Want to live better on the money you already make? Visit to find hundreds of articles to help you stretch your day and your dollar.

Forgotten pins

I have a hard time remembering some of my PIN numbers. This is especially true for the ones I don’t use often. Therefore, I put them in my phone. I make up a name that reminds me of the account. Since most pins are four numbers, I use the last four digits of the phone number for the PIN.


Security deposit refunds

It’s not uncommon for landlords to try to keep a security deposit. I’ve found that if I take pictures the day I move into an apartment and then another set when I move out, they're more likely to give my money back.

It’s hard for them to claim that I mistreated the apartment when I have photo proof.


Easy stove top cleaning

You can clean your smooth stove top without fancy cleaners. Just sprinkle some baking soda on it and then spritz with white vinegar. If you let it sit for a few minutes, most stuff will come off. A few will need a second application and a bit of light scrubbing. It’s still cheaper and easier than anything I used to do.


Flood insurance

The recent flooding problem in California was a good reminder to get flood insurance if you’re anywhere near a flood zone. Spring always brings some flooding near rivers. You must have the insurance 30 days before coverage starts. If you live near a river that could overflow its banks, now is the time to buy it.


Furniture and appliance deals

Here’s a place that you’d probably never look for inexpensive furniture. It’s the rent-to-own store. Their rental rates are crazy, but sometimes people only keep a TV, fridge, or stove for a short time. The store repossesses it and can’t sell it for new. We asked and found that most of those items were selling for about a third of their new price.


Restaurant meals at home

With three teens, taking the family out for dinner is expensive, but I miss having a night away from cooking and cleaning. Now, my teens give me a break one night a week. They do the cooking and cleaning. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s still nice to take the day off. They’re learning valuable skills that will serve them well later. It is a two-fer in my book!


Important stats

I was tired of being in a store and forgetting the size air filter I needed for my air conditioner or the part number for the filter on our ice maker. Now I keep a .doc file on my laptop and a digital image of it on my phone. If I’m in Home Depot, I can open the picture and find the information I need. I no longer buy the wrong stuff and need to stand in line to return it.


Big bill problems

We’ve had trouble accumulating an emergency fund. It seemed like no matter what we tried it didn’t work. When a big bill came along like home or auto insurance, we had to use our credit cards. I decided that this year would be different. I totaled all the big bills that we knew about like insurance and taxes. Then I divided the total by the number of pay periods in a year and had that amount automatically deducted from each paycheck and transferred to a savings account. We may not have every dollar we need when the bills come due, but we're sure a lot better off than when we had nothing saved ahead of time.


Last minute shopping

Want to get great deals at the farmers’ or flea markets? Go about an hour before closing. You’ll find vendors much more willing to deal on everything from veggies to collectibles if they know they'll have to pack up unsold items. I bought a whole bushel of potatoes for $2 last week! I’ve noticed that there are a few of us who shop at closing time. We’re probably sisters in frugality!


The two-hour bathroom update

The wood vanity in our bathroom didn’t look bad, but it was dated. I decided to paint it a color that would contrast with the bathroom walls. I gave the cabinet and doors a quick sanding just to rough up the surface, so the paint would stick. An hour later, I had a whole new look in my bathroom for the cost of a gallon of paint. I think I might go down to the resale shop to see if I can’t find some new hand towels that will go with the new color scheme. It probably will cost me another couple of dollars.


Water heater maintenance

Each spring, I do some simple maintenance on my water heater. I begin by turning off the electricity and shutting off the cold water supply line.

Then I attach a hose to the spigot on the bottom of the water heater and drain it. You’d be surprised what comes out. Once it’s drained, I shut the valve and check out the anode rod. Most water heaters have an anode rod that gradually gets eaten away. Its purpose is to keep the water heater metal tank from being eaten away. You can find videos on YouTube that’ll show you how to do it. Combined, the two jobs don’t take over two hours. If I can get an extra few years out of my water heater, it’ll be time well spent.


Spending awareness

My husband and I had a hard time controlling our spending. Money just slipped through our hands. Therefore, we’re trying something new this week. We’re only spending money on odd numbered dates. If I need gas in my car, I will buy it on the 25th, but not the 24th. I know that doesn’t save anything, but it does make me think about where I’m spending money. It’s still early, but I think that we’re actually spending a little less than we used to spend.

Mary Ellen

Do you have a tip that you’d like to share? Just send your suggestion to

Read or Share this story: