More Inexpensive Christmas Gift Ideas – $10 or Less!

[Editor’s note 08-18-19:  I updated the prices and availability on most of these and had to replace a few.  Some are now somewhat over $10.00.  This was originally posted Dec 2012!]

Woman Hugging PackageIt’s wonderful to be able to give special gifts at Christmas, and it’s even more wonderful to be able to give a perfect, yet inexpensive gift.

Last year The Fat Dollar published Frugal Gifts – 10 Inexpensive Gift Ideas  and Awesome, Yet Inexpensive Gift Ideas but there are still many more gift ideas for gifts $10 or less.  Most of these are for older children or adults.  I’ve tried to include links where I thought it would help you find the specific recommendation.

1.  Make an Admiration or Adoration Box.

Start with a smaller box or a pretty jar.  Decorate it with fabric, costume jewelry, and/or trim if you like.

Next take slips or squares of paper and write (or print with your computer) one thing on each slip that you love, admire or find unique about the person the gift is for. You can even write special memories of that person.  Use full sentences, single words, even little photos or drawings.  The idea is for each slip to bring a special thought or feeling.

You can get as creative as you want with decorating the slips of paper, using calligraphy, special paper, or printing them with your printer with special fonts for the letters.

Put the slips in the box or jar so that the person can draw one out and read it whenever they like or whenever they need a boost of love.

This is an especially good present for grandparents or for someone who does not really need more “things”.

Cost:  Will vary with how much decorating you do and whether you buy a box or container, but the estimate would be $1.00 to $3.00 in paper and decorating materials.


2.  For your down-to-earth friends, Mother Earth News is having a great sale of items that would make perfect gifts.


The current sale includes:

Mortier Pilon Mason Jar Lids

Mortier Pilon Mason Jar Lids (Beautiful!) – set of 12 for $5.69



Heirloom Vegetable Gardening CD for $4.00  (Yes, some of us still have CD players)

The Bountiful Container Guide to Container Gardening  $8.35


 Cost of each above gift is $4.00 to $8.35 each (not including shipping)


3.  If you are buying for a writer or someone who keeps a journal, look at the Miquelrius line of notebooks.

These are  premium notebooks and my personal favorite for journaling.  I’d rate them a 5 star. The pages are ultra smooth, the lines are fine and straight, and the spirals are high quality.  The notebook lies flat for easy writing.

 You can buy them from

Cost:  $12.99 includes prime shipping

(Yes, I realize this is more than $10.00.  The price increased since the original post.  But I still love these notebooks and wouldn’t have anything else for my morning pages.)


4.  Book Ideas:


Man Up!: 357 Classic Skills for the Modern Guy – paperback – currently $9.98 at

How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free – currently $9.93 at

7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens– currently slightly over our $10.00 limit at $11.34

The Everything Kid’s Science Experiments Book – currently $9.99 at

The 125 Best Brain Teasers of All Time– currently $9.40 at


5.  For the book reader – a book light


Energizer LED Book Light  – currently $7.90 at 

LED Book Light by French Bull– currently $9.99 at



6.  Leather Kindle Cover by mCover in Pink , Green, Blue, or Black


ACdream Case for the Kindle 10th Generation and Kindle 8th Generation   – currently $9.99 at

Note:  Be sure you know the Kindle model/size


7.   Make a book of your family’s favorite recipes – hand write or print with your computer.


Put them in a spiral hardback notebook and leave room for the recipient to add their own favorite recipes. This is especially nice to give to a new family member or to a new bride.

My Favorite Recipes  – It is very nice for recipes … I just wish it was a little more colorful!

Blank Cookbook Recipes & Notes  – $6.99


 8. Bag of gourmet coffee and a coffee cup


Fresh Roasted Coffee LLC has many selections of coffee at $9.95


9.   Make a gift basket


Ideas:  Variety of popcorn in a popcorn bowl

Muffin mixes and a muffin tin

Pancake mix and syrup (darn it, adding a skillet or griddle would take the cost over $10.00)

Jellies and jams and a box of biscuit mix (or a container of your homemade biscuit mix)

Decks of cards and a book of card game rules

Basket of soaps and wash cloths


10.  Give a garden
–   delightful kits for $9.99

My Fairy Garden – Tree Hollow growing kit – $9.99

A kit to grow herbs like basil is perfect for the cook!  Try making your own kit with a beautiful flower pot, soil, and packets of seeds.


