Dollar Stretcher: Paying off student loans early

Marco Eagle

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Seedling protection

To protect seedlings, I cut off the top and bottom of a plastic pop bottle and slit it all the way up. I wrap it around the seedling. It works to keep critters from eating it.

Mary S.

My emergency fund

We have a six-month emergency fund saved. I hated how little it was earning, so I did some online research to find a better rate. I found a bank that paid 1.5 percent more than I was getting. Needless to say, I switched. It doesn't seem like a lot, but it will add up over time. It only took a few minutes.


Family reunion savings

Our family has a big reunion every two years. This time our family will be the hosts. We want to keep costs down for everyone, so I've worked a group deal with a time share complex. They're giving everyone who stays there a discount. Our main events are on Friday and Saturday. I contacted some communities that had a recreation center, but our church was a better deal. Not only do we have a large room, but we also have a kitchen and video screens. They even have a playground for the kids! I can't wait for the third week of July to see all my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

Cheryl S.

Keeping produce fresh

Regarding fresh produce, something that really extends the life of parsley, cilantro, celery, romaine, scallions, etc. is to cut just a bit off the bottom and stand the veggie in a glass of water and then loosely cover with a produce bag. Then change the water periodically (and cut a bit off the bottom). You will be amazed how much longer food lasts.

Nancy in Santee

graduation, student loans

Student loans as you near retirement

My wife and I are nearing retirement, and we are still paying for our youngest child's student loans. We wanted to get them paid off before we retire in three years. My brother suggested that we look at a combination of refinancing to get a lower rate and combine that with paying more than the minimum each month. It's only been a few months since we made the change, but we can already see the balance coming down. At this rate, we'll have it paid off before we retire. Then we can take the money that's been going to the debt to visit the grandkids and to take the trips that we've always wanted to take.


Affordable comforter care

I've had a queen-size comforter for many years, which has a dry clean only label. It can be expensive to clean, so I came up with the idea to put some Arm & Hammer liquid detergent with a bit of vinegar in a small squirt bottle. Then I wet a microfiber cloth in warm water and squirt a bit of the soap mixture onto the wet cloth. I make my bed first so the comforter is laid out on the bed and wipe the wet soapy cloth over the top of the comforter and also the sides. I re-wet the cloth several times and squirt a bit of soap on the cloth as needed. Then I let the comforter air dry. I have a table fan that I turn on and point towards the bed, so it dries the comforter even quicker. Once a year, I place the comforter in the dryer with a wet hand towel and a squirt of liquid detergent. This saves a lot of dry cleaning money.

Felice F.

The family auction

Here's an idea if you're planning a family reunion this summer. It worked great for us. Each family brought something to auction off. Some brought out-grown children's toys. Others brought small kitchen appliances. My sister even brought a family history. We held an auction mid-afternoon. We donated the money to a charity chosen by our parents, but if times were hard, we could have used it to help pay for the reunion. Not only did we raise some money for a good cause, but we also had fun doing it.


How I use jars to save

I use cleaned peanut jars for many things, including storing dry snacks like nuts, raisins, coconut, candy, etc. This keeps the food fresh without using plastic bags. I use them to freeze fruits, veggies, soups, etc. and to organize my buttons and other craft supplies, small game pieces, little cars, puzzle pieces, nails, small tools, etc. The uses are limited only by imagination. Another plus for me is the red covers, as I have a predominately red kitchen.

Marge K

Why I grocery shop online

Here is a comment on the previous tip about home grocery delivery. We do not have that option in my area, but we do have Kroger's "Click List" program. I order my groceries online and determine my preferred pick-up time. When I arrive at the waiting area, I call them. They then bring my order out to me. The fee is $4.95. I like this service for a couple of reasons. I believe it actually saves me money. I can take my time picking exactly the products I want to purchase. I can compare prices, weight, etc.
and then pick the one I want. If, for some reason, they don't have what I ordered in stock, they provide a substitute that is generally a more expensive product than I have chosen (I choose store brands) and do not charge the difference. I have used them to order meat and vegetables, and they have always been good products. Another reason it saves money is that I make very few impulse purchases because I have to type in what I am looking to buy. I am not distracted into putting things in the cart that I do not need. The prices are a little more than our Aldi's prices, but the selection is much broader. Also, as I said earlier, I make few impulse purchases. We do most of our shopping this way.


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