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

Be prepared for power outages

A generator is a big blessing no matter what the climate. My friend keeps his in good working order by running it monthly for 20 to 30 minutes and by checking the gasoline and oil monthly. Whether your climate threatens you with ice and snow or warm weather storms, it's good to know you can depend on your generator when you devote a few minutes to its monthly upkeep.

Bonny

 

Grocery saving secret

The secret to saving on groceries is to take the time to read labels. I used to rush through the grocery store. I figured less time meant less temptation to buy things not on my list. Now I read labels. I have learned a lot by comparing the ingredients on items that look similar. Some store brands have the exact same ingredients as the more expensive brand names. On some processed foods, once I read the label, I saw ingredients that caused me to stop buying them and go more natural. I saved money in the process. I was also surprised at how often the bigger package was more expensive on a per unit basis than the smaller package. I guess we're all supposed to think that family sized means least expensive. I may take 30 minutes more to shop, but I'm feeding my family better and saving money as well!

Jo

Prepping for retirement

My wife and I loved raising our family in our two-story home, but now that we're nearing retirement, we've decided to move. We are moving not so much to downsize (we'll still have plenty of space) but instead to have everything on one level. It's not important now, but we've read that many people end up waiting too long and make bad decisions about where they want to live. We figure that we'll take our time now, so we can choose to live how we want.

Dave

Updating blinds

Here's a cheap update for vertical blinds. You can either spray paint them or cover them with wallpaper. Spraying them is easier and works well on fabric covered blinds. Wallpaper takes more time but can be really dramatic. Since you're only buying a few yard of wallpaper, it's not expensive. Your only other cost is some spray adhesive.

A

Truly custom framing

When we repainted our living room, the matting on our pictures clashed with the new color. I solved the problem by getting a pint of paint from the same paint chip two shades darker than the room. I disassembled the pictures and painted the existing mats. Now the pictures look like we had them matted specifically for our living room for the cost of a little paint!

Rena

Creative foot warmers

My feet were always cold, so I used one of those reflector things for a car window that was just lying around. I took the liner out of my boots, traced it onto the reflector, cut out the traced pieces, and then slipped it and the liner into my boots. I no longer have cold feet. I made them for my whole family. They often can be found at thrift stores.

Seva

Reduce your heating bill

Here's a way to make your house feel warmer this winter. Buy a small warm air humidifier. You can find cheap ones for $35. It'll save at least that much in lower fuel bills. I move mine from room to room, but I'm thinking of buying more. Not only can I turn down the thermostat, but it also feels better when the air inside our house isn't so dry.

Julie

Teacher love

I am a schoolteacher. I am also on a diet. I dread students bringing me goodies. I think most teachers would say the same thing. Some inexpensive items I would love to receive are number 2 pencils (my student are forever forgetting their pencils), binder clips (to hold stacks of papers together), notebook paper, and file folders. All kinds of inexpensive office supplies would be most welcome!
Our school stocks every classroom with electric pencil sharpeners and facial tissue, but if your child's doesn't, those would also be welcomed and used. I would also love a gift card to Walmart (school supplies), a teacher supply store, a bookstore, or an office supply store.
Often these items cost less than the prefabricated gift baskets, toiletries, "World's Best Teacher" trinkets, and coffee cups that people think we want.

Ms. B.

For any occasion: Pretty gift wrap

To me, the way a gift is presented is as important as the gift itself. Therefore, I like my gifts to be neatly wrapped. Fancy colored paper can get expensive, so I buy a lot of red and green tissue paper. To keep the gifts from looking boring, I use all kinds of ribbons to make festive bows. Using YouTube videos, I have learned how to make many different bows. My family has started saving my bows to use on their gifts for friends.

Cate

Tip for next year: A less expensive Christmas tree

Here's an idea that many people can use. We love a Christmas tree, but it always dominated our family room. Last year, when we were tree shopping, we asked if they had any trees that were bare on one side. They had one that had lost some branches in shipment that they sold us for about half price. We put that side against the wall. Not only did we save some money, but our family room wasn't as crowded. I hope that we can find a one-sided tree this year!

Nicole

More: Dollar Stretcher: Natural holiday decor

More: Dollar Stretcher: Before you shop ...

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