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My laundry solution

I prefer the name brand laundry detergent, but I don't like the cost; therefore, I only use it on our better clothes. For our undies, my husband's work clothes and the kids' play clothes, I use a cheaper store brand. It's not a huge saving, but it does add up over time.


Finding a good, affordable mechanic

If your car is getting older and out of warranty, you'll have the occasional repair. Here's a great way to find a good mechanic: ask at an independent used car lot who they use. If you find a couple that use the same shop, you've probably found a good, cheap mechanic to fix your car.


Special interest

I've always been fascinated by the stars. Recently I've been trying to learn more about astronomy. I was looking for an adult education course when my sister suggested I check out our local state college. I'm auditing the Astronomy 101 class. It meets Tuesday and Thursday evenings. I'm learning a lot and having fun doing it.


How to find $500 

My husband and I wanted an emergency fund, but we couldn't seem to get it together in the past. This year, we're trying something different. Twice a week, we're having breakfast for dinner, such as scrambled eggs and toast. I figure that we'll save about $5 each time we do that. At $10 a week for 52 weeks, we'll save $500 this year.


Unexpected savings

If you're a senior, always ask if they offer a discount. I was surprised when I asked a plumber if he offered a senior discount and he said that he did. I used to just ask at places I expected to have one. Now I ask every place I spend money. It doesn't always work, but you'd be surprised how often it does. Any money saved is a good thing.


Decorative cutting board

If you want a cheap, easy-to-keep-clean cutting board, visit the tile section of your local home center and buy one tile that matches your kitchen decor. Avoid any that are embossed or have a rough surface. You can get them in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you choose one that's on sale, it's often less than a buck.


Finding used appliances

In my town, the pawn shops sell appliances. While they're not top-of-the-line brands, many are high-capacity models that come with a 30-day guarantee. You should check around to see if you can snag a deal at one of these places. We bought our microwave at a pawn shop almost two years ago, and it works just fine. Plus, when I asked the owner to give me his best price, he knocked 25 percent off the sticker price!

Andrea S.

Why we grow beans

We have found that planting green beans is the most useful thing to do in our garden, so each year we plant more. First, pole beans give us three or even four uninterrupted months of tender fresh beans for our dinner every night, with plenty to share. Second, because we have to trellis them (the "pole" part of pole beans), they don't take up very much space when we consider how much food we are growing. Third, because they grow up the trellis, we don't need to weed them after they are established. Fourth, the whole fresh beans freeze very well and are used in all sorts of recipes. Finally, all the whole beans we don't get to (the ones that get tough or turn brown before we pick them) can be left on the vine until they are totally dry. Then they can be harvested for the seeds, which look just like Great Northern beans. When cooked, they taste just like them too. Last year, we harvested two to three pounds of fresh beans per week for 13 weeks from a total of a dozen plants and shelled out three pounds of dry beans late in the fall, all from one $7 seed packet.


Overly expensive meds

My doctor prescribed an inhaler as well as antibiotics when I had bronchitis recently. I have Medicare and a Humana supplement. When I went to the drugstore to fill the prescriptions, I learned that the co-pay for the inhaler was $280. I was shocked, of course, and phoned Humana. There was no generic, and this was the cost, which was not affordable in any way for me.

I had seen a television advertisement that stated if one is unable to pay for a prescription to contact the manufacturing company, who "may be able to help." So I did. I spoke to a pleasant woman there about my predicament, and she ended up giving me a coupon for a free inhaler good for 30 days of puffing, which my drugstore filled for free.

In my opinion, it certainly pays to contact a drug company in such a situation. Sometimes there's a coupon for a percentage off and sometimes the drug will be free.

Mary J.

Custom coffee

For many of us, the treat of going to Starbucks is not a plain cup of coffee but a fancier choice. You can flavor your pot of coffee at home with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice on the coffee grounds before brewing.

Another way to flavor your coffee is with flavored syrups. A company called Torani® makes many flavors, and some are even sugar-free. You can buy a wine-sized bottle for $5 to $8 at TJ Maxx and World Market. This will sweeten and flavor at least 10 to 12 cups of coffee and there are dozens of flavors, including the very popular pumpkin pie spice. Brew coffee, pour in some syrup and cream, and you have your own custom creation for a fraction of the cost of Starbucks.

If you miss having a pastry with your coffee, buy a can of cinnamon rolls when they're on sale for $0.99, bake them all up, store them in the refrigerator and warm one up while you're brewing your coffee. This is much cheaper than Starbucks.


More: Dollar Stretcher: The dining out do over

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