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42 Money-saving Household Hints

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Cleaning freshly laid eggs in The Archers.

Thrifty. Frugal. Sensible. These are not words with a great deal of pulling power. But as we get older they acquire a certain allure. Are there pockets of wastefulness around the house that can be eliminated? Are you ignoring extra uses for everyday household objects, like clothes pegs? These questions can keep people up at night once they become home-owners or middle aged, or indeed both.

Here are 42 very useful tips which will save you money around the home, and may go some little way towards helping the planet, too. A word of caution, however: an enthusiasm for penny-pinching, if taken to extremes, can start to look like something approaching a personality disorder. It springs from the same well as trainspotting, and is at least its equal in putting off potential mates and lovers. So by all means practise the tips below - but when you start re-using teabags three times or stockpiling slivers of soap to stick together later, then it's probably time for your family and friends to stage an intervention.

Waste Not, Want Not

  1. Keep a money jar by the main light switches, and fine family members each time a light is left on in an empty room.

  2. Don't leave the tap running while you brush your teeth.

  3. Use leftover water from jugs and kettles to water indoor plants. Be sure that the water in the kettle has cooled down first.

  4. Better still, boil only as much water as you need.

  5. Pour cool, leftover tea from the teapot into houseplant pots to give the plants a boost. Don't do it too often, though - the caffeine in the tea may be too strong for them.

  6. The water from boiled eggs (cooled) is also nutritious to plants.

  7. To get the last bit of paste out of a toothpaste tube, use a rolling pin to push the contents up to the top.

  8. Don't throw away old wrapping paper - you can reuse it. Simply iron out the creases with a warm iron. This will also help to remove the adhesive tape. It's unlikely you can reuse the old tag, however.

  9. If postage stamps have stuck together, don't fret. Put a piece of thin paper over them and press with a warm iron until they come apart easily.

  10. It's much cheaper to buy rolls of surgical cotton wool than cotton-wool balls.


  1. If you use steel-wool pads to clean, cut them in half before use. Once used, they'll rust, so this trick should make them go twice as far.

  2. Save old toothbrushes, sterilise them with boiling water and use them as cleaners. They're ideal for cleaning around taps and, in the kitchen, for cleaning graters.

  3. Scrunched up newspaper is just as good for cleaning windows and mirrors as a chamois leather cloth.

  4. You can remove dirt marks on wallpaper and items like playing cards with scrunched up, crust-less white bread. No, really!

  5. Keep light bulbs dusted and clean them regularly. Dirty light bulbs can reduce lighting efficiency by as much as 50 per cent. Better still, make sure you're using energy-saving bulbs, too.

  6. Bicarbonate of soda makes a good alternative to carpet freshener. Sprinkle it liberally all over your carpet, leave for 15 minutes and then vacuum.

  7. Green air freshener: leave a small container of vinegar in each room of the house to keep it smelling fresh.

In The Kitchen

  1. You can freshen up stale bread by brushing it with water, wrapping it in aluminium foil and heating it in an oven at a medium temperature for ten minutes.

  2. Freshen up old crackers or stale cereal by spreading them on a baking sheet and placing them in the oven at a medium temperature for a few minutes.

  3. If honey hardens in the jar, you can make it runny by standing the jar in recently boiled water for several minutes.

  4. Dry peanut butter can be softened with a spoonful of runny honey. Be sure to stir the honey in well.

  5. If the knob on a saucepan lid comes off, a cork makes a good heat-resistant replacement.

  6. You can improvise a rolling-pin with a straight-sided wine bottle, ideally filled with chilled water (which keeps the pastry cool.)

  7. Don't waste a whole lemon if you just need a smidgen of juice for a recipe. Stick a skewer into the lemon and squeeze out the juice you need. Wrap the lemon in foil and keep it in the refrigerator until you need the rest.

  8. Lemons freeze well, so you can always store unused portions in the freezer; cut into quarters if you only use small bits at a time.

  9. Freeze leftover pieces of cake until you have enough to make a trifle.

  10. Marshmallows also freeze well - worth remembering if you use them regularly to decorate cakes and desserts.

  11. If your kitchen drying-up cloths are worn, double them up and sew the edges together to get another few months' use out of them.


  1. You can lengthen the life of a child's winter coat by sewing ready-made cuffs to the sleeves.

  2. Turn ordinary wire hangers into non-slip ones by simply winding two or three rubber bands around both ends of the hanger.

  3. Don't spend money on boot trees to keep your boots in shape - rolled up newspapers do the job just as well.

  4. If you're throwing out garments that are beyond use, snip off the buttons in case they can be used at a later date.

  5. Unwrap new soap and store it in your linen cupboard. The soap will scent the linen and at the same time harden to become longer-lasting.


  1. You can make your own plumbline by tying a pair of household scissors to a string.

  2. If you don't want to invest in a pair of overalls for decorating, wear old pyjamas over your clothes. And, once you don't mind looking, well, a bit mad, you can wear a shower cap to keep the paint off your hair, instead of a cap.

  3. You can use an old pair of tights to strain paint that's become lumpy or has debris in it.

Shortcuts and Making Do

  1. If you don't want to use plastic bubble wrap to pack fragile items, use egg cartons or stale popcorn instead.

  2. Use ordinary clothes pegs to keep opened food packets closed - much cheaper than specially made clips for food bags, and just as effective.

  3. Make your own draught excluder quickly using the cut-off sleeve from an old coat. Stuff it with wadding and sew up both ends.

  4. Use petroleum jelly smoothed over lipstick instead of lip gloss. Alternatively, check out this Entry on How to Make Lip Gloss.

  5. You don't have to throw away a glass just because it has a small chip in it. Rub the chip with extra-fine sandpaper until it's smooth, then rub the surrounding area to make the repair less obvious.

  6. If you're good at sewing, turn old tablecloths into napkins or tea towels.

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