Sometimes the best way to stretch a buck is to look in the most unlikely places. I'm a huge fan of the fresh produce at 99 Cents Only stores. And milk, as compared with the price at my supermarket, is a bargain at the Walgreens across the street. But who knew we could decorate our homes with items from places like Dollar General? Our first reader discovered that, and I think her tactic is simply brilliant!
Dear Mary: My husband and I recently repainted our living room for a fresh, new look and then realized our curtains didn't work with the new color. We couldn't find anything that we both liked. To our surprise, we found fabric shower curtains at Dollar General that worked perfectly -- only $10 each. Because of how wide our window is, we needed four of them, but for only $40 we have a totally new look in our living room and we love it. -- Trish
Dear Mary: I display photos on my fridge without the heavy magnets covering part of the picture. I use the magnetic business cards from advertisers, cut them in half lengthwise and tape one half of the magnet on the upper third of the back of a photo. Double-sided tape works the best, but I've also just taped the ends of the magnets with regular tape, and that works, too. One strip is fine for a 4-by-6-inch photo, but a larger photo may need two. -- Maggie
Dear Mary: When my kids were younger and just learning to cook, they had many mishaps with the bottle of vegetable oil. Often they poured too much because the opening of the bottle was so large. As I was cleaning out a squeeze ketchup bottle, it occurred to me that it could be a great solution to the oil spills. I filled it with oil, and now the kids use it with ease. It even helps me use less oil when sauteing. And the bonus is that the bottle fits better in the cupboard. -- Nancy
DIY STARBUCKS ICED COFFEE.
Dear Mary: Order a hot coffee and a cup of ice. Pour the coffee in the cup and you've got iced coffee. While this tactic dilutes your drink, where I live it still saves nearly 55 cents when you purchase a grande (savings vary by state). -- Tom
MAKE IT SHORT.
Dear Mary: If you're not a huge coffee drinker, you know the smallest size on the Starbucks menu is tall. Here's the tip: Order the size that's an option but isn't on the menu: short. The short size will save you about 80 cents. Hint: Short has the same amount of espresso as tall. -- Susan
Dear Mary: It happens all the time in my classroom, and usually I'm the culprit. I -- or one of my students -- grab the wrong marker to write on the whiteboard. Here's the best way to remove the permanent marks: Cover the writing completely with a dry-erase marker -- any color. Then wipe it away. Like magic, the board will be clean as a whistle. -- Brad
Dear Mary: If your printer is out of black ink, change the text color to dark blue. You'll be able to print a couple more times before needing a refill. And always print in Garamond typeface rather than more popular fonts like Times New Roman, Century Gothic or Comic Sans, since Garamond uses less ink. -- Rhonda
Dear Mary: Always remember to zip up jeans and other garments that have metal zippers before laundering them. Those little metal teeth are like miniature chainsaws, tearing up and ruining other expensive clothing in the washer and dryer. -- Francesca