40 Handy Hints for Frugal Homeowners

Updated: Jun. 12, 2024

Some may think these ideas are kind of crazy. While that may be true, we also think they're kind of brilliant.

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Correcting Sagging Shelves 2

Quick Fix for Sagging Shelves

Here’s a clever way to stop shelves from sagging in the middle. Cut plywood panels sized to fit inside some unwanted books. The panels also need to be the height of the space between your shelves. Cut out enough pages to fit the panels’ thickness. Then, build up the sides and front edge of each panel to match the size and shape of the book. Round the edges and corners of the panels to match the books, then paint the panels to match the books or any inconspicuous color and glue them into the books. Stagger the supports a bit so they aren’t lined up right in the center.

Check out more ways to repurpose old books, like an incredible knife block you’ll love.

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HH Handy hint ice cubes wrinkle remover dryer
Family Handyman

Get Wrinkles Out of Your Laundry with Zero Effort

Ditch the time-consuming iron or handheld steamer to get wrinkles out of a shirt or slacks. Throw a few ice cubes or a wet washcloth in the dryer with your wrinkled clothes. As the ice melts and the water turns to steam, it will remove the wrinkles. This trick isn’t as effective with heavier clothing but is a miracle for lighter fabrics. The best part is that you don’t have to set the dryer for longer than 10 minutes for it to work.

These 20 small laundry room ideas make the most of what little space you have in your laundry or utility room.

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frozen envelope

Why You Should Put an Envelope in the Freezer

I like to mail cash for family birthdays, but sometimes I forget to include the money before sealing the envelope. My solution is to place the envelope in the freezer for an hour or so. The seal opens up without any problem so I can fill the envelope and tape the letter shut before sending it on its way. – reader, James Staley

Plus: 20 more odd home hacks you’ll wish you knew sooner.

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HH Handy Hint Plant seeds in toilet paper tubes
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Start Seeds in Toilet Paper Tubes

For an easy and green way to start seeds, save your toilet paper and paper towel tubes. Cut the tubes into 2 in. lengths and set them in a waterproof tray. Fill the tubes with potting soil and plant your seeds. When the seedlings are ready to move to the garden, plant them right in their cardboard tube. The cardboard will decompose. Be sure to keep the tube below the soil surface, so it doesn’t wick moisture away from the roots.

Check out these 20 brilliant ways to use hangers, rubber bands and cardboard tubes around your home.

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reinvigorate dry putty

The Easiest Way to Refresh Dry Wood Putty

Coming to the final steps in a project and finding my jar of putty as dry as the Serengeti and hard as a rock is frustrating. My solution is to remove the putty with a screwdriver and knead it with canola oil until it’s a usable consistency. The putty isn’t quite as good as new, but it works in a pinch. It’s a messy job, so wear latex gloves. – reader, Richard Ryder.

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HH Handy Hint vacuum cleaner spout hack condiments nozzle
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Makeshift Vacuum Cleaner Attachment

Sometimes you need a little bit of creativity to deep clean hard-to-reach areas. If you have a plastic squeeze top bottle, try fitting the tip onto your vacuum nozzle. If it fits, great, if not, there’s always tape. You’ll have a powerful machine to get rid of dirt and dust in even the tiniest of spaces, like a keyboard, headphone port or for detailing your car.

Plus, check out these Secret Cleaning Tips From the Pros.

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HH under sill trim diy blade gaurd

Easy Vinyl Blade Guards

I am a stickler for keeping my cutting tools sharp and protected when transporting or storing them. I have tried almost every technique known to man when it comes to blade guards. But, I believe I have found the best blade guard yet in a simple piece of trim used when installing vinyl siding. I use under sill trim as DIY blade guards. I cut the trim piece a little long so as to cover the saw blade or knife blade fully. A heat gun can be used to flare out one end to make the guard easier to slide onto the blade. The friction holds the guard on the blade quite strong and will not easily come off. — reader, Neil Long

When it comes to DIY experience and expertise, nobody can match Family Handyman‘s field editors. Here are their best kept secret tool tips for DIYers.

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milk jug watering can 2

How to Turn an Empty Milk Jug Into a Watering Can

I only own one watering can, so I need to refill it four or five times to water all of the plants on my patio. Instead of buying more overpriced watering cans, I use old milk jugs. I drill a few holes in the caps, fill up the jugs with water and I’m good to go. — reader, Harrison Berg

These are 21 nifty ways to repurpose milk jugs into super helpful tools.

