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Everyday Cheapskate: Ask Me Anything: Lease or Buy Car, Laundry Detergent Confusion

Mary Hunt on

Pop quiz: What do car leases and laundry detergent have in common? Both can be confusing! Just ask today's readers, whose respective questions washed up in my inbox.

Dear Mary: My wife and I are having a disagreement. I want to lease a new car now, because ours is old and paying for repairs is like flushing money down the drain. She wants to keep it until we can afford to buy a better car. I hate car trouble and think peace of mind is something to be considered. I'm sure we can afford the payment, but she's not. What should we do? -- James

Dear James: I'd rather shove toothpicks under my fingernails than lease a new car ever again, which is a story for another time. But enough about me.

Here's my advice: Do whatever you must to keep the old car running for now. But live for the next 12 months as though you were making those lease payments (let's say it's $300 a month), and make those payments to yourselves, putting the money into a special savings place you agree you will not touch.

Don't even think about being late, just as if you were under a stern lease contract. At the end of a year, you will have two things: A good idea of your comfort zone for big lease payments and $3,600 cash.

Now you've got options. You can sell the clunker and put the money together with the $3,600 cash to buy a better used car, or you can use the cash as a down payment on a newer car.

To me, buying a car is far better than jumping into a lease in which you will spend a fortune and have nothing, not even a car, to show for it at the end of the lease period.

Dear Mary: I'm so confused by laundry products, particularly detergents. Are powders better than liquid? Is the word "ultra" just hype? -- Cindy

Dear Cindy: Here's the scoop on laundry detergent: Typically, the word "ultra" means the product has been concentrated to fit into a smaller container. The problem is unless you read the label, and carefully measure and experiment to find the least amount that works for you, you'll probably dump in the same amount you have in the past. That's not good for your budget and really not good for your clothes.


A product that has fabric softener added isn't going to clean or soften as well but is generally cheaper than buying two different products.

If a product says it has more stain fighters, it contains enzymes to dissolve stains better, but you'll still have to pretreat heavy stains. Detergents with enzymes usually cost more than those without.

Typically, liquids detergents are more expensive and work better on greasy stains, but the cheaper powdered detergents are better on clay, dirt and mud stains.

Both liquid detergent and liquid bleach will get a boost and work better if you add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the wash cycle, which means it's possible you'll be able to use less detergent. This is only cost-effective when your soda products are less per ounce than the detergent.

And now for my super-duper laundry detergent savings secret: I make my own laundry detergent for about a nickel a load. If you'd like to learn how to do that, you'll find simple detailed instructions, including a photo tutorial, in the Everyday Cheapskate "Quick 'n Easy Homemade Laundry Detergent: Update with Tutorial" article.

Hope that helps!


Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Copyright 2018 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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