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Everyday Cheapskate: The Life and Times of Leftovers

Mary Hunt on

Dear Cheapskate: How long should leftovers be kept in the fridge? I have been debating this with co-workers, as one left her beef stew in the refrigerator for over a week and thought it was OK to eat. -- Angela N., New Brunswick, Canada

Dear Angela: There's no debate here -- you win by at least three days. The shelf life of any food will depend on the food itself, packaging, temperature and humidity. The folks at advise that if it's a highly perishable type of food, like a cooked meat product, three to four days should be the maximum. Generally, leftovers should be discarded after 48 hours in the refrigerator.

Dear Cheapskate: I need some advice. My husband is 71, retired and collects a pension. I'm 58, employed, planning to take my social security benefit early at 62 and will get a pension when I turn 65. We have debts -- a mortgage of $45,000, credit card bills of $19,000, and other unsecured debt totaling $15,000. I am expecting $20,000 in the next several months from an estate. Should I save that for a rainy day, pay off what I can with what cash I have, or just say "let's party and who cares?" We have excellent credit scores and no problems meeting our bills, but little cash remains at the end of the month. Any advice? -- Mary C., email

Dear Mary C: My advice is to take the $20,000 and park it where it is not at risk and earning at least enough interest to stay ahead of inflation. It may appear that you're set with enough money to enjoy life together for many years to come. But life doesn't always turn out the way we plan. You'll sleep better knowing you have money in the bank. At this writing, Ally Bank (; 877-247-2559) is paying 4.2% on savings; Smarty Pig (; 877-751-6884) is paying 4.25%. Both banks are FDIC insured and offer savings accounts with no fees or minimums.

Dear Cheapskate: I purchased a scanner/copy machine that failed during the warranty period. The company replaced it with a refurbished scanner with a 90-day warranty. Is this fair? I think while under warranty it should be replaced with a new unit with full warranty. Thanks. -- Sharri C., Colorado

Dear Sharri: If you have six months of warranty protection, the company may have fulfilled its obligations under the fine print. But that doesn't say much about their miserable failure at customer service. As far as you are concerned, their products fail 100% of the time. Call customer service, graciously plead your case, and request a new replacement. If that doesn't work, you have nothing to lose by writing to the highest company official you can find. Briefly describe the situation, and let them know you are shocked, appalled and dismayed by their shoddy practice. Be clear about the terms and conditions under which you want this matter resolved. You may be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Dear Cheapskate: I am a single parent with a child in college, and I am going back to school myself. I have completed the majority of my general education classes at our city college and want to transfer to a university to complete my bachelor's degree and hopefully my master's. You have advocated that one should not get student loans and should pay as they go. However, I'm 49 years old and living with my mother to cut expenses so I can go to school. I do not have the energy to get two jobs. If I want to actually get my degree before I'm 80 and use it, I need to get some type of student loan. Any suggestions? -- Linda T., California


Dear Linda: I'm afraid I have more questions than suggestions. What is your field of study? How certain are you that you will be welcomed into that field? What is the entry-level salary? Will that allow you to live on your own and pay hundreds a month in loan payments? For the next 15 years or longer? You say you do not have the energy to work two jobs now, but that's what you may be looking at if you run up thousands in student loans and do not land some big, fabulous salary. While the education may improve your employability, the debt will take away many of your life options.

Have you considered all the non-debt options you have for going to school? Perhaps you could go to work now for a company that offers tuition reimbursement. Does your state have grants for single parents, specifically women? Some do. Have you searched for scholarships, grants and other forms of funding that do not require repayment? Student loans should not be your first option but rather your very last, and then with the greatest reluctance.

Should you end up borrowing money to finish school, please take the smallest loans you'll need to scrape by, not the most money the financial aid office will hand to you. You are a brave woman, and I wish you well.


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."

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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