Dear Heloise: Now that many stores have stopped having in-store layaway, I thought of a new way to put items on layaway. Most retailers now offer rechargeable, prepaid credit cards or rechargeable gift cards. Simply purchase one, put a little money on it and write what it is being used for on it. Then put more money on it every week until you can purchase what you want. It's also a good way to save up for holiday gifts without worrying about the regular monthly bills. — Jonathan, via e-mail

This is a fabulous idea. Be sure to check the terms of the card, since some might charge a service fee to reload or might have a monthly surcharge. This would be a great way to save for that special purchase. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: I found myself in a dark room without a flashlight, but with a nearby portable phone. I thought to use that screen light to illuminate the area and allow me to find a light switch. It worked so well. — Barbara, via e-mail

Dear Heloise: I read about creating one's own bathroom deodorizer with cotton balls soaked in essential oil. It's a great idea! I just wanted to suggest that if you publish this hint again, you might want to include a warning to keep it out of the way of pets and children. — Susan Mullen, via e-mail

You are correct, and thank you for reminding us. Keep essential oils (especially pure oils) out of the reach of children and pets. — Heloise

Dear Heloise: When my family's old socks get stretched or lose a match, I save them for rags. When it's time to do laundry, they sometimes get mixed back in with the good socks. Now, when a sock becomes a rag, I cut the toe off so that it never gets confused with the good socks again!

Also, everywhere I go, I see stores selling cute, trendy-looking 'green' bags for grocery shopping. It's great that more people are bringing their own bags, but if you really want to be environmentally friendly, go to a garage sale or thrift store and buy used bags. They may not have the designer label or cute picture, but they're cheaper and are truly environmentally friendly. — Kathy Jones, Springfield, Ill.

Dear Heloise: I would like to share a hint technique for when carrying a plastic medicine pillbox around in your purse. Before placing the seven-day pill reminder in my purse, I place cotton balls inside to prevent the medication from rolling around and falling out of the container, then I place a rubber band on the outside of the medicine box to wrap it up and secure it so that it cannot open so easily. —Anna Victoria Reich, Stafford, Va.

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or you can fax it to 1-210-435-6473 or e-mail it to [email protected] I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column. © King Features Syndicate Inc.