Make-It-Yourself Furniture Polish Cheaper, Better, Healthier

Not long ago I got a request from EC reader Kelly for a make-it-yourself furniture polish recipe. She said that she uses a lot of it and it’s getting so expensive.

My first thought was of course to suggest she time her purchases for when furniture polish goes on sale, and then to stock up. I recently purchased a can of Pledge aerosol polish (reg. $5.49) for $1.50. I was harboring a $1 coupon and when Pledge went on sale for 2/$7, I used my coupon (my store doubles), bought one can and enjoyed a great bargain.

Kelly didn’t mention environmental issues in her desire to make her own furniture polish, but after doing some research on the matter, that may be something all of us should consider and perhaps even more than the high cost. I was amazed to see what goes into a can of spray furniture polish. Many contain synthetic ingredients like silicone, solvents, petroleum distillates and artificial fragrances to mask the chemical smells.


Wool Dryer Balls: Safe for People and Dryers—Plus Privacy Trick

A couple of days ago I got multiple letters with questions about wool dryer balls. Are they safe? What if I’m allergic to wool?!

Honestly, I had opinions but not definitive answers and that sent me into research mode. I learned some very cool stuff I think you’ll enjoy knowing as well:

Dear Mary: The wool dryer balls sound interesting but what if a person is allergic to wool?  I am allergic to wool and avoid it at all costs. Do the wool dryer balls transfer allergens to items while drying? I would love to have my sheets, towels come out without being all balled up.  Thanks for any help you can give on this. Joyce

Dear Joyce: You may be allergic to the natural lanolin found in sheepswool, but that would be very rare. Only about 6% of those who are tested for lanolin allergy turn up positive. It’s more likely you, like many people, are sensitive to the short bristly fibers that irritate your sensitive skin and make you feel itchy.

Either way, lanolin is washed away during the manufacturing process of wool dryer balls. Even if trace amounts remain and you are one who does have a lanolin allergy (you’d know this because you are also allergic to all skin care and makeup products that contain lanolin), it will not transfer to your clothes. As for those short bristly fibers in the sheepswool, the only way the dryer balls could cause an irritation is if you rubbed them on your skin.

Neither lanolin nor bristly short fibers are an issue when using wool dryer balls in your clothes dryer. Use them well and enjoy the results!


When Money is at the Root of Marriage and Family Squabbles

Disagreements over money can tear marriages and families apart. In fact, unresolved money conflicts remains the number one for divorce. But it doesn’t have to be that way. More often than not, the solution can be found in this single word directive: communicate!

Dear Mary: My husband always insists on balancing our joint checkbook, and I recently found out why. The last statement came in while he was away on business so I decided to deal with it. Well, I was astonished to see a check to his parents for $250. I went through a couple prior statements and found the same thing. I figured out he’s been doing this ever since his parents retired last year. Besides being shocked, I was hurt. We’re not exactly rolling in dough. We have three kids and a hefty mortgage, but I wouldn’t have outright refused to help my in-laws. How should I broach the subject with him? And shouldn’t I be acknowledged for my contribution to this little retirement fund? After all, I work too! Christina

Dear Christina: Skimming money is a real problem for any partnership, especially a marriage. But money problems in a marriage are rarely only about the money. There’s usually an underlying issue. If he’d asked, I would have told him that as noble as his intentions might be, his commitment to you and to his marriage trumps his relationship with his parents. It’s wrong to do this behind your back. 


Start 2017 Smarter Faster Better

I have always disliked partings. I dread having to say goodbye. But most of all I hate being the one left behind. Tomorrow, I’ll be saying goodbye to 2016. It’s been a really good year, which could make this a sad parting. But wait! I’m the one leaving—and I’ll be heading straight into a beautiful New Year filled with endless possibilities and new beginnings. That makes it tolerable—even joyful!

With all of this in mind, and knowing this day was coming, I asked our resident book reviewer, Jeff Tompkins, to review a brand new, highly popular book that relates so beautifully to how all of us can make 2017 the best year ever.