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HH improvised caulk gun clamp zip-ties

Improvised Caulk Gun

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. — reader, Frank McDonough

Check out our expert caulking tips to get perfect results every time!

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HH eye level cookbook pants hanger

Right-Height Cookbook

A countertop isn’t the best place to set a recipe or cookbook while you’re cooking. It takes up counter space, is difficult to read and is likely to get splattered with ingredients. Instead, I clip my recipe onto a clothes hanger with pants clips and hang it from a cabinet handle. Open your recipe book or web printout to the desired page, and close the hanger’s clamps on each side. You now have a hanging recipe stand. These 25 why-didn’t-I-think-of-that hacks will help you save time, get organized and work more efficiently in your kitchen.

If your cookbook is on the thicker side, it may not be able to hold the weight of the book. However, if you are using a relatively small cookbook, a magazine or just a single-sheet recipe, this life hack will work perfectly for you.

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HH handy hint swiffer sweeper dryer sheet
Family Handyman

Use Dryer Sheets to Clean Your Floors

Don’t throw away used dryer sheets. There’s another use for them. Wrap a couple of dryer sheets onto the flat head of a sweeper. The dryer sheets pick up dust and hair just as well as name-brand sweeper refills. Say goodbye to those dust bunnies!

Over the course of a week, these cleaning ideas will make the whole house shine. Spend one day on each room, so nothing is overlooked.

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Paint Mixing 3

How to Use Every Last Drop of Leftover Paint

I have several rental properties that seem like they’re always in need of repainting. Instead of throwing out leftover paint, only having to buy more later, I put it to use. I take multiple cans of interior latex, partially used paint and primer, any sheen, any color, and mix them all together. It doesn’t matter how much junk or debris is in the paint. Just pour it all in. I use a power mixer to blend them, and then dump all of the mixture into a bigger container. I did 20 gallons of paint once using a big round plastic tub. After all the assorted paints are in the vat are mixed, it usually ends up an off-white or antique white. The sheen is usually an eggshell to satin. If the color is too loud, I tone it down by adding a can of white paint. Now, I pour the paint into 5-gallon buckets with strainer bags inside. Lift out the strainer bags to remove any debris and pop on a lid to keep the paint fresh. This is a great way to use up leftovers when you do a lot of painting. — contributing editor, Tom Dvorak.

Plus: These are the best-kept secrets of professional painters.

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HH Handy Hint Micro Green house pop bottle

Micro Greenhouse

Do you have a hard time starting seeds or cuttings? Try soda bottle greenhouses. Cut the bottom off 2-liter soda bottles and remove the labels. Each seed gets its own micro greenhouse! Remove the greenhouses once the seeds have germinated and cuttings are rooted.

Plus, check out these 10 Creative Home Hacks That Will Improve Your Life. These home hacks solve everyday problems with stuff you already have.

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Lint Starter Log 2

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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Make Your Own Car Air Freshener
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Make Your Own Car Air Freshener

Freshen your car with scented candle wax. Punch holes in the lid of a mason jar using a hammer and a large nail. Add wax to the jar and replace the lid. When the temperature in your car rises, the wax will melt, filling your car with a lovely fragrance.

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Picture Frame Bumpers 2

Instant (and Inexpensive) Picture Frame Bumpers

Stop wall frames from slipping out of place and scratching the wall paint by putting small dots of hot glue on the back corners of the frame. The hot glue not only prevents movement, it also holds the picture away from the wall to prevent scratches and nicks.

These are 19 of our favorite hot glue gun hacks.

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No-Slip Clothes Hanger 1

Practically Free No-Slip Clothes Hanger

Sometimes you get one of the really cheap, plastic hangers when you need an anti-slip hanger. One solution is to wrap pipe cleaners around the clothes hanger. The pipe cleaners add a grippy stop to these otherwise slippery hangers. Check out 20 more home hacks using hangers, rubber bands and cardboard tubes.

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Clothes Hanger Drain Cleaner

Clothes Hanger Drain Cleaner

Hair clogs in the drain are inevitable; and they’re more likely if there are longhaired people in your home. I’ve found that a wire coat hanger is the most effective tool for removing them. First, untwist the wire under the hook. This leaves the hook at one end and a miniature “auger” at the other end. Push the auger end down the drain up to the clog. Bend the free end 90 degrees, forming a handle. Crank the handle so the auger bores into the clog, allowing you to pull it out. Plus: We’ll show you how to unclog just about anything. — Assistant Digital Editor Matt Boley

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HH Handy Hint broom wide tooth comb dust bunny dustpan hack
Family Handyman

Dust Bunny Broom Cleaner

Every time you sweep, clumps of dust and hair collect at the ends of the broom’s bristles. To solve this problem, hot glue a wide-tooth comb to the top of a dustpan. Just run the bristles through the comb to remove any excess gunk dangling from the broom.

