Readers' Tips

How to Swap Unwanted Gift Cards

Are any of the cards good online? Try using one or two that way. Your friend must have thought you'd like something!
Sheila (via Facebook)

editor's note: For more on using unwanted gift cards, please click here.

Eliminating Allergy Causing Dust Mites

I found this information in a health newsletter. It stated that dust mites are one of the most common household allergens and a major risk factor for asthma sufferers. The article suggested that washing your bedding with eucalyptus oil virtually eliminated these pesky critters, according to researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia.

The researchers got rid of 99 percent of the mites on wool blankets by soaking the blankets for 60 minutes in a solution of 6 tablespoons eucalyptus oil (0.4 percent concentration), 1 1/4 tablespoons liquid laundry detergent, and 13 gallons of water. They then rinsed the blankets in cool water. Without the oil, the laundry detergent alone got rid of only 2.4 percent of the mites. You can purchase eucalyptus oil at most natural food stores or wherever essential oils are sold.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on how to get rid of dust mites

Winter Dry Skin?

If you have dry, cracked heels and nothing seems to help them, I have found a very easy and inexpensive way to make them better. I tried all sorts of lotions, including the expensive lotions made specifically for heels and feet, and my heels still looked horrible.

I use olive oil in my cooking all the time and keep olive oil on my bathroom sink for use on my face. I even put a little in my (long) hair. Sometimes I rub a small bit onto my hands and neck. One day I decided to try a little on the heels of my feet and then put on a pair of socks and went about my day. When I took my socks off that night, I was amazed at how much better my heels felt, so I continued doing that for several days. By the weekend, my heels looked and felt more normal than they have in years. Olive oil is rich in antioxidants and rich in Vitamin E. I will be wearing sandals again this spring.

Garage Door Opener Problems

If your automatic garage door keeps opening as if there is something under the door when you are trying to close it, dust off the "electric eye" beam. If that doesn't work, dust off the area on the ceiling where the wire connections are connected to the box. Many times, spider webs will cause the opener to malfunction.
Gayle K. in New City, NY

My Movie List

Our local newspaper featured an article this week that listed all of the best 2012 movies in each movie category. I went through the list of movies, circled the ones I knew I would like to see, and watched the trailer clips on those I didn't know to make a decision. I took my list to our library and asked to be put on the wait list for all the movies. The library only had one of the movies, but they were going to purchase the rest since they were the top movies of 2012. As soon as the new movies come in, I will be in a short line to see them for free!

Always Color Coordinated

I wish I had known this when I was younger. White is the color! Buying white sheets and towels is cheaper. They are usually cheaper to buy in the first place, and they also are cheaper in the long run. Whites can be bleached, and they can be hung on the line without worry of fading. Both of these things will make them last much longer than colored sheets or prints that either fade or go out of style before they are worn.

White appliances and plumbing fixtures are also usually cheaper, and they will blend in with your other items.

White is always the right color and never goes out of style. Think about other instances when white is right, such as dishes, canisters, small kitchen electronics, and even clothing.

If You Must Go to the Mall...

Whenever I am going to be doing a mall-shopping trip, I go online before I head out. I just search for printable coupons for the stores at my local mall that I know I will visit. I easily save $15-$30 per shopping trip just by doing this little trick. And you can expand this to other stores you visit, like the drugstore, restaurants, etc.
Tina S. in Greenwood, DE

One Day Spending

I am working on only spending one day a week. It has stopped me from randomly spending on days out or on the internet. If I know I need to spend on a day other than my "spend day," for church for example, I put the money in an envelope on my "spend day." For me, it's Fridays. It concentrates the mind. DH and I also have a set amount of personal spending that is allowed.

Scoop Control

I am careful with laundry detergent. I like to buy the top brands, but don't want to spend any more than I have to on detergent. If you look at the scoop that comes with the detergent, it has two or three lines on it, depending on the size of the load. I took my scissors and cut the scoop at the "normal" load marking. By doing this, I don't use more than necessary. It may not seem like much, but in a whole box of detergent, it can add up to a couple of loads.

Clothing Swaps

If you're not in a clothing swap, find one and join it! It's a great way to clear your closet and pick up some new-to-you clothes for you and your family. Some groups welcome other household "stuff" like perfume, cosmetics, home decor, plants, and small appliances. If you volunteer to take the leftovers to charity, you get the tax deduction!
Sharon B.

Save the Raise!

Years ago, someone taught me this trick for saving. When you get a raise, give your savings or retirement plan a raise, too. For instance, if you get a $50 a month raise, deduct a third for taxes and then put half (or more) of the rest into your IRA or savings account. Do this every year and you won't miss the money.

Olive Oil Saver

To save olive oil from going rancid, fill the bottle with water after each use. Air is the number one enemy of olive oil and is displaced by the water. The oil floats on the water.
Ken H.

The Icicle Indicator

Although icicles may look pretty hanging from your house after a big snowstorm, they are indicators of substantial heat loss. They show the places where escaping heat has melted the snow causing it to drip and freeze. Take note of where they are on your home, and check the areas out to see if extra insulation is needed. It's amazing to see just how many homes have them.Who wants to lose heat and money in the winter? We all need to be thrifty with our country's use of oil products!

Saving Mildewed Stuffed Animals

Does your child have a favorite stuffed animal that's become mildewed? This happened to us once due to liquid being spilled on a much-loved stuffed animal belonging to my son.

To save the animal, begin by determining what is causing the mildew smell. If it is inside, you may have to replace the stuffing. That's easy. Just cut a small opening along a seam (don't do this in sight of the child!) and pull out the insides. Throw them out and stuff with plastic bags, packing foam peanuts, or the inside stuffing from another stuffed animal that is not so loved. Then stitch up the seam with a couple tight stitches.

If the outside of the animal smells, rub in baking soda or cornstarch, put it in a plastic bag tied tight for a few days, shake it hard, and leave it outdoors in the sun if you can.

Additional TDS Resource: More on cleaning mildewed stuffed animals

Insuring Jewelry

I work for a certified jewelry appraiser. In most cases, jewelry losses are only covered to a certain amount, usually $500 or $1000. Anything over that amount must have a separate policy listing. There usually is an additional fee, but it is well worth it if you have valuable items.

I also urge anyone with valuable jewelry to have an independent appraisal done. This certifies the exact quality, etc., of the item and what the replacement value is. Without a specific appraisal, the insurance company has no idea what the value of an item is or what it will cost to replace it and generally pays far less than the value of an item. Yes, appraisals cost money, but if you are insuring your valuables, it is worth the extra cost.

It Feels Warm in Here

To make your home "feel" warmer when the thermostat is turned down, keep some steam going. Use either a humidifier or just a big pot of water turned on medium/low on the stove. The humidity in the air makes it feel much more comfortable.

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