11.  Give a bottle of wine. has a a good  listing of recommended wines , with many being $10.00 or less. has a listing of the Top 10 Wines under $10.00

The Reverse Wine Snob has a listing of the Top 10 Red Wines Under $20.00 – several are 10.00 and under – look at Costco’s Kirkland Rioja Reserva for $6.99 a bottle!

I personally like the Yellow Tail line of wines. 
Barefoot wines are also quite pleasant and inexpensive.


12.  For your northern friends, give a pair of gloves and a deluxe ice scraper.


Other ideas in this category:

 Amazon has Proheat Reusable Hand Warmers

Carhartt Mens’ Extremes Cold Weather Boot Socks
Dickies Men’s Acrylis Thermal Boot Crew Socks

HeatMax Cold Weather Survival Readiness Kit (hand and foot warmers, body warmers)

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (pack of 10) – $8.45 at Amazon


13.  Zorbitz Lucky Bracelets or Zorbitz Karma Bracelets

These bracelets cost about $6.99 to $9.99 and each bracelet has a meaning or special purpose.  There is a wide selection of really intriguing and attractive bracelets.

 /> Zorbitz bracelets

15.  Practical gifts


These work when you want to give something to someone who has little interest in “stuff” or who may simply need certain things.

  • A book of stamps.  Add envelopes and note cards too.
  • Gift certificate to their favorite fast-food restaurant (yes, I know I said practical and this is a little off-base). offers discounted restaurant certificates, but I have not tried them so I cannot offer any information
  • Especially nice socks or underwear
  • Laundry basket with laundry detergent
  • Set of bath towels and washcloths (get the nicest you can – a good bath towel is a treasure after a shower!)
  • Set of kitchen towels – again go for the more plush ones; the cheap ones are somewhat useless and please don’t get a microfiber kitchen towel
  • Set of shop rags and disposable shop towels (I did say practical, didn’t I?)
  • Mason jar filled with homemade cookie or muffin mix with the recipe attached (I love making these!)
  • An assortment of spices and herbs – try Penzeys Spices, The Spice House, your grocery store, or local specialty shops.  It’s especially nice to get a spice or herb that a cook might hesitate to buy because it is a little more expensive than average.
  • Make and freeze a meal, dessert, main dish, side dish, or snack
  • Fill a large, tightly-lidded food storage container with homemade biscuit or muffin mix.
  • A set of re-useable shopping bags
  • Give a deluxe mechanical pencil to someone who appreciates writing instruments such as a writer, engineer, or accountant
  • A couple of low-energy fluorescent (CLF) or LED bulbs to replace their energy-hogging incandescent bulbs
  • An assortment of chocolate bars for the choc-a-holic (of course this is practical)
  • A fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, or carbon monoxide detector
  • An assortment of AA and AAA batteries (try the Maxell batteries from Amazon)
  • If they have a charger, they would love more rechargeable batteries – find out what kind of charger they have – you can buy the specific battery brand or many chargers will charge a variety of brands of rechargeable AA and AAA batteries
  • Make a set of coasters from 4-inch ceramic tiles – use paint, or decoupage pretty gift wrap.  Glue a piece of felt on the bottom.
  • If you have leftover herbs from your garden, make sachet bundles or little pillows with either specific herbs (like lavender or mint) or from a mixture.
  • Give a small planter or flower in a pot
  • Make a little gift basket for their favorite pet
  • Give a special Christmas ornament that recognizes a person, special interest, or hobby
  • Supplies for their hobby – scrapbooking, photography, bird watching, small rocket launching, etc. – find out what they frequently use or like.  Unless you’ve heard the person specifically express an interest in something they don’t normally use, then for our practical section, it’s best to buy them something that they normally use but is harder to get or is slightly out of their current budget.


I hope these give you some ideas.  As you can see, you can give special gifts for $10.00 or less.

If you have additional ideas, share them with us in the comments.  Thank you!

(Note that some of the links are in affiliation with and may pay us a commission.)

The Great Toilet Tissue vs Facial Tissue Cost Savings Calculations

[Note: Prices updated 08-13-19]

Roll of toilet tissue I had to use a little finesse in the title of this post, because the results of my calculations were not exactly exciting.

I’ve often wondered whether it really does save money to use toilet tissue instead of facial tissue when you just have a bit of a sniffle or a corner-of-the eye tear to dab away.

