Oops! There was an issue in our formatting on last Friday’s EC. In case you were confused, the BBQ Ribs recipe calls for 5 1/2 lbs of ribs, not 1/2 lbs as previously stated. Also “1/4 cup grated Parmesan” fell out of the list of ingredients for the baked beans. Thanks, and sorry for any confusion!


I wish I had a quarter for every stupid purchase I’ve made in my life. I’d have some major coinage going on.

My financial faux pas have been remarkable in both quantity and quality. I’ve made some real doozies.

Some rights reserved by Robert S. Donovan

Take the above-ground swimming pool. The “a la carte” price was bad enough. Then, adding everything required, but not included, took it past barely reasonable to absolutely ridiculous.

First, there was the heater and filter. Then a cover, chemicals and test kit. Of course we needed search and rescue equipment (this was one monstrosity of a pool) and a few necessary pool toys. Oh, and let’s not forget the cost of eventually getting rid of the albatross. Let me put it this way: There is not a lively secondary market for this kind of thing. Read more


On the off chance that your fear-of-ruining-a-pile-of-ribs keeps your backyard grilling events  stuck in hamburger mode, you can let those fears go! That’s because our friends over at eMeals.com have graced us with their fool-proof, easier than easy method for turning out perfect baby back ribs every time you try.

BBQ Ribs with beans and cole slaw

Trust me, if anyone knows how to make meal planning simple and food prep easy, it’s eMeals. If you love these ribs as much as we do, I know you’ll want to check out eMeals.com for the array of menus and grocery shopping helps they offer. Hint: Use coupon code: debtproofliving to get 15% off your first meal plan. That makes joining eMeals pretty much a no-brainer.

Okay, so on with Easy Baby Back Ribs,  followed by our best recipes for Cole Slaw, Baked Beans and a surprise dessert to round out your celebration. Read more


Dear Mary: I read your advice to use Mr. Clean Magic Erasers to clean up dirty leather handbags. Apparently those rather pricey erasers are made of something called melamine foam, a product that is readily available which makes “erasers” pretty cheap if you order what they’re made of instead of buying them at the store. I hope this can help someone looking for an easy clean. —Megan S., email

carousel clock

Dear Megan: I know that I speak for thousands of readers when I say thank you very much. We love knowing the inside scoop on how to find cheaper alternatives for expensive products that we enjoy using. I’ve looked around and find that melamine foam is used for insulating and soundproofing, and readily  available at stores like Home Depot in great big sheets. Interested readers can simply Google “melamine foam.”  What fun.   Read more


Sometimes, home sweet home can seem like a money pit. But your house doesn’t have to cost you tons for upkeep when you use ingenuity, creativity, shopping sense and saving sense to bring out the best without breaking the bank. Check out  these clever ways your fellow readers have discovered to make home a wonderful place, with money and time to spare.

Clean Kitchen

ON TRACK. My best tip for keeping our food budget under control is to keep the kitchen clean. Having a dirty kitchen makes it less likely that I will cook and more likely we’ll order out. —Marnie, Washington

TWISTER DECOR. I used the mat from Twister game as a table cover for my son’s birthday party. Big dots in bright colors on a white background—it was perfect! And it cleaned up beautifully both before and after the party. —Marlene, email Read more

Update: The First Years Ignite Stroller is no longer available for purchase. We’ve updated our recommendation which can be found here.

One of the best money management tools I know is this Rule of Thumb: Match quality with need. In other words, don’t buy quality beyond the need.

Sometimes the cheapest option is the best choice. Other times, you’ll regret having gone cheap when you have to replace that item well before your need for it goes away. In that case, you’d be better off going for a higher-priced option that promises to last longer than the cheaper alternative and its replacement.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? You’d think so, but I must admit that when it comes to this quality vs. need issue, I am not perfect. It can be a real challenge.

Case in point: When my grandson was born, I bought the cheapest umbrella stroller Target had to offer. My reasoning was that I would use it only occasionally. I didn’t need a big fancy model.


Photo credit: Stopthegears Flickr Photostream

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Ever feel like you’re almost to the end of your rope and you just cannot hang on another minute? You’re not alone. Everyone goes through seasons of self-defeat, pain and anguish.

cat on a rope

It’s no wonder that we feel that way. What with the economy, the current state of unemployment and rising prices—to say nothing of global uncertainty and rumors of economic collapse in daily headlines—it really is enough to make you want to pull the covers up over your head and sleep until everything gets better.

Just so you know, that is not an option. Instead, here are three proactive steps you can take  that will give you the courage to keep going: Read more


We know it’s important to check the ingredients on food products, but have you ever thought of checking your health and beauty products? I did recently and discovered a lot of unpronounceable words. But there’s one ingredient I would recognize for sure, just as today’s first tipster did. Over the years that discovery has saved her a lot of money.

olive oil spa soap cosmetics

OIL OF OLIVES. I have a better and cheaper alternative for even the most expensive, salon-quality facial moisturizer. I had been using skin-care products from Japan (DHC). One day I studied the moisturizer and discovered that the primary ingredient is olive oil. I’d been paying $42 for a one-ounce bottle of virgin olive oil! I could purchase a gallon of very high-quality olive oil for that kind of money and still have money left over. So I decided to experiment with a bottle of the finest extra virgin olive oil I could find my supermarket. I applied 2 or 3 drops to my face right after cleansing while my face was still warm and moist. It absorbed nicely. After a few months, the results were indistinguishable from the expensive product. No clogged pores, no wrinkles or greasy feeling. That’s been years ago and now I am also using olive oil to deep condition my hair. (Massage a few tablespoons of olive oil into scalp and hair. Cover hair with a plastic  bag or bathing cap and leave on for 30 minutes or more; shampoo twice and rinse.) For me, the results of using olive oil as a beauty product have been wonderful. —Joanne, Michigan Read more


Dear Mary: I am looking to purchase a new dishwasher as my 10-year-old GE model is leaking and will cost at least $300 to repair. My husband and I are “light users,” running a full load every four days or so.

We rinse dishes and basically use the dishwasher on the short cycle and it has always worked fine for us. We have looked at many brands, read many reviews and find that there are pros and cons about each brand. We did go to Consumer Reports for their suggestions and still are very confused. –Jan, email

dishwasher clean kitchen

Dear Jan: Here’s what I would do if I were you: Determine the price you’re willing to pay for a dishwasher and the top three features you want, for example Rinse/Hold, Short Wash and must be very quiet.

Go to a Sears store, which now carries the top brands of appliances (you can also shop online at Sears, retail online site or the Sears Outlet), with your three requirements and color choice. Then listen and pay close attention to what you learn. In the store, the salesman will try to steer you into a higher-end model with lots of bells and whistles you’ll probably never use. Keep going back to your three “must-haves.” Then make the decision, arrange for delivery and installation and don’t look back. Read more