Monday, September 28, 2009

Ink on Suede; Salt

So far, the only tip I've found for removing ink stains from suede: "dry-cleaning solvent." This concerns me. Not only are dry-cleaning chemicals dangerous to the environment and probably not the safest things to keep around the home (should one be able to acquire them), they also probably aren't that cheap, either. I notice that the sites recommending "dry-cleaning solvent" don't suggest how to buy it, and they all caution that anyone attempting to remove the stain in this way should 'test on an underside seam' first. Definitely doesn't inspire confidence. If I manage to get ink on a suede purse or pair of shoes, I wonder if the eco-friendly Dollar-Wise drycleaners' outfit might have a solution for me. I'd wander down and see. Jasmine has also recommended Norwex cleaning products - if you already have them or are desperate to remedy the spill, you might want to try them out.

Did anyone take part in/enjoy the Free Weekend? I was looking for a computer monitor but didn't find one with the sort of cable I required. Ah well.

My mother surprised me this weekend with a 3-pack of coil bound books, each claiming to have "Over 100 helpful household hints" on how to use three ordinary products: baking soda, vinegar, and salt. Tracey would no doubt have a few choice words for the cover designs of these books, but the hints contained within are pure gold.

"Make your life easier with salt!" the blue book declares (its companions are also present in the primary colours red and yellow, to complete the set). Christine Halvorson, the salt book's author, claims that among other uses, salt can be used to remove sticky spills from the oven - before you need to resort to that highly toxic oven cleaner. Just "sprinkle the sticky area with salt, let it sit until spilled area becomes crisp, then lift off with a spatula when oven cools." Yay! The book also recommends removing fabric stains by rubbing salt onto the fresh stain, soaking overnight in milk, then washing 'as usual.'

The book also suggests avoiding frosty car windows in the mornings by rubbing them with a saltwater-soaked sponge in the evenings. If only that worked...I suspect the inconveniently low temperatures in Winnipeg will just turn the saltwater into another layer of ice to remove, if tried after mid-October.

Enough...for now...about books. I do love easy home remedies for things like oven-cleaning (have you read the disclaimers/poisoning warnings/instructions on those aerosol cans? That stuff is frightening) and stain removal, and drain unclogging, but what I'd really like to know is how to get the most computer for my money. I've had a lot of trouble with my laptop lately (it's 9 years old and was free, so I guess I got what I paid for!) and have accepted I'll have to shell out SOME money. But how much? And what will I get for what money I do need to shell out? I usually cave and fork over more than I should for purposes of ending the frustration of the chase...but this blog IS about my need to develop thriftier habits. If that needs to start anywhere, it's with a purchase as expensive as the computer! Especially since this current computer I have has: randomly disconnected me from the Internet; restarted in the middle of important homework assignments; recently informed me it doesn't have sufficient drive space to house anything manufactured by Adobe; and doesn't recognize my digital camera, hence it's been impossible for me to add to this blog any photos I've taken.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stain Removal!

Before we begin, as a shoutout to Kenton Larsen: Get-rich-quick ideas!

Melanie, thanks for helping out a student! Melanie Lee Lockhart, my Public Relations instructor, kindly lent me her copy of Haley's Hints. For anyone who (like me) isn't familiar with Rosemary and Graham Haley, they're the authors of a book (and Graham is the host of a TV series) detailing a wide range of helpful solutions for common problems - all using items many people have on hand at home. I'm jumping into the middle, since stain-removing tips start at about page 94 in the book, but with chapters like "Kitchen Magic" and "Laundry Day Helpers" this book will get revisited! (You can all hold me accountable to return it to Melanie!)

And now...stain removal solutions that work!

P. 111: Remove chewing gum: "Hold an ice cube against the chewing gum until it hardens. Then chip the gum away." If the item can withstand cold temperatures without breaking, cracking or otherwise coming to harm, I can also recommend putting it in the freezer for about 1o minutes (or more if needed and possible) and then chipping the gum away. Works well on clothing.

