Great Ways to Use This for That!

One of the best ways to recycle responsibly, and save a few bucks at the same time, is to find a second life for something you might otherwise toss in the trash.

Some ideas are pretty well-known, like using plastic grocery bags for trashcan liners and the lid from a liquid detergent container for measuring cup or a biscuit cutter. So, when a reader sends in a tip for how to use “this for that,” that I’ve not heard of before—or an idea for how to use something I have already to avoid buying something I don’t—that reader gets my attention!

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BREAD TABS. Save those little plastic bread tabs to use as labels to mark various power cords, especially the ones in remote places such as behind the entertainment center. Use a permanent marker to write “Printer” or “DVD,” etc. on the tab that ready to slip onto the cord. Tom

CARPET THE GARDEN. We have a mole problem in our neighborhood and the critters get into everything, leaving lovely mole-hills all over our lawn! My neighbor placed old pieces of carpet, fuzzy side down, on the bottom of his garden boxes with the dirt on top. It works great because moles dig but they don’t chew. In 15 years, he has never had moles munching on his veggies. We are planning to replace the carpet in our sons’ room with laminate and now we have a use for the old carpet. Katrina

Burnt Cookie Rescue and More Great Reader Tips

Opening my mail to find a clever tip from one of my loyal readers about how to rescue burnt cookies took me back to my childhood.

My mother used to scrape burned toast with the back of a butter knife until it wasn’t burned anymore! Funny how visuals like that can get tucked away in our memories, isn’t it?

TOOTHPICK HOLDER. I needed something to hold toothpicks, so I cleaned out a short votive candle holder. It is just the right size and looks good, too. Tara

CLIP-ON BOOKMARKS. Metal snap hair clips make great, inexpensive bookmarks. You can snap the point of the clip so it points directly to the place on the page where you stopped reading. The clips hold onto the pages without ripping them. Available at the dollar store. Raquel

BURNT COOKIE RESCUE. Don’t throw away those burnt cookies. Wait a day or two until they set up and are hard and then take them to the cheese grater. Grate off the burnt surface on the fine side of your grater. That thin, burnt, bottom surface is only a fraction of the thickness of the whole cookie. You will be left with a delicious cookie that some people would never know had been burnt. It sure beats whipping up a whole new batch. John

A Nappy Solution for a Common Problem

I love to discover a second use for something most of us have around the house or can easily find. Today’s first tip may give you a big surprise, but for sure a big laugh. By the way, this really works!

POTTY LINER. Line the bottom of baskets and pots with a disposable diaper (yes, clean and unused!) before you put in the potting soil and plants. This keeps the soil from rushing out of the drainage hole and helps retain soil moisture while still allowing the plant to drain. Stacy L.

photo credit: ladybirdln.com

BETTER RUG GRIPPER. Recently I purchase a product, Rug Gripper, for my 5-ft x 3-ft kitchen rug, which was unsatisfactory because it didn’t work to keep the rug in place. I got the bright idea to use a roll of rubberized shelf liner, which I happened to have already. It worked great to keep the rug in place. I am very happy with the results. Florence

Keep Kitties Out of the Kids’ Sandbox

Pop Quiz: What looks like water, is certainly inexpensive, has a pungent odor but is not toxic (in fact you can drink it if you like); is biodegradable, serves as a useful disinfectant and will repel kitties from your kids’ sandbox? Give up? Read on to learn the answer in today’s first great reader tip.

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SCAT CAT! Keep cats out of your kids’ sandbox by pouring distilled white vinegar around the box once each month. Keep in mind that vinegar will kill some types of grass and other vegetation so be careful where you pour it. Sally

CLEAN AND DEODORIZE ICE CHEST/COOLER. Add about 1 inch of water to the bottom of the cooler, drop in four Alka Seltzer tablets and allow to sit for an hour. Pour out the dirty water then rinse and dry. All odors will be gone making the cooler clean and ready for its next use. Claudio

Readers Share More Clever Ways to Stretch a Buck

Over the years, I’ve learned from my clever, awesome readers that there are always more ways to stretch a buck. Today’s batch of great reader tips is proof positive.

With that, I have only one request: Please, keep your great tips, tricks, and money-saving ideas coming. We love them!

