Readers' Tips

Rental Deposits

Whether it's an apartment or a car, it's important to have proof of any damage that happened before you rented it. I always do a walk around with the landlord or leasing agent. I take pictures of any damage. My phone camera dates the pictures, so there is proof that I didn't do the damage. I've heard of horror stories of people who were charged for scratches to a rental car that they didn't do. I don't want that to happen to me!

Time for Thrift...Shops

January is a great time to visit your local thrift stores. Many people make year-end donations to either get the tax deduction or to clear out before holiday guests arrive. There are also some who donate unwanted Christmas gifts.

Heated Towels and Jammies

I always wanted one of those heated towel racks, but it was never in my budget to buy one. Then I came up with a simple solution. I now use my existing heating ducts. I put in hooks and towel racks near the heating vents in our bath and bedrooms. For just a few dollars, I have warm pajamas at night and a heated towel for my shower. I am enjoying the luxury!

Emergency Warmth

My wife gave me a very practical gift for Christmas. She gave me Mylar thermal blankets. There were ten in the pack, and my wife said that the pack cost less than $10. It's not unusual for us to lose power in the winter or to get stuck in the snow. Therefore, I put a few blankets in each car and kept a few in the house in case of an emergency. It's hard enough waiting for help to arrive without freezing while you're waiting.

Additional TDS Resource: Emergency preparation on a budget

Easy Bacon

I learned this trick while cooking for a crowd. We wanted to make bacon, but we didn't have space on the stovetop or enough fry pans. It was suggested that we bake the bacon. We took out cookie sheets and covered them with aluminum foil. We spread the bacon on the foil and baked it at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, flipping the bacon half way through. There was no grease spatter or smoke. I'll never cook bacon on the stovetop again.

Wooden Kitchen Utensil Care

I enjoy using wooden spoons, cutting boards, and serving bowls in my kitchen. Each year around this time, I give them a little tender loving care to keep them in top notch shape. Frequent washing tends to dry them out, so I give them a coat of vegetable oil. I moisten a paper towel with oil and wipe each item. After they dry, I repeat the process. You can actually see the wood change color as it soaks up the oil. I keep repeating until everything is good as new!

Additional TDS Resource: Kitchen clutter rules

Bedroom Chills

Most of us focus on blankets and space heaters when we think about keeping warm at night. Here's something that you can do once that will help keep you warm all winter. Check your bedroom for outside drafts. Look around windows and any place that could allow outside air to enter the room. You can use a candle. Hold it near the window to see if the flame moves away. If so, you have a cold draft entering your room. You can seal most with caulk or insulation. There are a lot of videos showing how to do this. If that's not possible, hang heavy drapes or even a blanket over the opening to block the cold air.

Additional TDS Resource: Frugal ways to winterize your home

Dryer Sheets - Not!

Here is another dryer sheet money-saver! I reuse the socks that get massive holes from my kids to make dryer balls. I bunch a few up, stuff them into another sock, roll them up, flip a side of the sock over the rolled ball, and sew the ends shut. Then I dip them in a solution of water and white distilled vinegar and toss them into the dryer. The water stops the static, and the vinegar (which does not leave the smell behind) eliminates odors and softens. They last forever!

Additional TDS Resource: How to save on fabric softeners

Before You Book International Travel

I love to travel internationally, and I usually base my trips on flight and hotel bargains. This strategy can work out very well if you're open to multiple regions for your travel destination. It also helps to be able to travel at different times of the year and sometimes at the last minute. This information isn't anything new to bargain travelers, but the unplanned extras can really impact your bottom line. For example, when I went to Russia, I found out after I booked my flight that the Visa fee was almost $200. When I traveled to Africa, the recommended vaccinations cost me almost $300. These were costs I did not anticipate. Before you book and pay for your bargain international trip, do some research to find out what could end up making your trip less of a bargain. If that changes your cost too dramatically, think about going somewhere else.
Heidi in FL

I'm a Pepper

Who knew? Pepper has uses outside the kitchen. When sprinkled in trash, it'll keep out rodents. Sprayed in a garden, it will prevent insects from damaging tender plants. I even sprinkle some in my socks before I go out skiing. It helps to keep my feet warm.

Affording a Healthier Diet

I want my family to eat more fruits and veggies this year. I mentioned this to the produce manager at my local market. He told me that they often have slightly damaged items that they sell cheap. I might have to cut out a small section, but the rest of the fruit or veggie is fine for any recipe that I have. He told me to just ask when I visit the store, and he'll let me know what he has available. I plan on talking with him weekly.

Additional TDS Resource: Which fruits and veggies freeze well?

My Olive Oil

If you cook with olive oil, you know that it can go rancid if it sits long enough. I found a solution. It's air that causes the problem. Therefore, after you've used some, fill the bottle to the top with water. The water takes up space, so there's less air in the bottle. The water settles to the bottom and doesn't mix with the olive oil. It's a perfect solution!

Annual Insurance Update

Once a year, I do an insurance update. Last year, I was able to increase the deductible on my auto insurance, which saved me big time. I also make sure that we have pictures of any new big ticket items that we buy. In case we get robbed, I want to have proof of what was stolen, so I can collect on the claim. It took less than an hour and now I know that my insurance is up to date.

Additional TDS Resource: How to compare auto insurance rates

Save the Pieces!

We like board games and usually there is at least one under the Christmas tree each year. What we don't like is finding that pieces are missing. Therefore, we are in the habit of putting all the pieces into a zipper baggie. Now our favorite games are always ready to play when we are!

Water Saver

When we got a new dishwasher, I decided to see how good it was. I started doing our normal dishes on the "china" cycle. It turns out that my dishes come out clean, and I've saved hot water and detergent. I'm not sure, but I wonder if I would have gotten the same result with the old dishwasher before it died.

Additional TDS Resource: How to make homemade dishwasher detergent

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