Girl with blue wallet showing her pulling out $10 bill

How to Spend Money without Feeling Guilty

When you give yourself an allowance, it’s more than just cash—you give yourself the freedom to spend without feeling guilty. Early on in my long journey back to financial health, my husband and I agreed that I would have an allowance—my own cash, a regular expense listed in our fledgling household budget. That changed everything for me.

Girl with blue wallet showing her pulling out $10 bill

It used to be that when I felt broke, I’d turn to my bevy of credit cards to chase away the feeling. As long as I could spend money, it felt like I had money. My credit cards were my antidepressants (and my eventual undoing).

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Ceramic Bakeware, Ovenware. Bakery Kit. Ruffled Pie Dish

7 Common Clutter Problems and How to Solve Them

I have a theory that most of us would be more than willing to let go of the stuff that’s cluttering our homes if we knew these things would serve a worthwhile cause or help someone else—the good things, kitchen things—our highly useful possessions that we just don’t use. Check out these worthwhile solutions for most household’s seven biggest clutter problems.

Ceramic Bakeware, Ovenware. Bakery Kit. Ruffled Pie Dish

Vases, baskets, containers

And anything else that held flowers you have received. If they’re cracked or broken, no one wants them. For the rest, take those in like-new condition to the closest flower shop to be recycled.

Excess dishes and glassware

No matter how pretty or potentially useful, if you do not use those items at least once each year, sell them to an antique dealer, or give them to a local thrift shop or the church’s annual rummage sale.

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Leftover pizza on a cardboard box layed out flat

Absolutely the Best Way to Store and Reheat Leftover Pizza

By some miracle, you ended up with more pizza than you could eat—or you intentionally ordered a larger pie just to have leftovers. Great idea, unless those leftovers sit in the fridge until they dry up, curl up and turn downright disgusting. Properly stored, leftover pizza will retain its best quality for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or up to 2 months in the freezer.

Leftover pizza on a cardboard box layed out flat

Store leftover pizza

The best way to store leftover pizza is NOT to leave it in the box and shove the whole thing in the refrigerator. The cardboard and air freely circulating around the slices will dehydrate them in a big hurry.

The best way is to stack and wrap: Place a single layer of slices on a dinner plate, top with a layer of wax, freezer, foil, or parchment paper. Keep stacking, alternating pizza and paper, until all the pizza’s on the plate. Wrap the whole thing tightly up in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator. That’s it! It’s not as easy as just throwing the box in the fridge, but you’ll end up with tastier leftover pizza to reheat.

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Tulip muffin papers made from parchment paper

How to Make Tulip Muffin Cups

In a past post I gave away all my secrets when I taught you how to make muffins that are so great, your friends will call you a genius. Reader feedback has been off the chart. In fact, that’s exactly what I was thinking about one Saturday morning as I was making muffins for brunch.

Home made muffin cups

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 very nice Tulip Muffin Cups online, but at the last minute felt myself beginning to choke at the price.

How dumb would that be to spend ten times 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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Emergency Preparedness Checklist with pencil

7 Things You Need to Do Now to Plan Ahead for Disaster


The idea of emergency preparedness is good. But just having an idea is not good enough. Every person—every family—needs a plan in the event of a disaster that could disrupt the normal course of life. But where to start? That’s where most of us get stuck for lack of useful, specific direction. Hopefully, these quick tips will do the trick to get you unstuck and on your way to being “disaster ready.”

Emergency Preparedness Checklist with pencil

Water storage

First of all, you don’t have to live in hurricane country to get hurricane prepared. Disasters can hit anywhere. This means water could be in short supply. For true emergency preparedness, store bottled drinking water in your home for your immediate needs. For flushing toilets and showers, line 30-45 gallon garbage cans with those large contractor plastic bags available at home improvement stores. Then, fill the garbage cans with water and apply their tight-fitting lids. Most people forget that three weeks without electricity means three weeks of no water if their water utility provider has not attached a generator to pump water to houses.

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professional woman sitting at her desk, knitting

The Secret to Staying Out of the Red and in the Black

When I am not writing about personal finance and consumer debt, I knit. Something about the gentle rhythm of yarn and needle calms my spirit and unwinds my brain.

professional woman sitting at her desk, knitting.

I have managed to finish a few projects, not because I’m a great knitter but because I can “tink” almost as well as I knit (knit spelled backward is tearing out).

Because all knitters make mistakes, tinking is a required skill for those who take the craft seriously. It doesn’t take too many oversized sweaters or undersized hats to figure out that the smallest error at the beginning of a project can produce disastrous results if not found and corrected.

