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The Dollar Stretcher
by Gary Foreman

StorkNet.com > Columns > The Dollar Stretcher

Dollar Stretcher Tips - October 4, 2012

I Refuse to Be Lazy
I find that laziness contributes to being broke! Get in the habit of taking a few extra steps in order to avoid buying pricey "convenience" items. If you don't mix that water and vinegar yourself, you'll always spend a fortune on the name brand stuff! If you don't learn how to cut up a chicken, you'll always spend needlessly on pre-cut chicken. Laziness costs money! ~Corey

Mmmm, Meatballs!
I like to buy the 80 or 85% lean ground beef in a bulk package and make up meatballs. I bake them in the oven on a large cookie sheet/tray, and when cooled, I bag them in quart bags for the freezer. They taste much better than the store bought, and I can make spaghetti and meatballs by just throwing some into my sauce. Or I can make a stroganoff with jar gravy heated with the meatballs over fettuccine noodles. They are good for meatball sandwiches in a crusty roll or in soup. They are very versatile. ~L

Cheaper Popcorn
Stop wasting money on microwave popcorn. I use popcorn kernels and brown paper lunch bags. I put a couple tablespoons of popcorn into the bag, drizzle a little oil over the kernels, and roll down the top of the bag. I microwave it on high. I set the microwave for two minutes and stop it when I hear the popping slow to a few seconds between pops. The jar says it makes 26 five-cup servings, so the savings are great compared to microwave bags. And, it is much healthier at only 25 calories per cup! If you like, you can add salt, pepper, herbs, or spices for extra flavoring. ~DW

Feeding Large Parties
I recently gave a birthday party for about 50 people, using a "Mexican Fiesta" theme. When it came to food, I was concerned about getting hot food to that many people with only one oven and one stovetop. I went to two thrift shops, and between them, I bought three hot pots, which gave me four with my own. I had beans in one, rice in one, pulled chicken in one, and carnitas in the last one. With these, I had warm tortillas, salsa, sour cream, and guacamole. With the pots full, I could have fed 50 more people. The three hot pots cost me half the price of a new one. Of course, we had birthday cake for dessert! ~Leigh

Before You D-I-Y
A week ago, a friend's car was overheating. When I checked her car, the antifreeze and oil were both low. I figured it would be $12-$15 just to buy them at the store, so I asked a local oil change place if they would top off the fluids during an oil change. They did and also had an offer of five oil changes for $100. In addition to getting the oil changes almost as cheap as doing them myself, they had a refund from the big V oil company that ended up making it about $55 for all five oil changes. In addition to keeping my hands clean, they checked the fan, located the leak, and gave us some really good information. Sometimes doing it yourself isn't the cheapest option, and I just wanted to share that people may want to look at previously more expensive options from time to time. ~David M.

The Circle of Safety
My mom and her friends have come up with a good plan for all of them. There are six friends. Most are elderly or disabled. They do this round robin thing. One makes a call to one of them. Then they call the next person and so on to see how they are doing in the morning. If they are going to be out and about or gone on vacation, etc., they let the person that calls them know. If someone is not feeling well, then they call again in the afternoon or even sooner. If one of them is not answering their phone, they go check on that person or they call the person that is mobile and lives the closest to that person to go over to their house. ~A.

Laundry Stretcher
The number one way to "stretch" your laundry dollars is simple soaking! Soaking works especially great on white clothes with big stains. I simply use my favorite detergent, let the agitator work a little, and then turn off the washer for a couple of hours. It acts like a pre-soak, and I've removed some horrible stains this way. Everything comes out whiter and brighter! For those hard-to-remove stains, I wet the item in the sink, scrub the stain with an old toothbrush and hand soap, and then let the item soak overnight! Presto! By morning, most stains are completely gone! ~EGS

Pantry Trades
I usually have a pretty well stocked pantry but invariably I find that there are things in it that we no longer have a taste for. Instead of throwing these things away, I get together with a few friends and we "raid" each other's pantries of the things we don't want. For example, one friend I have buys a lot of expensive cereals, frequently advertised during Saturday morning cartoons, for her children. They get tired of them way before the box is even close to empty or even opened. Granted these are not the best cereals for my children, but they make a nice treat once in awhile. Plus, this gives us a chance to try the new items on the market that we wouldn't want to spend money on and then find out we hated it. ~Carol in Milwaukee, WI

Time Warp
My husband and I both take off the week between Christmas and New Year's and celebrate this as our family holiday instead of December 25th. We save a fortune by shopping the after-Christmas sales for one another's gifts and then having our "official Christmas" on New Year's Eve. Not only do we save on the gifts, food, and decorations for Christmas, but it's a built-in celebration for New Year's Eve, too, so that's an added savings by not having two separate holidays. Of course, spending the week together is pretty special, but the thrill we get from our week of bargain hunting just adds to the fun of our own special holiday time. We often get twice the goodies we'd otherwise be able to surprise each other with, and this is true whatever the budget. We've even started convincing the rest of our family to change their celebration. You can also do this with other holidays, most notably Valentine's Day. Go out to dinner and buy your chocolates on the 15th instead of the 14th, and you'll save incredible amounts of money and even save yourself the stress of trying to get a table when everyone else is also trying. ~Wendy K.

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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