Mary's 2013 homemade Madagascar vanilla extract

Instant Pot Vanilla Extract—One Week from Start-to-Gift

For nearly a decade I’ve been making vanilla extract for Christmas gifts. And every year I find myself scrambling because it’s a process that requires two months minimum—six is better. But all that has changed since discovering how to make vanilla extract using my Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Instead of months, Instant Pot vanilla extract takes just one week from start-to-gift!

Mary's 2013 homemade Madagascar vanilla extract

For me (and friends and family on my gift list), vanilla extract is still the perfect homemade holiday gift. The difference in taste is extraordinary. And now that pure vanilla extract has become so expensive (more on that in a bit), it’s like pure gold!

Processing homemade vanilla extract in an electric Instant Pot pressure cooker gives it the intensity of aged high-quality store-bought vanilla in a fraction of the time. Now our perfect homemade gift can be a perfect last-minute gift, too!

Read more

a chess board covered in US five dollar bills with chess pieces in play

9 Easy Moves That Will Simplify Your Spending

Confused and stressed out about how to manage your money so you don’t run out before payday? Put these nine easy moves into action and you’ll be well on your way to simplify your spending.

a chess board covered in US five dollar bills with chess pieces in play

I know what you’re thinking—simplify and spending in the same sentence? Ha! Like that’s even possible when we have credit cards, debit cards, bank accounts, bills, bill-pay, auto-pay, fees, penalties, interest rates, and fees to keep track of. How can we possibly make managing money simple?

By having a plan. By choosing to become accountable and then using every tactic possible to streamline and de-stress your money.

Read more

Woman buried in cluttered closet.

25 Items Under $25 to Help Organize Your Life

Getting organized isn’t easy. But staying organized can be even harder. A place for everything and everything in its place. That’s the mark of an organized home.

Woman buried in cluttered closet.

As a natural-born messie with a bent toward hoarding, I know the struggle. But I’ve learned the joy of decluttering and gaining control over my disorganized self—one drawer, cupboard, closet, and room at a time.

Today I want to update 25 of my best organizational helpers that can help organize your bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, handbag, and car, too. These organizers can quickly turn chaos to calm.

Organizers 1 - 7

1. Makeup Organizer

This professional vanity makeup organizer rotates 360-degrees so you can see exactly what you have and exactly where everything is because it is large enough for everything to be assigned a place!

Holds at least 30 makeup brushes, 20 skincare products with lots of room for lipsticks, eyeliners, shadows, powders, and more. Easy to assemble. Adjustable shelves.

2. Classic Shower Dispenser

This Classic Shower Dispenser is perfect for eliminating shower bottle clutter. Fill the chambers with your shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. Pumps pre-measure just the right amount, eliminating waste and saving money. Installs in minutes without tools, using silicone.

RELATED: Homemade Tub Tile n’ Shower Cleaner Makes Soap Scum Disappear Like Magic

3. Hair Styling Tools Organizer

This compact Style Station holds a hairdryer plus two more tools such as a flat iron and curling iron—or brushes and other tools.

Designed for safely cooling down and storing styling tools. Can hang on a towels bar, sit on the countertop or store in a cabinet or drawer.

Read more

A pile of reloadable prepaid debit cards

How to Use Up Every Last Cent on a Prepaid Debit Card

Some prepaid debit cards can be problematic because it’s nearly impossible to use it up to the last cent. That means you end up with some odd amount on the card that no one will accept for payment unless by some miracle your purchase is equal to or less than that odd amount.

A pile of reloadable prepaid debit cards

Photo Credit: GiftCards.com

Another problem

According to our friends at NerdWallet, some prepaid debit cards—not the funds but the cards themselves—have expiration dates, which is difficult to understand, but true nonetheless.

And another

Most stores will not allow you to “split payments.” That means if you buy a new bike and want to use up that last $1.77 on a prepaid debit card (paying the balance with cash or some other form of payment), most stores will not let you do it. The problem is when the salesperson tries to process the prepaid card, it returns a rejection because the balance on the card is insufficient to cover the entire transaction.

Read more

This Homemade Silver Cleaner Removes Tarnish Like Magic

There’s no shortage of commercial silver cleaning products on the market these days. Those that I’ve tested generally do the job, but they’re messy, contain harsh chemicals and if that’s not bad enough—they’re expensive! Good news. I have a simple homemade silver cleaner recipe for your lovely silver pieces—chains, earrings, bracelets, flatware and heirlooms that’s cheaper, better and definitely faster.

Sterling Silver Scrap

Read more

stainless-steel-kitchen-appliances-sink

9 Ways You May Be Abusing Your Appliances

Is it possible that without knowing it, you’re making damaging even dangerous mistakes with your household appliances? As I have been researching how to take care of our new kitchen appliances so they will last longer, I’m learning about the most common appliance abuse that can lead to expensive repairs and even a shortened lifespan.

stainless-steel-kitchen-appliances-sink

It’s true that these days household appliances just aren’t made to last for decades the way refrigerators, ranges, and other household appliances lasted back in our grandparents’ day. “Eight to ten years,” is what the salesman told us is what we could expect from our new refrigerator. He went on, “This machine is designed to stand up to years of use and ordinary wear and tear—assuming you don’t abuse it.”

