Home Hacks – Money Saving Tips Around Your Home

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This Home Hacks Money Saving Tips Page contains several frugal money-saving tips for finding free appliance parts, fixing the temperature of your shower valves, fixing light strings, creating substitute potpourri and much more!

Free Recycled Appliance Parts

Beating Expensive Appliance Replacement Parts

What do you do when a part of an expensive appliance breaks? The cost to buy new parts for an old appliance is usually really expensive. That was until I discovered another option.

Frugal Hacks for Saving Money Around the Home!

The Savings from Recycled Appliance Parts

Twice I have visited an appliance recycling center and obtained excellent material to replace refrigerator door handles. With only a screwdriver, a hacksaw and a drill I now have handles much better than the originals. Of course, accurate measurements and a tape measure are essential. But listen up for one of our favorite home hacks.

Our county puts old appliances in a central location where the public is welcome to remove any unit or part free of charge. There is a wealth of material available with very little work–chrome bars and knobs, stainless steel bolts and screws, even wire racks which I think are much preferable to the glass shelves manufacturers seem to think the public wants.   Jean Fountain – Iowa City, IA

How to Fix a Delta Shower Valve That is Too Cold

We remodeled 3 bathrooms in our house and installed Delta Valves and Trim in each of the showers.

Here’s what we installed:

Master Bathroom: Delta Lahara R10000 UNBx Valve – 2 hole wall mount with a single lever – See this valve and trim on Amazon

Guest Bathrooms: Delta Lahara In2ition Single Handle 5 Spray Shower and Tub Valve. There are several trim styles, see these valves and trims on Amazon

We Don’t Like Cold Showers

This winter we were having trouble getting the water temperature in the shower to be warm enough. Lukewarm showers are not one of our favorite things

Here’s what we were dealing with. The original temperature on the water heater was set to HOT (almost very hot).

Water Heater Temperature Dial

Water Temperature Before

The water temperature at the sink near the Master shower was 140 degrees Fahrenheit. But the temperature of the water coming out of the shower was only 104.9 degrees Fahrenheit (10 feet away from the sink).

Water Temperature After Adjustment

Using the temperature adjustment gear in the R10000 and the spring-loaded adjustment on the In2ition we were able to get the temperature on each shower much warmer – greater than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • R10000 139.9 degrees Fahrenheit
  • In2ition 130.1 degrees Fahrenheit
Delta In2ition Temperature adjustment.
The temperature adjustment on the Delta Lahara In2ition shower valve.
The temperature adjustment on the Delta Lahara R10000 shower valve.

CAUTION: 120 degrees Fahrenheit is considered scalding to most people’s skin – please keep temperatures in a safe zone especially if children will be using the showers.

The adjustments were very easy to make and only took about 5 minutes for each shower.

And as a result of the modifications, I was able to lower the temperature on the water heater which saves us money on natural gas usage.

How to Clean Magic Marker from A Painted Surface

We were on a walk through our neighborhood and found this lovely toy chest sitting on the curb waiting for our quarterly bulk trash pick up. We opened the lid and checked the hinges—they worked great! Then we looked at each other and said, we’ve got to grab the van and pick this up. Steve came back and loaded it up just before another person in a pick-up truck drove by looking for curbside bargains.

Besides being a little dirty, there was scribbled magic marker in a couple of spots. Magic Marker is not a problem if you know the secret to remove it from painted surfaces.

Front of toy chest with magic marker on it
front of toy chest cleaned.

Front of Toy Chest – left with marker, right with marker cleaned off

Toy Chest top with magic marker drawn on it.
Toy Chest top with marker cleaned off of it.

The top of the toy chest before and after cleaning with denatured alcohol.

The Secret of magic marker removal.

Buy a can of denatured alcohol, apply with a rag and gently rub in a circular motion. The marker will usually come off in less than 30 seconds. Caution: if you rub too long, you will remove some paint, so be gentle. We’ve used denatured alcohol to remove marker, spattered paint on stained baseboards and molding and gold metallic marker from painted surfaces — it has worked great.

Pink and lavender toy chest with a can of denatured alcohol on it.

Other Marker cleaning hacks:

Our Facebook Fans submitted these ideas for removing magic marker from painted surfaces.

  1. Alicia Dodson Bishop — a magic eraser removes permanent marker from things.
  2. Ashley Edwards — alcohol pads remove magic marker from a solid surface
  3. Sheri McDonald Hepworth — The way to clean off magic marker is to write over the scribbles with dry-erase markers.


