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Everyday Cheapskate: Ask Cheapskate

Mary Hunt on

You should see my email inbox. Yikes! It's overflowing with questions, tips, stories, feedback, rebuttals and all kinds of love from you, my dear readers. Today, I'm making a tiny dent in the pile with these responses to a handful of your questions on auto leasing, homemade laundry detergent and more.

Dear Cheapskate: My wife and I are disagreeing. 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 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 ever lease a new car again, which is another story, but enough about me.

Here's my best advice: Do whatever you must to keep the old car running for now. Then, for the next 12 months, live as though you are making $400 monthly lease payments -- but make those payments to yourselves. Don't even think about being late, just as if you were under a stern leasing contract.

At the end of a year, you will have two things: a good idea of your comfort zone for big lease payments and $4,800 cash. Now you've got options.

No. 1: You can sell the clunker and buy a used car with the money; or No. 2: You can make a down payment on a newer car.


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

Thanks for writing and for calling me "Cheapskate." As you may know, I used to be a world-class spendthrift (, and that nearly ruined my life. Learning to live frugally turned my life around, so I wear that "cheapskate" moniker with pride and joy.

Dear Mary: I'm so confused about laundry products, particularly detergents. Are powders better than liquid? Is the word "ultra" just hype? Thanks. -- 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 box. 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. Not good.


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