35 Money-Saving Handy Hints Using Everyday Items

Updated: Jan. 30, 2024

Everyone enjoys saving money, especially when it comes to improving your home. So check out these amazingly cheap, handy hints using everyday items.

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HH lego keychains

Remember Your Keys

You’ll always know where your keys are with this Lego keychain board. Get the complete project directions for Lego keychains here. Next, mount the Lego board to a surface using your preferred method. In this case, we mounted our lego plate to the wall in our mudroom. Attach the Lego board to the wall by first marking the desired location for the board and making sure that it is level. You’ll be so excited to put the Lego on the Lego board that you won’t lose your keys (hopefully) ever again!

Plus, check out these 14 super fun DIY projects to do with kids, rain or shine. And don’t worry; these projects won’t break the budget!

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HH sharpening scissor blades on coffee mug

Use a Ceramic Mug as a Sharpening Stone

If you find yourself in need of sharpening a utility knife, pocket blade or scissors and don’t have access to a sharpening stone, you can simply flip over a ceramic coffee mug and use the outer edge of the bottom, the non-glazed part, as an emergency sharpening stone. This isn’t a perfect solution for continually sharpening your blades, but if you need to quickly sharpen and clean up the edge of a blade this method will do in a pinch. We do recommend eventually investing in a blade sharpening kit.

Now go check out how to to sharpen your gardening tools.

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HH improvised caulk gun clamp zip-ties

Use What You’ve Got

Over the years, I have accumulated quite the collection of caulk guns because I’m always forgetting to bring one along to the job site. This time, I improvised a caulk gun instead of buying yet another one. I zip-tied the tube of caulk to the bar of a trigger-style clamp and stuck a wood scrap in the tube’s end to act as a plunger, dispensing caulk as I squeezed the clamp’s trigger. — Frank McDonough. Check out our expert caulking tips to get perfect results every time.

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HH clean sneakers with a toothbrush and toothpaste white
Family Handyman

Your Shoes Will Look New

All you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (colored toothpaste may stain rather than clean sneakers). Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary.

Toothpaste will keep your smile in great shape but it’s also pretty handy in cleaning up around the house. Check out these 50 things you never knew you could do with toothpaste.

Important: The ingredients in toothpaste may vary from brand to brand, so make sure to try this method on a small unnoticeable spot on your sneakers before applying it to the rest of the shoe.

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HH zip-tie sink clog
Family Handyman

Zip-Tie to the Rescue

When my bathroom sink gets clogged, I don’t reach for chemicals. Instead, I use a long zip tie. I cut several notches on the zip tie’s end. It’ll hook the hair clog, allowing you to pull it out. Problem solved. The size of the eye of the zip tie prevents me from inadvertently pushing the tie past the stopper.  — Rick Holmen

Zip ties can help you conquer clutter, work hands-free and even see in the dark. Check out these 13 zip-tie hacks that make DIYing a cinch.

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HH durable sandpaper duct tape

How to Make Durable Sandpaper

“I do a lot of finish-sanding freehand, without a sandpaper block, so I can smooth edges and get into nooks and crannies. But the finer grits are usually bonded to thinner paper and, at least for me, the paper is too thin and ends up tearing long before the grit wears out. So I apply duct tape to the back of the sandpaper. The sandpaper is still flexible enough to sand a tight radius and it’s far more durable. You can use this super-strong sandpaper like a shoeshine rag.” — Chuck Merchant

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HH cereal container car trash can
Family Handyman

Keep Your Car Clean!

Keeping your car clean can be difficult. There are dirt roads, messy trees, pet hair, food crumbs and wrappers. And there’s likely trash on the car’s floor, under the seats and in the seat cracks. Toss out any wrappers, bottles and other objects in sturdy car trash can! Line a plastic cereal container with a grocery bag and use it as an in-car trash can. To keep the container upright, apply a strip of self-adhesive hook and loop fastener to the bottom of the container, so it’ll stick to your car’s carpet.

Get your vehicle looking like new with these 36 simple interior and exterior car detailing tips that you can do yourself.

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HH clean windshield wipers with windex
Family Handyman

See Out of Your Windshield Better!

“When you’re behind the wheel, nothing is more crucial than good visibility. But like most other drivers, I usually procrastinate cleaning my windshield wipers or even replacing them if necessary. Windshield wipers are notorious for drying out and cracking in a short time. To help prolong their life and clean them, soak a clean white rag with your favorite glass cleaner. Wipe the rag up and down the length of your wiper blades.” — Jim Nobilione

We’ve all experienced screeching windshield wiper blades, so learn how to eliminate this noisy issue.

