Simple ways to save money by saving your stuff
An exclusive excerpt adapted from Consumer Reports Money Adviser
Not replacing stuff more often than you need to is one can’t-miss strategy to saving money—and the planet. So to help squeeze extra years out of the things you own, here are some tips from our experts and industry sources.
Air conditioners. For window units, wash the filter regularly in warm, soapy water and let it dry completely before reinstalling. Have central units professionally serviced, and clean or replace filters monthly or as needed.
Athletic shoes. Scrub them with a soft, soapy toothbrush and avoid the washing machine. Let shoes dry between workouts but never in a clothes dryer, which can give them too much of a workout.
Carpeting. Install padding, ideally no more than 7/16-inch thick, unless your carpet came with it attached. Vacuum often, especially in high-traffic areas. Also use pads under small rugs, and rotate them from time to time.
CDs and DVDs. If you have to clean them, wipe with a soft, lint-free cloth, starting from the center and working to the outer edge.
Cell phones. Don’t stow in your car’s glove compartment during the summer. Otherwise, batteries may overheat, possibly ruining the phone. If you’ve been known to drop your cell phone, treat it to a protective case.
Clothes dryers. Clean the lint filter after each use and the entire air duct yearly. If your dryer breaks, think about replacing it if repairs will cost more than half the price of a comparable new model. But don’t expect much gain in performance or efficiency, since dryer technology hasn’t changed much.
Clothes washers. Don’t overload. If your washer breaks, think about replacing it if repairs will cost more than half the price of a comparable model. If you’re replacing, consider a high-efficiency washer, which should save money over time. Also consider a front-loader, which is less punishing to clothes than a top-loader.
Clothing. Wash in cold water whenever possible and line-dry if you can; you’ll avoid shrinkage and the wear and tear of tumbling in a dryer.
Digital cameras. Use the strap to keep from dropping your camera. When necessary, clean the lens gently with a microfiber lens cloth and lens-cleaning fluid.
Dishwashers. Check the filter regularly and remove any debris.
Down comforters, pillows, etc. Spot clean whenever possible because goose down loses a bit of its airiness with washing or dry cleaning. Protect down comforters with a removable cover. Shake and fluff bedding and jackets often to keep the feathers from becoming squashed.
Hardwood floors. Dust mop or vacuum weekly. Wipe up wet spills pronto.
Kitchen knives. Keep them out of the dishwasher and store them in a wooden knife block or individual plastic shields.
Laptop computers. Set them on a hard, flat surface rather than a soft one such as a bed or carpet, which can block airflow and cause them to overheat.
LCD TVs. Clean the screen gently with a soft, slightly damp cloth, ideally a microfiber one. Avoid commercial cleaners and paper towels, which can scratch the screen.
Leather goods. Use naturally absorbent cedar trees in shoes and stuff empty purses with tissue to help hold their shape. Hang leather garments on wide or padded hangers to avoid the damage wire hangers can inflict. Allow leather to air-dry, away from direct heat, if it gets wet. Avoid rolling your leather belts, which can cause them to crack.
Mattresses. Rotate periodically. Try not to sit on the edge. Buy a washable, protective cover. And pull back the sheets and blankets to let the bed air out for 20 minutes or so each morning.
Ranges. Inspect the burners on gas models regularly and clean the burner ports with a needle. But don’t touch the igniter, which could be damaged.
Refrigerators and freezers. Clean door gaskets with water and mild detergent. Vacuum dust off the coils, usually behind or under the unit, every few months.
Tires. Check your car owner’s manual or a sticker, often on the driver’s side doorjamb, for guidance on keeping your tires properly inflated. Both under and overinflation can cause premature wear and handling problems. Underinflated tires will reduce your gas mileage. And at today’s prices, that could negate a lot of your efforts at frugality.