Readers' Tips

One Piece At a Time

I never was able to keep to an exercise program. After a few months, I'd gradually quit going to the gym. Then I had the idea of joining a six-week class. It seems like that's enough of a commitment to keep me going.

Recently I've applied that idea to my finances. This month, I'm working on taking my lunch to work. That should save me about $100. I'll add that to my credit card payment to help reduce the balance. If bringing lunches to work has become a habit, I'll move on to something else next month. However, if I still struggle with bringing lunches, I'll keep it as my project for another month.

Additional TDS Resource: 6 easy ways to get out of debt

Before You Buy a Puppy

Before buying a puppy, consider adopting a rescue animal. We found a wonderful dog at our local shelter. She's loving and just needed some routine care. We paid a low adoption fee, but the fee was much less than we would have spent if we had bought her. An added benefit was that we were able to interact with different dogs to see which one responded to us. We couldn't have done that if we bought from a pet store.

Additional TDS Resource: More on adopting a pet

Stinky Clothes Trick

My husband is a diesel mechanic and his clothes always stunk of diesel. I learned that one cup of plain white vinegar added to the wash cycle removes the smell. When my daughter started working at a fast food place, her clothes had the same problem. I knew exactly what to do. Their clothes may stink when they come home at night, but they smell fresh when they leave in the morning!

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on removing stains and smells from your laundry

Is My Insurance Any Good?

My son recently had a claim on his homeowner's insurance. The condo above him had a leaky pipe that caused damage in his unit. He thought that his policy would cover it, but it's only good for theft. Now he's hoping that the policy for the people above him will pay for repairs. It pays to talk to your agent to make sure you understand what coverage you have.

Additional TDS Resource: More homeowner's insurance facts

Readers' Tips

The Mixologist

It won't make you wealthy, but I've learned that making my own mixes is easy and saves me a few dollars every time I visit the grocery store. Whether it's my version of shake and bake, the seasoning I use for tacos or the dry mix for pancakes, they all cost less when I buy the ingredients and mix them myself. And I save time by mixing enough for more than one meal. If you can read a recipe and use a measuring spoon, you can make your own mixes!

Additional TDS Resource: More on making homemade mixes

Personalized Christmas Gift

There's still time to do some crafts for Christmas if you keep it simple. This year, I'm doing personalized plates. I buy fancy plates at thrift stores. They need to be white in the center. I take a black Sharpie and write a saying that I've selected for them. To make the marker permanent, I bake the plate for 30 minutes in a 150 degree oven. Then I add a hook on the back, so the plate can hang in a kitchen or great room. It's a personalized gift that costs less than $2 and can be done in just minutes!

Additional TDS Resource: Check out these creative Christmas gift basket ideas

The Cost of Putting Things Off

I just learned a lesson about putting off home repairs. Had I properly fixed a small leak around my chimney years ago, I would not now have to replace the entire flat roof over my back room. The best quote I received to do this was $1600. This will take every dime I had saved for the winter, and it's my fault. The roofers are coming tomorrow. I will have them not only do the new roof, including plywood, but also pay a little extra for them to clean and repair the gutters, which is something else I have been avoiding. Although this repair is costly, it's a very good lesson. Fix the problem as it arises and take pride in a job well done on time!

Additional TDS Resource: More on the cost of procrastination

Checking User Reviews

Handy home gadgets and products sold on TV are ubiquitous. Occasionally, one attracts my attention. I head straight for the internet. In my favorite search engine, I enter the product's name exactly as it appears on television and "customer reviews" or "user reviews." Then I start reading the reviews. Knowing that some companies pay people to post favorable reviews, I look for those marked "verified purchase" on Amazon in the hopes it is a genuine opinion.

I consider the reviews in the aggregate before deciding whether to take a chance on purchasing. I made only one purchase in the past ten years or so, and that was for a friend whose friend loved his as-seen-on-TV item. I use the same method when purchasing online by the way.

Kitchen Energy Savings

This tip is for those that use a pressure cooker or pressure canner, but the same concept can be applied to those that use cast iron cookware that retains heat very well. I just harvested the last of some fruits and veggies from my garden and have been busy pressure canning. When a canning recipe said to cook for 25 minutes on the stove, I discovered that if I turned off the heat during the last eight to ten minutes of cooking, the heat was maintained enough to keep pressure up and finish the cooking/canning process. All stoves are different, but that test wouldn't be a hard one to gauge. Just set your timer and pay attention to when the pressure gauge drops.

The same concept is used when I use my pressure cooker. I can usually cut the heat halfway through cooking, as soon a pressure is built up. The maintained heat cooks vegetables, lentils, etc. Cast iron also can be used this way. This is especially true when a skillet is covered to maintain heat. It is a great way to save energy.

Getting Married?

Can't afford to spend $1000 on a wedding dress? Do what I did. Consider a bridesmaid dress. Most come in a variety of colors, including white and ivory. My dress cost a quarter of what a bridal dress would have cost and looked every bit as nice.

Additional TDS Resource: 20 ways to have a less expensive, more meaningful wedding

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