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HH push stick paint brush

Push Stick from an Old Paintbrush

After my paint brushes wear out, I strip off the metal ferrule with needle-nose pliers and some strength. I use the wood or composite handle for a table saw push stick, since I am frequently losing or misplacing mine, I figured it would be better to have more rather than less of these handy tools. I use a square to measure and mark and the angle I want to cut into the paintbrush. Next, I simply make two cuts on my bandsaw to make an angled notch in the bottom of the handle. Now it’s time to get to work! — Austin Garmo

Before you start your next painting project, check out these 14 Handy Hints for painting that will help you save both money and time.

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HH sharpie sharpies rubbing alcohol

Bring Dead Sharpies Back to Life

To bring your permanent marker back to life, simply remove the back from the maker. This will be different for each brand of permanent marker; for Sharpies simply remove the back nib. Next, deposit a few drops of isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol onto the felt material inside. Shake the marker a bit to ensure the rubbing alcohol is absorbed. It’s the solvent that the ink is mixed with that dries out first, making the pigment unable to flow. Once the felt absorbs the rubbing alcohol for a couple of minutes the marker will be practically good as new!

Did you accidentally draw on your dry erase board with a permanent marker? Here’s our magical handy hint to make it disappear!

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HH zip-tie phone stand propped up

Zip-Tie Phone Stand

When referencing projects plans or a photo for inspiration while working on a DIY project, most of us use our phones to display images or instructional videos. The only problem with this method is that our phones don’t prop themselves up, making it difficult to see at the images while working. You can make a smartphone stand out of just about anything these days, but it doesn’t get much simpler than looping zip ties around your phone (2 on each side). All you have to do is tighten the zip ties until they are snug to the phone with the zip-tie heads facing down and near the edge of your phone. Now you can watch video instructions or look at project drawings without having to hold it in your hands the whole time.

Plus, the next time you are charging your phone in the car you better think twice! Learn why you should stop charging your smartphone in your car.

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Candle to unstick drawers HH

Make Stubborn Wooden Drawers Slide Smoothly

Candle wax can also be a handy lubricant for old drawers or any furniture that has wood sliding against wood. Just rub a candle against the skids under the drawer. Be sure to rub the tracks inside the chest or cabinet, too.

Plus, check out these 45 hugely helpful handy hints!

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HH emergency candle lit butter

DIY Emergency Candle

Every home usually has a stick of butter and extra toilet paper lying around. And coincidentally you can make an emergency candle using just those two materials. First, cut a stick of butter in half, each half should burn for about four hours. (You may have to relight it a couple of times.) Next, cut a toilet paper square into four squares. Now fold one square diagonally and twist. Make a hole in the stick of butter to the base with a toothpick and place wick inside. Rub the top of the wick in the butter for starter fuel. Now light. You can also wrap the toilet paper wick around a toothpick so it does not fold over as the emergency candle burns.

Ok, so maybe this isn’t the most practical way to add light to your home in the case of an emergency. But it will work in a pinch and it’s a fun science experiment or party trick!

Check out these other 32 handy hints for frugal homeowners.

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HH DIY Ice Pack Sponge home cook
Family Handyman

How to Make Your Own Ice Pack

Ice packs are a great way to keep your lunch cool, but they’re a bit expensive if you’re in the habit of losing them. Just wet a sponge and freeze it in a ziplock bag. This DIY ice pack hack is reusable, so it is good for the environment.

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HH Walnut fixes scratched wood

The Miracle of a Walnut!

Furniture gets beat up over time, but you don’t have to live with the unsightly scratches. In fact, you can remove years of damage with a simple snack food: walnuts. Simply rub a walnut over a scratch in wood several times. Then, with your fingers rub the scratched area. This will help the wood absorb the oil from the nut. Lastly, use a soft cloth to buff the area. Now the scratch is sealed and gone!

This handy hint works on light scratches and not deep gouges in wood. However, we do have a solution for this issue as well!

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finished pool noodle wrist rest
Family Handyman

Pool Noodle Wrist Rest

Keep your wrists from getting fatigued during a long day at the computer by making this pool noodle wrist rest. First mark where you want to cut the noodle. For the wrist rest shown, we made the height slightly less than half of the full noodle diameter. (You could cut the noodle exactly in half and make two equally sized wrist rests.) Use a utility knife to slice the pool noodle lengthwise at the marks; then pull the pieces apart. Clean up any areas along the cuts and then place one of the pieces flat-side-down in front of your keyboard.

Check out these 25 pool noodle hacks that will improve your life.

