An unintended consequence of embracing a frugal lifestyle is that gnawing tendency to never throw anything away. Fight the feeling, folks. Turning into a hoarder will only create a new problem in your life. 

relaxing-at-the-fireplace-on-winter evening

Now, about all those useless candle stubs you’re hanging onto—its time to get them out and keep them by your fireplace or wood burning stove.

Cheap Fire Starter

Save your candle stubs in a container by the fireplace. The next time you need to start a fire, light a couple of the stubs and throw them in along with paper or kindling. The wax will burn for a long time and give the larger pieces of wood more time to catch fire. Mary Anne

Ultimate Sales Insert

If you often spend Sunday afternoon paging through the week’s sales inserts for your favorite stores, check out SundaySaver.com. This site has handy links to all weekly sales and specials for hundreds of stores like Kohls, Wal-Mart, Old Navy, Walgreens, Home Depot and Amazon. Kim 

At this writing, I just checked and clicked on Kohl’s at SundaySaver.com, and can see the Black Friday ads, which must have been leaked because they do not yet appear at kohls.com. Great tip. –mh

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When Swiffer WetJet hit the market years ago, consumers went wild for it. I loved my Swiffer, but did not like the price of the cleaning pads. And my readers didn’t like it either.

Readers still send me their tips on what they use instead for disposable, pricey cleaning Swiffer cleaning pads. Some are clever, some too complicated, and some I just can’t repeat. I like Brenda’s idea, as it saves money and recycles, too.

SECOND LIFE FOR FLANNEL

My tip involves giving my husband’s old flannel lounge pants and flannel shirts a second life as cleaning pads for my Swiffer. I cut pieces 8″ x 20″ (or to fit your mop head of choice), attach to the mop head and then dampen with water before use. When I’m done mopping, I toss these in the laundry. Brenda

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I was late to the party but somehow managed to catch up quickly. While Hobby Lobby has now expanded to California, I’d never stepped foot into one of the more than 800 stores until moving to Colorado.

How I lived for the greater part of my life without Hobby Lobby remains a mystery. Remarkably, somehow I survived.

Hobby Lobby Store Thornton CO

Hobby Lobby is basically an arts-and-crafts heaven but also includes hobbies, picture frames and framing; jewelry making, fabrics, floral and wedding supplies, cards and party ware, baskets, wearable art, home accents and holiday merchandise. And let me tell you, this company runs a tight ship.

Generally, the prices at Hobby Lobby are good. But if you know the secrets—these hacks, tips, and tricks—you’ll never pay the full price on anything at Hobby Lobby again. And you’ll routinely be saving 50% (sometimes up to 90%).

Know the Hobby Lobby Sale Schedule

Just about everything in the store goes on sale for 50% off at some time or another. Knowing how to anticipate those sales is the secret for saving big.

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Have a messy outdoor job you need to tackle? Need a surefire way to keep mice out of your outdoor storage? Or how about those crummy, cheap backpacks that don’t even last through the school year? Today your fellow readers have tips for how to deal with those annoying problems and so much more!

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STURDY BACKPACKS

My sons had terrible trouble with backpacks. Even the expensive ones would not last an entire school season—that’s how hard they were on them. Then one day we went into the Army/Navy surplus store. We found military backpacks (rucksacks) that wore like iron! In fact, the boys carried them for years—all the way through college. They thought they were very cool. Carole

MICE REPELLANT

While covering my ‘49 Ford for the winter storage, I put a dryer sheet on the floor in the front seat area, one on the floor of the rear seats, one in the trunk, and one under the hood. Mice hate them. No damage to wires or upholstery. Larry

TRASHY APRON

If you have a particularly dirty job to do like cleaning the outdoor grill, taking down dirty window screens or hosing down the patio furniture before storing away for winter, make yourself a disposable apron: Take a large garbage bag, cut holes for your head and arms and slip it over your clothes. You may look a little weird, but you’ll protect your clothes and save yourself a lot of time and trouble later. Roy

STORAGE MAP

If your storage space is limited and you have to stack several boxes on top of each other, make a diagram on an index card and keep it in a handy place. When you go to look for something you’ll know exactly where it is. Store items towards the front that you’re more likely to use often with less-used items at the back. Lucille Read more

Have you heard? Later this month, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel will reunite in an NBC 15th anniversary special tribute to “Wicked” the hit Broadway musical! Between this news and so many fabulous tips from my great readers, my day has been changed for good!

microwave-oven

MICROWAVE MAGIC

The best way that I’ve found to clean my microwave is to take a rag, wet it, and ring it out—but not tightly. I place it in the microwave and turn it on for 25 seconds. When I open the microwave, the rag is hot enough to remove any buildup but not too hot that I can’t hold it.  Read more

From sharing their super cool tricks and tips for keeping fresh produce fresher longer, to making buttermilk last as long as it takes to use it up; a super cool way to fold clothes faster and more efficiently and keeping toys under control, my readers are the best!

