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The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman

StorkNet.com > Columns > The Dollar Stretcher

Dollar Stretcher Tips - February 23, 2012

Cleaning Bathroom Grout
Bathroom tile can be cleaned easily by soaking paper towels in bleach and leaving them on the grout for at least one hour. When you remove them, the mildew is magically gone. ~Brooke

Inexpensive Doggie Coats
Here is a tip for a dog coat! These things are advertised as a bargain at $19.95, but you can go to your local dollar store and buy a sweatshirt for a buck and use that instead. You can find one to fit your dog no matter how big or small and you need do nothing but put it on. They go into the washer and get softer and softer with age. At a dollar, you can toss them out when you want a new color or design. Our dogs love them because they do not cut or pull. Simply pull it over their head and put their front legs through the sleeves. ~Fran M.

Fresher Cabbage
Keep cut cabbage and Chinese cabbage fresh along the cut sides by wrapping them in their own outer leaves. Keep uncut ones fresh by wrapping in newspaper and storing them in a cool room (40-50 degrees F). The newspaper/cool room trick works for apples as well. I live in Japan and learned this from our local vegetable storeowner. It really works. ~C.

Easy Microwave Cleaning
Here's the easiest and most frugal way to clean a microwave. All you need is a dishcloth. Wet your dishcloth and squeeze out the excess water. Place the dishcloth in the microwave and run for about 35 to 40 seconds. Let stand for a minute or so. Then carefully open the microwave and test the cloth! It will be hot. The steam released from the wet dishcloth releases the food stuff. Just take the cloth and wipe the microwave clean; no elbow grease or cleaning products required. ~DMF

Separating Your Laundry
A stretcher of mine is to buy two types of laundry detergent. I use the good stuff for my family's clothes. By good stuff, I mean the kind that holds the color and keeps things looking new. It costs a little more, but with a coupon and on sale, it's a good deal. Then I buy the cheaper for washing throw rugs, rags, and my husband's work clothes. I find that it cleans things "good enough," and I'm not wasting money on the "better brand" of detergent. ~Cheryl

Packing "Peanut" Recycling
I use them to fill the bottom of all my planting pots in the spring (except vegetables or edible herbs). They provide great drainage and lighten the weight of the pot, so it can be moved around the patio. Also, I use less potting soil in each pot, which cuts the cost. Line the bottom of each pot with two inches of peanuts and then cover with a screen (the type you use to rescreen storm doors and windows) so the peanuts don't float up when you water the plants. I reuse them each year, but you can also throw them out and use a new stock of "peanuts" each year. MV

Hair Deep-Cleansing
Recently I asked my hairdresser to recommend a shampoo that removes build-up from hair. Although he sells an expensive line of hair care products, he told me not to spend $10 on a shampoo designed to do that. Instead, he suggested that I go to the grocery store and buy a box of baking soda. He then suggested that the next time I shampoo my hair, simply put some shampoo in my hand and add some baking soda. Mix the two together in my palm and then shampoo my hair as usual. After rinsing, use conditioner. Well, I tried it, and it works great! It left my hair looking shiny and soft. I gave myself a salon-style look for less. ~Lorie L.

Better Frozen Bread
Here's something that I learned about freezing bread from my previous life as an employee of a fast-food restaurant. We received our buns frozen and always set out what we anticipated using the next day. We were told by the people that devised the system that the package needed to remain sealed until they were completely thawed and all of the moisture (ice while frozen) was absorbed into the bread. Opening the package early made for a very dry product as the moisture could escape to the air more easily than back into the buns. As long as we let them thaw completely, no one could tell the difference between the frozen/thawed ones and ones that had never been frozen. ~Joseph B.

Free Online Tax Filing
For as long as there has been online income tax filing ability, I have been in search of the cheapest way to do it. There are a lot of options for federal filing via IRS.gov, but I was paying for my state filing, even though I made far less than the limits for "free" filing. The trick to filing for free is to begin by going to your state tax website. In my state, there are guidelines for who qualifies for free filing, and they give links to all of the companies that they approve. You really do have to use these links in order to get the free filing. The software company will get you signed in and send you a confirmation email so you can get into your account without backtracking through the state website. You still file your federal return first to determine what is going to be used for your state tax filing, but it's done by the software you have selected to use. Also, this trick may have to be used every year. The company you use will send emails every so often with tax filing hints and other useful information, but if you use the link to start your returns from these emails, you may end being charged for both federal and state filings. In that case, start over again, using the state tax website link for free filing your return. You may also find out that more companies have been added to the "free filing" list in your state. Not all states offer free filing, but in my case, I saved nearly $40 for the state filing and at least $15 for the federal. I received a real refund this year, with nothing taken "off the top" for what should be a free service for my income bracket. Wish I had figured this out years ago. ~Ginger

Want to live better on the money you already make? Visit www.stretcher.com/index.cfm?TipsSyn to find hundreds of articles to help you stretch your day and your dollar! Copyright 2012 Dollar Stretcher, Inc.

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