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The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman > Columns > The Dollar Stretcher

Dollar Stretcher Tips - December 24, 2009

Natural Oven Cleaner
Make a paste with baking soda and rub all over oven walls and door. Close oven and turn on 200 degrees for 10 minutes. Then turn off and let cool. Wipe clean. ~Marcie in IN

Low-Cost, Light-Weight Swags
Having moved eight times in the past five years, I've come up with a tip for anyone hanging lightweight (sheer) swags. Use cross grain ribbon and a staple gun! Forget about the rod. It's expensive and may not be able to be used at the next place. I simply use ribbon that looks good with the material. I make a U loop, staple it in the middle, and tie the swag up into the ribbon. It's an inexpensive custom-made window treatment. ~Mary in Ridgefield, CT

Cheaper Hair Care
I "make" my own shampoo/conditioner. I just use a mixture of baking soda and water for the shampoo and then some apple cider vinegar for conditioner. It works so well that I only have to do it once every couple of days. I have pretty short hair, but my girlfriend uses this as well with her longer hair and has had the same results. Because you need so little for each wash, it probably comes out to cost a fraction of a penny for each wash. ~Adam

Free Thank You Cards
Use any Christmas cards that feature a snowman or other wintry scene as thank you notes after Christmas. Cut off the front of the card and write on the back. These can be mailed as postcards to save money on stamps, or put in a spare or homemade envelope to mail. If you feel creative, add a tiny bow, sparkle snow, or other embellishment to the scene before putting it in the envelope, or put confetti in the envelope to make it special. ~Cynthia R.

Almost a DVD Recorder
I could never justify paying for TiVo® service or a DVD recorder with my fairly light TV viewing. But then I got switched to the night shift and started missing my favorite prime time TV shows that I used to watch in real time. I still didn't want to spend a lot of money, but I missed my shows. One day in Goodwill the answer hit me. I bought a used VCR for $5! Remember those? Well, they still work! Just make sure you get one with a remote. With some VCRs, the remote is the only way to program your recordings. Walmart still has blank VCR tapes, or they can be purchased on eBay. This method has worked perfectly for me for over nine months now! ~Heidi

Time for Baking
Regular all-purpose flour costs between $.99 and $2.29 for a five-pound bag, which translates into a per cup price of between $.05 and $.12. Think about making all your own flour-based products. A large loaf of bread uses four cups of flour and a 12" pizza crust uses two cups. It is easy to make pasta and all types of rolls, biscuits, cakes, pancakes and cookies. With two parents working, this is very time consuming, but for the unemployed, this is a huge money saver. Another idea is to sell your bread to friends, neighbors, and co-workers, which will stretch the budget for other necessities. ~Veronica T. in Upstate New York

Buy Now, Drink Later
Everyone knows that it is cheaper to brew your own coffee than go to the big chain. But if you like fun, seasonal flavors, it is certainly easier to throw down a couple dollars at the store. Did you know that the flavored creamers at the grocery store have special seasonal flavors that only come out this time of year? I read the expiration dates on them, and they vary widely. Just this morning, I purchased, on sale, some holiday creamers that don't expire until next April or May! So you can throw them in the back of the fridge and enjoy "mocha fudge" or "pumpkin spice" well into the spring! Just don't forget to check the dates! ~Kimberly M.

Sliced and Diced
Don't waste food, and save time to boot! I keep a half-dozen or so quart-sized freezer bags of various items at hand in the freezer at all times. For example, any time I cut the tops or bottoms off of bell peppers, I dice them and place them in a pan or plate in the freezer. Ten minutes later, they've "set" enough not to stick together when fully frozen, and I drop them in the appropriate freezer bag. Then, whenever I need them, such as when making an egg scramble before going to work in the morning, all I need to do is "grab and cook." The tedious slicing and dicing prep work has long since been done, and I haven't wasted perfectly good food! I do this with peppers, onions, sausage, hamburger meat, and other items as well. Use your imagination! ~Rick in Virginia

Gross Coffee?
Most people know that bringing your coffee to work in a Thermos® is a great way to save money. I have a high quality metal Thermos® with a plastic cap. However, I never liked to bring coffee from home because the cap would invariably get a funky smell to it even though I washed it thoroughly every day. I discovered that the best way to eliminate this odor is to sterilize the cap with boiling water. My office has a water cooler that dispenses boiling water from one of the spouts, so all I need to do is fill the cap with the hot water on a daily basis. This takes about two seconds and it works like a charm. Since I'm a coffee fanatic, I easily save $4 per day ($80 per month) by bringing my coffee in, and it is better for the environment because I don't discard all of those paper coffee cups. ~Jodi

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


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