To keep a finger bandage dry and secure, pull a small balloon over it before you
bathe or wash dishes.
Don’t drink sodas together with calcium-rich foods or supplements. If your soft
drink contains phosphoric acid (and most do), it will block absorption of calcium
into the bloodstream.
Prevent canker sores by adding 4 tablespoons of plain yogurt to your diet each
Try applying a wet, black tea bag to a nasty canker sore. The tannin acts as an
astringent and will relieve the pain and promote healing.
Exercise—golf club burn
A round of golf burns well over 1,000 calories if you walk and push the clubs on
a wheeled cart for 18 holes. That’s the equivalent of running 6 or 7 miles,
depending how long it takes you to get those 18 holes in!
Exercise—health club memberships
Try the club before you join. Most offer several free visits or short, low-cost trial
memberships. Join with a group of five or more friends, and at some clubs you’ll
save as much as 35 percent. Pay a year’s dues in advance to save up to 20
percent (make sure the club has a reasonable likelihood of still being in business
a year later). Ask about new member perquisites, such as a free session with a
personal trainer. Also, if you need to take a long-term break for travel or other
reasons, ask the club to freeze your membership and start it up when you return.
Exercise—strengthen your immunity
Want to beat the common cold? A brisk walk or exercise at a moderate level has
been associated with strengthening the immune system. On the other hand,
extremely strenuous exercise can actually lower immunity to colds and flu. So,
take a walk but take it easy.
Stay motivated to stick to your exercise program during the winter months: Put
on your swimsuit and stand in front of the mirror once each month.
Eyes—emergency eyeglass repair
Here’s an emergency repair for the missing screw in your eyeglasses: Insert a
wooden toothpick through the hole in the hinge. Break off both ends of the
toothpick, and you’re ready to go.
Give your tired feet a mini massage by rolling them back and forth over an icecold
soda or juice can.
Use isopropyl rubbing alcohol to remove hair spray buildup from barrettes.
Some megahold hair sprays cause metal barrettes to tarnish. To avoid, allow hair
spray to dry before putting in barrettes.
To remove a buildup of minerals, conditioners, sprays, mousses, and gels, here’s
a cheap alternative one professional hairdresser we know uses on her own hair:
Wash hair with a gentle shampoo, rinse in cool water, and towel dry. Saturate
hair with apple cider vinegar (not white vinegar, it’s too harsh). Wrap hair in a
plastic cap or plastic wrap, and heat with a blow dryer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Rinse hair thoroughly and shampoo again.
Hair—coloring not just for men
A woman we know colors her gray hair with a popular product, Just for Men. It
produces identical results, costs half as much, and lasts twice as long as a similar
product sold for women.
Hair—condition with mayo
Slather mayonnaise on your hair. Wrap your hair in plastic wrap or a small
plastic bag, and heat with a hair dryer. Leave on for 30 minutes. Shampoo and
Hair—control with lemon and lime juices
The combination of lemon, which closes the hair cuticle, and lime, which is
slightly emollient, helps break up static electricity to end flyaway hair. Mix
together 1 teaspoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon lime juice, and 1 cup water. Pour
into a plastic spray bottle. Spritz on clean, damp hair. Do not rinse. Style as
usual. Keeps for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
As a color pickup for drab brown hair, rinse it with strong, stale coffee. Then
rinse with cool water.
Mix 1 tablespoon baking soda with the amount of shampoo you use for one hair
washing, and shampoo your hair with the mixture. This removes residue buildup
and leaves hair shiny and bouncy. Repeat about once a month. This is a cheap
substitute for very expensive commercial products that do the same thing.
Read the instructions on most shampoo bottles: Apply, lather, rinse, repeat.
Don’t “repeat.” Your shampoo will last twice as long.
Don’t be a shampoo snob. In a Consumer Reports test of 132 brand-name
shampoos, the lowly cheap brands from the supermarket rated just as high as the
pricey salon brands.
Hair—spray buildup remover, control dandruff
To remove stubborn hair spray buildup and to control dandruff, mix one package
lemon Kool-Aid with 2 quarts warm water (don’t add sugar). Wet your hair and
pour on the mixture. Work well into your hair, leave on for several minutes, and
follow with regular shampooing. The citric acid is the key ingredient.
Hair—spray can clogs
Ordinary rubbing alcohol will unclog the spray nozzle of a hair spray container
that even hot water hasn’t cleared. Just dip the nozzle into the rubbing alcohol,
let it sit for a few minutes, wipe off, and spray.
