Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Great Readers and Their Great Tips

Have I told you lately how much I love my readers? Especially those who send me messages, questions, and tips. EC is crazy for great reader tips. Some I receive are startling and send me running to verify; others bring on gales of laughter. But mostly, they leave me wondering, “Wow, really? Why didn’t I think of that?!” Now, before we get going, please understand that while I find each of these to be great ideas, remember the words of Ronald Reagan, who famously said, “Trust, but verify!”


To clean your silver without harsh commercial chemical products, use the miracle powder in your pantry: baking soda. I used it on my silver candleholders when I was in a pinch, and it worked wonders. Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and massage it in gently with an old toothbrush. Rinse under warm water, or if the piece is too big, wipe it off with a wet cloth and buff it to a shine with a clean cotton towel. I will never go back to $10 cleaners now that I’ve found the 50-cent solution. — Angela H., California


I recall as a teen sitting for hours poring through my grandparents’ big heavy encyclopedias. While those books have mostly disappeared, the joy of discovery is still available for all without the financial investment up front and then for the annual updated volumes. Log on to Britannica.com to find a startling wealth of current information together with gorgeous photos and loads of fun. That site is such a great resource for kids’ school research projects, and reports too. While the site is generally free, there is a premium upgrade available, which I find to be a fabulous value for what it offers. — Ann T., Missouri


Instead of paying $30 for a small white dry-erase marker board, we purchased a 4 x 8-foot sheet of white tub paneling from Home Depot. It’s quite lightweight and flexible, works just the same as a whiteboard, and it’s HUGE! The best part: It cost only $25. We did not frame ours and left it in its gigantic size, but you could cut and frame it to any size, of course. — Debbie P., Mississippi


One of our favorite haunts is a local college coffee shop. We can buy good coffee and lattes for about a third of the cost of other coffee shops. The food on many campuses is good and very reasonable, and you do not have to be an alumnus or a student to patronize. I have even found, at certain times of the year, that the bookstore has some great sales. — Mary Beth D., Washington


Most colleges and universities offer their full-time employees free tuition as part of their employment benefits package. But it can get even better. Many extend free or reduced tuition to the employee’s dependent children as well. This is working so well for my son and me. I work at an Ivy League school, so free tuition represents a tidy sum. The university I work for will even pay up to 40% of the cost of the tuition if my son attends another university. — Paulette A., Pennsylvania


I keep a spiral-bound duplicate phone message book (Amazon) that makes duplicate copies for sending notes to my kids’ teachers, bus drivers and troop leaders. The duplicate copy that stays in the book makes a handy chronological reference should I need to follow up later. And yes, I know I could do this with email, but my handy book relieves the hassle and keeps all of these related messages in a safe, easy-to-locate place. — Cathy M., Indiana


When my vacuum cleaner attachments are too large for small tight spaces, I attach an ordinary drinking straw to the end of the smallest attachment. I insert about 1/3 of the straw into the attachment and then seal the connection between the two with a piece of tape (masking or duct), making certain to completely cover any open spaces around the straw. This way, the straw can fit into small tight spaces (like keyboards) and suck out the dirt. I don’t have to purchase a separate machine equipped with small attachments to do the same job. — Brandi H., California

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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