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Everyday Cheapskate: An Easy Solution for a Big Oops!

Mary Hunt on

Dear Cheapskate: Help! I dripped latex paint on my new carpeting and discovered it too late. It dried hard and I'm afraid the carpet is ruined. -- Ruby R., California

Dear Ruby: Relax. Even if it's been there for a long time, you can get latex paint out of carpet or any type of fabric with lacquer thinner (not paint thinner!) available at hardware stores or home improvement centers. Using a clean white cloth, saturate the dried paint with the lacquer thinner until you can tell the hardened paint is softening. Gently blot with a clean area of the cloth. Be patient. Keep working at it until the paint is out completely. Be sure to test the carpet or fabric for color fastness in an inconspicuous place first (in a closet or behind the sofa) so you will know exactly how it reacts with your specific carpet (I am very hopeful). Remember to always store lacquer thinner out of the reach of children and pets.

Dear Cheapskate: I have a dog and two cats. Between routine health check-ups, inoculations and occasional mishaps and illnesses, my vet bills can be quite significant. Can you tell me anything about affordable pet health insurance? -- Beth E., Montana

Dear Beth: I'm afraid that pet insurance might give you peace of mind, but it is not likely to save you any money. My friend and colleague, the late Dr. David T. Roen, board-certified veterinarian and owner of the Clarkston Veterinary Clinic in Clarkston, Washington, was adamant with his customers that pet insurance is a gamble and the odds are stacked against you. By time you factor in annual premiums, deductibles and typical policy exclusions, it is possible you could be out money in the end. You'd probably be better off to set up your own savings account for pet health care and make premium payments to yourself. If your animals remain healthy, you can keep the nest egg. If not, you have the account to cover the bills.

Dear Cheapskate: Twelve years ago my husband finished medical school with $170,000 in school loans. While in forbearance when we couldn't afford the payments, it grew to $195,000. We're back on track now and down to $112,000. That's progress, but still so far to go. We have $140,000 equity in our home. Should we use that to pay it down faster? We have no other debts. -- Cheri R., Illinois


Oh, those rascally college loans -- so easy to get, so difficult to get rid of. But I am so proud that you finally owe less than you borrowed. That's a big chunk, so give yourselves a tiny pat on the back. Even if you could reduce the interest rate slightly (student loan interest is already tax-deductible within certain limitations, so that wouldn't play into your decision), it's just not worth the risk. First, you wouldn't be eliminating any debt, just moving it from an unsecured position to one that is secured by your home. But worse, you would put your home at risk. Mortgage lenders don't hesitate to foreclose when borrowers fall behind. The way it is now, if you fall behind for some reason, the lender will hassle you and make your life miserable, but cannot take your home. I would rather see you forget that you have that $140,000 equity. It is an appreciating asset and possibly your only investment at this time. Leave it alone and let it grow. In the meantime, work hard, get extra jobs, live very frugally and rapidly repay this from your current income. I'll be right here cheering you on!


Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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