Whose Kids Know How to Turn Off Lights?

I got a good chuckle when I received today’s first reader tip from “Dad.” For a split second there I could hear my own father asking the age-old parent/child question: Don’t you know how to turn off the light when you leave the room?


MOTION SENSOR SWITCHES. Apparently, my kids don’t know how to turn the lights off so I have installed motion sensor switches in the bathrooms, laundry room and basement. Installation was very easy, and now those lights turn on and off automatically depending on whether anyone is in the room. This has lowered our power bill tremendously. More than that, our home is a happier place now that dad has stopped harping at the kids to turn off the lights. Dad

HANDY PAINT CONTAINER. I was disappointed when my favorite brand of  coffee began coming in a plastic container instead the old familiar metal coffee can. I’d use those empty metal cans for everything from holding screws and switch plates to soaking paint brushes. But I discovered that the molded handle on the new plastic container made it the perfect container for paint—especially when needing to do a touch-up. The plastic coffee “cans” are easy to carry up and down ladders and the plastic lid seals well enough to keep paint fresh until the project is done. Johnny


Is It Legit or Is It a Scam?

Every day millions of people get sucked into Internet scams and tricks that end up costing them dearly, something I was reminded of when I got a letter from a reader asking this simple question: How can I tell if something on the Internet is legit or some kind of scam?


Great question, the answer for which I found in my friend and colleague Doug Alton’s weekly Household Newsletter. Here are Doug’s Top Ten Signs the Site is Not Legit:

Sign #1: If it plays a video that has the controls removed, it’s a scam stop watching! You can’t fast forward, pause, or even tell how long the video is. That’s because they are only going to tell you a long list of reasons why you should send them money. Stop watching—X out of the page. They will never tell you the information that you clicked on the link to get—not even if you send them money. It’s a scam, run the other way.

Sign #2: You want to leave the page but keep hitting up against something like, “Are you sure you want to leave this page?” Legitimate sites don’t do this, but nearly all of the scam sites do. Run the other way.


How to Use Up Every Last Cent on any Prepaid Debit-Card

Some prepaid debit cards can be problematic to use up to the last cent without going over. The problem is ending up with an odd amount on the card that no one will accept unless your purchase equal to or less than that odd amount.


Another problem: Some prepaid debit card have expiration dates, which is difficult to understand but true nonetheless.

And another: Most stores will not allow you to “split payments.”  That means if you buy a new bike and want to use up that last $1.77 on a prepaid debit card, paying the balance with cash or some other form of payment, most stores will not let you do it. The problem is when the salesperson tries to process the prepaid card, it returns a rejection because the balance on the card is insufficient to cover the entire transaction.

I want to show you a way that you can use up that $1.77 or any nagging tiny balance—even $.05— on a prepaid debit card. But before we go on, let’s define terms.

A “prepaid debit card” is a credit-card branded gift card. That means it has a MasterCard or Visa logo on it. It’s been “loaded” with a certain amount of money that can be spent in any store that takes MasterCard or Visa transactions. Mostly, people purchase these cards outright (plus an outrageous fee), but you may have received them in other ways—for a gift, or as your rebate from Verizon, AT&T or any number of other companies offering rebates.


Impossibly Easy Impossible Pies

If you shy away from making homemade pies—savory or sweet—because of the crust (it can be tricky and there’s all that rolling) you are in for a treat. Meet the impossible pie.

Impossible pies are just the best because they’re easy to make and always turn out so well.  Impossible pies are family-friendly, too. Even your pickiest eaters are gong to love them.


What makes these pies seemingly impossible? The crust starts out as a thick liquid that you pour it over the top of the pie. Then somehow in the baking process the crust finds its way to the bottom and turns into a fabulously delicious pie.

All of the recipes that follow call for Master Mix, which is our homemade (cheap) version of Bisquick (somewhat pricey). You’ll find the recipe for Master Mix below.


Reader Discovers Straight Cut at Barber Shop Plus More Great Tips

From barber shops to fine print—and lots between—my EC readers are really smart. I love it when they share their time- and money-saving tips with us. I think you’re going to love today’s great reader tips, too!


