Frugal Living: How to Squeeze More Out of Everything
From the seemingly empty toothpaste tube to sympathy from your spouse, here's how to coax out a little extra.
By Joe Kita from Reader's Digest Magazine | March 2013
Squeeze More... Toothpaste from the Tube
According to tests by Consumer Reports, what seems like an empty tube may still hold up to 13 percent of its contents. To get to the rest, run the tube under hot water for a minute or two. It will soften, enabling you to roll it up tighter to get a few more brushfuls. Then use scissors to cut one side of the tube open lengthwise so you can rub your brush around inside. Or you can make the job even easier. Squeeze Ease Tube Squeezers ($3, containerstore.com) slide up the toothpaste tube and flatten it for you.
Squeeze More... Repetitions Out of a Set
Instead of counting up to your goal, count down from it. According to fitness trainer Joe Vennare of thehybrid athlete.com, counting up while exercising reminds you of how many repetitions you’ve done (tiring!), while counting down emphasizes how few you have left (inspiring!). “If I’m doing 20 reps, I’ll count down from ten and then down from ten again,” says Vennare. The tip can be used for just about anything that involves counting, whether it’s frosting 100 cupcakes or signing 100 letters.
Squeeze More... Money Out of Your Boss
Psychologist Todd Thorsteinson, PhD, has found a way to trick supervisors into being more generous: joke about a big raise. The University of Idaho professor conducted a study with role-playing students in which he asked the “supervisors” to decide how much money to offer job candidates who were supposedly already earning $29,000 a year. The candidates who were said to have requested only slightly higher starting salaries or made no salary requests at all were offered about $32,000. But candidates who jokingly requested $100,000 were awarded more—about $36,000 on average. Even though the supervisor realized the request wasn’t serious, it subconsciously affected the offer.
Squeeze More... Entertainment Out of a Tight Budget
Who needs cable when there’s openculture.com? This site, which was founded in 2006 by the director of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program, brings together “high-quality cultural and educational media” for lifelong learners. It features about 500 movies, 375 e-books, 475 audio texts, and 575 online courses—all free.
Squeeze More... Range Out of Home Wi-Fi
Turn your router into a shouter with these three no-cost tweaks from Aaron Weiss, Wi-Fi guru at bordella.com:
• Set it free: If the router is in the basement, on the ground floor, or in a closet, it’s imprisoned. Moving it to the top floor and to the center of the house will enable its signal to avoid more obstacles as it radiates downward.
• Change the channel: Although routers can communicate over 11 channels, most choose No. 6 by default—which means everyone else in the neighborhood is on the same frequency, causing interference. Refer to your router instructions, and switch to No. 1 or 11.
• Flip up the antenna: If your router has one, make sure it’s vertical. “Many people have them down or at an odd angle,” says Weiss. “It’s a common mistake that really compromises range.”
Squeeze More... Refreshment Out of a Nap
Dogs are champion nappers. Stanley Coren, PhD, who has studied sleep in humans and canines (and written a book called Do Dogs Dream?), says there’s much you can learn from the way pooches sleep. The major thing is to lie flat when you nap. Being propped up—when trying to nap in a comfy chair—prevents you from slipping into the deepest, most restorative stages of sleep because you’re on subconscious guard against falling over. Another lesson is to catnap (although dogs despise the term!). Instead of squeezing in one long nap, take two or three short ones; you’ll wake up less groggy. Catnaps are particularly useful during stressful times when you’re not getting enough rest at night.
Squeeze More... Compassion Out of an Auditor
Auditors are human, and they have a lot of discretion over how they handle cases. Scott Estill, a former IRS tax attorney and the author of Tax This!, describes subtle ways to win them over:
• Never show up late or miss a deadline: It’s guaranteed to upset them. Book the last appointment before the weekend or an extended holiday, when auditors will be in a better mood. Or grab the last slot before lunch. “This may produce a shorter audit, especially if the auditor has another appointment at one,” says Estill.