Learn to cut your kids’ hair. Ask an expert to teach you or get a step-by-step
DVD or video download. It’s not difficult but learn well. We don’t want any
goofy-looking kids out there.
Here’s how to make an effective, inexpensive heating pad. Take a clean sock (a
man’s tube sock with no holes works best). Fill halfway with about 5 cups of
uncooked white rice. Tie a knot in the top. Warm in a microwave on high at 30-
second intervals until desired heat is reached. (Caution: Rice can burn, so watch
it carefully.) This heating device will conform well to any body part and can be
reused many times. Just make sure to keep it dry.
Fill a 2-liter soda bottle about 6 inches from the top with hot water. Screw the
top on tightly. Wrap the bottle in a towel, and snuggle up with your very
wonderful, yet cheap hot-water bottle. A smaller bottle with just warm water
works well for an older child.
Ice pack, with rice
Instead of paying big bucks for fancy ice packs, do this: Freeze raw rice in a
freezer-weight resealable plastic bag. To use, wrap it in paper towels. It
conforms well to most body parts, such as backs and sprained extremities, and
stays cold for at least 45 minutes. Use gallon-size bags for backs and legs, pintsize
and snack-size for boo-boos. Double bag to discourage accidents, and don’t
leave packs unattended with children.
Ice pack, with rubbing alcohol
Make your own flexible ice packs. Pour ¾ cup water and ¼ cup rubbing alcohol
into a resealable plastic bag, and close. Put the bag into another bag, seal, and
freeze. You will have a slushy bag of ice whenever needed for sprains,
headaches, or other ailments because alcohol doesn’t freeze. Label clearly.
Jewelry—allergic to earrings
If earrings leave your lobes sore, chances are you are allergic to nickel silver,
which is an alloy in many types of jewelry. Apply a coating of clear nail polish
to the earring posts and backs or clasps, and other parts that come in contact with
your skin. Only surgical steel and platinum are free of nickel silver; even 14-and
18-karat gold earrings can contain some of this alloy, to which many people are
highly sensitive. You will need to reapply the polish after several wearings.
To find the right shade of blush, check the color of your skin after exercising and
try to match that color. Blush should add a healthy glow, not introduce a foreign
If you love a particular high-priced cosmetic line, ask for the name of their
economy line. For example, Lancôme (available in department stores) also
produces the L’Oreal line (available in drugstores). Research cosmetic lines
online or call the customer service department of your favorite line to inquire.
Makeup—eye makeup remover
Use a no-tear brand of baby shampoo to remove eye makeup. Ophthalmologists
encourage contact lens wearers to do this to reduce protein buildup on their
lenses. Apply with a cotton swab in a brushing motion while holding your eyelid
taut. Rinse thoroughly.
Don’t toss the last ½ inch of lipstick in the tube. Do what professional makeup
artists do. Using an orange stick or other clean implement, transfer what’s left of
the lipstick from the bottom of the tube to one section of a compartmentalized
medication container (the kind with a little space for each day of the week,
available at drugstores for less than $2). Use a lipstick brush to apply. As you
accumulate colors, fill each of the compartments, and soon you will have a
portable lipstick palette.
Don’t use waterproof mascara on a regular basis. It’s hard on the eyelashes. But
water-soluble types really smudge, especially in sweltering heat. Here’s a
reasonable compromise: Use a waterproof version only on lower lashes, because
that’s what usually smudges.
Makeup—curling first, then mascara
Use your eyelash curler before applying mascara. Otherwise, lashes could stick
to the curler and break off.
Long lip liner and eyeliner pencils are awkward to use and don’t fit into small
handbags. Solution: Break the pencil in half; sharpen both pieces. Now you have
two manageable pencils for the price of one.
Makeup—remove with baby wipes
Use baby wipes to remove makeup. They’re made for sensitive skin and won’t
cause dryness or irritation.
Before purchasing a new cosmetic or skin-care product at the counter in a
department store, request a sample you can test for a few days before making a
Medical facilities—ask questions before you choose
Inquire about specific hospital fees before you are admitted. Fees do vary
considerably from one hospital to the next. Why pay for the availability of
kidney machines and heart-transplant teams if you are having knee
reconstruction? While you’re in an inquiring mode, ask what rating the hospital
received the last time it was examined for state accreditation.
