Readers Want to Know About Non-Cable DVRs, Stamp Pads, and Cabinet Cleaning

As you can imagine, every week I get a lot of mail from my readers containing hundreds of questions. While I can’t respond personally to every letter, I select questions I believe will have a broad appeal to the greatest number of readers to answer in a future column, like today’s.

DEAR MARY: We love your Everyday Cheapskate column! I still have the article on the table about cutting the cable, but I wonder if you have a recommendation about recording once the cable box is gone? We’re not always home to watch live TV and there are some things we would like to watch at a more convenient time. Any suggestions? And thanks so much for all of your help over the years! Pat and Richard


DEAR PAT AND RICHARD:  You definitely have options for recording  capability without having cable TV service. But it’s not free. The most popular is TiVO Roamio, which is an over-the-air DVR that comes with two purchase options: 

How to Get Rid of Salt Stains on Leather and Suede

Salt. It’s mandatory in a human diet. But salt can be as destructive as it is needful due to its ability to eat holes through metal and leave ugly stains on footwear.


DEAR MARY: I have several pair of beautiful winter fashion boots in suede and leather. I’d like to remove salt stains from last winter’s misuse but don’t want to take them to a cobbler. Any advise on how I can do this myself? Maha

DEAR MAHA: We should be thankful for sidewalk salt in the wintertime, because it’s effective at helping us avoid injuries from slipping on icy surfaces. Of course, the downside is, these chunky salt particles get on boots and shoes causing damage and ugly stains.

Cleaning these stains from your leather and suede footwear regularly throughout the winter will help them last and looking good for many years to come.

Best Inexpensive Way to Reduce Home Heating Bill

Just as I was knee-deep in researching, testing and learning all I could about electric space heaters, this letter washed up on my desk.

DEAR MARY: I need your help to figure out how we can reduce our home heating bill. It’s killing us to pay so much to keep our house warm in the winter.


We have a gas furnace and where I live the cost of gas has gone up more than 10 percent, while at the same time the cost of electricity has gone down slightly. Our home is two story with a basement. Our kids are grown so it’s just the two of us. My husband travels for his work, so I’m the only one here most of the time. Thanks in advance for your help! Jeanine

DEAR JEANINE: The most efficient and easiest way to reduce your home heating cost is to heat only the rooms that are occupied, while keeping your furnace set very low to say 55 or 60 F.  Then use space heaters to make occupied rooms comfortable, while they are occupied. You can rely on this method during the day as well as at night.

You could easily see your heating bill drop 35 percent or more by simply keeping the main source of heat set very low, supplementing with electric space heaters. It’s such a simple way to make a huge difference in your home heating costs.

Help! My Aluminum Cookware is Pitted and Stained and Other Reader Dilemmas

DEAR MARY: Please tell me why my aluminum pans and cookware have turned dark and become rough to the touch. I believe it may be from the dishwasher. Other than these marks and stains, my 60-year old pans (I got them at my bridal shower!) look the same as new ones I see in the stores today. Only the price has changed. What can I do to restore my pots and pans? Love your column. Etta


DEAR ETTA: Let’s start with the “pitting”—corrosion that creates tiny holes in the metal. Undoubtedly, this is the result of having put these pans through the dishwasher. Aluminum should never be put into a dishwasher. Most dishwasher detergents are extremely alkaline and readily pit and discolor aluminum. Dishwasher detergents can also create a kind of grey film on the surface of aluminum, which can become difficult if not impossible to scrub off.

I am afraid there may be nothing you can do to remove the pits. However, there is a rather simple way to remove the dark, ugly discoloration that often appears in well-used aluminum cookware.

Of Green Smoothies and Grateful Readers

Somedays I can’t believe how lucky I am. Not only do I get to communicate with this growing audience of readers, many of you reciprocate with lovely responses. Every single day I open my mailbox and out spill wonderful notes, letters—even an occasional multiple-page tome. Mostly, you send me questions. But now and then it’s just a wonderful thank you note. Always, I’m grateful for your feedback.

DEAR MARY: I am marching in your army of green smoothie breakfasters! Is your recipe for one or two people? (Asked as she obligingly drinks the whole thing, which seems quite adequate!) Christine


DEAR CHRISTINE: You just made me laugh out loud envisioning you marching in your army uniform, green smoothie in hand. It is a recipe for one single 16-ounce smoothie and yes, it makes for a very adequate, healthy smoothie.

You could easily divide this to make two smaller servings, but I do like your style. I got your message just as the hubs was making his morning smoothie, so I shot a quick pic from our deck, hoping to also capture the beauty of autumn. Happy to have you in the army, by the way.