The answer is yes.  It does save money.  However the savings were not quite what I was expecting.

Using costs from my local grocery store, I calculated that one facial tissue costs $.009313 or about one cent each.  One square of toilet tissue costs about $.0002427 each.  I figured that I would almost always use two squares of toilet tissue for dabbing, so for my calculations, I used the cost of two squares of toilet tissue, or $.004854 – about 1/2 of a cent.

In summary, the cost of using one facial tissue is $.009313 vs. the cost of two squares of toilet tissue at $.004854.  That makes the savings $.004459, or a little under 1/2 of a cent.

So, it saves about 1/2 of a cent every time you substitute two squares of toilet tissue for one regular facial tissue.  It would take over 200 times of doing this before you’d save a dollar.

Now if you’re constantly reaching for a facial tissue, then you could have some worthy savings.  Say you use a box of 160 count box of facial tissue a week.  If you completely substituted toilet tissue, you could save $.76 a week. 

Also note that I used a store brand tissue and I used sale prices.  Your savings will vary if you pay full retail prices and/or buy premium brands.

Just for fun (we are having fun, aren’t we?), let’s do the math with full retail prices and non-store brand facial tissue:** has a 3 pack of Puffs Ultra Soft tissues for $4.68.  That makes each tissue cost $.012581, or about a penny each.** also has a pack of 12 mega-rolls of Charmin Ultra Soft toilet tissues for $12.97.  Each roll has 284 sheets (squares), so that makes 3408 squares of toilet tissue for $12.97, or $.003806 each, about 1/3 of a cent per square.

So using 2 squares of Charmin Ultra Soft toilet tissue instead of one Puffs facial tissue will save $.004969 each time, or (rounded up) 1/2 of a cent.

It is still a savings, just not a very glamorous one.  If you used Charmin instead of a whole box of Puffs, you’d save $.62 per box.

If you use a lot of facial tissues, you would certainly save money by substituting toilet tissue for dabbing.

Note, too, that if you are doing a full-blown use (pun intended, because we are still having so much fun with this math) of the tissue, then I’d estimate you’d use at least 4 squares of toilet tissue for blowing your nose instead of one facial tissue.   In that case, all of our calculations are cut in half and they dwindle even more.  You’d save about $.36 per box of tissues  by substituting sale-priced toilet tissue for store brand facial tissue and about  $.62 per box by substituting regular priced premium toilet tissue for premium facial tissue.

None-the-less, it is a savings.  And savings repeated long enough, even small ones, will add up.  Saving $.38 a week will become $98.80 (no interest added) after 5 years.

Myself, I’ll choose the toilet tissue when it’s more convenient than wandering around the house looking for a facial tissue. Otherwise, I’ll pull a nice, soft facial tissue out of the box.  Now that I’ve done the math, I might even consider that tissue a bit of an affordable luxury.

So that’s The Fat Dollar take on using toilet tissue instead of facial tissue.

What are your thoughts?


*Local grocery flyer (Martins Supermarket) prices (08/13/19)
$6.99  for a package of 6 Angel Soft Double Rolls of toilet paper = 2880 squares

$1.49 for a 3 boxes of Our Family Facial Tissues = 480 tissues

** prices for the Puffs and Charmin are from 08/13/19

Put the Rule of 72 in Your Financial Toolbox

Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it,
earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it.
”   – Einstein


Rule of 72As you begin saving and investing your money, one important piece of information is projecting the growth of your investments. 

One very simple and easy to remember tool is the Rule of 72.  The rule calculates how many years it will take you to double your money for any given yearly rate of return.

The Simple Rule of 72

Here is the rule:  Start with the number 72.  Divide it by the yearly rate of return on your investment.   The result is the number of years it will take for your investment to double.

For example, your CD has an annual return of 3.0%.  Take 72 and divide it by 3.0.  The result is 24.  It will take 24 years for your CD to double in value.  (Hint:  that is a long time!)

Twist the Rule of 72 for More Answers

You can also twist the formula a bit and find out what interest rate you need in order to double your money in a specific number of years.   To find this out, divide 72 by the desired number of years.

For example, say you hope to retire in 12 years.  You have $200,000 in an investment fund and you want it to be at $400,000 in 12 years.    What rate of return will you need to make this happen?   To find out, take 72 and divide it by 12.  The answer is 6, which means that you will need a rate of return of 6% if you want to double the fund in 12 years.