Let’s dig in to uncover the most common appliance abuse.

Read more

girl in black dress and witch hat holding shopping bags, looking at camera and smiling

Savvy Shopper Tricks and Treats

You think shopping is what you do when you buy things. That’s true, but it’s more than that. Shopping is a competition with you on one side and retailers on the other. And whenever the store gets more of your money than you planned to leave behind, they’ve executed a brilliant shopping trick. They win.

What follow are the tricks that retailers don’t want you to know. Learn them well and you’ll you’ll turn the tables on them. You’ll start winning at the shopping game!

girl in black dress and witch hat holding shopping bags, looking at camera and smiling

TRICK: Buy only the loss-leaders and get out of there

A loss leader is something retailers sell so cheap, they’re losing money on the deal. Buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) is a great example. It’s like bait to get you into the store because they know if they can do that, you’ll buy other stuff at full price. The trick is to take just enough cash so you can buy up all of the loss leaders you will use and then get out of there.

Why stores hate this trick. Retailers hold sales to increase their cash flow—not to save you money. They do anything they can to get you through the door. Statistics tell them that once you’re in the door, there is a high statistical likelihood that you will pick up enough full-priced items to more than make up for that loss leader. It’s a risk on their part and when you don’t follow their plan, they lose. You win.

Read more

14873611 - beautiful girl after bath touching her face skincare

6 Easy Spa Treatments You Can Do at Home to Pamper Yourself

This post may contain affiliate links, some of which are intended to show you what I am describing, not necessarily to advise you to buy. However, should you make a purchase, this site may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. I only recommend items I love and have had a positive experience with. Thank you!


If you don’t happen to have an extra hundred bucks to enjoy a day at the spa, don’t sweat it. There are lots of easy DIY spa treatments you can do for yourself, at home for less. A lot less!

14873611 - beautiful girl after bath touching her face skincare

Salt scrub

You can pay a small fortune for a jar of salt scrub body exfoliant, or make your own for about a buck.

Find a nice container (a small glass jar or with a tight-fitting lid works well) and fill it about 3/4 full with Epsom salt. Now slowly mix in either almond oil (better) or baby oil (cheaper) and stir until the mixture looks like wet snow.

It’s optional, but you can add your choice of aromatherapy-grade essential oil to add a lovely scent. Lavender is a great choice! And you can substitute sugar for Epsom Salt.

TO USE:  Massage over wet skin in a hot shower with hand or washcloth. Rinse. Scratchy, scaly skin is suddenly gorgeous. Do not use on broken or freshly shaven skin.

Read more

Finally the Mystery of Hair Conditioners Solved

Hair conditioners fall into general categories according to what they do and the problems they solve. Using the wrong product for the specific condition of your hair will produce disappointing results. For example, if your hair is thin and fine you are not going to be happy with an industrial-strength conditioner for thick, coarse, frizzy, color-treated hair.

Unfortunately, conditioners are not quite as simple as shampoos.

20761154_m

First, we need to demystify the term “conditioner.” It is a vague term that refers to a wide range of hair products designed to make hair more manageable and also treat common hair problems. Next, we need to know that conditioners fall into general categories according to what they do and the problems they solve.

Read more

the-3-vacuums-I-cannot-live-without-Shark-Deik-Cordless-Stick-Vac-DustBuster

The 3 Vacuums I Use Every Day and Absolutely Swear By

If you have hard flooring, carpet or flat surfaces in your home, which just about covers every possibility—there are three specific vacuum cleaners that deserve your attention: an upright, a cordless stick vac and a cordless handheld. These are the worker bees that I own, love, and do not want to live without.

Once you familiarize yourself with these vacuums and their specific uses, you’ll know why each one gets my designation of for Best Inexpensive™ in its specific category. Because life is uncertain and things can change with a minute’s notice, today I am updating and republishing this post with new and exciting information.

1. Shark Professional Navigator Lift-Away

shark navigator pro lift away vacuum

In the decade since I met and fell in love with my first Shark upright vacuum, I’ve purchased, tested, given as gifts, and worked nearly to death (it’s really hard to wear out a Shark) many Shark vacuums because the company comes out with a new model or two about every week, or so it seems. I can say with confidence, there is no better basic corded, upright vacuum cleaner on earth.

Read more

Photocopying or reproduction other than for subscribers’ personal use is strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher, DPL Press, Inc.

Everyday Cheapskate, Debt-Proof Living, Cheapskate Monthly, Tiptionary, Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan, Rapid Debt-Repayment Plan Calculator, Freedom Account, Live the Plan! and 7 Money Rules for Life are trademarks owned by Mary Hunt.

All letters, tips and other materials and correspondence submitted to Everyday Cheapskate, Debt-Proof Living and Mary Hunt become the property of Mary Hunt and all rights thereto including copyrights.

Submitters grant the exclusive right to use and or reproduce the materials in any manner and for any purpose. All information published is taken from the most reliable sources possible and given as information only. All specific financial, legal, tax and accounting situations should be referred to appropriate legal or accounting professionals.