How to save some extra scratch on your pets: Sure, you could cut down on the number of pet toys you buy, but there are many other practical ways to cut the cost of pet care in these challenging economic times.

Sure, you could cut down on the number of pet toys you buy, but there are many other practical ways to cut the cost of pet care in these challenging economic times.

We called California pet expert Warren Eckstein, who has a new Saturday radio show on Sirius, to get some ideas:

If your vet prescribes medications such as antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs that are used for humans as well as animals, don't always fill the prescription at the vet's office. Try going to a low cost pharmacy such as Costco or Wal-Mart.

Don't forgo taking your pet for annual check-ups. Early diagnosis of a condition or serious disease is so important for your pet's well being and it can also save you big money.

Consider feeding your dogs or cats a nationally advertised brand of dog food available in supermarkets or pet super stores instead of the more expensive or designer varieties. Check with your vet first, of course, before making any changes in your pet's diet and get their advice. Look for the AAFCO label (Association of American Feed Control Officials) on the pet food packaging; they test the nutritional value of pet foods.

Fresh air and exercise go a long way in saving money because your pet will be a whole lot healthier in general. Eckstein also likes to give dogs a daily massage.

- The Washington Post


When giving gifts:

Give a box of homemade fudge or a plate of cookies.

Offer your talent, such as baby sitting, cleaning, cooking, driving or gardening.

Compile a family cookbook with relatives' favorite recipes.

Make a gift basket filled with food items, DVDs or other low-cost items.

Transfer an heirloom to the next generation and include a history of the item.

Have a camera shop transfer old family movies to DVDs.

Shop secondhand bookstores for gifts for bibliophiles.

- Los Angeles Times

We often use Cool Whip containers and stuff like that instead of buying new containers. Also, those big plastic Folgers cans work really well for storing flour and sugar, and they have the handy handles on the side.

Plastic shopping bags are handy for wastebasket liners that we use for the bathrooms, bedrooms, office, etc. They also come in handy for extra large sandwiches that won't fit in regular size sandwich bags.

— Tom C., Eagle Point

One thing I do is turn on the heat first thing in the morning to take the chill off, and turn it off. I don't turn it on again unless my hands get cold, and I wear sweatshirts and sweaters. Also, I lower the window shades when it's really cold outside and this keeps my bill low.

— Phyllis Joy, Phoenix

Do you normally drink 1 percent (2.2 grams fat per 8-ounce glass) or 2 percent (4.4 grams fat per 8-ounce glass) low-fat milk? Want to make that gallon of milk go farther? Buy a gallon of whole milk (7.7 grams fat per 8-ounce glass) and dilute it with regular tap water. For every gallon of whole milk purchased, you can produce 2 gallons of 1 percent low-fat milk.

— John Littleton, Medford

Save hidden dollars by doing all your baking in one fell swoop. For example, instead of baking four times a week, plan to do all four baking sessions in one day. It saves money on energy to preheat the oven. Order your baking sequence to start with the lowest temperature, then, progress to the higher temperatures. It also could save on wasted baking supplies such as a can of evaporated milk.

— Janet Scott, Medford