Money Pit or Home Sweet Home?


Sometimes, home sweet home can seem like a money pit. But your house doesn’t have to cost you tons for upkeep when you use ingenuity, creativity, shopping sense and saving sense to bring out the best without breaking the bank. Check out  these clever ways your fellow readers have discovered to make home a wonderful place, with money and time to spare.

Clean Kitchen

ON TRACK. My best tip for keeping our food budget under control is to keep the kitchen clean. Having a dirty kitchen makes it less likely that I will cook and more likely we’ll order out. —Marnie, Washington

TWISTER DECOR. I used the mat from Twister game as a table cover for my son’s birthday party. Big dots in bright colors on a white background—it was perfect! And it cleaned up beautifully both before and after the party. —Marlene, email

EASY GRILL CLEANING. Instead of scrubbing your grill clean and making a huge mess, put the grill racks in your self-cleaning oven the next time you run the cycle. If they are chrome, they will discolor a bit, but you won’t spend all that time scrubbing. —Eric, email

LONGEVITY FOR WICKER. A furniture restoration expert taught me this easy lesson: To prevent wicker patio furniture from turning yellow, scrub it with a stiff brush moistened with warm salt water. Allow to dry in the sun. —Pam, Oregon

WINDOW WASH ALTERNATIVE. I have used the expensive commercially available window washing spray canisters that attach to your hose.  They work great, but cost a lot.  My carpet cleaner saw me using those products and told me to save the canister and re-fill it with car washing liquid that you buy in the automotive section.  It works just as well and costs pennies on the dollar.  The key is that the soap has the additive that makes the soap sheet off, so you don’t have to dry or squeegee the window.  It really works! —Linda, email

SOFT SCRUB SUB. Why spend $4 to $5 for a bottle of liquid cleanser like Soft Scrub, when you can easily make it yourself? Just find a bottle, add the contents of a can of Ajax, Comet or Bon Ami powdered cleanser; add warm water and shake to mix. Works great and no more wet and clogged cleanser cans in the shower. —Russ, North Carolina

This last tip is not so much about your home, but rather your pets. Consider it a bonus.

VACATIONING WITH PETS. Have a special ID tag for any pet that’s traveling with you. Include a name and telephone number that points the way to you on vacation—not you back home.  —Pat, Oklahoma

Question: Got a quick tip you’d like to share?


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  • Debbie Sue

    I have certain recipes that call for a tablespoon of tomato paste or red pepper paste. I know that by the time I need more the leftovers will have gone bad. I measure out the rest of the can in 1 Tbl. amount and freeze them on a cookie sheet. When frozen I put them all in a freezer bag. When I need one again I just pull it out pre-measured and give it a little while to thaw. I can also measure the paste into squares of plastic that go in a freezer bag so there is no risk of clumping. I am more likely to cook if I have ingredients like this ready to go.

    • Mary Hunt


  • Debbie Sue

    Convenience is a huge help in deciding to cook. If I find red peppers on sale I dice them up, put them in a freezer bag and scoop them out as I need for cooking. I do the same with onions. I put them in a freezer bag, and lay the bag flat on a cookie sheet until frozen. Have a thin layer of onions makes it easier to break off the amount you need without clumping.

    • Mary Hunt

      I see frozen diced onions in the freezer section of the supermarket and they’re not what I would consider cheap. This is a great idea, DS!

  • Bev

    Question for all — How do you REALLY CLEAN all these fancy coffee cups with the tiny openings? I love them because they keep my drinks cold or hot, but I don’t feel like I get them really clean. From the rubber gaskets to the tiny sip holes. And where do you find pipe cleaners to fit those tiny holes? And good stiff bottle brushes with bristles on the ends? I have changed to stainless bottles for water, homemade sports drinks (koolaide plus a pinch of low-salt). We are farmer-ranchers and DRINK a lot working outside. THANKS.

  • Jim Erskine

    Make your own maple syrup. You surely have this already but if not boil 1 cup water add 2 cups sugar add 1 tsp of maple extract (artificial) boil and stir till clear then cool. When cool place in your empty cleaned syrup container; keep in fridge. Jim Erskine

    • Mary Hunt

      Jim … I remember my mother making maple syrup but I never had her recipe. I think this one is it! Watch for your tip to show up in a column in a couple of weeks. Thanks!

  • Kathryn

    I have grandchildren in diapers and when they visit I have to lay them on the bed to change their diapers. To protect my bedspread I keep a stack of newspapers nearby. I lay the baby on a piece of newspaper and when the diaper is changed, I wad up the paper and throw it away. This is especially handy if the diaper is messy.

  • Jenn

    Imported strawberries have NOTHING on the strawberries we buy from farms in our area. Every summer my husband and I buy 2-3 flat of local strawberries, then hull and freeze them on silicon sheets. Once frozen, those go into bags in the freezer. They make excellent smoothies, ice cream, and cake topping all summer and well into the winter. At $21/flat, it’s a big initial expense but it saves us money in the long run by giving us a healthy treat. The imported berries at the market never look tempting during the winter months because we know that the ones we have at home are exponentially better and that our money has supported local farmers.

    I am adamant about taking my lunches to work. In fact, I just posted on my blog today about being a “bag lady” (

  • Beck

    Question does anyone have a tip to polish/shine up kitchen counter that is guessing formica/laminate that looks like butcher block patter built in very late 70’s? I tried Gel Gloss it didn’t work. This would really help my kitchen look better…

  • vicki

    I love my swiffer wet jet but hate the cost of those refill bottles. Now, I just simply refill the bottle when it is empty. I don’t remove it from the swiffer at all, just drill a small hole in the bottom( which is actually facing upward) and refill with my vinegar/water homemade cleaner solution with a small funnel. I found a tiny cork to place in the hole or just cover with a small piece of duct tape. It’s actually less trouble than replacing the refill bottle and cost pennies compared to the refill cost. I’ve used the same bottle for over two years now.