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The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman

StorkNet.com > Columns > The Dollar Stretcher

Dollar Stretcher Tips - April 23, 2009

Bath Powder Plus
Bath powders can be quite expensive. I now mix equal amounts of bath powder with cornstarch and repackage it. The quality and smell are the same and it lasts twice as long. ~Mary Anne

Free Virus Protection?
Check with your Internet service provider to see if they provide free virus protection for your computer. We are with Comcast and receive McAfee for free through them, which saves at least the cost of one subscription ($40). We are allowed six email addresses for our account and can download McAfee to that many computers using the different email addresses. ~Linda P.

Before You Go
Any time you're planning a trip to a museum, science center, zoo, etc. always check the Internet for discount tickets. Sometimes I also find discount tickets by entering the city and state name and "visitor bureau" in a web search site. ~Kathleen L.

How Much Did This Meal Cost? To save big bucks at the grocery store, try starting a chart of your family's favorite meals. Figure out the total cost of each meal and simply rework the week's meal schedule by using the cheapest meals more often and the more expensive meals less often. This will be a surefire kick in the pants to get out there and find new nourishing recipes that can march to the beat of a cheaper drum. ~ Lindsay

For the Car Trip
Many families have/use portable DVD players. On our family trips, we use redbox. They are only $1 per movie/per day. We can use them as long as we want and can return them to any other redbox. For long trips, we can stop and get a bathroom break and a new movie to keep the kids entertained all for $1! If you were to buy a movie, it would run about $15, and if the kids don't like it, your stuck with a stinker. ~Kym

Local Savings
There are a lot of deals available locally and nationwide, but it's hard to find them all at once. Check out www.citiesonthecheap.com. It is a network of city bloggers who post deals, discounts, and free and cheap events available both locally and nationwide. You can check to see if your city has its own site or check to see whether your vacation destination has a site so you can save money while you travel. When you are short on money, there's no need to sit at home when there are plenty of free and cheap experiences to be had. ~Valerie C.

Free Spice Jars
The brown tinted plastic bottles for prescription medicine make great spice jars. They keep the light out. Fill with bulk herbs or spices available at most natural food stores and a few supermarkets. They are far cheaper and often fresher than spices in jars at the supermarket. Alternatively, buy fresh herbs, use some fresh, spread the rest out to let them dry, and fill the jars with the completely dry herbs. Just make sure to wash out the bottles thoroughly and remove the labels to avoid any chance of contamination or confusion! ~Adele

Dryer, Really
When my daughter was little, she had diaper rash a lot despite my use of ointment and my best efforts to change her as soon as she was wet. I got the answer from a dad whose family ran a daycare that we occasionally used. When changing the diaper, use a hair dryer set to cool air to completely dry her bottom. My daughter thought it tickled, and soon we had no more problems with diaper rash, saving me a lot of money in ointment! I double checked the dryer each time to ensure that it was set to cool air first so that we had no burns. ~Cheryl

Dinner In
When we want to treat ourselves, instead of an expensive family dinner out, we pile in the car and drive to the grocery store. We each pick a frozen dinner, and while the dinners are heating, we play a board game. It's much less expensive than a dinner out, clean up is a breeze, and we spend some quality time together. ~Rachel

The Gift of Time
My husband and I are in our forties and our parents are in their seventies. They are pretty well off and don't need much of anything. A few years ago, workdays became their gifts from us. There are some things my mother-in-law needed help with like washing windows, cleaning refrigerator coils, moving beds to clean under, and taking down curtains to wash, iron, and hang back up. To her, this was the best gift we could provide. My parents own 17 acres and need a lot of help outside. We give them a workday for each of them on Mother's Day and Father's Day as well as for birthdays. We trim bushes, weed whack, plant flowers, cut down trees, etc. for their gifts. They almost never give us gift ideas anymore; they always request a workday. ~ Melissa

Habits
A friend was watching a movie at my house the other night. While we were talking and getting snacks, my son asked me to wash his uniform for work. I added that to some clothes already in the washer, poured in detergent and started it up. Since the detergent was the last cup in the bottle, I screwed the cap back on and tuned it upside down over the drain in the kitchen sink. My friend asked curiously, "Why do that?" "Just a habit," I said. "If you turn it upside down and let it drain into the cap for about an hour, there's generally enough still in the bottle to do one more wash."

Later I thought about this. I guess there was a time in my life when I didn't do this. Must've been a long time ago! But that's what being frugal is all about. It's about getting into a habit and routine of doing just a little extra. There are a lot of habits in our lives, some good and some bad.

For instance, in our house, I have a hanging basket where we toss used envelopes and other clean scrap paper. When we need to jot something down, we all reach into the basket. Saving and reusing this paper that would've gone into a landfill is "just a habit."

You get the idea. Saving money and resources is pretty easy when you "get the habit."

Want to live better on the money you already make? Visit www.stretcher.com/r/99.htm to find hundreds of articles to help you stretch your day and your dollar! Copyright 2009 Dollar Stretcher, Inc.

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