Thrifty Spending Issue 98

FEATURE ARTICLE:  Have you ever wondered if the expiration dates on foods are simply a marketing ploy or if they really mean something?

The expiration date on foods is not exact science. If you want to know for sure if you should throw food out, you need to use other senses; smell it and taste it.



MONEY SAVING TIP:  Avoid the junky emails and still get the discounts!!

Many restaurants and stores offer consumers discounts if only they create an account with the merchant and agree to receive promotional emails and other offers, which could equal tons of junk emails. Learn where to get the discounts without the junk emails.


DID YOU KNOW…that cosigning on a car loan could be a huge mistake?

But if you are determined to help the other person purchase a car, there are four things you need to do.




DMCC Teaching Consumers How To Increase Credit Scores

Debt Management Credit Counseling Corp (, a nonprofit organization (DMCC), announces new program to teach consumers how to increase their personal credit scores. Credit Score Analysis program includes a simulator that enables DMCC to provide consumers a written action plan custom to their personal goals. DMCC provides the program for free to its debt management plan clients, and charges other consumers $49 to cover its costs.

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Thrifty Spending Issue 97: Money Saving Tip

How to make dish washing detergent and more

According to the latest government data, Americans spend an average of $659 a year on housekeeping supplies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provides that figure, also says the average American earns about $787/week – which means many people are spending most of (if not more than) a week’s pay every year on dish soap, laundry detergent, and other cleaning products.

If that sounds expensive, here’s a better idea: Make your own dishwasher detergent for a third of the cost of the commercial stuff.

Recipes for cleaning products are as numerous as recipes for dinner. Here are just a few to help with dishes, clothes and more.

How To Make Dishwasher Detergent

Here’s a simple recipe for dishwasher soap:

  • 1 cup of borax
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • ¼ cup of table salt
  • 2 packets (half an ounce) of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid

You can try to save even more by buying ingredients in bulk, but another idea is to find smaller and much cheaper boxes at your local dollar store: a good idea to since you’ll want to try a small amount at first to see if you like the results. The amounts listed above are good for 16 loads – one tablespoon each – so even small batches will last a while.

Other recipes online vary. For example:

  • 2 bars of shredded Octagon soap
  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • ¼ cup of washing soda
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice

For this one, shred the soap into about 5 quarts of water and heat until it melts. Then add the other ingredients and pour it into a sealed container. It isn’t supposed to create a lot of suds, but it’s supposed to work well.

Laundry Detergent

Here’s an easy recipe for laundry detergent. You’ll need:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1/3 bar of cheap soap, grated
  • 1/2 cup washing soda (not baking soda)
  • 1/2 cup of Borax (20 Mule Team)
  • 5-gallon bucket for mixing
  • 3 gallons of water

First, mix the grated soap in a saucepan with 4 cups of water, and heat on low until the soap is completely dissolved. Add hot water/soap mixture to 3 gallons of water in the 5-gallon bucket, stir in the washing soda and Borax, and continue stirring until thickened. Let the mix sit for 24 hours, and voila! Homemade laundry detergent.

Other cleaning products

If you like the results of your homemade concoctions on clothes and dishes, why stop there? The next time you’re at the store, instead of picking up a bottle of some expensive cleanser, grab these six items and make your own cleaning supplies:

  1. Vinegar. It may smell a little weird, but vinegar can handle everything from dishes to laundry and even weeds. We’ve written about the wonders of vinegar before in Household Products Vinegar Can Replace.
  2. Baking soda. Eliminates odors and helps with stains, and also works as a natural method of pest control – ants hate it.
  3. Borax. This mineral salt beats bleach as a toilet cleaner and is also useful for scrubbing walls. And as you see in the recipes above, works with laundry, too.
  4. Fels-Naptha soap. This one’s actually made by one of those big cleaning companies: Dial. They recommend it for “pre-treating” stains. In other words, “use this in addition to a bunch of our other expensive products, like Purex!” But you can turn the tables by using it as part of a recipe for your ownlaundry detergent, and they can keep the Purex.
  5. Rubbing alcohol. Works as a disinfectant and is also a great glass cleaner. It also gets grime off plastic and metal surfaces like patio furniture or bathroom fixtures.
  6. Lemon juiceThis cuts through dish grease and is an ingredient for homemade furniture polish – but it’s not the easiest thing to preserve long-term.