Check out these Cleaning Tips to Reduce Household Dust in the first place.

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HH handy hint DIY picture frame message board
Family Handyman

Make a Message Board with Stuff You Already Have

I’m all for dry-erase message boards, but they’re usually pretty unattractive. So I make message boards using nice picture frames. To make these message boards, grab a picture frame and some paper. Cut the paper to fit the frame and set it in behind the glass. The glass makes an excellent dry erase surface! — reader, Jessie Dawson

These 25 why-didn’t-I-think-of-that Handy Hints for the Home Cook will help you save time, get organized and work more efficiently in your kitchen.

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HH Handy Hint Sponges stay plants stay hydrated
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Cheap Planter Upgrade

Water settling at the bottom of pots can lead to root rot. To combat this problem, cut up old sponges and put them in the bottom of the pot. The sponges retain moisture and create necessary air space. They also help prevent water from flushing out the bottom. The sponge acts as a water reserve and keep soil moist longer.

Love to garden but short on time? Here are some tips that will help you plant, water and weed more efficiently so you have more time to stop and smell your roses.

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Thinning Glue 1
Family Handyman

Get the Most Out of Your Wood Glue

I recently wrote to the Borden company, asking what to do when their Elmer’s wood glue gets too thick to use. They wrote me back and suggested mixing in a drop or two of vinegar. It sounded like an old wives’ tale, but I tried it and found it really works!

Click here for an easy glue project!

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HH Handy Hint reuse vacuum cleaner bag stapler
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How to Reuse Your Vacuum Cleaner Bags (Yes, It’s Possible!)

“In a pinch, a vacuum cleaner bag is actually reusable. The bottom end of the bag is usually folded over a few times and glued shut. To reuse a bag, unroll its end, being careful not to tear it, and then empty the contents into the trash. Refold the end and staple it back together. This hint definitely deserves a cheapskate award, but it works when you need it to.” — Senior Editor Travis Larson

Plus, to be safe check out these 13 Things You Should Never, Ever Vacuum.

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HH handy hints lays chips can painting roller storage
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An Excuse to Snack While Painting

Washing a roller cover between coats of paint is a waste of time and paint. So one of my painting necessities is a can of chips; preferably the plastic cans. Before I start painting, I eat the chips and then clean out the can. I don’t want any unintended texture on my walls! Between coats, I slip the wet roller cover in the empty chip can and pop on the lid to keep it from drying out. — reader, Thomas Nolan

With a little creativity, many common household items can be transformed into something else that’s entirely different and amazing.

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HH Handy Hint color coded key nail polish
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Color-Code Keys On the Cheap

“It seems the older I get, the more keys I carry around. Between the car, house, shed and garage, I have a whole pocket full of keys. To make it easier to quickly find my most used keys, I paint both sides of the key head with brightly colored nail polish. I use a different color for each key. The nail polish is extremely durable and you’ll be surprised how much longer it lasts than spray paint.” — reader, Joseph Grayson

Check out these other 14 Secret Tool Tips for DIYers from the Pros.

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HH Handy Hints Pop cans save soil gardening
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The Easiest Way to Save on Potting Soil

For deep planters, fill the bottom with old cans and plant pots. The cans and pots improve drainage and create air pockets for better aeration and healthier soil.

Check out these Lawn and Yard Maintenance and Gardening Tips. Our experts weigh in with their best tips ever about how to get a healthy and beautiful lawn and garden.

Plus: Check out our favorite late-summer container plants here.

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coins to shim a toilet
Family Handyman

One Cent Toilet Shims

When leveling a toilet, I often use coins or washers as toilet 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 toilet shims. — reader, Les Zell

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Toilet Paper Roll Wrapping Paper Sleeve

Toilet Paper Roll Wrapping Paper Sleeve

This hint will save you from wasting wrapping paper each time you bring it out of storage. Rather than sticking a piece of tape along the loose edge, cut an empty toilet paper tube lengthwise and wrap it around a roll of wrapping paper. Cinch it up and secure the sleeve with a piece of tape. Next time you use the wrapping, you may rip the sleeve when removing it, but your wrapping paper will remain intact.
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HH lazy susan fridge condiments organization

Lazy Fix for a Disorganized Fridge

Digging to the back of your fridge to find a certain ingredient is a pain. Instead, use a Lazy Susan to bring that food to you! Simply place a lazy Susan on a shelf in your fridge and stock it with condiments and other small containers. Nothing could be easier than spinning your ingredients around to find just what you need. Find out the real reason on how the Lazy Susan got its name.

