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20+ Simple Home Hacks to Save Money

These thrifty tricks could save you as much as $500 a year!

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change furnace filtersPhoto: Family Handyman

Change furnace filter and save up to $60 a Year

Keeping your furnace (gas or electric) tuned up has two big benefits: It makes the furnace run efficiently and it prolongs the furnace’s life span. And you can perform the annual tune-up yourself in about three hours. Change the filter every month of the heating season (or year-round if the filter is also used for A/C). Be sure you insert the new one so it faces the right way. The filter protects the blower and its motor; a clogged filter makes the motor work harder and use more power.

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Paint Mixing 2Photo: Family Handyman

Use every last drop of leftover paint

Don’t throw your leftover paint away! Mix it up and save it for use as primer later. I  have several rental properties that seem like they’re always in need of repainting. Instead of throwing out leftover paint, only having to buy more later, I put it to use. I take multiple cans of interior latex, partially-used paint and primer, any sheen, any colour, and mix them all together. It doesn’t matter how much junk or debris is in the paint. Just pour it all in. I use a power mixer to blend them, and then dump all of the mixture into a bigger container.

After all the assorted paints in the vat are mixed, it usually ends up an off-white or antique white. The sheen is usually an eggshell to satin. If the colour is too loud, I tone it down by adding a can of white paint. Now, I pour the paint into five-gallon buckets with strainer bags inside. Lift out the strainer bags to remove any debris and pop on a lid to keep the paint fresh. This is a great way to use up leftovers when you do a lot of painting. — Tom Dvorak

Arm yourself with more painting tips from the pros.

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Laundry temperaturePhoto: Family Handyman

Wash in warm, rinse in cold

Here’s a tip that could save you $50 to $100 a year. If you’re washing and rinsing your clothes in hot water, you’re wasting a chunk of change heating all that water. The juice needed to power the machine motor doesn’t cost much—the big expense is heating all that water.

Detergents are designed to perform in temps of 65 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 29 degrees Celsius). And cold water is just as effective for rinsing as warm or hot. So dial back those temperature settings! Check the water temperature in the tub right after it fills. You just might find that even the cold setting on the washing cycle is above 65 degrees F and no hot water is even needed.

Here’s how to tell if you’re using too much laundry detergent.

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Spring cleaning tips - Painted CarpetPhoto: Family Handyman

Clean carpet for cheap

I used to think dropping a loaded paintbrush on the carpet meant replacing the carpet, until a former foreman told me this little tip. Pour some denatured alcohol onto a rag and scrub away the paint. Use a rag that is as close in colour to the carpet, as the alcohol can transfer some of the rag’s colour to the carpet. – Tom Gerdowsky

Still can’t get that stain out? Before calling an expensive cleaning service, try these homemade carpet cleaners.

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power strip save energyPhoto: Family Handyman

Kill energy vampires

Seventy-five per cent of the electrical use by home electronics occurs when they’re turned off. These “energy vampires” suck electricity all day long—costing you an extra $100 each year. So if you’d like to keep that cash in your wallet, unplug your electronics or plug them into a power strip, then turn off the strip.

Don’t worry about losing the settings on new computers and TVs. They have a memory chip that resets everything when you power back up. If you have devices that flash when the power goes out, keep it plugged in. Some power strips, like the one shown, have a few outlets that always have power even when you flip off the switch. This type of strip has a main outlet for the computer. When you turn off the computer, the strip also shuts down other devices, such as your scanner, printer or modem.

Find out more energy conservation tips that could spell major savings.

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jackhammer removing crushing tilePhoto: muratart/Shutterstock

Rent versus purchase

Many DIY projects such as tile removal require a special tool—a jackhammer—that can be quite expensive to purchase. Common tools you can rent by the hour or day include pressure washers, jackhammers, hammer drills and carpet cleaners. Chances are good that your local tool rental centre will carry the tool you need for your project.

Here are 10 mistakes to avoid during a home remodel.