If making your own cleaning products sounds a little extreme, there are still simple ways to save. The best? Buying generics. And if you insist on using name brands, at least clip those coupons.

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Thrifty Spending Issue 97

FEATURE ARTICLE:  How to Buy Scratch-and-Dent Appliances

Often, you can find great deals on brand-new appliances at scratch-and-dent sales. The trick is first finding a store that sells them, then finding an appliance with flaws that won’t affect your use.



MONEY SAVING TIP:  How to make dish washing detergent and more

According to the latest government data, Americans spend an average of $659 a year on housekeeping supplies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provides that figure, also says the average American earns about $787/week – which means many people are spending most of (if not more than) a week’s pay every year on dish soap, laundry detergent, and other cleaning products. If that sounds expensive, here’s a better idea: Make your own.



DID YOU KNOW…there are three things you should never buy a used?

A used mattress, tires and software.


Thrifty Spending Issue 96: Money Saving Tip

Things that consumers purchase that they can get for free.

1.  Free checking. Plenty of banks still offer free checking accounts.  Depending on where you live, SunTrust for example, offers a free plan with no minimum balance required. And you get free online and ATM service too. Check your local Wachovia and U.S. Bank to see if they have their own version of free accounts. Some Chases even offers $100 for opening such an account. Indeed, a host of banks and savings and loans offer free checking. So far. When you’re looking for lower fees, including free checking, always to look to smaller local banks and credit unions.

2. Free credit reports. You can go to for a free look at your credit history once a year. If the Financial Regulatory Reform bill passes, you might also one day get a look at your credit score.

3. Free cash. If you can’t find an ATM near you for a free cash withdrawal, no worries: Plenty of stores will give you cash back with no fee when you use your ATM card to make even a small purchase. You can buy a candy bar or a Diet Coke and get back up to $100 in cash from Wal-Mart. Target will give you back $40 if you use your ATM card for a purchase. Grocery stores also offer cash back. And then there are iPhone and other apps that will help you locate ATMs.

4. Free information calls. Bing 411 (1-800-BING-411 or 1-800-CALL-411) allows you to find local shops and restaurants, as well as get driving directions, traffic reports, sports scores, stock quotes, and weather reports. 1-800-FREE411 allows you to get any number, business or residential, in exchange for listening to a brief ad.

5. Free scholarship search. Plenty of websites offer free searches for scholarships, such as Fastweb. There’s even a company called Free Scholarship Searches that offers links to 40 websites that offer free scholarship searches.

6. Free baggage. Sure, nearly all airlines are charging to check baggage but at least one doesn’t, Southwest. And remember carrying on bags is still free, except for on Spirit Airlines.

7. Free entertainment. Your local library and parks offer lots of free fun, from books to movies to concerts. Join their e-mail list to see what’s up. And of course, there’s the Internet, offering free games as well as magazine and newspaper articles. Just go to the website of your favorite periodical.

8. Free Water. While technically not free, tap water is about as close as you can get. If you’re concerned about water quality, buy a filter. But don’t ever pay for water at a convenience store.

9. Free TV. Thanks to sites like Hulu, you can now watch many popular television shows online for free. If your favorite shows are free on the web, why pay for cable or satellite? Do an Internet search for other websites that offer free television shows.

10. Free telephone calls. Services like Skype and AIM let you communicate with other users for free. Always calling a loved one long distance? If you both get copies of something like Skype, you can talk all you want without paying a dime. And with a service like Google Voice, you can get all of your cell phone calls free, too.


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