Readers' Tips

Basic Tools Every Homeowner Should Own

My basic tool set consists of a light and a heavy hammer, a 25' tape measure, screwdrivers, a set of adjustable wrenches, and a rubber mallet. I keep these in a tool box. I also hung an inexpensive tool rack in my garage, so I can grab the tools I use most often without getting out the tool box.

Other handy tools include a toilet auger and plunger, a tool to remove clogged hair from drains, and a nail set (to push nails level with the surface). A vise grip and a file are also very useful, as is a sharpening stone to be used on knives, scissors, and other cutting tools. No doubt other tools will be needed as time goes by, so a large tool box that can accommodate other tools is a good idea.

I have seen some tool box kits filled with tools, but I don't know about the quality. Tools will last a lifetime if the quality is good. All my hammers and screwdrivers are over 40 years old, and they work fine.

editor's note: Visit here for more on the basic tools every homeowner should own.

Summer Tradition

Like most moms, I hate it when my kids say that they have nothing to do, and I don't want them sitting in front of a screen all summer. Therefore, we created something we call "$5 Fun." We come up with an activity that we all can do that costs less than $5. So far, we've had a water balloon fight, took a nature walk in nearby woods, and bought a board game at a thrift store that was in our budget. The kids are happy, and they're learning how to have fun without spending a lot of money.

Additional TDS Resource: 200+ ideas for summertime fun

Divorced Economics

Prior to my divorce, I didn't give much thought to my money situation, so it was a surprise when I realized how little money I'd have to support me and my two kids. It didn't help when my ex couldn't be counted on for the alimony and child support that he was supposed to pay. Since both of my kids were preschool age, I figured it would be better to find at-home work instead of trying to pay for daycare. I found some online work that I could do at home. On Saturdays, my mom would take care of the kids while I cleaned three houses. It's been rough, but we've made it for three years now. Now that both kids are in school, I'm hoping that it gets a little easier!

Additional TDS Resource: For at-home work, TDS recommends Flexjobs!

Laundry Lesson

Back in high school, my chemistry teacher taught us that laundry detergent just makes it easier for the water to dissolve dirt on your clothes. It doesn't actually do the cleaning. The agitation of the water does it. She suggested that we should use as little detergent as possible. I've found that my clothes come out clean, and they last longer, too. It is important to follow the washer's manufacturer recommendation for loading. If you put in too many clothes, the washer cannot agitate the clothes properly.

Additional TDS Resource: Does cheap laundry detergent work as well as expensive brands?

No Chemical Weed Killer

If you're looking for a kid- and pet-safe weed killer, here it is. Take a gallon of plain white vinegar. Add one cup of salt and ten drops of any dish soap. Spray it on any vegetation you want to kill. Usually one spray will do it, but sometimes it is necessary to follow up with a second spritz.

Additional TDS Resource: More on organic weed control

A Cooler Kitchen

I don't like a hot kitchen or high A/C bills. Therefore, during the summer, I try to use my oven and stovetop as seldom as possible. I use my microwave, slow cooker, toaster oven, and outdoor grill almost every day. I figure there's no sense in adding heat to the kitchen that I have to pay to remove.

Additional TDS Resource: 7 ways to save on your summer BBQ

Credit Limit Caution

We're about to apply for a mortgage and wanted to raise our credit score. We thought that reducing the amount of our credit limit would be a good idea until we spoke with a financial planner. He told us that only worked if we didn't carry a balance on our credit card account. If we owe a balance, reducing our credit limit will increase the percent of our available credit that we're using. That will actually lower our credit score. Therefore, if we want to maximize our credit score, we shouldn't reduce our available credit if we owe a balance on the account.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on Improving Your Credit Score

Buy a Bike

Before you buy a bike, call your local police department and find out if they have a police auction. Many towns do. They auction off things that have been recovered from robberies, including bicycles. Often, it is possible to get a like new bike for a fraction of what you'd pay at the store.

