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It Pays to Pay Attention

Do you know the scanning error policies of the stores and restaurants you frequent most often? If you’ve never thought about it, you are going to get a big wake-up call with today’s first great reader tip! These days, we just cannot be too careful.

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CATCHING ERRORS PAYS. We just caught $80 dollars in clerical errors in two days. Three were at the grocery store. I got double charged for an item and an item on clearance was going to be charged full price because they forgot to black out the barcode. At another grocery store I was supposed to get a half pound of cheese if I bought a pound of meat. I bought the full pound, but they did not take off the cheese. Another error happened to my husband when he bought a two dollar measuring cup. The clerk did not give him a receipt, but did proceed to charge him $69. This was caught on camera. She put the next person’s purchase on his card. All these errors were corrected because we were paying attention. Lesson learned: Check your receipts immediately and online bank statements daily. These errors can add up quickly. Margaret

SECRET CODE. Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Memorize the number. If you don’t have confidence to do that, put it in code form, i.e. a long string of numbers where the individual numbers of your SS number are hidden in the 1st, 3rd, 5th or such places in the number chain etc, etc.  Do this on a 3 x 5 card with no title. Now anyone finding it will have no clue what significance this number chain has. John

Water Bath Keeps Lemons Fresh and Other Great Reader Tips

I’m a lucky woman. Once a month my husband and I make a quick trip to California to tend to business, see friends and visit our older son, who just happens to have the most prolific Meyer lemon tree on earth in his back yard.

I try to always bring an empty bag with me so I can load up with these beautiful, tree-ripened lemons. Many thanks to our first reader for her tip for how I can keep my lemons at peak long enough to use them up. I tried it and it works for me!

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FRESH LEMONS. if you like to keep lemons on hand even when you don’t have a specific need, submerge them (washed with peel on) in a bowl of water in the refrigerator. You will have fresh lemons for weeks on end. I currently have had a bowl in my refrigerator for two months, and they are beautiful. Wow. What a money saver, and I always have a fresh lemon when needed. Ashley

DRIVE-THRU FIRST. Taking youngsters to a fast food restaurant can be a fun treat, but standing in a long line with an active brood can be stressful. Solution: Drive through first, place your order and request the server put your food on a tray at the counter because you’ll be right in. By the time you park and get everyone inside, you can pick up the tray and go directly to a table. Rhonda

SUPER-QUICK DRY. Need to dry a pair of jeans or pajamas in a hurry? Put them and a completely dry bath towel into the dryer. They’ll be dry in a fraction of the time they would have taken on their own. Patsy

Banana Sandwiches the Right Way

Quick and easy. That’s how I enjoy saving time and money. And every day I learn fun new ways to do that from you, my lovely readers. Check out this new batch of time- and money-saving tips:

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BANANA BUNS. Inevitably there are always hot dog buns left after a hot dog meal. My kids love to eat peanut butter, jelly and banana sandwiches on hot dog buns. Quick, easy and no banana slices fall out like they do on regular sliced bread. Carolyn

CHEAP CHICKEN. I love using rotisserie chickens when I am in a hurry—in pasta sauce or casseroles, they taste great and really cut down on prep time (especially when it comes down to eating in versus eating out). In my favorite supermarket, they sell hot rotisserie chickens for about $5 each. However, I have discovered that I can get a cold one (usually from the day before) for $2.50—half the price! Cold works great for me. We almost never eat them immediately upon bringing them home and had always been refrigerating them until use. The cold, cheaper ones can generally be found in the deli refrigerated area, that is near other prepared foods, salsas, and so on. Kerri

FILE AND FORGET IT. When I buy something that has a warranty, I save the receipt and staple it to the owner’s manual, then file it. Hillary

Readers Share Creative Holiday Tips and Tricks

I am enjoying the unique holiday tips and tricks readers are sending my way, to be shared with you. Over and again I find myself saying, “Wow! Why didn’t I think that?”

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Just this week, I was boiling mad at myself when I opened boxes marked “Christmas” to find supplies of cards, tags and gift wrap purchased on sale, then promptly forgotten. You can be sure this year I’m going to file all this stuff under “Halloween!” You’ll understand as you read on.

