34 Ways to Cut Costs and Monthly Expenses

The suggestions that follow are based on ideas from our readers.

  1. Grow as much food as possible to lower the food bill, and freeze what you can’t use immediately. Even tomatoes can be frozen and used in soups and stews.
  2. Save leftovers to make potato scones, soups, stews or fried vegetables.
  3. Sheets can be reversed to extend their wear, putting the top border at the bottom end of the bed.
  4. A sheet that’s worn in the center can be put “sides-to-middle.” Cut it in half lengthways, seam the sides together and hem the raw edges.
  5. If you turn back bedding in the morning to let body warmth and damp escape, the sheets stay fresh longer.
  6. Liquid cleaners should be bought in the most economical size (not always the largest) and decanted into old squeeze-top or spray-top plastic bottles. Use just a squirt instead of pouring out a large amount.
  7. Don’t use more laundry detergent than you need. If you don’t have a measuring cup, use a 470 g jam jar (fill it halfway for a cup measure).
  8. A slightly soiled wash may not need as much detergent as the manufacturer recommends.
  9. Towels need watching. At the first sign of weakening along the edge, take bias tape and sew it with strong thread on both sides. Hand sew or use machine stretch stitch.
  10. A ripped towel can be cut into squares for use as wash cloths.
  11. Worn-out towels, cut into squares and bound together in four or five thicknesses, make good washable pot holders. Hem with binding tape and leave a piece at the end to make a little loop of tape to hang them up.
  12. Wash blue towels, sheets, pillowcases with your white articles to brighten up the white wash. (Of course, any new colored items should be washed separately for the first few times.)
  13. Camouflage unremovable stains on children’s clothes with embroidery Paint, rust spots, small rips can all be concealed with stitched flowers, a butterfly or a fish, using tin washable beads or old pearls for centers and eyes.
  14. Soap is said to harden with keeping. Buy it six months ahead and store, unwrapped, in the linen cupboard. It smells good too.
  15. Use soap holders – plastic or rubber discs with spikes or suction cups – to prevent soap being wasted.
  16. If your bath oil label suggests using two capfuls, then half a cap is probably just as good.
  17. Plastic bags can be washed and reused. Turn them inside out to dry.
  18. Paper kitchen towels are unnecessary. Use a clean dishcloth for wiping up spills.
  19. You can get rid of paper table napkins, too. An inexpensive plastic bangle for everyone in the family and a hemmed square from a worn-out towel make free, easily laundered substitutes.
  20. Scrub the dirtiest spots on clothes first to cut down on the washing machine’s running time.
  21. Boil only enough water for those one or two cups of coffee.
  22. Have everything ready before the kettle comes to the boil, turning off the heat as soon as the water is boiling.
  23. Short dresses can still be used by buying or making a wrap skirt in a complementary color to wear over the dress.
  24. Lengthen accordion-pleated skirts using a remnant of polyester lining. Unpick the waist. Make a circle from the lining by seaming together a strip 17 cm wide and hip measurement plus 5 cm long. Stitch the circle to the top of the skirt – this portion will be hidden by an overblouse or sweater – and make an elasticized waist.
  25. Hand-knitted sweaters are warmer and can be unravelled when outworn or outgrown. Wind the yarn fairly loosely around a large book, tie the skein in several places and hand-wash.
  26. Sometimes there is enough fabric in a short pleated skirt to remake into another garment by unpicking the skirt and pressing out the pleats. The material can then be reassembled.
  27. Carry a notebook with your family’s current measurements. If you see an unexpected sale, you’ll be prepared.
  28. Jot down meters or wool requirements for a pattern. That way you won’t buy too much or too little.
  29. Thermal cot blankets can be saved and seamed together to make a bed sized blanket when the cot is outgrown.
  30. Bean sprouts are an excellent and cheap source of vitamin C. Pour a layer of tiny, green mung beans into a jar, cover in water and soak overnight. Cover the jar with a piece of nylon or cotton net secured with a rubber band. Drain off the water and stand the jar on end over a saucer. Keep it in a dark cupboard and drain regularly. In about three days, the jar should be full of bean sprouts. Eat them raw or add them to soups, stews or when cooking Chinese-style vegetables.
  31. Worn-out sheets cut into handkerchief-size pieces are softer on the nose than tissues.
  32. Conserve heating oil or gas by keeping the thermostat at about 19 deg C (66 deg F) during the day and turning it down to 15 deg C (60 deg F) at night. Better still, turn the heat off.
  33. Cook roast beef slowly to minimize shrinkage. Rub it with oil but no salt, and place on a rack in a shallow pan fat side up. Do not sear or add water. Cook, uncovered, in a preheated 150 deg C (300 deg F) oven for 32 to 34 minutes per 500 g (1 lb) for a rare rolled rib roast. Increase that time to 36 to 38 minutes per 500 g (1 lb) for medium.
  34. A clothes dryer can use up to 100 kilowatt-hours a month; drying clothes on a line is free. Clothes can be partly dried in the dryer, then hung on a line under cover.

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