Dollar Stretcher Tips - 06/24/04


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Ant Free

A great way to get rid of ants is to put used coffee grounds at their point of entry into your house. If you're lucky enough to find the source ant colony outside, dumping one filter-full of used coffee grounds will eradicate the whole colony.


I have found a wonderful way to organize the laundry task. I went to the local office supply store and purchased several plastic trash baskets. At the end of the day, I toss the dirty clothes in the baskets according to color, and when one of the baskets is full, I can throw it in the washing machine. This will take up some space, but it was worth it not to sort through a mountain of dirty clothes on "wash day." Now I can do them as needed, without setting aside one whole day of punishment.
Ms. Becky

Lodging for Less

Hotel rates can be rather high, especially during tourist season. I once worked for a hotel housekeeping department. I remembered how many times we listed a room as unavailable due to problems ranging from something very simple and cosmetic to serious problems like no running water.

When we needed to find another hotel room due to a reservation error, the rate quoted to me was out of my range. So I asked if the hotel had any rooms blocked that required minor repair work and had at least one serviceable bed that they would be willing to fill for the night. They did! One double room had a broken bed frame, but the other bed was in perfect order. I took the room for my husband and myself, got a great rate (just a little over half price), and had a wonderful night's sleep. This worked out well for us because when we travel, a hotel is just a place to sleep and hold the luggage while we seek adventure. We leave early in the morning and don't go back to the room until late in the evening. I'm not seeking the perfect room. I only want it to be clean and have running water, at least one bed in good order, and air conditioning!

Remember that hotels are there to make money. If you don't mind the fact that the room has a cracked mirror or maybe the TV doesn't work, try this option. If they can fill it, most likely they will. All you have to do is ask.

Home-Baked Goodness

If you know a lot of high school graduates and would like to send something but can't afford a lot, a cute and inexpensive gift is a "cookie card." For those going away to school, I put in my card a few postcards I have made on my computer. The postcard has a funny greeting, my name and address, and stamp already on it. When they drop it back in the mail to me with their address, I send them a small batch of cookies. A small cereal box makes a great packing box. This has always been a big hit in the past and usually redeemed within the first few months. Sending a batch of cookies is usually less than I would pay for another gift, and I don't have to spend a lot at once. Even students living at home and going to the local community college love it!

Themed Toy Storage

Recently when my daughter turned six and wanted a "Barbie box" to store her dolls and clothes in. The ones at the store were going for almost $20 and definitely weren't in the budget. I ended up buying a Rubbermaid tote for about $3 and sprucing it up.

Originally, I had planned to put Barbie stickers on it, but I couldn't find any large enough. When buying wrapping paper, I spotted some with a Barbie theme. I got it and used it to wrap her presents. I then took the leftovers, cut out the parts I wanted, and attached them to the tote with clear contact paper, which I already had. It turned out great and my daughter loved it! My son ended up getting a similar one with a superhero theme. I've gone on to put other images on most of their storage boxes. I've used wrapping paper, stickers, and clip art printed from the computer. Not only do they look great, but they help the kids know where things need to go when it is time to pick up.

This could be done for the storage of household items as well, so that you know at a glance what storage container you need without buying the specially colored ones at a higher cost.
Nadine in Montana

At-Home Work Ideas

Here are a few stay-at-home, money-earning ideas. I know these work because my friends or I are currently using them.

1. Music lessons - I have taught piano/organ/keyboard/midi for the last 34 years. I currently earn $20 an hour or $10 per each 1/2 hour lesson. I work two 8-hour days.

2. Childcare - A friend used this when she had her baby and thereafter for about 6 years. She contacted the city/county/state for requirements and advice.
There is a very great need for loving childcare.

3. Medical transcription - Two of my friends are currently earning very high wages this way. Each went about getting set up in different ways. One took a junior college course and got started through a local hospital and local doctor's office doing take-home work. The other took a correspondence course and started working for a local doctor's office doing take-home work. The first now receives her work through Fed-ex and sends it back through modem.
Joanne G.

Fresher Lettuce

We buy mixed salad in the plastic bags. My husband is the only one that eats it, so it used to spoil before it was eaten. My mother-in-law worked as a salad girl for many years at the Fassett House in Wellsville, NY, and she always put paper towels in the bottom of the bowl that contained a head of lettuce.

After throwing out so much soggy salad mix, I started putting it in a bowl with a couple of paper towels on the bottom and one on the top. I found that it stayed fresh for about a week longer than it had in the past.

Camping Containers

Try using the wax-coated boxes that the supermarkets get vegetables in (like cucumbers) for camping. They won't draw moisture like regular cardboard boxes and will keep their strength and shape. They will last for many trips.

Cheaper Stencils

Stenciling is a cheap and cheerful way to decorate a room. Stencils, however, are not cheap. Instead of purchasing them from your local do-it-yourself store, use an air freshener container lid instead. These lids often have cut-out floral designs that are perfect for any room.

Sample Savings

This is a tip for people who buy makeup regularly. Some products, specifically face powder and liquid-to-powder makeup, are actually cheaper, ounce-for-ounce, if you buy the sample size. I was surprised when I did the math and figured this out, but it makes sense because the sample size does not come packaged in a mirrored compact. You may want that full compact if you carry your makeup around, but if you use the makeup at home, the compact is an unnecessary expense and is ecologically wasteful.

Worth the Wait

While visiting a Don Aslett's Cleaning Center in my area, the lady explained that most cleaning products, no matter how cheap, work fine, but they need to come into contact with the grime for a period of time to really be effective. Most folks spray on and wipe off right away. I started using this philosophy while cleaning and have seen vast improvement.

I also decided to try this with my wash. I put 1/2 scoop of laundry soap in the machine first, fill the washer with clothes, and then turn the machine on without closing the lid. The machine will fill and agitate, but then it will stop. I let the clothes soak for 15 to 20 minutes before shutting the lid and letting the machine finish. Our clothes are coming out much cleaner with fewer stains and also our sheets and pillowcases don't have that "old sheet" smell that seemed to linger despite frequent washings. A couple of times I did forget to close the washer and it sat overnight, but the clothes came out fine.
Teri in Kuna, ID

The Big Breakfast

To save more on vacation or business travel food, you should eat lunch and dinner from food you take or buy at a local grocery store, and make breakfast your restaurant meal. Often breakfast gives you the best value for the dollar, especially in hotels. I favor hotel rooms that include a kitchenette (usually microwave, toaster, kettle, and refrigerator) and "all you can eat" breakfast in the room rate. That way, we eat a hearty breakfast as part of the room rate, pack a light lunch or snack, and have soup and instant dinners for not much more than the cost of food at home.
Teresa F.

No Mosquitoes

To keep mosquitoes out of my rain barrel, I go down to the local pond or lake and catch a sun fish, blue gill, or a small bullhead. They keep it real clean. I feed them bread or fish food or they will come right out of the water for a small worm. You can also go to a fish pet store and buy inexpensive surface feeders.

Safer Sandboxes

I wanted to make a sandbox. I thought about using treated lumber, but with the cancer scare, I went with 4-inch sewage pipe with elbows in the corner and landscaping cloth on the floor. You can also add other PVC modifications to add play stuffs.
Eric H. in Dallas

Do you have a good idea for saving time and money? Send it to Dollar Stretcher Tips, PO Box 141460, Bradenton FL 34280-4160 and we'll send you a copy of our print newsletter.

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