Medical facilities—avoid Fridays
Friday is the most expensive day to check into the hospital. Hospital labs usually
close for the weekend, and you may waste 2½ days and a lot of money just
waiting for the labs to open on Monday. If you must be admitted for surgery,
insist that you go in the day of the surgery. An early admittance will run up your
bill and is usually for the convenience of the staff, not the patient.
Medical facilities—cash discounts
Whenever undergoing a dental or medical procedure for which you will
eventually pay, inquire about a cash discount. Do not be timid about expecting as
much as a 25 percent discount when you pay by check or cash at the time the
procedure is done. Never be afraid to ask.
Medical facilities—examine bills
Carefully examine hospital bills even if you have full insurance coverage. If you
go in for a knee reconstruction and are billed for infant nursery time, put up a
fuss. A good consumer scrutinizes every charge. Report all discrepancies to the
hospital, physician, and insurance company.
Research suggests that one aspirin tablet, at a cost of 1 cent, taken every other
day helps reduce risk of heart attack, certain kinds of strokes, cancer of the
gastrointestinal tract, and possibly Alzheimer’s disease, among other serious
ailments. (See your doctor before beginning such an aspirin regimen.)
Medicines—call around for prices
Most pharmacies will quote prices over the phone. Call around until you find the
best price. Or go online and compare prices at sites like Drugstore.com and
TheOnlineDrugstore.com. You won’t believe how the prices will vary.
Every doctor’s office is flooded with all kinds of expensive prescription samples,
also known as “stock bottles.” When required to take a medication, be sure to
ask your doctor if he or she might have samples for you to try. Asking for
sufficient samples to make sure the medication is right for you is especially wise,
particularly if you might be allergic to it. Don’t hesitate to ask again every time
you go to the office. Doctors can also write a prescription for a stock bottle to be
filled at the pharmacy for patients unable to afford the prescription.
Medicines—measure correctly for kids
Don’t use tableware spoons when giving medicine to a child. Teaspoons and
tablespoons in your silverware drawer may not hold the correct amount of liquid.
A tableware spoon that’s off by even 1 milliliter (0.0338 fluid ounce) could mean
you’re giving the child 20 percent more—or less—of the recommended dose of
medicine. Use a proper measuring device, either one provided with the medicine
or purchased separately, such as a measuring spoon, syringe, or oral dropper.
Ask the pharmacist for a complimentary calibrated measuring device for
dispensing liquid medications.
Medicines—numb your kids’ taste buds
You may be able to make unpleasant-tasting medicine a bit more palatable for
your children. Have them suck on a small piece of ice until their tongues are
numb (this will probably occur once the ice melts), then give the medicine.
Follow with more ice. The cold dulls the taste buds just long enough to render
the medication tasteless.
Medicines—prescription and over-the-counter equivalents
Ask for generic prescriptions, which cost less yet by law must have the same
chemical makeup and potency as brand-name drugs. Also, buy generic
nonprescription pain medication. You can purchase ibuprofen (the active
ingredient in Advil) for less than half the cost of name brand. The same goes for
Tylenol. It is acetaminophen. Consult your pharmacist when in doubt.
Medicines—split those tablets
If your doctor prescribes, for example, 50 milligram (mg) tablets, ask about
changing that to the 100 mg version so you can break the tablets in half to
accomplish the 50 mg dosage. If this is possible, you will save a lot of money,
because the difference in price between 100 mg and 50 mg will usually be
negligible. You can purchase a tablet splitter for just a few dollars at any
pharmacy. Caution: Some pills’ delivery systems may be affected by splitting
them in half. Check with your doctor or pharmacist first.
Use a cosmetic sponge to soak up some of your favorite after-bath splash. Put
the sponge in a small, resealable plastic bag, and toss it into your purse or
briefcase. Now you can freshen up before an important meeting or at the end of a
long, tiring day.
Tea bag paper can mend a broken nail instantly and easily. Cut the paper to fit
the nail, then coat with clear nail polish.
Buff your fingernails rather than polish them, because it’s quicker and cheaper.
Apply a bit of petroleum jelly as a buffing compound, which will also soften
Nails—polish bottle trick
Keep the top of a nail polish bottle from sticking shut by putting cooking spray
on a cotton swab and wiping it around the neck of the bottle before closing it.
Smudge your polish while giving yourself a manicure? Not a problem. Do what
the professionals do. Put a drop of polish remover on the pad of your thumb, and
rub it lightly over the smudge until the spot is smooth. Reapply polish.
Scrub your fingernails with white vinegar, rinse, and dry. Now apply your nail
polish. It will adhere better and last longer.
