10 Easy Ways to Save Fuel

To save a gallon of gas, you need to cut about 22 miles of driving from your week. Here are 10 easy ways to do that:

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Hop on the bus, Gus. Even if you think this is not an option for you, check out PublicTransportation.org. You may be surprised by all the options that you have never considered. Or carpool. Leaving the car at home and sharing your commute occasionally can help you reach your gallon-goal quickly. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person regularly can cut your gas costs in half. Check out your carpooling opportunities at eRideShare.com.

Take it easy. The faster you drive, the more gas you use. If your average commute includes 20 miles of highway time and you drive it at 60 mph instead of 70 mph, it will take you only three minutes longer to get there, and you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week.

Trip-chain. Need to pick up a prescription, mail a package and go to the bank? Instead of spreading these tasks out over a few trips, chain them together by doing all of them at one time. Park in a central spot and walk from place to place.

More Little Ways to Save Time and Money

CLOG-FREE PET WASH. When giving your dog or cat a bath in the sink, cut a circle the size of your drain out of a green scrubbie pad. Place the pad in the drain to keep it from clogging with animal hair. Mary

Photo Credit: Qwen Wan

Photo Credit: Qwen Wan

BOOK BARGAINS. Look in the For Sale section of your local library for inexpensive books. We find books for adults and kids for $2 or less. I always look there for a book I am interested in before spending a lot at a bookstore, and sometimes I get lucky.  Sommer

ONLINE THRIFTING. Goodwill is no longer just a chain of walk-in thrift stores. They now have a website, Shopgoodwill.com, an Internet auction site operated by a nonprofit organization. It’s a great place to browse high quality donation items from across the country. You can find designer items like purses or shoes that are in great condition for a fraction of the retail price. Brenda

NOT JUST FOR TEETH. To remove pen or magic marker from nearly any hard surface—stained wood, plastic, baby doll faces, walls, flooring—use toothpaste! It works better than anything I’ve ever tried. Just don’t use whitening varieties on colored surfaces.  Jennifer

Fitness on a Budget

Recently I got a frantic letter from Barbara, who lives in Florida. It seems that her teenage son has taken up bodybuilding and her husband is adhering rigidly to the Atkins Diet, both of which are protein heavy. Barb got through the first week with a major case of mixed emotions: Her husband lost 7 pounds, her son gained 4—and her food bill doubled!

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Can Barb keep her food costs down while still supporting her family’s eating choices? I know she can. Special diets don’t have to be budget-busters. In the same way her son and husband are adjusting their way of eating, Barb must adjust the way she shops.

Don’t pay full-price for protein. Tuna, chicken breasts and lean beef cuts are always on sale somewhere. If you don’t want to store-hop, you can always find some cut of meat, fish and poultry on sale in your favorite market. Eat what’s on sale and if it’s a loss-leader (that means dirt-cheap in an effort to entice people through the door), stock up for the coming weeks. Grab up the items that are marked down for quick sale and then freeze.

Buy carbs in bulk. Find a warehouse club, ethnic market, health food store or food coop that offers rice, beans, oatmeal, nuts and legumes in by the pound. Store dry items in the freezer to retain freshness.

Shop with a list. Buying on impulse can blow a budget and a diet. So can arriving at the store hungry. Eat before you get there, stick to your list so you leave nothing to chance.

Home Improvement Money-Saving Secrets

If you’ve been putting off updating or sprucing up your home because of the high cost of home improvements, today’s readers are sure to inspire you to do those projects yourself, for less!

HARDWOOD FLOORING. My husband and I wanted a hardwood floor but the estimate of more than $3,000 (which worked out to more than $7 per square foot) was out of our budget. We decided to try 4-foot by 8-foot sheets of veneer plywood at less than $45 a sheet, or about $1.40 per square foot.  We installed the plywood and sealed it with two gallons of polyurethane. The floor is beautiful and cost about $675 total. Jenn

Photo Credit: Curbly

Photo Credit: Curbly

SHOWER CURTAIN RESCUE. In a house full of boys who don’t know their own strength I frequently find the shower curtain torn away from the hooks. To fix this I use clear packaging tape to cover the hole, punch a new hole, replace the shower ring and its good as new.  Double the tape and it lasts twice as long. Maureena

VERTICAL BLIND RENEW. Do not throw away your old, faded, cloth verticals blinds. I didn’t want to pay for new ones, so I painted them with the same off-white paint I was using in another part of the house. Any color latex paint will work. Just allow a couple of days for them to dry. I discovered that with the extra weight of the paint, they hang more beautifully than ever. Dottie

Unclog a Drain Yourself Without Chemicals

A plugged up sink, shower or tub drain sends most people running for either a bottle of caustic drain cleaner, or a plumber’s phone number. But wait. This could well be a job you can do yourself without chemicals or a big bill.

