Random Household Hacks

You know what makes me smile and feel smart at the same time? When I know how to perform some random act that makes it easier to accomplish little things around the house. Or on a trip. Or in any area of life. Enjoy some of my favorites:

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Grape ice. Frozen grapes work like ice cubes to chill white wine without watering it down.

Speedy re-heat. When reheating something dense in the microwave–like pasta, potatoes or a casserole, make a well in the middle of the food. It will heat up more quickly.

Quick release trash bag. To avoid suction, which causes resistance, when removing bags from a trash can, drill holes in the bottom of the container. 

What You Must Know if You Insist on Using a Debit Card

How do you pay for stuff? Do you hand over cash? Write a check? Pay with a credit card? Or do you  use a debit card because the payment is automatically deducted from your bank account?

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Most people use a combination of paper, plastic and electronic payments. However, debit cards have now surpassed cash, checks and credit cards for the way people pay at the point of sale. Personally, I do not have a debit card, never have and never will. I have an ATM card.

Simply having a debit card tied to your bank account is an invitation for trouble. I would love for you to get rid of yours, but if I cannot convince you to do that, do not become complacent. Get proactive. The odds are stacked against you which means you will become a victim of fraud. Determine right now to know your risk then create every safety net you can think of, such as:

Secure Your Future Before Assisting Others

Reading the email message from Joann reminded me of the safety speech flight attendants give before takeoff. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.

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“… In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you…. If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person.”

That is an instruction with universal application because the foundational truth is rock solid. You cannot rescue someone who is drowning if you are injured or cannot swim yourself. Joann’s letter brought all of these images to mind.

“My mom is 85 years old and widowed. Mom has raised three of her grandchildren and now is trying to help raise a great grandson.

How to Rescue Those Kitchen Disasters

Last night I suffered a kitchen disaster. I hate when that happens. I ruined an entire pot of pasta because I got busy and was not paying attention. By the time I realized, the pasta had cooked way beyond al dente, all the way to total mush. It killed me to dump the whole thing down the disposal, but there was no way to undue that damage. Thankfully, that’s not true for every kitchen faux pas. This is a list you’re going to want to keep handy just in case. 

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TOO MUCH SALT. If you’ve added far too much salt to a sauce or soup, peal and cut a raw potato into two or three pieces and add it to the pot. By the time the pieces of potato become translucent they will have absorbed a lot of the excess salt. Be sure to throw them away before serving. Another trick is to add a bit more unsalted water to the mix, provided this will not also dilute the flavor.

OVERCOOKED VEGETABLES. If you’ve overcooked the broccoli, asparagus or similar vegetables don’t despair. Just tweak your menu a bit to include a lovely creamed vegetable soup. Place the mushy vegetables in the food processor, add hot chicken broth or stock, spices and fresh cream. Process until smooth. Chopped vegetables could also be combined with chicken, butter and cornstarch and placed in a prepared pie shell for a pot pie. If it’s carrots or sweet potatoes you need to rescue, whip them together with raw eggs and pumpkin pie spices to create a soufflé. 

Parents: Cover Retirement First then Pay for College

Dear Mary: We recently read a short article you wrote on common money mistakes to avoid. One of the mistakes was “Paying for college.”  Unfortunately, this article came about three years too late. 

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No one told us when our daughter went to college three years ago, that we shouldn’t pay for her college. When we started, we thought we were helping her out but as it turns out, we have been carrying the majority of the load. 

Just recently, we informed her that we would not be paying for her senior year she is on her own because we have gone into debt further that we will ever be able to get out of.

So, because we are now three years in debt, do you have any advice for us as we strive to pay it off? David and Joanne

Fun and Clever Ways to Use This for That

Recently as I was half way out the door, car keys in hand and on the way to the home improvement center, I remembered that I might already have what I needed. Cooking spray! That’s it. I’d heard that it just might work. It did, and quite perfectly, too. No more squeaks and I saved a trip and purchase, too.

Got a squeaky door or sticky drawer? Spritz a little cooking spray on the hinges or drawer slides then work it back and forth to distribute the “lubricant.” Wipe away any drips with a paper towel.

Use mayonnaise to get rid of white water rings on wood furniture. Make sure the area is completely dry then spread enough full-fat mayonnaise on the spot. Let it sit for several hours, even overnight. Now wipe it clean, and buff with a soft clean cloth. Magical, isn’t it. 

How to Buy a New Car with All Cash

I wouldn’t walk across hot coals for the fun of it. But if I could be shown how a short, painful walk would do away with a lifetime of worry, frustration and the fear that comes with constantly being broke, I’d do it.

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While the method that follows isn’t exactly hot coals, it does represent a short-term sacrifice to achieve something amazing that few people will ever achieve in their lifetimes: paying all cash for a car, and perhaps, if you choose, even a brand-new car. Eventually. 

Let’s say that tomorrow morning your car is destroyed beyond repair. You must have a car, and because you have no money saved and the insurance check is pathetically small, you opt to buy a brand-new car. Realistically, how much can you afford to pay each month for a car payment? $200? $350 $600? 

Okay, back to reality. Your car isn’t destroyed, and you’ll keep driving it for a while. But remember the amount you believe you could afford to pay for a car payment each month if you absolutely had to and keep reading.

Tricks Retailers Use to Get Us to Spend More

Who knew that the male brain is hot-wired to believe if a price tag is printed in red, it’s a bargain–even if when that items not on sale and it’s just the regular price? I didn’t, but I don’t doubt the Oxford University study that found men most often believe that if the tag is printed in red they are saving twice as much as when the very same price tag is displayed in black and white. 

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That red tag thing isn’t the only game that retailers play to boost their profit margins Every year the retail industry spends gazillions of dollars to learn how our human minds work and then use that information to trick us into spending more.

Take a store’s floor coverings for example. Smooth floors guide you in, carpet makes you more likely to slow down and browse. And the deeper the carpet’s pile, the longer you’ll linger. Next time you’re in a supermarket, pay attention to the flooring. See those large floor tiles in the open areas, but smaller ones in front of the pricey seafood and meat counters? That’s by design. As your roll your cart over the small tile, the wheels click more often fooling you into walking more slowly.