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The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman

StorkNet.com > Columns > The Dollar Stretcher

Dollar Stretcher Tips - August 27, 2009

Cool Coffee
Whenever there is leftover coffee in the summer, I try to freeze it in an ice cube tray. When I make iced coffee (usually from leftover coffee), I have coffee ice cubes that won't water down my coffee and help it taste that much better. I stole that trick from an expensive espresso shop. ~Erin B.

Your Pantry in Color
I once was given an old homemaking tip book. The most important tip in it was about arranging a pantry by color. That is how I arrange 75% of my pantry. If I need something I don't use often, say beets, I look in the red section. Some things don't fit, like soup, so I arrange those by category, but peanut butter is in the brown section, and the strawberry jam is in the red section. ~Kim R.

Beat the Steakhouse
In a "big box" store, I found two small bacon-wrapped beef tenderloins for under $4. We roasted vegetables from our garden with olive oil, garlic and our own basil. We split a baked potato and felt we had bested the local steakhouse by close to $50. ~Sandra in Indiana

The Travel Envelope
When I'm traveling, I use a blank envelope to hold all of my receipts, writing on the back of each receipt what it was for. On the front of the envelope, I list names, addresses, and phone numbers of friends I want to call along the way or at my destination. That way, everything I need is in one place to help me with my trip. ~Lynne L. in Stockbridge, GA

Rogue Raccoons!
Refilling my bird feeder used to cost a lot of money, because the raccoons helped themselves every night. The raccoons figured out how to circumvent every one of my ideas to keep them out of the feeder. I even tried wrapping dead rose bushes around the pole. A baffle of a size to keep a raccoon out costs about $45. I decided to plant cactus around the bottom of the pole holding the bird feeder. I now have some raccoon footprints on the pole where they have reached their front feet up, but they are not able to climb up without stepping in the cactus so my birdseed now is only for the birds. ~Shirley W. in Chokio, MN

Making Dinner Planning Easier
Dinner planning became much easier when I broke it into a routine. Mondays are for salad-based meals (taco salad, layered salad, a combo of potato salad and a bean salad, any salads you like that have a protein component). Tuesdays are for burger-type meals (turkey or beef burgers, meatloaf, fajitas, etc.). Wednesdays are always set aside for pasta. I make eight quarts of sauce at a time and freeze it in Mason jars for spaghetti. Or I'll make fresh pesto sauce, macaroni and cheese, or a quick Alfredo sauce. Thursdays are for bean-based meals (pea soup, chili, beans in the slow cooker). Friday is set aside for homemade pizza. I either make dough or use sliced French bread for my homemade pizzas. On Saturdays, we have leftovers or a casserole of some type. On Sundays, we have "breakfast for dinner." It seems that when I know the day and the category, dinner almost takes care of itself! ~Conni

Fine Print Thievery
I use pre-paid phone cards because I make very few long distance calls and this is a lot cheaper than the monthly charge with my long distance company . . . or so I thought. I had one that I'd purchased about two years ago and only had four minutes left so I picked up another one when I went to the store. The one I bought was for 500 minutes and figured it would last me for years. Boy, did I get a surprise! I still had about 350 minutes left when I went to call out of state and was told that my card had expired! Upon reading the fine print in my agreement, I found that I had 18 months from the date of activation to use all of the minutes. So be sure and read the agreement and make sure of the expiration date if there is one. My other cards didn't have that stipulation. ~Jae W.

Cash Control
Sometimes the easiest way to save money is to limit the amount you have to spend. Our family uses prepaid cards for this purpose. When we want to use long distance from our home phone, we use our prepaid long distance calling card. That way we don't have unbudgeted long distance charges added to our phone each month. You can program the speed dial features with your key code numbers to make it easier. We also use these prepaid cards for things like buying songs from iTunes. That way our credit card doesn't keep getting dinged for $1.29 songs or $3.99 TV shows. When the iTunes card is empty, the purchasing is done until we have the money to get another card. We use this plan for many things. It's kind of like a version of the old-fashioned "envelope" system; when the money on the card is gone, our spending in that area is done! ~Amy in Walker, Michigan

My Makeover
Magazines are on my "don't" list of purchases as they are expensive (for me), and often don't deliver enough return on my investment. However, fashion magazines can be worthwhile when I need to update my look. I buy one or two magazines designed for upscale consumers and then I go to work. Not only do I notice what is current in clothing and accessories, but also I notice how the effects are achieved. I see hairstyles that I can try (at my $8 hairdresser), color combinations to try (from what I already own), and so on. I study the makeup and see what I can copy with cosmetics I own or can buy at the dollar store, and I notice how things are put together so I can try that, too. I never try to wear the fashions from the catwalks, but I do take note of colors, fabrics, accessories, hemlines, and so on. I can usually pull together several good-looking outfits for the cost of a couple of magazines every few months and maybe the added costs of a very few "new" items from consignment or thrift shops. ~M.

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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