empty wallet - woman with no money in purse shopping. Female

Yes, You Can SAVE Money!

How’s your health? Not your physical fitness but your financial well-being. For most of us, how much we earn tells us how we’re “feeling” financially. But your income is only one part of the equation. How much of your income do you actually keep?

empty wallet - woman with no money in purse shopping. Female

Not very much, I’ll bet. Your income is low, you say; you’ve got bills to pay. Rents are sky-high, grocery costs are through the roof—who can possibly save?

My answer: You can. Yes, you can save money!

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How to Spring-Clean (Wash and Detail) a Car

When you think of spring cleaning, you probably think of your home. But what about your car? It has served you well all winter long. It’s been through the mud, the snow, sleet, sand, and salt. It needs a good spring clean, too!

young woman washing her car

You could take your car to a professional car detailer and spend $150 or more to get it cleaned up for Spring. Or you can keep the cash and do it yourself.

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Milk and dairy products on a wooden table

Eggs, Milk and Cheese … in the Freezer?!

I’m sure my supermarket is not the only grocery store with an area in the back similar to the one I call My Bargain Bin. It’s refrigerated and almost always features some dandy bargains, especially on perishable items approaching that sell by” date. There are no limits on the number of items I can load into my cart—all of them with ridiculously low, rock bottom prices.

Milk and dairy products on a wooden table

You may be asking, but Mary what can we do with all of these perishables to make sure they don’t, well … perish! The answer of course is to freeze them. Yes, even the eggs, milk, and cheese.

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kitchen magician female chef

18 Kitchen Hacks You’ll Wish You’d Known Sooner

Regardless of skill level—whether you’re a novice, naturally gifted in the kitchen, or simply blessed with many years of experience—these quick and clever kitchen hacks are sure to change how you cook for the better. Or at the very least make you smile and shout, “Wow! What a great idea!

kitchen magician female chef

Super slick

When you’re measuring sticky ingredients like honey or molasses, spray your measuring tool with cooking spray first. It will help the honey slide right out, giving you the most precise measurement. Or, If the recipe includes a large amount of oil, measure that first in a measuring cup. Then, add the molasses or honey right into the same measuring cup with the oil and voila! No more sticky residue left behind.

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Homemade Poo-Pourri Toilet Spray

I have something really fun to share with you today about fragrance, but first a story. About my friend, Herta. It’s been quite a few years now since she and Al came to visit. In their graciously kind manner, they brought gifts. I thought I’d heard of everything, but one of these gifts left me wide-eyed and sputtering to find a good response, which I am not sure I did.

Privately, I concluded that this small, supremely elegant spray bottle that Herta was visibly so excited about must be something special in their country—to me it was oddly foreign.

The name on the bottle left me stuttering: Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray. Herta took me into the powder room to demonstrate. “Look, you just spritz the surface of the toilet water before you go. It stops bathroom odors before they ever begin!” Herta was so excited to show me this fabulous new product. Me? I was like … whaaat?

I have to admit that I couldn’t wait to try it, and I did. You know what? It really worked. The product is oily. When you spray Poo-Pourri into the toilet (before … not during or after), it sits on the surface of the water and creates a kind of sealant against, well …let’s just say it—fumes. It traps the odors, sending them down the drain, not out into the room. Get it? Read more

Simple 15-Minute Projects to Slash Your Utility Bills

By now, at least 120 utility companies have voluntarily lowered electric, gas, or water rates due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut the corporate rate from 35% to 21%. Many continue to pass on the tax savings in the form of lower rates for many customers. But for many of us, it’s not enough!

So exactly how can you lower your utility bills? Check out these six projects each of which can be completed in 15-minutes or less, requiring no advanced skills or special equipment. Soon you’ll be keeping more of your hard-earned money in your pocket—not your utility providers’.

Ready? … Set … Go!

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How to Live on a Budget and Love It

For many years I wouldn’t have anything to do with a budget because I couldn’t stand the idea of anyone—or anything—telling me how to spend my money. And where did that get me? Into one big financial mess.

Income and Budget

Every month, when I ran out of money, I would turn to MasterCard and Visa for a bailout. To me, any available credit was the same as income. It was my money to do with as I found necessary. Really bad idea.

What I learned from going through that experience and finding my way back to solvency is that, as much as we may loathe it, a budget is the ticket to financial happiness―not the straitjacket I feared it would be. I’ve come to prefer calling this a “spending plan” rather than a  budget, but honestly, the terms are interchangeable. It’s just a way to pre-spend your income on paper first.

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7 DIY Ice Melt Recipes for Snowy Steps, Walkways, and Driveways

Got ice and snow on top of super cold temperatures this winter? EC Reader Jennifer does, and wrote: Do you have a solution for melting ice and snow on walkways, driveways, steps, and windshields? 

At least one of these homemade recipes is sure to come to Jennifer’s rescue and quite possibly yours too.


All of these recipes and methods use ordinary household items most of us keep on hand. So grab a bucket and a spray bottle and let’s get mixing!

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money with stethescope

Give Yourself an Extreme Money Makeover

There’s nothing like a job-layoff notice, getting a call from the bank saying you’ve bounced your account to the moon—or in my case back in the ‘80s learning that our home was about to be foreclosed—to tell you that you need an extreme money makeover.

11867031 - stethoscope on money dollar cash currency banknote background using for healthy financial and insurance concept

How to Give Yourself a Money Makeover

What follows is a simple overview of how to get started conducting your own money makeover. These are examples and suggestions that may or may not apply directly to your situation, but can give you what you need to get started.

Before picture

Any makeover worth its salt needs a great before picture. A personal financial snapshot is called a Statement of Net Worth—a realistic estimate of how much money you would have left if you sold all that you own and paid off all that you owe. It’s a picture you need no matter how dire your situation may seem to be.

Your attitude

Face it. The only thing you control absolutely is your attitude—the way you choose to respond to life and all of its challenges. This is a season in your life that has come and will go. It’s not forever. You can handle anything as long as you know it will end. Choose to face your extreme situation with an equally intense response.

Get a plan

Write a simple plan for how you will reach your goalkeeping in mind that a good plan is specific, reasonable, realistic, finite with a way to measure results. Give yourself a date by which you plan to have this makeover complete. Now create stepping stones so you can measure your progress.

Freeze spending

Yes, it’s extreme but so is your makeover. Imposing a spending freeze for the next week or two will give you the jumpstart you need. Then move into a non-essential spending freeze for the foreseeable future.  Read more

supermarket case filled with chicken

Supermarket Chicken Labeling—What Does it All Mean?

If you’ve ever stood in the supermarket wondering if paying more for chicken that is free-range, antibiotic-free, no hormones added, farm-raised, natural, and organic, makes you a better person, you are not alone. 

supermarket case filled with chicken

Recently, as I was doubting myself on my chicken choices I decided to get to the bottom of what all of this really means. It’s not at all what I thought.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is a cabinet-level agency that oversees the regulation of food-grade chicken and is responsible for the claims on packaging and labels. And despite all of the hype and fluff, there is only one label (“organic”) that guarantees specific standards and for which you might consider paying more. 

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Secrets of the Frugal Lifestyle

I’ll admit I used to think frugality was a distasteful lifestyle forced upon the poor. I believed “frugal” was synonymous with never buying new clothes and dumpster diving under cover of night; that it meant cheap and slovenly.

man diving into dumpster

Boy, did I have a lot to learn. And learn I did—and continue to learn—that frugality is the path to building wealth on any income.

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toilet tissue

Here is a Super Reliable, Easy Way to the Compare Toilet Paper Prices

Over the years I’ve received thousands of money-saving tips from readers—many of which I’ve shared in books, newsletters and this column. And there are plenty that I’ve not shared for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they don’t work.

Some don’t work so poorly, they actually end up costing time and money, not saving anything. One of those tips still makes me laugh. It goes like this:

toilet tissue

“Start with two empty toilet paper tubes and a new roll of 2-ply toilet tissue. Carefully separate the two layers of toilet tissue, re-rolling each of the layers onto an empty tube to create—ta-da!—two rolls of paper for the price of one.”

Not only does this take an unbelievable amount time, unless you own a toilet tissue rolling machine of some kind, the result is a ginormous, ridiculous mess of toilet tissue that is so thin, it takes at least twice as much to get the job done.

Don’t do that, OK? Instead, learn how to comparison shop for toilet tissue. And when you find it on sale at a great price, which means much lower than its regular price, stock up.

No standard

Comparing prices on toilet paper is confusing because no two rolls or packages are alike. There are no set standards for toilet paper (and I’m not suggesting there should be). We can’t compare roll-for-roll because roll sizes vary from one manufacturer to another.

Some companies offer double-rolls, jumbo rolls or even 1000-sheet rolls—all of which are pretty meaningless when trying to make a reasonable price comparison. Same with comparing the number of sheets per roll.

There is no set size for a sheet of toilet paper! To make things even more confusing, some rolls are 2-ply (layers), super ultra-plush with 3-ply while others a skimpy 1- or sometimes referred to as single-ply.

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Homemade Pot Roast with Gravy—Quick and Super Easy!

What’s for dinner? How about Pot Roast that makes its own gravy? That takes only a few minutes to prepare, then on the table in an hour? That’s what I’m talking about!

sliced pot roast beef dinner with peas mashed potatoes and gravy

Homemade Pot Roast with Gravy

Pot Roast is economical, classic comfort food, and a quintessential family favorite. Bonus: leftovers are even better the second day. What’s not to love?

Get ready for fall-apart beef that’s tender, flavorful, and smothered in a rich gravy. This recipe is mouthwateringly good, yet insanely simple to make. Use a slow cooker or Instant Pot. Pick the method that works best for you!

And now get ready for a quirky recipe—nothing to measure, no chopping, cutting, or browning. Just three seasoning packets, a roast (or chicken or pork!)—and you’re good to go.

A close up of food, with Pot roast and Beef


A close up of many different types of food, with Gravy and Pot roast

Spice mixes are available in just about every supermarket and grocery store. You’ll save quite a bit if you can find the bulk containers of the same products. Or you can order online, links below.

Individual packets

Brown Gravy dry mix

Chicken Gravy dry mix

Pork Gravy dry mix

Italian dressing dry mix

Ranch dressing dry mix

Bulk containers

Brown Gravy dry mix

Poultry Gravy dry mix

Ranch dressing dry mix

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A close up of a plate of food, with Pot roast

Three Packets and a Roast

Get ready for fall-apart beef that's tender, flavorful, and smothered in a rich gravy it makes itself. This recipe is mouthwateringly good, yet insanely simple to make. Use Instant Pot or slow cooker—the method that works best for you!
4.54 from 15 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 314kcal
Cost: Hard to determine, just try to buy your meat on Sale!


  • Slow Cooker OR
  • Pressure cooker (Instant pot)


  • 1 3 - 4 lb. beef roast chuck, London broil, round—you name it!
  • 1 packet Brown Gravy dry mix
  • 1 packet Italian dressing dry mix
  • 1 packet Ranch dressing dry mix
  • 1 cup water


  • Place beef in Instant Pot or slow cooker (no need to brown, but you sure can do that if you want!).
  • Pour contents of the three seasoning packets over the raw meat.
  • Pour water over the top. Cover with lid.
  • Instant Pot: Set to high pressure (or 'meat/stew' if your IP model has that setting) for 60 mins. Quick release.
  • Slow cooker: Cook on Low for 8-10 hours for a very large roast, fewer hours if smaller, or on High for 5-6 hours. Check for doneness after 4-5 hours, as time will vary depending on the cut of beef, size and so on.
  • Optional: Add cut up potatoes and carrots during the last hour of cooking; frozen peas during the last 10 minutes in slow cooker. For Instant Pot, remove roast, add cut up raw potatoes and carrots to the gravy, then high pressure for 4 to 5 minutes, quick release.
  • Expect beautiful, rich, dark brown gravy and the best Pot Roast ever.


Three Packets and a Chicken
1 whole chicken with Chicken Gravy Mix, Italian Dressing Dry Mix, and Ranch Dressing Dry Mix and 1 cup water.
Three Packets and a Pork Roast
1 pork roast with Pork Gravy Mix, Italian Dressing Dry Mix, and Ranch Dressing Dry Mix and 1 cup water.


Calories: 314kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Black + Decker cordless handheld vacuum

Best Inexpensive Cordless Handheld Vacuum

To say that for many years I had a love/hate relationship with handheld vacuums  would be to put it mildly. I love the idea of a cordless handheld vacuum that is charged up and always ready to make a quick pick-up—in fact, it is on my list of household must-haves.

generic handheld vac in use

But I hate when the thing runs for only a few minutes before it needs to be recharged, is heavy and awkward to use, and has such weak suction it really doesn’t do a very good job of picking up anything.


It’s been more than 30 years since I got my first handheld Dustbuster. It would hold a charge for maybe two minutes if all the stars were properly aligned and I held it in just the right position. And the thing completely failed after only a few months—refusing to hold any charge at all. Rubbish!

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A bowl of fruit sitting on a table, with Vinegar

How to Use Castile Soap to Make Natural Cleaning Products

From time to time I hear from readers who have sensitivities or allergies to our beloved Blue Dawn. Is there something all-natural we can use that will not trigger these reactions but still work well? There is and it is pure Castile soap. While olive-oil based Castile soap has been around for centuries, Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap, itself dating back to 1858, is making a big, glorious, all-natural comeback.

Castile soap

Available in several versions including one that is unscented, this organic castile soap is available online as well as in grocery, health food, and discount department stores. Dr. Bronner’s is not the only pure Castile soap out there—other brands of Castile liquid soap are equally suitable for the following cleaning recipes and household and personal uses, such as Almona, St. Clare, and Seven Minerals.

All-Purpose Cleaning Spray

Add 1/4 cup pure Castile liquid soap to one-quart warm water and mix gently. Pour into a 32-ounce spray bottle and use it as you would any spray cleaner around the house. Safe on granite and quartz counters and laminate surfaces. Optional: A few drops of lemon or orange essential oil will give this cleaner a fresh, pleasant fragrance.

