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The No-Scrub Method for Sparkling Clean Coffee Carafes and More Great Reader Tips

There exist all kinds of methods for cleaning glass coffee carafes—most of them brought to us by hard working, super experienced restaurant servers. Who better to know how to get things done fast and efficiently?

I thought I’d heard every method, too—that is until I heard from Laurie. I’ll be the first to say she’s right on. I love it—and would add caution that you make sure you don’t  splash bleach on that cute apron or beautiful kitchen towels. That’s the challenge with bleach in the kitchen.

SUPER CLEAN. After years of scouring, scrubbing and scratching hundreds of coffee carafés, I have discovered an absolutely miraculous cleaning method that you will not believe. Fill coffee carafé a few inches from the top with water. Add 1/4 cup liquid chlorine bleach. Add exactly 2 drops of blue Dawn (no more, no less). Top it off with water so it’s all the way t the top. Do not scrub. Within 10 minutes your pot will be sparkling—like new. Rinse well with clear water. This would have saved me lots and lots of time, many pounds of salt, bushels of ice cubes and endless elbow grease if I had come across it sooner. Laurie

A Quick Fix to Keep the Plumber Away

If you’ve ever called a plumber to unclog a drain, you know it’s not cheap. Certainly there are times when the clogged drain is beyond a quick do-it-yourself solution, requiring the skills of a professional. But many times, according to my inbox, a simple gadget and a modicum of know-how can avoid an expensive house call.

DRAIN CLEANING TOOL. I read the tip from the reader who used a bamboo skewer to remove hair from the drain. Sounds OK, but there is actually a tool made just for this task. It’s very cheap—about $3. It has a little handle at the top, is about 18-inches long and has a fish-hook type of end. You simply push it into the drain, snag the tangled hair and fish it right back out. My granddaughter was constantly calling her apartment manager to get her bathroom drains unplugged, plus using lots of drain cleaner. I sent her one of these little gadgets and she has been drain-clear ever since. Diana

Note: The tool Diana refers to is a Zip-it Drain Snake Cleaner. Check the plumbing aisle of your local hardware store. Or get a pack of three for about $7 online. I did, used it to check every drain in the house and wow, this thing is amazing.  -mh  

Salt Stains on Leather Boots? Old Paint on Carpet? No Worries! And Lots More

It’s March 14 or 3-14 … which looks curiously similar to 3.14 or Pi (Greek letter “π”) …. which means it’s PI Day! And we’re celebrating in the DPL Bookstore. TODAY all of Mary Hunt books and DVDs in stock are just $3.14 each plus shipping, only while supplies last. Scroll down for details.

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. Here’s a terrific way to take care of that problem—quick and easy!

SALT STAINS. Olive oil removes salt and stains from leather boots and shoes. Shines the leather, too. It’s an Italian thing!

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.

ICE BAG. Pour 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol into a quart-size Ziploc bag and seal tightly. Put it into another bag and seal it for double protection. Label clearly as non-edible and freeze. It will remain slushy because the alcohol cannot freeze. Perfect to mold to the wounded area when you need an ice pack

PAINT STAINS. Even if it’s been there for a long time, you can get latex paint out of carpet or fabric with lacquer thinner (not paint thinner), available at hardware or home improvement centers. Using a clean white cloth, wet the dried paint with the thinner. Allow it to penetrate then gently blot with the cloth. Be sure to test the carpet or fabric for color fastness in an inconspicuous place first, keep the thinner out of the reach of children and pets and use in a well-ventilated area.

CLOSET STRATEGY. When you change your closets over for a new season, put the hangers on the rod backwards. When you wear an item, turn the hangers the conventional way. At the end of the season you can easily see what you haven’t worn and the items you need to evaluate for culling.

POWER BRUSH.  If you use an electric toothbrush and are like me you hate throwing away those old, not so cheap but need-to-be replaced toothbrush heads. Hang onto them because I recently found a use for them. The stones in my wedding rings tend to get dull and dirty from everyday wear but now I just place an old head on the toothbrush and spin the dirt away. Once you decide to replace the entire toothbrush hang on to the old one to be used for deep down house cleaning in smaller places such as baseboards, corners or between the knobs on your faucets.

VISIT THE MEN’S DEPARTMENT. Buy mens toiletries if you have a choice when it comes to unscented deodorant, shaving foam and hair colorings, for example. Products manufactured specifically for men are significantly cheaper ounce for ounce than those made for women. Go figure.