Rule of 72 for More than Just Money and Years

Of course, you can use the rule for more than just money and years.  Here are a couple of examples:

You are just starting out with an exercise routine.  Right now you are exercising for 10 minutes each workout.  If you increase your workout by 10% a week, approximately how many weeks will it take you to double your time to 20 minutes a workout?   Let’s find out!  Take 72 and divide it by 10.  The answer is 7.2, or 7.2 weeks.   Since you are increasing once a week, you will increase above 20 minutes starting at week 8.

Another example:  You teach a monthly seminar to a class of 25 people.  That’s nice but you want your class size to increase to at least 50 people over the next 6 months.  What percentage increase do you need each month in order to double your class in 6 months?  Get our your trusty Rule of 72 and let’s go! Take 72 and divide it by 6.  The answer is 12.  You will need to increase by at least 12% each month.  (In this example, you’ll have to keep in mind that you can only add whole people to your class each month.  If your 12% increase says that you should add 3.8 people for a given month, in reality you will have to add 4 people.)

Cool, huh?  A simple, effective tool to help you plan and evaluate your investments and more.  Now that’s The Fat Dollar way.



Specialized Job Listing Sites for Your Job Search

Man circling help wanted ads in newspaperIf you’ve been searching for a good job, you have probably tried,,,, or  You may even have tried  or Google for Jobs.

But what if you’ve tried all of the general job listing websites and still haven’t found the right job? Try searching the specialized job boards.

There are websites that list job openings just for the medical field, engineering, accounting and finance, blue collar, creative fields, earth-friendly jobs, and more. Try searching for sites that cater to your specific field of interest.

Try some of the listings in this article: Employment Websites to Help You Find a Great Job – List of Targeted Job Listings Sites for a list of nearly two dozen sites for your niche search.

Often the perfect job is the one that is not widely advertised so contacting friends and acquaintances in your desired field to ask them if they know of any job openings can be effective, too.

What is your favorite job search site?

Is That a Counterfeit Coupon?

scattered coupons and pair of scissorsHave you ever seen a grocery coupon offered online or as an attachment to an email that seemed to good to be true?

I learned a hard lesson about counterfeit coupons several years ago.  I don’t recall the source of the coupon,  but I had printed an internet coupon good for a free rental at Blockbuster Video (yes, it was awhile ago!).  It did not even occur to me that the coupon might be a fraud.

My then teenaged son and his girlfriend were going to Blockbuster to pick out some movies to watch.  I suddenly felt generous.  “Here,”  I said, “you can have my coupon.  Get yourself a free movie rental.”  They were thrilled.

They were not so thrilled when they tried to rent the movie with my coupon.  The coupon was rejected.  To make matters worse, the manager pulled them aside and accused them of creating the coupon themselves and trying to commit fraud at the store.  He even mentioned that he should call the police.

They were shaken.  I was mortified.  I still cringe when I think of it.

Since then, I have been overly cautious about printing or downloading free coupons from the internet.   For the most part, I only print coupons from trusted sites like , ,, and as well as directly from a product’s company website, such as 

Better yet, I usually download coupons directly to my grocery store card.  My grocery store offers digital grocery coupons from a variety of name-brand sources. 

How do you know if a coupon is counterfeit or legitimate?

There is a website, that if I had know about it back then, might have shown me that the coupon I had was a fraud.  The site is the CouponInformation  It does not seem to be as vibrant or as frequently updated as it has been in the past, but the site still has good information.

Try visiting the Coupon Information Center and looking up your coupon. If it is listed on the list at the Coupon Information Center then you can save yourself a dose of mortification and throw it away. 

Currently, the site is listing, among others, these counterfeit grocery coupons:

  • PepsiCo, All Brands, $3.00 coupon
  • Kraft Foods, Velveeta, 1 lb Free
  • Nestle, Friskies, one Free
  • Proctor & Gamble, Any Product, Free
  • and at least a few hundred more

Each counterfeit coupon listing has a Download PSA listing with a picture and description of the counterfeit coupon.  There is also information on their (up to) $2500 reward system for helping to find and prosecute the person producing the coupon, but note that each coupon has an expiration date of the reward offer for that particular coupon.

So if you get a coupon that seems to good to be true, first visit the Coupon Information Center site and see if they have it listed. If they do have it listed as a counterfeit, consider reporting the source of your coupon to the CIC.  Then toss the coupon.

