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10 Ways to Say I Love That Don’t Cost a Dime

Long ago in my stupid days I went nuts with credit cards. I ran up a 6-figure debt over a 12-year period. I did pay all of it back plus interest and fees and it was anything but easy. I’m still shocked and embarrassed I let it happen.

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The funny thing is I didn’t make any really huge purchases. I didn’t max out a $10,000 credit limit with a single purchase or anything that extravagant. It was just a constant accumulation of smaller purchases exposed to double-digit interest rates and sloppy money management. The truth is I five- and ten-‘dollared’ myself and my family into a kind of financial death.

In love it’s the little things that add up, too. But in a good way. Sure the big efforts are appreciated, but quite frankly it’s the little day-to-day things we do that make a difference.

I’m not going to discourage you from buying your beloved flowers for Valentine’s Day or making his favorite meal and serving it by candlelight in the bedroom. Not me! But I do have a few suggestions for things you can do that will score big in the Little Things Do Count Department.

1. Get the kids dressed so your spouse can spend an hour in the bathroom by herself. Tell her at least a little bit ahead of time so she can enjoy the anticipation as well.

2. In an uncharacteristic move, take out the trash even though you’ve received no reminder and there’s still a little room left. Repeat often.

Water Bath Keeps Lemons Fresh and Other Great Reader Tips

I’m a lucky woman. Once a month my husband and I make a quick trip to California to tend to business, see friends and visit our older son, who just happens to have the most prolific Meyer lemon tree on earth in his back yard.

I try to always bring an empty bag with me so I can load up with these beautiful, tree-ripened lemons. Many thanks to our first reader for her tip for how I can keep my lemons at peak long enough to use them up. I tried it and it works for me!

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FRESH LEMONS. if you like to keep lemons on hand even when you don’t have a specific need, submerge them (washed with peel on) in a bowl of water in the refrigerator. You will have fresh lemons for weeks on end. I currently have had a bowl in my refrigerator for two months, and they are beautiful. Wow. What a money saver, and I always have a fresh lemon when needed. Ashley

DRIVE-THRU FIRST. Taking youngsters to a fast food restaurant can be a fun treat, but standing in a long line with an active brood can be stressful. Solution: Drive through first, place your order and request the server put your food on a tray at the counter because you’ll be right in. By the time you park and get everyone inside, you can pick up the tray and go directly to a table. Rhonda

SUPER-QUICK DRY. Need to dry a pair of jeans or pajamas in a hurry? Put them and a completely dry bath towel into the dryer. They’ll be dry in a fraction of the time they would have taken on their own. Patsy

Take Your Closet from Chaos to Calm in Five Semi-Easy Steps

What’s behind your closet door? Orderly rows of shoes, stacks of folded t-shirts and hanging clothes arranged by color and season? Or do you have a situation that could be declared a national disaster?

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If the latter, you could ask the President for federal disaster relief funds. But knowing you would feel guilty taking funds from hurricane and tornado victims, here are simple steps to find calm in all that chaos. By the way, these same principles for organizing a clothes closet apply to linen and utility closets, too.

STEP ONE: Remove everything. This lets you see exactly the space you have to work with. Prepare to be shocked by the pile of stuff that came out of that closet. Dust, scrub, clean, vacuum—even paint as necessary and appropriate.

STEP TWO: Now that you can see the light of day, give that closet a good cleaning from top to bottom. Follow with a fresh coat of white paint.

STEP THREE: Separate the items you removed. Most people hate this step because it means getting get rid of everything you do not use or wear. But there’s no way you could get all of this back into the closet, so buck up and let’s get this job done. Label three containers:

Keep: Put only items into this bin that you have worn or used at least twice in the past year. Be brutally harsh. If it doesn’t fit today, it’s not likely to fit any time soon. Get rid of it. If in doubt, do not put it into this bin. 

On Saving Money and Spreading Manure

As you may know, the mission of this blog is to discover ways to save time and money every day. You help me by sending me your great tips, tricks and ideas—I help you by boiling it all down for you here. That answers the “what,” but what about the “why”?

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Why should anyone be concerned about saving money? Have you ever thought about that? Why do you want to save money? Who cares?

While you’re pondering that for yourself, I thought I’d share with you the ultimate reason that saving money is so important to me, personally.

But first let’s define terms.

“Saving money” has two definitions, which some people use interchangeably:

1) Spending less than I would have because an item is on sale or it’s a particularly good deal as in, “Wow, I just saved $37 on these really cute boots that were regularly priced $225 but we on sale for just $188!”

2) Accumulating money in a safe place as in, “I save $100 a month by having it automatically transferred to my savings account.” 