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water bottle cap to support tension rod

Support a Tension Rod with Water Bottle Caps

My wife sews kids clothes and uses a curtain tension rod to hang them in a closet. She explained to me one day that the pole was frequently slipping and falling down. So, I searched and found an object that could be screwed into the wall and would fit around the ends of the tension rod: water bottle caps. I used drywall screws to secure two water bottle caps into studs in the closet walls, and then I mounted the tension rod inside the bottle caps. The lip on each cap provides just enough support for the tension rod, so it doesn’t fall down anymore. — Rodney Sheets

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writing notes on washing machine
Family Handyman

Write Notes on the Washer

This handy hint will help prevent you and your family members from ruining clothes that should not be dried in the dryer. When you put a load of clothes into your washing machine, use a dry-erase marker to note on the lid which items should not go into the dryer. That way, whoever switches the load from the washing machine to the dryer will know which items to leave out for line drying. The enamel finish on most washing machine lids is similar to a whiteboard, and dry-erase markers can be removed easily with a dry paper towel.

Check out these 22 brainy ways to use dryer sheets at home!

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sock to clean window blinds
Family Handyman

Use Soft Socks to Clean Blinds

No need for a special tool to give your window blinds a deep cleaning, just slip a soft (and clean!) sock onto your hand. Your hand is the perfect tool for wiping over, through and under the blinds to get every nook and cranny that collects dust. Spray a bit of all-purpose cleaner onto the sock for added disinfecting umph.

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placing smartphone in pottery

Quick Smartphone Speaker

Use a small piece of pottery or a bowl to amplify the sound produced by your smartphone. You can create a quick speaker on your desk at work or in your living room at home by simply placing your smartphone (speaker side down) in a container made of ceramic, plastic or other hard material. The sound will bounce off the hard bottom surface and amplify it throughout the surrounding area. It’s great for watching videos without headphones or playing music when hosting a party.

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seedlings growing in plastic clamshell container from salad bar

Greenhouse From the Salad Bar

The next time you hit up a salad bar for lunch, save the plastic clamshell container. It can be reused as a mini greenhouse for a home cook who is starting seeds in the spring. When you’re finished with your lunch, wash the container thoroughly. Use an awl and hammer to punch a few small holes in the top part of the container for airflow. Then fill the bottom half with potting mix or your own special seed-starting soil. Plant your seeds, spreading them out in the container as suggested on the seed packet. Give the seeds a small drink of water and close the lid. Place the container in a sunny spot, and patiently wait for your seeds to sprout!

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measure amount of cork needed

Wine Cork Wobbly Table Fix

Have a table with a wobbly leg? First, make sure that the legs are secure: tighten any loose brackets or screws or re-glue any loose joints. If that doesn’t fix the wobbles, try this solution. Using a synthetic wine bottle cork (natural cork crumbles over time), mark the amount of space between the wobbly leg and the floor. Then use a utility knife to slice off the amount of cork needed to brace the leg. Use hot-glue to adhere the piece of cork in place. Done! Wine drinkers will appreciate these 23 brilliant tips and project ideas for all things vino.

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bead of hot glue on hanger

DIY Nonslip Hangers

It’s so frustrating when clothes fall off of hangers. Whether it’s the material or the cut, some garments just slip off of hangers no matter how careful you are when searching through your closet. It’s a pain to constantly bend over to pick them up, and it’s definitely a pain to have to clean them again because they’ve picked up dust and lint and wrinkles from the floor. This simple hanger hack will keep your clothes in place without having to go out and buy expensive specialty hangers. Apply a bead of hot glue to the top arms of the hanger and let it dry completely. The rubber-like dried glue will keep your clothes in place—even when you’re in a rush to get ready and can’t find anything to wear!

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HH secure cutting board with rubber bands

Make a No-Slip Cutting Board

Most cutting boards don’t come with any kind of rubber surface on the bottom to prevent them from sliding on a countertop, but with a couple of rubber bands, you can stabilize your cutting board and keep it from moving around during use. Slip on two rubber bands—one at each end of the cutting board—and you’re good to go. Make sure that the rubber bands lay flat and aren’t twisted when you put them on so the board will sit steady on your countertop.

Check out some more brilliant rubber band hacks for your home.

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coins to shim a toilet
Family Handyman

Use Coins for Toilet Shims

When leveling a toilet, I often use coins or washers as shims. Coins or washers provide a firm seat and come in different thicknesses. Simply slide as many coins as necessary under the toilet until it’s completely level. Then caulk along the floor as you normally would to hide the coin shims. — Les Zell

Avoid expensive plumber bills when your toilet needs repair. We show you how to fix toilet problems yourself. It’s easier than you think!

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wine box shoe storage container
Family Handyman

Wine Box Shoe Storage

Why pay for a fancy compartment-style shoe storage container when you can just pick one up for free at almost any store that sells wine? Designed to protect fragile glass bottles, a wine box is perfect for storing footwear because it comes equipped with cardboard dividers—a place for each shoe! In addition, the exterior cardboard is very sturdy. You could get fancy, too, and paint or cover the exterior of the wine box with decorative wrapping paper if you plan to keep it in your closet or entryway.

