Dollar Stretcher: Before you shop ...

Marco Eagle

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.

Is your parent a tax dependent?

Check with the IRS or your tax preparer. If you provide a home for a parent, his/her income is under a certain amount, and he/she doesn’t file a tax return, you might be able count them as a dependent when you file your taxes.


Controlling food waste

I hate throwing away food, but getting my family to cooperate isn't easy. I'm now keeping track of the food we waste and how much it costs us. After a week, I'll share the number with them. Maybe then I'll get their help in not wasting so much good food.


Easy shower clean

Here's an easy way to clean a glass shower enclosure. Put a little hair conditioner on a shower sponge and wipe down the glass. Wait a few minutes and then wipe again with a water-soaked sponge. The soap scum will just sheet right off. If you have a spray nozzle, that works well, too. It's easy.


Easy decorating

Getting out the ladder to decorate our second story was getting to be too much for my husband and me. Therefore, we decided to outline our windows with lights from the inside! It's easy, and from the street, you can't tell the difference at night. This year, we're thinking of doing all our lights from inside.


Side gig retirement savings

Since I was having trouble keeping track of my sporadic online income, I decided to link my three store accounts to a new Roth IRA account. This makes saving easier, and since I don't see the money in my checking account, I'm not tempted to spend it. It's also easier to prove that the yearly total is well below the threshold for reportable income.


Can you help me?

Before I try to get a discount or resolve a complaint, I ask the person if they're in a position to help me. If not, I ask them to get me someone who can. This is especially important if you're trying to do something on the phone. Most call centers give their people scripts, and you won't get any help while they're reading from the script. They might refuse to put you through to someone who could help, but at least, you won't waste your time with someone who does not have the authority to do what you ask.


Winter car care

If you live up north, you know that your car takes a beating in winter. Ice, snow, and slush can trash your car's carpets. Therefore, each fall, I go to a carpet store and buy a couple of old carpet sample squares to put in my car. They're usually $1 a square. Sometimes they are even free. When all the snow has melted in the spring, I throw away the squares and have a clean car carpet underneath!


Two young women smile while shopping.

Before you shop

As I watch people start to ramp up their frantic shopping, I remember doing the same thing and worrying over the bills later. I then started to purchase small items all through the year for stocking stuffers and that eased the burden in November and December. Looking back, my grown children
speak of Christmas and their remembrances and none of them are about specific gifts. They remember making a gingerbread house the first weekend in December with their friends at our home, the daily advent calendar, and setting up the nativity scene on the first of December. The creche (crib) was bare, but each evening we sat down in front of it and talked about the day. Each child was able to earn straw for each day depending on their behavior. They always got some regardless of how difficult the day. The
idea was to make the softest bed ever. December was usually a quiet month behavior-wise. If you are a parent, keep asking yourself if getting the gift of the year for your child will really matter 10 or 20 years down the road. Give yourself and your budget a break.


Measure and save

Most liquid laundry detergents come with opaque bottle caps with nearly  invisible fill guidelines. I used to "guess-timate" how much detergent to use and toss it in the washer. One day I looked at the label where the manufacturer states exactly how many ounces to use. I took a Sharpie and wrote those amounts on the side of the bottle for small, medium, and large loads. Then I began measuring the
detergent with a small, clear measuring cup instead of estimating in the bottle cap. My jug of detergent now lasts about 50 percent longer than it used to and my laundry is as clean as it ever was. "Guess-timating" can cost you!


My mom loves fleece

It is the time of year when stores begin to put out the 50" x 60" fleece throws for the holidays. These are usually priced as low as $1.99 to $2.50 for each one. These are probably given as stocking stuffers or just bought to curl up under while watching TV. I have found another use for the throws. My elderly mother chills easily and she likes these to snuggle under while viewing TV, but I had a new idea. She had gone to bed cold and not feeling well with a stomach bug. She was afraid of having an accident while in bed. I slipped one of these throws on top of the fitted sheet on her bed. She got in and covered up. She did have an accident, but the throw contained it and her bed stayed clean. Once I had removed the soiled throw, she requested another due to the fact that she stayed nice and warm with it on her bed. We use these year round now on her bed, and they wash up wonderfully. She now will not sleep without one.
One of the local farm and home stores was offering these throws for $2.50 each. I bought a baker's dozen. Now she has plenty to use, and I am not having to wash throws every day. I can wait until I have quite a few for a load of laundry. When these are marked down at the end of the season, I am going to really load up. These would be awesome for an elderly patient in a nursing care facility for the same reason I use them for my mother.

Lana from Indiana

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