Immersion Therapy for Mobile Phone Droppers

A mid-west sewer authority did a study and came up with data suggesting that 19 percent of people admit to having dropped their phones in the toilet. I’m not sure why this fact would be of interest to a sewer agency, but it did come to mind when this letter washed up on my desk a week or two ago.

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DEAR MARY: A week ago, I dropped my smart phone in the toilet. I tried to rescue it but had to get a new phone. The salesman said every day, someone comes in with the same problem. Now I’m wondering if there is some kind of waterproof case I can get to protect it in case this happens again. And, by the way, how do you fix a wet phone? My method (I immediately cleaned it, took it apart and then stuck it in a bag of rice to dry out) didn’t work. Bev

DEAR BEV: There are steps you can take to try to rescue a waterlogged mobile phone, but there are no guarantees.

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Einstein in the Kitchen or Let Them Eat (Carrot) Cake

I have a special treat for you today. It’s a recipe. Normally I sell this recipe for $1,000 but it’s your lucky day. OK, I’m just kidding about that, but honestly it’s worth even more than that because in the world of cakes, this one is worth its weight in gold, which as I write is about $1,225 per ounce.

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You may already be aware of this, but I’ll say it anyway: In this world there is carrot cake and then there is scrumptious absolutely to-die-for carrot cake—the kind of cake you’ve only experienced with a $200-per-person meal at a fancy hotel (you do that all the time, right?).

It’s the kind of carrot cake that comes out grand champion in a competition at a fine culinary school like Le Cordon Bleu Baking and Pastry Arts Program. This is the cake that’s going to make your friends and family think you’re a genius! And don’t be surprised when it becomes your signature cake—the one they request for their birthdays. Imagine how beautiful this cake might look on your Easter brunch table this weekend.

As you peruse this recipe, you may be tempted to make a few adjustments. Please do not do that. You’ll think 1 1/2 cups oil is excessive. It’s not. And the pineapple. Seriously? Yes. Do not doubt me. This is the perfect recipe both in ingredients and proportions, so please follow it exactly. It’s the recipe you’ll be tempted to keep secret and that’s fine with me. 

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How to Win the Warehouse Club Game

They’re big, they’re filled with temptation and millions of people shell out fifty bucks a year on average to be card-carrying members of the big three warehouse clubs: Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s.

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While the whole idea is to save money by shopping at a warehouse club, membership alone does not guarantee that will be the result. In fact, just the opposite is as likely to happen, where members end up spending far more than they imaged they would because they just don’t how to make a club work for them.

As a long-time warehouse club member, it’s taken years for me to really figure out how to win the warehouse club game.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. It is really dangerous to your wealth to cruise into the club without a clear idea what you are going to buy. The way to know before you go is with a written shopping list. If you need it, you know it before you arrive. If you discover things you need that are not on your list, make a second list—things you will buy on your next trip to this club. Make sure to check the monthly ads for your specific membership club for items with instant savings or discounts. 

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Eight Things to Do With a Tax Refund

It’s easy to see a tax refund as some kind of gift from the universe. It’s not. It is a chunk of your annual income you should have been seeing all along in your paychecks. Plan now for how you’ll manage it, or your refund could easily evaporate into thin air!

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1. Treat it like a paycheck. Give away 10 percent, save 10 percent and put the rest into your household account. This would be especially advisable if you are having trouble keeping up with your current financial obligations.

2. Stash it. Put it in your Contingency Fund or Freedom Account. Don’t think twice. Just get it into the bank quickly before you are tempted to pick out a new TV or book a vacation trip abroad. Money in the bank lets you back away from the “edge” in ways that buying more stuff cannot.

3. Open a Roth IRA. Talk with your bank or go to Vanguard.com to discover your options. Provided your Contingency Fund (a pool of money you keep in a safe place for serious emergencies) is well-funded and you are not drowning in credit-card debt, this may be the perfect opportunity for you to boost your retirement funding.