Degreaser Cleaning Spray

  1. Add 1/4 cup pure Castile liquid soap into a 32-ounce spray bottle.
  2. Then fill with warm water.
  3. Fill a second 32-ounce spray bottle with 1 cup white vinegar and warm water to fill.
  4. Spray greasy kitchen surfaces with the soap-water solution and clean them well with a soft cloth. Then spray the same surface with the vinegar-water solution to rinse, followed by another round with the soft cloth.

Caution: Rinsing granite or other natural stone surfaces with vinegar may, over time, dull and damage the stone’s sealant. If cleaning stone, use this rinsing method sparingly.

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US coins and bills

7 Places to Look for Free Money

It’s been several years now since I got a super fun letter from a reader who has developed a hobby of looking for money in gutters, parking lots, streets, sidewalks, and other public places. And he keeps a running tab. He included a copy of his free money journal for the previous year.

US coins and bills

It was amazing to see how his finds often exceed $50 in a single month, available to him just for the taking. Not bad! But I couldn’t help wonder how his payoff might climb if he knew about other places that harbor free money.

Jewelry Box

Not long ago, I toured my jewelry box. What a hoot! I found one gold chain now in pieces, a bracelet, and several orphaned earrings—all of it gold from the ‘80s that I don’t wear anymore. Something tells me you might find something similar if you go through your drawers and old jewelry boxes.

Not sure if it’s real gold? Follow these simple steps to find out.

Provided what you have is at least 10k gold (but not gold-plated), it’s like cash—free money. Go in person to three jewelry stores or local coin shops to see what they’ll pay you for it, then go with the highest bid. Never mail your junk gold to a “gold dealer.”

Vending Machines

Start paying attention to vending machine coin return compartments. Luckily, most of them are clear plastic, so you can see into them without getting down and reaching to feel around. Winter is the best time to clean up on coins as people are often wearing gloves and don’t feel the coins they leave behind. Because there is no way to find that unfortunate person, it’s finders keepers—free money. The same goes for ATMs.

Pension Funds

If you or a family member worked for a company with a pension plan and were terminated because the company went bankrupt or was bought out by another company, you or your relative (or his or her estate if deceased) may be eligible to receive benefits from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which is a U.S. Government Agency.

The PBGS is currently holding about $200 million in unclaimed benefits for more than 36,000 people. That averages nearly $5,500 per person. To see if you might have anything coming your way, you can perform a search at Finding a Lost Pension.

The PBGC helps locate people owed pension money and help them get it back. They do this with the Missing Participant Program, which finds people owed benefits from fully funded, PBGC insured defined benefit plans that have ended.

Junk Drawer Purge

If yours is like 99% of all the homes on earth, you have at least one junk drawer. Go through it on a gift card hunt. Call the number on the back of the card to find out how much value remains. That’s free money being held hostage in plastic. Use it, or you may lose it.

Matured Bonds

More than $15 billion worth of U.S. Savings Bonds have matured and are sitting unclaimed by their owners, according to the U.S. Treasury. The department’s Treasury Hunt search engine allows you to search for matured bonds using your Social Security number.

Unclaimed Assets

You or someone in your family may be missing money because you lost track of a refund, a rebate, security deposit, insurance dividend, or proceeds from a class action suit. It happens. To search online, check out this U.S. government site as well as Unclaimed.org (scroll down to find the U.S. map, then click on individual states to go to that state’s unclaimed property web page) and MissingMoney.com. You should not have to pay any fees to reclaim assets, so should you click on an ad that requires payment, don’t let that tempt you. You can do this search on your own without paying others in the process.

Treasure Hunting

Now might be a good time to dust off that metal detector you got for your Birthday (how many years ago? Ha!). If you were not that fortunate, don’t worry. For under $75, you can pick up a decent metal detector.

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Metal detecting is a fun hobby where the more you participate, the luckier you’ll get. Want to get serious about it?  Join a club. Find other enthusiasts. And make sure you keep a journal of your successes. Check out the Kellyco Detectors site. There, you’ll find a treasure trove of community and detecting how-tos, where to hunt, forums, and just plain free-money fun for metal detectors. Make sure you don’t miss 25 Best Metal Detecting Sites.

Question: What is the most significant amount of “free money” you’ve ever found if any? What were the circumstances? We’d love for you to share in the comments below.


11 Ways to Get the Best Online Deals and Discounts

Just about everyone who shops online knows to look for online deals—a discount, promotional code, or coupon of some kind–before hitting checkout. According to Statista, in 2020 142.3 million U.S. adults redeemed online coupons, a number that’s projected to grow to 145.3 million users in 2021. But digital coupons are only one of 11 ways to get the biggest discounts and best deals this holiday season.


Make the Best Online Deals

Coupon codes

Making it a personal commitment that you won’t buy anything online without a coupon code is something you’ll be able to carry out, almost flawlessly. Coupons and codes are out there if you know where to look.

A simple online search is one way. Another is to visit sites like RetailMeNot and Coupons.com. Totally stumped? Contact customer service or the online chat feature and kindly ask for a code. A simple “Is there anything you can do for me?” has been known to work very well!

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A little girl sitting on a wooden surface

Best Ideas and Gifts to Celebrate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is just days away, I know. Bless you, if you are prepared and way ahead of the game. For the rest of us, it might be tempting to just ignore the day altogether and assume our spouses, kids, grandkids, friends, family, and co-workers, will think we forgot and give us a pass, but I do not recommend that! The way I see it we still have time, and that means options:

A person posing for the camera

Last-Minute Ideas

Make sweet treats

You have plenty of time to make these sweet treats in your kitchen befitting the day. Check out Yummy Sweets to Make for Valentines Day.

Date night

Plan a date with your love, even if your wallet is a little thin. Get creative to find reasonable and fun alternatives that require only pocket change—or with any luck, some that are absolutely free. I have a few ideas for you in Great Dates for Couples on a Tight Budget.

Plan a Fun Family Party

Here are 8 Fun Family Games for Valentine’s Day to get you started.

Give a gift

Find the perfect little something for those special someones in our lives—there is still plenty of time to do this, too.

What follow are great gift ideas that are sure to please but won’t break the bank, divided into three categories. You can click on one to jump to that category or read straight through. Enjoy!

Best Valentine Gifts for Kids

Best Valentine Gifts for Her

Best Valentine Gifts for Him

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A boy lying on the grass

Great Dates for Couples on a Tight Budget

Wallet a little thin this Valentine season? That shouldn’t mean you cancel all dates until things begin to look up in the finance department. The solution is to get creative, to find reasonable and fun alternatives that require only pocket change and the right attitude—or with any luck, some that are absolutely free.

A boy lying on the grass

9 ideas to get your creativity going

Volunteer together

Find a local charity that meets the needs of some area of life you are passionate about, such as a soup kitchen or pet shelter. Volunteer for the day—together!

Free day

Most art galleries and museums have a free day or hours each month or have gone to a “pay as you wish” policy. Here’s an example: Los Angeles County Museum of Art is free after 3pm Monday-Friday for L.A. County residents; also free on the second Tuesday of each month. Also in Los Angeles, The Getty Center is always free. Check those in your area.


Just hear me out. Karaoke is guaranteed to be a fun night, even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Let your hair down, spring for a few drinks and have a ball.


When is the last time you lay down on a blanket and stared at the stars? Grab some hot chocolate, warm blankets, and your best gal or guy, then try to find your favorite constellations. If you need some guidance, you can download apps like Star Tracker (Google/Apple). Read more

Portrait Of A Worried Couple Calculating Financial Budget

What is the Real Hourly Wage of Your Second Income?

Most families these days assume it takes two incomes to survive. And many would be shocked if they just took the time to figure out the real hourly wage in that second paycheck.

Portrait Of A Worried Couple Calculating Financial Budget

Dear Mary: With two toddlers, my husband and I are paying through the roof for daycare. It seems like almost all the money I earn goes to childcare, so I’ve been thinking of quitting my job and staying home with the kids. I’m excited at the thought of being home with our boys, but I also want to be sure my family will be okay financially. Is there an easy way to make sure the decision is right for us? Bethany

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Football party food, super bowl day, nachos salsa guacamole

Yummy Snacks and Appetizers—Quick & Easy!

The Super Bowl is this Sunday. I know. I can’t believe it either. Even if you’re not aware who’s playing, knowing that kickoff is set for 6:30 pm ET and stands will be semi-filled with 25,000 masked fans (not to be confused with an additional 30,000 unmasked cutouts) signals party time!

Football party food, super bowl day, nachos salsa guacamole

For those of us for whom Super Bowl is more about the snacks than the game itself (someone had to say it), you’re going to love these appetizers that are quick, delicious, and easy on the budget.

Hint: Chiefs and Buccaneers

Pico de Gallo

This is my recipe from a previous post Confessions of a Compulsive Chopper. It’s the best … not too spicy; so fresh and lovely. So delicious served with fresh, crunchy tortilla chips!

Homemade Pico De Gallo Salsa and Chips Ready to Eat

You’ll need:

✅ tomatoes
✅ onion
✅ green bell pepper
✅ garlic, fresh
✅ garlic powder
✅ lime
✅ jalapeno
✅ cumin
✅ salt and pepper

Pico de Gallo

And now in follow-up to an earlier post, Compulsive Chopper. Many of you requested my recipe for salsa that you see in the photos, made using my lovely Chop Wizard. Here you go …
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 54kcal
Cost: $5


  • 12 Roma tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 green bell pepper (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, only the juice and zest
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded, chopped to taste
  • 1 pinch garlic powder optional
  • 1 pinch ground cumin optional
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1 tspn ground black pepper


  • Put all of the ingredients in a bowl. Stir. 
  • Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
  • Serve. Repeat often. Enjoy!


Calories: 54kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 108mg | Potassium: 498mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1587IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!


The best guacamole keeps it simple—not too spicy to make sure avocado remains the star. Make it smooth or chunky, exactly as you desire. This is the recipe you’ve been looking for and will soon become your #1 go-to.

You’ll need:

✅ avocados
✅ lime juice
✅ salt
✅ onion
✅ cilantro
✅ garlic
✅ cayenne (optional)


The best guacamole keeps it simple—not too spicy to make sure avocado remains the star. Make it smooth or chunky, exactly as you desire. This is the recipe you've been looking for and will soon become your #1 go-to.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer, Snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 252kcal
Cost: Varies


  • 3 avocados very ripe then peeled, pitted
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tspn minced fresh garlic
  • 1 pinch cayenne (optional), or to taste


  • In a medium-size bowl, mash together the avocados, juice from the lime, and salt. Keep it chunky or make it smooth—exactly as you prefer.
  • Add the onion, cilantro, and garlic.
  • Stir in the optional cayenne.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to allow flavors to marry.


  • Add two ripe, finely chopped Roma tomatoes.


Calories: 252kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 109mg | Potassium: 772mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 245IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 24mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Caramel Corn

Here’s a quick and easy way to make what I find to be amazing gift-worthy caramel corn, with both stovetop and microwave instructions, your choice. Either way, the secret to crunchy, caramelly awesomeness is to finish by baking the caramel corn in a low-temperature oven, stirring often.

Homemade Golden Caramel Popcorn in a Bowl

You’ll need:

✅ popped corn
✅ butter
✅ brown sugar
✅ baking soda
✅ vanilla
✅ sea salt

Homemade Golden Caramel Popcorn in a Bowl

Caramel Corn

Here’s a quick and easy way to make what I find to be amazing gift-worthy caramel corn, with both stovetop and microwave instructions, your choice. Either way, the secret to crunchy, caramelly awesomeness is to finish by baking the caramel corn in a low-temperature oven, stirring often.
5 from 5 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert, Gifts, Sweets
Cuisine: Western
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 49 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 4 minutes
Servings: 12 1-cup servings
Calories: 190kcal
Cost: Varies


  • 12 cups popped popcorn (about 1/2 cup kernels or about two bags of plain microwaved popcorn)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed (OK to sub dark brown sugar)
  • 1/2 cup butter, 1 stick (no substitutes, please)
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (omit if using salted microwaved popcorn)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (do you make it yourself? It's the BEST!)


  • Preheat oven to 225F.

Ready the Popcorn

  • Place the popped popcorn (12 cups) into a big bowl, one that is at least twice the volume of the popcorn itself. Do not err on the side of a bowl that is too small, because you are going to do some serious stirring in a bit. Remove and discard any un-popped kernels.

Make Caramel - Stovetop Instructions

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat
  • Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt, stirring until just combined.
  • Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce to simmer and allow to cook for 4 minutes—DO NOT STIR.
  • Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the baking soda and vanilla. You’ll get a little show here as the vanilla will “sizzle” while the baking soda gets all foamy and gorgeous. Make sure the mixture is stirred very well, then immediately pour over the popcorn.
  • Stir well to coat all of the popcorn until caramel begins to harden. Keep stirring. A little more until fully and evenly distributed to every bit of popcorn ... there, that ought to be about right.

Make Caramel - Microwave Instructions

  • Cut the butter into chunks and place in a microwave-safe bowl along with the brown sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir well to combine. Microwave on high for an additional 2 minutes.
  • Remove bowl from microwave and stir very well. Return to microwave and heat for 2 more minutes on high.
  • Remove from microwave and stir in vanilla and baking soda. It will make popping sounds and get light and foamy. After stirring, immediately pour over the popcorn in the bowl. Stir well to coat all of the popcorn. Keep stirring. A little more until fully and evenly distributed to every bit of popcorn ... there, that ought to be about right.

Either Way, Continue Here

  • Whichever method you’ve followed, now spread the coated popcorn on one large or two smaller cookie sheets, breaking up any clumps. Bake at 225 F for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Spread out on waxed paper and allow to cool.