Stopping a Home Burglary with Your Car Alarm

I live alone and am concerned about intruders. Here’s what I do. I put my car keys beside my bed at night. If I hear a noise outside my home or someone trying to break in, all I have to do is press the panic button for my car. The alarm will be set off and the horn will continue to sound until I turn it off or the car battery dies.

Most burglars won’t hang around if there is a lot of noise. I learned this from a neighborhood watch coordinator. Before you do this, test it and see if your panic button works from your bedroom to your car. Also, remember to carry your keys while walking to your car in a parking lot. The alarm can work the same way there.
Judy L. – Scottsdale, AZ 

Free Repair for Items in Your Home

If you need something around your home that needs fixing, try this. Search RepairCafe.org/bezoeken/ to look for one of their events near your city. The website is not in English but at least this map will show you where these events are located in your country and state. Volunteers make themselves available to spend the day repairing all kinds of electrical items like lamps, small appliances and other items. It’s certainly worth the time to check out!

Navigating the Stairs & Being Organized as a Senior

We live in a two-story townhouse. As we’ve aged, knee pain has become an issue to deal with. I’ve found that walking, carefully, down the stairs, backwards, reduces stress on my knees. Just be careful and always hold the handrail. Also, another “stair strategy” I use is to leave an empty basket at both the top and bottom of the stairs.

As I work upstairs I toss in things that need to go downstairs into the basket and carry them all down at one time. I do the same when I’m working downstairs. This alleviates endless trips upstairs and downstairs.
 Don & Jill Richards – Roswell, GA

Light String Fix and Repair

Looking for a way to fix Christmas lights strings that don't work? Here's your answer and saved loads of money and time!

More and more people are decorating their homes, indoors and out, with strings of miniature lights all year long. These lights look so beautiful. But one of the problems with these lights is dealing with sections that won’t light or bulbs that burn out. We’ve found a tool that we’ve used to repair dozens of strings of miniature lights – and it’s so inexpensive!

Watch the video where Steve shows you how he fixes holiday light strings now.

The Problem with Being Frugal

In the past, we only put up miniature lights for the holidays. But now, we’ve got them on an indoor ficus tree, over our patio, in our atrium, and over the archways leading into our family room. And we keep these strings up all year long. Being frugal, and not wanting to waste money, Steve would relentlessly try to salvage old strings of lights when a section would go bad or bulbs would burn out. Now comes one of our favorite home hacks!

Burned-out Light Strings Cost Us Time

He realized that while the light strings only cost about $3.50 (on sale) for 100 lights it’s time-consuming to replace them. Every year after the holidays, Steve would spend several hours checking each string and replacing burned-out bulbs, Then he’d carefully wrap up the light strings and put them away. You can imagine the frustration he experienced the next year when he pulled the lights out and found that several of the strings were half-burned out (or unlit). How discouraging. He’d have to test and repair them all over again – a colossal waste of time!

A Time-Saving Light String Hack

Several years ago while doing research on YouTube about how to repair light strings that won’t light up, Steve learned about the LIghtKeeper Pro.

He ran out and bought it for about $20. In the first year of using the Light Keeper Pro, Steve salvaged 14 strings of lights that weren’t working. And spent much less time doing it . . . and less time muttering about light string manufacturers.

How Much Has the Light Keeper Pro Saved Us?

If each string of lights costs $2 (we always buy them on sale), the Light Keeper Pro paid for itself in the first year – saving us $28! And in subsequent years it has resurrected more than 30 strings of lights – bringing the total savings to ($60 minus the original $20 investment) $40. But we have also lent it to a few friends, so the savings is even greater!

How Does the Light Keeper Pro Work?

The wires on the strings of lights carry the electrical current to each light bulb, through the filament (the part that lights up), and back into the wire to head to the next bulb. If a bulb burns out, the current is carried through a little part called a shunt at the bottom of the bulb. Because of this shunt, when one bulb burns out, the rest of the string can stay lit.

But sometimes the shunt gets “dirty” and doesn’t let electricity flow through it. Steve thinks it gets oxidized, but let’s just say it impedes the flow of electricity.

How Do You Clean A Mini Light Shunt?

