Homeowners are a resourceful bunch, by and large. We have saved for a down payment, we have applied and been approved for a mortgage, and we make our payment and keep up the maintenance and insurance every month. What homeowners also have in common is we love saving money.

Saving never goes out of style. These 12 household tips are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.

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The Flashlight Sweep

From a diamond earring to a screw that you need to complete a project, if you drop something tiny and valuable on the floor you may not find it easily. Before you get down on your hands and knees, grab your phone or a flashlight.

Remember in prison-break movies how the convict would dash across the yard to the wall only to be swept up in the glare of a moving spotlight? The long shadows cast by light at a right angle effectively enlarge your target and makes it easy to see.

Whether you use an actual flashlight or the app on your phone, hold the light near the floor and slowly sweep from side to side. A small piece of jewelry will glint in carpet, and a short screw will cast a long shadow across a smooth floor.

Wash Your Clothes in Cold Water

Our ancestors used to wash their clothes in cold water out of necessity, but people are doing it today for the environment and to save money. Cold water washing cycles use much less energy than hot. In fact, 90% of the energy used by a washing machine is for heating the water.

Many detergents have cold-water spinoffs or advertise on their usual packaging that the formula works in cold water too. If you can get the same good clean you're accustomed to and save 90% of the energy, why not?

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Fix a Hole in a Hollow Door

Hollow doors, found in the interior doorways of many modern homes, can easily get pierced. Perhaps a heavy roller suitcase fell over while the handle was extended, or a child practicing a dance move for TikTok accidentally kicked a hole in his bedroom door. A replacement door can run $50.

Our ancestors filled holes with sawdust, horsehair, mud, and other substances we're not going to suggest today. But you can fill a hole in a hollow door with a $4 can of spray foam insulation. Squirt foam into the hole to fill it to the level of the door surface, then let it dry overnight. The foam will expand slightly, forming a dome. Slice off the dome with a razor knife so the foam is just below the surface. Apply a coat or two of drywall compound (about $8 at Lowe's), let dry, sand smooth, and paint.

Clip Coupons Again, But With Your Phone

Our retro tip is not to "clip" coupons. That tip wouldn't work well today, when clipping has become unnecessary. Supermarket circulars have grown rare, replaced by custom coupons mailed directly to members of the market's loyalty program. You get coupons for items you've bought in the past, and the savings can be substantial.

Virtual coupons save real money as well, and you can grab them with a tap of your finger, no scissors required! The apps for Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, and many other markets will show you coupons that match your shopping history. Tap them, and they're ready for checkout.

If you set up a credit card in the app (choose the card you usually buy groceries with anyway), the app will display a QR code with which you can pay at checkout, and all those virtual coupons will be automatically applied. It's the modern, hassle-free way to save with coupons.

An Apple a Day

It's hardly a hack to recommend eating well, but the humble apple deserves mention. Inexpensive and abundant, apples last for weeks in the fridge, and eating them regularly can directly and indirectly save you money in multiple ways. When your grandparents said, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," they were only slightly exaggerating.

When you snack on an apple, that's one more package of expensive processed junk food you can leave on the store shelf. You are staying hydrated, so there is less need to reach for one of those overpriced, barely flavored waters that soda manufacturers are pushing today. You're cleaning your teeth, reducing dental expenses down the road. You're nourishing yourself and taking in fiber, investing in your health and reducing the risk of expensive medical issues later. All from the humble apple.

If you haven't tried apple slices dipped in Laura Scudder's Old Fashioned Peanut Butter yet, you don't know what you're missing.

Close the Closet Doors

Don't pay to heat or cool closet space; keep the doors shut. A little-used guestroom should be sealed off for the same reason. This optimizes your HVAC system so you feel it where you need it and not where you don't.

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Fast-Clean Screens

Fiberglass screening is known for its flexibility and versatility. It is the least expensive screening material for blocking insects. After a couple of summers, however, fiberglass screening can become discolored and spotted.

Fiberglass screening has a protective vinyl coating, and this means that automotive vinyl cleaner, such as Armor All, can clean it quickly. Hold an old T-shirt or sponge on the other side of the screen as you spray to catch the spray-through. Then wipe both sides of the screen, edge to edge.

Buy in Bulk and Split With a Friend

Buying in bulk is a known money-saver. Families can join Costco and reduce their grocery bill, or drop into Smart & Final for big boxes of favorite items. But a single person buying in bulk often leads to spoilage, and that's money down the drain.

One person can't use up the food in time, but if you shop with a friend and split the bill, you can split the food. This way you can take advantage of steep discounts on perishables like meat and dairy products but not set yourself up for food waste.

Lower Your Water Heater

You could save $450 a year and 215 pounds of emissions by lowering your water heater to 120 degrees. This is plenty hot for all household uses except one: the dishwasher. However, many modern energy-efficient dishwashers can heat water to 140 degrees for sanitation. Look for a "heating" indicator light on the panel, or check the manual to see if your model has a "booster heater" feature. If the dishwasher can boost the temperature when it needs to, then the main water can be at 120 degrees.

Buy the Wonder Gadget of the 19th Century Kitchen

Salesmen have been pushing kitchen gadgets almost as long as there have been kitchens, each one described as a breakthrough, revolutionary, or a wonder. In terms of durability and versatility, however, they have yet to top the classic cast iron skillet, such as the 12-inch model by Lodge ($25).

Naturally nonstick, a cast iron skillet will serve you for at least 50 years and is "indispensable for far more than its expected uses," says Martha Stewart Living. "Reach for one when making roast chicken, upside-down cake, cornbread, and even pizza (just flip the pan over and use the bottom as a pizza stone)."

Cast iron skillets are the original "But wait! There's more!"

Clean With Distilled Vinegar

Peruse any old-timey photo of a kitchen and you won't see a spray bottle of cleaner anywhere. On the other hand, you will probably see a bottle of vinegar.

Mix equal parts distilled vinegar and water, and for pennies you will have an effective, nontoxic, multipurpose cleaner. The mixture disinfects counters and floors and won't leave streaks on glass. And don't worry about your kitchen smelling like a salad: The vinegar odor dissipates when dry.

Relax for Less

Online shopping, streaming videos, and drinking fancy cocktails may be popular ways to unwind today, but they aren't cheap. Cultivate relaxing activities that cost very little, like reading. With your local library card and a Kindle e-reader, you can sign up for the Libby app to get literally millions of things to read. Amazon participates with many library systems nationwide.

5 household expenses you can cut right now, easily

Another free pastime is listening to podcasts, just as our grandparents listened to radio. The variety is endless, from educational programs, comedy, and self-help to crime documentaries, movie deep dives, and relationship advice. Lie down, close your eyes, and relax to a podcast about any topic you feel like.


Home ownership is rewarding, but it can also be expensive. Luckily, generations of homeowners have found all sorts of ways to save money, and we can learn from them. We hope you learned a trick or two from these 12 vintage money-saving tips. If nothing else, try apples and peanut butter!

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