Reviewer:  Jeff Tompkins, Jr.

I can’t be the only one thinking about possibilities in the New Year. For me, it’s with a certain amount of ambivalence, something with which you may identify: We make promises to lose weight, to be wiser with our money and our spending choices; to be more productive in our home and work lives. Promises made without much of a plan. Then, as if on cue, the good intentions fizzle out somewhere in early February.

Having just read Smarter Faster Better—billed to contain the “secrets of being productive in life and business”—I am hopeful  that 2017 will be different.


Everyday Cheapskate Greatest Hits 2016

As we bid a fond farewell to the year 2016, I thought it would be fun to review the posts and products that were so popular they made it into Everyday Cheapskate Greatest Hits 2016.

Enjoy this trip down EC memory lane and the opportunity to revisit something you may have missed or forgotten about. Hint: The #1 post has enjoyed more than 337,000 views in 2016 … and counting.


A Number as Useful as Your Credit Score

Whether you know your credit score or not, by now you are aware that you have one and that potential lenders, insurance providers and others use that 3-digit number to evaluate your creditworthiness.

portrait of a worried couple calculating financial budget

There’s another number that is just as important for evaluating your financial situation. In fact, it’s a number that you can calculate yourself anytime.

Your debt-to-income ratio—expressed as a percentage—is a simple way of showing how much of your income is available for a mortgage payment after all other continuing obligations are met. This ratio is one of the many things a lender considers before approving a home loan.

If you’ve shopped for a mortgage loan, you have likely noticed loan debt limits referred to as the 28/36 qualifying ratio. Those numbers refer to two percentages that are used to examine two aspects of your debt load.

The first number (28%) indicates the maximum percentage of your monthly gross income that the lender allows for housing expenses. It includes payments on the loan principal and interest, taxes and insurance (often referred to by the acronym PITI) plus private mortgage insurance (typically required if you will start with less than 20% equity in the home) and homeowner’s association dues.


The Guide to Proper Regifting

The act of re-gifting—passing on as new a gift someone else gave you—is controversial but only because of those who do a noticeably bad job of it. After all, if every act of re-gifting was carried out flawlessly no one would have the occasion to find it distasteful. And that brings me to the first Rule of Re-gifting:

1. Never admit to re-gifting. If your friends know you’re a regifter, you’ll find yourself in the unpleasant situation of explaining why re-gifting is different from not caring. Worse, they will be suspicious of the gifts you give them. It’s best to keep re-gifting completely to yourself.

2. Designate a location. Keep re-gifts in a convenient, albeit secret, place in a special box or cupboard with extra wrapping paper and ribbon. Some people shop for gifts in department stores. Never underestimate the utility of a gift stash that allows you to shop at home.

3. Have a heart. Any gift made especially for you or given to you by a parent, child or close relative cannot be re-gifted. Even if it’s not ideal, consider its sentimental value. Don’t even think of re-gifting. It just wouldn’t be right. 


Many Happy Returns

What to do with three extra coffee grinders and charming needlepoint “Puppies in a Basket” throw pillow—gifts received and much appreciated, but not quite right in your mid-century modern pad?

Here are eight general tips to help make sure that all of your returns are happy.

1. Find the receipt. If this return is for a gift you received, and if at all possible, get the gift receipt from the gift giver. Things will go more smoothly if you can.

2. Do not dawdle. Return the unwanted item ASAP. Wait too long, and that lovely $75.99 deluxe mahjong set may be marked down to $7.99. And that’s what you’ll get in return.

3. Return the item in its original packaging. It should look exactly the way you received it. Points deducted for any signs you actually wore the sweater.

4. Make the choice. You may get a choice between a greatly reduced value in cash, or the full value in store credit. Take the credit.

5. Take the right card. If it’s a gift you bought (chartreuse? what were you thinking?!) make sure you have the original credit card you used for the purchase