The Big Finish

  • This last step is critical, so don’t skip it. Sample the caramel corn to make sure it is fit for human consumption—perhaps even for gift-giving. You cannot be too careful here. Once you are satisfied, and if any caramel corn remains, store in airtight containers or bags.
  • Stays 100% crisp and fresh for 2 - 3 weeks in an airtight container, provided it is completely cool before closing the container.


  1. Corn syrup is required to stabilize the caramel so it doesn't crystalize. Corn syrup is readily available under the brand name Karo in the U.S. and Canada.
  2. Food grade glucose is a great substitute for corn syrup. Look for this in any pharmacy.
  3. If substituting glucose for corn syrup, increase baking time by 20 minutes, as glucose has a higher water content than corn syrup and takes longer for the caramel corn to dry out. 
  4. This caramel corn will remain fresh and crisp for 2 - 3 weeks in an airtight container provided it is fully cooled before closing the container. 
  5. kcal calculation made assuming dry popcorn is air-popped without oil, which has about 31 calories per cup.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 190kcal | Carbohydrates: 145g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 231mg | Potassium: 474mg | Fiber: 21g | Sugar: 25g | Vitamin A: 236IU | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 5mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Chili Cheese Dip

Because you can never have enough queso—especially when paired with chili! This recipe doubles well and good thing as someone is bound to want an entire bowl for himself.

chili-cheese dip

You’ll need:

✅ cream cheese
✅ jarred salsa
✅ canned chili with beans

Chili Cheese Dip

Because you can never have enough queso!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 3 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 13 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 278kcal
Cost: $5


  • 12 oz. cream cheese
  • 15 oz. jarred salsa
  • 12 oz, canned chili with beans


  • Place all ingredients into a medium saucepan or slow cooker, your choice.
  • Heat over medium heat (stovetop) or set to Low (slow cooker) until cream cheese is melted. 
  • Stir so that all ingredients are well incorporated. 
  • Serve hot with tortilla or corn chips. Absolutely divine!


Calories: 278kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 978mg | Potassium: 487mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1293IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 103mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Cheesecake Fruit Dip

The perfect accompaniment for cut-up fruit—on skewers or piled up in a big bowl

Fresh fruit kabobs and dip

You’ll need:

✅ cream cheese
✅ pudding mix
✅ marshmallow cream

Fresh fruit kabobs and dip

Cheesecake Fruit Dip

The perfect accompaniment for a big bowl of cut-up fruit!
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 240kcal
Cost: $6


  • 8 oz cream cheese, plain or any flavor strawberry cream cheese is a great choice!
  • 1 tbspn Jell-O Instant Cheesecake Pudding Mix find it here
  • 7 oz marshmallow cream


  • In a small-ish mixing bowl, mix together the cream and pudding mix. 
  • Continue to stir until well incorporated and smooth. 
  • Fold in marshmallow cream. 
  • Cover and refrigerate until serving.


  1. Will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days. Stir again just before serving.
  2. Serve alongside fresh fruit. Or fruit skewers are awesome for dipping if you have the patience to do that.


Calories: 240kcal | Carbohydrates: 32g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 137mg | Potassium: 52mg | Sugar: 24g | Vitamin A: 508IU | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!

Lightbulb sketched on a chalkboard

Take the Sag Out of a Closet Rod and Lots More Clever Tips and Tricks!

Whether it’s a sagging closet rod, kale down the garbage disposal, or premium fuel in the gas tank— EC readers are always anxious to share their best tips, tricks, and ideas for ways to save time and money. And avoid potential headaches!

Lightbulb sketched on a chalkboard

Sagging Closet Rod

To fix a sagging clothes closet rod, buy a length of 1/2-inch galvanized pipe and a length of 3/4″ thin-wall PVC (plastic, polyvinyl chloride) piping, both the same length as the rod. You can get these at any local home improvement center such as Home Depot or Lowes. Remove the existing sagging rod. Now slip the pipe inside the PVC to create a new rod and slide this into the existing rod brackets. If you are bothered by the printing on the PVC, clean it off with rubbing alcohol. Bob

Sticky Messy Sap

A cheap and safe way to remove pine tree sap from your car without damaging the finish is to rub it with a soft cloth soaked with plain 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, available at the pharmacy or drug store for a buck or two. George

Secret Info

When you finish refurbishing a room in your home, write down this important information on a piece of paper and tape it to the back of the switch plate, i.e. the brand and color of the paint, how much it took to paint the room, and the circuit breaker number that serves this room. You’ll be happy to find the information next time. Trevor

Kale? NO!

I made a big mistake recently when I cut a bunch of kale up into smaller pieces and put it down the garbage disposal. I let it grind like crazy, followed by tons of water down after it, and still, it clogged up the system in my apartment building for three floors down. It took maintenance four hours to clear it. They said, “The lettuce (it was kale) turned into something similar to glue/concrete!” Painful lesson learned. Naomi

Super Cube

This is a crazy simple tip, but it works for me. I love ice cold water and must have it at all times. However, at work the water is just cooled, not the icy deliciousness that I require. I solved this issue by taking a bottle of water slightly less than half full and laying it down sideways in the freezer. Later, I grab the frozen half bottle and fill it up with water. Voila!  Ice cold water for several hours. I just keep filling it up until it’s time to get out another one!  Laurel

Stick with Regular

Most gas stations offer Unleaded Premium for $.10 to $.12 per gallon more than Unleaded Regular. Many customers think they’re giving their car some kind of extra care or a “treat” by filling up with what they think is the best. Don’t do it. Virtually all automobiles run just fine on regular unleaded; so unless your vehicle’s owner manual specifically states that your car requires a premium grade of gas with higher octane, save your money and stick with regular. David

DIY Level Pay Plan

What I’ve done with my electricity and heating bills, after consulting my yearly budget, is pay the same each month. Because I live on a fixed income, I send each of those utility providers a flat $100 per month. If it’s more than I owe, this creates a credit balance.  I purposely overpay for heat in the summer when the furnace is not in use, and overpay in the winter to the electric company when I’m not running my central air conditioner. I’ve been doing this for years. No big bills in the summer for the electric, no big bills in the winter for the heat. This takes the mystery out of my budget and works for me quite well. Pam

Paint Can Flip

Store partially full cans of paint upside down. The paint will form an airtight seal, extending the useful life. Ted

Got a great tip like the one for how to fix a sagging closet rod (I love that!) you’d like to share? Use the comments below or send them to me HERE.


What Happens to My Good Credit Score When I Get Married?

While planning a wedding and their new life together, most couples aren’t thinking about how marriage might affect their credit. Will her student debt show up in your pristine credit file? Will your bankruptcy destroy his excellent credit score? Should you close the accounts you have but don’t use?


Mine + Yours = Ours? (maybe not)

Dear Mary: I’ll be getting married in a few weeks. I have excellent credit; my FICO credit score is 820. My fiancé, not so much. She has pretty bad credit and even filed for bankruptcy two years ago. Once we are married will her poor credit hurt my credit score? Travis

Dear Travis: Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! Fortunately, your spouse’s past credit history will have no impact on your credit profile once you are married. Only when you apply for credit as joint account holders or you add her either as an authorized user or a primary user to one of your credit-card accounts will any information be shared on both of your credit reports.

However, when you want to buy a home together, your spouse’s negative credit history will impact your mortgage rates if you need both of your incomes to qualify for a mortgage. It’s going to be important for you to work together to improve her bad credit score. Her bankruptcy will remain a matter of public record forever, however only reportable for 10 years. Eventually, it will fall off her credit reports. I wish you both a lifetime of joy and happiness!

Do credit files become co-mingled?

Dear Mary: My husband and I do not have, nor ever have had, any joint credit such as credit cards, bank accounts—with the exception of one mortgage on which we are co-owners, holding title as joint-tenants. We’ve been married for two years.

Because we do have that one joint mortgage with a bank, how does this affect our individual credit reports and resulting credit scores? Does all of his credit history now show up on my credit report, and will my credit history show up on his? Emily

Dear Emily: Only those accounts that you hold jointly or on which you are an authorized user will show up on your credit report. However, your state’s laws may have a different take on whether or not you can be held liable for one another’s debts. 

Some states have “community property” laws that might hold you responsible for your husband’s debts even though you are not on the account and it does not show up at all in your credit report. You would need to check with an attorney on that regarding the laws in your state of residence. 

Interestingly, FICO announced in 2007 that it would no longer recognize authorized users in the credit scoring process. However, that decision was reversed in 2008 when the company said that it would include authorized user accounts when calculating a person’s FICO credit score. 

What anyone who is an authorized user on another’s credit-card account needs to know is that all of the credit information on that account will be reported—not only the positive data. That means if the account owner misses a payment or pays late, that negative information will be reported to your credit file as well. 

I’m reminded of one reader who wrote that he was an authorized user on his mother’s credit card account, simply as a way that he could use her account to pay for her needs in her last years. 

When she died leaving a huge balance with numerous over-limit penalties and late fees, he was shocked to discover all of the negative information was being reported to his credit file.

In the end, he was not responsible for the balance due and the account was written off as she left no assets. But all of the negative information will be reported to his credit file for seven years from the date the account was written off. He has no recourse because the information being reported is true, albeit devastating. Authorized usage has its pitfalls.

You gotta’ know when to close ’em

Dear Mary: I have had several credit cards over the years, many of which still appear on my credit report. At one time I was told not to close these accounts, even though they are paid off. My FICO score is around 730. 

Do these open accounts affect my credit score, and should I leave them open or close them? I still have credit card debt that I am paying off, always making twice the minimum payment. Rosemary

Dear Rosemary: I suggest you just leave these accounts be. Here’s why: 

FICO credit scoring gives points for history, which means the longer you’ve had an account, the more valuable it is in the scoring process. If you were to close multiple accounts now, that could wipe out that history and negatively impact your FICO score. Should that happen, you could see an interest increase on the credit card balances you’re currently paying off. 

Another reason: Even though those accounts are at $0, they impact your “utilization rate,” which is the ratio between the amount of credit card debt you are carrying currently and your available credit on all accounts combined. The rule of thumb is that you should never be using more than 30% of the credit you have available.

If you were to close accounts with $0 balances that could send your utilization rate through the roof and cause your FICO score to plunge. Best advice: Leave well enough alone for now and concentrate on paying off your credit card debt. Once you reach a zero across all of these accounts (yay!), closing some of those accounts would not be as impactful on your credit score.

valentines day roses and calendar reminder

Yummy Sweets to Make for Valentine’s Day

Friends. Valentine’s Day is next week.  Get the picture? Thankfully, there’s a big beautiful weekend between now and then—plenty of time to make a few of these fabulous homemade treats and sweets!

valentines day roses and calendar reminder

Read more

Cotton fabrics close up

This is the Most Reliable Way to Eliminate Mothball Odor in Fabric

I love fabric and fine textiles of all kinds, but mostly I love cotton—cotton yard goods, sheets, towels, and cotton quilts. You might say I am a collector, but only in the best sense of the word. My friends know me as a recovering “fabricholic.” That’s why I was particularly drawn to a letter that hit my inbox recently. When I read the writer’s dilemma involves fabric and mothballs odor, I was on it.

woman holding nose due to stinky smell

Dear Mary: Recently, I was given the most gorgeous assortment of cotton fabrics that have been stored in mothballs. Any advice on how to get the smell out? I tried washing and ended up with a whole load of laundry that smelled of mothballs. Thanks, Lucille

Dear Lucille: Let’s not kid ourselves. This is a tough problem! So difficult, I called in the pros for advice on how to rescue your fabric and that load of laundry. Here’s what I learned:

Read more

cut cucumber in plastic wrap to extend useful life

Cucumbers in Plastic Wrap, and More Great Reader Tips!

It’s universally understood that a red flag means to stop or some variation of caution. A green flag, on the other hand, means “Wow what a great idea!” That’s how I mark emails from my awesome Everyday Cheapskate readers who send me their best tips. Check out this fresh batch of “green-flagged” tips:

cut cucumber in plastic wrap to extend useful life

Keep cucumber fresh

Finally, I know how to keep cucumber fresh. Do you know how the expensive English cucumbers at the store are wrapped in plastic? Apparently, that’s because this variety has a much shorter shelf life than regular cucumbers and the plastic wrap keeps them fresher longer. The guys at Cooks Illustrated tested wrapping regular uncut and cut cucumbers in plastic wrap. Both work and amazingly to allow you to keep a cucumber fresh for up to a week once it is cut! Place a piece of plastic wrap over and around the cut end of the cucumber. Smooth the plastic wrap over the cut end so that there are no gaps or air bubbles between the plastic and the cucumber. Secure the wrap tightly around the sides of the cucumber. Store in the refrigerator. Jessica

Last-minute search

Before you buy something online do a general search on the Internet for the item you want. You can often save a lot. For example, I recently was shopping online for a new headboard for my bed. After much searching, I found the exact one I wanted for $499. Just to see what would happen, I typed the name of the item into my Internet search engine and found exactly the same item on another site for half the price. What a saving. Caitlin Read more

A person wearing a hat

The Best Inexpensive Skincare Products According to My Dermatologist

High-quality and effective skincare should not be considered a luxury available only to the wealthy. You can find high-quality, reasonably priced skincare products in your drugstore, discount department store, or online.

beauty concept - skin care, anti-aging procedures, rejuvenation, lifting, tightening of facial skin

How shocked was I to read about it in a popular women’s magazine? I was speechless, but somehow gathered enough strength to respond, “There’s no way!”

Even so, I did a quick search only to discover it was no typo at all. 111SKIN Celestial Black Diamond Cream 1.7 oz. — $995.00 At that price, it’d better contain a miracle. Seriously. It almost makes Lancome’s Hydra Zen Neurocalm Soothing Recharging Night Cream 1.7 oz. look like a bargain!

