From Big Repair Bills to High Insurance Premiums—Cars Can Be a Lot of Trouble

Some of my most valuable life lessons I’ve learned from cars. From the outrageous monthly payments to ghastly repair bills and ridiculous insurance premiums, I know the dilemma of “Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em!”

young man having car trouble

While it didn’t cross my mind while going through so many car miseries that one day my experiences might help others, perhaps that day has come. Let’s just say that what I know about this subject, I’ve learned the hard way.

Dear Mary: I’m in desperate need of some advice. After losing literally everything in a divorce situation, I bought a car about a year ago that I could pay for with cash—a 2002 Camry with more than 200,000 miles.

In the past year, I’ve spent more on repairs than I paid for the car. Every few weeks I seem to have to pay $200-$400 for repairs and that trend continues. I just found out that I need new inner tie rods and struts for the front of the car to keep it drivable and safe. Looming on the horizon is the need to replace the clutch (it’s a manual transmission) and no doubt other things, too.

Related: How to Get Your Perspective Back on Track

At what point do you say enough is enough? I’ve been telling myself that there are only so many things that could go wrong on a car but I’m barely making it financially and if something more expensive happens that I can’t pay for with cash (I don’t even have a credit card) I’m in big trouble. I’m concerned it’ll leave me with no transportation to get to work and even worse, unable to see my kids. Thanks for what you do. Tim

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An Incredibly Easy Way to Save Money Shopping Online

 My referral links are below. If you click through and take action, I may be compensated with a small commission. My full disclosure is here. Thanks!

I used to love a good shopping mall. But those days are long gone and I don’t miss them one bit since I’ve discovered the joys and convenience of online shopping. In fact, I’ll do just about anything to avoid having to go inside a mall. Or even a grocery store.

Today, I’m going to walk you through the basic steps of an incredibly easy way to save money shopping online, using a recent purchase I made as an example.

Female hands typing on white computer keyboard

From time to time, I will stop by Chicos.com to check out “New Arrivals.” I’ve been looking for a jacket that would be appropriate for speaking engagements and I must be very picky because for weeks I haven’t seen even one that might be a good candidate.

On this particular day, something catches my eye—a jacket that just might be perfect, except for the $99 price. It’s available in my size and color preference so I put it into my shopping cart. And I leave the site.

(I’ve learned that unless I need an item immediately, putting a few days between the time I put something in the shopping cart, and when I actually check out may turn up any number of incentives to encourage me across the finish line.)

About a week later I return. Bingo! The jacket is still in my shopping cart but with a new reduced price of $41.99. But I don’t buy it. Not yet.

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How to Rid Bathroom of Hairspray Overspray Plus More Quick Tips

Hairspray is wonderful for your hair. Not so great on the floor, sink, walls, mirror, and counter where you get ready every morning.

Unless you are diligent to go outside everytime you spray your hair, it’s a good bet hairspray overspray is landing on the nearby surfaces of your bathroom.

Young man is styling his hair using hairspray

When allowed to build up day after day, hairspray can be tough to remove. What you need is a solvent that will melt the hairspray without harming the surfaces. Bonus points if that solvent does the job then dries quickly without leaving streaks.

Chances are good you already have the perfect product to remove hairspray buildup somewhere in your house—91% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol.

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The Best Way to Store Salad Greens Plus More Tricks to Make Fresh Food Last Longer

Has this ever happened to you? You open the refrigerator to pull out salad greens to get dinner on the table, only to reach in and discover a wilted, slimy mess.

That romaine, iceberg or bag of pre-washed salad mix can’t be more than a few weeks old but there it is—and into the garbage, it goes. And don’t we hate when that happens!

Here’s the deal: There are ways to make salad greens last at least long enough to be consumed. But to be truly useful whatever we have to do to make it happen needs to be practical—that means quick, easy and reliable.

That’s why an experiment conducted over at thekitchn.com caught my eye and sent me running for a plastic food storage bin with a tight-fitting lid.

Here’s the story: Christine Gallary, TheKitchn editor-at-large, was determined to put an end to the mystery and myriad tips out there for storing salad greens by taking the three most popular methods and putting them to the test. The goal was to discover once and for all if the way we store fresh greens matters in the long run. She used a large bag of pre-washed mesclun for the test.

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How to Make Your Own Dusting Spray

Let’s talk about dust, shall we? I’m not fond of it. As I write, every surface in my home has a layer of the finest dust you can imagine.

It’s so bad, I am tempted to adopt the philosophy that dust is a protective coating for fine furniture so just leave it be!

cleaning dust from the house

Here’s what happened: We just had the wood floors refinished. That required one full day of sanding through all the layers of finish and stain, right down to the bare wood.

Even the biggest, best “dustless” sanding machine cannot boast 100% effectiveness. The machine’s collection system got most of the sanding debris; the rest has been uniformly distributed to every flat surface throughout the house.

Years ago, I would have loaded up with aerosol cans of Endust, but those days are gone. Now, I make my own dusting spray—cheaper, better and faster. I love it because I know what’s in it; it doesn’t make me cough the way I did whenever I would spray Endust. And it smells fantastic. Instead of $5 a can, I make twice the amount for just pennies using natural ingredients from my pantry.

Dusting Spray for Wood Furniture and Surfaces 

Pour all ingredients into the spray bottle, attach sprayer top and shake vigorously. Spray directly on furniture (being careful of overspray) and immediately buff with a clean, dry cloth. Do not allow the spray to sit on the surface. It’s spray on, wipe off.  Because oil and water separate, shake often. Safe for all wood furniture and surfaces.

