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

Dollar Stretcher Tips - October 7, 2010

Alternative Halloween Treats
Halloween is coming soon. Instead of putting candy treats in little goblins' bags, I recycle small children's toys, books and office supplies. These can be obtained by decluttering your child's toy box or at yard sales, flea markets and church fairs. Fast food toys work especially well for this. Crayons and school supplies are purchased at sale prices during back-to-school week. The first year I did this, I offered a choice of candy or these items. All the children opted for these items. I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am not contributing to health or landfill problems. And, of course, I am also saving money. ~Melanie P.

Buying a Used Vacuum
My vacuum cleaner died, and I needed to find a replacement without buying a new one. I called my local vacuum repair shop to see if they had a used or refurbished one that I could buy. They let me buy one that a customer never picked up for $50 (the fee to tune up). It was a HooverŪ bagless, which sells for $200 regular price. The vacuum repair shop recouped their money for the tune up, and I gained a nice vacuum for a fraction of the price. ~Terri B.

Being Completely Prepared
Everyone knows about packing civil defense boxes in case of hurricane, flood, tornado, etc. These boxes contain things like nonperishable food, flashlights that don't need batteries, radios, and so on. But I learned the hard way that my civil defense box ought to contain clothing, too. A few t-shirts, blue jeans or work-ready trousers, socks, waterproof shoes and underwear plus work gloves would have made a big difference when I was forced to evacuate my home. ~M.

Wrap Your Christmas Presents Now
Several years ago, I got tired of all the wasted Christmas paper. I got out my sewing machine after Christmas and made several simple drawstring bags with red fabric. I used those bags throughout the year for birthday gifts and then at Christmas. It was quick and easy to wrap gifts, and I simply folded the bags and stored them in the closet until the next time I needed to wrap something. Each year I make several more from scrap fabric, in different sizes, and have added to my collection. They look beautiful under the Christmas tree, too! ~Susan

Instead of a Drive Thru Snack
I have five children, and even the dollar menu of a fast food restaurant isn't economical for us! So for those times when they're thirsty or hungry while we're on the road, I keep a package of disposable cups and a box of inexpensive sandwich bags in the car. Instead of spending $10 or more at the drive through, we run in the grocery store for a refrigerated carton of drink (less than $2) and a much healthier snack, such as baked crackers or peelable fruit. When we look for sale items, we can find something for $3 or less. Not only do we save money, but also we have healthier foods, drink refills, and leftovers for another day! ~Sarah

Preventing Mildew
I had a basement area where a mildew smell permeated items in a closet that stood against the wall. After thoroughly wiping, spraying with Lysol and again wiping, and then letting fully dry, I put rolled-up newspapers on top of the stored items and many layers of newspapers on the floor and along the back of the closet. The newspapers refreshed the air, absorbed the mildew smell, and kept newly-placed items from acquiring the mildew smell. I have not yet changed the newspapers, but at some point, I will put in a fresh new batch. Balled-up newspaper can also keep the interior of your stored luggage smelling fresh. ~Terri

Fruit Fly Traps
Over the years, I've tried countless ways to rid my kitchen of fruit flies. I've come up with a fruit fly trap. First, gather empty plastic water or soda bottles, apple cider vinegar, and dish soap. Put a drop of dish soap in each bottle and then fill 1/3 of the way with water and 1/3 of the way with apple cider vinegar. Put the cap on or cover the opening with your hand and shake to mix. The vinegar attracts the fruit flies, and the dish soap breaks the surface tension, so they drown. Make one for your kitchen and each of your bathrooms. Put all of your produce and bread into bags or the refrigerator. It takes a few days, so be patient. The less you disturb the traps the better. ~Karen W.

Timing Mark-Downs
Find out when your grocery does mark-downs on meat and deli. For example, I do most of my grocery buying at Wal-Mart. My Wal-Mart marks their deli items and also some fresh meats down around 5pm. I have bought rotisserie chickens for $2.50, bags of chicken tenders for $2.00 (about 4 pounds), and large containers of mac and cheese for 90 cents! I have also found fresh poultry and ground round for half-price. At this time of day, the deli is about to close and they are ready to move their leftovers. The meats are about to hit their expiration time the next day. Just make sure you have freezer space and containers ready at home. ~T.

Not Just for the Poor
As we have tried to tighten our belts and focus on paying off debt, I've been searching for ways to reduce expenses like utilities even further. I took the time to call each of our utility providers and asked them to go over whatever cost savings they might have available. Interestingly, I don't tend to think of our family as being impoverished, but in each case, when questioned on our overall income, we were offered special low-income rates that cut our bills by more than 40%. Once I had that experience, I contacted my daughter's school and asked if they had any special programs for those with lower incomes, and got a reduction in her breakfast and lunch prices from $2.00 to $0.40 each! I've decided to start asking everyone in a governmental capacity what other options may be available for those in our income level. The savings for us have amounted to well over $200 per month, and that is going towards paying principal on our mortgage. ~Kamia

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 2010 Dollar Stretcher, Inc.


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