Other steps to verify your coupon

If the coupon is not listed, you still can’t be sure it is legitimate.  To try to verify it, try visiting the product’s website to see if your coupon is being offered there.  You might also try visiting some of the major coupon distributing sites (see links above) to see if they are offering the coupon.  You can even try googling it to see what you can unearth on it.

Another site to try for verification of your coupon is They have a section on their site where you can enter the bar code of the coupon and they will tell you if it is a legitimate Coupons, Inc. coupon.  Note that this does not work for other coupons.  I tested the Veri-Fi It feature with a $1.00 off Turkey Hill Ice Cream coupon that I received in a mail flyer.  I’m certain it is legitimate, but returned a negative because it was not one of their coupons.

Signs of a fraudulent coupon advises that if a site is displaying a copy of the actual coupon, it is most likely fake.  They advise that a legitimate coupon requires that you print it with special software (that you download and store on your computer) that prints the barcodes and also limits the number of times a coupon can be printed.  You will only see the actual coupon when you print it.

Another sign is a coupon that appears to have been cut from a flyer or magazine, yet it has a blank back.

And need I say this: If it seems to good to be true, such as for a free product, then it very likely is. 

Try Customer Service to ask about your coupon

If you still are unable to verify the coupon and the offer is valuable enough that you hesitate to toss it, I would contact the product’s company customer service center and ask them if your coupon is legitimate.

I would not take any chances on a questionable coupon that you cannot verify.  Tossing it could save you from some extreme embarrassment.

How about you?  Have you ever come across a counterfeit coupon?


Editor’s note: this post has been updated from our original post from 08-18-13

Energy Saving Tips and an Energy Savings Kit

Editor’s Note:  Updated Original post from 09-04-13

My electric utility company, AEP Indiana Michigan Power company, just sent me a box of energy saving items and energy saving tips!
Energy Savings Kit OpenedI received

4 Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs

3 faucet aerators

2 low-flow shower heads

a thermometer card for the refrigerator and freezer

a hot water temperature card.


You can see my kit in the photo.

Thanks! I know I will use the CFL bulbs. I’ve already replaced our porch light with one of the bulbs in the kit.

Energy Savings with CFL Bulbs

Compared to an incandescent bulb, a CFL bulb will use up to 75% less electricity, last up to 6 times longer, and save about $6.00 a year in electric costs.*

I got 4 CFL bulbs, so that’s like getting $24.00 in the mail.  Wait.  That’s just one year’s worth of savings. That’s $24.00 for each year that the bulb replaces an incandescent bulb.  Not bad.


Energy Savings with Low-Flow Showerheads and Aerators

Switching to one low-flow showerhead and one faucet aerator, can reduce hot water usage by 4,200 gallons per year per family. **

According to, that’s a savings of about $145.00 per year if you have an electric water heater.


Energy Savings with Refrigerator Temperature Setting

The refrigerator and freezer thermometer cards are credit card sized and are designed to be placed in the refrigerator or freezer to take a temperature reading.

Good thing I got the thermometer card.  I discovered that my refrigerator is running a couple of degrees too warm.  I turned the refrigerator control from “4” to “5” and I’ll test it again.  Hopefully it will be within the acceptable temperature range of 36 – 40 degrees F.

While letting the temperature in the refrigerator run too warm can invite food spoilage, letting the temperature run too cold can waste energy.

Mr Electricity says a refrigerator set too cold by 10 degrees can use up to 20-25% more energy.


Energy Savings with Hot Water Heater Temperature Setting

I haven’t used the hot water temperature card yet.  It is designed to be placed in a cup of your hottest tap water.  The card will tell you if the water heater temperature is set too high.

According to, lowering the temperature of the hot water heater by 10% creates a yearly energy savings of 3-5%.


Ideally, your hot water heater should be set between 110 degrees and 125 degrees F.

Maybe You Can Get Your Own Energy Kit – Here’s How

To receive the energy saving kit, I took an online energy assessment of my home.  I received a checklist of ways to reduce energy costs as well as the kit.  I live in a 110 (or is it 115?) year old farm house, so I appreciate energy savings.

If you are an AEP Indiana Michigan Power customer, you may also be eligible for the kit.  Take a look go/checkup.

I found a few other utility companies offering an energy savings kit.

