Dear Readers:

Did you know that perfume might last only 12 to 14 months, and cologne about six months? With the cost of perfume and cologne in mind, here are some hints to get the longest shelf life possible.

Always store a perfume or cologne in a cool place away from direct sunlight -- heat makes the fragrance evaporate. Some suggest the refrigerator is a good place, and others say it doesn't help. My vote? The fridge! Keep the perfume away from a hot bathroom or a dresser that gets direct sunlight.

Don't apply it before you plan to sunbathe or tan. This can cause irritation or brown blotches on your skin.

The best time to apply a fragrance is when your skin is damp or after applying body lotion or oil. This helps hold the fragrance longer.

You can mix a drop or two of your favorite fragrance with a bottle of plain mineral oil or baby oil, and you will have a wonderful, lightly scented after-bath moisturizer.

I hope you find these scent hints helpful! Dear Heloise:

When I get a new cell phone, I always write the brand and model number on the charger with a permanent-marker pen. Cell-phone chargers can have different voltages and currents, and marking the charger prevents me from accidentally plugging it into the wrong cell phone.

A bonus is that if I find that an older charger has the same output voltage, current and connector as my cell phone, I can store it in my suitcase, ready for travel.

Joe Swelnis, Richmond, Ky.

Dear Heloise:

When I lived in an apartment, I put a cowbell on the front doorknob. Also, in the kitchen, I stuck a spatula in the space between the door and the frame above the door. If someone tried to open one door, the cowbell would ring loudly, and if someone tried the kitchen door, the spatula would fall and make enough noise to wake me up.

Jeanette W., via e-mail

I also have little bells hanging from some pretty ribbon on two doors in our home so I can hear when someone comes in.

Send a money- or time-saving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Heloise@Heloise.com. Please include your city and state when faxing or using e-mail. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.

(c)2004, King Features Syndicate