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Easy Ways to Save $100: Five Simple Household Skills That Can Save You Big Money Every Month

Updated on July 26, 2011
Simple mending skills such as sewing a button or hemming a pair of pants can stretch your wardrobe dollars.
Simple mending skills such as sewing a button or hemming a pair of pants can stretch your wardrobe dollars. | Source

Five Simple Skills At a Glance

  • Simple sewing and mending.
  • Shine your shoes.
  • Prepare simple meals at home.
  • Unclog your drain or toilet.
  • Change your furnace filter.

Have you ever thrown away a pair of pants because it popped a button, or taken in your vacuum cleaner for a $50 "tune up"? The simple household skills that follow can help some of the investments in your home continue working properly and even save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, in unnecessary repairs or replacement costs.

Mend and Sew Clothing for Longer Wear

You don't have to be able to make your own clothes to save hundreds of dollars a year using some simple sewing and mending skills. Mending can include sewing on a shirt button or patching the knees of a child's pants. If you can sew a straight stitch on a sewing machine, you can cut off a pair of frayed pants at the knees and turn them into a fashionable and functional pair of shorts or capri pants, extending the wear of the pants and eliminating the need to buy an additional summer wardrobe. Multiply the savings by the number of children you have, and the dollars really begin to add up! Extend the wear of your children's footie pajamas by cutting off the feet and pairing them up with a pair of warm cotton socks.

A mending kit need not be complicated or full of expensive supplies. Clip the buttons from shirts that are too stained or worn beyond repair, then toss the clothing in a rag bag for some funky crafting. What to do with old shirt or clothing that can't be reworked?

Items to Keep Handy In a Mending Kit

Mending Kit Items 
How They Are Used
Sewing Scissors 
One-time purchase, essential for cutting clean, straight lines on fabric. Helpful for cutting off jeans and other pants for turning into shorts and capris.
 Straight Pins
Use to hold fabric into place when turning up the cuff in a pair of pants. 
Shirt Buttons 
Keep a supply of shirt buttons on hand for quickie repairs. 
Press-on Patches
No-sew patches can extend the life of your children's play clothes and reinforce knees for active children.
A small supply of needles in your mending kit is essential for sewing on buttons.
See-through nylon thread
Most mending projects can be completed with this useful, all-purpose thread.

Polish Boots and Shoes

Investing in high-quality shoes and keeping them looking brand new makes sense for the adults in the family, but it is also a useful skill for hand-me-down shoes that children inherit from sibilings, friends, and cousins. One school of thought on shoes is that children should never wear hand-me-downs, but coming from a large family, I know this isn't always a practical solution for the family's budget.

Cleaning and polishing shoes can keep them looking newer longer. For your polishing kit you will want to have a soft cotton cloth, clear saddle soap or leather cleaner, shoe polish in the same color as your shoes, and a soft-bristled brush for shining your shoes. Store all of these away from small children and pets in a plastic shoebox or sturdy drawstring bag. Note that shoe polish, when it gets old, will get hard and caked, but saddle soap will keep almost indefinitely with little effect on its usability.

Items to Keep Handy in a Shoe Shine Kit

Soft cotton cloth 
A 100% cotton t-shirt that has outgrown its usefulness will work perfectly. Use the cloth for applying saddle soap or shoe polish. More than one cloth is nice to have for using different colors of shoe polish.
A shoe-shine brush with soft bristles 
These are available for purchase in the shoe polish section of your store. 
Saddle soap
Saddle soap is a leather cleaner. It comes in a paste form that can be applied with a soft cloth to shoes. Shoes should be cleaned with saddle soap or leather cleaner before you apply a colored shoe polish.
Shoe polish
I like Kiwi brand shoe polish that is sold in a cake-like format. You will want black, brown, and clear. I don't like liquid shoe polish that is applied with a sponge-tipped applicator. These are extra messy.

Prepare Simple Meals at Home

You can save hundreds of dollars a month by preparing simple meals at home instead of eating out at fast food restaurants. My family of two adults and four children can easily spend $25.00 per meal on the "convenience of fast food," and eating in is an excellent way to trim our grocery budget.

You don't have to be Julia Child to prepare simple meals at home. If what you really need is simplicity and convenience, a jar or prepared spaghetti sauce served over noodles, rice, or even quinoa will provide a quick, easy, and even nutritious fix. Amplify the nutrional value of prepared sauces by adding veggies like carrots, peppers, onions, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, and olives. I like to keep on hand simple foods that can be served straight to the table, such as raw baby carrots, snap peas, cut veggies, and frozen blueberries, sliced watermelon, strawberries rinsed and served fresh, and when they are in season, table grapes. These are simple to fix and serve alternatives to any fast food menu. These simple food items are packed with nutrition and require almost no preparation.

Other simple home-cooked meals include baked potatoes, soups, chili, summer salads, and on evenings when I have time to cook, a more elaborate dish such as homemade pizza or calzones from a favorite cookbook such as the classic Moosewood Cookbook or the Bread and Soup Cookbook by Crescent Dragonwagon.

To instantly save even more on your grocery bill, reduce your consumption of cold cereal at breakfast and instead eat oatmeal, pancakes, eggs, or even leftovers from the night before. Eggs, fruit, and a piece of whole wheat toast, with a small glass of milk is a filling alternative to high-cost processed foods.