Just two options

Money is a lot like knitting. By some miracle, all knitting consists of just two stitches: knit and purl. Likewise, with money you have two options: spend or save. And who among us can say they have never made a financial error? We all make mistakes but the secret to staying out of the red is correcting the little mistakes before they lead to disastrous results.

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Young kids in costume trick or treating during Halloween

10 Awesome Ways to Do Halloween on a Budget this Year

Hear that sound? It’s the first of the major shopping holidays knocking on the door! Halloween is the fourth most popular holiday that gets consumers to open up their wallets—the kick-off to a lot of shopping before the end of the year. Here are some statistics that should scare you to death, brought to us by the folks at The National Retail Federation:  Americans plan to spend upwards of $8.8 billion just on Halloween this year. Mindboggling, right?

Young kids in costume trick or treating during Halloween

According to the survey, this is how that will break down: candy $2.6 billion; decorations 2.7 billion; costumes $3.2 billion. I don’t know about you but those numbers are more than frightening.

There’s no denying that we love Halloween. What other night do we get to eat, drink, and be scary? The problem is we’ve come to love it a little too much. Sadly, much of that spending will translate to new credit-card debt and what a terrible way to start out the new year.

I know we can do so much better than that this year if we’ll simply stop, think, and then find ways to do it cheaper!

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woman holding nose in stinky situation

A Simple Solution for Gross, Smelly Towels

If my inbox is any indicator of what’s going on in the world, and I believe it is, smelly towels are a growing problem for consumers—and for sure my dear EC readers. And it’s a rather new problem, the result of modern things like front-loading high-efficiency washing machines, detergents, fabric softeners, and damp conditions.

If you’ve noticed gross smelly towels in your houses, albeit appearing to be washed, dried and ready to go, perhaps you’ve also noticed that your towels have begun to repel rather than absorb water.

woman holding nose in stinky situation

Smell

That moldy, mildewy, gross smell? It’s the result of the build-up of detergents and fabric softeners that have not been rinsed out properly, together with damp, moist conditions. What you have there is a breeding ground for bacteria. No wonder you’ve got a big gross smelly laundry problem.

Absorbency

If your towels have stopped doing what they’re supposed to do well—absorb water—that problem stems from the same source: Detergent and fabric softener build-up. Seriously! With detergent and laundry, more is decidedly not better.

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Soft serene bedroom with bed pillows

How to Get Yellow-Stained Bed Pillows White Again

Favorite bed pillows get a lot of use every night. We keep clean pillowcases on them and don’t think much about the pillow inside until it’s time to change the bed linens. Lately, have you looked?

Soft serene bedroom with bed pillows

Yikes! The pristine white pillows have turned blotchy with disgusting yellowish-to-brownish stains. What on earth…? The most common response is to stuff an ugly, stained pillow into a clean pillowcase and hope never to look at that mess again!

What are those stains?

The culprit is sweat, the chemical composition of which varies from one person to the next, depending on what that person has been eating and drinking, or medications he or she is taking. Now add drool, body oils, makeup, hair products transferred to the pillow from lying down with wet hair—all of these things over time discolor pillows. But why not the pillowcase? Because we launder them frequently so stains are banished quickly before they have a chance to become a problem.

But the pillow itself? When did you last launder yours? Hmmm …

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The Best Thing I Ever Bought

Of all the columns I’ve written, the one on how to have perpetually clean carpet in my home has generated by far the most interest. And the most requests to reprint. Since you asked, here it is again, updated. Enjoy!

Okay, so maybe I should say, “One of the best things ….” but at this moment, as I write, I cannot think of anything I’ve ever purchased that can top my Hoover SteamVac. I bought it on Dec. 7, 2008, and I only know that because there it is in my Amazon order history—$147 with free shipping. All these years later – while still enjoying my spotlessly clean carpet, Hoover is still performing flawlessly. I wouldn’t want to live without my workhorse, Hoover, llustrated below on the left.

On the right, is the current version, which replaces my model—and only two bucks more than I paid 11 years ago—Hoover Power Scrub Deluxe Carpet Cleaner Machine.

Two versions of Hoover Carpet Cleaning machine

Background

I have a love/hate relationship with carpeting. I love how it looks, how it feels under my feet and how it warms up a room. But I hate dirty carpet; I cannot abide a spot. The thought of what lurks between those fibers gives me the heeby-geebies.  Read more

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