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Simple, Clever Tricks to Make Your Stuff Last Longer

BY Mary Hunt TIMEFebruary 15, 2022 PRINT
Being wasteful is easy, especially when everything seems to be so plentiful and simple to replenish. Just order more. Or run to the store, right?

Sure, we love to buy things on sale, but that’s not the only way—or the best way—to cut costs. Discovering simple ways to make things last longer is the surefire way to save time and money.

Blue Dawn

My favorite degreaser and all-around amazing product, Blue Dawn, typically comes super concentrated. Read the label. It says it right there: “concentrated.”

Here’s a great tip: Don’t use Blue Dawn straight out of its container. Dilute it. I’ve used the same sturdy recycled glass decanter (an old wine bottle) for more than 10 years now. It has no lid, cap, or cork, which makes it super easy to dispense.

I keep the jug of Blue Dawn on a shelf in my laundry room. It’s out of sight, and not that easy to grab mindlessly. When the decanter needs a refill, I eyeball five parts water to one part Blue Dawn.

People,Are,Stocking,Up,Toilet,Paper,For,Home,Quarantine,From
It’s human nature to be super wasteful when it appears that we have things like toilet paper, paper towels, and other paper goods in abundance. (Lazy_Bear/Shutterstock)

Toilet Paper

It’s human nature to be super wasteful when it appears that we have things such as toilet paper, paper towels, and other paper goods in abundance. But discover that you only have what’s left on the roll to last until you can get to the store and watch how clever you and the family can be to make it last.

The way to be that careful all the time is to create an appearance of scarcity—on purpose. Don’t fill the bathroom cabinet with five rolls of extra toilet paper. Make it one. Then store the rest in a place that’s not exactly convenient—perhaps in the basement or under a bed.

Even the kids will get a sense that they need to go easy when it appears you’re about to run out. Repeat this trick with other things that seem to disappear overnight. Surprisingly, even the person creating this sense of scarcity will naturally be more careful. Out of sight, out of mind. It works like a charm.

Toothpaste

Once you’ve squeezed out as much toothpaste as you can, don’t throw that tube in the trash. Instead, carefully cut the tube open with a pair of scissors, and you’ll have enough for several more brushings.

Razors

Carefully dry the razor blade after each use (use a towel, or better yet, hit it with a blast or two from a hairdryer), and it will remain sharp twice as long.

Shower Gel

Apply shower gel to a washcloth or loofah instead of pouring it out into your hand, and it will last many times longer. Just a small squirt will produce endless lather. That’s all it takes. You’ll end up using way more than necessary.

Lipstick

When you get to the bottom of a tube, use a lip brush or a cotton swab to get at the remaining lipstick. You won’t believe how much product remains even when you think you’ve reached the end.

Liquid Hand Soap

Purchase a foaming hand soap dispenser and turn any liquid hand soap into foaming hand soap. You’ll be amazed at how far you and the family can stretch one bottle of soap.

Laundry Detergent

If you use the “dump” method of adding laundry detergent to the washing machine, I can nearly guarantee you’re using too much! Get out the owner manual to see what is recommended. Measure carefully. Every time. Unless you have super hard water, chances are good you can use even less and still get great results, especially if you have a front-loader, which uses very little water.

Clothing

As a general rule, turn clothing inside out before laundering. It’s a simple way to prevent pilling. And zip those zippers! The teeth on a zipper can act as a tiny chainsaw through the agitation and tumbling activity, boring holes in t-shirts and gnawing the heck out of fabric. You might not notice it the first or second laundering, but over time, open zippers will shorten the life of everything you launder with them.

Shoes

Clean dirt and remove salt stains from shoes and boots as soon as you notice them to avoid any permanent damage. Hint: Olive oil is the best way to remove those winter salt stains from leather shoes and boots. Pour a bit on a soft, clean cloth, then rub it into those stains using a circular motion.

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Make candles last longer with one surprising step. (VeronikaSmirnaya/Shutterstock)

Candles

Put candles in the freezer for a couple of hours before you use them. Surprisingly, perhaps, this causes the wax to burn slower and more evenly without affecting the scent, if any.

Refrigerator

If you are at all interested in making your refrigerator last longer (repair bills are horrible—the early death of an appliance even worse), vacuum the condenser coil in your refrigerator every three months (once a month if you have pets). Check the owner manual to discover where that coil is and how to reach it.

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.” 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.” COPYRIGHT 2022 CREATORS.COM
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