Readers' Tips

Cheaper Kitty Litter

We have five cats in our home and are always looking for an inexpensive alternative to the clumping, odor control stuff you can get at the grocery or pet store. Go to a tractor supply or feed store in your area and get horse bedding pellets. A big bag sells for around $6, and it smells great. More importantly, the cats love it! We rarely have to change the litter completely. The pellets are very absorbent. I just need to scoop out the solid stuff in the morning and evening as usual.
Linda in Reston, VA

editor's note: For more on cheaper kitty litter, please click here.

Creative Uses for Tension Rods

The next time you visit a home goods or hardware store check out the section that stocks tension rods. There are many different lengths and widths, and they can be used for so much more than hanging a curtain. Here are just a few ways I use them in my house.

My home is 60 years old and the closets are tiny. Instead of storing all of my ribbon spools in a box, I have lined them up on a couple of rods so they are visible and ready to go when I am wrapping gifts. My laundry room holds multiple spray bottles hung by their finger triggers from a rod. After washing and drying a tablecloth, I carefully fold and drape it over a rod, and it is ready for the next time with no creases.

They're very inexpensive and great space savers!
Ginger H.

Cleaning Showers

I rarely buy cleaning supplies at the store because that stuff is generally just a very expensive way of packaging vinegar, baking soda, ammonia and/or bleach. For cleaning a shower stall and windows, simply spray full strength white vinegar over the wet area. That's it. You need not wipe dry; just walk away. In fact, it is best to let it dry by itself. My shower stall has not had any cleaning done in over five years and you would swear it is brand new!
Loretta of Portage, Michigan

Additional TDS Resource: More on cleaning fiberglass showers and shower doors

Frozen Car Door Locks?

If you live in an area where winters get very cold, you may have dealt with the lock on your car door freezing shut, making it impossible to get your key in the lock. To prevent this from happening, when exiting your car, slap a large flat refrigerator magnet over the keyhole. This will keep moisture from getting in the lock. When ready to drive again, just slide the magnet off and go!
Becki H. in Logansport, IN

Suede Care

I have an old pair of black suede boots that I wear a lot. The boots are in pretty good condition. I found that using the dry suds from my husband's shaving cream with a stiff brush removes dirt and leaves the boots looking really good.
Sandy from Torrance, CA

Reduce the Cost of Moving

One of the easiest ways to save money on moving is to move less stuff. When the decision to move is made, start sorting! Anything that hasn't been used in a year, clothes that no longer fit, outdated appliances and electronic devices, outgrown toys, etc. is grist for the sale. Be ruthless!

Unless you have valuable or sentimental family heirlooms, you can replace most of your possessions at a few yard and estate sales for pennies on the dollar. People pay to haul so much useless stuff. Sell, donate, recycle, and discard with a vengeance before moving. You will save time, save money, and have an easier and smoother move. This is good for you financially and emotionally. Itís also good for the environment, and itís the American balance of trade.

My friend Kathy bought a house to rehab. She moved in with nothing but her clothing. When not working on the house, Kathy attended estate sales, yard sales, and flea markets. She bought dirt cheap furniture at the end of sales. Kathy painted every one of the pieces white and bought like new Oriental style rugs in shades of red and a few prints with red color schemes. She bought empty frames and added mirrors. She bought a few red flower vases, some cheap white china, white handled flatware, and like new white table linens and bed linens at house sales, estate sales, and flea markets.

The finished house looked great! It sold quickly, and the weekend before the closing, Kathy ran her own "estate sale" and sold every single item, keeping nothing. She drove to the closing with her clothes in the backseat of the car. She was moving on to her next rehab project with no moving costs and a pocket full of cash, as she made a profit on the sale of her house contents.
Karen K.

Tough Toilet Bowl Cleaning

I am getting a home ready for sale and have been cleaning furiously. One area that I could not get cleaned was the toilet bowls. They had accumulated this dark gray stain that I couldn't get off. I had tried everything. I finally found the answer in a pumice scouring stick. All I had to do was wet it and rub away at the stain. It came off like magic! Best of all, it didn't leave any scratches. I now have three sparkling white toilet bowls!