Some years ago, as my dermatologist was wrapping up my routine office visit, I asked him what specific products he recommends I use for daily skincare. Without hesitation, he pulled out a note pad and wrote down the products that follow:

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shave foam defog eyeglasses

7 Ways to Stop Glasses Fogging Up

If you wear eyeglasses, I’ll bet you’ve encountered a most annoying problem while wearing a mask—glasses fogging up. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to see!

Why do our eyeglasses fog up when wearing a mask? The answer is simple: condensation.

stop glasses fogging up with shave cream

According to ophthalmologist Dr. Jesse Pelletier, recently quoted in Parade, “When the warm and moist air is trapped behind your spectacles, microscopic water droplets collect on the cool surface of a lens, forming a layer of fog that makes it difficult to see.”

Read more

Amazing DIY Laundry and Carpet Stain Remover

I’m excited to show you how to make a fabulous if not magical DIY homemade stain remover. This stain remover recipe is so easy and cheap to make. And wow, does it perform!

Unlike some other homemade laundry stain and detergent products you’ll find here at Everyday Cheapskate, this one is also a homemade stain remover for carpet. Ah-ha! That got your attention!

Read more

smart piggybank with $1000 cash

How to Get $1,000 Into Your Emergency Fund—and Where to Hide It

The most important thing you can do to make your personal economy strong is to have an umbrella—an emergency fund with enough money in it to pay all of your bills for six months. And it needs to be safe and secure in a bank account.

You read that right—half a year’s income! Wait. You can’t imagine being able to save even fifty bucks? No worries. The secret to getting there is to start small. Let’s say you make $1,000 your first Contingency (emergency) Fund goal, starting with just $50. Now it’s time to figure out where and how you’ll grow this account.

smart piggybank with $1000 cash

10% straight into emergency fund

Weekly, or as you get paid, save 10% of your paycheck, right off the top before you do one other thing with that paycheck. Too much? Can’t do it? I sure you can, but OK start with 5% or even 1% and build up from there. Just start!

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Absolutely the Best Window Cleaning Tips Ever

I have this thing for clean windows. I love them, which means I have an equal but opposite disdain for dirty windows. And when I say clean, I mean the kind of clean that makes windows sparkle like diamonds in the morning sun. Some days I wish that by some miracle, a professional window-washing service would come to my home every week to clean windows—every single one both inside and out.

But I have a two-story house with a lot of windows—to say nothing of the time and money that would require to move everything away from every window to get ready every week!—so right there you know why I can’t and I don’t.

Instead, I depend on these great DIY window cleaning tips I’ve learned over the years—many of them from you, my awesome readers for how to wash windows from the outside, and from the inside, too.

A person standing in front of a window

Tips for how to wash windows

Dry, cloudy day

If you’ve ever tried to clean outdoor windows on a bright sunny day, you already know the problem. Your cleaning solution dries on the glass faster than you can turn around to grab your cleaning cloth. You’ll end up with a horrible streaky, muddy-like mess. Instead, wait for a dry, cloudy day.

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Shark vacuum collage 3

How to Clean a Shark Vacuum

I’m pretty sure you know by now just how much I love my Shark vacuum cleaner. And given my readers’ letters and comments, I know that many of you have Sharkys, too. It’s super important that you know how to clean a Shark vacuum to make sure it keeps performing at top efficiency both now and for many years to come.

I love your messages. They make me smile because I understand the range of emotion that comes with using a Shark vacuum for the first time—from amazement to flat out embarrassment.

Where on earth did all of this dirt and debris come from? I can’t believe what’s been lurking in my carpet!

With all of the miles I’ve put on my numerous Shark vacs over the years, I’ve never had one fail. And while the manufacturer boasts that Sharks never lose suction, that is predicated on common sense and regularly cleaning Sharky’s canister, filters, rotating brush, and handle hose.


You’ll know it’s time when … 

Step 1: Disassemble

Step 2: Clear obstructions

Step 3: Scrub canister clean

Step 4: Wash filters

Step 5: Untangle roller brush

Step 6: De-gunk handle hose

Step 7: Reassemble


Signs a Shark vacuum needs cleaning

  • Loss of suction: It happens. A big fat hairy fuzzball or a venerable filter that’s stopped filtering can clog a vacuum and cut off suction. Whatever the cause, a loss of suction is the first sign that someone needs a good cleaning.
  • Visible dirt left behind: When working at peak performance, a Shark vacuum will never leave behind a trail of crumbs and debris. If it does, that’s a clear indication it needs to be cleaned.
  • Weird sound: You’ll know it’s bathtime for sure if your Shark sounds like it is gasping for air. That’s because it is. And that can be very hard on the vacuum’s motor.
  • Unpleasant odor: A Shark vacuum should never give off a stinky, dirty odor. If it does, consider that a clear sign this vacuum is overdue for a good cleaning.

How to clean a Shark vacuum

In the more than 12 years I’ve been using Shark vacuums, the company has come out with a crazy number of models. However, my experience is that all Shark vacuums have the same basic parts and operate in much the same way.

What follows are general instructions. Your particular Shark model may vary. If you get stuck, ask in the comment area below, or refer to your owner’s manual.

What you’ll need

✅ warm water

✅ dishwashing liquid

✅ cleaning cloth

✅ wood skewer, or similar

✅ flashlight

✅ soft brush like a bottle brush

✅ scissors

Step 1: Disassemble

Make sure the vacuum is disconnected from power, then take it apart. Don’t go crazy here. We’re not talking about removing screws or detaching wires. Remove the dust canister and the foam/felt filters, the HEPA filter and its cover, and the handle hose.

Shark Vac Cleaning Disassemble

Take note of the placement of the filters so that you can replace them in the same proper order. It’s not difficult. Just pay attention.

Step 2: Check for and clear obstructions

Check every opening. You’re likely to see fuzz, hairballs, and clinging dust. You may find other things like a Lego brick or maybe even a sock!

Shark Vac Step 3 obstructions

Remove all obstructions using your hand or a damp microfiber cloth. Can’t reach it? A wooden skewer works well to fish out or release any weird accumulation.

Step 3: Empty and clean the dirt canister

Open both ends of the dirt canister over a trash can and dump out whatever is in there. Now take the canister to a sink of warm soapy water.

Step 3 cleaning Shark vacuum

Open both ends of the dust canister and put it right into that warm bath. Using a long-handled brush or a rag, get inside that canister and scrub it clean. Once rinsed, dry it thoroughly with a good microfiber cloth.

Step 4: Clean the Shark vacuum filters

Shark vacuums have an excellent filter system consisting of one or two (depending on the model) thick foam filters plus one made of felt; and a HEPA filter. 

collage of shark vacuum filters

Foam/Felt Filters

Rinse the foam and felt filters in cool, clear water (manufacturer recommends no soap), being especially careful not to damage them.

It takes a good amount of squeezy and scrubbing of the foam filter to get it clean. Once cleaned and rinsed well, the filter(s) may or may not return to their new white appearance. But don’t worry. As long as they are not torn, broken, or otherwise disintegrated, they’ll be just fine, even if they remain stained.

NOTE: The manufacturer does not recommend washing the felt filter. I’m not too fond of dirty felt, so I carefully hand wash and have done so many times with no problem. Do this at your own risk.

HEPA Filter

Most Shark vacuum models have an additional filter—a HEPA filter. This is located on the lower front of the machine behind the filter grill (door). Firmly pull the door off to reveal the HEPA filter and pull out the filter. Rinse the filter well in clear water and allow it to dry fully.

Do not return the filter(s) to the vacuum at this point. They must be completely dry first or prepare for mildew and mold—the last thing you ever want growing inside a vacuum. Set the still wet filter(s) on the counter so they can air dry. This may require an overnight stay.

Step 5: Clean the rotating brush head

Next, lay the vacuum on the floor so you can see the rotating brush. You may want to place a bag or towel underneath to catch the debris and dirt you’re about to release.

More than likely, you will see strings, hair, and other material wrapped around the brush. This is normal. I use scissors to cut through whatever has wound itself around the brush. That makes it easy to clean up the brush. You may have to pull and tug a bit, but it will come off. You want to return the rotating brush to its nice and clean condition.

Step 6: Clean the handle hose

Again, since I am not privy to every single Shark model, please check your owner’s manual before cleaning the vacuum handle hose. You want to make sure the hose on your model does not have any electrical components. None of my Shark vacuums ever have, but let’s make sure.

hose handle cleaning collage

The handle hose on a Shark disconnects easily. When you do this and take a look inside, you’ll see that it is laden with sticky dust and grime. Removing all of that will help your Sharky to continue to perform smoothly.

Take the hose to your sink or tub of soapy water and drop it in so it can fill with water. Using a brush or rag, reach into the ends to clean it. Warning! Don’t get anything get stuck, especially in that bendy part.

Allow the hose to sit and soak for a while, to loosen the grime in the areas you cannot reach easily. Finish by running clean water from a faucet through the hose until it comes out clean and clear from the other end. Find a place to hang the hose vertically so it can drip dry.

Step 7: Reassemble the vacuum

Once the filters and handle hose are completely dry, reassemble your Shark vacuum. 

reassemble collage

Replace the felt filter first. Next, replace the clean foam filter on top of the felt filter. Replace the HEPA filter and then the “grill” cover. Reattach the handle hose. Close both ends of the dirt canister and lock it into place.

Enjoy your nice clean, fresh Shark Vac!


Why does my vacuum smell?

More than likely, you are not emptying the dirt canister frequently enough. Just think about what goes inside that dirt canister and also gets trapped in the filters. It’s dirt and debris from outdoors, bits of food, and other organic matter. Allowing that debris to remain in the dirt canister creates a breeding ground for bacteria and mold and the potential for a stinky situation.

How often should I clean a Shark vacuum and filters?

  • Each use: Empty the dirt container after every use.
  • Monthly: Shark vacuum owner manuals generally instruct that the foam/felt filters should be cleaned monthly.
  • Quarterly: Every three months, take the vacuum apart (see above), give the dust canister, brush roll, and hose a good cleaning.
  • Annually: Clean the HEPA filter once each year.

When should I replace Shark vacuum filters?

Your owner manual will most likely advise both the foam/felt and HEPA filters to be replaced once you notice the machine is losing suction, even after cleaning the filters as mentioned above. That’s a strong sign that the filters are no longer effective.

To be on the safe side and since they are not expensive, my practice is to replace the foam/felt filters annually and the HEPA filter as needed.

Where can I get filters and replacement parts for my Shark products?

SharkClean.com carries just about every possible replacement part or accessory you can imagine and for lots of Shark models, even those that are no longer in production. As for filters, I compare prices at SharkClean with Amazon, where the filters for my Sharks are usually a bit less expensive. You can also find owner manuals for hundreds of models and exceptional support at SharkClean.

There are so many models of Shark vacuums. Do you have a recommendation?

You’re right, there are many models to choose from! I am partial to the models with the Lift-Away feature, making it easy and efficient to vacuum a staircase. And I prefer the Navigator line of Shark vacuums because they maneuver so well.

I purchased the vacuum in this photo tutorial above in 2015. You wouldn’t believe how many miles I have on it, and it still looks and operates as if new.

My current recommendation is this Shark Navigator Pro Lift-Away. It comes with several accessories including a pet power brush and crevice tool. It weighs in at just 13.7 lbs., which is just one more thing to love. And oh, that price!

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

Original: 12-30-15; Updated with current information and photos 1-24-21

Girl with blue wallet full of money

The 7-Day All-Cash Challenge

This morning while waiting for my gas tank to fill up, I put the time to good use. I read all the hazard warnings on the gasoline pump equipment. I couldnt help but think how much better off we might be if there were similar warning signs posted in stores, restaurants, and websites warning of the hazards of plastic.

ATM, debit, and credit cards can be every bit as hazardous to our financial health as fumes and improper handling of gasoline fuel can be to ones physical health.

Girl with blue wallet full of money

Plastic addiction

ATM, debit, and credit cards can be every bit as hazardous to our financial health as fumes and improper handling of gasoline fuel can be to ones physical health.

The vicious cycle of plastic-induced debt begins subtly. Before you know it, youre knee-deep in the accumulation of things, all the while losing something precious called financial freedom.

The cure

There is a cure for the addiction to plastic. Put yourself on a cash diet. Oh, I know that sounds so old-fashioned. It’s so much more convenient to pay with plastic. Some believe carrying cash is simply not safe, an excuse that has put and keeps lots of my dear readers in financial bondage.

The challenge

Heres my challenge: No plastic whatsoever for the next seven days. Of course you shouldnt send cash through the mail if that is the method by which you pay bills. But Im talking about day to day living. Gas in the car, coffee in a shop shop; fast food, restaurant food, diners, drive-thrus, and dives!

Can you do it? Of course you can. I have no doubt whatsoever that in the absence of plastic your life would go on. Your family would not starve and you would become very creative, indeed.

Not convenient?

I know what youre thinking. Thats too inconvenient—and thats the point! If spending money were not so convenient maybe all of us would keep more of it.

Experts tell us based on credible studies and statistics that when we shop and live dependent on electronic payments for everything from groceries to gas to the daily coffee—and on and on and on—we simply spend more. Its the convenience factor. Its mindless to just swipe the plastic for everything without engaging and focusing on the true cost of things. And paying only the minimum monthly payment when the credit card statement is due? We’ve been programmed to believe that’s our right, and an easy way to live way beyond our means.

Take the challenge

Are you ready to take the challenge? Great. Find a safe place for your plastic and just get it out of reach. Hand it over to a trusted friend or relative. Or freeze all of it in a big block of ice. Nothing will be harmed, your cards will be safe so no worries there.

As you are able to pry yourself from plastic you will experience a new sense of well-being and freedom. Its called living within your means, paying as you go, spending only what you have, delayed gratification.

Feeling of freedom

Theres something remarkable about living with cash. Suddenly, youre really paying for things—not creating a promise to pay when the bill arrives.