STRAIGHT CUT. Ladies: Need only the bottom of your long hair trimmed a barber can cut just as straight as a beautician. And the cost? Typically, less than half the salon price.

HEARTBREAK IN THE DRYER. Melted-on crayon can be removed by first applying WD-40 to the area, working it into the stain with your fingers. Once the WD-40 has begun to break down the petroleum base of the crayon, apply concentrated detergent to remove both the stain and and the WD-40. Put back into the washer and launder as usual. It works like a charm.

SUEDE SPOT REMOVER. Most leather cleaning products caution that they should not be used on suede. Recently I managed to some kind of ugly gunk on the suede portion of my leather shoe. I grabbed the Folex Carpet Spot Remover (my favorite for carpet spots) and an old tooth brush and went to work on it. It worked fabulously to remove the stain. Stains treated with Folex just don’t reappear either—in carpet or suede shoes.

CUCUMBERS. You know how the expensive English cucumbers at the store are wrapped in plastic? The guys at Cooks Illustrated tested wrapping regular uncut and cut cucumbers in plastic wrap. Both work and amazingly to allow you to keep any cucumber fresh for up to a week!


TODAY ONLY … ALL MARY HUNT BOOKS IN THE DPL BOOKSTORE ARE JUST $3.14 PLUS SH.

We’re celebrating PI DAY in the DPL Bookstore. TODAY all of Mary Hunt books and DVDs in stock are just $3.14 each plus shipping, but only while supplies last!

The following titles are available at this writing (as titles sell out they’ll disappear from the bookstore, showing only what remains.)

Debt-Proof Your Marriage

The Smart Woman’s Guide to Saving for Retirement

Debt-Proof Living

Live Your Life for Half the Price

7 Money Rules for Life

DPL Live! 2-Hour Seminar DVD Set

Cheaper Better Faster

Six Simple Ways to Develop a Saver’s Attitude

Cutting expenses is the way to spend less so you have money to save. But unless you are actually putting that money into a safe place to be held for some future use, you’re not really saving at all. You’re just spending less.

Even if you cannot save a great deal of money right now, that’s okay. It’s not the amount you save that matters as much as the fact that you make saving money a regular habit.

Grab all the discounts. Many mortgage lenders and student loan companies offer incentives for their customers who set up automatic payments for their monthly payments. It’s worth knowing you’ll never be late, and if you can get even 1/4-point reduction in the interest rate over time that will really add up to be something significant. Automobile insurers give discounts to good drivers, non-smokers, good students, cars with particular safety-equipment and any number of other situations. But you have to ask. Make the call.

Set dollar limits. Okay, so this sounds curiously like “budgeting.” It is. Deciding ahead of time the amount you are willing to spend for anything is to impose important limitations on yourself.

Fee yourself. Banks and credit-card companies don’t seem to have much trouble socking us with unbelievable fees, so take a lesson from them and fee yourself. Every payday impose a self-tax equal to one-hour’s pay. Consider it the price for having a job and put it straight into your savings account. Give yourself ample warning that upon your next raise, the fee will jump to two-hours’ pay. Every time you make a withdrawal from the ATM or you write a check, charge yourself a set fee of $1 by recording the actual amount plus a buck. Deposits? A $10 fee for each deposit sounds about right. When you’ve collected $50 or $100 in fees from yourself, settle up and transfer the whole amount straight to your savings account.

How to Stop Unwanted Charity Junk Mail Plus Annoying White Lint in Dark Dryer Loads

According to one online organization working to eliminate junk mail, the average adult receives 41 pounds of junk mail each year—44% of it going to the landfill unopened. Sadly, much of it is from charities that are doing good in the world—all of them vying for our charitable donations.

Dear Mary: You recently wrote about paper shredders, which made me think about all the unwanted address labels my mother receives from charities. She has made a few donations other the years, and is now bombarded with unwanted mailing labels, cards, calendars, books, you name it. Some of the stuff you can give or throw away, but what do you do with all the labels? If you try shredding them, they jam up your shredder.

I’ve tried writing “Refused, Return to Sender” on the envelopes, but the post office refuses to send them back, ignoring my refusal. Any ideas on how can you get this type of mail stopped or getting rid of all the address labels? Peg

8 Wedding Gift Hacks

Wedding season is in full bloom and while tying the knot is getting more expensive for the bride and groom, attending a wedding is becoming costlier, too. In fact, a survey from American Express reveals that it now costs on average $539 to attend a single celebration.

