Dollar Stretcher: The dining out do over

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.

Home cleaners

It is quite popular to make cleaning products. I like to use vinegar and water to clean my kitchen counter tops. I have found that spray bottles from beauty supply stores are durable and available in a variety of sizes. They are very inexpensive, and they won't break after a few months.


The un-resolution

Everyone makes resolutions about things they're going to do in the new year, and by now, they've probably forgotten about them. I do it backwards. I decide something I'm not going to do or buy. I only do it for a month. This year, I decided that we'd go without paper towels for the month of January. We started using them again in February, but since we've found other options, we probably won't use as many. Next month, I'll try to do without my Starbucks fix. It can't be that hard to make some coffee to take to work with me.


Don't do it

There is a statement that's saved me many dollars and sleepless nights. It is "when in doubt, do nothing." It's kept me from making quick purchases and investments. I've avoided timeshares, fancy cars, too big houses, and many "can't miss investment opportunities" that turned out to be bogus. It is important to me that my kids learn to step back when not sure about something.


Wedding registries

I used to hate wedding gift registries. I'm a comparison shopper and didn't like being trapped at one store. Then I found out you can buy whatever it is somewhere else, call the registry, and they'll mark it purchased. Now I do my online comparison shopping. I've saved nearly 20 percent on some gifts. The couple doesn't know or care where I bought it. It looks like I'm going to three weddings this spring, so I'll be comparison shopping again.

Rose Ann

Learn to save

I love YouTube. I've learned a lot of things that help me save. Recently, I had a leak under the kitchen sink. In the past, I would have called a plumber. I decided to see what I could find online. Between a quick search and a video, I figured out what to do. I was so proud. Now when something breaks or needs repair, I check it out to see if I can fix it myself. Even if I can't fix it, I know more, so I don't get taken on the repair.


Friends clink wine glasses around a dinner table.

The dining out do over

We needed to spend less and decided that we had to cut back on eating out. We knew that we would miss some of our favorite dishes, so we came up with this idea. I look online for copycat recipes for our favorites, and I take about half the money we would have spent at restaurants to buy the ingredients to make those recipes. So far, I've imitated recipes from Outback and Red Lobster. They're not quite perfect yet, but the savings are important to us.


Spring garden prep

Soon it will be time to start seeds for spring. I save used plastic, sturdy paper, and Styrofoam cups from restaurants to plant pepper, tomato, flower and other seeds. Clean tin cans work well, too. If the plants tend to grow fast and tall (think tomato plants), I carefully transplant them into paper milk or orange juice cartons with the tops of the cartons cut off. For tomato plants, I keep adding soil to encourage more root growth. I've done this for years, and my little "starter" garden in a sunny window gives me a
lift in the drab winter months.


Used auto warning

After all the hurricanes and flooding, everyone has heard to check that used cars don't have salvage titles. Sites like Carfax have been mentioned. They advertise that it is possible to tell if a car has been in an accident, and that's true if the accident had been reported. Chances are that a serious accident would be reported to the police, but minor fender benders often are not reported. No service can tell you about an accident that wasn't reported. That's one reason why you should have a mechanic check out any used car you're thinking of buying.


Avoiding a drug bill

When I went to pick up a medication from the pharmacy, the cost was a lot more than I thought it would be, even with insurance. This was because it was a brand name with no generic available. My doctor had said it was a combination of antibiotics and another medicine. I asked the pharmacist if it was possible to get the medicines separately and still get the correct dose and how much this would cost. The antibiotic was available in an inexpensive generic form and the other medicine was available over the
counter, but I needed to call my doctor for a new prescription for just the antibiotic. By doing this, I was able to save a good amount of money.

Lorraine in NH

Your online legacy

My best friend's husband died unexpectedly last summer. She's had a terrible time. He had multiple online accounts for investments and banking and also for online bill paying. That would have been good except she didn't have any of the passwords and couldn't find them in his desk. My husband and I share our financial accounts. We've made sure that not only do we both know all the passwords, but our eldest son also knows them. It's one thing to have a power of attorney and a will, but if your caretaker or heir doesn't have access to your online accounts (including Facebook and email), you could be creating a real problem.


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