Welcome back to Money Matters, where I bring you imaginative suggestions for living well on a budget. In these tough economic times, it’s important to learn how to downsize, and stretch your money, as well as find ways to recycle or upcycle items you might normally discard, into great home innovations. From corkboards and refrigerators to flat irons and tea bags, you’ll find lots of awesome ideas for repurposing common household items. You’ll also find some great tips to help you organize and beautify your surroundings. Remember, a little bit of ingenuity can go a long way to enhancing your life—even on a budget!
QUICK AND EASY FIXES
“I’m a seasoned traveler and I’m always in a rush. I found a great way to iron out the little wrinkles I get in my clothing in no-time flat—a flat iron, that is! Yes, flat irons aren’t just great for straightening and taming those frizzies, they also make neat little touch up irons for clothes (especially between buttons on my husband’s shirts that my regular iron has trouble accessing.) Flat irons are much lighter and a lot more mobile than regular irons, so traveling with one is a breeze.”—Joanna Feldman
“My daughters have lots of jewelry between them and their necklaces were always getting tangled together in their jewelry boxes. I figured out a way to organize their jewelry while keeping it tangle-free. I turned one of their corkboards into a jewelry board. Not only is the jewelry easy to access, but they love the way they can see what they have since some of their jewelry was almost forgotten about in the box. I love the fact that I don’t have to waste my time trying to pull out necklace knots which can be pretty tricky sometimes!”—Amy Rudolf
“This may sound strange, but toothpaste has many more uses besides cleaning teeth. I’ve found that it’s a very effective way of polishing my jewelry, my chrome fixtures, and even my shoes. My husband has used toothpaste as a temporary spackle, and (believe it or not) a way to clean the headlights on our cars. Toothpaste—it’s not just for teeth anymore!”—Karen Casterfield
IT’S IN THE BAG
“Tea bags can make great tea, but I’ve found they have a multitude of other really cool uses. Here are just some of them:
- Cool sunburns with a few wet tea bags applied to the skin. They take the sting out of your burn. If you’re burnt all lover, add tea bags to a soothing bath. They also work for other types of minor burns including razor burn.
- Stuff a few dry tea bags into the cardboard ring from a paper towel roll and you have an easy and pleasant way to kindle a fire.
- Revitalize tired, puffy eyes by placing tea bags soaked in warm water over your eyes for 15 to 20 minutes. The tannins in the tea will work wonders.
- Tea bags in a cup will help absorb refrigerator odors.
- Condition your hair and add shine by using a quart of warm, unsweetened tea as a final rinse.
- Drain a boil by covering it with a wet tea bag overnight and the boil should drain without pain by the time your alarm clock rings.
- Tea bags are great for reducing gum pain after a tooth is pulled, and peppermint tea makes a soothing mouthwash, too.
- Help to dry out a poison ivy rash by dipping cotton balls in some strongly brewed tea and applying it on the affected area.
- Foot odor got you down? Try soaking your feet in a daily tea bath. Use strongly brewed tea and enjoy.
- A pot of strong tea, once cooled, also makes a great mirror cleaner.
- Use your favorite herbal teas (I love Earl Grey Lavender tea) in a small porous bag as a sachet for your underwear drawer.”
“When I entertain, particularly outdoors, I found ways of serving that repurpose common household items. I use cardboard six-pack bottle holders to store condiments and plastic ware at my barbecues. It’s a great way to keep the salt and pepper shakers, plastic forks, knives, spoons, straws, and even napkins organized and easy to find. Also, when my little drink refrigerator conked out on me, I found a great new use for it. I laid it on its back in my yard and repurposed it as an ice chest. Now, for my patio parties, I just load it up with ice, pile in the beer and soda, and close the top. My friends always remark what a great idea it is, and this stroke of brilliance also helped me avoid having to dispose of the darn thing!”—Allison Cassover
“The best part about winter for me is entertaining on the holidays. I love creating a cozy ambience and one of the things I always do is build a fire in my living room fireplace. It’s a homey visual, but I found a way to make it even better. I use dried orange and lemon peels as kindle and this creates a pleasant fragrance that adds another delightful dimension to the holiday atmosphere. I also enjoy creative centerpieces that aren’t costly. This year I’m going to fill a vase with giant red and green twisty lollypops. This should create a very festive look on my holiday table.”—Tracy Killborne
“We take a lot of road trips in my family and our car used to show the results of them. The floor of my back seat was always littered with all kinds of junk from magazines to sun block to the kids’ games. Clutter drives me nuts, but no more! I decided to get organized and took an old plastic shoe organizer that used to hang from my closet door and cut it in two. I hung half on the back of the driver’s seat, and half on the back of the front passenger seat. Now I make sure that all thermoses, sippy cups, wipe canisters, toys, reading material, and pretty much anything else that fits are stored in the plastic pockets. Not only is my car a lot more tidy, but the kids can actually find whatever they are looking for without digging through a mess or crying to me for help. Needless to say, our road trips have become a lot more pleasant!”—Sandy Wagner
“I have a lot of ‘stuff’ in my closet, and never enough room. Even the built-in cubbies can only hold so much. However, I found a way to better utilize the space I do have: shower hooks. Before you laugh, try dangling them from your clothing bar and suddenly there is a good place to hang your evening bags, scarves, ties, and other accessories. They’ll be easy to find and will look a lot more aesthetic than shoving them into a messy pile.”—Alyssa McCrea
- Release those stubborn zippers by lightly rubbing a candle along the teeth on both sides. The wax will help smooth the way.
- Turn a binder clip into a great makeshift money clip and key chain.
- Use an old tissue box as a plastic bag dispenser.
- Cupcake wrappers with a small hole in the middle for the stick will catch the melting ice cream from your popsicles.
- Lifesaver candies make decorative and delicious birthday candle holders.
- Use a freestanding toilet paper holder to hold your yarn while you knit or crochet.
- Decorative waste paper baskets make great holders for legos and other toys with lots of pieces.
- Hang extra chairs on a wall and use seats for extra storage.
- If you are running out of surface space for your shower and bath items, hang a decorative metal pail on a hook and pile in your shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste or anything else you commonly use.
- Don’t throw out the drawers from the old furniture you are disposing of. Use them to store things under a bed such as shoes, kids’ toys, or other odds and ends.
Look out for more of Bonnie’s top tips