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Assess the situation. Turn on taps to allow water down other drains in the house. If everything else is flowing freely, you can be fairly certain you have a localized clog—and probably near that clogged drain’s opening. If this is involving other drains, you could have a bigger problem that may well require a professional. Assuming it’s only the one drain, let’s move on.

Boiling water. Get a large pot and boil up as much water as it will hold. Now carefully pour boiling water down the drain slowly, in two to three stages so that the hot water can work for a few minutes in between each pour. This is the easiest and quickest way to unclog a drain if it works, which usually it does with a satisfying swoosh.

Reach in. Remove the strainer that is part of the drain plug, then reach into the drain with your fingers (latex gloves would be a good idea here) and pull out any solids. As gross as this might be, it is often all that’s needed to clear a slow-moving or clogged drain.

The Joy of Laundry

Start with one of the principles of living beneath your means: Take care of what you have. Next, add one of the most effective ways to reduce stress: Find an activity that gives you a sense of personal satisfaction. And what do you have? Laundry! No seriously.

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I’m one of those people who loves to do laundry. From the challenge of getting a stain out to the smell of clean when the clothes come out of the washer, to pulling warm sheets and towels from the dryer—all of it appeals to my enjoyment of instant gratification. I love the entire process. Even like the folding part.

One Big Handy Coaster

I have a can of lacquer thinner that I keep handy for one purpose: To clean up any kind of paint spills on carpet, tile or clothes*. It works well, but it is a pain, to tell you the truth. And now it dawns on me. Why not do something clever to prevent the spills in the first place? Yeah, I like that a lot better.

PAINT CAN COASTER. When I am doing a painting job, I always glue a paper plate to the bottom of the paint can before I open it. That way I can pick up the can whenever I need to move it and I know that the paper plate will catch all the drips and spills. Sam

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DE-SALT THE SAUCE. If you find that your tomato sauce or soup is too salty, just add a little brown sugar. It will neutralize some of the salty taste. Janet

NO-STICK BEATERS. Before you use your electric mixer, spray the beaters with some non-stick cooking spray. It will keep the batter or frosting from clinging to the beaters and clogging them up. Sarah

FREEZING BREAD. Whenever I freeze bread or bagels, I always add a dry paper towel to the inside of the storage bag before slipping it in a freezer. The paper towel soaks up the extra moisture and the bread stays fresher longer once defrosted. Carolyn

SOFTEN HANDS. Here’s a fast and easy way to soften hands: Squirt 2 tablespoons inexpensive lotion into your hands. Add a generous tablespoon of sugar, and rub the concoction all over your hands. The sugar exfoliates your hands and the lotion softens them. Rinse with warm water, wash the solution off, and apply a fresh coat of lotion. Soft, smooth hands for pennies! Brooke

A Compulsive Shoppers Guilt-Free Playground and Other Quick Tips

Today I have a bunch of tips for you. These are short, quick, wonderful ways to save time and money every day. I’m crazy about tips. Actually, I collect them, test them, sort them, categorize them, file them and then turn around and share them with friends like you.

You might find yourself asking, “But Mary, will any one of these ideas really save me any money?” Probably not very much if you consider only one tip, but many tips applied over a period of time can result in serious cumulative savings.

Photo Credit: infomatique

Photo Credit: infomatique

Library. What a fabulous place the library is. There you and your kids will find current newspapers (perhaps you will need to explain to your kids what a newspaper is), magazines, children’s books, adult books, videos, audio books, DVDs, CD’s and wonderful storytellers. You get to take home something new and it doesn’t cost anything. If you like to shop for fun, satisfy the impulse by visiting a library.

Some libraries have begun adding household items you can borrow—things like coffee urns and cake pans in the shape of characters. You can check them out for an event to host a family reunion and make your kids’ birthday cakes in the same way you borrow books.