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Everyday Cheapskate: Erase the Miles with a Birthday Cake Kit, Plus More Great Tips

Mary Hunt on

I love to celebrate, and it is always fun to come up with new ways to mark special occasions. Everyone should have a birthday cake on their birthday, but for that faraway friend or family member, sometimes a homemade cake just isn't in the cards -- until now!

BIRTHDAY CAKE KIT. Just because you are not geographically close doesn't mean you can't bake a cake for someone special. You can send a birthday cake kit! Bake a cake in the size and shape that you want. Allow it to cool, then wrap it well in plastic. Freeze. In a box, pack the frozen cake, a can of icing, decorating tubes and sprinkles; candles, paper plates, a plastic knife, forks and napkins. Your surprised recipient will have a great time assembling, decorating and serving the special birthday cake. Send this kit to a college student, and he or she will love you forever!

BUTTON BOND. When you buy a garment that comes with a little plastic pouch with extra buttons, sew them to an inside seam allowance of the garment. Then they are always with that piece of clothing, and you won't have to hunt for a replacement when you need one.

SCARF MAGIC. Take shower curtain rings and snap them together to make a long chain. Take a hanger and put the hook through the top ring. Now you have a hanging scarf holder that will keep dozens of scarves neat, visible and completely organized.

SELF-GRATE: Instead of buying grated cheese in a bag, opt for a block of cheese and grate it yourself as needed. You'll cut your net cost by half and avoid the "anti-caking" ingredient added to grated cheese (to prevent clumping), which also impedes pre-grated cheese from melting.

GREASE THE GRATER. To get more cheese on your dish and less stuck on the grater, spray both sides of the grater lightly with cooking spray before grating the cheese. This will allow the cheese to fall off the grater more easily.

FLAVORED CREAM CHEESE. There is no need to pay extra for flavored cream cheese. Instead, you can purchase plain cream cheese and beat it until it is smooth. Add jam, preserves, herbs, garlic -- you name it -- to taste; continue beating until mixed well.

GREEN ONIONS. You can double, even triple green onions' lifespan significantly by placing them in a jar of water on the kitchen counter. This method allows the green onion tops to continue growing, enabling you to trim them as required while keeping them perfectly fresh.


AVOCADO RIPE. Store avocados that need to ripen at room temperature. If they've ripened but you're not ready yet to use them, place them in the refrigerator. This will prevent further ripening for a few more days.

BROWN SUGAR SAVER. Keep your brown sugar from getting hard this way: Put a bread heel in the container with your brown sugar. The sugar will absorb the moisture from the bread and will stay softer for longer. Plus, this is a great way to use the often-discarded ends of a loaf of bread.

FORMICA FACELIFT. If you can't replace the Formica counters that you think are out of date, consider painting them. There are several methods that you can use. Consult a good paint store. Products such as Kilz, for the base coat, and Stone Creations by Rust-Oleum, for the new color, are good options. Stone Creations has an interesting texture that will update your look for a very reasonable cost.

KEEP THE CRUNCH. To maintain the freshness of celery, carrots and radishes, chop them up and place them in a container filled with water before storing them in the refrigerator. This simple method can prolong their freshness for a surprisingly long time.


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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