Finding your tips, tricks and clever ways to save time and money makes opening my mail a treat! (Keep ’em coming, hear?)

Vegetables fresh produce at a market stall

Alive, Growing and Cheaper, Too!

I went to the supermarket to pick up what I needed for a cocktail to bring to a BYOB pool party. One ingredient on my list was fresh mint. In the produce department I noticed live plants in small starter pots for $2.50, including mint, basil, etc.  The plant was cheaper than the mint that was packaged, ready-to-use.

I purchased the plant, which stayed perky and fresh for my cocktails at the party, and then brought it home to plant in a pot on my patio. I had fresh mint all summer long! I have done this before with basil, too, when I needed it for a recipe. Monica

 

Stainless Steel, Silver and Fresh Produce

I have found that keeping fresh produce long enough to be consumed can be quite a challenge. A large slice (cut from the larger piece so at least on surface is fresh-cut, but not peeled) fresh ginger in a bag of potatoes, oranges or apples retards spoilage. Stainless steel bowls have kept my veggies fresh for weeks.

I keep Romaine fresh for up to six weeks in stainless steel. I keep melons in the rind, because the rind is a life providing, life extending protection to the inside. We are organic food eaters, so the produce we buy does not come coated with preservatives, making it twice as difficult to keep produce fresh for an extended period.

Stainless steel naturally inhibits bacterial growth, as does silver. The early settlers put silver dollars in the bottom of their water barrels to kill life threatening bacteria. It works the same in the bottom of a food storage bowl. These tips work! Deb

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Planting a backyard vegetable garden is a terrific idea, but it can be a pricey. And time-consuming.

Today’s first reader has a great tip: Let the master gardeners foot the bill and do all the work while you have a laid-back summer. Then show up to get in on the harvest—all perfectly legal and quite ethical, too.

woman-with-basket-beets-beans-smiling-portrait

CHEAPER THAN A GARDEN

I used to attempt to grow my own vegetables, but I’ve never enjoyed it. And it can very exepensive. Here’s what works for me: I pick my own produce at a local farm for steep discounts on bulk fruits and vegetables.

A few weeks ago, I picked 10 pounds of green beans at $.90/lb. (total: $9.50), and 40 pounds of beets at $.35 lb. (total: $14.00). I canned all of it, giving me 12 jars of fresh green beans and 21 jars of beets. I do this all spring and summer with everything from peaches, apples and berries to green beans and beets, and I end up with plenty to last through fall and winter. Johnette

STAIN CREAM

When a friend spilled cooking grease on her carpet, she tried everything to remove it. What finally worked was foam-type shaving cream. She spread it on over the grease stain and let it dry overnight. In the morning, she vacuumed it up and the grease stain was gone. I tried it myself and used a hair dryer to speed the drying process. Jean 

WINDSHIELD QUICK CLEAN

It’s super humid where I live, which means my car’s windshield fogs up on the inside in morning, which can be so annoying, Rather than wiping the windshield with a cloth, which streaks the glass, I keep a small squeegee in the side pocket of my front door. With a few wipes, the windshield becomes clear and clean at the same time. Lesa

 BASKETS OF NAPKINS

I like cloth napkins. We recently hosted a party and I needed more napkins than I had. My solution was to purchase mismatched, inexpensive cloth napkins at a thrift store. Then, I rolled them and arranged them in baskets. The napkins looked like colorful bouquets and were wonderfully festive! Sue

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Whenever I write about my love of coffee that admittedly has turned me into a coffee snob, reader feedback is as enthusiastic as it is voluminous. I’m happy to know I’m not alone in my snobbery.

 

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

Many of you bring up interesting points—questions, too. Like what to do with brewed coffee that is no longer ideally fresh but too good to throw down the drain. Others want to know how to make your own cappuccino, lattes and even the “steamer,” made popular by Starbucks—surprisingly containing no coffee at all.

Short of purchasing an espresso machine that uses high pressure steam to make espresso and has a gizmo that steams the milk as well, there are ways we can improvise to create reasonable facsimiles of our favorite coffee drinks. 

READ: How to Store Raw, Roasted, and Ground Coffee to Keep it Fresh 

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POPULAR COFFEE DRINK HACKS

ESPRESSO

Both cappuccinos and lattes are typically made with espresso. You can fake that by making very strong brewed coffee. 

LATTE

Your very strong coffee mixed about 50/50 with hot milk and then topped with foam makes for a very tasty latte. Experiment as necessary to find your ideal proportion of coffee to milk.

CAPPUCCINO

Making an authentic cappuccino is a somewhat complicated process. But you can cut through all of that by simply making a mix that you store in the pantry, adding just 3 teaspoons of it to a very strong cup of coffee. You’ll be amazed by just how good this is.

Cappuccino Mix

Mix well, store in airtight container. To use, stir about 3 teaspoons of mix into a cup of hot freshly brewed strong coffee. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

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