Quick and Easy Tips to Keep Spending in Check

Sometimes it is the simplest things that bring the most joy. Like knowing how to chill a can of soda, a bottle of beer or wine—from room temperature to icy cold in just a couple of minutes! Seriously, I love this.

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Quick chill. Need to chill wine, beer or soda in a hurry? Get a bowl or other vessel that will accommodate the item either as it stands or lies on its side.

First, place the item to be cooled into the bowl or pan. Next add a good amount of ice plus one or two tablespoons of table salt (or rock salt if you have it). Fill with enough water so the item is covered. Stir to distribute the salt. This will thoroughly chill a can of soda or beer in just two minutes, or up to five minutes for a bottle of wine.

Zero-sum game.  Deposit your paycheck in your checking account and immediately start telling every dollar where to go. If you give every dollar a job to do, you’ll be less likely to experience money drains ….

Clever Uses for Fresh Cranberries

The fresh cranberry season, October through December, is now in full swing. Americans consume some 400 million pounds of cranberries each year. For sure, cranberries are delicious, but there are so many other ways to use them.

photo credit: FindingHomeOnline.com

photo credit: FindingHomeOnline.com

Centerpiece. Start with some Styrofoam balls, any size. Cut a bunch of wood toothpicks in half. Stick a pick into the ball so that about 1/2-inch is sticking out. Push a cranberry onto the toothpick until it touches the foam ball. Repeat untilthe ball is covered, placing the cranberries close enough so the white ball does not show through. Set your cranberry balls on candle holders of various heights or pile them into a large bowl.

Glitter. In a medium bowl stir together 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon pasteurized egg white (or one raw egg white) until blended, but not whipped. Coat raw cranberries with this mixture. Spread granulated sugar on a baking sheet and roll the cranberries in it until they are covered. Dry at room temperature for 2 hours. Use as garnish for desserts. Sugared cranberries almost sparkle, they are so pretty.

Garland. Wash cranberries. Thread a large sewing needle with waxed dental floss. Secure the first cranberry on the floss by putting the needle through the cranberry twice, then making a knot in the floss. Continue threading the cranberries until the desired length is achieved to decorate the mantel, Christmas tree or banister.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

As tempting as a pricey, artificial pre-lit Christmas tree may be, few things about the holidays are as satisfying as a fresh, real Christmas tree.

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Photo: FindingHomeOnline.com

Fresh test. Gently grasp a branch between your thumb and forefinger and pull it toward you. Very few needles should come off in your hand if the tree is fresh. Shake or bounce the tree on its stump. You should not see an excessive amount of green needles fall to the ground. Some loss of interior brown needles is normal and will occur over the life of a tree.

Keep it fresh. The best secret for keeping your tree fresh is water, water, water. Once you get your tree home you want to cut 1/4-inch off the end and immediately put it into water.

Be sure to store your tree in a cool, shaded place out of the sun such as a covered porch or garage until you are ready to bring it into the house.

Never allow your tree to run out of water. If a fresh tree is properly cared for and watered, it should stay fresh through New Year’s Day.

It’s Getting Chilly in Here

What if I told you there are some really sneaky ways you can cut the cost to heat your home that won’t require you to wear a down-filled, hooded parka 24 hours a day? Would I have your attention? Great, because that’s exactly what I have for you today.

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These easy tips could cut your heating bill by 20 percent or more, and none require more than 30 minutes of work. You will need to purchase a few inexpensive supplies but all are readily available. You will quickly recoup those costs in lower heating bills.

Replace worn weatherstripping. Open an outside door and look at that piece of “plastic molding” or strip of foam rubber that runs across the top and down both sides of doors and all the way around windows—designed to seal the air gap once closed. Is it torn, shredded, missing or otherwise not doing its job? Replace as necessary wherever it is allowing small drafts. Weatherstripping at any home center comes with sticky-back adhesive which makes it a cinch to install.

Door thresholds. Look under your front door and any other outside doors. See any daylight? That’s where precious warmed air is being sucked out into the cold. You may be able to adjust the threshold to close this gap. Look for four or five screws that when loosened will allow you to adjust the threshold height. You may need to replace it in order to get rid of all daylight.

Caring is Sharing But Hands Off My French Fries

If you have ever polished off an entire bag of those little tiny crunchy cookies in peace, you do not have small children. Or made a quick detour through you-know-which-drive-thru-I’m-talking-about to indulge in your very own large size hot French fries, for sure you’re miles away from the nearest kid.