Additional TDS Resource: How much could you save biking?

An Affordable Wedding

We couldn't afford a big expensive wedding, so we decided to do our wedding in two stages. We held a private wedding ceremony for family at my parent's house. Only our immediate families attended. A week later, we held a potluck reception at our neighborhood clubhouse. We invited our extended family and friends. We told them not to buy a wedding gift but to bring a dish to share instead. We brought our own music (Pandora) and had a wonderful time for very little money. We missed out on some wedding gifts, but we also missed out on a big credit card balance to pay off!

Additional TDS Resource: More frugal wedding ideas

Finding a Job

Many professions and trades have an organization to represent them. If you're unemployed, they can be very helpful. Begin by finding out if they have discounted memberships for those who are unemployed. Once you're a member, make sure you take advantage of networking opportunities. That might mean volunteering for a committee or project. They might also offer discounts on training classes.

Additional TDS Resource: How to survive a layoff

Spend Time, Save Money

Two things help me save money at the grocery store. These include my shopping list and my reading glasses. Everyone knows that sticking to a shopping list is a money-saver, but I also started bringing my glasses, so I could read the fine print on labels. There are many choices for most things on my list. I found that if I read the labels, I can often substitute store brands. The ingredients are the same. I find that I spend a little more time in the store, but that time is well-rewarded. If an extra half hour in the store reduces my bill by $10, that earns me $20 an hour! That is better than what I'm getting on my job, and I actually think I save more than $10 each trip to the store.

Additional TDS Resource: How to avoid the grocery store for a month

Why Buy Gift Cards?

So many people seem to love gift cards. They buy them for others and they want to receive them as gifts. I don't buy them because I know that gift cards are much less useful than just plain cash! A gift card often has an expiration date. Buying one often involves paying a fee in addition to the cost of the card itself. Yet the company selling the card is very eager. They know that about 25% of gift cards are never redeemed, so for the company, it's free money! It's a real rip-off for the buyer, and for the recipient, it often just means they have a new errand on their to-do list. Instead, take the cash and wrap it in a short note, expressing your wish that your friend or relative use it for something they would really enjoy. Clark Howard, the consumer advisor, even has a "no-gift card gift certificate" that you can print out and wrap around your cash gift. There's no expiration date on the gift and no rules, and it's good everywhere. You save money (no fees) and get the best use out of your money.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on Trading and Selling Unwanted Gift Cards

Selling Your Home?

Everyone knows to do some basic maintenance before putting a home up for sale. Things like touch-up painting and repairs are important. However, you might want to also have a professional home inspection done. Let potential buys see the report. That way, they'll know that you're not hiding anything from them.

Additional TDS Resource: More on preparing your home for sale

Empty Nester Air Conditioning

If you're an empty nester or live alone, you can cut your air conditioning bills by installing a room air conditioner in your bedroom. At night, turn off your central air, close your bedroom door, and use the room unit. You can find units for less than $150 that should pay for themselves before the summer is over.

Additional TDS Resource: Visit our library section on Frugal Ways to Lower Your Cooling Costs

Quick Cash

Summer is a good time to make some extra cash. People taking vacations can provide you with a real opportunity. Some will need to have their pets watched. Others will want their grass cut or their mail retrieved. Some will want to have their gardens managed. It's as simple as putting an ad in Craigslist and listing the things you're willing to do and how to contact you. Many things can be done in the evening if you have a full-time job. Teens can also make some cash. Either way, it's a real opportunity to make some quick cash.

Additional TDS Resource: More on raising cash

Moldy Cheese?

Don't throw out moldy cheese. Instead, prevent it by adding a few drops of white vinegar to the baggie or container that you store the cheese in. It won't change the flavor of the cheese, and it prevents mold from forming. I had some cheese in the fridge for months without a bit of mold!

Additional TDS Resource: 14 food rescuing tips from grandma

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