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moisturized wood puttyPhoto: Family Handyman

Stay-fresh wood putty trick

Wood putty is often a one-time use product for me. Before I even think about using it a second time, it’s dried out. The trick I found was to fill an empty paint can with water and store all my putty jars submerged so no air can get in. Now I can finally say that I have seen the bottom of a putty container. – Kim Boley

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plants vegetables in garden planterPhoto: Anne Kitzman/Shutterstock

Growing your own vegetables

Growing vegetables at home can be a great activity that is fun for the entire family. You don’t have to rent a plow and tractor to grow a few tomatoes in your backyard. Many vegetables—tomatoes, squash, radishes, etc.—are easy to grow in containers. This garden practice utilizes containers such as a simple wooden box or even five-gallon buckets for planting vessels. Aside from the fun you will have growing your own vegetables, the next time you need a tomato, you will save time, money and gas when you can just pick it from your own garden.

Follow these simple tips for growing a vegetable garden—anywhere!

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shop vacuumPhoto: Family Handyman

Extend the life of your shop vac

Now that I have started wood turning, my shop vacuum gets a lot of work. I stopped using filter bags since they quickly fill with the large volume of chips and other wood debris, and instead I use a pleated filter. However, the filter can get plugged, reducing the efficiency of the vacuum. I solved this problem by placing a large sheet of window screen fabric between the tank and the top part, which includes the filter. Now, dust and chips enter below the screen and won’t clog the filter. — Bill Wells

Here are nine places you’re not vacuuming—but should be.

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change the oil car maintenancePhoto: FUN FUN PHOTO/Shutterstock

Basic car maintenance

You can perform routine maintenance on your automobile to cut the costs of repair and upkeep. All that’s required is some basic knowledge, some common tools and a little elbow grease. It’s not that difficult to change your oil, replace wiper blades or even replace a broken side view mirror. Folks who are just not mechanically inclined can take advantage of free services offered by many auto parts dealers. Many retailers will install wiper blades, batteries and even air filters for free if you purchase the items directly from their store.

Learn 100 car maintenance tasks you can do yourself.

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Genius gardening hacksPhoto:

Plant-in-a-pot landscaping design

Ever wish you could save loads of money and reorganize your garden after seeing how the mature plants look? Here’s a clever way to do it.

You’ll need a bunch of landscape pots of the same size, so they’ll nest in each other. Put your plants in doubled landscape pots, and then bury them at ground level. Whenever you want a change, lift out the top pot and put in a different one. This is also really slick for bringing plants indoors over the winter. This method is great for quickly changing out seasonal plants, and allows for easy experimentation with colour and placement of plants and flowers.

Here are more genius gardening hacks that will make your life easier.

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nail polish thread locker glasses HHPhoto: Family Handyman

Tighten a loose pair of glasses

Are the arms of your eyeglasses feeling a bit wobbly? Paint a thin coat of nail polish on the screws to keep them from coming loose. Remove the screw, paint it with the nail polish and screw it back in. The nail polish keeps it in place as it gets in all the cracks and spaces.

Check out 20+ more extraordinary uses for nail polish.

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empty cleaning products and bottlesPhoto: Dejan Dundjerski/Shutterstock

Make your own household cleaners

You can help the environment and save a few bucks by making your own household cleaners. For instance, instead of using store-bought glass cleaner, mix 2 cups of water with a 1/2 cup of vinegar to create your own. (Find out more clever uses for vinegar all around the house.) Another easy formula for all-purpose cleaning involves mixing 4 tablespoons of baking soda with 1 quart of warm water.

You’ll wish you’d known these brilliant baking soda hacks sooner.

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HH clean sneakers with a toothbrush and toothpaste whitePhoto: Family Handyman

Make your old shoes look like new

All you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (coloured toothpaste may stain rather than clean sneakers).

Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary.

Find out more thrifty ways to clean white sneakers.