P. 109: Cleaning Carpets. A diluted solution of vinegar, soap, and water can help remove stains that weren't found immediately. Wet a cloth with the mixture, hold against the stain for several minutes, then blot dry with a dishcloth. Also remember, when dealing with a liquid spill, DO NOT rub the spill. That will push the spilled liquid further into the carpet. Instead, blot with dry cloths.

P. 94: I wish I'd come across this one sooner! Badly stained tubs: use a scrub brush and a mixture of cream of tartar (a baking ingredient!) and hydrogen peroxide. Other bathtub tips: if you get bathtub ring, it can often be minimized by softening the water - so add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your next bath! "Yellow water stains"? Try making a paste of lemon juice and borax (can also work for toilet cleaning!). What's borax? Look HERE. Bathtub mold? Try scrubbing with vinegar and rinsing with clean water. No dice? Place bleach-soaked rags on the mold-affected area and let sit overnight, then wash off with warm water and liquid detergent. (If the problem is very serious, however, I'd recommend consulting with an expert. Molds can be a health issue.)

P. 95: Porcelain sinks? Fill with hot water and drop in 2 denture tablets! Leave for a while for gleaming sinks! I'd like to add that baking soda helps polish sinks and tubs, not to mention any rusty cutlery or sink/tub spouts! Haley's Hints adds that petroleum jelly keeps shower doors from sticking, and shower rods from rusting. Who knew?

P. 106: Chronic nosebleeds? Papercut led to a stain on your favourite reading chair? Haley's Hints recommends treating blood stains with a paste of cornstarch and water - but NOT for velvet or velour upholstery. If the item is easily and safely soaked in boiling water very soon after it is stained, that's the best way I've found. Popcorn grease stains on the couch after movie night? Sprinkle liberally with salt as soon as the stain occurs, then just brush the salt off once it has absorbed the grease.

P. 114: Scuffed linoleum: Use toothpaste on persistent scuff marks, but try using a rubber (gum) eraser first! If you have any of that 'sticky tack' around - the blue gummy stuff for holding posters on walls without harming paint or paper - it works wonders too!

Other interesting tips from the Haleys that I haven't tried, but gladly will if the occasion arises:
**Clean marks from wallpaper with an eraser OR rye bread!
**Cold tea cleans woodwork!
**Shine brass items with Worcestershire sauce! Or toothpaste, or a lemon-juice-and-salt mixture.

We all know baking soda works wonders as a deodorizer: in the fridge, in the microwave, in the oven...but how about vanilla extract? Vegetarian Times' now-defunct Fridge Notes section supplied this tip as well. More fridge-friendly tips from VT’s March 2008 article “10 ways to green your fridge” by Jacqueline R. Renfrow: "a one-to-one solution of white vinegar and water" for dried-on liquid stains or general cleaning; where an abrasive cleaner is needed: "baking soda and a damp sponge."

Commercials train us to trust that only tough anti-bacterial chemicals can save us from evil bacteria and other nasties. But many such industrial-strength chemicals pose serious hazards themselves. Why not try natural cleaners? They've been around much longer, with good track records and no risk to you, or the environment. Plus, since you've probably got vinegar, baking soda, salt, and lemon juice around anyways, they're cheaper!

The last word is for those pesky red-pen stains on clothing: Hairspray. No, I'm not kidding.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Readers respond - PLUS a bonus website!

Hurray! For your reading pleasure, smart tips provided by other bloggers!

Rachel's shaving-cream secret: I swear by shaving with conditioner, especially the little samples left over in my roommate's hair dye kits. Softest skin I've EVER had, for next to nothing.

Angèle's favourite money-saving card: Another card that's my life saver for a while now is the Student Price Card, always "SPC". It practically pays for itself and is good for a year at so many stores and food places!
(Angèle, did you get yours in the UW student agenda? I don't know that they're available to us at RRC, I'll have to check it out!)

Yvonne's paper-writing fuel of choice is the Falafel Place on Corydon Ave. at Wilton. Sounds like an incredible amount of good food at a student's price! I highly recommed checking out her blog for a detailed description of the full experience.

And last but not least, the Winnipeg Free Press' Reena Nerbas serves up a comprehensive list of home remedies for the home! Check out her website to find out more about her books, and don't miss her column in weekend editions of the newspaper for more great tips! My current favourite: olive oil for doctoring leather furniture. I wonder if it works on shoes...

