Recently, a friend sent me an S.O.S. asking if I knew of any natural pest control to rid an apartment of fleas—a method that would not be toxic to small children.

Treating their pets and animals would be the first step, but surprisingly these folks have no animals. The truth is that flea infestations often occur simply because neighborhood cats or dogs like to lounge near their home or they have purchased an infested piece of furniture from a yard sale.

Illustration showing bugs and rodents that can be repelled with natural pest control

I headed right for my collection of pest control recipes and retrieved the perfect solution for fleas. I thought you might enjoy knowing that one, plus remedies for all kinds of home and garden pests.

All-purpose outdoor insect spray

Mix one chopped garlic clove, one chopped small onion, and one tablespoon cayenne powder with one-quart water. Allow to steep one hour, then add one tablespoon liquid dishwashing soap. This all-purpose insect spray remains potent for only one week, so use it up by spraying the exterior perimeter of the house.

Ants

Repel an ant invasion by with this natural pest control: Wash countertops, cabinets, and floors with equal parts water and vinegar.

MORE: 10 Quick and Easy Ways to Get Rid of Pesky Ants

Aphids

Mix 1-gallon water, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent. Spray on plants where aphid damage is evident.

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You’re worried the washing machine may be on its last spin cycle. It makes a horrible screeching sound and needs a lot of coaxing to make it all the way through a full cycle. Should you spend $319 to fix this inefficient appliance or replace it with a $999 new model that will use less electricity and water? Deciding whether to repair or replace your broken appliance—especially when trying to discover which option will save money in the long run—can be challenging.

 

Here are some basic guidelines and suggestions to help you decide, based on costs for replacement and repairs and the advantages of new models.

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Are the popular “reality” television shows anything close to what you consider reality? Take the venerable hit show Survivor, getting ready to launch its 39th season, for example. To me, that seems more like fantasy than reality.  And, honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had to survive on approximately 14 grains of rice per day or think of multi-legged creatures in terms of grams of protein. Still, I think that borrowing a few basic “survivor” attitudes and skills could help us to look at some of the items in our freezers, refrigerators, and pantries—like that lone can of tuna—a bit differently.

A familiar blue can of StarKist albacore tuna

Let’s say that 6-ounce can of tuna in your pantry is the only scrap of protein in the house. You’ve got four hungry people to feed. A trip to the store is completely out of the question (did I mention we’re marooned on a deserted island?… wink, wink). What will you do? What WILL you do?!

That’s exactly the question I once posed to three frugal food experts. Their responses, while varied, prompted me to make sure I have canned tuna on my shopping list as soon as I return to civilization.

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When I was a kid, vacation meant four kids crammed into the back seat of a sedan, poking and elbowing one another while counting the miles between rest stops.

Things have changed dramatically since then. But even with onboard DVD players, electronic devices, spacious minivans, air travel, cruises, and theme parks, family vacations can be either delightful or disastrous. It all depends on the care you devote to research and planning.

Three happy children back seat of car on family vacation

Adjust your attitude

Here is the first rule of family vacations: Parents on vacation really aren’t. If you can unload personal expectations that you will be relaxed and refreshed when it’s over, you won’t be disappointed when you’re not. And if you do get a little rest and relaxation along the way, consider it an unexpected bonus.


MORE: You Need a Vacation


Be realistic about cost

Decide ahead of time how much cash you have for this vacation. If you have, say, a family of five and $500 to spend, don’t even think about a couple of days at Disney World.

Always consider the money you have first and then design a vacation that will realistically fit within that financial boundary.

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It’s not new. The blue and yellow can is about as familiar as anything I remember from my childhood. Banished to a shelf in the garage, I assumed WD-40 was an automotive thing. Boy, was I wrong! This stuff is amazing. And cheap. Not long ago, I bought an 8-ounce can for $1.71 at Home Depot.

5 cans WD40 in different sizes for specific problems around the house

 

My recommendation is to apply WD-40, let the product do its work then remove it. Some say that a build-up of WD-40 can cause its own sticky mess over time. So here’s the deal: Use it then remove it.

WD-40 is a petroleum-based product (so is Vaseline). WD-40 comes in a tiny 3-oz aerosol can, larger 16-oz. or by the gallon, which you can pour into your own spray bottle. While the aerosol propellant is flammable, the product itself is harmless to humans, according to the manufacturer.

WD-40 gets things unstuck and a lot more. I know. I go through it like it’s water.  But don’t worry. It’s cheap. I once bought an 8-ounce can for $1.71 at Home Depot.

If it’s melted …

Have you ever opened the dryer to find a red crayon has ruined the entire load? The folks at Crayola offer this remedy for fresh heat-set crayon stains:

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If the paper monster has you buried under an avalanche of receipts, bank statements, ATM slips, investment records, paycheck stubs, and bills—the good news is you can probably throw most of it away without worry when you have a simple record keeping routine.

But before you fire up the shredder, you need to know what to keep and for how long.

tax-returns-piles-paper-records-paper-monster

Toss all you can

Monthly

Once you have recorded the amounts and reconciled your bank and credit card statements, you can shred ATM receipts, bank deposit slips, credit card receipts and sales receipts at the end of each month.

Exception: Keep receipts for purchases that may be tax deductible, those that involve a warranty and any item whose replacement cost exceeds the deductible on your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance.


MORE: Best Inexpensive Shredders


Yearly

Once you receive and reconcile your W-2 against your final pay stub you can toss your paycheck stubs for the year, along with monthly credit-card and mortgage statements, phone and utility bills and quarterly and monthly investment reports.

The same goes for other statements that detail the entire year’s activity on the final end-of-the-year statement.

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When it comes to kitchen appliances, nothing says modern and sleek like a beautiful new electric smooth top ceramic or glass cooktop. 

Modern black smooth glass cooktop on white quartz counter

While a smooth top beats a coil element type cooktop in the style department, it requires a different kind of proactive care to keep it looking good while at the same time preventing discoloration and scratching.

What NOT to do

With smooth top cooktops, it’s all about prevention. If you think of your cooktop as a delicate possession that requires your utmost protection, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Cast iron or stone cookware

Do not use cast iron or stone cookware on a smooth top cooktop or range. It’s tempting I know, because cast iron works so well on a glass induction cooktop. Just don’t do it. Period. The bottom of these types of cookware can be rough, even gritty like sandpaper. Any movement on that cooktop can leave permanent scratches.


MORE: My Hate-Love Relationship with a Cast Iron Skillet


Heavy pots

Do not drag heavy pots across a smooth top cooktop. Always lift to another area of the cooktop to reduce the risk of scratching. Read more

Some time ago, I got a request from EC reader Kelly for a homemade furniture polish recipe. She said that she uses a lot of it and it’s getting so expensive.

 

 

My first thought was, of course, to suggest she time her purchases for when furniture polish goes on sale, and then to stock up. That was fresh on my mind as I’d recently purchased a can of Pledge aerosol polish (reg. $5.49) for $1.50. What a deal! Here’s how I did that:

I’d been harboring a $1 coupon and when Pledge went on sale for 2/$7, I used my coupon (back then my store doubled), bought one can and enjoyed a great bargain.

Kelly didn’t mention environmental issues in her desire to make her own furniture polish, but after doing some research on the matter, I became convinced that may be something all of us should consider—perhaps even more than the high price of quality furniture cleaners, polishes, and protectants.

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