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Survival Debt

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

For years I've been telling my readers that there are two kinds of debt: safe debt and toxic debt.

Safe debt is secured debt; it has collateral connected to it. Your home mortgage is a safe debt. You had to qualify for it, so at least one person decided that you can afford it. And if you can't afford it or you change your mind and want out of ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: My Apologies to Pawn Shops Everywhere

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

In the wake of America's big economic crisis back in 2008, dollar stores and thrift stores have seen a big resurgence. And now, another kind of retail quasi-lender is commanding all kinds of attention from sellers and buyers: pawnshops.

I admit to having grown up with a weird bias against pawnshops. To me, pawnshops were just one level above ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: No More Sleeping Through the Alarm, and Other Favorite Tips

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Surprise! Today, instead of sharing tips you've sent to me, I've decided to hog the entire column to share some of my own. Several of these are oldies, but goodies, while others are recent discoveries. I do love great tips.

CELLPHONE ALARM VOLUME BOOSTER. If you're a heavy sleeper and have trouble hearing your cellphone alarm, you can boost the...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: How to Clean Painted Wood Floors

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

A message in my inbox this week came from Joan. She asked, "What is the best way to clean a very grimy painted wood floor?"

Before I get to an answer, let's talk generally about wood floors and the difference between a painted wood floor and a finished wood floor. I would never suggest that anyone treat them as equals when it comes to cleaning....Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Ways to Use a FoodSaver That Have Nothing to Do With Food

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

My vacuum sealer is one of my favorite kitchen appliances. I seal fruit to extend its freshness by at least two weeks, often much longer. I seal meat before I freeze it to stave off freezer burn, which keeps it perfect for six months to a year. I could go on and on about how my FoodSaver saves our food expenses, but today I want to tell you ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Get Pet Hair and Fragrance Buildup Out of the Laundry

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

DEAR MARY: I am one of your millions of fans. Your insight, tips, products and recipes are terrific. Thank you for your time and effort. I'm looking for something I can purchase or make myself to extract dog hairs from fabric in the dryer. Years ago I purchased a kind of dry ball, which looked ordinary enough and worked great. But since then I'...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: How to Childproof a Forbidden Door, Plus More Great Reader Tips

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

If you've ever needed to prevent children from closing a door and unwittingly locking themselves in the bathroom, you may know the old hand-towel trick: Throw the towel over the top of the door. That's it. No matter how hard a child tries to close it, no can do! I've always loved that handy, dandy trick. But I have to admit, I'd never thought ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Make It Yourself -- Cheaper, Better and Faster!

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Since the day I learned to make my own homemade laundry detergent (it took a few attempts to reach perfection), I've become semi-obsessed with making my own household cleaners and even some food items, too.

My benchmark is, what I make myself must be cheaper, better and faster than the store-bought version. Here are a few of my favorites, which...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Stop the Carnage! No More Rotten Produce in the Garbage

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

I'm having a difficult time wrapping my head around this documented fact: Experts say that almost half of all produce grown in the U.S. is thrown out, while at the same time poverty is growing right here in America.

I had naively assumed that all U.S.-grown produce makes it to market, and then consumers take it home, and sometimes we let it go ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: I'm a Compulsive Chopper

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

I just did something I haven't done in years. I took the weekend and the holiday off. It was wonderful. We had friends over for a barbecue. And I made salsa -- from scratch.

I used my absolute favorite kitchen gadget, the Vidalia Chop Wizard, to chop the stuff that needed chopping (tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, jalapeno, garlic, ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Best Time to Buy a Computer, Where to Buy a TracFone and How to De-Smoke a Microwave

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Dear Mary: I'm looking at new computers. When is the best time of year to buy one? -- Stella

Dear Stella: There is something to be said for seasonal pricing of some consumer goods. For example, you will probably get the best deals on outdoor grills and lawn mowers in July and August, as retailers are gearing up for Christmas and need to clear ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Easy Ways to Plan for College, Save Money, Read Books and Carpool the Kids

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

The following websites are family-friendly and offer very helpful services.

BIG FUTURE. Planning for college? The BigFuture website was set up by The College Board to help students navigate the often confusing and overwhelming world of college applications and admissions. It's a college-planning headquarters of sorts.

BigFuture not only helps ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Surprising Ways to Use a Slow Cooker That Have Nothing to Do With Food

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

They're bulky and take up precious cabinet space, but we'll never get rid of our slow cookers. They can be such a lifesaver on those days when time is scarce and we just want to make a big batch of something delicious and comforting to get us through it.

A slow cooker is one awesome household appliance for hands-off cooking. If you have one (a ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Time to Hit the Road for a Family Vacation

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Some of the best times we had when our boys were young were those spent on family vacations. Being together, away from the normal routine, creates an atmosphere just right for bonding and making memories to last a lifetime.

A great family vacation allows you to bond with your kids and bring your family closer together through shared experiences...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: 6 Christmas Gifts to Make During Summer

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

If you don't have an abundant garden this year, don't worry. You can still make these wonderful, summery gifts to hold on to for Christmas. How wonderful it will be when you welcome the holiday season and your gifts are ready to go. You can find everything you need here at a local farmers market.

POTPOURRI. Create a potpourri mix with dried ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: The Cost of Dipping Into Your Retirement

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

More people than ever are taking loans from their retirement accounts, simply because they can. Here's the problem: seeing your retirement account as a savings account -- or worse, a personal ATM machine. It's so ridiculous, I cannot even tell you. Sure, it's your money, but it's not money for now. It's for later. It should be out of your reach,...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Help! I Can't Get Rid of These Rust Stains

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Dear Mary: Our water pressure is very high, which has created rust-colored stains in our fiberglass bathtub. I tried scrubbing with Comet, but that did nothing. How can I remove these terrible stains? -- MaryAnne

Dear MaryAnne: I'm going to assume you've also already tried using a paste made of baking soda and white vinegar. If neither solution...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: The Cheap and Easy Way to Build a Great Credit Score

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Dear Mary: You have said that it's important to keep our credit cards active even if we keep them at zero balance. How often should we use them to keep them active? Does it matter how much we put on them? Will making small purchases and paying them off immediately suffice? -- Nancy

Dear Nancy: Using a credit card twice a year is more than ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: Making the Shift to Living with Cash

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Banks and retailers have benefited greatly the past few decades by promoting a cashless lifestyle. They convinced us that it's safer and more convenient to carry plastic. They declared cash old-fashioned and clunky, and plastic hip and cool. We gradually fell for the pitch and eventually got more than we bargained for -- going cashless has ...Read more

Everyday Cheapskate: 4 Steps to Stop Worrying Forever

Consumer / Everyday Cheapskate /

Somewhere in my life, I picked up the habit of worrying. I worry most about money, but I can worry about anything, really. I don't believe I was born a worrier, so I must have learned to worry from past experiences and watching others worry -- probably my parents. But when I thought about it, this is actually good news. If you, like me, have ...Read more


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