Coming soon: home stain-removal remedies. I'll post ones that I've tried successfully - unfortunately they haven't all been zingers!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thanks Mom! (and Dad, and Grandma...)

"There's nothing left in there!" my father exclaimed upon seeing my mother in the kitchen, extricating the last drop of mayonnaise from the jar with a spatula. "I can't help it," my mother replied, "it's how I was raised!"

My mother's parents were born a scant few years before the Great Depression, and grew up making the best of every little thing they had. She and I have inherited several of these habits, for lack of a better word: saving the crumbs from bags of store-bought bread to make our own bread crumbs, and squirreling away plastic bags that inevitably come in useful 'on a rainy day'. Purchase scrap paper? Forget it! Like mom, I rip up one-sided junk mail for re-use. Campbell's soup labels and stamps from sent mail? Save them for charity! Not to mention an endless array of plastic containers used to hold room-temperature or refrigerated leftovers (but NEVER for reheating!). Unsealed, blank envelopes from greeting cards are also collected for future cards.

Dad has his own stories about growing up with thrifty parents. His mother cut up old flour sacks and sewed them together to make sheets. With seven kids to look after, she made the best of whatever came her way, and I'm amazed to hear about the clever 'second uses' she found for various items. As Dad puts it, "Sustainability and recycling aren't new concepts!"

The next time I see my grandparents (my mother's father and my father's mother), I plan to ask a lot of questions regarding re-use -- the sometimes-forgotten middle member of the three Rs. If you're able to, why not do the same? It'll be a good conversation and might yield some surprising tips!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

teach yourself - thrifty living by Barty Phillips

I found a book with the above title at Chapters - in the 30% off section, no less. I'll post updates from it if anything of special relevance pops up. So far the most unusual thing has been the author's use of the phrase "brood of young" to describe a human family. You definitely don't see that everyday.

From the introductory chapter - Ten Ways to Save Money Now

1. Drink tap water
2. Take a packed lunch to work (or school!)
3. Redeem all the free vouchers languishing in your purse (or on your desk/kitchen counter)
4. Give up smoking
5. Give up your store cards
6. Walk to work/the station/your bus stop
7. Make use of free daily papers on your way to work
8. Switch off your electrical equipment
9. Lengthen the life of your child's felt pens (or of your own felt pens, I presume. The book says to open the bottom of the pen, put a drop or two of vinegar into the ink tube, and shake the pen in order to revive the colour)
10. Make use of your local library

I have a feeling that the book's author, Barty Phillips, is British. It's as much the word use as the numerical savings being listed in pounds sterling that tipped me off, since certain expressions are more common in British English than in American or Canadian. I believe a 'store card' is something like an HBC Mastercard, since Phillips mentions stores charging interest on such cards while appearing to give cardholders a discount on purchases. As for #4, he makes it sound so easy! Maybe there's a teach yourself - quit smoking book by him as well?

And if only we Winnipeggers could take a subway train from 'the station' into the downtown area! Whatever happened to all that money Katz was given for rapid transit? I've heard rumors it went into fixing potholes, but the potholes seem no more fixed than they ever do seem. And now we've been handed another chunk of change from the federal government. I can only imagine where it will end up being spent.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tip Blitz!

Clothing on the Cheap -
Last night I hit up the Regent Ave. Value Village with a friend. For about $25 I obtained a genuine leather wallet and two nice shirts. Not bad, I thought to myself, but at about $6-$8 a shirt, Value Village is actually more expensive than today's BootLegger sale at the St. Vital mall. THREE shirts, at a total cost of $6! Guys, they've got plenty of on-sale men's clothing too. Don't forget to ask if there's a discount for students! Yours truly was way too surprised by the crazy deals to ask if any additional discounts were available.

irewards @ Chapters/Indigo -
I finally signed myself up for an irewards card - something I should have done ages ago since I purchase many more books than I'm willing to admit to myself. The start-up cost is $25 for a year, and entitles a member to 40% off all bestsellers, 10% off all books, and 5% off at (excluding gift cards). I've already saved $6 on my first purchase. Let's see if it's able to pay for itself! (Answer: considering the purchaser, DEFINITELY) If you buy a lot of books, this might be a good idea, as the membership also applies to their online store and they don't offer any special student discounts.

