonderful cleansing lather, leaves skin squeaky clean, and leaves behind powerful antioxidants. It's also cheap. She uses fresh oatmeal for every wash.

Girls who start this at a young age end up with very few wrinkles and laugh lines into their adulthood. For older women, it really slows down the aging process.

Christmas Table

My idea for a Christmas tablecloth consists of using old Christmas cards and clear vinyl that can be purchased by the yard at fabric stores. I place various Christmas cards and pictures my children have drawn on my table. Purchased icicles or any object that will lay flat can also be placed around the pictures. Then I lay the vinyl across the table after I have placed everything where I want it to be and use tape to keep the vinyl in place. I use enough clear vinyl to go underneath the table, so my tape doesn't show.

For Those Struggling Financially

This time of year, most of us are buying things that will be additions to our homes like clothes, electronics, games, jewelry, etc. This means that we'll soon be doing some cleaning out. Most of us will put the discarded items in a garage sale, donate them to a thrift store, or find another family who can use them. What about your kids' underwear? Most of us throw it away, certain that no one will wear used underwear. Wrong! I routinely donate my children's outgrown clothing, including underwear, to a local center that provides daycare for very underprivileged children. The very first item to go from the "free" table is the underwear! That goes for adult underwear, too. Many children of all ages (and their parents) must routinely go through their days without underwear. When you are cleaning out, make a bag of these items and drop them off at your nearest Head Start or other service center for underprivileged children. No longer will little boys be forced to wear big sister's panties and shoes if we all pitch in. You can use the tax write off, too.
JD in St Louis

editor's note: If donating used underwear grosses you out, how about buying a pack or two of new underwear and donating that?

Raising Quick Cash for the Holidays

The holidays are a great time of year to make some quick cash for little or no money invested. If you own a van, hire yourself out as a delivery person or mover. Are you artistic? Wrap gifts or make holiday decorations. Play Santa, an elf, or a reindeer. Be a personal shopper or assistant for someone who can't get out or is very busy. Businesses are looking for holiday help.
Christina in NYC

Additional TDS Resource: More on raising cash

Before You Buy That Toy

One problem with toys is the issue of very specific refills needed to use the toy. I have seen some kits this season that are designed to make confections that need "no baking." While some of these were advertised at loss leader prices, the cost of the refills that the kit requires is certainly no bargain. If this is like so many other toys over the years, once the product no longer attracts new purchasers, refills are nonexistent and the toy itself is virtually useless.

You can confirm the problem with this by looking for the abandoned soap or crayon makers along with all kinds of similar toys at garage sales. If a toy is going to require an ongoing supply of a very unique kind of "refill," reconsider purchasing it.

A second issue is batteries. Is there a replaceable battery that is of a very specific (and usually expensive and hard to find) size? If so, think about what will happen when the battery dies. Even if a toy uses more common AA, AAA or similar batteries, you might want to check online (if it is a very popular toy) to find out what others are saying about the expected battery life. While rechargeable batteries can be a good option for these toys, be sure to first check if rechargeable batteries can be used in the particular item.
Helen L in Rochester, MN

Holiday Flags

I have always loved holiday flags as outside decorations. I was in need of a way to organize them, so I wouldn't continuously buy new for an upcoming holiday. To do this, I simply took a multi-tiered skirt/pant hanger and clipped all of my flags to the hanger by season.

This has helped tremendously with keeping track of what I have as some get tattered after a season and get thrown away. The skirt hanger helps me keep them all in one place and easily assess my stock.
Nancy R.

Do you have a money or time-saving tip you'd like to share? Just click here to submit your suggestion. If we use your tip in any of our publications, we'll send you the next three issues of our print newsletter as a thank you!

If you'd like to receive our Dollar Stretcher Tips newsletter, click here to subscribe.

Dollar Stretcher Tips is a weekly feature of The Dollar If you missed last week's tips click here.

Get Out of Debt
Stay Connected with TDS

Do you struggle to get ahead financially?

Surviving Tough Times is a weekly newsletter aimed at helping you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources.

Debt Checklist

And get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble?
A Simple Checklist and What You Can Do About It
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Get Out of Debt