A Penny Earned:

When times are tough, even mattresses aren't safe

As the economy crumbles and fiscal safety nets disappear, cash stashing is crossing generational and psychological divides, the behavioral pattern expanding beyond what had long been the domain of seniors and paranoiacs.

Until recently, the typical cash stasher had been an "older person who lived through the Depression or children of parents who lived through the Depression," said Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, an author and financial adviser who runs TheMoneyCoach.net.

But an increasing number of stashers are members of generations X and Y "who've experienced downsizing among their peer group or among their parents," she said.

"So many people are saying, 'If I'm not looking out for myself, who's going to?' Financial realities have come crashing down on people and created a much larger pool of stashers in this country than we've ever experienced in recent years."

Mattresses are so obvious. If you really want to keep cash in the house, stash it in a child's toy or a cereal box or a curtain rod. Don't hide it anywhere you've seen in a movie. And don't put it in a sock.

Online retailer Keeping Women Safe has seen a 15 percent jump in sales of its "diversion safes" — money hideaways that are disguised to look like everyday household products, such as carpet cleanser, deodorant sticks and cans of potato chips.

Paint buckets and soda cans are the site's best-selling diversion safes, said owner Ted Kollins.

Just be sure to remember where you hid the money. In October, a woman nearly lost $10,000 when she accidentally returned a box of crackers — with an envelope stuffed full of $100 bills.

— Los Angeles Times

Shower your family with warmth

I turn off my electric water heater when I go to bed at night, and it will stay warm enough all night that I can still take a shower in the morning with warm water.

I turn it on again in the morning when I use a lot of hot water during the day. I also turn it off if I'm away from home for two days or more.

— C. Schultz, Central Point

It only takes an instant

We already have the "instant hot water" feature in our home. We do not have to run water to warm it.

But to pinch pennies whenever we leave for a while, overnight or for a few days, we turn the instant hot water off.

Also we have it on a timer and it turns off at 11 p.m. and comes back on at 6 a.m.

— Terri L., Grants Pass

Pad your savings with a better butter

Make your own soft butter, that is spreadable straight from the fridge.

Use one pound of room-temperature butter, one cup of canola oil (or quarter-pound butter to quarter-cup of canola oil; half-pound butter to half-cup of canola oil). Beat with an electric beater.

Canola oil has no taste so the butter flavor comes through. Do NOT use olive oil.

Save the butter wrappers in a plastic bag in the fridge. Use for greasing your barbeque and casserole dishes.

— Violet, via e-mail

Several kinds of milk from the same cow

Something to keep in mind while grocery shopping ...

When I was in college I worked for a milk-packaging plant. We sold to several different customers.

Some were high-end stores, some low-end labels.

It was all the same milk, just different labels and different prices at the store.

Most, but not all, generic products are the same as brand labels, but with lower prices. I have found this to be true with many products.

— B Swope, Medford

Inexpensive ways to spruce up your garden

Save money on garden tools and yard art. Use a child's wagon to haul plants around. Add a rural mailbox to the garden so small gadgets can be stored where they're most needed.

Old wheelbarrows, bicycles, boots, barbecue kettles and hollowed out stumps make effective and eye-catching planters. Timeworn tubs and washbasins can be converted into raised bed planters.

Most such items can be purchased inexpensively at yard sales or discount stores.

— The Associated Press

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