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COMMENTARY

Dress shields, herb gardens and other money-saving tips from the 1950s

My copy of "The Encyclopedia of Household Hints and Dollar Stretchers" by Michael Gore is yellow and crumbling and has the most fantastic old-book smell.

I can't remember who gave it to me early in my Discount Diva career. I think it was my awesome father-in-law, who was always sharing excellent money-saving tips with me. I received a flood of helpful resources from readers and friends in those days, so it's possible it could have come from someone else. Whoever it was, thank you.

Originally published in 1957, the book contains "3,500 practical, clever ways to save money, time and work in every department of the household."

As penny-pinching tips usually do, the ones in the encyclopedia pretty much hold up. But some of the tips, and how they're worded, are delightfully dated. Here's a little sampling.

Moisturize to make your pantyhose last longer. Scratchy knees, toes and feet can cause your stockings to snag and run. The book recommends slathering up with lotion to prevent it.

Pantyhose sales are less than half of what they once were, now that women opt for bare legs and pants. But "nylons" were a big deal back then. In 1954, women bought an average of 12 pairs per year, at a total cost of $9. Minimum wage was 75 cents – that's $7.20 an hour in today's dollars – so you can see why getting the most bang for your pantyhose buck was important.

Plant some herbs. "If you want to do yourself a flavor – remember, it's the little things that count," Gore writes. "Herbs can add magic to your meals." Now is the perfect time to throw some seeds in a pot or in the garden. Fresh basil is delicious, versatile and easy. It dries well, which is a good thing since it grows like crazy.

Your home freezer and how to use it. This chapter devotes several pages to saving money with "this modern storage convenience." Frugal folks definitely do get the most out of their freezers, whether they're stocking up during sales or cooking ahead for the week to avoid buying takeout.

The book includes a list of things that can be frozen and how to freeze them. Cigars and cigarettes, for example, can be frozen in their original packaging for extra freshness. Furs can be wrapped in a "Moisture-vaporproof material" and frozen for two days to kill moth larvae. "Sprinkled" clothes (women used to sprinkle clothes with water to make ironing easier) can be frozen using the same method if you can't finish pressing them right away.

Keep sweat from ruining clothes. To prevent perspiration from ruining clothing, invest in "dress shields." They stay between your underarms and your clothing to intercept sweat and deodorant.

I just checked and they still make them! They're available in disposable adhesive versions, or reusable, washable, pin-in ones. I've also seen people attach panty liners inside the underarms of their shirts.

A couple that haven't aged well. The book recommends tying a bell to your toddler's shoe to "save Mother many steps." It promises he will also "enjoy the sound as he moves about."

It recommends having your phone installed near your home's stairway with a long cord so it can be used both upstairs and downstairs without the expense of adding a second line.

Gore also wrote a section called "How to Please Men," which includes such gems as "cheek rouge applied incorrectly can look hard and cheap," and "Men are often ashamed of women who use no lipstick."

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