MAKE MEMORIES. Once Christmas is over for another year, I scrapbook all the photos and handmade cards we receive. It’s great to look back over the years at all of our friends and relatives as they grow. So much creativity goes into some of these cards. The scrapbook is with all of my other photo albums, so I don’t have to wait until the Christmas decorations come out of storage to see them. Vicky

CANNED BOWS. I use the large, Christmas popcorn tins (cleaned and dried) to store my Christmas bows. I use one for red, another for green and the other two for gold and mixed colors. I can stack them in storage and my bows stay new looking all year. I reuse these bows for several years. Gwen

TREE SKIRT. I purchased a round Christmas tablecloth at the local thrift store for 25 cents. I laundered it and have been using it for the past three years as a tree skirt. It is large enough that I just fold it in half and wrap it around the tree holder, meeting in the back. It is reusable, beautiful and easy to clean. Darlene

Tips to Save Money on Beauty and Grooming

Whether you want to look good or just to feel better, reaching your goal traditionally comes at a significant cost. But not if you’re a dedicated cheapskate. While medications and beauty products you use must be safe, there’s no reason that you have to pay exorbitant prices to ensure such qualify. Here are some fascinating and functional tips for saving time and stretching costs on everything from deodorant to skin care and more.

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VISIT THE MEN’S DEPARTMENT. Buy mens toiletries if you have a choice when it comes to unscented deodorant, shaving foam and hair colorings, for example. Products manufactured specifically for men are significantly cheaper ounce for ounce than those made for women. Go figure.

SHAMPOO. With great confidence you can confidently stop being a shampoo snob. In a Consumer Reports test of 132 name-brand shampoos, the lowly cheap brands from the supermarket rated just as highly as the pricey salon brands. Just make sure you know how to read the product’s list of ingredients.

SUNLESS TAN. Smooth baby oil on skin and allow it to penetrate before applying sunless tanning lotion to achieve a more even, lighter tanning effect, especially on elbows and feet.

Travel Tricks, Tips and Hacks

I  love to travel, which is my favorite unintended consequence of founding Debt-Proof Living. And, I’ve learned, travel always involves challenges. That’s why I have adopted an attitude that no matter how well I’ve planned, if something can go wrong it probably will. And if it doesn’t? That’s my travel bonus.

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Over the years I’ve collected a bunch of really great travel tips—some fun, some crazy but all of them very useful if only to avoid a headache or two. Here are 10 of my favorites:

1. Before you leave, scan the front and back of every item in your wallet including your passport. Email the images to yourself. Now you’ll always have a digital copy handy in case you lose something. This will not substitute for your passport, ID or credit card, but you’ll have all of the pertinent information you need to keep going.

2. Instead of folding your clothes, roll them tightly. They’ll take up less space in your luggage and that can save having to pay extra baggage fees.

How to Cut the Cost of Owning a Pet

No one was more surprised than I when my first granddog, Sir Boddington, nuzzled a place in my heart. I knew I was smitten the day I loaded up on toys, milk bones and other doggie delights. I blame it on “Boddie” that I so willingly became a member of the U.S. population that spent $58 billion in 2014 on food, supplies, services such as grooming and boarding, and medical care for their 358 million pets.

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So how can you afford to care for your furry friend—in sickness and in health? Make prevention maintenance your top priority as a pet owner and you’ll save later on.

RESTRAIN. A fence or some other reasonable restraint is the best way to avoid big vet bills, says David T. Roen, D.V.M., board-certified veterinarian and owner of the Clarkston Veterinary Clinic in Clarkston, Washington. “I see more dogs in my office because of injuries sustained while unrestrained than for any other reason. Dogs should always be leashed, fenced or supervised.”

CHOOSE THE RIGHT FOOD. Dr. Roen advises pet owners to skip all the fancy premium foods sold by vets. Use name-brand pet food from the supermarket labeled “complete and balanced.” Or look for the seal of approval of AAFCO (the Association of American Feed Control Officials). Stick with the same brand. Switching abruptly can cause health issues for some animals. And less is better, as slightly underweight pets have fewer health problems. 

Simple Tips to Keep Things Beautiful and Working Well Around the House

FABULOUS FIXTURES. So you splurged on some really beautiful—dare I say expensive—sink fixtures for your kitchen or bathroom. Here’s a fabulous way to keep them looking beautiful for many years to come.

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Once a month or so, wipe the faucets down with a rag that you have sprayed with a wax-based furniture polish. This will keep mineral deposits from building up and staining or pitting the surface of even the most exquisite fixtures.

DUCT TAPE REPAIR. Got a shower curtain with a ripped ring hole that makes it sag? Don’t throw it out quite yet. Instead, get out the duct tape and cover the entire hole on both sides. Using a hole punch or craft knife, re-create the ring hole. Now it’s stronger than new. But maybe not so attractive. Not to worry. These days duct tape comes in loads of colors and even patterns. You may even want to reinforce the entire top strip of the vinyl curtain with a bright color or design and redo all of the holes while you’re at it, not just the torn one.