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HH Nail drill bit

Easy Nail Pilot Holes

Often when you’re nailing small finishing nails into moldings or other projects, the nail will split the wood unless you drill a pilot hole first. However, tiny drill bits have a habit of breaking after just a couple of uses. So rather than using a drill bit, drill the perfect-sized pilot hole using the nail itself. Simply clip the head off the nail with lineman’s pliers for thicker nails or wire cutters for thinner nails, then place the headless nail into the drill. Drill the hole with this nail pilot hole hack, and then drive in a nail. Voila!

Check out these other 20 cool tool hacks.

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lip balm cash stash

Lip Balm Cash Stash

Sometimes I don’t want to carry my wallet around. At the beach, for example, when I have to leave my belongings unattended while I go for a swim. But I still need cash on hand for food, drinks, etc. So I turned an empty tube of lip balm into a secret cash stash. You could do the same with an empty stick of sunscreen, too. Not only is the tube small enough to fit in my pocket, but it’ll also fool any potential thieves. I mean, who would steal someone’s used lip balm? — Jenny Stanley

Want to hide your precious valuables from prying eyes and hands? Try anyone of these 40 clever, simple ways to hide valuable items from all but the smartest, most determined thieves.

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toilet paper roll small cord storage
Family Handyman

Organize Small Cords with Toilet Paper Rolls

In today’s high-tech homes, keeping track of small cords can be challenging. Almost every electronic device has a cord that goes with it: cameras, smartphones, computers and the list goes on. Rather than tossing them in various drawers throughout your house, where they can get tangled or forgotten, try this simple and inexpensive solution. Find a small box (a shoebox works perfectly) and fill it with as many empty toilet paper rolls as will fit vertically. Then place a single cord in each toilet paper roll. — Will Leighton

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adding pvc to table legs to make a taller table

Taller Table Hack

I have a typical 6-ft. folding table that I use to layout certain projects. But the height of the table is meant for someone sitting in a chair. Constantly bending over when using the table was starting to hurt my back, so I came up with a solution. I used a couple of 2-ft. lengths of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe found at my local home center, and cut four 11-in. stilts for my table. I slipped the pipes onto the legs and it raised the table about 6 in., bringing my work surface to a more comfortable height! The bend in the table legs at about 5 in. from the ground holds the pipes securely in place, so my table is still as sturdy as ever. The stilts can be removed if I ever need to lower the height of the table to use it while sitting in a chair. — Gary Inlow

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milk jug scoop for pet foot
Family Handyman

Make a Milk Jug Scoop

I’ve read many hints that advise the reader to cut off the tops of gallon-size plastic jugs and use them for funnels. I’ve found that if you replace the cap after cutting the top off, you can use the top for a scoop for handling potting soil, fertilizer or pet food. The no-scratch plastic also makes the jug/scoop ideal for bailing water out of your boat. — Ray Dean

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HH lint log fire starter
Family Handyman

DIY Lint Fire Starter Log

To properly build a fire, you need to have tinder (easy-lighting material), kindling (finger-size sticks) and fuel (logs). We all have a readily available supply of tinder: dryer lint! To make fire starters, I stuff empty toilet paper tubes with dryer lint. My dryer lint “logs” light quickly and easily burn long enough to light up the kindling. And I don’t have to resort to lighter fluid! Have you ever heard of a Swedish fire torch?

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HH flexible sanding block notebook
family handyman

Flexible Sanding Block

Sanding curves is tricky. Sometimes you need a sanding pad that’s both firm and flexible. A small notepad works great. Just wrap sandpaper around the pad and bend the pad to whatever arc you need. Slip the one end of the sandpaper between the pages to help hold it in place on the pad. Give this a try the next time you’re working on a project that has curves and tough to reach spots.

We asked our favorite woodworkers to share some of their favorite shop tips. Check out these 10 great woodworking advice to help you work faster and smarter in your own shop.

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Rubber Band Paint Can

Clean Paint Cans

I hate when my paint cans get dried paint all over them, so now I keep a box of rubber bands with my paint supplies. Before I start painting, I wrap a rubber band around the paint can so that it stretches across the opening. I use the rubber band to wipe excess paint from the brush instead of the can’s rim, which helps keeps my cans clean. — Kate Smith. Check out these other smart painting hacks!

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Rice and sock heat pad

Homemade Heating Pad

Next time you have a sore neck or back, don’t reach for an electric heating pad. Instead, fill a sock with uncooked rice, tie the end and microwave it for two or three minutes. I like this better than a heating pad, as it conforms to whatever body part that needs heat. You can even put in some fragrant herbs like cinnamon or lavender to make it smell nice!