You are touching and feeling the sensation of that thing known as money. Youll intuitively start paying attention to how much that fast-food lunch costs because youll be handing over currency, not merely swiping plastic while you enjoy the music or exchange pleasantries with the guy in line behind you.

As you cruise the supermarket, the actual prices of things will begin to capture your attention. Youll compare the prices and notice which items are on sale. Youll keep checking your pocket to make sure you have enough to pay as your cart fills up.

Plastic blinders

Plastic has a way of shielding us from what things really cost. That might feel good at the time, but its like living in a fantasy world. Paying with cash clears away all the fog and keeps it real.

Just 7 days

So here’s the deal: Just seven days, one week starting tomorrow morning. That gives you time to get the cash you need to get through one with no plastic purchases at all. Are you with me?

Let’s go!

How to Remove Paint Stains from Carpet & More Great Reader Tips

Want to get latex paint out of carpet, upholstery, or any other kind of fabric―even if it’s an old stain that is dried up? No problem!

You’ll need:

✅ lacquer thinner

✅ clean white cloth

Using a clean white cloth, saturate the stain with any brand of lacquer thinner—not paint thinner, not mineral spirits, or anything else you might be tempted to substitute. It must be lacquer thinner. Find it in the paint aisle at stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware or online. And only a white cloth so there is no chance of transferring the color from the cloth to carpet or other such items to be cleaned.

Allow the lacquer thinner to sit for a few moments to soften the paint so you can scrape, blot, and or scrub it out with the application cloth.

Depending on how old the latex (water-based) paint stain is, you may have to repeat this process a couple of times, but it will come out without leaving a bigger problem in its wake.

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Woman with stinky shoe

It’s a Smelly World Out There—Thank Goodness for Nok-Out

Nok-Out and I met quite by accident. In searching for ways my readers could deal with offensive odors, we found each other online. I’ve used it continuously in my home since then and have recommended it to readers facing serious and potentially expensive odor issues. Not everything in life can be doused in bleach. But in Nok-Out? No problem!

So today I thought I would sum it all up by giving you my top eight reasons that I am hooked on Nok-Out. It’s a smelly world out there and I don’t want to live in it without Nok-Out.

Woman with a stinky shoe of her husband – unpleasant smell concept

1. Completely safe

 Nok-Out is not toxic, and totally safe around pets, children, and anyone with allergies. Amazingly, the stuff looks like water and has no scent or fumes.

2. Kills COVID-19 and more

Nok-Out’s companion product SNiPER is anti-bacterial and anti-viral which means it kills COVID-19, H1N1, H3N2 as well as a long list of other nasty germs.

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A fountain in the middle of the tub

How to Clean a Jetted Jacuzzi-Type Tub

There are few things as luxurious as taking a bath in a jetted, Jacuzzi-type, or whirlpool bathtub. The warm water and body massage make for one amazing way to relax. But the last thing you want to see are chunks of mystery debris swirling about—all the gunk and grime that’s built-up inside the jets and connecting hoses since the last time you cleaned it, which would be uh, when?

Follow these steps to get the tub, the air jets plus all of the interior plumbing system squeaky clean and sanitized so you can relax in crystal-clear water without fear of filth.

A fountain in the middle of the tub

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Man with binoculars in a field looking for money

Piles of Money Waiting To Be Found

It’s a long story how Mark and Rosalie lost 5,000 shares of Texaco-Canada stock. But they did. They believed their money was well-invested when they relocated to the U.S.

Man with binoculars in a field looking for money

They were unaware that when the company was sold to Texaco USA, all shares were liquidated and the proceeds returned to their rightful owners.

No doubt, a check was mailed to them, but by then they were long gone and their forwarding information had expired. So what happened to those funds? That’s what I set out to discover. And in the process, I discovered a lot more.

Mark and Rosalie are not alone. From security deposits to expired gift certificates, insurance refunds to old bank accounts, and proceeds from class-action suits, Americans are missing out on billions of dollars simply because they are unaware.

Piles of money

Unclaimed property refund checks are often in the $800 to $1,000 range. Even so each year states return only 4 percent of unclaimed assets to their rightful owners. Most owners don’t know they have money coming and it is simple to find the money that the state or federal governments have for you to claim.

Unclaimed property is generally defined as any financial asset that has had no activity by its owner for a period of five years or more. This includes savings accounts, safety deposit boxes, checking accounts, uncashed dividends, stocks, customer deposits or overpayments, certificates of deposit, credit balances, refunds, matured life insurance policies, and uncashed death benefit checks.

Forgotten funds

For example, if you have ever moved without getting your utility deposit back or forgotten about an old checking or savings account, you are entitled to those funds. Banks, insurance and utility companies, landlords or brokerage firms cannot keep your money simply because they cannot find you or you fail to pick it up. Federal and state laws require that those funds be held in safekeeping until their rightful owners (you!) claim them or until the property is sold at auction.

Start searching

Many states offer free online access to property databases and even online claim forms. To find that online do a simple google search, i.e. “unclaimed funds California.”

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, (unclaimed.org) a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Association of State Treasurers, is an excellent source of information on unclaimed property. You can access all states through their website.

Forgot your refund?

The IRS provides specific information on its website on how to obtain a past refund that remains unclaimed. You can also try its toll-free phone number, 800 829-1040.

Search for others

If the unclaimed property is not in your name, you must prove that you are the legal guardian or rightful heir to recoup it. That is not a difficult task.

More than $8 billion worth of matured savings bonds have never been cashed. You can bring your uncashed savings bonds to your local bank, which will cash them in for you. If you think you have lost a savings bond and have a record of the serial number, go to publicdebt.treas.gov to look up its status.

Also, bonds that are lost, stolen, mutilated, or destroyed can be replaced free of charge as long as the Bureau of the Public Debt can establish that the bonds haven’t been cashed.

Surprise! Look what I found!

While it required an attorney to locate Mark and Rosalie’s stock sale proceeds, I did find $43.54 with their name on it, just waiting to be claimed. It seems the insurance company misspelled their street name so a refund was returned as undeliverable and eventually turned over to the State of California.

But that’s not all. In searching under the names of family members I found $85.90 for my husband’s parents (a refund that was mailed to an old address after forwarding information had expired).

Still more: I searched for myself and found a $125 insurance check that was returned as undeliverable because the sender failed to include our zip code. I have no idea the reason for this refund, but I’m not asking questions. I completed the simple claim form, sent in copies of identifying information, and am looking for a check any day now.

A pile of money—large or small—just might be waiting for you to claim what is rightfully yours! Or to surprise someone you know and love. At the very least, it is rather enjoyable to go on a search.

How to Remove Yellow Sweat Stains—It Really Works!

Yellow stains on the armpits and collars of shirts are a problem if my inbox is any indication, which I believe it is. And I’ve been avoiding the subject because honestly, it’s kinda’ gross.

I can’t begin to estimate how many messages I’ve received asking for help with getting rid of these stains, but it’s a lot. And now it’s time. Today we’re hitting this topic head-on.

A person preparing food in a kitchen, with Stain and LaundryWhat are these stains?

Curious, isn’t it that ugly yellow stains show up only in the armpit area?

Left untreated, these stains can cause the material to become stiff as if just being yellow isn’t disgusting enough. And crunchy.

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Highly Effective Food Cost-Cutting Strategies for Every Lifestyle

Ever wonder why you never have enough money to consistently save some of it for emergencies? I’m talking about consistent, regular deposits out of every paycheck that go straight into a savings account. Maybe it’s time to consider that you’re handing over your savings to restaurants, drive-thrus, diners, and coffee shops. Think about it.

What if you were strategic in buying basic ingredients and then cooking great meals at home? What if you had all of that money tucked away in a savings account rather than the coffers of local eating joints?

No matter your lifestyle, I am confident that with the right strategies, you really can reduce the amount of money you’re spending on food.

More time than money

If yours is a single-income household struggling to survive in a two-income world, keeping food on the table and the bills paid can be quite a challenge. The good news is that time is on your side. The one not working outside the home has the time—it takes time to carry out the best strategies—to keep the cost at rock bottom without sacrificing quality. Read more


14 Things That Should Never Go in the Dishwasher

Without a doubt, my least favorite household chore is hand washing dishes. That makes my dishwasher the one appliance I can’t live without. I love it. In fact, I have this motto that if it can’t go in the dishwasher I don’t need it.

Despite all my efforts, I still end up having to hand wash a few things since having learned the hard way there are certain items that should never go in a dishwasher. They can be ruined or they can ruin your dishwasher. You should hand wash them instead.



You’d be amazed how well I could fit wood cutting boards, wood bowls, and utensils made of wood or with wood handles into my dishwasher. But what was I thinking? I’m careful to not expose my wood floors to standing water because that’s just asking for trouble. But these small items made of wood might somehow be impervious to the brutality of super hot water plus detergent followed by blistering high drying heat? So wrong!

Bottom line is that water causes wood to swell and distort. Detergent strips the natural oils, causing the wood to crack. Wood needs to be hand-washed and dried quickly.

When you need to disinfect, use a mild solution of one gallon of 70 F (cool) water plus one teaspoon of liquid bleach in a spray bottle. Spray the surface, allow to sit for a few minutes then rinse and dry. That does the trick.

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You Need an Emergency Fund (How to Get Started!)

Emergencies are a fact of life. When faced with an unexpected event—from a broken bone to a job layoff—it’s good to be prepared. Nothing new there, I’m sure. We know what we should do. It’s actually doing it that eludes so many.

An emergency fund, what we call our Contingency Fund, is a stash of money set aside for protection during the financial storms life throws our way—events that can be stressful and costly.

Meet Mitch and Jenn

Several years ago, Mitch and Jenn had a string of bad luck. Mitch broke his leg in a skiing accident, Jenn’s car broke down requiring major repairs and their home’s aged roof decided to fail right in the middle of a major winter storm.

The timing for all of this wasn’t ideal—four weeks before Christmas. The financial and emotional toll of these events continues to be huge, but nothing like it might have been if they hadn’t been diligently building their Contingency Fund, more commonly known as an emergency fund.

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A plate of food and a cup of coffee

How To Make Family-Friendly Finger Foods Kids Love

Are trips through the closest fast-food joint driving a hole through your food budget? It’s no wonder. Prices on all foods are sky-rocketing, but fast food takes that prize. Yikes!

A plate of food and a cup of coffee

Unlike supermarkets where every week you can find fabulous sales, you’ll never find sales at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, or Burger King. Or any other fast-food restaurant for that matter. I don’t consider an occasional coupon to be a Sale.

I know what you’re thinking: Chicken. Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Fingers, Chicken Sandwiches—they’re all so tasty from these places, so convenient and so kid-friendly.

Consider this: In less time than it takes you to get into the car and drive to the closest drive-thru, you can make your own fast-food chicken fare—for half the price, or less. In fact, you can make a fabulous coating mix to mimic the best-coated chicken you’ve ever eaten, in five minutes flat.

And if that’s not enough, you’ll get three bonuses for your effort:

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kitchen island wood floor beautiful kitchen

How to Clean and Care for Hardwood, Laminate, and Vinyl Floors

Taking care of the floors in your home can be challenging given the everyday conditions of a family and pets. But keeping your home looking good is crucial to maintaining its value. This is how to clean three types of residential flooring: real wood, laminate, and luxury vinyl. 


There are two types of hardwood flooring—both made from real wood.


Solid hardwood floors are made of planks milled from a single piece of timber. Hardwood flooring comes both finished and unfinished; sealed and unsealed. While not completely waterproof, solid hardwood flooring can be sanded down and refinished should it become water damaged. Solid hardwood floors are the most expensive option.


Engineered hardwood is man-made from layers of material including HDF (High-Density Fiberboard which is a wood by-product) that have been glued together, with a thin layer of real hardwood on the top. Typically engineered wood comes finished with a clear protective coating or finish.

Engineered hardwood flooring is not waterproof. In the event of water damage, it is not suitable to be sanded down and refinished because the top layer of real wood is quite thin. Engineered hardwood is considerably more affordable than its solid cousin.


Like engineered hardwood, laminate flooring is also manmade, but from all synthetic products. It consists of a core made from HDF (High-Density Fiberboard which is a wood by-product) mixed with resins, then a top layer of plastic photographic material that is made to look like wood plus a clear protective finish.

All of those layers are fused together in a factory using a lamination process. Laminate flooring is not waterproof. A major water spill or a flood of any kind will most likely require the floor to be replaced. That center HDF core acts like a big sponge.

Luxury vinyl

Very similar to laminate flooring, luxury vinyl flooring uses PVC instead of HDF for its core, which makes it 100% waterproof. Luxury vinyl can handle major spills and floods.

Is it finished?

Don’t know what you have exactly? No worries. When it comes to cleaning “wood” floors (solid, engineered, laminate, or vinyl) the only thing you need to figure out is whether or not your floors have a finish. You don’t really need to know the type of finish. The important fact is whether the floors have been treated in some way to make them resistant to standing water, which is the enemy of all wood and wood-like floors.

Drop-of-water test

To discover if your flooring is finished, drop a single drop of water on the floor. If it beads and just sits there, the flooring has been finished. If the drop of water soaks in and disappears leaving a dark spot, the wood is not finished.

What follows is for finished solid or engineered wood, laminate, and vinyl flooring only. Unfinished hardwood CANNOT be mopped since it will damage the flooring.

CAUTION: If your floor is unfinished, or if it’s an old wood floor and some of the finish has started to wear away, then don’t use any moisture or product on the floor at all. Just dust-mop it with a flat-head mop.

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cleaning bathroom sink

Tips to Rescue Rust-Stained Sinks, Pitted Chrome, and Slow Running Drains

Isn’t it ironic that the places in our homes that should be the cleanest—the washing machine, kitchen sink, bathroom tub, shower, sinks—are often the most troubled? Harsh chemicals, soap deposits, food stains, rust, hard water minerals, and water spots, when allowed to build up, will eventually not only look bad but can cause permanent and irreversible damage.