By plugging the light string to the Light Keeper Pro and clicking the trigger, you send a short burst of current through the string. This electrical current is designed to unclog the shunts. And it works!!

It’s amazing to watch as a string of lights that were previously only half-lit, come completely to life afterward. Watch the video as Steve troubleshoots a string of white Christmas lights that is only half-lit. After replacing a broken bulb and then clicking the Light Keeper Pro 30 times, the entire string of Christmas lights is fixed!

What Else Does Light Keeper Pro Do to Fix Light Strings

Watch this video as Brian Gleason of Light Keeper Pro explains how to solve that age-old problem of repairing light strings that stop working.

The Light Keeper Pro is also designed to check continuity, looking for broken wires or burned-out bulbs. It also has a socket to test individual bulbs and lights them up if they aren’t burned out. And one more thing it has is a tool for helping you pull the bulbs out of the string so you don’t need to break fingernails.

So this year, we hope you put up your strings of lights or add to the ones you keep up year-round you’ll be singing a happy tune rather than muttering and grumbling about the people who created those miniature lights.

Very Important Note About the Original Light Keeper Pro:

The Original Light Keeper Pro is not designed to work on LED, rope sets, or light sets with controllers.

We purchased our Light Keeper Pro at a local retail store, but it isn’t something they stock any longer. However, we know for sure that you can purchase the Light Keeper Pro at Amazon.

Light Keeper Pro for LED The makers of The Lightkeeper Pro have designed a new product that works with LED and other types of lights – we haven’t tested it, but if they make it, we’re pretty sure that it’s going to work great!

The front of a house with white and red Christmas lights on it.
The front of our house all decked out with Christmas lights! We love Christmas light strings that work!

Hot Stuff for BBQ – Home Hacks

I use old Hot Sparks to light my bar-b-que. After the butane runs out the spark will light a gas bar-b-que as long as you turn on the gas. It works great. I’ve been doing this for at least 5 years. The Hot-Spark has a magneto inside that will never wear out.  
Sylvester Meola – Scottsdale, AZ 

Potpourri Substitute – Home Hacks

For those that are sensitive to potpourri here is a recipe that I was given. It works great for removing odors — particularly fish— or for making your house smell like you have been baking!


  • 1 to 3 Cinnamon sticks
  • Put water in a small pan and begin by boiling the water and cinnamon sticks on top of the stove.
  • Then simmer for as long as you like. I leave mine on the stove and reuse it for days by just adding more water as needed.
  • Just remember to check periodically as the water will evaporate and you could end up burning the pan and the cinnamon sticks.  Tina Chester – San Bruno, CA

Save Money on Used Appliances

We’ve bought a lot of used appliances over the years and have only had a problem with one of them. Here are the things we do to ensure we get a good deal.

How Old is That Appliance

An old-fashioned washboard in a tub of water.

It’s time vs. money. New vs. used. When it comes to home appliances, you can save a boatload of money if you invest some time in research. We always consider the option of buying used, but to ensure we don’t get soaked, we use the following strategies.

Know the Value of the Appliance You Want to Buy

Check the store ads for retail prices of different sizes and kinds of the appliance you want. Call the stores to see if there are any unadvertised sales or coupons. When we were researching freezers, we found that upright freezers were much more expensive than chest freezers of the same size. The biggest drawback was the amount of floor space the chest used.

Scour the classified on CraigsList and OfferUp for a few weeks to learn the price range for used appliances. Once you’ve determined the price range, you can decide whether you want or can afford to purchase new or used.

We’ve always purchased our used appliances from individuals selling their own items. While there are reputable businesses that sell used equipment, we have heard only negative stories from friends who have gone that route. We want to trust
people, but we live in a large city and have been soaked a couple of times. As a result, we’ve put the following restrictions on our appliance purchasing habits.

Research the Appliance Brand Name

We use Consumer Reports to research which brands are rated as the most reliable. We may not purchase the exact model it rates as best, but if a company has several models in the top ten, we will look for a similar one with fewer “bells and whistles.” Next, we call a few appliance repair companies and ask which manufacturers they have found to be more reliable and easier to maintain. Armed with this information, we start the hunt.

Find an Appliance from its Original Owner 

When we call on an ad, we ask the seller if he or she has the original receipt and instruction manual. We have discovered that most people can’t remember exactly when they purchased their appliances. We once bought a gas dryer in a hurry – our old one died and we needed to dry cloth diapers. The owner told us the dryer was eight years old. We later discovered the true age was closer to 20. Since that time, we have either bought from the original owner with a receipt or confirmed the age in another sure-fire way.