• Dress conservatively: “Never give the impression that you’re making more than your tax return shows,” he notes. Also, call the auditor Mr. or Ms.—everybody enjoys respect.
• Get ’em talking: Instead of instigating small talk yourself, wait for the auditor to create an opportunity for it. For instance, if he says “I see you made a donation to a college,” follow up with “Yes. I like supporting my alma mater. Where did you go to school?” According to Estill, “The more an auditor likes you, the better the result in many cases.”
Squeeze More... Spirituality Out of a Prayer
For her book, When God Talks Back, Stanford psychological anthropologist Tanya Marie Luhrmann, PhD, studied evangelical church members claiming to have two-way conversations with God. They had three prayer techniques in common:
• Imagination: When praying Psalm 23, for example, they not only saw the Lord as an actual shepherd but also felt themselves lying down in green pastures and being led beside still waters. They used their imaginations to make the scripture real.
• Emotion: While immersed in the psalm, while walking through the valley of the shadow of death, they recalled losing someone they loved. Letting themselves reexperience that sorrow made the scripture personal.
• Connection: Finally, they imagined God as their shepherd walking beside them through the valley and having an actual conversation. That’s when they said he spoke to them.
Squeeze More... Coffee Out of a K-Cup
They’re convenient, but if you drink a lot of joe, they can grind through a lot of dough. To squeeze 30 to 50 percent more coffee from each little cup, kcupbarista.com recommends buying a bold or extra-bold flavor and brewing one large cup into an extra-large mug. Then open and close the machine’s lid to reset it and, without removing the original K-Cup or your mug, brew another by pressing the machine’s “small-cup” setting. As your mug tops off, quickly and carefully slide another cup into place to catch the rest. The coffee that initially comes out during this second brew will still be pretty good. The more-dilute stuff caught in the second cup can be discarded or used as a mild coffee flavoring for baking.
Squeeze More... Life Out of a Dying Cell Phone Battery
As the editor of Climbing magazine, Shannon Davis spends 70-plus days a year in “nowhere zones.” His mobile phone is his lifeline. When the battery runs low, here’s what he says to do:
• Switch to Airplane Mode: Sliding it on conserves significant power while still keeping essential apps (“like the flashlight”) available. “This allowed me to go four days on one charge while climbing Mount Rainier,” Davis says. Keep in mind, though, that doing so disconnects cellular service and probably GPS too.
• Schedule your calls: Instead of wasting power by repeatedly trying to reach someone, leave a voice mail and/or send a text message telling her to contact you “on the hour.” Then simply turn your phone on and switch off Airplane Mode for a few minutes every hour until you connect.
• Keep it warm: Davis has noticed that cold batteries drain faster. So he keeps his phone in the interior breast pocket of his down jacket. There’s less chance of losing it there too.
Squeeze More... Clothes Into a Closet
The key is a technique called double hanging. Remove the rod that’s currently in your closet. It’s typically installed about 60 inches from the floor. Reinstall it at 84 inches. Then attach a second rod at 42 inches. Pants and skirts go on top; shirts and blouses, down below. Special skinny hangers (try Huggable Hangers from the Container Store) can further increase your closet’s capacity. And with all the extra space in your closet, and all the money you’ve saved with the rest of these tips, it’s time for a trip to the mall!
Get More... Juice Out of a Lemon
The BergHOFF lemon squeezer has two arms that give you more leverage to wring out all the juice. ($12, amazon.com)
Get More... Space in Your Luggage
The Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sac Set is an ingenious polyethylene/nylon assortment of bags with one-way air valves at the bottom that let you roll up bulky clothes or even pillows and reduce their volume by up to 80 percent. ($20, eaglecreek.com)
Get More... Beauty Product From Any Package
Surveys have found that being able to get every last drop from a beauty product is one of the most important consumer concerns, yet packaging often leaves 3 to 25 percent of the contents behind. To the rescue: the Every Drop Beauty Spatula, a small, flexible tool that can scoop goop from any size lotion, lipstick, shampoo, or mascara bottle or tube. ($5, tryeverydrop.com)