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The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman

StorkNet.com > Columns > The Dollar Stretcher

Dollar Stretcher Tips - June 16, 2011

Out of Date?
I partner with a food bank where I work, and they often get items donated that are right at or just past the "sell by" date on the packaging. When they need to determine the true shelf life of a product, one resource they use is www.stilltasty.com. At home, this keeps us from throwing out and wasting both money and food. So next time you find something in the back of the pantry that you aren't sure about, check before you toss. You might just save yourself a few dollars. ~Tammy in Roanoke, VA

Why Heat a Big Oven?
Go one step further into frugality by getting a toaster oven (if you don't already have one) and use it to cook those five or six cookies or one or two muffins. A lot less energy will be used, and you'll have a cooler kitchen in the summer. ~Helen in Rochester, MN

Finding a Job
Professional organization memberships can provide invaluable networking opportunities as well as a discount on professional training. But if you're unemployed, professional dues that range from dozens to hundreds of dollars may not fit in the budget. Call the organization's membership office. Many professional organizations like the ASME and IIE are offering reduced membership rates to those who can prove they are unemployed. Some professional organizations are also offering discounts on professional training classes to help those without work keep their skills or certifications up to date. ~Tamara W.

Finding Clothing Bargains
Like most frugal shoppers, I always purchase clothing from the sale racks. One tip that has really helped me is to try bigger sizes than I normally wear. I find that items are often marked down simply because they fit a bit snug for the size, and few people want to try on a size bigger than what they think they wear. Instead, they just assume that the garment "doesn't fit right" for them. As a result, the items don't get purchased and wind up being marked down. I benefit from my willingness to go up a size or two (and I cut out the tag when I get it home!). ~Karen

Clothing Stain Removal
My husband's uniform includes a white shirt. He is often in this shirt for 10 hours a day, and the ring around the collar used to frustrate me at laundry time. After trying all kinds of expensive pre-soaks, I have come across the easiest and fastest way to get those collars clean. I wet the collar, spray with an inexpensive all-purpose cleaner, and then put a blob of shampoo on the stains. Next, I use a fingernail brush and lightly work into a lather. After letting this sit for several minutes, I then rinse clean and wash shirt in regular wash cycle. The shampoo loosens the body oil and the cleaner helps to release the stain. It's fast and easy! ~Mary J.

Carpet Care
One thing I have learned about carpet care is to not use detergents when cleaning. The residue left behind attracts dirt. The best way to clean your carpet is to use a 20% solution of vinegar in water. We rent those carpet cleaning machines (at least once per year) but just use vinegar and water. This also takes care of pet odors. If you are spot cleaning, it's important to never scrub the carpet. Scrubbing causes stains to get trapped in the fibers. Just add some water to the stain and blot with a white towel. Keep adding water (or water and vinegar) and blot until the white towel comes away clean. ~Skirk

Reducing Funeral Expenses
The casket "sprays" of flowers can be very expensive. When my mother died, I remembered the hymn "Just a Rose Will Do." The first verse says, "When time shall come for my leaving, when I bid you adieu, don't spend your money for flowers, just a rose will do." We chose a silk long stem red rose. We put some baby breaths with it and a long streaming red ribbon. We printed the song verse and pinned it to the ribbon for anyone that would "judge" the sentiment and thought behind it. My two daughters chose a rose of another color and placed it near mine. ~Rose H. in NC

Finding Vacation Info
Just wanted to pass along to everyone a good vacation web searching tidbit. Every state's official website is www.state.(two-letter state abbreviation).us. For example, Virginia is www.state.va.us. Each state has some sort of a tourism page on their site to help visitors plan vacations. Most states have links to major cities, counties, and tourist attractions, so look for these also. I would bet you could even request brochures and maps by email. ~Samantha

Cheap Laundry "Booster"
Having an elderly pet pooch means we have our share of accidents around the house. I often have to deal with laundry that needs an extra boost to completely remove odor and stains. There are plenty of detergent boosters on the market that are costly to the budget and also the environment with lots of plastic packaging. Instead of those "sophisticated" boosters, I use Fels-Naptha. For around $1.30 (found in the laundry section of the grocery store), this stuff works like a charm. It cleans, takes out tough stains, and removes urine odor like nothing else. It smells great, too. Fels-Naptha comes wrapped in paper like a soap bar, so it uses less packaging. When adding your regular detergent to the wash, using a cheese grater, grate a small amount of Fels-Naptha soap into the washing machine while filling. Then let it go to work. Fels-Naptha also works great to get rid of Poison Ivy Oil on skin, so forget costly remedies for this at the pharmacy. ~Marianne

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 2011 Dollar Stretcher, Inc.

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