Secrets of a Cheapskate Gardener

I love a beautiful yard, but I hate spending money to get it that way which explains why I am always looking for do-it-yourself cheap ways to kill weeds, grow flowers and feed lawns.

I have come across some very clever tips and tricks, not the least of which is to reclassify the dandelion as a low-maintenance, hardy ground cover!

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While you ponder that suggestion, take a look at these clever ideas to make your own landscape supplies.

LAWN FOOD: Mix four pounds magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) with a bag of your favorite lawn food that covers 2,500 sq. ft. Now feed your lawn only half the amount of this mixture as recommended on the lawn food bag You’ll save a lot of money because you’ll be using less than half the normal amount of fertilizer and this formulation cuts down on the nitrogen which makes your lawn grow so fast. You’ll have the wonderful deep-green color, better root structure and you won’t have to mow as often.

LAWN SNACK: Try this on your lawn every three weeks during the summer. (With every third snack, add 1/2 cup clear corn syrup or molasses to the mixture.)

Pour the beer and shampoo (and corn syrup when it’s the third snack) into a 20-gallon hose-end sprayer jar; fill up the jar with ammonia and apply, following the instructions on the hose-end sprayer. You’re going to have very happy grass.

Backpacks That Wear Well and Look Good, Too

Have a messy outdoor job you need to tackle? How about those crummy, cheap backpacks that don’t even last through the school year? Today your fellow readers have tips for how to deal with those annoying problems and so much more!

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BACKPACK SOURCE. My sons had terrible problems with backpacks. Even the expensive ones would not last an entire school season. Then one day we went into the Army/Navy surplus store. We found military backpacks (rucksacks) that wore like iron! In fact, the boys carried them for years—all the way through high school. And, they thought they were very cool. Carole

TRASHY APRON. If you have a particularly dirty job to do like cleaning the outdoor grill, taking down dirty window screens or hosing down the patio furniture before storing away for winter, make yourself a disposable apron: Take a large garbage bag, cut holes for your head and arms and slip it over your clothes. You may look a little weird, but you’ll protect your clothes and save yourself a lot of time and trouble later. Roy

STORAGE DESIGN. If your storage space is limited and you have to stack several boxes on top of each other, make a diagram on an index card and keep it in a handy place. When you go to look for something you’ll know exactly where it is. Store items towards the front that you’re more likely to use often with less-used items at the back. Lucille

Tips to Outsmart Retailers’ Clever Tricks

I blame my suspicious nature on my neighborhood grocery store. The store used to be a logically arranged market with bright lights and clean floors—a basic, friendly, functional place to shop. Then the bulldozers morphed it into a big fancy supermarket complete with mood lighting and cushy chairs.

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I have nothing against beautiful spaces and modern conveniences, but I’m no fool. I knew all of this effort was to one end: to get me to spend more of my hard-earned money. Take the “Three for $6!” special of the week. Why not just say $2 each and drop the exclamation mark? I muttered to myself as I placed one jar of spaghetti sauce in the cart. Before I could wheel away I had my answer: I saw several customers dutifully place three jars in their carts. Not two, not four, but three jars.

That response was no accident. In fact, that’s a simple example of how retailers use tricks to persuade consumers to buy more. Retailers hire experts like Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy, and his company, Envirosell, to follow thousands of shoppers a year in person and on video, observing their every move. Using this information, the stores find ways to get people to shop longer, spend more and return often. Underhill and his crew are so good at what they do, they can tell retailers what will entice people to enter the store, which way they’ll look once they’re inside, and more.

Hotel Rooms that Make Stuff Disappear

I am embarrassed to admit how many personal items I’ve left behind in hotel rooms over the years. I’m talking about phone chargers, flash drives, hair products, power toothbrushes—and even clothes left hanging in the closet. What’s wrong with me? I left my must-have travel pillow—not once, but twice.

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My recovery rate is lousy, too. I got my pillow back the first time, but then managed a repeat and alas, it was never to be seen again.

Several months ago I put today’s first tip into action on my travels. This simple routine has made all the difference for me. It keeps all of my things organized and easily accounted for. And I’m happy to report, I’ve now arrived home with all of my possessions intact for six trips in a row—a new personal best.

Sometimes You Just Gotta’ Be Sneaky

They don’t call me the Queen of Costco for nothing. Truth be told, I love the place. And I buy large quantities of many items, but only because I’m also quite sneaky. I bring stuff home but then hide all but the minimal amount we need to get through the week, to create an atmosphere of scarcity.

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Human nature is such that in the face of an abundance of anything, we use it up quickly and with abandon.

Do you know that feeling of dread when you’re halfway through the laundry and discover you have about 3 ounces of detergent left? You kinda’ go easy, right? Same goes for anything that appears to be getting down to the end.

My favorite place to stash non-perishables is under the beds. Out of sight, out of mind. Even my mind! That’s why I’ve learned the value of keeping a secret inventory list, too.

The Secret of Financially Mature People

Over the years I’ve noticed something. People who live comfortably do not do so because they are particularly wealthy. It’s because they are disciplined. They possess financial maturity. They live according to principles and rules that they impose upon themselves. I have a feeling that Jane, today’s first tipster, is one of those people. Quietly disciplined, financially mature.

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LUXURY TAX. Whenever I spend money on a “want” (as opposed to a need), I tax myself with a self-imposed rule that I must deposit 10 percent of the total into my savings account immediately following the purchase. Jane

SUPER CLEANER. I mix rubbing alcohol and water 50/50 in a spray bottle. I clean virtually everything you can think of with this mixture. It leaves no streaks and it kills germs. I usually pay less than $1 for a bottle of store brand rubbing alcohol and it usually makes two bottles of cleaner. Cheap on the pocketbook and safer for the environment. Samantha

MUSTY DRAWERS. To sweeten old drawers I have always used a mixture of chlorine bleach and water. If badly stained, I use the bleach full strength. I have never known it to harm the wood. I do the same with unfinished, stained and dirty frames. After bleaching they can be varnished or painted. Ellen

COUPON POUCHES. I use those plastic zipper pouches that kids use for pens and pencils to organize my coupons and rebates. They have a clear front and three holes punched in the side. I have several for different categories of coupons or rebates and place them in a small three-ring binder. You can either color-code them or use a label maker to label the front of each pouch. Place an additional pouch in the back of your binder to hold receipts, rebate forms and UPCs for easy storage. I also keep a supply of small white envelopes, postage stamps, index cards and pens for easy rebate-filling while I’m waiting places. The binder can also be used to keep track of clothing sizes of family members, shopping lists, to-do lists, etc. Make it something you’ll never leave home without Jennifer

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.