Save on Home Expenses
From free TV shows to recycled fish tank water, use these tips to save on costs at home
En español | View for less. Netflix streams movies to your home for $8 a month. See free TV shows at Hulu.com, TVClassicShows.com and TVLand.com. Or pick up a film at Redbox kiosks for $1. Network websites also offer some free viewing.
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Repurpose pantyhose. Use the legs to scrub dishes, shine shoes, train shrubs or store onions, flower bulbs and paintbrushes. The seat can protect squash and melons from garden critters or be stretched over a wire hanger to make a pond or pool skimmer.
Soft touch. Cut dryer sheets into two. Each half has enough active ingredient for a large load of laundry.
Hang up. Ditch your cell plan if you use the phone only for emergencies. You can call 911 from any working cellphone, even if you don't have a service plan or assigned number. A mobile phone costs as little as $10. Check out freebies at American Cell Phone Drive.
Penny-wise superfoods. What foods give you the most vitamins and minerals for the least money? In descending order, the best vegetables are cabbage, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens and carrots. Top fruits are watermelon, plums, oranges, apples and strawberries.
Free music online. Internet radio stations such as nuTsie, StereoMood and Jango offer music to fit your taste and mood. Radio Tuna searches for online stations currently streaming the artist or genre you've requested.
Try homesteading. To boost their populations, some rural communities in Minnesota, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa provide free land to build a home, often with tax incentives. Do a Web search for "free land" or contact the Center for Rural Affairs for details.
Next: How recycled junk mail can save you money.
Down the drain. Don't brush your hair over a sink. Discard cooking grease into cans, not into the drain. Pour a kettle of boiling water down each sink monthly to dislodge grease and soap scum before it hardens into clogs.
Use every bubble. Don't discard slivers of soap. Melt them in a double boiler and pour the liquid into a pan to make new bars. Or put them into a leg from old pantyhose and use until the suds are gone.
Tomorrow's soup. When you prepare a chicken, turkey or ham for dinner, freeze the bones to use later for soup stock. And make more than you need for one dinner — the leftovers can be frozen as take-to-work lunch.
Natural pest control. Cockroaches hate catnip-simmered water sprayed near baseboards. To repel mosquitoes, dab lavender oil on your skin or drink two teaspoons of cider vinegar in a glass of water for a pore-emitted repellent. If this repels you, check out the many commercial products on the market.
End postage hikes. Buying "forever" stamps means you won't have to worry about higher postage costs when mailing a 1-ounce first-class letter, regardless of future hikes. And some stamp dealers will sell you bulk quantities of old regular stamps at a discount from face value.
Cheap textbooks. Cut the average $1,000 annual book bill for your college offspring by guiding them to Bartelby.com or Gutenberg.org for free downloads of selected textbooks. To rent books, there's Chegg.com, BookRenter.com and CampusBookRentals.com.
Return to sender. Reply envelopes in junk mail can be slit, turned inside out, and closed up with a dab of glue. Voila! A perfectly good envelope for mailing.
Pet meds. Lower-cost generic versions of Frontline flea and tick protection are available at Walmart, PetSmart and Petco. Ask local pet shops and animal shelters about low-cost vaccine and spay/neutering clinics.
A little off the top. At barber and salon training programs, students provide free or low-cost haircuts, stylings and sometimes manicures, usually under the supervision of experts.
Neighborhood bargains. Enter your city or ZIP code, and Sciddy.com lists discounts in your area for people 50 or older. The savings range up to 15 percent on everything from travel to pet services.
Weigh in. Not every 10-pound bag of potatoes is created equal. The weight marked on prepackaged produce is actually the minimum required by law. So use the scale to find the best buy.
Home spa. Your kitchen is stocked with natural beauty products. To soften skin and exfoliate, pour a gallon of whole milk into a warm bath, then climb in. (Cleopatra did.) Add honey or lavender oil for scent. Or wrap whole oatmeal in a cloth, immerse in warm water and squeeze out several times, then splash your face with the water. Make a scrub by mixing 4T. cornmeal with the juice and pulp of half an orange.
Call overseas for free. Freephone2phone.com gives you 10 minutes of free talk to landlines in 55 countries and cellphones in some. You listen to short ads, then connect.
A personal windfall. Lots of free firewood drops in your yard over the course of a year (this is where the word "windfall" comes from). Gather it. Or visit building supply businesses that are giving away old pallets made from untreated wood.
Pickle perks. Pour brine from pickle jars into almost-empty salad dressing containers and shake to mix with the dressing still clinging to the sides. Or whisk mayonnaise with brine to make an instant salad dressing.
Remove the fish first. Don't throw out the water from the fish tank — pour it on your garden. It's a great fertilizer. And green to boot.
You may also like: More ways to save at home. >>
Contributors: Arthur Dalglish, Sid Kirchheimer, Cathie Gandel, Joan Rattner Heilman, K.C. Summers, Jeff Yeager, Bob Calandra and AARP members like you.