Gifts take a big bite out of every guest’s budget with average spending ranging from $75 to $175 per person, according to The Knot Registry Survey. Relieve the financial pressure by saving on the gift with these eight tips.

Compare prices on registry items. It’s wise to reference a registry to see what the couple wants, but it’s even smarter to compare prices among stores. Online retailers like Amazon and Overstock sell popular registry brands for less than most high-end stores.

Use discount gift cards. If you’re planning to give a gift card or you’re buying an item off a couple’s registry, save money by purchasing discount gift cards from GiftCardGranny.com. The site offers gift cards for less than face value, like a $100 Macy’s gift card for less than $80.

Five Ways to Get Out of the Supermarket Without Overspending

Grocery shopping is tricky anytime, but especially challenging when you’re on budget. On one hand, having everything you need in one place is convenient. But on the other hand, having so many options can sabotage every intention you have of sticking to your budget. Supermarkets are filled with everything you need and everything you don’t need, too.

Don’t expect a supermarket to help you avoid overspending. The place is specifically designed, decorated and arranged to encourage and increase impulse spending. They want you to spend more and they know how to persuade you to do it. With that in mind, consider these five ways to beat them at their own game:

Don’t go in hungry. You believe that you dash in to pick up the infamous few things. But if you’re starving, you’re a dead aim for a couple of steaks and a load of snacks. You know what I’m talking about. This is because of the first rule of grocery stores: Anything can happen when you are hungry.

Don’t try to remember. Without a list of the exact items you’ve come to purchase who knows what could happen? It’s normal for our brains to slip into neutral in the face of fabulous food. A written list is the crutch you need desperately to make sure you do not slip and fall, so to speak.

8 Ways to Build a Cash Stash

Saving money is a curious term with two meanings: 1) To spend less, as in “I buy things on sale to save money” and 2) To physically place money where it is safe from being spent.

Okay, that’s fine. But here’s the problem. It’s easy to trick yourself into thinking that 1) and 2) are the same. They are not, unless of course you stop by the bank to deposit the difference between what you would have spent had the item not been on sale into your savings. That would be a clever way to boost your cash stash this year and at the same time adjust your mindset on what it really means to “saving money.” Here are eight more:

TAX YOURSELF. Determine right now that you will assess yourself a specific “tax” each time you make an ATM withdrawal. It might be $5 or $10, you decide. Whatever the amount, make sure you become a tough tax collector. No slacking, no IOUs.

IMPOSE A MORATORIUM. Select a specific denomination of currency, like the $1 or $5 bill that you will no longer spend, but save instead. Forbid yourself, and get very strict. Why not go with the $5? Your stash will grow so much faster if you absolutely refuse to spend any Abe Lincolns.

HOARD COUPON SAVINGS. Starting today, here’s the plan: When you grocery shop, ask the clerk to total your order and then pay for it. Then hand her the coupons and watch your total plummet. Since you’ve already paid, the clerk should hand back the cash equal to your coupon savings. If available, open a savings account at the bank branch located in the super-market. It’s easy to stop on your way out to make a savings deposit—even if it’s small. It all adds up.

RACK UP REBATES. They’re coming back in a big way as retailers want to make their products appear cheaper without actually reducing the price. They offer a rebate, knowing full well only a small percentage of consumers who buy the item will ever carry through. No matter how small the rebate or complicated the process, promise you will not be among the lazy bunch. Apply for, follow up and then stash those rebates as they arrive!

DRINK WATER. Pay yourself a bonus, like a dollar or two each time you eat out and opt for water instead of a pricey beverage. Don’t be a slacker in your obligation to pay up. And remember, no IOUs allowed.

MAKE A SWITCH. Opt to exercise outdoors instead of paying a gym fee. Or, determine you’ll ride the subway instead of jumping into a cab. Identify a name brand you will leave on the shelf this year in favor of its store brand equivalent. Then stash what you would have spent.

GIVE IT UP. Pick one thing that you will sacrifice for a specific period of time, like the coming year. Just cut it out. Stash the amount you would have spent on whatever it is—regular manicures, French fries, gourmet coffee, cigarettes—into your savings container or account. You could always do your own manicures, swear off the junk food, or brew your own coffee. As for that smoking habit, just imagine all the dough for your stash if you give that up.

TRICK YOURSELF. Whenever you write a check or take an ATM withdrawal, record the amount rounded up, to say the next dollar in your checkbook registry. Then deduct that amount from the balance. At the end of the month, reconcile and stash the “oops!” overage.