The Secret for Debt-Free Holiday Season in One Word: Predetermine

It’s not exactly a new word to me. But I’m pretty sure I’d never actually used the word predetermine in a sentence until just a few weeks ago when my pastor referred to it—and in a way that turned on a bright light in my noggin.

To predetermine is to make a decision in advance.  That describes perfectly what it means to budget. You get your paycheck and before you do anything with it, you predetermine where every dollar will go. You give each dollar a job to do—in advance. You predetermine!

Here we are on the cusp of one more glorious, fabulous, exciting and joyful Holiday Season. How can we do this without going into debt? Predetermine. That’s it! Decide or establish in advance what we will do, how much we will spend; where you will go, what you will do. Yes, I know that sounds very much like a Spending Plan and it is. The way to get to a Spending Plan is to—you guessed it!—predetermine

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Let’s Talk Induction Cooking, Shall We?

I have to tell you that receiving the following message put the biggest smile on my face. Induction cooking? Oh yes, I do know something about that! But I must confess that the prologue to Cathy’s question is what warmed my heart.

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Dear Mary: First of all, I want to thank you, thank you, thank you for your 20 plus years of advice and guidance! I have purchased your books, READ your books, and given them as gifts many times. I hardly EVER buy anything or try a new product without checking with you first. I know that if YOU have endorsed it, I can trust it. Thank you for promoting quality and value in all the products and ideas you share. Your work is amazing.

That being said, my husband and I just purchased a home. The gas stove and microwave oven are 28 years old. Although they both still work, (I know, they don’t make them like this anymore) they look their age and I question the safety of the microwave. I was ready to purchase a mid-level free-standing gas range and looked back on your recommendations of the GE line.

However, on a recent shopping trip we were introduced to electric induction ranges. Wow, was I impressed! The convenience and control of a gas stove top with the an easy-to-clean smooth top. This has totally confused my decision. Induction cooktops are still quite a bit more expensive, so it’s a big choice. The salesperson was unable to identify any drawbacks to these ranges at this time—other than the fact that we may have to purchase new cookware, which he said can be purchased for around $300 for an adequate set. 

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DIY Holiday Gift Idea: Spa in a Jar

If you are at all familiar with a wonderful yet pricey personal care product, Salt Rub® by Origins, you may know that for some very odd reason, it has been discontinued. I know. How could they do this?

Origins now offers in its place some kind of ginger scrub concoction that contains sugar and spice. I think it is just awful, which makes me even happier that I know how to make my own version of Origins Salt Rub. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? This may be the perfect gift you’ve been searching for—one you can make yourself for many on your Christmas Gift List.

A mixture of salt and oil, authentic salt rub resembles wet, slushy snow. Unlike bath salts that are used in a tub bath, salt scrub is used in the shower. So you have a better idea, before I tell you how to make it, here is the kind of instruction you would print on a tag or label for the finished salt scrub:

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Updates on Einstein Coat, Household Inventory and That Urge to Quit

There are some people in my life who accuse me of having a short attention span. They don’t get much of an argument from me. It’s true; I do. That’s why I am grateful that so many of you keep me on track by reminding me to give updates and feedback on things I’ve written about.

Dear Mary: Just wondering how the Einstein Coat is coming. Please update. I bought the book, “The Knit Stitch” by Sally Melville.  The yarn to make it will come to about $60. I’m afraid of failure at such a high cost in both time and money. Jeanne

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Dear Jeanne: The lower portion of my coat (that very long piece that creates the entire bottom section of the coat) is nearly done. It’s beautiful but doesn’t look much like a coat yet. The Einstein Coat is rated as a beginner project, so relax! I don’t think you can possibly mess this up. And if you do, just rip it out and start again. I’m so good at ripping out, I can tink (that’s knit spelled backwards) just about as fast as I knit! I think it’s so much fun. Just $60 to make this coat is quite a bargain. I predict you will wear and enjoy your coat for many years! Keep in touch because I’ll want to know about your progress!

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The High Cost of Dirty HVAC Filters

Do I have a story to tell you—another lesson I’ve learned the hard way so you won’t have to. Truth be told, if this faux pas helps you avoid a huge expense, I’m happy to have done it.