Expensive Lotions for Less

I have a way to save on expensive perfumed body lotions. I buy an unscented lotion. I like Vaseline® Intensive Care, but cheaper ones will work, too. I squirt a good amount into the palm of my hand. Then I add some of my perfumed lotion. This way, I get the moisturizer for my body, and the expensive perfumed lotion lasts longer.

Repairing Throw Rugs

To replace the missing rubber backing on throw rugs, you can find jars of latex at craft stores or fabric stores to paint on the backside of the rugs. I have also used it to apply to the bottoms of crocheted and knit slippers to prevent slipping.

Additional TDS Resource: More on repairing throw rugs

Being Prepared

I keep an emergency preparedness kit in my car and a filled backpack at our front door. Tornadoes seem to be our highest natural threat where we live, so I just recently set up another emergency preparedness kit in the basement closet as that would be our safe room to retreat to in such an emergency.

Each emergency kit is different. For instance, the car kit contains a compass, the front door kit is set up for evacuation, and the basement kit contains an old cell phone for calling 911. I check my kits twice a year to update, add, delete, and recharge the old cell phones.

Being a little more prepared is a good feeling, and it does not require a lot of extra cash to set up a kit. Backpacks seem to be the easiest to handle in an emergency, as they can be carried across shoulders, leaving hands free. Plastic zipper bags work great for water-proofing supplies, and when supplies are organized in clear bags, it is much easier to see the contents in an emergency. Inexpensive backpacks can be found at thrift stores almost every day of the week.

Handy Seasonal Storage

Some years ago, I got tired of always trying to deal with winter hats, gloves, and scarves in the summer and summer hats and gardening gloves in the winter. So I went to Wal-Mart and bought a large hanging shoe holder that has clear plastic pockets. I hung it inside my coat closet door and stuck pairs of gloves and hats inside each pocket.

One will hold one pair of ski gloves, one scarf, two winter hats, one or two baseball hats, or two to three pairs of one-size-fits-all knit gloves. To this day, this method works really great for our large family, and I've had many friends and family say that it's a great idea. Try it! And everyone will think you're brilliant, too!
Celeste A.

The Smart Phone Shopping List

Keep your grocery list up to date with text messages from family members. When they open an item, they should text the product to the member who does the shopping. By doing this, everyone helps keep the house stocked, and assuming the shopper has a smart phone, they can copy/paste the item to a running grocery list.
Jenn (sent via iPhone)

Wallpaper Samples

This is the time of year when wallpaper stores are clearing out their old sample books for the new. Often times, they will give away the books just for asking. I wrap many smaller items in the wallpaper. Wallpaper is thicker and more elegant than regular gift wrap. I even wrapped some smaller Christmas gifts with it this year and got many compliments.

Natural Shampoos

Wash your hair in the shower with a bar of plain soap, such as castile, lye, or olive oil-based soap. Rinse with a 1 to 10 ratio of vinegar to water solution and then wash out with plain water. Your hair will be squeaky clean and very soft and shiny. This really works!

Additional TDS Resource: More suggestions on natural shampoos

Checking Rewards

I recently took the time to search through my credit card websites to look at their reward programs, which I usually ignore. To my surprise, I received a cash rebate from one site, a $150 cash gift card from another, and a $100 gift card from a third site. These rewards had been available for quite a while. I only needed to ask for them.
Larraine Y. in Albuquerque, NM

Avoiding Impulse Buys

How much money do you spend every time you head into the local discount store? If you're like me, you most likely end up buying a bunch of stuff you don't really need. Multiply that by how many times you visit all those stores and you've shelled out a load of extra dough just to get that toilet paper and shampoo.

This year, if you're lucky enough to be getting a tax refund, take a fair portion of that refund and spend about two weeks stocking up. That two weeks will give you a chance to catch things on sale. If you can buy a year's worth of the necessities, enough to carry you until next year's refund, you'd be surprised what it will save by removing the temptation to purchase all the unnecessary stuff over a year's time.

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