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'Two-fers' help you save Products that have multiple uses stretch your budget, save time

If you're like most people, you buy stuff when you need it -- and you wish you didn't need so much.

One way to stretch your budget and save time is to buy things with second and third uses, from beauty products that include sunscreen to reversible clothes and multitasking furniture.

Here are some tips.

* The most helpful multi-use products are ones you already own.

"If you're a makeup wearer, having SPF built into your daily makeup can save you a step -- and perhaps some money, if you can forgo your moisturizer altogether," says Kira Cowan, editor of, which offers advice on saving money.

Carol Etges, co-founder of and a melanoma survivor, says beauty products with SPF give her confidence that she is protected against unplanned sun exposure -- and help her avoid the greasiness and harsh smell of most sunscreens.

Many other common household products have multiple uses, such as vinegar, which cleans everything from cookware to floors more effectively than most specialized products, and toothpaste, which doubles as silver polish.

And cloth diapers -- great for baby burping cloths and catching drips and diaper leaks in car seats, swings and bouncers -- are still handy after kids grow out of them. Their softness and absorbability make them ideal shoe-shine cloths or drying rags for cars. Kimberly Danger, creator of, also suggests cutting old cloth diapers to fit your Swiffer sweeper to clean or polish your floors.

* Probably the most fun are products that are designed with two or more uses in mind.

Reversible clothing saves space in your closet and in your suitcase on trips, while giving you style options, says Sara Noel, syndicated columnist and owner of, a website that offers budgeting tips, homemaking advice and other resources. Look for reversible shirts, dresses, skirts, coats and hats in stores and online.

And remember many people's all-time favorite multitasker, the Swiss Army Knife, with a range of gadgets that actually work well, including scissors, tweezers, screwdrivers and fish-scaling tools.

"They remain popular because they're affordable, offer multiple tools, are compact and easy to carry, and offer a lifetime warranty," Noel says.

* Other common products have surprising alternative identities.

We've all seen paper coffee filters used to cover dishes in the microwave and soak up grease from fried foods or as a creative and inexpensive background for watercolor paintings. But they're also great for holding snacks, separating fine china when it's stacked and filtering broken cork out of wine.

Used dryer sheets make good deodorants in shoes, diaper bags, dresser drawers, closets and garbage pails. But they're also great for dusting, removing pet hair from clothes and getting soap stains off shower doors.

And black dress socks that have lost their mates? You could try making puppets with them.

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