The Trouble with Prepaid Debit Cards


If you are hoping that one day soon I, your humble columnist, will find the error of my ways and fall in love with debit cards, you can probably stop hoping. I doubt if that will ever happen. In fact, I’ve just discovered why I also am not a fan of the prepaid debit card.

First, a quick definition: A prepaid debit card, unlike a debit card that takes money directly from a bank account, draws from funds stored right on the card itself. Also called a reloadable debit card, a prepaid debit card appeals to a variety of users. The primary market for prepaid cards are unbanked people—those who do not use banks or credit unions for their financial transactions, for any number of reasons.

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photo credit:

Prepaid debit cards appear to be all the rage these days. MasterCard and Visa market theirs as gift cards.

Government assistance is distributed in many areas via a prepaid debit card.

A growing number of American companies are replacing paychecks and even direct deposits with prepaid debit cards. Employees can used these cards, which work like debit cards, at an ATM to withdraw their pay.

And what’s so wrong about that? I’ll tell you with one little word: FEES! 

What Can I Make With THAT?!


If your refrigerator is at all like mine, it harbors an odd assortment leftovers and “almost gones!” So what on earth can you do with that? Try some of these suggestions on for size:

Salad dressing. It’s a rare refrigerator that doesn’t have an assortment of almost-empty salad dressing bottles. Here’s what you can do with any oil and vinegar dressings like Caesar, Italian or other vinaigrettes–even the low-fat varieties: Mix them together for marinade for beef, pork, chicken. The oil adds flavor, the vinegar (or other acid like lemon juice) tenderizes. You need enough to coat the meat or poultry, then cover and refrigerator for at least an hour before roasting, grilling or baking.


Applesauce. That last bit of applesauce in the jar will make a wonderful coleslaw dressing. Make sure you have about 1/2 cup applesauce left in the jar and then add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder, 1/3 teaspoon celery salt, 1 teaspoon prepared mustard, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 tablespoons water. Apply the lid, shake well and toss with 4 cups shredded cabbage or packaged coleslaw mix. Refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to meld. Yield: 8 servings.

How to Remove Non-Skid Bathtub Appliqués


Dear Mary: Could you tell me how to remove non-skid appliqués from the surface of a bathtub? They were applied at least 20 years ago and they are chipping off due to age, but leaving a residue of adhesive behind. What can I use to remove the adhesive layer? Carole K., E-mail

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photo credit:

Dear Carole: Try WD-40, the well-known lubricant that comes with a red straw. It works incredibly well to remove old glue left behind by non-slip decals in a tub or shower. It has a number of unique uses, and the ability to remove old adhesive from a shower or tub is just one of many.

Begin by drying the area thoroughly. Apply a liberal amount of WD-40 to the old adhesive, and allow it to soak in for at least ten minutes. Use a plastic scraper to gently scrape away the old non-slip decal adhesive. Apply more WD-40, if necessary, and continue scraping until the area is clean and free from decal adhesive. It should be easy to remove, but the longer it has been in place, the more difficult it will be to scrape away. Normally, they will dissolve that kind of sticky residue on porcelain surfaces.

Here it is … another batch of really terrific reader tips.


ONE HOT DATE. Our village does not offer garbage pick up as a municipal service so residents can contract with whomever they desire. For years we paid about $25 per month for weekly pickup. Then a friend told us about a landfill 12 miles from our town that accepts bagged garbage for $1 per bag or just 50 cents for seniors. Because we recycle so much, we have very little true garbage. We drive to the landfill once every other week with our one bag and make it part of a day out doing errands and going out to lunch. After almost 30 years of marriage, we laughingly refer to this as a “hot date.” We kick ourselves when we think of how many years we paid so much for garbage pick-up. Carole C., New York


TIE-BACK HOOKS. I was revamping my children’s bedroom. I made curtains, and really liked the simplicity and look of “holdbacks,” decorative hardware that holds the curtain to one side. But I was shocked when the least expensive set I could find was $12 a pair, and I needed two. No way was I going to spend $24. I found, instead, that bike screw hooks used to hang a bicycle up out of the way ($5 for a package of two) were just the right size. These steel hooks are plastic coated and come in a variety of bright colors—the perfect custom holdbacks that match my children’s room perfectly. Karin G., Texas

Three Helpful FREE Websites You Can Trust


With its incredible and constantly growing reach, the Internet has so much to offer. But beware. Not everything you find online is reliable. Not to worry. I spend countless hours researching and sorting out the good from the bad for you.

You can rely on these very useful websites—all of them free—to help you and your family preserve your precious cash while improving your lives. Enjoy!


Feed the Pig. Saving consistently has become a rarity in America, and this was true even before the Great Recession hit back in 2008. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has taken a proactive approach with a certain segment of the population: Teens. is a personal finance site created to educate and inspire teens to take control of their money by learning the benefits of saving. 

3 Money Mistakes to Avoid


I’m going to guess you’ve made a financial mistake or two in your life. Who hasn’t? For some of us, it was more than an occasional late fee or random urge to overspend that brought us to our financial knees. But I’m not talking about the kind of blunders that got us into trouble—we could list those in our sleep. Instead, I want to focus on the mistakes people make while they’re working their way back to financial health. Avoid these goofs to make 2014 a year you make financial progress!


Mistake: Not saving. You’ve heard this plenty, and here it comes again: Jump to the front of the line—in front of your creditors—when you divvy up your paycheck. Get over feeling guilty about keeping money for yourself. You need a fat emergency fund, and the only way to build it is to pay yourself first. Stuff happens, and if you’re not financially prepared for those emergencies, you’ll keep falling back into debt. 

Gourmet Coffee on the Cheap


I must be the luckiest gal in the world. I’m the one who gets to look into the mail bag to find so many clever and entertaining time- and money-saving tips from so many nice readers. Take a look at today’s selection:


You can spend a lot on fancy flavored coffee or you can make your own. I own a Victorian Bed and Breakfast and here’s my secret recipe that brings raves from all who visit: Break up a cinnamon stick in coffee grounds before brewing. That’s it. I use ordinary supermarket variety coffee and no one is the wiser. Nellie B., New Hampshire

You will never have to worry about what to do with those soap slivers again if you do this: When a bar of soap reduces to between 1/2 and 1/3 of its original size, simply lather up another bar and attach it to that one. Once dry they’ll “glue” themselves together. Combine different bars of soaps for an interesting effect. For instance, stick Herbal Rosemary to Aloe Vera! Belinda B., Arkansas [Note: This will not work if either is Dove. -mh]

Get Paid to Donate Your Stuff


If you itemize your tax return, you probably know that you are allowed to deduct the fair market value of clothing and household items you donate to charity. But what’s the fair market value of say a pair of shoes or a lamp? More than you might think.

The law does not allow the charity to determine the value of an item you donate. The charitable organization gives you a receipt saying that you made the donation. You, the donor, must assign that “fair market value.” And that’s the problem.


If you overstate the value you risk an audit, penalties and interest. If you underestimate you’ll pay more taxes than you should.

Some years ago, my husband and I donated our antique pump organ to a church where it will be used in services and enjoyed by many. It’s more than a hundred years old so looking up the new price and depreciating it appropriately was not possible. Our accountant suggested we locate similar antiques that have sold in, say, the past year and then adjust accordingly for our specific situation. Right. Like there’s a brisk market for antique reed organs down at the mall.

But then I got to thinking …. hmm … eBay! Sure enough, several pump organs have sold in the past year. I printed the documentation and attached this to our tax return that years to back up the value we assigned and then deducted from our taxable income.