Readers' Tips

Starting a "Price Book"

The start of a price book is time-consuming and overwhelming, but WELL worth the hassle and time. One of Amy Daczyczn's "Tightwad Gazette" volumes has a good article about price books. That helped a lot. I believe she gives a few good illustrations of the layout of her price book. I started with my basic ingredients of favorite recipes (ground beef, chicken, rice) and necessities like milk, toilet paper, coffee. It took me two months to complete a price book because I usually had to shop with three kids. I went to four stores and a warehouse food club until I got all my basics down. I quit going to several grocery stores after awhile because they were so expensive; this is something I didn't know until I started my price book.

Your completed price book is a powerful tool. With my price book I found the cheapest diapers go on sale at the most expensive grocery store in town and warehouse shopping isn't as cheap as we're led to believe. The best advice: STICK WITH IT!

A Simple Sheet

For those who want to be a smart/sharp shopper, having a price book is a good way to know what you have actually paid for things in the past. Unless you have one of those photographic memories, or are a student of the mega-memory course, most of us will need to write things down. A price book can be as simple or complex as you like. Mine is very simple. I just keep a list of products that I buy frequently (in alphabetical order) with the best price that I've ever paid for each product. When I go through the sale flyers each week, even though the flyer may be very splashy and colorful and have big letters advertising some "great" sales, by having my price book to refer to I can know if this is indeed a great price or not. I've seen many things advertised in sales flyers that give the impression of being great deals; with the price book I can know for certain whether they are or not. By the way, my price book is not really a book but a single sheet of paper.

editor's note: more on Starting a Price Book

Cheaper Fragrance Free Liquid Soap

I recently was on a quest for a liquid hand soap I could use in the kitchen, bathroom, and guest powder room. I like the fact that liquid soaps don't present the waste and bacterial problems of bar soaps. I happen to be allergic to most fragrances, especially the synthetic (read inexpensive) ones. While one can get bulk hand soap by the gallon at Costco, Price Club, and other member-discount-superstores, these all contain fragrance, which is lethal to my skin. The liquid hand soaps without fragrance were outrageously priced, even in superstores like KMart and Walmart.

I finally came up with a great solution: baby shampoo! Fragrance-free and cheap! $2 for 16 ounces. I would like to add the caution that generic brands of baby shampoo frequently contain fragrance: check the ingredients label on the bottle. I hope this helps other fragrance-sensitive frugal friends!
Laura and her pug, Olivia

Single Mom, Special Needs Son

I am a single working mom of a *special needs* kid. I am getting killed financially with medical and pharmacy bills, but still make too much money to qualify for any federal assistance. I really need two jobs to keep us afloat, but have had to find ways around paying for child care while making more money. Two of the ideas that have helped me are:

  1. For two years my son and I were involved in an early intervention program designed to help kids at risk for doing poorly in elementary school. We both took classes, my son had to learn how to act appropriately in a classroom setting, while I learned parenting skills. After our graduation from the program, I was asked to stay on as a paid teacher, and my son was able to continue coming to the program as a graduate with no cost to me. This idea may not have wide application, but there may be something like it in your vicinity.

  2. Another job I have been able to develop is medical transcription from home. Many medical facilities are moving away from paper records and need to have all manner of reports typed in such a way as to be added to the computer record. Medical (and I believe, legal) transcription is a field that is crying for typists. An interested person would need a grasp of the terminology and a computer. Contact the medical records department of your local health care facility if you would like to give it a try. This job has the added bonus of not being particularly time dependent. I can do it at times that work out for me.


Non-Stick Cookware

I'm responding to Lisa's query about her problem with Teflon cookware. I work in a kitchen-type merchandise store and know something about this subject. Unfortunately, as long as you continue to use the Teflon-coated cookware, or any truly nonstick cookware, you will continue to have a problem with peeling, cracking and chipping. The reason is that the coating is sprayed on and is, in fact, a type of paint. The best way to avoid this is to buy good quality cookware that is stick-resistant, and cook on low to medium heat (recommended on all fine cookware anyway).

A couple of recommendations would be Calphalon Hard Anodized cookware or All Clad Stainless Steel (used by 80 percent of the finest restaurants in the world). Calphalon does make a nonstick version of their cookware (called Commercial Nonstick); however, you encounter the same problem as the Teflon because the interior surface is sprayed on in the same way. You may also wish to look at ScanPan cookware. However, none of these recommended brands come cheap, so you may want to check estate sales and the like to get better pricing, or buy on sale. Better pricing comes when you buy sets as opposed to buying piecemeal.
Dena D.

editor's note: more suggestions on everyone's favorite cookware at Restoring Non-Stick Cookware and Alternative Choices

Halloween Costume

I have to say the most original costume and one of the easiest was a few years back when my husband and I went as Q-tips. Yes, Q-tips! We dressed all in white, invested a few bucks in 2 bald wigs, and glued some polyfill stuffing on top of the wig. We also put a little stuffing on our shoes. We painted our faces white, and voila, Q-tips. We won first prize for most original costume.