DEAR MARY: I just have to say Thank You! I recently purchased the Shark Navigator Life-Away Professional vacuum that you have written about—even though I have a good vacuum and am trying to minimize my possessions. Oh my! I have been vacuuming for a week straight and am still getting dirt out of my family room carpeting. What’s more, it even feels like new carpeting under our feet. Not to mention that this machine is also beautiful—white and silver! This is just indicative of the numerous ways your wisdom and insight has blessed me and my family. Hope I get to see you in person again sometime (I was in the audience when you spoke in Naperville, Ill., several years ago). Nancy

DEAR NANCY: Yours is the ninth message I’ve received just this week from readers who are also ecstatic over their Shark vacuums. I know the feeling. I get it every time I put my Sharky to work. I have moved from being embarrassed by what he gets out of the carpet to feeling kinda’ self-righteous, knowing that finally my carpeting is really clean. Now it’s easy to keep it that way. And I try to stay on top of even the smallest spot so it doesn’t become a stain, using the spot treatment Spot Shot.

It was great to hear from you and to recall that evening in Naperville. When I walked to the podium, I was shocked nearly to tears to see my college music professor, Fr. Wilbur David Ellsworth and his wife Jean, sitting front and center. I had not seen them since graduation day. Knowing that you were there as well makes that memory extra special.

Getting Debt-Free Plus the Best Machine to Clean Tile Floors

DEAR MARY: After reading your books and columns for several years, I am ecstatic to report that I am almost debt-free; my credit card debt is history! I can’t thank you enough for your encouraging words and sage counsel.


Now I need to know how to find a low-interest card—preferably a no annual fee type—to use mainly for online purchases, and which will be paid off monthly. I have absolutely no idea how to go about this and would appreciate any information you could provide. Thanks for everything! Sherry

DEAR SHERRY: Congratulations on your amazing progress toward becoming debt-free. I am so very proud of you. This is an almost amazing accomplishment, so keep going and don’t ever give up. You’ll be there soon and what a wonderful debt-free day that will be for you!

As for your question regarding a low-interest card, I would suggest that the interest rate not be your primary consideration. You will never carry a balance on it, so your primary consideration should be that is it has no annual fee. Second, it must have an excellent grace period of at least 21 days. Next it should be either a MasterCard or Visa and last you want to get the lowest interest rate you can.

How to Use Just the Right Amount of Laundry Detergent

Dear Mary: I love all of your washing machine tips, but can you guide us on using the correct amount of detergent? I know you say small amounts, but can one tell by ‘feeling’ the water? I hate to do a load with too little or too much and it feels like a guessing game. I tried googling this, but the info was not helpful. You are such an expert on these things that I thought you might have some additional tips—you can bear the thought of another post about laundry, that is! Hugs to you for such fantastic work. Your Anonymous Fan


Dear A.F.: Great question. And yes, flattery did get your letter to the top of the pile so good job on that!

Most of us use way too much laundry detergent, which can present all kinds of problems like skin irritation, grayish looking whites and stiff scratchy clothes and linens. Whatever amount of detergent you use, it must be completely rinsed away for the results to be beautifully clean, whiter-than-white, brighter-than-bright colors; soft clothes and linens.

Generally, (and I say that word because there are so many variables which I’ll touch on shortly) if you have soft water use 1 tablespoon (1/16 cup) of HE (high-efficiency) detergent per wash load. If you have hard water use 2 tablespoons (1/8 cup), which begs the question “How do I know if my water is hard or soft?” 

An Avalanche of Reader Love

I’ve told you about my email inbox but really you should see it—not that I am complaining. On the contrary, the more mail I get, the move love I feel from my wonderful readers.


Some of you send the most amazing stories and accounts of your progress in getting out of debt. Other messages are a quick sentence of encouragement. But mostly, you can’t seem to locate past information and simply need a repeat or reminder of a tip, trick, product or do-it-yourself instruction you’ve read in a previous column.

I’m no statistician, but I’m told that for every person who actually writes to ask a question—given the size of readership that Everyday Cheapskate enjoys—1,000 others want to know as well, but just don’t get around to writing. So, consider the following my attempt to compile lots of messages with the same or similar question and at the same time kill thousands of birds with just a few stones.

Q: Can you tell me which carpet steam cleaner you recommend, the one you said was the best thing you ever bought?

A: Oh, you’re talking about my beloved Hoover Steam Vac. I still have it, still love it and wouldn’t want to live without it. Make sure you re-read the original post so you’ll know how Hoover works best for me (hint: no shampoo.)