While working on a recent post, What are Those Grimy Black Lines Around the Edges of My Carpet?, I casually asked my husband if he’d replaced the filter in our heating ventilation air-conditioning (HVAC) system recently. I got one of those blank stares I could easily translate: Nope, didn’t even think about it.

When we bought this house in January 2014, we had the HVAC system inspected, serviced and the filter replaced. Then we got busy with leasing the house and  planning our own move a year later. HVAC filter? Completely forgot about it. It’s been more than 2.5 years!

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The scariest thing ever was to open that door on the HVAC system, dutifully labeled “Filter.” I cannot adequately describe it but I can tell you that it was nearly black and covered in what looked like fur. So gross. I’m surprised the entire system didn’t just blow up out of sheer rebellion for lack of attention.

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To Your Stress-Free Holiday

Whether you are invited or doing the inviting this holiday season, throwing a potluck can relieve a lot of stress. When everybody brings something it takes a great deal of pressure off the host and offers guests the joy of contributing to the festivities.

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HOSTING DUTIES

If you’re hosting you need to …

  • Provide the main course (ham, turkey, roast beef for example).
  • Assign each guest a dish to bring like appetizer, side dish or dessert. You can even provide the exact recipe if you have a particular menu in mind.
  • Plan for seating, table settings, tasteful decorations and background music.
  • Clear space in refrigerator for cold dishes and schedule for arriving dishes that will require oven time.
  • Gather plenty of utensils and serving dishes. Buy small containers so guests can take home leftovers, if any.
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Extended Warranties Almost Always a Bad Deal

A couple of weeks ago I took my grandsons to Toys R Us just to look around. This would be an observation outing. And if you believe that, you don’t know me very well. We ended up with some Pokemon cards and a cute little mechanical hamster that fits perfectly in the chubby hand of a 17-month old.

At check out, the clerk dutifully offered an extended warranty on the $8 hamster. You’re laughing. So did I because it is funny. Who would pay $2.50 for an extended warranty on a toy that will get lost in no time and promptly forgotten? Not me, that’s for sure. I couldn’t help but think about the tiny toy hamster when I got the following letter from Lynn:

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Dear Mary: My son works for a large home improvement store. He said that because planned obsolescence is even worse than say 20 years ago it is now important to buy the extended warranties on products. I have always disagreed, thinking that they are a rip-off and created to prey on consumers’ fear.

My son purchased two extended warranties within the last five years on two major brand appliances (Whirlpool and Hoover) and he had to use both of them. Do you think he’s right? Knowing this, these days should we reconsider buying extended warranties? Lynn

Dear Lynn: It’s a matter of dollars and sense, no pun intended. I wish you’d given me the figures—the amount he spent for those extended warranties compared to the cost of repairs.

I won’t say that in every situation an extended warranty is a bad deal. But we have to deal with the law of averages. It’s like insurance. You consider your exposure, weigh the odds and react accordingly.

Keep this in mind: Sales commissions on extended warranties are quite handsome. Why do you think that is? It’s because extended warranties are a huge profit maker for retailers. People buy them and never use them. So retailers give sales people a big incentives to sell them because they boost profits. If retailers were losing money on these warranties, do you think they’d keep selling them at the current price? No way. They’d either stop offering them or boost the price. 

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Happy Birthday to My Workhorse, Hoover

I call him Hoover and he’s worked hard for me since the day I hauled his long, lanky self into the house back in 2008.

Agriculture et métier : paysan et cheval de trait au labours

My dear Hoover (not really a horse, but isn’t that a beautiful specimen) still holds the record for the best thing I ever bought. Not only did my Hoover SteamVac rescue me from the endless loop of worthless commercial carpet cleaning companies, he’s saved me thousands of dollars over these eight years. I paid $147 for Hoover, which is still cheaper than one visit from a carpet cleaning company.

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While I enjoy hard surface floors in some areas of my home, I am not ready to give up on carpet. I love how it looks, how it feels under my feet and how it warms up a room. But I hate dirty carpet. Cannot abide a spot. The thought of what lurks between the fibers of poorly maintained carpet still gives me the heeby-geebies.

And so today, I want to give you an update on how my dear old Hoover is doing. But first a quick review on how Hoover and I partner up to keep my home and office carpet clean and pristine.

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