The good news is that you can halt—even reverse—much if not all of this kind of damage.

cleaning bathroom sink

Lime deposits

The stubborn white spots on and around the faucets are lime deposits from mineral-rich hard water. They’re easy to remove with good old white vinegar. Soak a paper towel in vinegar, then wrap the towel around the spotted area. Wait 10 minutes or so then remove the paper towel and buff with a dry paper towel or soft clean cloth.

CAUTION: This works well on all types of fixtures except brass or colored fixtures, which may become discolored when treated with vinegar. Again, test first in an inconspicuous place.

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bright colored cleaning cloths on white counter

These are the Best Microfiber Cloths (They Work Like Magic!)

There’s nothing like microfiber for cleaning just about any surface in and about the house. If you’ve never used a microfiber cloth, you’re going to be amazed by how fast and efficiently you can clean.

bright colored cleaning cloths on white counter

Housecleaning and car washing—they’re chores that most of us love to hate. Who would have thought there could ever be a better way to scrub things clean than using good old soap and water plus an old, ratty cotton cloth?

If you’ve tried the latest microfiber cleaning cloths, you know that technology really can make life easier. Not only are microfiber cloths more hygienic, but they also avoid the need for expensive cleaning products, which are often laden with strong chemicals that for some cause allergic reactions and skin problems.

Microfiber cloths get things looking far cleaner in a lot less time. Especially windows, mirrors, and stainless steel. And drying dishes. It’s not really magic—it’s science.

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laundry room detergent

How to Make the Best Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

I’m not proud to admit it, but there was a time that I would’ve rather shoved toothpicks under my fingernails than be bothered with making my own homemade laundry detergent. Are you kidding me? Why on earth would I do that? I’m happy to live in modern times, not the stone age for goodness’ sake!

laundry room detergent

Oh my, how arrogant and ignorant I was. And deeply, horribly in debt to prove it.

Long story short, I learned how to cut expenses—to scrimp where it doesn’t matter in order have what matters most. And yes, I most willingly learned to make my own homemade laundry detergent for cheap—less than a nickel a load, giving up spending $ .35 or even $.50 a load for the ready-made options. And I got out of debt—paid off a massive amount of credit card debt, now happily debt-free with more joy than I can possibly express.

Look, I’m not saying that making laundry detergent is going to get you out of debt. That one move on its own will, at best, make a small dent in your weekly grocery tab. But add that to hundreds of other changes (hang around me with and I’ll teach you), and your life will change in dramatic ways. Just think about it.

In the meantime let me show you how quick and easy it is to do this:

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fearful woman looking out window

How to Keep Calm and Carry On

Life is uncertain. We know that. What we don’t want to admit is how quickly uncertainty can morph into fear, worry, and all-out panic.

Waking this morning to the reality of national unrest on top of a global pandemic brings even more new meaning to uncertainty. In all of this, we’re supposed to keep calm? Carry on? Nice words, but how?

fearful woman looking out window

Fear is the enemy

Fear leads to stress. And stress leads to the breakdown of mental and physical health.

Fear skews our common sense, clouding our decision-making. Unfounded fears lead us to do and believe really dumb things.

Fear can so easily lead to depression as we rehearse over and over in our minds every possible thing that could happen. Fear and greed are very close cousins. Together they can lead to panic, and that leads to no good!

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Homemade Hot Butternut Squash Soup

5 Quick and Easy Homemade Soup Recipes to Soothe the Soul and Budget

Loyal readers know that I love to cook. And I prefer to make things from scratch. But given my crazy schedule, many days I have zero time to get a meal on the table—not even 30 minutes (sorry, Rachael Ray). I’m always on the lookout for the fastest food.

Homemade Hot Butternut Squash Soup

I need quick and easy meals that are also delicious. If something is fast and tastes good, it’s so much better than eating out. And way cheaper, too. The five recipes that follow (presented as recipe cards so you can easily print them) are my family’s favorite homemade soups!


Butternut Squash Soup

Slow Cooker Taco Soup

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Potato Ham Soup

Quick and Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

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Afro woman repairing furniture at home.

9 Extremely Useful Home Repair Products to Fix Just About Anything

Maintenance and home repair are a never-ending reality for just about everyone—homeowners and renters alike. But it doesn’t have to be painful or necessarily expensive. The secret to making it easy is to fix stuff as it happens—right away, not next month or sometime in the future when you decide to sell.

Afro woman repairing furniture at home.

The best way to ensure you’ll actually perform quick home repairs is to make sure you have top-notch repair products on hand—in a handy place you will remember.

Check out my collection of favorite home repair products, some of which you may have already. And if you have favorites not listed below, please let us know in the comments area!

Scratch Fix Pens

Miller Scratch Fix pens are the absolute best for hiding scratches on furniture, floors, cabinets, doors, and moldings—even antiques. Makes scratches, stains, and imperfections invisible. Dries in seconds making multiple coats, if necessary, super simple.

These pens (available in a variety of colors) contain waterproof wood stain instead of ink, which means that once dry, even wax and polish won’t smudge it. Follow the directions exactly for the best result. Keep a set of these stain markers in the house to touch up nicks and scratches on all your wood surfaces to keep maintenance easy and manageable.

Weldbond Adhesive Glue

Weldbond Adhesive Glue is amazing for most applications. It’s super adhesive, while at the same time cleans up with water, is non-toxic, nearly odorless, and dries clear while remaining flexible.

This is the glue you want if your repair will remain visible. It works equally well on porous and non-porous surfaces, however, it’s at its best when you scuff the materials to be glued with something like a nail file or sandpaper.

Weldbond is great on most plastics, wood, metal, tile, porcelain, fabric—items all of us have around our homes that need to be repaired from time to time. Cures fully in only 24 hours.

As always, test any product new to you in an inconspicuous place first. You want to know exactly this is going to work and appear once you use it to make a home repair.

Original Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Glue comes in a number of varieties, many of which I can live without. It’s the Original Gorilla Glue that has saved my bacon more than a few times and occupies a permanent location in my repair products cupboard. It will stick anything together and hold it there for dear life and quite possibly through all eternity. However, the repair most likely will remain visible so plan your strategy carefully.

I love Original Gorilla Glue because it takes a while to dry (read the instructions carefully), which means I have time to reposition and get things just right. Original Gorilla Glue is perfect for situations where you just don’t have a clear, clean break with two like surfaces to join together.

Example: The wireframe on one of my lampshades broke leaving the thing hanging cockeyed. There was no apparent way that I could reattach it because, well, you’d have to see it to understand. But that was not an impossible challenge for Original Gorilla Glue.

It worked beautifully to attach the severed wireframe—delicately—to the lampshade fabric on the inside where it is not readily visible! That repair is now the strongest point on the entire lampshade. Yep, good forever.

Now you can understand why I don’t want to live without my trusty bottle of Original Gorilla Glue. Read more

13 Surprising Ways to Use Your Coffee Maker

You might think your coffee maker is a one-trick pony—does anything smell more wonderful than a fresh-brewed pot of coffee? But let’s think about this for a moment.

That appliance heats water to about 200 F. and comes equipped with a hot plate to keep it at about 165 F. Whether you’re traveling, living in a dorm room, or just like the idea of a kitchen tool doing more than one thing, you’re going to love knowing all the things your coffee maker can do besides brew coffee.

Make soup

Instant soup, especially those packets of ramen, is perfect for preparing with a coffee maker. Break up the noodles then pour the entire contents including seasoning mix into the coffee carafe.

Now pour water through the machine as if you were making coffee. Let it set on the hot plate for a few minutes and you’re good to go.

Cook Pasta

Thin pasta like linguini, fettuccini, and spaghetti can be cooked to perfection in your coffee maker. Prepare the coffeemaker to make a full pot of coffee, but leave out the filter and the coffee. Break the dry pasta (for a single serving) as needed so it fits into the empty carafe and place it on the hotplate. Turn the coffeemaker on and all the carafe to fill. Leave in place on the hotplate until the pasta is cooked to al dente. Drain in a colander and enjoy! in the colander!

Fry pancakes

You’re going to think I’m nuts but stick with me here. You really can make mini-pancakes on a coffee maker’s hot plate.

First, line the burner with foil (optional, but foil will keep it clean), and let it heat up. Now pour a small amount of batter right onto the foil. Flip it over when the edges begin to turn brown and the surface develops small bubbles.

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This is What to Do With Leftover Green Salad

If throwing out perfectly delicious leftover green salad were a crime, I’d be serving a life sentence. It kills me to do it, but until fairly recently, I hadn’t considered that leftover green salad could have a second life, dressed or not. Once tossed, passed, and partially consumed, that’s it, right? Wrong.

Salad dressing

Mix the leftover salad in a blender with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, and some garlic or herb seasonings and you have the dressing for your next salad. I have done this several times now and the results are quite amazing. You have to try it. Just make sure you keep your seasonings handy.

Make soup

Turn that leftover green salad into hot vegetable soup: Process the leftover salad in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock. Pour into a saucepan, stir in another 1/2 cup stock or the amount needed to create a nice consistency. Heat thoroughly and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve garnished with sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs like basil, chives, or parsley.

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Cash and Dollar

Simple Ways to REALLY Save Money This Year

It was shocking to read that 47% of Americans would experience significant financial distress in order to handle a $400 emergency. Apparently, nearly half of us just do not know how to save money.

Lotta Schelin standing next to a woman

I know how easy it is to think we are saving money by buying things on sale, turning down the heat, making our own cleaning products, and other ways we can think of to spend less. Heck, we even congratulate ourselves on doing that, right? But hear me on this:

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chinese brown sauce

How to Make Homemade Chinese Brown Sauce

Some of my earliest childhood memories center around Asian food. But not just any Asian food. I’m talking about the food at the Golden Dragon restaurant in Boise Ida., city of my birth, and the home of tiny pork ribs swimming in the most beautiful and delicious brown sauce with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

To my 7-year-old sense of fine cuisine, that dish was to die for. My favorite thing in the whole, wide world!

chinese brown sauceFor me, it was all about the sauce. Brown sauce. Yummy, amazing make-my-mouth-water kind of sauce. I poured it on my noodles; would eat it with a spoon like soup.

I recall exactly what it tasted like, too. It was definitely brown, kinda’ sweet but a little tangy and shiny—not clear like broth but not dense like gravy, either. And smooth. No chunks or chewy bits. No onions, peppers, or pineapple pieces. None of that. Just glorious, shimmery, fabulous sauce over tiny ribs and sticky white rice on the side. I would all but lick the plate clean. Wait, maybe I did that.

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Three shiny red apples a day

Three Apples a Day to Get Rid of Fat

In the modern-day supermarket, apples are something that never disappears. No matter what time of year it is, there will be apples. But does that mean there is still a season for apples when they’re at their cheapest? There is, and that would be from about August until spring.


Apple season isn’t that difficult to spot. Have you been to the market lately? Apples happen to be a great bargain right now. And variety? For snacking you’ve got your Gala, Fuji and Pink Lady, your Red and Green Delicious to name a few. And don’t forget the more tart Rome and Granny Smith, which are ideal for baking.

When you load up on apples starting around October, which is National Apple Month, you are going to save some dough, and you’re going to save something else, too. Calories! Researchers have compelling proof that three apples a day will get rid of fat. And apple nutrition facts bear that out.

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A person flying through the air on a snow covered mountain

How to Guarantee You’ll Stick to Your New Year’s Resolution

So, did have you made any New Years resolutions? Reportedly, half of us do that. Here we are, only hours into the 2021, and how are you doing?

A person flying standing a snow covered mountain depicting success

Before you answer, let me promise you that if you’re struggling or have already fallen off the wagon—it’s not your fault. It was bound to happen! You’re not a loser and failure does not define you.

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2020 washing away in the surf

The 10 Most Popular Posts of 2020

No doubt about it, we can now say with confidence that hindsight is 2020. There it goes, washing away—the year never to be forgotten.

2020 washing away in the surf

Despite all the challenges, it’s been a good year here at EC Central—a year filled with growth, surprises, worries, and wonder. And now we look toward the bright new horizons of 2021.

Believing that it’s always a good thing to look back to see where we’ve been and to count the blessings—here is a roundup of the 10 most popular Everyday Cheapskate posts in 2020 starting with number 10 and working our way to the number-one most popular.

Here we go!


How to Use Wool Dryer Balls and Why You Should

Because dryer balls also agitate against the fibers in clothes and linens, everything feels softer coming out of the dryer. And used properly, they also take care of static cling …

Read it here …


Can’t Get Your Hands on Hand Sanitizer? Make Your Own

A glass, with Hand sanitizer and Purell

What’s a wise person to do when hand sanitizer is nowhere to be found? You can make it yourself …

Read it here …


Worst and Best Ways to Clean Your Eyeglasses

A woman wearing glasses and smiling at the camera

You just paid a small fortune for new eyeglasses. On top of the cost for prescription lenses and fashionable frames, you opted for Anti-Reflective, Anti-Scratch and UV Coatings too. After all, eyesight is a precious thing and it’s only wise to do all you can to protect it, right? Absolutely! But here’s the deal: You may be destroying your investment one cleaning at a time …

Read it here …


How to Remove Years of Kitchen Cabinet Grit and Grime

before and after proper cleaning of filthy kitchen cabinet

When did you last look at your kitchen cabinets? Not a passing glance, but an up-close visual study …

Read it here …

How to Clean a Shark Vacuum and Its Filters

collage of photos for how to clean shark vacuum

With all of the miles I’ve put on my numerous Shark vacs over the years, I’ve never had one fail. And while the manufacturer boasts that Sharks never lose suction, that is predicated on regularly cleaning Sharkie’s canister, filters, and rotating brush …

Read it here …


Surprising Trick Removes Stubborn Hard Water Stains from Glass Shower Doors

A glass door, with Hard water

Got stubborn hard water marks and stains on your tub or shower doors that simply will not budge no matter what you try? You’re not alone …

Read it here …


Einstein in the Kitchen or Let Them Eat (Carrot) Cake

Scrumptious Absolutely To-Die-For Carrot Cake

In this world there is carrot cake and then there is scrumptious absolutely to-die-for carrot cake—the kind of cake you’ve only experienced with a $200-per-person meal at a fancy hotel (you do that all the time, right?). This is the cake that’s going to make your friends and family think you’re a genius …

Read it here …


How Can I Get Rid of This Stubborn Toilet Ring?

