Dear Mary

Should We Lease or Purchase a New Car?

 

Dear Cheapskate: 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 R., Alabama

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Dear James: I’d rather shove toothpicks under by fingernails than ever lease a new car again, which is a story for another time but enough about me. Here’s my advice to you: Do whatever you must to keep the old car running for now. But  for the next 12 months live as though you are making $300 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 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 together with the cash buy a better used car or 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.” I love that because, 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.  Continue reading

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Can Heirs Inherit Frequent Flyer Miles?

 

Dear Mary: I traveled for a living for many years and racked up quite a few frequent flyer miles with several different airlines. Altogether, I have close to a million miles sitting in various accounts. I watch these accounts closely and take the necessary steps to make sure the miles don’t expire, however it occurs to me that I will not live long enough to use them. Do you know if there is a method by which I can leave these miles to my heirs as part of my estate planning? They would be quite valuable, I imagine. Thanks for any help. Ben C.

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Dear Ben: You are right. Your miles are a type of currency and as such hold a great deal of value. Despite the fact that many airlines’ websites state clearly that accrued miles are not the property of the member to whose account those miles have been posted and that they cannot be transferred under any circumstance, most customer service agents when contacted and asked directly, respond that there is process that it can be done, and of course there are fees involved to do so. American Airlines will transfer up to 100,000 miles for $20 per 1,000 miles plus a $35 transaction fee. Ouch!  Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Dear Mary 1 Comment

Is Homemade Detergent Safe to Use in Today’s Washing Machines?

 

Dear Mary: Today a Sears repairman came to put a new part in my washing machine.  He saw soap residue on the inside and told me I was using way too much detergent.  Also, he didn’t like that I was using a homemade detergent that contains Dawn liquid.

He said borax should never be used for laundry in modern washing machines.  Mine is 10 years old.  He also said dish detergents, especially Dawn, should never be used because they don’t rinse out completely. That leaves soap residue which becomes a medium for mold and microbial growth.

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Modern detergents, he said, should be used at the rate of one tablespoon per load. Water level should be medium, large at the highest, and never the super or plus level I often used. That leads to spill over which results in soap residue in various unreachable parts of the machine (unreachable unless you take the machine apart, as he did).

He showed me all the mostly dried residue, which he cleaned and vacuumed out before putting the machine back together.

He also recommended a second rinse to get rid of soap residue.  I had been using only one rinse on most loads.

And he recommended a product called Affresh, which is supposed to clean out residue.

He says you can tell if you’re using too much detergent or the wrong kind of detergent by filling the tub with water, adding nothing to suds and noticing if there are suds in the water.

Now I’m flummoxed as to whether or not I should continue to use your washing machine detergent recipe.

Thanks for any advice you can give on the subject. Jean, MN

Dear Jean: Using too much of any product in a washing machine is not good for it. So whatever product you use, you need to measure carefully, erring on the side of too little, not too much. I am curious to why a manufacturer would create a super or plus level if doing so is bad for the machine. But I’ll leave that part up to you. I guess I would stop using it for the reasons he mentioned.

I do take issue with some of the information he gave you. Dawn is a safe product for clothes washing provided you are not using too much. So is borax (I get letters from readers saying that borax will ruin your machine, but I can find no credible evidence for this statement, nor for using Dawn). As for his recommendation for Affresh, there are many commercial products out there for washing cleaning. Curiously, many manufacturers, such as General Electric (I currently have GE stackable washer and steam dryer and love them to bits), recommend chlorine bleach for the cleaning cycle, together with exact instructions for how to perform this clean once every couple of months.

I regularly use the second rinse option along with a bit of white vinegar to make sure all detergent is getting removed, leaving clothes soft and fluffy without any softening products.

So there you go. Who can you believe? I guess in the end you must go with your heart. As for me, I’m sticking with the homemade recipe. It’s better than anything I’ve ever purchased and I’ve been using some version of homemade for many years. I haven’t seen a washing machine repairman in more than 30 years. Thanks for writing, it was great to hear from you.

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Dear Mary 25 Comments

Tragically, Not Every Day is Pi Day!

 

Dear Mary: Thanks so much for including the San Francisco Exploratorium in a recent column! We have changed our schedule of free days and are no longer free to the public on the first Wednesday of every month. However, the Exploratorium is free to everyone five days every year. Our Free Access Program includes these upcoming free days:

  • Mother’s Day (May 11, 2014)
  • Engineering Day (September 28, 2014)
  • Founder’s Day (October 12, 2014)
  • Groundhog Day (February 2, 2015)
  • Pi Day (March 14, 2015)

- Thanks! Jenny Slafkosky, Communications Manager

source: pi314.net

Dear Jenny: Thanks for the update. You had me going there for a few minutes with “Pi Day.” I was kinda’ hoping for cherry or apple, but then connected the date 3.14 with the mathematical pi. Now that is clever and a new bit of trivia I’m going to file away. As for “Founder’s Day,” should we assume that our buddy Christopher Columbus has been demoted to anonymous founder?

Dear Mary: I’m sure you must have an easy way to clean the soleplate of my iron.

I ironed a dark colored article of clothing with too hot of an iron, I guess, and the soleplate now has dark sticky junk stuck on tight. I tried cleaning it with white vinegar and that didn’t help at all.  I also tried rubbing it with with a damp cloth and baking powder. Didn’t do it either. Please help! Thanks much. Kathy M.

Dear Kathy: It sounds to me as if you may have ironed a synthetic fabric like polyester that turned into molten plastic upon contact with that way-too-hot iron! To remove it you’re going to need some kind of abrasive. Try this: Dampen a towel you don’t mind sacrificing for the job. Now sprinkle a good bit of table salt on that damp cloth. Turn the iron up to the highest temperature (no steam) and go to work “ironing” the salted towel. That should loosen the gunk without damaging the soleplate so that you can wipe it off and then buff the soleplate with a clean cloth. If that doesn’t work, don’t despair. you’ll need to purchase a commercial iron cleaner like Faultless Hot Iron Cleaner. It’s a miraculous cleaner for more challenging situations like you describe, but I also use it to maintain the smooth glide of my iron.  If you don’t want to get it online, you should be able to find it in larger fabric stores.

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Dear Mary 2 Comments

Great Cookbooks for Kitchen Newbies

 

Dear Mary: My young grandson is getting married soon, and neither he nor his fiance can cook. Could you please recommend a good all-purpose cookbook AND a microwave cookbook for newlyweds who will have a very tight and limited budget? I’m thinking this would be a useful and practical wedding gift. Thank you for your time in answering my question. It is appreciated. Connie R. 

Some rights reserved by Mel B.

Some rights reserved by Mel B.

Dear Connie: Oh, this is so much fun for me because I feel like I have a captive audience in your kiddos, and a willing giver in you. I love, Help! My Apartment Has a Kitchen Cookbook: 100 + Great Recipes with Foolproof Instructions, by Nancy Mills and her son Kevin Mills. It’s written in college-student speak, so your kids should find it reader-friendly and not at all intimidating. And it hits on the basics like Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, French Toast, Baked Salmon with Garlic, Al Dente Asparagus, just to name a few. And the book teaches cooking “How Tos,” like how to peel garlic, how to get the whole meal on the table at once, what to do with leftovers, and on it goes. This book is a gem. It was first published in 1996, but has been updated and revised since. My original tattered copy is a testament to how I have used it myself, and learned a great deal. Perhaps my favorite chapter of all, “Food to Keep on Hand So You Won’t Starve.”  Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Dear Mary 4 Comments
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