Dollar Stretcher: Ugly can save you money

Marco Eagle

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Ugly food

Scarred citrus, squat apples and misshapen kiwi.

Have you ever heard of ‘ugly food?’ I didn't until we were at a party and I talked with someone who worked in the produce department of a grocery store. He said that his store sold slightly damaged produce that just didn’t look good if customers asked for it. I’ve been doing that lately and we’ve saved a bunch of money on our grocery bill.


Carpet spots

Our toddler got an ink stain on our living room carpet, and I couldn’t get it out no matter what I tried. Finally a friend suggested that I dye the spot back to its original color. I found some clothing dye that was close to the carpet’s color and applied it to the spot. It took a couple of applications, but now I can’t tell the spot was ever there.


Curb appeal

HGTV shows always say that people’s first impression of your house is important. Therefore, I do spring cleaning on the front of our house. The aluminum front screen door was a problem until I discovered that a squirt of dish soap and two cups of white vinegar in a gallon of water will add shine to the aluminum. It almost looks like new again.


Spending plan success

I’ve found the key to making a spending plan work. Have a “spending plan meeting” with yourself (and spouse if married) every week. I review my spending for the previous week and think about whether any of it was unnecessary or unwise. This simple review makes a big difference. Often, I’ll talk myself out of spending money by remembering my meeting.


Free retirement money

I got a big IRS refund this year. My accountant suggested that I do something different for next year. I increased my deductions, so there is less withheld from my check. At the same time, I upped my 401k contribution. I won’t get a big refund next year, but all that money will be making me more money for my retirement. The best thing is that my boss matches my contribution, so it’s like I’ve contributed twice as much.



I’ve gotten in the habit of asking for discounts everywhere I go. Whether I am buying a TV or booking a room for our vacation, I ask. All they can do is turn me down. I even ask in places you’d be afraid to ask. For instance we just had our wills redone. Just a few minor changes. When the lawyer’s bill came, I called her office and asked since it was a minor fix if they could adjust the bill. They did! I don’t think that I’ll ever return to the days of not asking for discounts.


Selling used stuff

Do you sell stuff on Craigslist or at garage sales? If so, you’ve probably had some things that you weren’t sure how much to ask for them. Before deciding how much, I ask myself two questions. First, is it valuable? If so, I want to get good money for it. I do a little online research to see what similar items are going for on eBay or at local resale shops. If it’s not very valuable, I ask myself what I would pay for it on Craigslist or at a garage sale. Then I mark it a little higher, so I can negotiate down if necessary. I can’t wait for garage sale season to start here in Michigan.


Oily driveway spots

My car had left a nasty oil spot on our driveway. It was right where everyone could see it as they walked to our front door. Here’s how I cleaned it up. I took some grease relief dishwashing detergent and squirted it all over the stain. They I spritzed it with water. I let it sit for an hour. Then I scrubbed with a stiff bristled brush. That removed about 80 percent of the stain. Then I hit it with some spray oven cleaner and let that sit for an hour. With a little more scrubbing, it was completely gone.


Finding scholarships

Don’t want to have huge student loans to repay after graduation? Do what my daughter did. She contacted a number of non-profit organizations that had a group in our town. She asked if they or their national organization had any scholarships that they offer. She applied for seven of them. Since they weren’t well advertised, there wasn’t a lot of competition to get a scholarship. They weren’t big amounts, but she did get two of them for $1,000 each.


It adds up

We all like our little treats. Mine was a trip to the vending machine on afternoon breaks for a candy bar. Each day, I’d feed the machine $1. One day, I did a little math in my head and realized that I was putting over $200 a year into that vending machine. Therefore, I decided to buy my daily candy bar at Sam’s and save more than $100 a year. It’s like finding money on the street.


Crew lunches

If you are part of a crew, it can be hard to save money on food. My nephew is an apprentice lineman and works on a six man crew. He was spending a lot of money on daily restaurant food until he suggested this money-saving idea. Each crew member is assigned a day to feed all the crew. The food has to be liked by the whole crew and obviously there has to be enough to fill up on. Each crew member only has to have a cup, plate, and utensils available. On his day, he and his wife make a giant sandwich with three meats, two cheeses, and all the fillings. They send condiments separately and include a bag of chips, two liters of drinks, ice, and apples. His wife shops for all the necessities with sales and coupons. Some of the crew members who have more money opt to take the crew to a restaurant. The more frugal crew members pack a brown bag for the whole crew. The crew loves the idea and those who enjoy saving are able to do so.

Van in AL

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