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You Paid How Much for Your First Computer?!

I just read something that made me laugh out loud—mostly because it’s funny, but also because it is poignantly true. 

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I wonder what my kids are going to tell their kids … ‘It was so rough back in my day. I didn’t get a phone ’til 4th grade and sometimes the wifi didn’t always work upstairs!’”

You’re laughing too, aren’t you! Well, I want to add one more thing: “And back then a computer cost more than a thousand dollars!” I can visualize those kids of the future, slack jawed at the thought of having to pay that much money for a computer. Unthinkable. Right?

Over the years I have owned no fewer than seven computers—mostly because I just beat them to death, but also because I’ve convinced myself that as a writer, I need to be on the cutting edge of technology. 

Humidity—Not too High Not Too Low, But Just Right

Humidity is a popular topic among friends and neighbors here where I live in northern Colorado. It’s like we have none! Well, not exactly, but it averages in the low to mid 20 percent during the summer and fall months, and that’s dry! We have a humidifier in our home to keep the air moist and it runs 24/7 year round.

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And then there’s the matter of high humidity—a troublesome condition for many—which came to mind when I heard from Will a few days ago.

DEAR MARY: I enjoy reading your daily emails, particularly ones on appliances. Do you have any recommendations for a quality dehumidifier for the home? Thanks in advance! Will

DEAR WILL: Apparently we make a great team, you and I, because I love testing, reviewing and recommending household appliances. I am confident and very happy to recommend two different high-quality machines (depending on the size of the space you have), both of which just happen to come from Frigidaire.

FRIGIDAIRE FAD504DWD Energy Star 50-pint Dehumidifier, about $189. This 50-pints-per-day machine will give you continuous operation in an area up to 1,500 sq. ft., as long as it is near a suitable drain. It will help to eliminate bacteria in the air, room odors, mold, mildew and other airborne particles. This machine is very quiet, and allows you to control the exact percentage of humidity in the room. For the money, I don’t think you can beat this option

Need Cleaning Supplies? Check the Pantry

The next time you need cleaning supplies, take a trip to your pantry, not the store. You already have the ordinary basic household items required to mix up any number of cleaners you need to keep the place sparkling clean and germ-free. Recipes? You need recipes? Well, this must be your lucky day, because I’ve got recipes!

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All-purpose cleaner. Mix 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 cup plain household ammonia, 1/4 (one-quarter) cup baking soda with 1 gallon warm water. Dispense in a spray bottle.

Window, glass and mirror cleaner. In a spray bottle mix together 2 cups isopropyl rubbing alcohol, 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent and 2 cups water.

Floor cleaner for ceramic tile, vinyl and linoleum floors. Mix together 1 cup white vinegar and 1 gallon hot water. Mop ceramic tile and all types of vinyl floors with this solution, no need to rinse.

Heavy-duty floor cleaner. Mix together 3/4 (three-fourths) cup plain household ammonia and 1 gallon warm water. Use on heavily soiled non-wood floors. No need to rinse.

Wood floor cleaner. Mix together 2 quarts boiling water and steep two regular tea bags in it. Let the water cool to room temperature. Remove bags. Use a well-wrung cloth mop or sponge mop (make sure it is just barely damp) to wipe the floor. The tannic acid in tea is great for the wood and leaves a beautiful shine.

Get Pesky Rabbits Out of the Garden

DEAR MARY: Love your column! Now that it is spring, it is time to put out beautiful young plants, hoping for flowers all summer long. My problem…rabbits!  They munch my plants right down to the ground. The vegetables I put in a fenced area are safe, but the bunnies make short work of my perennials and annuals that are out in the open. Any ideas? Connie

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DEAR CONNIE: Short of fencing your entire property and then attaching chickenwire to the lower 18-inches all the way around, there are two labor-intensive tactics that seem to work pretty well: 1)Plant vegetables they hate in with the flowers to repel them: peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn and squash. Not very attractive so perhaps this will be more appealing to you and the rabbits: 2) Plant vegetables they love. Give them the beans, peas, parsley and rosemary they crave to draw them away. Just plant this rabbit bait far from the beautiful flowers.