How to Clean and Maintain Fine Leather Furniture

When it comes to furniture, it’s difficult to find anything more luxurious and elegant than fine leather. With that elegance comes the challenge of keeping leather clean and well-maintained so that it gets even better with age.

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Improper attempts to clean fine leather can result in permanent damage, a little something I do know about from personal experience.

To get started, determine the type of leather you’re working with. Typically, this information will be found on the tags that were attached or the brochure you were given when you acquried it. This written information will generally provide tips on cleaning your specific furniture. If you can find this, follow those guidelines and instructions (in which case you probably do not need what follows).

Most leather furniture these days uses top-coat protected leather, which is usually safe to clean by following these suggestions:

VACUUM. You need to remove all the loose dirt, dust and debris from the item to be cleaned. A vacuum with the soft brush attachment is the best option as it will get into the seams and crevices. Be gentle, though. Leather is delicate and you don’t want to scratch it as you are vacuuming.

TREAT STAINS. Before you do a general cleaning, you want to treat and hopefully remove, any stains on the leather.

How to Clean and Care for a Smoothtop Electric Cooktop

When it comes to kitchen appliances, nothing says modern and sleek like a beautiful new electric smoothtop ceramic or glass cooktop. 

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While a smooth top beats a coil element type cooktop in the style department, it requires a different kind of proactive care to keep it looking good while at the same time preventing discoloration and scratching.

WHAT NOT TO DO. With smoothtop cooktops, it’s all about prevention. If you think of your cooktop as a delicate possession that requires your utmost protection, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

Do not use cast iron or stone cookware on a smoothtop cooktop or range. Period. The bottom of these types of cookware can be rough, even gritty like sandpaper. Any movement on that cooktop can leave permanent scratches.

Do not drag heavy pots on the cooktop. Always lift to another area of the cooktop to reduce the risk of scratching.

Prescription Eyeglasses at Bargain Prices

Call me old, call me socially rigid. I’m not sure why but I freaked out the first time I heard that banks and credit unions would allow an account holder to deposit a check to his or her account by using a smartphone to take a picture of it. Are you kidding me? How could that be legal? Forget legal. How could that be safe?!

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It still kinda’ bothers me that this is the accepted way to handle banking, but I am doing better. It’s the new way. And as much as I hate to admit it, it is very cool.

Now that I think about it, I don’t know anyone who still drives to the bank, fills out a deposit slip and hands it to a teller. How archaic! The new way is to do everything online, on smartphone, using a credit or debit card. I’m working hard at wrapping my head around all this because in case you’ve forgotten—cash is my favorite commodity.

I couldn’t help think about my own need to keep up in these digital times when I got a letter from Jessica, questioning the idea of ordering prescription eyeglasses and frames online. I didn’t wince or think for one minute that she was old and rigid when she suggested this was about the most misguided thing anyone had ever suggested to her.  

Easy Ways To Boost Your Income

My Dear Readers: I love when you forward EC to friends and family. But sometimes, instead of clicking “forward,” you hit “reply.” That sends it back to me! I have a better idea: Instead of using your email provider’s “forward” button, look above. See the buttons with icons for Share, Tweet and Pin? There’s one more and it’s a little envelope icon. Click on THAT to forward this post to a friend. It will work every time, and you’ll help unclog my inbox. Thanks! m

Of all the people I know and love, I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t welcome a small income boost this month–or any month, for that matter. Whether you’re between jobs, figuring out how to cover an unexpected bill or hoping to stash more cash into savings, get your creative juices flowing with these ideas.

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DON’T OVERINSURE. You need term life insurance (8 to 10 times the annual income of the single breadwinner; in a two-income family, insure each spouse for 6 to 8 times annual gross salary). But you can confidently cancel duplicate coverage: credit card life insurance, mortgage life insurance, accidental death and child life.

Caution: Get a term life policy first if you don’t have it, then cancel the duplicates. Don’t leave even a tiny gap between coverage.

The Boost: Add up what you’re paying for credit card life insurance, life insurance on the kids and the mortgage, plus any riders you have for accident insurance. What was offered to you for “just pennies a day” is probably more like $100 a month. Or more.

CALL YOUR AUTO INSURER. Has your teenage driver brought home a great report card? Most auto insurance companies will knock about 10 percent off the top if an insured teen maintains a 3.0 GPA. Is there an educator in the family? Mercury Insurance and others give credentialed teachers and educational administrators a discount. If you have a bachelor’s degree in an engineering or a science-related field (biochemistry, mathematics and more), Mercury offers a discount. Insurers also give discounts of 20 percent or more when you insure all of your cars with one company.