Some seem similar to the one I received:

Ohio  – Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison –

Ontario, Canada – Union Gas –

California, Los Angeles – Pace Energy –

Arizona, City of Flagstaff –

California, Oakland – East Bay Municipal –


Indiana – Indianapolis Power & Light –

Missouri – KCP&L Energy –

Ohio – Dayton Power & Light –

Ohio – First Energy –

British Columbia – BC Hydro –


This is just a small sampling of the utility companies offering some sort of energy savings kits.

Your Utility Company May Offer Rebates or Incentives for Energy Savings

In addition, many utility companies are offering rebates, coupons and incentives for purchasing or installing energy efficient appliances, such as refrigerators, stoves, air conditioning units, and furnaces.

If you are doing anything that might be considered an energy saving improvement, or purchasing any appliances, log onto your own utility company’s website and see what rebates and programs they have available.

Have you received any rebates or energy saving incentives from your utility company?  How are you saving energy?

Even small changes, such as switching types of light bulbs, can add up to worthwhile savings, even hundreds of dollars a year. Taking a few minutes to make a small change, such as trading an incandescent bulb to a CFL bulb, lowering your hot water temperature, lowering the settings on your refrigeratro, can create savings that continue adding up for years.

Even better, it helps us all to become a little less dependent on energy and gives some relief to the demands that we make on the sometimes overburdened grid.

Now that’s the Fat Dollar way!



*Source – – Light Bulbs

** Source – Minnesota CenterPoint Energy

Mr Electricity –

How Often to Wash Clothes

How Often Should You Wash Your Clothes?

Laundry Basket of Clothes


Washing clothing too often will cause unnecessary wear on the fabric and may cause the fabric colors to begin to fade.  It also wastes wear and tear on your washer and dryer as well as wastes laundry detergent, fabric softener, water, electricity or gas, and your time! 

Here is a quick guide from Real Simple to help you determine how frequently you need to launder key clothing pieces, barring stains or especially sticky days, that is. 

Jeans: After 4 to 5 wears

Dress Pants: After 4 to 5 wears

Jackets and Blazers: After 5 to 6 wears

Khaki Shorts and Pants: After 2 to 3 wears

Pajamas: After 3 to 4 wears

Skirts: After 4 to 5 wears

Swimsuits: After every wear

Tops and Dresses: After 1 to 3 wears

T-Shirts, Tanks and Camisoles: After every wear

Bras: After 3 to 4 wears



Wow, saves money on clothing, detergent, and fabric softener.  Saves money and time.  Now that’s The Fat Dollar way!

Source: Real Simple


Article by Patti Tokar Canton

Photo courtesy of and jm1366

© 2011-2019 All Rights Reserved. Do Not Duplicate Without Permission

Impulsive Spending – Get It Under Control

Impulsive spending can wreck havoc with your budget. A British survey by the energy company npower, showed that men spend about $41.00 per week on impulse purchases, while women showed a bit more control with spending of $30.00 per week.

A more recent survey by puts the yearly figure much higher – $5400.00 a year on impulse purchases!  That is over $100.00 a week.  That is a stunning amount. 

According to SlickDeals, the top five common impulse purchases are:

1. Food and Groceries

2. Clothing

3. Household goods

4. Takeout food

5. Shoes

An impulsive purchase is a purchase that is unplanned and is often for the purpose of making the buyer feel good. Usually the purchases end up unwanted or unused.

Even if you fritter away only $25.00 a week, you have wasted $1,300.00 in a year. What could you do with $1300.00?

How about you?  How much do you figure you are spending on impulse purchases each week?  Each month?  Each year?

Most likely you are spending money impulsively and are not even aware of it.  

Learning to reduce the amount of impulsive spending can make a big difference in your financial future.

Read The Fat Dollar’s article Impulsive Spending – Or How Not to Spend Money

Stretching Your Skin Care Dollars

I saw a reader tip from a woman’s magazine about getting the last bit of skin care lotion from the tube and I decided to try it.  Some anti-aging skin care lotions are breathtakingly pricey – $60.00 or more per tube. If your skin care lotion is in this price range, you will see considerable savings from this tip.

Scissors and Cut TubeBasically, once you have squeezed every last bit from the tube, you simply snip off the end of the tube.  A considerable amount of lotion remains inside on the sides of the tube. In addition,an even larger amount of  lotion remains in the tip and mouth of the tube.  I estimate that 10 – 20% of the lotion can be recovered this way.

