Sometimes, just a simple change in the way we do things can result in significant savings over time. Take the way you wash your clothes. I have to admit to using lots of cycles on my washer just because they’re there. And every cycle adds more time and uses more resources. Today’s first reader suggests a simple way to reduce the resources without sacrificing good results. Great idea, Natalie!
PRE-SOAK: Instead of using the pre-soak and pre-wash cycle on your washing machine, use the regular cycle but turn it off after the clothes agitate after a few minutes. Let them soak an hour or overnight and then resume the cycle. This way, you save water and electricity, but achieve the same result. — Natalie H.
DIY PET CARE PRODUCTS: Use Murphy’s Oil Soap (available in grocery stores) on your pet’s dry, itchy or flea-allergy skin. It is gentle and all-vegetable. Especially good for Shar Pei’s, with all of their skin problems. For an effective flea dip, boil orange and lemon peels in water. Cool and use for pet rinse or dip. Smells nice and fresh. You can also slice citrus and rub the fruit into the dog’s fur. The bugs will keel over from the smell. — Kathleen H.
PAINTED PANELING: We moved into a house that had a lot of paneling. I wanted to give the rooms a new look, but a total remodel was not in our budget. My solution was to paint the paneling. The first step was to use a paint deglosser, which is only necessary if the paneling has a high-gloss finish, followed by a coat of primer and then pain. I was very pleased with the result. That was a relatively inexpensive way to remodel several rooms. — Beth N.
GIFT OF FLANNEL: Needing a Christmas gift for a neighbor, I bought flannel at the fabric store and made a nice pair of flannel pillowcases. A simple sewing project makes a much appreciated gift. Flannel pillowcases are quite luxurious. — Lydie P. (Here’s a link to a magical method for making beautiful pillowcases: EverydayCheapskate.com/pillowcase)
WINDOW CLEANING: Use newspaper printed in black ink only (not colored ink) and window cleaner for crystal clear windows. There’s no lint or streaks, and when the newspaper dries, you can still recycle it. — Deborah F.
BE AN EARLY BIRD: Supermarket meat managers chop as much as 50 percent from the original price of meat, fish and poultry when expiration dates are near. Make friends with store personnel so you’ll be first in line to grab the bounty. Items close to the expiration date that cannot be consumed within 24 hours should be frozen. — Ray D.
BAKERY BARGAINS: Find an outlet (check the phone book) where bakeries unload the day’s overproduction. You’ll find high-quality, fresh products at rock-bottom prices. Time your trip for sale day and save even more! Bakery items freeze well, so stock up. — Reese P.
CREATIVE GIVING: When local grocery stores have a two-for-one special, I purchase one for myself and save the free one to give to a food bank or charitable cause. Of course, this works only on canned or other nonperishable foods. I find that passing my savings on to someone else is an effective way I can give back on my limited income. — Irene S.
Mary invites questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of “7 Money Rules for Life,” released in 2012. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.