It’s not the most elegant question I get, but certainly one of the most common. “I’ve tried everything I can think of, but that stubborn, ugly toilet bowl ring won’t go away!” Or “It goes away, but just keeps coming back!”

Read it here …


How to Make Ugly Soap Scum, Mildew, and Water Marks Disappear Like Magic


Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants …

Read it here …


Hands Down the Best Way to Kill Weeds and It’s Not Roundup

There is one provable and very compelling reason to not buy Roundup: It’s too expensive! Even if it were proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Roundup is safe as water, I still wouldn’t shell out the high price for the stuff. I kill weeds like crazy with kitchen pantry items that are really cheap and non-toxic: white vinegar, ordinary table salt, and dishwashing liquid …
Read it here …

And now I want to know—what was YOUR favorite Everyday Cheapskate post this year?

Thank you for helping to make 2020 such a fabulous year in this little corner of the Internet; wishing you the best that 2021 has to offer. Let’s make it a good one!

A stack of currency chained together and padlocked. Used for any money inference where money is tight or protected.

The Truth About Joy and Living Well, Below Your Means

Even the mention of words like frugality, thrift, and living below your means send some people over the edge because, for them, those words conjure up thoughts of poverty and deprivation. They assume that cutting costs is tantamount to diving into dumpsters to find their next meal. No wonder so many people prefer a life of debilitating debt to one of frugality. Let me set the record straight. Please.

A stack of currency chained together and padlocked. Used for any money inference where money is tight or protected.

There is nothing undignified about spending less than you earn. That’s called living below your means, and it’s a fabulous way to live. It means there is a gap between what you earn and what you spend. You have money set aside in a safe place that you are growing regularly.

That’s what happens when you don’t spend all that you have. You become less fearful, more confident. Stress dissipates. Your perspective changes.

When you spend less than you earn, you are not dependent on credit to get by. You’re not always white-knuckling it until next payday. It is a very good thing.

So, you may be wondering, how can you move from overspending to living below your means without giving up your quality of life? It starts with prioritizing everything according to how important it is to your life. Then only spend on things at the top of the list. You ruthlessly cut out spending on the things that don’t matter.

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black and white cat lying in yard garden

Easy Ways to Naturally Repel Cats From Your Yard and Garden

If you’ve ever suffered the annoyance of outdoor and feral cats ruining your yard and garden, help is on the way. Neighborhood felines instinctively seek out bare soil to use as their toilet space and that’s what makes your garden a perfect outdoor litter box. Consider these ways to repel cats naturally that will make your property so unattractive to cats that they’ll find some other place to hang out and do their business.

black and white cat lying in yard garden

Keen sense of smell

Cats have a highly developed sense of smell that is about 40 times more sensitive than ours. Many scents that we find enjoyable actually repel cats naturally. The goal is to identify those that are so intense for cats, they become effective repellants to drive them away.

Spent coffee grounds

Cats hate the smell of coffee, which has strong natural scents that only get stronger after being ground up and exposed to hot water. Take advantage of this and use the spent coffee grounds after you brew that pot of coffee in the garden to repel cats from using it as their personal outdoor litter box.

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11941179 - young brunette women with sunglasses knocking on

Weird Ways to Earn Money on the Side

Recently, while brainstorming with a reader who needed to supplement her regular full-time job, I made a quick list of the ways I’ve done that in my life. I wanted to help her discover what she does well that others might pay her to do for them. 

11941179 - young brunette women with sunglasses knocking on

Process Server

I worked as an independent process server for a company that attorneys hire to have subpoenas delivered in their civil cases. Whenever I had a couple of hours to spare, I’d pop into the office, pick up a stack of subpoenas and head out to attempt to “serve” unsuspecting defendants in civil lawsuits.

My mission was to locate the defendant then address the said person by name (Laura … Laura Smith?). By law, I was required to make sure I had eye contact, wait for that look of “knowing” and then hand off the document. Even if the person refused it, turning to walk (run) away, I could legally assert that I had completed the mission.

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Food supplies crisis food stock for quarantine isolation period. Different glass jars with grains, pasta, cans of canned food, toilet paper, chalkboard handwritten chalk lettering Stay home and relax.

20 Foods with Long Shelf Lives to Stockpile for an Emergency

If recent world events have given you one big fat wake-up call, you are not alone. The message is clear—every household needs to have some amount of food in storage. Natural disasters like blizzards, hurricanes, and floods often come with little or no warning.

Stocking up now on the right non-perishable foods with long shelf lives will help you weather any storm (or global pandemic) with less stress. The type and amount of food to store is an individual decision that depends on your financial resources and storage area.

Food supplies crisis food stock for quarantine isolation period. Different glass jars with grains, pasta, cans of canned food, toilet paper, chalkboard handwritten chalk lettering Stay home and relax.

Start small

Ideally, your long term goal is to have stockpiled enough to feed your family for six months. But start with shorter goals, like enough food for one week, then two weeks, and then a month.

This kind of incremental plan won’t bust the budget or throw you into panic buying that can easily lead to burnout and buyer’s remorse.

Long shelf life

Following is a list of foods that won’t spoil quickly, making them good choices to stock should you want to quarantine now during the coronavirus pandemic, or to be prepared for future unknowns.

1. Beef jerky

Shelf life: 1 to 2 years

Dried pieces of meat known as “jerky” are a delicious snack item in a non-perishable food stockpile. It’s lean, dry, and salted—a combination of qualities that contribute to its longevity if it’s kept in an unopened package.

2. Canned vegetables

Shelf life: 1 to 2 years past “best by” date

Generally, commercially canned foods are good for two to five years from the date they were packed. High acid food like tomato sauce will not keep as long as a can of beans, for example. Canned varieties can provide you with essential nutrients, making these a great hurricane food or natural disaster option.

If not subjected to extreme heat, canned fruits and vegetables stay good for at least one year and possibly two years past the “best by” date on the can. Cans with swollen tops or sides should be discarded, however, as this may indicate the presence of bacteria.

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Lately, Have You Checked the HVAC Filter?

Everyone agrees that we should change the filter in our home heating ventilation air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Actually doing that is something else altogether. It’s all about the where, when, and how of performing that simple household chore that results in procrastination and selective amnesia.

We tell ourselves it’s not a difficult maintenance chore. The problem is in making it a priority. Besides, it can’t be that big of a deal, right? If the thing still turns on and cools and/or heats the place, who cares?

Filter and Furnace

Unintended consequences

Consider these three unintended consequences, which should help push this simple home maintenance task up to a respectable place in your list of things that are important.

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Jesus Christ our Savior is Born!

Let Heaven and Nature Sing!

Jesus Christ our Savior is Born!

He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village where he worked in a carpenter’s shop until he was thirty. Then for three years, he was an itinerant preacher.

He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He did not go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.

He did none of the things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While he was dying his executioners gambled for his clothing, the only property he had on earth. When he was dead, he was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone and today he remains the central figure of the human race and the leader of mankind’s’ progress.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned put together, have not affected the life of man on this planet so much as that one solitary life.

— James Allan Francis, 1864-1928

Merry Christmas from all of us at
Everyday Cheapskate! 

homechef displayed on countertop

How We Use Meal Kits to Cut Food Costs During Quarantine

Faithful readers will recall that my husband and I tested and now continue to enjoy the most popular meal kit delivery service.

homechef displayed on countertop

Since first writing about that I’ve gotten the most interesting feedback. But first, a quick review:

  • From the meal kit delivery services available at that time, I selected Home Chef because our zip code is in its delivery area—and now nearly 98% of the country is
  • It is the cheapest meal kit option.
  • I predicted it would be the most family-friendly. Turns out I nailed it.
  • Home Chef beats take-out, curbside pick-out, DoorDash, and all other contactless, home delivery of food
  • No tax or tip added to the bill

Home Chef meals are absolutely delicious and use normal, fresh food—not exotic fare or ingredients we’ve never heard of and can’t pronounce.

Users select meals and menus based on preference and dietary needs including classic, calorie-conscious, carb-conscious, less-than-30 minutes, and vegetarian.

A Home Chef meal kit includes all of the fresh ingredients and instructions needed to cook restaurant-quality meals for 2, 4, or 6 people in the comfort of your own kitchen, eliminating recipe searches and food shopping by sending everything required for that meal—perfectly portioned and ready to go.

Seriously, Home Chef is like having your own personal shopper and sous chef. The meals are wonderful, so easy to prepare—and versatile. And here’s the best thing: Everything I need to make that meal is included all portioned out and ready to go except for oil, salt, and pepper. And I can leave out or reduce items to taste, like the red pepper flakes; or salt. Read more

emergency checklist

7 Things You Need to Do Now to Plan Ahead for Disaster

The idea of emergency preparedness is good. But just having an idea is not good enough. Every person—every family—needs a plan in the event of a disaster that could disrupt the normal course of life. But where to start? That’s where most of us get stuck for lack of useful, specific direction.

Hopefully, these quick tips will do the trick to get you unstuck and on your way to being disaster ready.

emergency checklist

Water storage

You don’t have to live in hurricane country to get hurricane prepared. Disasters can hit anywhere. This means water could be in short supply. For true emergency preparedness, store bottled drinking water in your home for your immediate needs.

For flushing toilets and showers, line 30-45 gallon garbage cans with those large contractor plastic bags available at home improvement stores. Then, fill the garbage cans with water and apply their tight-fitting lids. Most people forget that three weeks without electricity means three weeks of no water if their water utility provider has not attached a generator to pump water to houses.

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open a paper envelope with the dollars tied with red ribbon and bow.

A Mostly Complete Guide to Tipping During the Holiday Season

It is a social custom in this country to give cash gifts, known as tips or gratuities, during the holiday season. How this custom came to be I have no idea. Thankfully, there are no rules and no tipping police.

open a paper envelope with the dollars tied with red ribbon and bow.

We see a plethora of tipping guidelines in newspapers and magazines during the holidays, but they are editorial suggestions.

Some I’ve read are mind-boggling and include the garbage man, newspaper delivery person, mail carrier, the nanny, driver, and doorman; the housekeeper, butler, and maid (don’t we all have one of those?), which for me begs the question:

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homemade blueberry muffin on wood board

Muffins So Amazing, They’re Insane!

I love to bake, however, baking has not always been fond of me. We’ve had our moments. It wasn’t until I surrendered to the following recipes exactly that our relationship made the turn.

I had to come to the point that I was willing to measure the ingredients, follow directions and believe that little things like “folding in” does not mean beating it to death, “one-cup of flour” doesn’t mean, that looks about right, and “butter softened,” does not mean boiling like a witch’s cauldron.

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coffee cup and saucer on a wooden table. dark background.

Gifts to Thrill and Delight Coffee Snobs

Even if you aren’t one, chances are pretty good you know someone who is a bonafide coffee snob. That’s because unmitigated devotion to coffee has reached epic proportions.

For these folks, nothing says “I care” more than a gift that affirms said snobbery and love for truly great coffee. I can pretty much guarantee that any one of these coffee-related gifts will rack up some major love and respect in return. 

With Amazon Prime on our side, there’s still time to get those last-minute gifts before Christmas.

By way of full disclosure, I will admit to being a home roaster, which does earn me a certain level of coffee snobbery. I purchase green coffee beans directly from the La Minita Plantation in Costa Rica and roast those beans one pound at a time.

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23 Remarkable Ways to Use Blue Dawn Outside the Kitchen

Take a look under the sink where you keep your cleaning products. See a bottle of Blue Dawn Dishwashing Liquid? Well, say “Hello” to a very versatile and surprisingly multi-purpose household product.

3 bottles of Blue Dawn on blue background

Original Blue Dawn

Original Blue Dawn, a product of Procter & Gamble was introduced in 1972. Since then it has gone through several tweaks, changes, and upgrades so that today we see a number of varieties including Dawn Ultra and Dawn Platinum, to name just a few. According to the International Bird Rescue Research Center, Blue Dawn is biodegradable and contains no phosphates. 

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This is What You Need to Know About the Healing Power in Chicken Soup

Have you ever wondered if chicken soup really does have medicinal effects against colds and flu? Me, too. I decided to find out.

Here’s what I learned: There is some scientific evidence to suggest that homemade chicken soup contains several ingredients that affect the body’s immune system.

Dr. Stephen Rennard, University of Nebraska Medical Center says that chicken soup, while not a cure, has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe sore throats and ease the misery of colds and flu—and even COVID-19. It helps us feel better so we can get better and that’s good enough for me.

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Portrait Of Family Enjoying Camping Holiday In Camper Van

Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Gift Ideas RV Owners, VanLifers Will Love!

Article - Gift Guide for RV Vanlife

Looking for some great campervan gifts for friends or family members who just got their new van or more seasoned RVers? Check out these ideas, sure to please anyone living the dream!

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6 Fabulous Last-Minute Gift Ideas

Need a last-minute gift for a neighbor, friend, a beloved teacher, or anyone else on your gift list? Here are six great ideas that won’t take much time, and certainly won’t break the bank.

Photo Explosion Box

Imagine a small photo album “box,” made from scrapbooking card stock, which folds out to reveal special photos when the lid is removed. What a perfect gift for parents, grandparents, children—anyone who loves photos.

Gather some photos. Print from your phone or device. Take screenshots from Instagram, dig through your phone or find that box of old family photos and “snapshots!” While you’re there, dig out all those scrapbook supplies you’ve been hoarding.

