Colorful Gift Wrapping I save the comic section from our Sunday paper and use the paper to wrap children's birthday gifts. (I have also asked my neighbors who do not have small children to give us their comic sections instead of throwing them out when they're done.) I cut out a character from the paper and use it on the bow. Madeleine
Cleaning Silk Plants The very best solution for cleaning silk plants is rubbing alcohol. Mix it 50/50 with water and spray until the dust starts to run off the plants. It will dry quickly and cleans like a dream. I have used this for many years. It works well for dried flowers as well. A
Flannel PJ Material I love having matching pajamas for my family at Christmas. Last year, I couldn't find any Christmas flannel that I liked for a reasonable cost. I decided to check out the cost of flannel sheets instead. The sheets that I found were less than half of what it would have cost me to buy material. Then, after Christmas, I found sheets for the next year on clearance. Cassandra
Custom Yogurt Flavors I don't like waste. It makes things expensive coming into my home and expensive going out to a landfill. When I thaw frozen fruit, I save the juice in a glass jar in the refrigerator to add to plain (and usually cheaper) yogurt that I buy in large containers. Then, I just add sugar or sweetener. It's the same color and consistency as flavored yogurt from the store, but it's cheaper. It also cuts down on waste. L
Cat Treats Cat treats can be very expensive, especially if you have multiple cats. Instead of purchasing these treats, I have been purchasing smaller size bags (around 3.5 pounds) of healthy cat food. I usually buy a brand or flavor that my cats don't eat as their regular food and use that as their "treat." This way, I know they are getting healthy treats (instead of kitty junk food), and it is also much, much cheaper in the long run than buying large quantities of small bags of treats. Your kitty will never know the difference! Laura P. in Canton, OH
Help for a Hospitalized Friend I learned of a new way to help a friend in the hospital for free. If your friend is going through chemotherapy or surgery and needs blood, ask if they have an ID or account with the blood bank. Each unit you donate is credited to his or her account, reducing how much your friend must pay for blood and blood products. You may even be able to help a friend defray medical costs and earn points in awards programs offered by some blood banks. TW
Gift Basket Ideas I like to make theme gift baskets, such as items for a spaghetti dinner, a tea luncheon or party, or a rainy/snowy day basket, which could include a book/magazine, coffee, tea and/or hot chocolate. A "feel better" basket could include some chicken noodle soup, crackers, hot tea (ginger would be good), a magazine or book, a box of tissues, some cough drops, and chocolate candy. Each of these gift baskets could include a crossword puzzle book. There are so many themes that can be used. ER
Travel Entertainment I have two small girls who get easily bored on long car trips. We thought about purchasing a portable DVD player so they could watch movies, but these were beyond our budget. Then I remembered my laptop has a DVD player, so now we just take this along with us, placing it where they can see it in the car. When we get to our destination, we charge it back up. Also, instead of buying them a new DVD to keep them entertained, we just rent one from Redbox that they haven't seen and return it when we arrive at our destination. Julie S.
Lower Heating Bills Most homeowners have an area or room that they keep warmer in the winter. We set our thermostat at 55 degrees in the whole house, but we keep a space heater going in the main bathroom, and we keep the fireplace going in the kitchen/living room area. Our home has an open plan, which is hard to close off. Our solution is clear vinyl. It's available at our local fabric store. I added grommets and we hang sheets of it up to create an air cushion. The savings are tremendous. It doesn't block any light, and I can pull the sheets down in seconds if company is coming over. M.
Buy the Case I was at the local grocery store visiting with one of the clerks. One of the yogurts I always eat is frequently out of stock. I asked the clerk how we could remedy this issue. I asked if I could buy it by the case. She said that I could, and if I did, there would be a discount of about 25-30% off regular price. She told me I could do that with any item in the store. So, now when I have extra money, I stock up on my favorite nonperishable items. I get a discount. I am creating a stockpile (live ten miles from any town), and groceries are more than likely never going to be cheaper than they are now. The clerk said that this is like getting everything in the store on sale any day I want it to be. KR
Cleaning Fireplace Glass Old newspapers and ashes from the fireplace work beautifully on the glass of fireplace doors or clear woodstove doors. It's free. There are no fumes. Best of all, you are recycling! Jann in Maine
More Flavor! I have a couple of suggestions to boost the flavor of everyday foods. A tablespoon of sherry jazzes up cream soups and canned gravy. A grating of nutmeg is great in milk- or egg-based dishes. Stir in a tablespoon of instant coffee granules to a pot of chili. In an unused salt or spice shaker, mix equal parts lemon pepper, granulated garlic, and white sugar. A sprinkle of this boosts the flavor of cooked vegetables, fish, chicken, tomato sauce, and casseroles. Plus, it's sodium-free! Add this mixture just before serving. Evelyn S.
