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

Dollar Stretcher Tips - December 15, 2011

Bet It Still Works Today!
My mother was an excellent seamstress, and during and after WW2, she used to go to garage sales in the expensive areas of San Francisco to buy good used clothing. She then brought the items home and used the material for making my clothes. I was the best-dressed little girl in grade school, but I was dressed for pennies. J.

Affordable Greeting Cards
My daughter loves to paint. I used to always have my daughter paint on scrap paper. Now I buy more expensive water color paper or cardstock for her to paint on. When she's finished, I fold the paper and use it as a greeting card. The recipient always enjoys the hand-painted card, and I don't have a million paintings around my house. ~Brooks

The Christmas Calendar
One year, my husband and I were searching for a nice present for our children, but we had very little money. I came up with an idea that went over well. I went to a dollar store and bought a child-oriented calendar for each one of them. One day each month, I wrote something special down. Some examples included favorite meal night, bake your favorite cookies with mom day, and movie of your choice (at the $1 movie theater of course!). Each child had a different day of the month. It made it very special to them. They anticipated the day all month. In December, to end the year, we allowed them each to pick an extremely small Christmas tree ($5 at a local tree farm) to put in their rooms. They absolutely loved it. That was the most we paid for any of the monthly gifts. It made Christmas last all year, it was extremely inexpensive, the kids loved having their special days, and most importantly, we did not lose sight of the most important things about Christmas. ~Laura

Tricky Thermostat
The thermostat for our main level is next to our laundry room. The laundry room has a double-hung window that tends to let cold air in. I sometimes find the heater going full-blast even though the rest of the house is warm and realized that the thermostat is reading the temperature from the chillier end of the house. My solution was to seal up the window with heavy-duty plastic and keep the door to that room closed. Now, we don't overheat the rest of the house. ~Viola H. in Colorado Springs, CO

Festive Nails
If you want your nails to look festive for the holidays, but don't want to change your nail polish every time to match your outfit, and aren't quite ready for bright red or green polish or tiny little Santas painted on your nails, try a metallic. Choose either gold or silver polish, depending on the jewelry you tend to wear, and wear it throughout the season. It's fun, shiny and glammed-up, but elegant and not overdone. It basically acts as a neutral that goes with anything and isn't too much for daily wear. It's versatile, too, as you can layer it over another color for different looks. ~Diva

Frugal Tree Decorations
An inexpensive and beautiful way to decorate a Christmas tree on a budget is to buy a bag of bows. You can find large packages that include bows of all colors and sizes. No hooks are needed. The bows can be nestled in the branches because they are so lightweight. The metallic and iridescent ones reflect holiday lights the best. Years ago, we did this as college students on a budget, and as we had more money to buy ornaments, we reused the bows on gifts. It's amazing how pretty, sparkly, and colorful a bow-covered tree can be. ~Teri K. in Laporte, Colorado

Need a Bike?
I don't drive. For the past several years, my mode of transportation has been by bicycle. My bike was stolen. I kept checking the police station and would be shown a shed where they kept all recovered bikes. I finally asked them what they did with the bikes that weren't reclaimed. They told me they have a police auction twice a year and sell them there. I went to the next auction and bought a bike for $65. My kids were surprised as they said my bike was like a brand new bike and would sell for around $400. I whiz through traffic jams, never suffer from road rage, and get my daily exercise. I can get to pretty much anywhere I want to go. ~S.

Knitted and Crocheted Items
For those of us who never learned to knit or crochet, afghans and other items cost a fortune. Even the yarn is costly, according to friends who are involved in this hobby. But, I recently got a perfectly fantastic afghan lap throw for $2.50. It was at a thrift store! Many such stores sell these for well under $5 or $10, a fraction of what you're charged elsewhere. I found out you can wash afghans and knitted and crocheted items, and they'll be as good as new. Instructions on how to do this are on the web. My friend who knits said that she uses double the amount of fabric softener (the real stuff, not vinegar) and pulls the item back out to its normal size before it dries. So instead of paying $50, $75, $100 or more for a knitted or crocheted throw, try thrift stores and garage sales. This is just one more example of how it pays to buy secondhand! ~Lynn

Easier Silver Polishing
I picked up an interesting tip for polishing silver on a radio program. When I finally got up the nerve to try it, it worked great! Best of all, I learned that silver polish actually removes the oxidized silver from the item, leaving less silver on it. This method actually reverses the tarnishing process without removing anything. Line a small pan with aluminum foil and then fill it with water. Bring the water to a boil, add a couple teaspoons of baking soda, and then turn off the heat. Dip your jewelry and silverware items in it for a minute and they will come out shining like new! This method works for larger items too, but you will have to use fresh aluminum foil and add more baking soda for each item. You are using the electrons from the foil to reverse the tarnish. ~Erika in NY

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 2011 Dollar Stretcher, Inc.


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