You can make a photo explosion box in just a few hours. In fact, while you’re at it make several. Find a complete tutorial here, or search around. Lots of YouTube videos out there if you need more help.

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Coffee filter

24 Weird but Awesome Ways to Use Coffee Filters

It was a dumb mistake. I grabbed the biggest package of coffee filters—a pack of 1,000—only to discover much later that I’d picked up the wrong size for my coffeemaker.

Coffee filter

Coffee filters are not expensive, which is probably the reason I didn’t bother returning them to the store. I suppose I should have tried, but I’m glad didn’t. I began finding all kinds of ways to use those filters for other things than making coffee.

What I discovered is that the basket-style filters are super useful around the house and the garage, too for so many things that have absolutely nothing to do with coffee!

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Homemade Golden Caramel Popcorn in a Bowl

Gift-Worthy Caramel Corn Just in Time for the Holidays

I remember it like it was yesterday, the day I wandered into (actually I was sucked in against my will by the seductive aroma) Popcornopolis in South Deerfield, Mass., (curiously, located inside the Yankee Candle Village Store) and walked out with the most amazing gourmet caramel popcorn.

Yankee Candle Flagship Store

As an admitted lover of good caramel corn, I have to say a few things about this gourmet popcorn. These people know how to make caramel corn!

With its rich depth of flavor, Popcornopolis Caramel Corn is about as close to perfection as I have ever tasted. But as wonderful as it is, it is also very expensive.

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happy family at christmas opening gifts together on the couch

Memories are Gifts that Last for a Lifetime

If you could use an injection of fresh ideas for how to make this Holiday Season meaningful for the children in your life, take a lesson from my friend, Connie Copeland. 

happy family at christmas opening gifts together on the couch

Connie’s clever creativity allowed her and her husband to give their four kids and now her 13 grandchildren the four things kids really want for Christmas, even when money was tight:

  • Relaxed and loving time with family
  • Realistic gift expectations
  • Evenly paced holiday season
  • Reliable family traditions

When her kids were little, Connie would spread the excitement of Christmas throughout the month. She did that with little notes—one tiny note per child, per day.

Most days the notes were the same for each child, such as:  Read more

Christmas Holiday Tips, Tricks, Hacks

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

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.

Traditions reign

With coronavirus requiring us to make some tough decisions this Christmas, we’re just not doing everything we used to. Even so, we have determined to keep as many traditions as possible. We’re putting up all of the decorations and making all the special foods we love, even though we won’t have many people in this year. Instead, we’ll be doing a lot of facetime and phone calls while looking forward to a brand new year filled with hope. Teri

Canned bows

I use the large Christmas popcorn tins (cleaned and dry) 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

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A close up of a basket

With Bath Towels Invest In Luxury to Save Money

When asked to describe the perfect bath towel most people would include the words soft, thick, and thirsty. Cotton Incorporated, a trade association of cotton wholesalers, agrees and goes on to say that the perfect towel is a luxurious towel that can also stand up to constant use and laundering for at least a decade. 

towels in a basket

The secret to buying the perfect affordable bath towel is in understanding fibers, loops, and dyes because unlike bed sheets, towels don’t come with easy measures like thread counts.


A towel’s main duty is to blot up and absorb water. One hundred percent cotton does the best job because cotton naturally attracts water. Synthetic fibers like polyester repel water, making a cotton-polyester blend less absorbent and to be avoided. 

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A group of people sitting at a table

What Teachers Really Want for Christmas

I’ve never been a school teacher, but I am a parent. I wish I’d known years ago what I know now about what teachers really want for Christmas. I would have skipped the “Teachers Have Class!” coffee mugs and gone more for the classroom supplies.

A group of people sitting at a table

It’s been a tough year, especially for students and teachers who have been required to move to on-line, remote learning. I cannot even imagine all that teachers in all learning situations this year have had to do to keep going. It brings certainly brings new meaning to the word pivot, something teachers seem to do with ease.

Still, wanting to know how teachers really feel about gifts, I contacted teachers I know, asking them how they really feel about gifts from parents and students—at Christmas and other times of the year, too. Each one of them hesitated. I could tell they didn’t want to come across as ungrateful.

Make no mistake—teachers are very grateful for the thoughts behind all of the stuff they get during the year, but particularly at Christmas.

But the stuff itself? Not so much. In fact, most gifts become a problem for that teacher. What would you do with 27 random coffee mugs or 16 bottles of cologne or aftershave of dubious origin? 

This year you can make sure that your gifts for teachers will be exactly what they really want. So listen up on these ideas for teacher gifts. And take notes. There may be a quiz.

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Holiday Gift Guide 2020: Best Gift Ideas for Him

From teen boys to grandfathers, from travel to coffee; your brother or your bro, father or hubs—treat him to something special that he’ll use for years to come. Can’t come up with any ideas? Gifts for guys can be challenging. But not to worry! I’ve got you covered with gifts for him that cover a variety of interests. Check back as this list expands and updates often.

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Womans hand cleaning smartphone screen with alcohol. Concept of Cleaning dirty screen phone for disease prevention from virus Covid-19.

How to Disinfect Your Phone

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that our health is closely tied to things we touch throughout the day. And what’s the one thing we touch more than a few times a day? Our phones! Or as the Journal of Hospital Infection refers to them, our portable Petri dishes.

Womans hand cleaning smartphone screen with alcohol. Concept of Cleaning dirty screen phone for disease prevention from virus Covid-19.

Phones fall on bathroom floors. They come into contact with tiny droplets from sneezes and coughs and encounter every type of germ a person’s hand does. But unlike the hands, phones are impossible to wash with soap and water.

Therefore, cell phones are a potentially dangerous source of viruses including Streptococcus, MRSA, E. coli COVID-19; bacteria, and other pathogens. And according to this study—at least 10 times more germs than a toilet seat. Gross!

It’s not certain how long viruses survive on surfaces, but the World Health Organization reports it may persist on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days. This may vary under different conditions such as the type of surface, temperature, or humidity of the environment but just think now how often you touch your phone.

If there’s the slightest possibility that a surface has been infected, err on the side of caution and clean it with simple disinfectant to kill viruses and protect yourself and others. Clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose. And for goodness’ sake, clean your phone!

What not to do

When it comes to disinfecting your phone and other electronic gear, you want to kill viruses and bacteria without doing harm or voiding your phone or device warranty. That means no dripping antibacterial wipes. Do not use a prohibited cleaner or do not spray anything directly on the device.

Disinfect phone basics

Follow these basic instructions for how to clean your phone, screens, keyboards, and other electronic gadgets

  • Always unplug the phone or device before attempting to clean it.
  • Prepare a dry, soft cloth or open a packaged alcohol wipe designed for eyeglasses cleaning. Never use paper materials like tissues, napkins, or paper towels. The paper contains wood pulp that can leave scratches and permanent marks.
  • Cleaning instructions vary from one manufacturer to another. If in doubt, consult the manufacturer’s website.
  • Allow the disinfectant to air dry on the surface for at least 10 minutes before you wipe down it with a soft, clean towel.
  • Clean frequently used phones, devices, and keyboards twice a day.

How to disinfect iPhone

Apple has just updated its support page to say that you can clean your iPhone with 70% isopropyl alcohol poured or sprayed onto a clean, soft cloth, alcohol wipes, or Clorox disinfectant wipes. Use only a soft, lint-free cloth. Avoid abrasive cloths, towels, paper towels, or similar items.

  • Avoid excessive wiping, which might cause damage.
  • Unplug all external power sources, devices, and cables.
  • Keep liquids away from the product, unless otherwise noted for specific products.
  • Don’t get moisture into any openings.
  • Don’t use aerosol sprays, bleaches, or abrasives.
  • Don’t spray cleaners directly onto the item.

How to disinfect Android, Pixel

For the Pixel 3a and other Android phones, Google recommends screen disinfecting wipes or eyeglasses cleaner on the screen and ordinary household soap or cleaning wipes, as needed. There are no restrictions on alcohol-based wipes.

Everyday Cheapskate participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn from qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

How to disinfect computers, tablets, keyboards, remote controls, mouses

  • Unplug and remove batteries, if any.
  • Spray 70% isopropyl alcohol on a cloth, never on the screen, keyboard or device.
  • If using an alcohol wipe, make sure it is not dripping wet. Wring it out a bit first as necessary, then proceed. You do not want to drip liquid into any openings, especially a keyboard.
  • Consider a wipeable cover for your laptop keyboard so you can disinfect it without suffering potential harm to the keyboard itself.


These EPA-approved disinfectants are good options for cleaning phones, devices, screens, remote controls, and keyboards.

hands holding small Christmas gift in kraft paper and red bow

Homemade Body Lotion You’d Actually Love to Receive

Gifting friends, family, co-workers teachers, and others with a jar of your own signature Luxury Hand and Body Cream will definitely put you on the map. It’s a homemade gift you would actually like to receive! It’s that good. And what better time than this weekend to make Christmas gifts? It’s quick and easy!

hands holding small Christmas gift in kraft paper and red bow

Not particularly crafty? No worries. If you can assemble, empty, stir and mix well, you’ve got what it takes to make dozens of these gifts start to finish in a single evening. And the best part? About $3.50 per gift, depending on where you buy the ingredients and containers—all of which are readily available in supermarkets, drugstores or online.

Here’s the routine:

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Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts—Sinfully Delicious!

I see lots of delicious-looking things as I spend time cruising the Internet, searching, and researching. But rarely if ever, do I come across something so compelling, appealing, and downright decadent that it stops me in my tracks and sends me flying to the kitchen to give it a try. I mean really, could there be anything more perfect than an Apple Fritter Waffle Donut?

Admittedly, I may be late to the party on this one, but if you have never heard of such a thing—you’re in for the treat of a lifetime.

Yes, I did make Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts. In fact, I’ve made this recipe four times in the past 30 days. I call it research. You know, honing my pastry skills. My family calls them delicious and please make some more!

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Before we get going here, if you have hopes of this being low-cal, gluten-free, vegan, low-carb dairy-free, Whole30 (did I miss anything?), let me dash those hope right upfront. This is none of that.

This not health food. AFWDs are a special treat, a Christmas morning breakfast indulgence. A lovely item alongside the best semi-homemade Cinnamon Rolls of all time.

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

(Complete printable recipe below)

You’ll need:

  • all-purpose flour
  • white granulated sugar
  • baking powder
  • baking soda
  • salt
  • cinnamon
  • buttermilk
  • butter
  • eggs
  • vanilla extract
  • apples
  • oil
  • powdered sugar
  • milk

General steps to make AFWDs

1. Make the waffle batter, and use it to make waffles according to your waffle maker manufacturer’s instructions. Depending on your waffle maker, you should come out with about 8 individual waffles.

2. Move waffles to a cooling rack, about 20 minutes.

3. Move waffles to a cooling rack, about 20 minutes.

4. Cut waffles in half, diagonally to make about 16 AFWDs.

5. Once cool, deep fry AFWDs until golden brown.

deep frying Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

6. Drain on paper toweling.

7. Dip the hot AFWDs into the glaze.

There you go … decadent, warm Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts — Wonuts!


Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Apple Fritter Waffle Donuts

Absolutely delicious, bordering on decadent! Yummy served warm with ice cream!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin
Course: Dessert, Sweets
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 16
Calories: 376kcal
Cost: $5


  • Waffle maker
  • Deep fryer, skillet or wok



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn baking soda
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 2 tspn cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 2 cups chopped apple peels removed, chopped finely
  • oil for frying


  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 tspn vanilla extract


  • Preheat waffle maker,
  • In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt
  • In a separate medium size bowl, combine buttermilk, melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat with a fork until well-incorporated.
  • Stir wet ingredients into the dry. Mix until fully incorporated.
  • Fold in chopped apple until evenly distributed.
  • Use batter to make waffles, according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Move waffles to a cooling rack. Once cool, use a knife to cut diagonally or the shape you desire.
  • Heat your oil of choice in a deep fryer, deep skillet or wok to 350 F.
  • Fry two sections, or the number you can easily fit into the oil vessel of choice, until golden brown, about 1 to 2 mins on each side.
  • Remove to paper towels to drain and then to cooling rack.
  • Whisk together the Glaze ingredients and pour into a shallow dish, like a pie pan or the like.
  • Dip "donuts" into the glaze so that all sides are coated. Move back to cooling rack to drip and set up.
  • Wait, if you can, about 20 minutes before serving.


  1. I use two small apples to equal 2 cups chopped. Your mileage may vary.
  2. I use canola oil for frying, however, vegetable, corn, or peanut oil would also work well.
  3. The deep-frying process goes super fast—it takes about 1 min. on each side, so keep your eye on things!
  4. This is my deep-fryer. It's small, inexpensive and mighty! I recommend it highly for occasional deep-frying, which is the frequency with which I use it. 
  5. Many thanks to Janica of CookingWithJanica.com for teaching me how to make AFWDs❣️.


Calories: 376kcal
Tried this recipe?Mention @EverydayCheapskate or tag #EverydayCheapskate!
Christmas Gift in female hands

Meaningful DIY Gifts That Cost Less Than $5 to Make

Here we are just a few weeks before Christmas. For many, panic is setting in as time is short, but money is even shorter. I have good news for you: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to show those you love how much they mean to you.

Best DIY Gift Ideas

Here are three of my favorite ideas for DIY gifts that are certain to hit the mark for giftees of all ages! Each one will take a bit of time on your part, and less than $5 in supplies.

1. Personalized directional signs

Create a gift set of directional signs pointing to your giftee’s favorite places. It might include a college, amusement park, hometown, beach, or other location, place on his or her bucket list—anywhere in the world to be hung on a wall, planted in a garden, or standing on a porch.

DIY directional signs

Photo credit: Etsy.com

This is so much fun requiring only a bit of research, pointed wooden stakes, and paint or paint pens.

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