Don’t shake nail polish before using. Shaking whips bubbles into the product,
which will cause chipping later. Instead, turn the bottle upside down and gently
roll it between your palms.
When you overdo it with your perfume, saturate a cotton ball with rubbing
alcohol and wipe it where you put the perfume. The alcohol will cut the scent
without altering it.
Perfume and cologne—refrigerate
Refrigerate your cologne, and it can last for as long as 2 years. If a fragrance is
exposed to heat, air, or sunlight, it immediately begins to change.
Remedies—bee sting pain
To soothe bee stings, immediately wet the spot and cover with salt.
Remedies—chicken pox itching
If your children get chicken pox, and an oatmeal bath is in order, save a lot of
money by making your own oatmeal bath product that is similar to Aveeno. Take
old-fashioned rolled oats and a clean, old knee-high nylon. Place a handful of the
oats into the stocking, tie a knot in the end, and let it sit in the bathwater. Squish
the bag of oatmeal to activate it more quickly.
Eating a teaspoonful of sugar gets rid of hiccups in a flash.
Remedies—insect bite itching
Make a paste of baking soda and water and rub it on insect bites to relieve the
Remedies—splinter removal, sunburn relief spray
To reduce pain while you are trying to remove a splinter, spray the area with a
dab of sunburn relief spray. The topical anesthetic will numb the area and reduce
Remedies—splinter removal, teething gel or ice cube
Before removing a splinter from your child’s finger, apply some teething gel to
the area around the splinter and wait a few seconds for the skin to get numb.
Gently remove the splinter with tweezers. If you don’t have teething gel
available, put an ice cube on the splinter. It will briefly numb the area and allow
the splinter to be removed. Follow with a first-aid antibiotic ointment such as
Instead of purchasing an expensive brand-name astringent to add to your skincare
regimen, use witch hazel, an old standby recommended by skin
professionals for decades. It’s available over the counter at drugstores and
performs as well as any brand of astringent, no matter how expensive.
Skin—baby oil before sunless tanning lotion
Smooth baby oil onto your skin, and allow it to penetrate before applying sunless
tanning lotion to achieve a more even, lighter tanning effect, especially on
elbows and feet.
Crush 6 aspirin tablets and mix them with a tablespoon each of water and lemon
juice; work into a paste. Apply the paste to calloused spots or dry skin on your
feet. Put each foot in a plastic bag and wrap with a warm towel. Sit for 10
minutes with your wrapped feet elevated. Caution: If you are diabetic or have
circulatory problems, special care of your feet is essential. Get a doctor’s
guidance for all questions regarding foot health.
Rubbing alcohol is an effective deodorant for both underarms and feet, because
it kills odor-causing bacteria, dries quickly, and becomes odorless. Apply in a
fine mist from a spray bottle or with a cotton ball. Spritz your feet and the
insides of your shoes with rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle to refresh and
eliminate foot odors.
Elbows get lots of wear and tear, and they really show it. Here’s the perfect way
to give them the attention they deserve: Cut a lemon in half and rest an elbow in
each part for at least 10 minutes. (Sure, you’ll look ridiculous and that’s why
you’re not going to do this in the middle of an important meeting or while sitting
in church.) The lemon juice will remove the stains that make elbows look dirty.
Jump in the shower, do the regular stuff, and then use those lemon halves for a
final body scrub. Towel dry, follow with lotion, and you’ll think you’ve just
visited an expensive spa.
Mix ½ to 2⁄3 cup granulated sugar with the juice of one lemon to form a paste.
While showering, invigorate your skin with the paste. Rub heels and elbows with
the inside of the lemon.
Use milk of magnesia for a soothing facial mask. Spread it on your face, being
careful to stay away from your eye area. Leave on for 30 minutes, rinse with
warm water, then pat dry.
Baking soda mixed with a tiny bit of water makes an excellent facial scrub.
There’s nothing like a relaxing, naturally scented bath to revive a tired mind and
body. Fill a piece of cheesecloth with fresh rosemary, tie it up with string, hang
the bag from the faucet, and run the water over it into the tub.
Skin—inexpensive care products
A reader asked a doctor friend what he learned during his dermatology rotation
concerning expensive skin-and facial-cleansing products. He informed her that
the best products are not the most expensive. Dermatologists recommend Dove
or Lever 2000 for cleansing and Lubriderm lotion for moisturizing. Both
products are sold over the counter at drugstores and most grocery stores.
