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How to Trap Wasps and Other Great Reader Tips

Are you aware that your health insurance provider may be willing to cover the cost of your gym membership? Or that all you need to take care of those annoying wasps flying around your home this summer may be as close your food pantry? How about where and how to purchase beautiful high-quality, name-brand men’s belts cheap? Your fellow-readers know and today they’re willing to share.

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WASP CONTROL. It’s that time of year when I’m filling containers with homemade potion to trap the wasps that love to visit my property. I place containers around the yard, pool and patio. Wasps and other various other flying insects are attracted, dive in for a drink and never come out. Here’s the recipe: Mix together 6 oz. (3/4 cup) vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. If you need more, double the recipe. This wasp potion is non-toxic and harmless for kids and pets. Marilyn

INSIDER HOTEL INFO. Always check the hotel website before making a reservation. That’s where you will find our best rates. At the hotel where I work, when you reserve through Travelocity and Expedia, you’ll pay the full rate plus the commission—really pricey! Carey

Wash Clothes Inside Out and Other Laundry Tips and Tricks

I love to do laundry. I’m crazy that way. And I enjoy discovering ways to do it more efficiently—and by efficient I do mean cheaper, better and faster.

In fact, I was about ready to give myself a proper title, The Laundress, until I discovered a couple of very bright young women in New York City beat me to it. It’s OK. They can keep the title and charge an arm and a leg for their chi-chi laundry products in little bottles. Me? I’d rather use every tip I can find to create equally beautiful results and keep my money, too. Are you with me? Great! Here are some of my favorite laundry tips to get going.

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WHEN WRONG IS RIGHT. Wash your clothes inside out to keep them looking newer longer. In this way the wrong side of the garment takes all of the abuse and fading caused by the agitation not the right side. Clothes get just as clean when washed inside-out.

SOFT DRY JEANS. You’ll never experience the heartbreak shrunken jeans if you do this: Put them in the dryer for only 10 minutes. That’s enough to soften them. Take them out still wet and hang on a hanger from ankles. The weight of the semi-wet jeans will pull out the wrinkles and keep them at their the proper length when fully dry.

Readers Share Secrets for How to Clean Leather Boots, Save on Hand Soap and More

Every day I learn something new from my clever readers. Take fine leather for example. I think it’s safe to say we’re all aware that Italy is where one would find the best. I’d just never thought about the Italians have superior knowledge for how to care for said leather. While I love today’s first great reader tip, I have to admit that Lysa made me laugh out loud!

REJUVENATING BOOTS. Olive oil removes salt and stains from leather boots and shoes. Shines the leather, too. It’s an Italian thing. Lysa

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GOOD TO THE LAST SQUEEZE. I hate wasting any little bit of a product I’ve paid for. After the toothpaste has squeezed out its last glob, I cut off the tube about an inch from the cap. I can get another 5 or 6 brushings from what remains. Debbie

SAVINGS ON LIQUID SOAP. Those foam pump dispensers are so nice. But they seem expensive for the amount of soap you get compared to the amount of water in the bottle. I save the dispensers and refill about 1/4 of the bottle with liquid hand soap and fill the rest of the bottle with water. Put the top back on and roll the bottle around until the soap dissolves into the water (may take a little time to fully blend the two). Voila! I have a refill bottle of liquid soap that takes me years to use up because I use so little of it to refill a foam dispenser bottle. Kay

Smart, Savvy Readers Respond Kindly

My favorite thing about being your humble blogger is getting feedback from my readers. Most of the time your letters are so kind and encouraging—containing tips, questions or other relative information. Only now and then do I get a negative “Shame on you!” or “Choose your words more carefully!” which I take under advisement while hitting delete. Many times though, your messages offer additional information regarding something I’ve written about, from which all of us can benefit.

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RABBITS IN THE GARDEN. Blood meal (garden center) works really well to send bunnies away from any kind of garden—flowers or vegetables. Blood meal is also a natural rabbit and deer repellant that  works incredibly well. Just sprinkle it on the soil around each plant. Keeps squirrels out too! (As always, read the product label for instructions and cautions, especially if you have pets. -mhKath

BEST SHOE REPAIR. You asked, so here’s my contribution for the best shoe repair in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul), Minn. area: Gene’s Hartland Shoe Repair. Gene’s been repairing shoes for many decades. His website (hartlandshoes.us) has tons of helpful information about caring for shoes, too. He’s just the best! Sue

Little Things Readers Do to Save Time and Money Every Day

If you are taking salad for lunch, pour the amount of dressing you will need into the bottom corner of a small plastic bag. Put a twist tie above the dressing and cut off the rest of the bag. When you are ready to eat, just snip off the corner and squeeze the dressing into your salad. Kristine

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MAC N’ CHEESE MY WAY. My toddler eats only a small portion of a box of macaroni and cheese. Leftover mac and cheese is never a hit and the individual packs are too pricey. Instead, I buy the boxes when they are on sale and store the cheese powder and noodles in separate jars. Then I can prepare individual servings as needed. I use 1/3 cup of dry noodles and one heaping tablespoon each of cheese powder, butter and milk. Michel

TOILET CLEAN.  To get rid of mineral rings in the toilet, drop in one or two denture tablets. Check its progress in 30 minutes—or go ahead and leave it overnight. Flush. The toilet should be sparkling clean. Amy

These Bugs Detect Water Leaks You Cannot See

My readers do come up with great tips, tricks and ideas for how to save time and money every day. Today is no exception. From bugs to puppy poop—all the way to phone chargers and tomato paste, we’re about to cover a lot of frugal ground.