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PUDDING STRETCH.  My family loves Jello instant pudding, but the mix is expensive and only makes three cups of pudding.  In experimenting, I found that I can use 4 cups of milk, rather than 3 cups as the directions instruct, without changing the end result. It turns out thick, and the flavor is still perfect. Linda

DE-STRING THE CELERY. While celery might be a healthy snack, I would avoid it because the strings are such a nuisance. My husband suggested using the vegetable peeler to remove the strings, and it worked. Not only does it vastly improve the taste and texture of the celery for snacking, it makes chopping a breeze. Carol

BABY BATH BASKET. Here’s another way to safely bathe baby—in a standard laundry basket, kind with lots of cutouts, set in the regular bathtub. When baby is old enough to sit up, this works great. Any type of plastic or rubber mat inside the basket will keep baby from slipping. I used a rubber shelf liner from the dollar store, cut to size. The basket also corrals bath toys so they are within easy reach of the baby. Bonnie

[NOTE: Never, ever leave a child unattended in any amount of water, not even for a second and not even in a basket. -mh]

Pocket Some Serious Energy Savings Plus More Great Reader Tips

According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, the typical U.S. family spends at least $2,200 a year on home utility bills of which almost half goes for heating and cooling.

If your home has a fireplace with a flue that is not adequately “weatherstripped,” it’s like leaving a door or window open. You’re losing expensive warmed air in the winter and cooled air in the summer. Today’s first reader has a terrific recommendation for how you can easily take care of this problem and pocket some serious energy savings in the process.

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DRAFT DODGER. Last year I bought two Battic Fireplace Plugs. They look a lot like little life rafts. You insert them up against the flue (when the fireplace is not in use) and inflate them to keep warm air from escaping through your leaky chimney damper, sealing out the draft. The difference in our heating bill the month after installing them was astounding. Flues rarely fit snugly and so much heat is lost up the chimney. I have no affiliation with the company, but I certainly have not been shy about recommending them to my friends. Chris

AUTOMATIC SOCK MATCHER. You need: A box of safety pins and a container to keep them where you take your socks off. Remove socks and join together with a safety pin. Socks will remain together in washer and dryer. Remove from dryer and your socks are ready to go into the sock drawer already matched and they don’t get lost or attached to other items. Think of all the time you’ve wasted matching socks!  Jeanne

Get Financially Confident Starting Now

For a good deal of my life, I lived under a dark cloud of fear that I would end up financially destitute—a bag lady. Studies reveal that I’m not the only one. Most of us have felt that way, not because we’re broke, but because we lack confidence. That makes us timid, worried and financially insecure.

Look, we don’t have to accept financial insecurity as some kind of life sentence. And that constant and gnawing fear of becoming destitute? Forget it! We can do something about this.

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Become a saver. Saving money is like magic because it changes your attitude and calms your fears. I saved my way out of a six-figure pile of debt. Knowing I had cash tucked away in a safe place quieted my insatiable desires. That is where I found my determination to stick with repaying the debt. You must start now, today—no matter your situation. Even if you are in debt and struggling to catch up and even if you are already contributing to a 401(k) plan at work. This is different. You need money in the bank to boost your financial confidence. 

9 Random Time- and Money-Saving Tips

From frozen key locks to hazy headlight covers, today I have a handful of completely unrelated household tips to entertain but also make your life a little easier. Enjoy!

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Organize household supplies. Use an over-the-door hanging shoe rack with clear vinyl pockets to organize and store cleaning supplies, one item per pocket. This gets them up and out of the reach of children. But even better, now you can actually see what you have.

Open blister packs. Use a manual can opener to open “blister packs” that take the strength of a muscle man to break into. The can opener will make a neat and safe cut to open the package so you can retrieve its contents and not slice your fingers in the process.

Remove headlight haze. Have your car’s headlight covers become hazy? You could spend a lot of money on a commercial product to remove that haze or grab some toothpaste and a soft cloth. Apply the toothpaste and vigorously rub the toothpaste over the entire hazy cover. Wipe off the toothpaste with a clean rag. Look at that! Completely restored to clear and bright. Toothpaste is abrasive. You are essentially sanding away the haziness. If you have a lens protectant, you will be sanding this away as well so you may want to replace it after doing this.

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