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Because I can promise you—and I know this from personal experience—kids can smell a treat from miles away and they want in on it. I don’t know where kids get this sixth sense. It must be inborn.

Lucky for you, children haven’t figured out the value of fun and useful time- and money-saving tips, so consider this your lucky day. You can have these treats all to yourself.

PAY WITH CASH AT AMAZON. I use cash to purchase Amazon gift card at my supermarket. Then I use it to do my online shopping. This way, my identity is safe, I am not shopping on credit and I can’t over shop because the gift card is limiting to the exact amount that remains on it after each purchase. This guarantees I’m creating no new debt. That means happy and safer shopping. Lysa D.

The Secret in the Frosting

I don’t like surprises. I’m sure that says something about my propensity to be a control freak. I prefer to think it’s because I love the anticipation. To me, that’s half the fun. 

But a secret? Oh, yes! I love a good secret. Like this one about how to make whipped cream frosting that actually holds up, tastes fresh and looks gorgeous for a couple of days. You want to know the secret, too, don’t you. I didn’t pinky promise to not tell, so just keep reading and you’ll find it in today’s first great reader tip.

Cake with icing and cherries

photo credit: justgrandeko.blogspot.com

SECRET INGREDIENT. Using real whipping cream to ice a cake can be a hassle when it runs and separates. The way to stop this is to blend one teaspoon of dry instant vanilla pudding mix per one cup of cream before whipping, then whip it to a firm consistency and add sugar to taste. This mixture can be piped or spread on any cake and sets up to last for days in the fridge.

My family favorite is to use two round white cake layers. Pipe or spread a ring of cream on the edge of the bottom layer then spoon cherry pie filling in the center. The ring of cream helps the filling to stay in the center of the cake. Top with the second layer. Put a ring of cream rosettes or small spoons of cream closely together around the top edge and use more cherry filling to fill the top center. The sides can be piped or spread with the cream.  This can also be made a day ahead and looks just as beautiful. Kerri

Readers’ Tips Come with More than Just Great Ideas

The only thing I love more than great tips from my readers is the lovely words of love and thanks. Yeah, I’m a sucker for friendship and I value that more than you know.

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Just knowing that so many friends are reading these columns every day keeps me going. So whatever you do, keep those tips, great ideas and questions coming.

FREEZE MILK FOR LATER. I use whole milk, but only occasionally in some of my special recipes. Earlier this last year instead of purchasing the smaller size milk container for that one recipe, I purchased the gallon-size whole milk which is much cheaper per ounce. I froze what I didn’t need in 1 cup measurements in freezer bags. I am surprised how many times during the year this saved me from purchasing yet again a smaller size milk container for that one recipe.

I am so grateful for your daily emails–they have helped keep me on the right track. Thank you. Linda

SAFE TAKE-APART. I am a retired soldier. During my active career, we moved often. That meant my inner DIY needed to come out often. We disassembled many things over the years and I would like to add to your tips on taking things apart. Once the item is disassemble, always reposition the fasteners, screws or bolts and nuts back into the holes, exactly where they were. You are not putting the item back together, simply inserting the hardware into the specific slots and holes.

Packing all of these items into a zip-type plastic bag sounds like a good idea, but unless you very securely tape the little bag to the back of the item you took apart, the bag always seems to get lost some way or another.

Putting the fasteners back where they were means they will always be in the right place when and where you need them!

Now that we have retired, we still have some things disassembled in our shed for storage, and the fasteners are back in their spots waiting to be used in the reassembly, without hunting for them. Colonel T.W.

Know Your Cleaning Products

Two women, different locations, same accident. Both women using an ordinary commercial toilet bowl cleaner, were not satisfied with the way it was removing stains. Each added household chlorine bleach and stirred with a brush.

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One died quickly, the other spent a long time in the hospital.

Here’s the problem: Whenever chlorine bleach comes into contact with acid or an acid-producing substance like toilet bowl cleaner or vinegar, there is a sudden release of chlorine gas. This is not a good thing. A similar result occurs when chlorine bleach is mixed with ammonia, lye or other alkaline substances. Chlorine gas is lethal.

Now that I have your attention let me assure you: If you stay clear of chlorine bleach, you have nothing to fear by making your own cleaning products. Why should you even consider doing that? The cost, for starters. You know that blue window cleaner sitting on your counter? You paid about 30 cents an ounce for it and it’s 95 percent water. Your own products will cost only pennies to make and will not contain toxic chemicals that could be harmful to your family and the environment.