Appliance Serial Numbers Can Detect Age 

Another way to determine the age of an appliance is to ask for the serial number and manufacturer’s name and either call the manufacturer’s toll-free number or visit the Appliance411.com website. Either source can tell you the year the appliance was manufactured from the serial number.

An old green electric washing machine with ringer on top.
Be aware that many sellers won’t be able to accurately remember the exact age of their appliance. Do your research and be prepared to walk away from a “great deal” that really is an antique.

On one occasion, we discovered the serial number plate to be missing. We passed on that item because of the likelihood of its being stolen. Another time, the seller told us that a refrigerator was nine years old. A call to the manufacturer revealed the age to be 25. When buying a used appliance, we like to buy one that is no more than four or five years old — newer is better. 

Negotiate the Price of a Used Appliance  

We usually negotiate the price. Because we do a lot of research, we have a pretty good idea of what the fair market value of an appliance is and this gives us leverage. But if the price is fair and the seller is resolute, we will purchase at the asking price. Always bring cash for the purchase. With so many bad check writers, don’t expect a stranger to take a chance on you. If you don’t want to carry a large sum of cash, get a cashier’s check from a nearby bank after you’ve finalized your negotiating. Write out a receipt with the date, the amount paid, the serial number, and the buyer and seller’s names.

How to Transport a Used Appliance to Home   

When buying used you usually don’t have the option of home delivery. If you don’t have a vehicle large enough to carry the appliance home, you’ll need to factor in the cost of renting a truck (or baking cookies for a friend who will loan you a truck). You’ll also need a cart or an appliance dolly. If these resources are not available to you, you’ll have to get creative — call an appliance repair store for a referral or rent a truck by the hour from Home Depot or U-Haul and enlist the help of a strong friend or two.

Some sellers will deliver their appliance for a small fee, but we would never buy the appliance from a person who wanted to deliver it to our house before we actually saw the appliance. You can learn a lot about the honesty of a person by visiting their home.

With the danger of assaults being reported about people who buy things off of CraigsList, OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace, we always recommend bringing someone with you when you visit a potential seller’s location. And if a situation doesn’t feel right, don’t proceed,  just go home. Being safe is more important than saving a few bucks.

Final Thoughts about Used Appliances

No matter what kind of appliance you want, use these tips to find the best deal on a new or reliable used item. You may spend a bit more time than the average, credit-card-toting consumer, but as you sail into the sunset with your boatload of savings, you’ll know “for sure” that you found the best deal possible.

Having the right tools in the right places will take time and mental energy to accomplish. Rest assured that the effort you put forth to organize the control center (the kitchen) of your home will produce years of benefits.

 Dealing with Home Property Line Disputes

A house with a white line drawn to make the property line. With two signs saying My Side.

I recently had a property dispute with a new neighbor who claimed her survey (which was 10 years old and from the previous owner) said that I was encroaching on her property by two-and-one-half feet!

I had never had a property survey – it just wasn’t needed when I purchased my house 45 years ago. But to be sure of what was right, I paid for a surveyor to do the job. It turned out that the property line was correct and I was protected. It seems that old-fashioned gentlemen’s agreements of the past are long gone. Ann Nieser – Pittsburgh, PA

Non-working Keurig Machine Fixed for Free

I just wanted to mention something I don’t know if you covered in your free email newsletter. This week I got a “non-working” Keurig on Freecycle. I descaled it, and it still didn’t work. So I called the customer service number (toll-free). Within a few minutes, the representative helped me fix the screen error that prompted the previous owner to give it away. And I now have a working, top-of-the-line Keurig machine. I also downloaded the manual online for free.  
Judy Pariser Scharf – Syosset, NY.

Home Hacks Super Page - Tips to help you save money for your home.

Here’s a great blog about where to get the best price on house keys!
And here’s an awesome blog about doing your own property tax appeal.

If you have a home hacks tip or quick fix to share, please leave it in the comments below and we’ll review it for posting on this page.

2 thoughts on “Home Hacks – Money Saving Tips Around Your Home

    1. Steve Economides Post author

      Lisa, what a great idea. We just assumed that people who toss artificial Christmas trees were doing so because the lights were burned out. But that’s not always the case.

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