Pop quiz: What do car leases and laundry detergent have in common? Both can be confusing! Just ask today’s readers whose respective questions  washed up in my inbox ….

Husband and wife have mixed emotions over driving and old car

Dear Mary: My wife and I are having a disagreement. I want to lease a new car now because ours is old and paying for repairs is like flushing money down the drain. She wants to keep it until we can afford to buy better car. I hate car trouble and think peace of mind is something to be considered. I’m sure we can afford the payment but she’s not. What should we do? James

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Just recently American’s consumer debt—that’s everything except mortgages—hit $3.789 trillion.

So what’s a trillion? It’s a million million; a thousand billion or 1,000,000,000,000. A billion is a thousand million. Or 1,000,000,000.

young woman with a shocked expression examining a document with a magnifying glass

A billion seconds ago it was 1986 and Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev opened talks at a summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. A billion minutes ago it was the year 117 A.D. A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

But a billion dollars ago in consumer debt was something like just two weeks ago!

Learning how to manage your debt starts with understanding what’s in the fine print.

The principle of fine print. Never trust the flashy print, the cool logos or the enticing promises. There’s always a catch in the fine print. Remember this: What the big print giveth, the fine print taketh away!

Changing the rules. When you signed by your signature you gave the company the right to change the terms at any time. They can raise rates, shorten grace periods and basically change the rules and terms to their advantage whenever they feel like it. But they must tell you in writing.

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Carpet stains are near the top of my personal list of pet peeves. I’m not talking about an accidental spill that when addressed quickly can be successfully removed. In fact, I get a lot of satisfaction from tackling a spill or stubborn spot on carpet, forcing it to disappear never to be seen again.

What I’m talking about is an ugly stain that no matter what, absolutely will not budge.

Carpet surgery

Stephanie writes, “Is there anyway I can remove a rust stain from my carpet? We just moved into this house and the carpet is gorgeous—except for this fairly small spot that is so noticeable. It looks to me like rust. I’ve tried spot removers, but they haven’t worked.”

It all depends on how long that rust stain has been there and other methods you have attempted to remove it. The problem is the harsher the treatment the more likely you’ll be to also remove color from the carpet, leaving you with an even more noticeable problem.

So let’s assume this rust stain is set for eternity and nothing is going to remove it. Here’s a last resort I’ve used with satisfactory results: carpet surgery.

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There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Read more here.

For me, Black Friday wasn’t black at all. It was Fun Friday at a local family fun center with my grandsons, Eli and Sam, complete with bumper boats, mini-golf, bowling, video games, pizza for lunch and a promise that we’d return one day soon.

BBoondocks Family Fun Cntr

I’m the lucky one—I didn’t step foot in a store, mall or shopping center. I hear it got pretty crazy out there.

I’m not sure if I’ve turned into a wimp or become an introvert, but except for Costco, I just don’t shop in stores anymore. Not even a grocery store. I’m an online shopper for just about everything. Online shopping is my comfort zone and admittedly, I’ve become pretty good at it.

I’ve scoped out what I think are a few excellent, authentic deals for you today on what has become known as Cyber Monday.

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Checking one of my email inboxes this morning (I have several) made my heart race and my head spin. Hundreds of messages all related to BLACK FRIDAY.

Then I checked my news feed and the blaring headlines and accompanying photo made me slightly nauseous: Full-grown, visually mature adults fighting over TVs at Walmart.

Black Friday Shoppers

Look, I’m all for saving money, which should come as no surprise. But there has to be a better way.

I don’t know if it’s my self-inflicted aversion to crowded malls and stores (a story for another time) or my inner rebellious self, but this is a day that kinda’ makes me want to pull the covers up over my head with instructions to wake me when it’s over.

Better yet, I believe I’ll turn on some lovely holiday music and enjoy the day by getting the house all dressed up for Christmas!

Which brings me to the subject of today’s post, which admittedly has nothing to do with Black Friday (thank goodness!) or even Christmas unless this sparks for you, a very practical homemade gift idea: how to make your own mixes.

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It’s been a few years now since one of my staffers, Kim Penrose, was so excited she couldn’t wait to tell me about a book she’d just read. Kim was so moved by the experience, I asked her to write a review. I can’t think of a better day than today, Thanksgiving 2017, to post that review again. That book  has now become a classic, and for good reason. It’s just that inspirational. Thanks, Kim!

Recently, I caught a memorable episode of The View. Deborah Norville, whom I recalled from her stints on TODAY and Inside Edition, was a guest promoting her book, Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You.

I was immediately taken by Norville’s self-assurance and passion for her message.

Norville is no Pollyanna, but rather a woman who has discovered the value of thankfulness and wants everyone to experience the change that can take place when we embrace this philosophy. I was so impressed with the interview I was at the bookstore before the show had even ended to purchase this book.

In Thank You Power, Norville sets out to use her skills as an investigative reporter to determine if there is any scientific value to “seeing the glass half full.” She states her case solidly and uses the first part of the book to lay the groundwork and share reasons why being thankful is good for your health, relationships and work experience.

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If there’s one subject that shows up in my inbox more often than any other, it has to be rust. Ugly, orange-ish stains on tubs, showers, toilets; washing machines and sinks, even stainless steel.

One reader (who shall remain nameless as I have hopelessly misplaced your message) wrote that tiny rust marks have appeared on his new stainless steel refrigerator! Sadly, the manufacturer considers this a cosmetic issue, so the warranty does not apply.

And so today, for my nameless friend plus all others who’ve written about annoying rust problems, I have a story followed by a very effective, if not exciting, solution.

The year was 1882, the setting Indianapolis.

A chemist took a break from his scholarly endeavors to cook up a pan of rhubarb, that sour-but-hardy vegetable, common in the gardens of yore.

After plating his recipe, the man found that his formerly tarnished pot fairly sparkled. Being a chemist, he quickly ruled out magic and set out to discover what it was that made rhubarb such a superior cleaning agent.

The secret? Oxalic acid. Found naturally in rhubarb and other vegetables like spinach, oxalic acid attacks stubborn rust, tarnish, and lime stains at the molecular level, breaking the bonds that hold them together.

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I saw it on Facebook and it made me laugh out loud. I want to use this in the invitations to our next Dinner Party. I’m sure everyone will know it’s a joke, right?

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure. Could be a touchy subject, I suppose.

I must admit that the humor of this meme quickly faded once I thought about it for awhile. People staring at their phones. It’s becoming the new normal.

And not just for big people. Little people are catching on to this pasttime, too.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against smartphones. I have one myself, although 99% of the time I don’t think about it and have no idea where it is; the other 1% I’m in a panic because I’m just sure I’ve lost it.

The thing about kids and electronic devices with screens is that it becomes an isolating factor. Kids check out, failing to engage emotionally with others or with their environment when they have an electronic device in hand.

Doctors are urging parents to keep smartphones and laptops out of their kids’ bedrooms, and limit the time they text and tweet. An influential pediatricians group says parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences.

All of which brings me to my 2017 Gift Guide: Toys for Kids for ages birth to 8 years, and beyond (you knew I’d get there sooner or later).

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