DEAR MARY: I know you’re a big proponent of living with cash. I’ve tried it but I really like the convenience of a debit card and am able to better manage my spending with it. The problem is I’m not earning any interest on the money in my checking account—none! Do you know of any high-interest checking accounts that would work well for a person in my situation? Maxine

DEAR MAXINE: These days, “high” interest is a relative term. Thirty-years ago that would have meant 9.00% APY or more. These days? Compared to nothing, I suppose 2.00% APY could be considered “high.” 

Secrets of Super Savvy Grocery Shoppers

I flinched at the thought. Buy produce from that store where nothing costs more than a dollar? I probably came across as a snob when I asked my friend if it was even safe. I mean, where would food that cheap come from?

She pushed, so I agreed to go along, but only as a spectator.

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Oh, the bargains I found there—beautiful, first-quality produce: lettuce, scallions, a seriously large bag of ginger root, five pounds of Russet potatoes and six heads of gourmet garlic in a mesh fabric bag. Five items, just 99 cents each for a total of $4.94. On that day the same items would have cost $11.88 at the neighboring supermarket. My skepticism evaporated quickly making me a convert and a regular.

My experience with chopping the cost of produce is a drop in the bucket compared to the food shopping methods of people I consider extreme grocery shoppers. Just keep this in mind: Not every method works for every person. Discover what works for you and then hone that method to a razor’s edge. Soon you’ll be bagging bargains and bringing your food costs down—extremely!

Cheapskate Gardening Tips, Tricks and Recipes

Is there anything more gratifying than a beautiful garden when you just happen to be the gardener? One trip to the garden center to pick up soil amendment, weed cloth and weed killer can pretty much zap all of the joy for the expense that can represent. That’s why I love today’s tips, tricks and, back by popular demand, homemade weed killer.

But first, check out my garden—spring flowers and a few weeds I treated only yesterday.

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GARDEN VITAMINS. While you may have no use for spent coffee grounds, your garden would love them. Used coffee grounds are like mega-vitamins for the soil. They’re rich in phosphorus and magnesium—important nutrients that help plants grow. It’s easy to just sprinkle coffee grounds around the plants and work them into the soil. They’re even the right color. If you’re not much of a coffee drinker, don’t despair. Starbucks has a program called Grounds for Your Garden, where they package up their used coffee grounds in the bags that the beans originally came in and offer them to local gardeners, for free. Pre-packaged bags of Grounds for Your Garden may not be available in all stores. Check with your barista to see if used coffee grounds are available at your local Starbucks.

Cybercrime Alert for Grandparents

There is a very real and terrible scam going on in the U.S. and abroad, in which grandparents are being targeted.

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The scam begins with something most grandparents don’t get enough of—a phone call, email message or a message through Facebook from a grandchild. The scammer, impersonating that grandchild, is frantic and says he’s been hurt in a car accident, or arrested, or gotten in some kind of trouble and needs money fast.

One former scammer told CBS News that he can easily make $10,000 in a single day. He just keeps calling until someone bites. Then he does it again and again.

A typical conversation goes like this:

Hey, Grandma, Hi Grandpa … It’s me Johnny. I’m in a little bit of trouble right now. Yeah, Ashley is good. But I’ve got a problem. If I tell you, just keep it between us. Don’t tell Mom and Dad—they’d freak out and they wouldn’t understand. I’m on vacation, but I got into a little accident, and I was arrested for a DUI. Things got out of control, and I need you to pleeeeeze send me money.

Extremely Offensive Odors and How to Deal with Them

Many years ago, Nok-Out and I met completely by accident. We found one another in my desperate search for ways my readers could deal with extremely  offensive odors. I’ve used Nok-Out continuously in my home and business since then and have recommended it to readers facing serious and potentially expensive odor issues.

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DEAR MARY: Recently you gave the tip of diluting Nok-Out in a 1:4 ratio with water. I had always wondered if you could do that but didn’t want to waste the valuable product testing it only to find out it needs to be used full strength. I had some clothes that had a terrible odor no matter how many times I washed them. I was to the point of having to throw them away as they were not wearable in that smelly state. I diluted the Nok-Out as you said, soaked the clothes in this solution, wrung them out, and then washed as usual. It worked! Nok-Out saved my clothes. The odor is completely gone. This product is so worth the money. Loyal reader, Robyn

DEAR ROBYN: Great news! Nok-Out is so highly concentrated, diluted 1:4 it remains highly effective. There are times you can dilute it even more. And then there are rare times you really need to use it full strength. Read on ….