STRAIGHT CUT. Every couple of months, when I need only the bottom of my long hair trimmed I’ve discovered that a barber can cut just as straight as a beautician. And the cost? Less than half the salon price. Molly

READ THE FINE PRINT. It sounded good and I was tempted to take the store up on its offer of tremendous sale prices plus nothing down and no payments until next year. But after a closer look at the fine print in the store ad I read, “Buyers using the No Money Down; No Payments for xxx months do not qualify for Sale Prices on furniture.”   When you walk in the door, it’s best to have saved enough to pay cash even at the high-end furniture stores. Money talks and is a great tool to bargain the price down. Judy

SNACKS TO GO. For those who like to take snacks with them (nuts, seeds, trail mix, etc.), first wash out an empty Parmesan cheese container (the type with the twin serving top for shaking or spooning) with soap and water and let dry.  Remove the label so you can see what’s inside and fill with your desired snack.  Depending on the size of the snack, you can use either side to dispense your snack, plus a number of persons can share this dispenser by pouring or shaking the snack without everyone placing their hand inside a bowl. Once the snack has been finished, refill and use again. The 8-ounce container is perfect for travel and general use. Helen


The Antidote for Holiday Dread: Start Early

As much as I love Christmas, I must confess there are some things about the holiday season I dread. I dread the pull of the culture that tries to manipulate me and my family. I dread that heart-pounding feeling that my feet are in the starting blocks and any second I’ll hear the signal to start running as fast as I can to make it to the finish line before midnight on December 24.


It’s easy to let the busy-ness of Christmas get the best of us. We feel obligated to meet the expectations of everyone—kids, friends, relatives, communities, even our employers. It’s enough to strip away the joy leaving guilt, disappointment and anger in its place.

The good news is that you can rise above the over commercialization of Christmas. You can bring back the joy.

START EARLY.  The sooner you start the better the outcome. The sooner you start the less you’ll spend. The sooner you start the less likely you’ll be to create a pile of new debt.

CREATE LIMITS. There’s something to be said for setting limits on how many gifts to give the kids and others. Fewer gifts mean less shopping, less wrapping and of course less spending. You may discover that less is more than enough. 


Of Pet Accidents and Malfunctioning Keurig Machines

Dear Mary: I saw in your column a long while back an article about the carpet scrubber (was it Bissell?) and I poopood it at the time. Now I am ready to cry UNCLE since I discovered to my horror that one of my cats got shut in a bedroom and peed on the carpet. The smell is so bad my eyes are watering. I have Nok-Out (I’m huge fan of that stuff—even though it is a bit pricey it is worth every penny) but I feel a deep cleaning is needed as well. I want to get the carpet cleaning machine you recommend so I don’t waste money on an inferior one. Help! Laurie

stinky woman holding nose

Dear Laurie: My eyes are starting to water just thinking about what you’re dealing with. But not to worry! You are certainly on the right track starting with Nok-Out. It really is the only product I know of that will neutralize and eliminate that pungent odor—provided you follow specific instructions for how to use it (don’t forget to use code DPL at checkout for 10% off). And I agree you need to power clean the carpet.

My Hoover SteamVac really is The Best Thing I Ever Bought. I use it rather unconventionally, which you can read about in the original column. My machine is quite a few years old now, but it works as well as ever. The current model, which is even better, has a “clean surge” feature. I suggest that you make full use of that feature as you undue your poor kittie’s unfortunate accident.


Like Finding Money You Didn’t Know You Had

You know the feeling when reach into the pocket of a coat or pants you haven’t worn for awhile and pull out a $20 bill? What would it feel like if you pulled out hundreds of dollars? And what if you found money like that month after month?

It’s not magic—it can be done. Pin holes in your financial life can turn into massive money-gushers. Patching these holes is the key to improving your income.

The problem is that it’s easy to ignore the tiny cracks. We’re busy—there’s the mortgage or rent, car payment, credit cards, insurance, college savings, carpools, vacation plans, retirement accounts, work benefits; kids, dog, guinea pig. So the little stuff happens without our noticing.

We think:

What’s the harm in picking up dinner from the drive-thru again? Our lives are so busy and we have to eat.