Today I am especially impressed, if not excited, by the cool and very useful money- and time-saving tips my EC readers send to me.
Not that long ago, I stopped into a discount clothing store (Marshall's, to be exact) to get my husband a new belt. I enjoy the classy look of a high-quality leather belt, and I know this store usually has a fairly decent selection. And it did. The problem was that not one of them was smaller than a size 52. What?! I walked out empty-handed. Then I heard from reader Bob. Why didn't I think of his suggestion?
Dear Mary: The discount clothing stores seem to frequently have a pretty good selection of high-quality leather men's belts. The only problem for me is that the name-brand belts they carry are usually in sizes too big for me. I buy them anyway and take them to a shoe repairman near my home who removes the buckles, cuts off the extra inches and re-attaches the buckles. He charges me $3 to $5 a belt. I spend on average $15 to $20 on a belt that retails in department stores for $50 to $80 or more.
-- Bob W.
Gift bags make rounds
Dear Mary: Use gift bags instead of wrapping paper. We save our gift bags each year, and it's always fun to see who gets a particular bag the next year. Start a tradition of writing the names in the top corner. Add the next name each year, and see how the bags go around.
Dear Mary: Forget to put the wine or other beverages for your party in the fridge? Wrap the bottles tightly in a damp tea towel or paper towels, and then pop them into the freezer. Because heat travels more quickly through dense materials (the waterlogged towel) than air, your drinks will be ice-cold and ready to pour within 20 minutes.
Dear Mary: I cruise through the frozen food aisles at my favorite warehouse clubs (like Sam's and Costco) to see what's new. I figure if they can freeze it, so can I. On a recent trip, I saw a long line of people waiting for samples. I sneaked over to see what it was, only to discover rice! Frozen pre-cooked plain white rice. People seemed to think it was the greatest invention ever, and they were all tossing it in their carts. I went home, pulled out the rice cooker, made my own and froze it in individual portions.
Dear Mary: I had hoped that my plastic laundry basket would last until the next half-off sale. No such luck. It split right down both sides. I wondered what Mary Hunt would do. The answer was easy. I laced it together with a piece of rope and tied it with a bow. It works great, and now I'm wondering if I'll ever need a new one!
-- Joan J.
Dear Mary: I used my digital camera to take pictures of every item that goes into my kitchen cabinets. Then I printed them in thumbnail view, one page per cabinet. I taped each handy reference guide to the inside of the cabinet doors, and now my husband and I are perfectly clear about what goes where. It's a quick guide to finding what I have stored in deep or low cabinets as well.
-- Steph D.
Like new with zud
Dear Mary: My old dishwasher was really showing its age. The inside was severely discolored, and nothing I tried would take it off. I went to my local hardware store and purchased a product called Zud. This powder magically removes scratch marks on stoneware, and with very little elbow grease, I was able to remove most of the rust from my dishwasher.
Dear Mary: I've only been spending cash when I shop, but knowing how much I had available in each category was difficult when I had all the cash together in my wallet. Now I use colored paper clips to organize my cash, just like the envelope system. I just assign a color to each category, and I can see at a glance how much I have to spend. It also makes me think twice when I'm tempted to overspend and borrow from another category.
-- Mary Beth