Turn Kids’ Clutter Into an Art Show


I am always entertained and often educated by the tips readers mail in. Today is no exception. I’m pretty sure you’re about to agree with me.

ART SHOW. I love to see the artwork that my young boys bring home from school, but we can’t keep all of it. Instead, I take photos of each piece of artwork with my digital camera and put the pictures on my digital photo frame at work. That way, I can see their artwork all the time and it doesn’t clutter my house. Erin J. Illinois


SAFELY FROZEN. I am on a waiting list to get a safe deposit box at my bank. While I wait I am keeping my important papers in a heavy freezer bag, in the deep freeze. I hear that in a fire the inside of the freezer doesn’t burn easily. Jill N., Florida 

GREASE CUTTER. I keep white vinegar in a used detergent bottle by my kitchen sink. When I have something greasy to wash, I squirt a small amount of vinegar into the dish. This works wonders in containers that have had tomato sauce or some other tomato product in them. The vinegar quickly cuts the film of grease and residue.  Janet M., Florida

15 Minutes is Worth More Than You Think


Want to stop spending so much of your hard earned money on utility bills? Check out these clever gadgets that will keep more of your hard-earned money in your pocket—not your utility providers’—year after year. Each of these projects can be completed in 15 minutes or less and requires no advanced skills or special equipment.


HOT WATER-SAVING SHOWERHEAD. If you multi-task while waiting for your shower to warm up—making the bed or pot of coffee—the hot water could have been running for minutes, wasting water and adding unnecessary dollars to your utility bills. The Ladybug Showerhead adapter saves the hot water. At about $20, Ladybug is so smart, it senses the moment the water is warm and stops the flow to a tiny trickle. When you’re ready, just flip a switch to restart the normal flow. This adapter saveS $75 in hot water cost plus 2,700 gallons of water each year, based on a family of three showering daily and saving one minute of hot water per shower.

SOCKET SEALERS. You can cut 10 percent from your energy costs by properly sealing and insulating areas around the home to make it as air tight as possible. Start with all of the light switches and electrical outlets. Install foam inserts (about 10 cents each) to stop warmed or cooled air from being sucked out of the house through the air gaps around every switch and outlet. Simply remove the cover plate, pop in a gasket and replace the plate.

Don’t Use it, Need it or Enjoy it? Unload it!


What would you do if you had to actually use—or at least enjoy—everything you own?

Truth be told, most of us will never live long enough to accomplish such an overwhelming task. Instead we pack it, stack it and pile it away—even pay rent to store it—and keep right on accumulating, acquiring and attaining even more. More doesn’t add to our joy the way we thought it would. More stuff only dilutes the quality of our lives.


Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, “discovered” the 80/20 principle in 1897 when he observed that 80 percent of the land in England (and every country he subsequently studied) was owned by 20 percent of the population. Pareto’s theory of predictable imbalance has since been widely proven and applied to almost every aspect of modern life including the things we own.

So let’s think this through: If 80 percent of what we use comes from 20 percent of what we own, 80 percent of the space in our lives is occupied by stuff we never use—it’s clutter! 

Make Your Own Mixes for Just Pennies


In a recent column at a reader’s request, I offered a recipe for beef gravy mix. The responses poured in—some with rave reviews, others with requests of their own. The top three mix requests were for Taco Seasoning Mix, Chicken Gravy Mix and Country Gravy Mix.


You know there are no lengths to which I will not go to keep my readers happy, and today is no exception. Enjoy! 

How a Simple Request Turned Into $1,000 Savings


Dear Mary: In a recent column, a reader wrote saying it didn’t work to call her credit card company to ask them to lower her credit card’s interest rate. Your response reminded me that I had a 14.99 percent interest rate on a Visa card with a credit union that I have belonged to for 32 years.

I made the call and simply asked for a review of my account. I went on to explain that I wanted to pay off my card without intervention of a third party but with my high interest rate, I wasn’t making much of a dent in a very high balance.


I got an immediate response by email with an offer of 10.99 percent. I accepted and asked if I changed the rewards card to a regular card, could it decrease the percent (I had heard in the past it could reduce the interest rate by a percent). To my surprise, they said if I went to a premium Visa or MasterCard, that it would decrease to 8.99 percent. Needless to say, I am ecstatic and so thankful for your reminder to keep trying.

Thank you for all you do to help us work through the stresses of financial bondage. Sandy O., email

The Secret in Great Spaghetti Sauce


Every week, reader tips arrive in my inbox and my mail box, too. Without fail, there’s at least one that is so great, it makes me wonder why I didn’t think of that. Take today’s first tip is for how to change homemade spaghetti sauce from ordinary to awesome. Who knew it could be this easy.

AWESOME SAUCE. When making homemade spaghetti sauce the tomatoes can be a bit acidic, and that can ruin the flavor. Try adding a few pinches of baking soda. It will fizz up at first, but just continue to stir it in and the result will be a slightly sweeter sauce. Laurie B., Maine


YOU FREEZE I FREEZE. I like to cruise through the frozen food aisles at my favorite warehouse club to see what’s new. I figure if they can freeze it, so can I. On a recent trip I saw a long line of people waiting for samples. I looked to see what it was, only to discover rice! Frozen pre-cooked plain white rice. People seemed to think that was the greatest invention ever and they were all tossing it in their carts. I went home, pulled out the rice cooker, made my own … and froze it.  Rebecca M., Washington

Get a New Grocery Shopping Attitude


1. Exercise patience. Instead of buying items when you run out, watch for bargain prices on products you want and buy them when they are on sale. As you are able, buy enough to last for a couple of weeks, or until that product goes on sale again (probably about 12 weeks). Ultimately, the goal is to only buy things when they are on sale and never at full price.


2. Eat the sales. Instead of creating your menus for the week around what you saw on Pinterest or in a magazine, discover what’s on sale this week. Now create your menus based on what’s on sale. If you need help, take a look at eMeals.com (use coupon code debtproofliving for a discount), a meal planning service uses what’s on sale this week in your favorite supermarket to create your family’s ideal meal plan. And you have choices from classic to gluten-free, low fat and even paleo—and quite a few others, as well. Check it out.

3. Go international. Spices boost flavor without adding sodium or fat, and many have their own health benefits. You’ll find them for less in the international aisle. In my local supermarket, an ounce of cloves costs $4.79 in the spice aisle but 99 cents in the international section.

Step Into the Naughty Corner


Americans are up to their eyeballs in credit-card debt. The average household with debt now owes nearly $9,000 on their revolving credit card balances. And they pay more than $1,000 a year in credit card interest for the misery.

The majority of card-carrying Americans (more than 60 percent revolve their balances) cannot seem to say “no.” Temptation is everywhere. And pressure. Pressure to keep up, to have what they cannot pay for and to get it all while the gettin’ is good.


The problem is that we are short-sighted. We make spending decisions based on emotion not calculated reason. Why else would any sane person walk into Costco needing only milk, eggs and cheese and walk out with a lovely piece of Waterford Crystal, too? It’s that sense of urgency together with the ability to have it now and pay for it later that’s given us a new label: Overspent Americans.