When I tried this with two different tubes, I had a comfortable week’s worth of extra lotion from one tube and over two weeks of use from another.  I was absolutely delighted.

This works with anti-aging skin care lotion, moisturizing lotion, other types of skin care lotion.  It would be very beneficial for a prescription tube of lotion.   I estimated that I have saved several dollars already.

It was easy, effective, frugal, and made use of items that I already had … that makes it a Fat Dollar money saving tip.

More details and photos are posted on The Fat Dollar site.

How to Make Washing Soda

I’ve spent more time than I would ever have imagined on experimenting with making washing soda by heating baking soda in my oven. I thought that today I’d give you a summary of how to make washing soda and some secrets to determining when the process is complete.

Why make your own washing soda?  Because it’s often hard to find in the store.  And because if you do it right, you can easily make it for less than the cost of commercial washing soda.

So here is the very simple process – How to Make Washing Soda

Bag of baking sodaYou will need a glass casserole dish (or other oven proof dish) and about two cups of baking soda.  The dish must be glass because the washing soda will react with metal pans, especially aluminum, and may damage the pan.

Put the baking soda in an even layer in the casserole dish.  Use about two cups, or whatever quantity makes about a 1″ thick (or smaller) layer in your pan.  The thicker the layer, the longer it will need to be heated and the more it will need to be stirred while heating.

Now place the baking soda dish in the top rack of your oven.  Leave it there while you do your normal cooking.  Leave it there even when the oven is off.  Every few times you use the oven, take the dish out and stir the baking soda and put the dish back in the oven.

Let the baking soda sit in the oven for a week or so until you have about six cumulative hours of heating the oven to 375 degrees or higher.  By then it should have converted to washing soda.

Although it works to simply heat the baking soda alone for about 3 hours at 375 degrees, I don’t recommend this because the expense of heating your (gas) oven for 3 hours would be about $.34 an hour for a total of $1.02.  That would actually make your homemade washing soda cost more than the washing soda you could purchase in the store.

If you could find it in the store, that is.

If you normally cook at temperatures above 400 degrees F, then you may find that your baking soda converts faster.  You may also need less time if you start with very small quantities of baking soda.

Use the tests below to determine when you actually have washing soda. If your tests show it has not converted yet, just put it back in the oven and continue heating.

How can you tell if your baking soda has converted to washing soda?

There are several ways that will help you determine if you have made washing soda:

Secret 1:  The volume of the soda has increased.  Heating about 2 cups of baking soda will convert to about 2-1/2 cups of washing soda.

If the volume has not increased, put it back in the oven for more heating.

Secret 2:  Dissolve a tablespoon of the powder in about 1/2 cup of clear water.  Washing soda will dissolve quickly and stay dissolved.  Baking soda will need to be shaken, stirred, shaken again to get it to dissolve.

Then let the solution sit for about 15 minutes.  The washing soda solution will stay clear.  The baking soda solution will develop a layer of white powder on the bottom of the cup after 10-15 minutes.  That’s because you thought the baking soda dissolved in the water, when in fact it was just fooling you.

Secret 3:  Look closely at the texture and color of the powder.  Baking soda is a brilliant white and the particles look like very tiny grains of white sand or sugar.  Washing soda has a subtle gray cast (compare it to unheated baking soda) and the texture is more powdery, like a fine talcum powder.

The difference is subtle, so don’t be discouraged if you feel that you are just guessing that the color and texture has changed.

Secret 4:  Do a pH test on the washing soda.  Dissolve the washing soda in a 1/2 cup of filtered water.  The washing soda solution should test alkaline with a pH of 11.6.

Here is a photo of baking soda:

Baking soda











And here is a photo of washing soda:

Spoonful of washing soda











Once you’ve made the washing soda, keep it in a sealed container. I use a 32 oz size yogurt container, but you could use a zippered plastic bag, a clean jar, or any container with a lid.

To boost your laundry detergent, use about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of washing soda per load. It can also be used as a heavy-duty cleaner – just mix with a little water to make a paste or more water to make a spray solution.

Remember that washing soda is caustic. With a pH of 11.6 it is more alkaline than ammonia which has a pH of 11.5. Bleach has a pH of 12.6. Don’t let washing soda powder or solution come in contact with your skin.

You can read the details of my seriously flawed pH test and the later successful pH test as I tried to determine whether I had actually converted the baking soda to washing soda.

Enjoy the process and savor the savings! That’s The Fat Dollar way.