Learn to Unclog a Drain or Toilet

Although unclogging a drain or toilet can be an unpleasant job, it doesn't have to be difficult. Make sure you own a high-quality plunger, and for the occasional plumbing emergency, make sure you also own a toilet auger. Both of these tools can save you a fortune in plumbers fees if you learn to use these tools properly. In a moment of need, you will be prepared. Several excellent videos are available free on the internet which give detailed descriptions of using these tools.

Change Your Furnace Filter Every Month

Changing a furnace filter is a very simple task that can save you thousands of dollars in repairs on your furnace. Dirty furnace filters cause more wear and tear on furnaces, causing them to wear out more quickly than a furnace that is maintained with this one simple step. Furnaces with clean filters heat and cool more efficiently, and blow far less dust out of vents or heat registers. In comparison to the cost of a new furnace, the cost of 12 mid to high-grade furnace filters per year will save you far more than you will pay to replace them.

If you wish, you can purchase washable filters that can be sprayed with the nozzle attachment from a garden hose, then left to dry before replacing in the furnace.

Once a year, have your air conditioning unit inspected by a professional, especially in warm-climate areas where high heat can place a lot of stress on your air conditioner. Once you have made a habit of replacing furnace filters every month, you might even see a drop of as much as $30 a month in your heating and cooling bills.

An added benefit: your home will be noticeably less dusty!

Tune Up Your Vacuum Yourself

Many vacuums regularly lose their suction power as their rotors catch pieces of lint and thread, and wrap around the brush that spins inside the vacuum. You can restore an older vacuum's performance to its peak capacity by simply changing the vacuum bag, removing obstructions from the vacuum's intake areas, cleaning or replacing HEPA filters as needed, and removing thread wrapped around the vacuum's roller brush.

Vacuum maintenance is a skill that even young teens can learn. If you are unsure where to begin, check the manual that came with your vacuum, or find a handy friend or neighbor who is willing to walk you through the easy steps involved with maintaining this machine. Just remember to unplug your vacuum before you begin taking it apart.


Submit a Comment

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    7 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks Rachelle. The one I need to work on the most is the grocery area. I have been making a mindful attempt at using up all of the groceries I purchase in my refrigerator before they spoil. We have to strike a balance between purchasing too much at once and making too many trips in our family of 6. With that many mouths to feed, its easy to save, because fast food is so costly.

    On the topic of mending...I just bought a coat for my son for $2, presumably at such a low price because the pocket needs to be resewn...I can do that in about 5 minutes with a needle and clear thread.

    Good luck with your savings!

  • Rachelle Williams profile image

    Rachelle Williams 

    7 years ago from Tempe, AZ

    Good work here. Times are hard, and we need to learn how to save money any way we can. Thanks for sharing.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    7 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks Stephanie, that is so true. The more self-reliant we can be, the less we HAVE to rely on others. I don't mind making these types of small repairs because it means I can source out other work I don't want to do, like having my car detailed once or twice a year.

    Self-reliance is indeed satisfying. Great points and thanks!

  • Stephanie Henkel profile image

    Stephanie Henkel 

    7 years ago from USA

    Thanks for reminding us that we're all capable of doing simple repairs and DIY maintenance that can save us a lot of money. Better yet, we get a great feeling of satisfaction from being able to do things ourselves. Who knows where it could lead? We might move on to fixing leaky faucets, wobbly chairs and broken lamps...

    Nice hub! Voted up and useful.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    7 years ago from Iowa

    Jalus, I like your idea about changing the filter when you make your mortgage payments. I will have to try that! Thank you for commenting!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    I replace my A/C filter every time I make my mortgage payments and it helps down here in Florida, especially. Good to see a different list of tips that isn't just about turning lights off and saving energy. I need to go work on my vacuum now - thanks for the ideas!

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    7 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks all!

  • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

    Dim Flaxenwick 

    7 years ago from Great Britain

    Great tips ad reminders.

    I especially loved your tips on easy home cooked meals.

    Thank you.

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 

    7 years ago from London, UK

    Thank yhou for these very helpful tips.

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 

    7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    I guess I already do most of these things. With changing shoe styles the shoe shine kit has fallen into disuse.We eat out a couple of times a week or when we travel.I think almost anything one can do themselves rather than hire done is worthwhile,even when it does not always work out right.If a project goes wrong it is a learning experience.If you can find a good handyman for the stuff you can't do yourself get one.I wish I could recommend the one I used when I lived in the Quad Cities but I believe he relocated.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    7 years ago from Iowa

    Truckstop Sally, I'm glad I could help you remember the iron-on patches. They are a huge help around here.

    Randomcreative, they are all pretty easy...even augering a toilet. I tried that one just last week. It was kind of disgusting but oddly I found a sense of accomplishment in the experience.

  • randomcreative profile image

    Rose Clearfield 

    7 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    These are all wonderful suggestions and most of them are pretty easy!

  • Truckstop Sally profile image

    Truckstop Sally 

    7 years ago

    Great tips and a well-organized hub. 3 Cheers for simple meals at home. Thanks for the reminder that I need to buy some iron-on patches!


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