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Skip the Kit, Grab the Eraser

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Over the years, I've come to the conclusion that for every situation there's an expensive way to solve it and there's a cheap way. Discovering the cheaper alternative is what readers of this column do so well. And when they share their discoveries with all of us, it's a good day!

HEADLIGHT MAGIC. The plastic headlights on my old car had yellowed, and replacing them was going to be costly. The kit to restore them cost $15 at the auto parts store, so I decided to try Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. It worked great. I suggest testing a small area first. You can always buy the headlight kit, but Mr. Clean Magic Eraser will save you money. — Ginny, Wisconsin

INSIDE THE SALE. Pillow forms can be very expensive. When I need one, I shop the clearance sales at my local department store. I find hideously ugly pillows that no one would buy, for a much, much lower price than I would pay for a pillow form at a fabric store. The key is to find pillows with a zipper, or at least make sure there is a liner between the stuffing and the cover. I recently purchased two down throw pillows for $5 each. I removed the ugly Christmas-themed cover and sewed new attractive covers that now decorate my couch and living room. — Jennifer, Oregon

BABY THE STAINLESS. My stainless steel stove always had fingerprints and smudges. I would clean it and polish it, but it never stayed clean. I recently got a new stainless steel dishwasher, and my cleaning lady told me she only uses baby oil to clean stainless steel appliances.

I tried it, and it works beautifully. It not only cleans, but it lasts a long time, too. My stove and dishwasher look great all the time. I wipe the baby oil on gently and then wipe it again with a clean, soft cloth. — Bonita, Missouri

CRACKER CRUNCH. A delicious and inexpensive alternative to croutons is to break up crackers and put them in salads. Any cracker works well. I love those little oyster crackers. I've grown to actually prefer crackers to croutons! — Rachel, email

PLANT FOOD RECIPE. Instead of buying expensive plant food, I mix 2 tablespoons of Epsom salts in a gallon of water. I water my plants once a week with this solution. My plants love it, especially my Geraniums. — Marj, Kentucky

DAILY DOGGIE SCRAPS. I keep a small covered bowl on my countertop. During the day, when I open a can of veggies or fruit and I don't want the liquid, I pour it into the bowl. Depending on what my family has for dinner, I may scrape the food from the pots and dishes into the bowl, too. For their evening meal, I take the day's tasty mixture and add it to my dogs' food. — Jil, email

Would you like to send a tip to Mary? You can email her at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. Include your first and last name and state. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com and author of 18 books, including "Debt-Proof Living" and "Tiptionary 2." To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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