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Spring cleaning tips - Sink cloggedPhoto: Family Handyman

Zip-tie to the rescue

When my bathroom sink gets clogged, I don’t reach for toxic chemicals as a drain cleaner. Instead, I use an inexpensive long zip tie, with several notches cut on the zip-tie’s end. It’ll hook the hair clog, allowing you to pull it out. Problem solved!  — Rick Holmen

Find out how to clean your bathroom thoroughly—without harsh chemicals.

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Energy Star appliance stickerPhoto: Paul Sakuma/AP/Shutterstock

Buy Energy Star appliances

When you shop for appliances, look for the Energy Star label. It means the appliance meets certain energy-efficiency guidelines, and can cut your energy expenditure by 30 per cent. You don’t have to replace everything to see a savings; even replacing one eight-year-old refrigerator with a new Energy Star model can save a lot of electricity.

Here’s the real reason it’s so hard to buy new appliances right now.

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Spring cleaning tips - ice remove gum stuck in carpetPhoto: Family Handyman

Another great carpet cleaning hack

When gum freezes, it gets brittle and easily breaks apart. So, if you have gum stuck in your carpet, freeze it to remove it quickly and neatly:

  1. Place a sandwich bag filled with ice cubes on top of the gum and wait about a half hour.
  2. When the gum is frozen, break it apart and pull it out of the carpet. No trace left behind!

Here are more clever uses for ice cubes you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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clothes linePhoto: Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Install a clothes line

Electric clothes dryers can really put a dent in your pocketbook, especially if you have a large household. A simple clothesline, on the other hand, allows you to dry your clothes for free using the power of the sun. While a clothesline does require a bit of manual labour to hang the clothes, you will enjoy a fresh, natural smell in your laundry as well as a reduced utility bill.

Discover more brilliant laundry hacks that make clothing care less of a hassle.

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repurpose old clothes dirty cloth cleaning ragPhoto: Stokkete/Shutterstock

Repurpose old clothing

Purchasing cotton rags for painting, cleaning or dusting projects adds up over time. Make your own rags for free using old T-shirts and other unused garments. A few minutes with a pair of scissors or a utility knife is all it takes to convert unwanted clothing into useful rags.

Need a quick fix for that broken chair, shower head or window blind? Check out these home repairs you can tackle in 10 minutes.

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HH razor remove sweater pillsPhoto: Family Handyman

Make old sweaters look like new

Breathe new life into old sweaters by getting rid of telltale pilling. The best method? Try shaving it with an electric razor. Even a non-electric razor works! All you have to do is gently run the razor back and forth across the pills, and be careful not to snag your sweater. — Jerry Ervin

Check out 100 vintage home hacks that are still brilliant today!

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HH silica packets gardening seeds freshPhoto: Family Handyman

Keep old seeds fresh

If you don’t use up all of your seed packets, store them in an airtight container with silica packets to keep them fresh for next year. The silica packets prevent the seeds from germinating or getting moldy.

Here are more gardening tips that can save you time and money.

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Spring cleaning tips - Walnut fixes scratched woodPhoto: Family Handyman

Fix wood scratches with walnuts

Furniture gets beat up over time, but you don’t have to live with the unsightly scratches. In fact, you can remove years of damage with a simple snack food: walnuts. Simply rub a walnut over a scratch in wood several times. Then, with your fingers, rub the scratched area. This will help the wood absorb the oil from the nut. Lastly, use a soft cloth to buff the area. Now the scratch is sealed and gone!

Discover more secrets real estate agents want you to know.

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Simple home hacks to save money - LED lightbulbPhoto: Shutterstock

Switch to CFLs

Replacing incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs) is one of the quickest, easiest ways to save money—and a place everyone can start. CFLs use about 75 per cent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. Choose CFLs with the Energy Star label to get the greatest savings. When you shop, keep in mind that light fixtures with dimmers require special CFLs; be sure to read the label.

Now that you’ve got these money-saving home hacks under your belt, check out 20+ thrifty tricks to make everything you own last longer.

The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman