Home & Family Articles

Sometimes home, sweet home can seem like a money pit. But your house and family don’t have to cost you tons for care and upkeep when you use ingenuity, creativity, shopping sense, and savings sense to bring out the best without breaking the bank.

In this category, you’ll find some sweet and sensible ideas, tips and ideas—from how to make your own cleaning products (yes!), wash a down comforter (forget the dry cleaners); the worst and best ways to clean your eyeglasses,  the very best way to kill weeds ( it’s not Roundup) and so much more.

Here you’ll find so many sweet and sensible ideas for making your house a wonderful home with money and time to spare!

More Amazing Ways to Use Hydrogen Peroxide Around the House

In response to an earlier post,  I heard from one of my readers who wrote to describe her experience with hydrogen peroxide—something I’ve written about in the past, but not so much in the context of this reader’s personal report.

 

woman-using-hydrogen-peroxide-for-mouthwash

Caren’s story and outcome (below) captured my attention, but I needed first to confirm that hydrogen peroxide is safe, reasonable and recommended to be used as a mouthwash. In the process I ran into a whole lot more than I was looking for—so many more uses for hydrogen peroxide around the house—some new some not so new but perhaps forgotten.

MORE:  The Wonders of Hydrogen Peroxide

Kitchen counters

Clean your counters, table tops with hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dishrag when you wipe, or spray it on the counters.

Cutting boards

After rinsing off your wooden cutting board, pour hydrogen peroxide on it to kill salmonella and other bacteria. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved hydrogen peroxide as a sanitizer.

Teeth whitening

The most affordable way to whiten teeth at home (and the remedy supported by the most significant body of research) is the main ingredient from most tooth-whitening products: hydrogen peroxide.

To whiten teeth with hydrogen peroxide: Mix salt, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide to make a paste for brushing your teeth. Not only will this help to reverse the early stages of gingivitis, used regularly, it will also remove stains and whiten your teeth.

Read more

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth Money in the Bank

Today’s topic is not pretty, but unless you have $8,000 earmarked to treat periodontal disease, an ounce of good dental care could prevent a lot of pain—both dental and financial. 

Man with horrible toothache holding his hand to his jaw wincing in pain

Periodontal disease is an infection that destroys the attachment fibers and supporting bones that hold the teeth in the jaw bone and the bone itself. Bacteria get caught between the teeth and also under the gum, forming a sticky substance called “plaque,” that hardens to form tartar.

This leads to an infection known as gingivitis. As it spreads deeper into the bone it begins to decay and pus forms, which causes swelling, redness, and bleeding. If not treated, the teeth will become loose and fall out.

Here, let me show you what advanced dental disease looks like:

 

An open mouth showing dental disease

Does that get your attnetion?! Great because there are relatively inexpensive measures you can take to prevent this ugly situation and all of the very expensive treatments required to treat and (hopefully) reverse. It’s called routine preventive dental care.

If you remove the soft plaque from the gum margin around the teeth you will toughen the gum and prevent the disease. Here’s how to do that: Read more

Stop Wasting Money on Kitchen Tools That Do Only One Thing

Celebrity chef Alton Brown contends that a kitchen tool that does only one job is mostly useless. He calls anything like a pickle fork, garlic press, strawberry stem remover, or hot dog steamer a “unitasker.”

His advice? Don’t waste your time and money on any kitchen tool if it is only good for one thing. It will just take up valuable space, eventually becoming clutter.

 

Kitchen tools and gadgets hanging on a wall

 

It sounds a bit like Alton spent time with my grandma who was big on buying a sack of flour to bake bread, then sewing the sack into a dress, and when the dress wore out she would cut it into rags for a rug. Or pieces for a quilt.

Read more

22 Weird but Wonderful 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.

stack-of-basket-style-coffee filters

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!

Read more

6 Budget-Friendly Ways to Keep the House Cool in Summer

Even if winter is still hanging on, without a doubt things are going to heat up soon. And won’t that be wonderful—provided you’ve figured out ways to keep things cool indoors this summer without sending your utility bills through the stratosphere?

Large thermometer against orange-hot sun

If you could use some help in that regard, here are some tips, tricks, and great ideas that will help you stay cool without blowing a hole in the budget.

Whole house fan

A whole house fan (not to be confused with an attic fan) is installed in the attic and designed to ventilate the house whenever the outdoor air is cooler, which is typically after the sun sets—making it possible to turn the air conditioner off at night.

For a seasoned and experienced homeowner, installing a whole house fan is typically a do-it-yourself project. However, for a professional, it’s a quick and easy job. Learn more at the U.S. Department of Energy website.

Related: Best Inexpensive™ Window Air Conditioner

Read more

How to Give Yourself a $2,000 Raise in a Hurry

If there’s one thing that I love about you, my loyal readers, it’s how responsive you are. Sometimes you like what you read, other times not so much. Now and then you simply need more information. But no matter what, I can always count on hearing from you. Which brings me to what I wrote on pulling the plug on subscription pay-TV. It brought a huge response.

According to this 2012 article from NPD Group, the average pay-TV bill was predicted to hit $123 per month by 2015—more than $1,400 a year—and will hit $200 ($2,400 a year) in 2020. So far the predictions are right on the money.

For many, that’s money that could be better used to build an emergency fund or pay off debt. No wonder that column struck a chord with so many readers.

Overhead close up photo of a woman putting money in her purse.

 

The most-asked question had to do with the need for an antenna to receive free, local HD broadcasting. Which kind? Which one works best?

As I was fielding your messages, my husband and I were in the process of relocating. In 2015, we moved from California to northern Colorado. What a change from big city life in Orange County to a little village boasting a population of just 18,000. And what a perfect opportunity to test antennas to find the best way to enjoy free TV and quality programming in our new location. Read more

How to Afford Big Ticket Items

Finally, you have a couple of months where things are going well. The bills get paid on time and you actually have money left at the end of the month. Then Pow! Without warning, the water heater bursts, the car breaks down, and the first half of the property tax bill is past due—and suddenly you’re broke.

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How can you possibly plan or budget for life’s big-ticket items? Many people believe it just can’t be done, that they have no choice but to rely on their credit cards to cover the cost of emergencies—whether it’s something they should have known was coming or not.  Read more

Use This for That in the Kitchen to Reduce Clutter and Save Money

Over the years I have been uniquely privileged to sit under the personal tutelage of world-famous gourmet cooks the likes of Julia Child, Christopher Kimball, Martin Yan, and Jacques Pepin.

pizza-on-homemade-pizza-stone

Currently, I have standing appointments with Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Molly Yeh, and Alton Brown. They come to my home and demonstrate every technique imaginable while I sit, front-row-center in front of the television. Or sometimes my coaches show up on my iPad right there on my kitchen counter, where they walk me step-by-step through recipes and techniques.

They’ve taught me the importance of three things: fresh ingredients, the right equipment and a lot of practice. Which brings me to the topic of today’s column: the right equipment. Read more