Here’s how to give yourself an instant “face-lift” and beauty treatment: Mix 1
teaspoon each of baking soda and olive oil to form a paste. Gently massage it
into your skin, rinse well, then pat dry.
Skin—itching, acne medication
One of the most soothing topical treatments for bug bites, poison ivy, rashes, and
the like is your teen’s over-the-counter acne medication. It will dry the infected
area and reduce itching.
Skin—itching, baking soda bath
Dissolve ½ cup baking soda in bathwater to soothe skin irritations from sunburn,
insect bites, poison ivy, hives, chicken pox, and itchy rashes.
Skin—moisturize hands while you work
Keep a pump dispenser of hand cream in the kitchen. When you’re washing
dishes, apply the cream before putting on rubber gloves, and you’ll get a quick
hand-softening treatment as you work.
Skin—moisturize with petroleum jelly
Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to your skin nightly. It’s a natural
moisturizer and is especially effective on extra-dry areas, such as elbows, heels,
Skin—on tired feet
Freshen tired feet and soften skin easily and quickly: Add 4 tablespoons of
baking soda to 1 quart of warm water. Pour into a large container, and soak your
feet for 10 minutes.
Put leftover pieces of soap into a mesh produce bag to make an effective
scrubber for feet, elbows, and hands. If the bag is fairly large, fold or cut it down
to a delicate, dignified size.
Skin—sunscreen roll on
Sunscreen won’t spill and will be much easier to apply if it’s transferred to a rollon
deodorant bottle. Squeeze the neck of an empty bottle with pliers so the ball
pops out. (Watch out because it can really fly.) Clean the bottle, pour in the
sunscreen, and pop the ball back in.
Teeth—baking soda for toothpaste
An inexpensive toothpaste substitute that dentists endorse is plain old baking
soda. Wet the brush and dab it in the powder. The cost is a fraction of what
you’ll pay for toothpaste, and if you can handle the taste, or lack thereof, you’ll
save a lot of money. Check with your dentist.
College and university dental hygiene programs are excellent places to get your
teeth cleaned. Do an internet search to determine if your local university or
community college has a dental school facility.
Teeth—orthodontic rubber bands
Anyone wearing orthodontic appliances with replaceable rubber bands should
get a fresh supply of bands often, especially following an illness. When reaching
into the bag of bands, the wearer will contaminate the supply, which could mean
recurrences of the illness.
Teeth—prevent dental problems
Finish meals and snacks by rinsing your mouth with water. It’s fast, it’s easy, it
washes out substantial quantities of bacteria and food, and it’s free.
Teeth—tea for fluoride
If your water lacks fluoride, drink teas. Black tea delivers more fluoride than
Teeth—toothbrushes, hold pencil-style
Brandish your toothbrush with a pencil-style grip rather than a racket-style grip.
Foreign research shows that the pencil grip gets teeth as clean but causes less
gum damage. Apparently this grip promotes a vibrating motion more than a
Teeth—toothbrushes, replace or disinfect
When family members have been ill with colds, flu, and other illnesses, make
sure you replace toothbrushes often, or thoroughly disinfect them. Toothbrush
germs can be destroyed by storing the brush, bristles down, in a glass of
antiseptic mouthwash. Replace the mouthwash every few days.
Toiletries and grooming—beauty schools
Take advantage of the inexpensive beauty services available at a local
cosmetology school. Students are carefully supervised, conscientious, and eager
to please. Be nice but firm about your expectations and desires. If you’re a bit
nervous, try a low-risk procedure, such as a wash-and-style or a manicure. The
students who will be graduating soon are very qualified. The savings are
fantastic. Basically you’ll pay only for the materials, not labor.
Toiletries and grooming—buy unscented in men’s department
Buy men’s toiletries if possible when it comes to such things as unscented
deodorant, shaving foam, and hair coloring. Products specifically for men are
significantly cheaper ounce for ounce. Go figure.
Toiletries and grooming—keep wipes moist
Keep towelettes and baby wipes moist by storing the container upside down.
Toiletries and grooming—pain-free eyebrow plucking
Put some over-the-counter oral anesthetic solution on your eyebrows 5 minutes
before you pluck them. This will prevent the pain.
Toiletries and grooming—razor sharp
If you carefully dry your razor after each use, it will stay sharp much longer than
if you simply rinse and leave it.
Tie the handles of a plastic grocery bag to the arms of a walker. The bag will
remain open and can be used to carry everything from eyeglasses to tissues to