Inexpensive Office Gifts I got this idea while shopping for Christmas tree ornaments to pass out as gifts in the office. In the store, I saw the prettiest display. Clear wine glasses (which were for sale) were filled with gold tinsel. The glasses sparkled and looked absolutely gorgeous under the lights. I decided instead of purchasing gifts bags that I would purchase clear coffee mugs ($1 each), fill them with gold tinsel, and put the ornament ($1 each) inside the mug and tinsel. Then I "fluffed" the tinsel to hide the ornament. It was gorgeous, especially under the bright office lights, and the "package" turned into another gift! Lynn J.
Christmas Table My idea for a Christmas tablecloth consists of using old Christmas cards and clear vinyl that can be purchased by the yard at fabric stores. I place various Christmas cards and pictures my children have drawn on my table. Purchased icicles or any object that will lay flat can also be placed around the pictures. Then I lay the vinyl across the table after I have placed everything where I want it to be and use tape to keep the vinyl in place. I use enough clear vinyl to go underneath the table, so my tape doesn't show. P.
Raising Quick Cash for the Holidays The holidays are a great time of year to make some quick cash for little or no money invested. If you own a van, hire yourself out as a delivery person or mover. Are you artistic? Wrap gifts or make holiday decorations. Play Santa, an elf, or a reindeer. Be a personal shopper or assistant for someone who can't get out or is very busy. Businesses are looking for holiday help. Christina in NYC
Natural Facial Scrub Here's a tip that I learned from a friend. She makes small muslin pouches, adds a couple pinches of oatmeal, dampens with a little water, and scrubs her face and neck lightly. The oatmeal makes up a wonderful cleansing lather, leaves skin squeaky clean, and leaves behind powerful antioxidants. It's also cheap. She uses fresh oatmeal for every wash. Girls who start this at a young age end up with very few wrinkles and laugh lines into their adulthood. For older women, it really slows down the aging process. S.
Holiday Flags I have always loved holiday flags as outside decorations. I was in need of a way to organize them, so I wouldn't continuously buy new for an upcoming holiday. To do this, I simply took a multi-tiered skirt/pant hanger and clipped all of my flags to the hanger by season. This has helped tremendously with keeping track of what I have as some get tattered after a season and get thrown away. The skirt hanger helps me keep them all in one place and easily assess my stock. Nancy R.
Great Kindling When we take our Christmas tree down after the holiday, we cut off all the branches on it to make kindling. These kindling pieces start a fire in the fireplace fast. Plus, the smell of the pine fire makes any home smell wonderful. There's nothing like snuggling up to a cozy fire in the fireplace on a snowy evening with a hot cup of cocoa and left over holiday cookies to munch on. MG
Alternatives to Soda It's hard to believe this works, but I am a soda addict and it works for me! Here's what I do. I can drink as much soda as I want, but before I drink that soda, I have to first drink an eight-ounce or larger glass of water. Everyone knows all the benefits of drinking more water, but when I drink it, I honestly feel better! I have more energy, and I feel like my metabolism is on full-speed. My weight loss attests to that fact (altering nothing else)! And it isn't due to a reduction in sugar, because my soda is diet. I've tried mixing juices with sparkling water and all those other concoctions. When I want a diet cola, that's what I want! And that's why this little trick works for me. Denise S.
Saving on Baby Wipes Even though many parents are going back to cloth diapers instead of disposables, they often still use packaged baby wipes, adding to the significant cost of diapering a baby. Cloth diaper wipes can be very expensive, sometimes costing a dollar each for what amounts to a piece of flannel fabric to wipe off poop! We've found that the white flannel diapers used as burp cloths or diaper inserts can be cut up and used very effectively as baby wipes. One diaper will yield six wipes. Simply cut them into thirds following the seams and then cut each third in half. All the sides can be hemmed, but it's not at all necessary. We purchased a small diaper wipe warmer that has lasted three years now and keep four to five wipes in it at all times (first they are moistened simply with water). The cloth wipe stays warm for longer than the disposables, and usually one wipe is sufficient for all but the messiest jobs. Simply drop the wipe in the cloth diaper bag or bucket for washing with the diapers as usual. When we are out and about, we keep the moist cloth wipes in a zipper bag in our diaper bag. Amy