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CUTEST LITTLE LEAK DETECTOR. After dealing with a toilet leaking and causing $500 in damage because it went unnoticed for too long, my plumber told me about this ingenious little device called the LeakBug, which detects the smallest amount of standing water and alerts you to it with loud beeping like a smoke alarm. I purchased one for each of my bathrooms, under sinks and next to the water heater. I’m finding that my peace of mind is well worth the initial cost! Mack

TOMATO PASTE WASTE. Many times a recipe will call for a small amount of tomato paste. Often, this means that if you’re like me, what remains in the can is stored in the refrigerator for future use. It also means that months later I find it and toss it in the trash because it has now gone bad. But no more! Now, I take the remaining tomato paste and spread it out in a thin layer in a zip sandwich bag I store flat on a freezer shelf until it’s frozen. The next time I need tomato paste, I simply break off what I need, zip up the bag and replace in the freezer. Works great; no more waste! Karen

Low and Slow on the Bacon Plus 7 More Useful Tips

FOOLPROOF BACON. The easiest mess-free way to cook bacon with the least amount of shrinkage is low and slow in the oven—365 F for 30 minutes.

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HEALTHIER, GREENER HOUSEPLANTS. Whether you’ve got a green thumb or not, you probably want your houseplants to thrive. Watering plants with club soda is better for them than plain water as it contains phosphate and other nutrients that enrich the soil and promote growth.

CLEAN A WINDOW BLIND CORD. The pull cord on your window blinds used to be white. Remember that? Here’s a quick and easy way make it that way again:

Raise the blind so that the maximum amount of pull cord is exposed. Next fill a strong gallon-sized zip-lock type bag about half way with a 50/50 mixture of water and liquid bleach (or liquid detergent if bleach makes your nervous). Gather up the pull cord and place it in the bag. Carefully twist the top of the bag and secure it closed over the cord using one or two clothes pins or chip clips. Allow to remain this way overnight. In the morning, carefully remove the bag and wipe down the cord with a dry towel.

Caution: This is likely a two-person job. Make sure you well protect the floor below this project just in case you encounter any spillage. This is a little tricky but works so well it’ll be worth the extra effort.

FREE FERTILIZER. Spent coffee grounds work great as fertilizer and insect repellent in the garden. Plants such as rosebushes, azaleas, rhododendrons, evergreens and camellias that prefer acidic soils will especially appreciate the leftovers from your morning cup—decaf or regular. Not a coffee drinker? Ask the baristas at that coffee shop down the street to save some for you.

DIY WRINKLE RELEASE SPRAY. You can spend $7.99 for a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser, but why would you when you can make it yourself for a couple of pennies?

Pour 8 ounces distilled water into a spray bottle. Add 1 teaspoon liquid fabric softener and 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol. Apply sprayer tightly, and shake well. Set spray pattern to fine mist. Spray the offending wrinkles with a fine mist then smooth out the wrinkles with your hand. This spray will dry quickly and wrinkles will be gone.

GENTLE SCRUBBING CLEANSER. Make your own gentle scrubbing cleanser that’s eco-friendly and costs very little, using just three ingredients.

Mix 1/4 cup baking soda, 2 tablespoons liquid dish detergent like blue Dawn and enough white vinegar to make a smooth paste. Use to clean the stove top, sinks, bathtub, shower walls—any place you need some gentle scrubbing power but do not want to run the risk of scratching the surface.

KIDS IN MUSEUMS. Want to visit museums with your children but avoid the boredom and tears? Head to the gift shop first and buy postcards of the museum’s most famous works. Create a treasure hunt in the museum for these masterpieces. Send the postcards or add them to your trip album.

FORMICA FACELIFT. If you can’t replace the Formica counters that you think are out of date, consider painting them. There are several methods that you can use.

Consult a good paint store or check your local home improvement center. Products such as Counter-top Transformations by Rust-Oleum or Giani Granite Paint will update your look for a reasonable cost.

Repair—Don’t Replace—and Pocket the Savings and More!

Not all companies are starving for business these days. In fact, some are setting records for increased business. Any kind of repair business and also thrift stores are doing great during these financial turbulent times. Makes sense. After all it doesn’t require a Mensa membership to know that most often it is cheaper to repair than to replace, and you can clean silver for a fraction of the price of a commercial cleaning product for a fraction of their new price tag. Which leads me to today’s first in a fun collection of random tips …

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WINDSHIELD REPAIR. Call your insurance agent to report a small crack in your car’s windshield. Many insurance companies will fix cracks or “stars” for free, provided they’re smaller in size than a quarter, in order to prevent larger claims in the future. Some companies will even send a repair person to your home or work to make it convenient for you.

CORD CORRAL. To corral a group of cords under your desk or behind a TV, buy a plastic shower rod cover. Cut it to your desired length. Then spread it open and enclose the cords. You can even match it to your carpet color to make the cords less visible.

COUPONS FOR KIDS. Turn grocery shopping into a game for kids. Pick out which coupons you plan to use and give them to the kids. Let them try to match the items from the coupons to the items on the shelf. Then, at check out let their reward be the money that you saved from using the coupons.

FRESH SCENT. Scented candle stubs from used candles will keep your car smelling fresh. Put the wax pieces in a can or a small container and leave them in your car. On a warm day, the wax will melt and fill the car with a nice fragrance.