Readers' Tips

Home Teeth Whitening Kits

Try using baking soda with just bit of hydrogen peroxide to form a paste (just enough for one use). If you use this twice a week, you will see a difference.

editor's note: For more on whitening teeth at home, please click here.

Why I Don't Use Automatic Payments

If you are having a hard time paying your bills on time each month, do not get locked into automatic drafts. This gives you flexibility to pay your bills on your schedule (on time, of course).

In addition, if you really have an emergency during the month, you can take advantage of your grace periods on some accounts. With automatic drafts, you canít take advantage of this benefit. Just make sure that during the grace period, there are no "late comments" submitted to your credit report or late fees charged to you.

Dealing with Dry Winter Indoor Air

I live in the desert, and winters can be extremely dry. This is the time of year I make all sorts of stock and soups and either consume them or freeze them. Gentle simmering all day does the trick. In addition, I have a fireplace insert, so I put a kettle of warm water on. It gently steams away while the fire is going, which is usually at night. The cooking activity heats up the small house during the day, and the fire continues to keep it warm at night with enough moisture added to the air at no additional cost.

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on how to fight dry winter indoor air

Out It Goes!

If you're going to throw something away, do it now! I have had a habit of clipping recipes, filing them, going through them, and throwing most of them away later. I now save very few recipes and have saved myself a lot of busy work.

Make use of those extra few minutes to get one more thing done from your to-do list. It all adds up! If you are almost finished on a task, go ahead and finish it!

A Stealth Veggie

Cauliflower is one of those vegetables that's good for you, has few calories, provides a lot of roughage, and is tasteless. I usually cook mine several minutes in the microwave, drain it, and then mash it to use like mashed potatoes.

It makes a great base for a dip when mashed and then mixed with chopped onions, salt/pepper, and shredded green peppers. Being tasteless, cauliflower takes on whatever flavors you add to it and can easily be mixed in with other ingredients and added to recipes. I've used it with Hamburger Helper®, and the kids didn't even know they were eating vegetables.

Save the Showerhead

I have what amounts to a brand new shower head for pennies and a few minutes work. I used white vinegar in a baggy and attached it overnight to the showerhead. This cleaned it and got rid of built-up minerals. My shower today was wonderful! This is also great for the kitchen faucet. After I was done cleaning the showerhead, I used the vinegar to clean my sink, so nothing was wasted.

Makeup Secret Savings

I personally enjoy my makeup collection, and as a woman of color, I find using cheaper drugstore cosmetics a "hit or miss" situation. I've discovered the power of quality brushes. But, instead of buying expensive brushes at the cosmetics counter, I went to my local art store and bought very high quality brushes for about half as much.

The use of a brush for foundation or lipstick not only results in a better application, but it also saves product! I've been able to stretch the length of my cosmetics, while treating myself to a "professional" application.
Janki N.

Beyond the Dinner Exchange

A dinner exchange doesn't have to be a meal for a meal. A friend of mine wanted piano lessons for her son. She asked me if I would be willing to barter something like lessons for house cleaning. I wasn't real keen on house cleaning, but I asked her if she liked to cook. It turns out that she does like to cook. So, each week that she brings her son to the lesson, she also brings a meal plus a menu for the next meal. This way, we always get something that we like rather than just having to take whatever is prepared. She does this for several people in exchange for various services.

Wedding Shower Fun

Here's a fun (and cheap) wedding shower game. It's called "Toilet Paper Bride." Divide the guests (except the bride) into groups of four or five. Give each group a four-pack of cheap toilet paper. Then instruct the groups to choose one member to be the bride. The rest of the group should fashion a wedding dress out of the toilet paper. You can give them hints or just let them go on their own. Send each group to a separate area of the house, so they can't see what the other groups are doing. This was easily the most popular game at a shower I gave.
Sheila F.

Additional TDS Resource: More great wedding shower ideas

Lifestyle Changes

I have several habits that I would like to change, but in the past, I was never able to make the necessary changes. This year, I decided to do something different. I wrote down several of my goals on individual notecards. I also included on each the amount of time I would like to focus on that particular goal. I was so excited as I shuffled the cards and randomly chose one. I will work on this goal for four weeks.

As this goal becomes a habit, I will draw another card and begin working on a new goal. I'm also keeping track of my progress on a calendar. I'm really enjoying the feeling of accomplishment as I tackle one goal at a time.

Affordable Fun Felt Boards

After teaching preschool for years on a limited budget, I discovered that the children love to play with a big felt board. I made this out of a large cardboard box. I glued large pieces of felt to each side. Then I made theme related felt items to go with counting, colors, stories, etc. The only trouble is that only four children could play with the felt board at a time. Therefore, I began to use the felt with the adhesive on the back to make small felt boards with some fairly heavy cardboard. Now more children can use the felt boards at one time.

Affordable Vaccines and Immunizations

If you are uninsured, there are often less costly alternatives to going to the doctor for a vaccine or immunization. Sometimes, drug stores or supermarkets have flu shots or pneumonia shots available for less; check the prices. I've even heard of a charity clinic, which is a business holding a free flu shot clinic for low income people.

If there is a health fair in your town, go to it! I recently received a free tetanus/whooping cough shot at a health fair, along with diabetes screening and a blood pressure check. If you are a senior citizen, senior citizen centers may offer flu shots. One year, my church even offered low-cost shots for the families in our congregation!

Public health departments or clinics often offer common shots, including childhood immunizations and vaccines required for school or daycare enrollment for free or at a reduced cost. Sometimes, there is an eligibility requirement, such as income, so you need to check with the immunization clinic to find out. Due to budget shortfalls, some clinics are now charging fees.

If your child needs back-to-school shots, it's best to get them in early summer to avoid the rush that occurs right before the first day of the fall semester. Since different places charge different prices, always call around to compare prices. They vary widely.
Lynn B.

Cheap Stain Remover

My son dripped bacon grease on his deputy uniform and tried to get the stain out on his own. He then put it in the dryer without checking if the stain was gone. It wasn't. He was ready to toss it, but saving money sometimes requires giving a situation just one more try. I mixed baking soda with vinegar, rubbed it into the stain, and then let the paste have five minutes to work. When it came out of the washing machine, the stain was completely gone. This simple formula saved my son over $75, and it taught him a valuable lesson.

Homemade Hand Lotion

I wanted to share my favorite homemade hand lotion recipe:

1/2 oz. cocoa butter, melted
1 oz. olive oil, warmed
1 oz. orange juice
2 drops essential oil (orange flower if possible)

Mix all of the ingredients together in a blender until light and fluffy. It's not necessary to refrigerate this lotion, but it should be used as soon as possible. It may separate, but it can be mixed together again.
Kristen G.

Additional TDS Resource: More hand lotion recipes

The All-In-One Bag

When I get new items that come with instructions, CDs and cords, I put them in a zipper bag. I also include the receipt and write the date of purchase on the instruction book. Then the bag goes into a specific drawer, so it's easily found.
Lisa M. in Boston, MA

It's Unadvertised

Whenever I'm shopping at the grocery store or big box store, I check for unadvertised sales on things we use daily. Our old cat can only tolerate one brand of cat food, so I check the price of it every time I go to the store. I rarely pay full price for her expensive cat food this way. I also look at the price of her cat litter every time. If I try to buy a different brand, she won't use it.

My husband likes sugar-free popsicles for a snack. I check for those everywhere I go, because they are not only hard to find but also can be on a significant sale at times. If you know what items you wish you could find on sale every week, check them when you shop. I got my cat's food at half price when the manufacturer changed their packaging just because I checked.
Wendy in Charlotte, NC

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