Shaving cream, the efficient way -
Stacia Franz (click the link to experience her truly wonderful and unique view of her experiences in the restaurant industry) lets us in on how to bypass all those costly and sometimes disappointing shaving creams. I've paraphrased her helpful tip below:

You can get the inexpensive President's Choice body lotion from Superstore, or the cheapest lotion in bulk from Costco. The bottle lasts me a year. I use it as shaving cream, mixed with just a little soap. It foams nicely and the foam lasts. Plus it moisturizes your skin, so you can skip a step by not having to moisturize afterwards - a lot faster!

Thanks Stacia!

And finally, one more way to avoid those chemical-heavy solutions -
If you've bought something new and are concerned about it fading, or you've noticed lately that your fuchsia shirt is turning everything else a faint pink, here's an easy fix: soak the offending item for about 1/2 an hour, in cold water mixed with 3/4 cup pickling salt or vinegar. (I find pickling salt to be more effective but I suspect fewer people will have it on hand) This should help the (remaining) dye bond to the fabric. This is also effective if you've hand-dyed fabric and you want to make sure the colour won't run.

Happy Saturday! As always, comment with tips, questions, concerns.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Save locally!

Winnipeg's First Giveaway Weekend - September 26 & 27, 2009
Yesterday's edition of the Winnipeg Free Press contained an ad for what looks like a city-wide rummage sale. "Gather up all those reusable unwanted items...Place "FREE" stickers on each item, and put them at the curb on your front street. Everyone is invited to cruise the curbs and shop for FREE! Please remove leftover items from the curb by dusk on Sunday", the ad reads.

Contact 311 or visit the city's website for more information. I'll try to have a picture of the ad uploaded later on today.

Student Electronics Savings at Henry's
In the Free Press this morning - Henry's Student Savings Event features Nikon cameras, and mentions a Henry's Student Discount Card. More details can be found at, or either of their two locations: 1580 Kenaston Blvd. or 1592 Regent Ave. While the two camera models featured in the ad are priced at savings of $30 (the D60 Digital SLR) and $10 (the Nikon Coolpix L20), the prices for accessories have been quite significantly dropped - a half-price gear bag and discounted telephoto lens are among these items.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

DRANO? Why?!

Here's a handy trick that's new to me, but familiar to at least two of my friends. I found it in the January/February 2008 issue of Vegetarian Times, which used to have a one-page section at the back called "Fridge Notes." If you need to UNCLOG A DRAIN, don't purchase all those fancy chemicals. Try this first! Unless your problem requires a plumber, this should work for you. (I have rephrased VT's instructions to reflect my own experience)

1. Pour one cup of baking soda and one cup of salt into the drain. (Key: make sure it actually gets INTO the drain, not just on top of the drain i.e. still in the sink bowl.)

2. Add one cup of vinegar and watch the fireworks! This will bubble and sizzle, perhaps for several minutes depending on how much the drain is clogged.

3. After waiting several minutes, add approximately one cup of boiling water. You may need more, depending how long it takes for what you've added to completely exit the drain.

This not only clears a drain, but also scours it due to the abrasive nature of the baking soda. Your drain will be unclogged, clean, and smell like...well, vinegar and baking soda, but that's not the end of the world! Best of all, you haven't used any dangerous chemicals.

Pass it on! And if you have any additional feedback/tips about this or any other drain-unclogging methods, please comment and share them!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Intro Post!

Hi! I'm Danielle Conolly, a first-year communications student at Red River College, trying to curb some financially unhealthy spending habits. I'm deeply interested in ways that students can find discounts and other money-saving tips. Of course, if I stumble across a juicy discount secret for those not slogging away in the wilds of academia, I'll document it here as well. (And should I find something interesting and entirely off-topic, it may appear...but I promise to warn you first!)

I'm certainly not yet an authority on how and where to get the best deals, but I intend to vastly improve upon my current knowledge, and to take anyone who's curious along for the ride! So, cheesy as it this space for future episodes of Thrift Odyssey!