About the ingredients:

Vinegar. White distilled vinegar cuts through grease and grime. It also acts as a mild disinfectant. Note: Do not substitute with wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Both contain scant amounts of sugar and yeast. You don’t want to leave that kind of residue.

Olive oil. It shines and protects wood, naturally.

Essential oil. Essential oils have many beneficial properties, and my favorite is that they make my home smell naturally fresh and clean. But it’s optional in this formula. You can leave it out and the dusting spray will retain its effectiveness or opt for a different fragrance like orange or cedarwood essential oil. Or come up with your own combination of several oils.

Amber glass. I use an amber glass spray bottle for this dusting spray because both olive oil and essential oil should be stored in the dark to slow the oxidation process that can cause a reaction that makes plastic feel sticky.

Related: Some (But Not All) Spray Bottles are Designed to Fail

By the way, the floors turned out beautifully, which is helping to make all this dusting totally worth the effort.

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The 18 Gifts 2018 Graduates Really Want

If you’re stressed because you just don’t know what gift would be right for that high school or college graduate on your list, stress no more!

This year my young friend Hannah and I have you covered with gift ideas that are sure to please both you and your favorite graduate!

When I asked Hannah what she and her friends would want for a graduation gift, I expected a quick verbal hint or two. What I didn’t expect was that Hannah would query a respectable sampling of her school’s senior class—complete with survey, research data, and specific results.

And so, for your gift-giving peace of mind and inspired by Hannah’s work, we confidently offer 18 gifts that this year’s graduates really want.

 

1. Windows Laptop Computer. While the students surveyed did not indicate exactly which laptop computer would meet their needs, I have divided student laptops into two categories, with the first being a Windows-based model like this excellent ASUS ZenBook 13 Ultra-Slim Laptop. It is super well-equipped to take your grad through five years of college, at least. Highly reviewed and priced well at About $750.

Related: Best Inexpensive™ Laptop Computers for Students of 2018

2. Chromebook Laptop Computer. The second category laptop for students is a Chromebook, of which there are many options. We believe this Asus Chromebook Flip C302CA while not the cheapest Chromebook out there, is the best for the money. It works as both a laptop and notebook, flipping into either style. Super powerful with 4GB RAM and Intel core processor. Starts up in seconds and lasts all day, up to 10 hours. Weighs just 2.65 pounds. Backlit keyboard and touchscreen. A dream machine! More hereAbout $450.

Helpful: Chromebooks vs. Windows Laptops: The Real Story

3. Earphones. The world of earphones, earbuds, air pods, and every other type of in-ear-monitors has simply exploded. You can spend a buck at the Dollar Store or a thousand for a set that looks pretty much the same! The difference is the level of technology that’s powering that headset. Graduates want earphones for all kinds of applications from blocking annoying noises around them to listening to music while on a run; to gaming and listening to videos and podcasts. Panasonic Wired Earphones are amazing and will deliver in all of those needs. They come in a variety of colors and get high reviews. And how much you ask? Wait for it … About $10.

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My Secret Battle with Procrastination

One of the toughest things I battle in my life is procrastination. My natural response is I’ll do it later. There’s a part of me that despises that procrastinator and wages a daily war to defeat it. That’s how I’ve come to rely on the power of habits and routines. If I can avoid having to make a decision, I lose the choice to put it off until later.

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Habits are those things we do so often, they become automatic. Take my MacBook Pro. You’d be shocked to know just how many hours a day I am on this thing. The keyboard is part of me. My muscles have totally memorized every stroke, the location of every key. Until something changes. 

Due to a series of technical complications, I was forced to move the dock from the bottom of my screen to the left side. We’re talking about a 90-degree relocation from horizontal to vertical. And I’m ready to be committed. 

Everything in me wants that dock at the bottom. Every muscle recalls exactly where each tool should be. For nearly three weeks I have battled this annoying change and it is driving me to the brink of insanity. My routines are disrupted, my old habit is screaming in torment. My brain, muscles, and fingers are trained to reach effortlessly to get what I need. It was so automatic I didn’t have to think about it. 

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Can This Microwave Oven Be Saved?

My referral links are below. If you click through and take action, I may be compensated. My full disclosure is here.

It’s one of the worst odors a home can experience—that lingering, worsening, putrid smell of burned rice or popcorn coming from the microwave oven.

Unhappy young man looking at fire coming from microwave oven in kitchen

It happens and not because we’re ignorant or irresponsible. Well, maybe a little of the latter, but still—burning stuff happens. And when it’s popcorn, and the instructions say 3 minutes 45 seconds and someone, who shall remain nameless, unintentionally sets it for 30 minutes 45 minutes—I have learned that where there’s smoke there’s going to be a problem.

Dear Mary: How can I get rid of the smell of smoke in my microwave oven? I burned rice in it, and it really smoked. And now the smoke smell is nasty. I have tried boiling water with an entire cut-up lemon. That didn’t help. I’ve sprayed it with Clorox lavender kitchen cleaner and let it sit then wiped it and sprayed again. The oven still stinks. Please, HELP! Sheri

Dear Sheri: There is an effective rescue that will banish all of that horrible smell and not attempt to cover it up with fragrance. However, it is going to depend on the extent of the problem. If the oven got so hot that the smoke odor is now embedded in the melted plastic, probably not. But that would be extreme and something I’m pretty sure you would have mentioned.

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