Upside-Down Savings

Here's a tip that's an oldie-goldie: Turn bottles upside down to use the very last drop. Any kind of bottle -- shampoo, ketchup, liquid soap -- anything that qualifies as a slow liquid. At any time in my fridge, you're likely to see upside down bottles of salad dressing or ketchup. I keep my shampoo and conditioner bottles upside down when I have to start shaking them to get anything out of them. I can also get 3 peanut butter sandwiches from a jar that my husband claims is ready for the garbage! It pays to use every bit of everything. I know it saves me big bucks at the grocery store.

Moving to a Smaller House

We moved from a large three-bedroom house to a one-bedroom apartment in another state because of a job transfer. First, we had a huge moving sale to get rid of our big items. Then I read "Clutter's Last Stand" by Don Aslett and a few other books on getting organized. I made a scale drawing of the apartment floor plan to see how much we could squeeze into it, and even drew the kitchen cabinets with a plan for what to store where. We got "over the door" Lucite hangers, over the toilet shelves, over the door shelves, and multiplug surge strips (mounted on the side of the vanity with doublebacked tape, for instance) to hang in the kitchen and bathroom to plug in small appliances and hair dryers. It was hard to adjust to smaller quarters, but the key is planning every detail you can think of. Most of us have way too much stuff. It's a great feeling to let go of some of it. I donated lots of stuff to local charities.
Shirley F.

Look at Your New Home Differently

What a great opportunity for your reader who is downsizing to make his life easier. Don't think of it as having less. Look on it as a chance to readjust your home to fit you. Clean out everything. Don't keep anything that isn't totally useful, beautiful to your eyes and heart, and that adds value to your life. Think of the jobs you hate to do, and try to eliminate them. I feel the less on tables, the less to dust. Don't keep anything big or small, just because you think you should or because someone gave it to you. Look at furniture with a new eye and don't limit its use to the room for which it was bought. Night stands can make better endtables because they provide storage. Give things away. Donate and take the tax deduction, or have a great garage sale. Make your life easier, and give yourself more time for you.

editor's note: more Moving To a Smaller House tips

Cheaper Winter Heating?

My husband called Columbia Propane and asked them why, in light of the fact that wholesale propane prices have declined about 33 percent between last year and this year, are we still being charged the same per gallon price ($1.15) this year? Shouldn't our per-gallon price have declined, also?

They said yes, and adjusted the price on our bill from $1.15 per gallon to $0.985 per gallon, and said this price will be good for 1 year. This will add up to a nice savings for the upcoming heating season. He got the impression that this is something the informed consumer needs to *ask* for, i.e., that they will not automatically just give it to all accounts. Check your bills. You should be paying less per gallon this year than last. If not, make them give you a reduction.

The same should be true of natural gas (16 percent decline) or heating oil (28 percent). All have declined substantially over the last 12 months. Your per-gallon charge should be significantly lower this year.
Laurie T.

It's the Thought That Counts

One year when things were really tough for my friend, she did the following very successfully. Each family member made a book or folder for the other family members. In it they put lots of pictures or drawings of what they wished they had the money to get that person for Christmas. Give plenty of time. Maybe do an afternoon of Christmas book project. Pictures can be anywhere: the newspaper, a Sears catalog, the local mall handouts, junk mail inserts, new car dealerships, or hand drawn.

This fosters true generosity of spirit without money. One of the pictures used was land in Colorado as advertised in the Travel section of the paper. One was an expensive wristwatch, one was a silly inexpensive game. All were well thought out and the giver as well as the receiver enjoyed this. Maybe your readers will too.
Sharon J. F. in TX

Cheaper Kids' Pictures

Better than having your kids' pictures taken at school, where the prints are usually overpriced and you aren't there to make sure your kids look presentable, Wal-Mart and K-mart always have picture specials. 100 portraits for $1.95, usually with a $5-7 sitting fee. Still cheaper than what you get at the school and you can get them spiffed up at home and go straight to the store and get the pics done. Plus, they "freeze" the photo on a computer screen for you to view--if you don't like it, they will re-shoot. If I don't like the pose, I have them re-do it until it is the way I want it. And I go there with my mind set that I am ONLY getting the special $1.95 package, no matter how cute the other poses look!!!

Healthier Roll-Ups

One recipe I like to use for the kids is yogurt 'leather'. Just spread yogurt about 1/4'' thick on the sheets that come w/dehydrater or thick saran- or cheaper yet,make sheets from slicing gallon milk jugs- dry as you would fruit leather. This tastes alot like taffy,is a healthier alternative to candy for kids.

Vanilla and strawberry are or favorites.You can layer two different colored flavors then roll them up and slice for a pretty little candy.I used these for treats at the daycare I worked at and the kids loved them as a Valentine treat.

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