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HH Handy Hint Wine Cork Fire Starter
Family Handyman

Wine Cork Fire Starters

Fill a mason jar with wine corks and rubbing alcohol, and let the corks soak. The corks will burn ok in a couple days, but for best results, soak them for a week. Be sure the corks are natural, not synthetic.

Fire pits come in all shapes and sizes. Check out our 37 favorite fire pits, and be inspired to create a cozy gathering spot in your backyard.

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Store Spray Paint in a Wine Box

Store Spray Paint in a Wine Box

Corral your pile of spray paint in a wine box for storage. The interior dividers in a wine box are sized perfectly for the narrow cans, and the colorful lids remain visible when you look inside.
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Grass Seed Broadcaster

Grass Seed Broadcaster

When it's time to clean out the refrigerator, be sure to save those plastic berry containers for repurposing ideas. You can toss the mushy raspberries, but wash and dry the container—it's perfect for spreading grass seed on your lawn!
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Grocery Bag Shoe Covers

Grocery Bag Shoe Covers

Reuse plastic grocery bags as shoe covers. The plastic keeps dirt and water contained, and the handle loops can be tied around your ankles to keep them on when you step inside your house for a quick break.
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HH painters tape temporary mixing surface

Quick Epoxy Mixing Surface

Instead of using a container to mix a small amount of epoxy, just make a mixing surface on your workbench using painters tape. Simply lay down strips, overlapping the edges so the epoxy doesn’t get on your bench. When you’re done, peel off the tape and throw it away. This mixing surface will work for more than just epoxy, you can use it for wood glue or any other material you need easy access to while working on a project.

Check out 45 of the most clever gluing tips and tricks from editors and readers of Family Handyman. You’ll definitely want to keep these in mind during your next woodworking projects.

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Shoe Box Touch-Up Paint Kit

Shoe Box Touch-Up Paint Kit

Create a reusable paint touch-up kit with an empty shoe box. Fill the box with a small roller and roller cover, a paintbrush, paint can opener, gloves, stir stick, etc. Then cover the shoe box lid with saran wrap, fill it with a bit of paint and use it as a roller tray.
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oil bottle tote
Family Handyman

Oil Bottle Hardware Storage

Here’s a fun little project to keep your screws, nails, nuts and electrical whatsits handy and neatly organized.

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Hanger Magazine Rack

Hanger Magazine Rack

Create a quick magazine rack for your bathroom or bedroom using a hanger. Place the magazines on the horizontal bar of the hanger; then hang it on a drawer pull or cabinet knob for reading material at the ready.
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Safer Blade Disposal

Safer Blade Disposal

Save that empty spice container with a removable lid—it makes a great blade disposal container in the workshop. That's what reader Bill Nelson does! The container is durable and can hold several used utility blades, damaged nails and other sharp objects to be thrown away without cutting the trash bag open or posing a hazard in the shop.
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Tin Can Glue Bottle Storage
Family Handyman

Tin Can Glue Bottle Storage

Reuse a tin can for storing glue bottles upside down in your workshop. Then you won't have to wait for the glue to slowly reach the top of the bottle in order to squeeze it out—it'll be ready to go when you reach for it.
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Bread Tabs for Labeling Cords

Bread Tabs for Labeling Cords

Not sure which cord goes with which electronic device plugged into your power strip? Save yourself the hassle of following the cord from the plugin to the device for each item you need to move by labeling them. Plastic bread tabs are perfect for labeling cords that are plugged into a power strip because they're sturdy, have enough room to write on and can easily clip around the plugin end of a cord. Plus, they often come in different colors. You'll be able to easily identify and move your electrical devices. Plus, learn how to use a Surge Protector for Electronic Device and see why plugging your electronics into a surge protector is a smart way to save money.
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Egg Carton Painting Props

Egg Carton Painting Props

Keep a few empty egg cartons with the rest of your painting supplies. They're great for lifting a small project off of a work surface, making it easier to paint nooks and crannies and along the base of the project.