Once again, vinegar comes to the rescue.
I'd heard from various sources that a mix of vinegar and water makes a great window cleaner, and that you can use a sheet of newspaper instead of a paper towel to wipe the glass.
Recently my bathroom mirror was looking pretty dismal. Surely vinegar and water would work on mirrors, too, I thought.
I'm happy to report that a 50-50 vinegar/water solution and a single page of the Seattle Times left the mirror looking great. I'll never buy commercial window cleaner again -- and using newspaper will help me stretch a roll of paper towels even further.
Financial fire sales are becoming more common online.
I recently wrote an essay about why getting rid of some of the clutter in your life could help you save money. Then I read an Associated Press article about people who are emptying closets and attics just to keep the wolf from the door.
Online auctions are bristling with family heirlooms, home electronics and designer duds. Craigslist ads are getting increasingly frantic, like the one in which a teen begged on behalf of her unemployed mom for people to "please buy anything you can to help out." One cash-strapped Wisconsin woman put her diamond engagement ring up for grabs.
Craigslist has noted a 70% increase in for-sale listings since July 2007. Well, of course it has: There's no charge to sell an item on Craigslist.
You don't need your own garden in order to get fresh food.
Seattle is loaded with blackberry vines. The sight of all that free fruit makes me want to forage each summer. My arms get so thorn-raked it looks like I’ve tried to exorcise a cat, but I fill the freezer, make jam, and eat blackberries almost every day for weeks.
On my way to pick berries one end-of-summer day, I saw a dark-purple blob in the dust. A plum had fallen from a tree in a nearby yard. I broke open the windfall and took a tentative nibble from its golden interior. Sweet as the memory of first love.
Peeking through the fence, I could see the tree was loaded. I asked the homeowners if I could trade them a jar of jam for the fruit I’d need to make some. They told me to help myself: "We’re glad someone wants it."
You might be surprised where you can find bargain goods.
Want to get a roll of paper towels for 39 cents? Hit the auto supply store. Shocked at how expensive canned fruit has gotten? The drugstore might have an alternative. In the market for deeply discounted coffee, trash bags or toilet paper? Visit an office supply place.
These are some examples of the deals you can get if you stop thinking that foodstuffs and sundries can be purchased only in supermarkets. With the costs of basic foods continuing to rise, it really can pay to break out of the grocery gulag.
Yesterday I noticed long-grain rice on sale for $1.13 a pound at a local supermarket; the dollar store across the street sells 2 pounds for $1. Condensed soup is 99 cents and up at the grocery store, but I've gotten three cans for a buck on sale at Rite Aid. Five pounds of sugar costs $3.49 at Safeway but was $1.99 this week at Walgreens.
How long can you make that flattened toothpaste tube last?
A Smart Spending message board reader reports that "empty" doesn't always mean "empty." Posting on a thread about general frugality tips, "Canoes" told about cutting open a depleted tube of lotion and scraping out up to an extra week's worth of product.
Boy, am I glad I'm not the only one who does this.
Focus on 'experiences' rather than unwanted items.
This post comes from Abigail Perry, who blogs at I Pick Up Pennies.
The holidays mean joy and giving -- and garbage.
This isn't social commentary on commercialism -- I literally mean garbage. Think about the post-Christmas morning battlefield that was once your living-room floor: ripped, shredded wrapping paper and ribbon and toy boxes, waiting to be thrown in the trash.
Add to that all those "they meant well" gifts, and you have, well, waste. Household garbage levels increase 25 percent in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to this MSNBC article.
Resist the temptation to hit a drive-through.
School's back in session and retailers are trying to sell us items like breakfast cookies and individual bowls of cereal. Convenient, maybe, but also fairly pricey -- and would you really trust a 7-year-old with a bowl of cereal and milk in a moving car?
Besides, breakfast is the most important meal of the day for all ages. Over on the Smart Spending message board, some readers offer grownup strategies beyond granola bites and fast-food drive-throughs.
Your time might be more valuable than your money.
The less you earn, the more you’re likely to give away. People who earn $20,000 or less per year donate more (relative to their income) than higher earners.
Or so Arthur Brooks reports in his book about American benevolence, "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism."
Charity appears to benefit the givers as well. An article from the Christian Science Monitor noted that “greater charity tends to push up income."
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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