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Leave a Fragrance, Not an Odor

I have something very cool to share with you today, but first a story. About my friend, Herta. It’s been quite a few years now since she and Al came to visit. In their graciously kind manner, they brought gifts. I thought I’d heard of everything, but one of these gifts left me wide-eyed and sputtering to find a good response, which I am not sure I did.

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Privately, I concluded that this small, supremely elegant spray bottle that Herta was visibly so excited about must be something special in their country—to me it was it was oddly foreign.

The name on the bottle left me stuttering: Poo-Pourri Before-You-Go Toilet Spray. Herta took me into the powder room to demonstrate. “Look, you just spritz the surface of the toilet water before you go. It stops bathroom odors before they ever begin!” Herta was so excited to show me this fabulous new product. Me? I was like … whaaat?

I have to admit that I couldn’t wait to try it, and I did. You know what? It really works. The product is oily. When you spray Poo-Pourri into the toilet (before … not during or after), it sits on the surface of the water and creates a kind of sealant against, well …let’s just say it—fumes. It traps the odors, sending them down the drain, not out into the room. Get it?

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Lessons We Can Learn from the Madoff Scandal

In my mind as a fifth-grader, Mr. James M. Migaki was the smartest man to have ever lived. Every day was special in Mr. Migaki’s class. He taught us the importance of learning history so we would never have to repeat its mistakes. He made that lesson real when he said that last year counted as history, and so did last month and last week.

Mr. Migaki said something is only a mistake if you can’t fix it. Sometimes he would let us re-take our tests to learn from history and fix our mistakes.

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Speaking of lessons we can learn from things that went wrong in the past, how about that Bernie Madoff character? He’s the guy who, for decades, was ripping people off, claiming to be investing their fortunes, paying them inexplicable returns on their money, and all the while stealing from them blind with his $50 billion ponzi scheme. There are several important lessons that all of us need to learn for good. Following are my top five:

1. Know what you own. No matter what you have or the investments you own, make it your business to know what you own and where your money is. If your fund manager or broker cannot give you an explanation you can understand, that is not a reflection on you. It could be that person is more unsure than you are. Keep asking questions, keep researching, keep digging and don’t stop until you describe each of your assets and investments in 25 words or less.

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Muffins and “Tulips” to Celebrate Spring

In just a bit I am going to give away all my secrets for how to make muffins that are so great your friends and family will call you a genius. But first, I want to show you what happened one Saturday morning as I was in the middle of making a fabulous—if I do say so myself—brunch.

I was all ready to fill the muffin cups with batter when I remembered that I’d used every last one of my cupcake paper liners. I was in no mood to go to the store. Muffin batter is not kind to those who do not move it quickly to the oven once the wet ingredients have been stirred in.

I wanted to kick myself because I’d planned to splurge and order these very nice Tulip Muffin Papers online …

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… but at the last minute felt myself choking at the price: $6.95 plus $6.00 shipping for 24 elegant muffin/cupcake papers—about $.54 each.

How dumb would that be to spend twice the cost of the muffin just to bake it in a very cool looking throw away “paper?” Don’t answer. And don’t hate me when I tell you how much I wished that I’d ordered them anyway because at that moment I really needed them.

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Cook for a Day, Eat for a Month

The title, Once a Month Cooking, made me laugh. Cook once a month? I didn’t need a book to do that. I needed the motivation to cook the other 29 days of the month, too!

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I didn’t actually read that book until years later when I met up with co-author Mary Beth Lagerborg. I learned that “once-a-month cooking” is a method of preparing a month’s (or two weeks’) dinner entrees in one mega-cooking session, and then freezing them for use throughout the month.

While Mary Beth along with her co-author Mimi Wilson have developed a specific and thorough plan for preparing many meals at one time, any effort that results in preparing meals now to be used later has decided benefits:

1. Convenience. Having entrees in the freezer provides the convenience of take-out but with the aroma, appeal and taste of home cooking.

2. Simplification. Nothing unravels the seams of family time faster than having nothing on hand for dinner. Knowing dinner’s ready to go promotes household calm and peace. 

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