It’s time to reach into the inbox to answer more questions from my loyal readers—answers to which I suspect might be of interest to others. I love receiving your questions, by the way, so keep them coming!
Dear Mary: What is “tamari?” It is an ingredient in a recipe I would like to make for Spiced Hazelnuts. Where can I find it? Thanks for any information you can give me. Catherine
Dear Catherine: Tamari is a type of soy sauce that is gluten-free and typically used in Japanese food. You can easily substitute Chinese light soy or regular Japanese soy sauce with tamari. You should be able to find tamari in the Asian section of a good supermarket, for sure in a Japanese food store and of course, online. It is, by the way, absolutely delicious!
Dear Mary: Could you please tell me where I can purchase Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner? I used to get it at the grocery store, but they don’t carry it any longer. It is really wonderful for cleaning my stainless steel dishwasher and also glassware. Peggy
Dear Peggy: Your favorite Glisten Dishwasher Cleaner is difficult to find as you know, but readily available at Amazon. You might want to consider a cheaper alternative that gets even higher raves and reviews, Lemi Shine Multi-Purpose Appliance Cleaner, with a more far-reaching availability. Both produce the same result, in my experience, which I would rate as excellent!
Dear Mary: I have four bottles of sunscreen that have expired. I know that they have lost their full effectiveness as sunscreen, but is there another use? I hate to throw them out. Dorothy
Dear Dorothy: Great question! And good for you for realizing that sunscreen does expire (a good reason for not buying the big economy size unless you are a real sun worshipper).
Karen Burke, M.D., a dermatologist and research scientist in private practice in New York and on the dermatology faculty at Mt. Sinai Medical Center tells us that all sunscreens have an expiration date printed on the label. Typically they last a year or two, and most are good for three years. The safest bet is to throw out the old product and replace it. But in a pinch, here’s a secret: Sunscreen is still good for six months beyond its expiration date, says Dr. Burke. In that period, it’s better than nothing.
After that, if your sunscreen product has a moisturizing component (most sunscreens do) you could use them for hand lotion. Sunscreen also makes a dandy shaving cream, expired or not. Just make sure you mark these bottles clearly as “expired” so you don’t accidentally use them next summer or you could end up with a nasty sunburn.
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Dear Mary: How can I remove a very stubborn ring in my toilet? I’ve tried several things, but nothing seems to work. I read your column every day. You do help a lot of people. Thank you. Anna
Dear Anna: That stubborn ring is likely a build-up of minerals caused by minerals from hard water that have built up over time. The best way I know of to get rid of that is to don a pair of rubber gloves and go after it with a pumice stone like Pumie Toilet Bowl Ring Remover, available in home improvement and drug stores, or online. Surprisingly, pumice will not scratch the enamel finish of a porcelain toilet. Use the pumice stone as you would a sponge. Many thanks for your kind words.
Dear Readers: Some time ago, you may recall, I wrote about canned tuna, a post that sent comments and my inbox into a tizzy—not for the topic of tuna itself (between sustainability, dolphin-safe, chunk light vs. all-white albacore, there’s a lot to talk about on the subject) but for the net weight of the typical can of tuna found in today’s supermarket.
Turns out I blew it.
Dear Mary: In response to feeding hungry people on a can of tuna, where do you find 6-ounce cans of tuna? l have not seen a 6-ounce can of tuna in years. They’re all 5-ounces now! Ted
Dear Ted: You are mostly right, and my apologies for mistakenly referring to the out-of-date 6-ounce size. Many brands of canned fish and meat have joined a list of dozens of products that have downsized with no price reduction over the last decade, including cereals, coffee, toilet paper, and even mayonnaise.
I say “mostly right” because the only brand of tuna I buy is Kirkland Signature Solid White Albacore Tuna, which continues to come packed in 7-ounce cans, available at Costco warehouse clubs at a price comparable to 5-ounce cans in grocery stores and also online for non-members, albeit quite a bit more expensive—it is the best canned tuna I know of as measured in both quality and value.
Dear Mary: I so messed up. I spilled a bottle of Wite-Out on my wood dining table. It’s not the finest table in the world, but still, I’m heartsick because low-quality or not I love the style. Ann-Marie
Dear Ann-Marie: There are two products that will remove the Wite-Out from finished wood or other surfaces. You may even have one or both in your garage. WD-40 or Goo Gone, will work well. Both are available online or at your local home improvement store, in the paint aisle.
Just spray either product on the Wite-Out spill and allow it sit for a few minutes until it begins to soften. Then gently scrape it off with a blunt object like a plastic knife edge. That should do it!
Dear Mary: My husband and I have been debt-free for three years. My father has recently been very ill, and my mother spilled the beans about their debt. They have two bank credit cards plus several store cards—all with large balances. They also have a mortgage, HEL (home equity loan), and a big car payment.
I’m frustrated, disgusted, and heartbroken to find out my parents have so much debt in their 60s. My husband and I paid off one major credit-card account for them that had a balance of several thousand dollars. Afterwards, my mother went out and bought a new outfit on that card—something she did not need.
I’m not willing to do that again or to go into debt to pay off their debt. I explained to her that with that kind of debt they will never retire. Am I wrong? I would appreciate any advice you might have for us. Julie
Dear Julie: First, congratulations on your debt-free status! You have my utmost respect for having achieved it.
I am sorry to hear about your father’s illness but that doesn’t change my response: You shouldn’t bail them out by going into debt, and I think you’ve discovered why paying their debts even if that doesn’t require you to go into debt isn’t such a hot idea, either. I would say the same thing if your parents were writing to me about you. You cannot fix anyone by making them comfortable in their misery. That only enables them to stay there. And buy more stuff.
All that being said, your parents are not accountable to you for how they choose to live and the way they manage their money. You cannot legislate their lives, so you should stop trying. Your goal should be to always remain a fragrance in their lives; never become an odor.
For these reasons, I suggest you back off from their financial situation and begin diligently to save and invest now because the day may come that you decide you want to contribute to their day-to-day care. But even then you will not be responsible for their debts.
Should they die with debt, their unsecured creditors will look to their estate—not their heirs—for payment. And if the estate is not large enough to cover those debts, in nearly every situation that’s their creditors’ problem, not yours. Just don’t count on a big inheritance.
I hope everyone reading this—regardless of age—will take stock of the way they are managing their finances and preparing for the future. The best gift we will ever give our kids is our own solvency. In that way, we will not become a financial burden to them.
Should your parents or anyone reading this want to find the path out of debt and into solvency (as you have), I would love to be their guide and coach through the book I wrote more than 20 years ago—Debt-Proof Living: How to Get Out of Debt and Stay Out. It is as relevant today as it was when I wrote the first edition. It’s my story together with the simple steps we took—and anyone can take—to get out of debt and change their lives. You can find my other books online as well.
Got a question? While a black metal mailbox complete with a red flag filled with handwritten notes and letters is a beautiful thing, the best way to reach me is at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please understand that I get messages by the thousands, so I am unable to reply personally. However, I respond to as many as possible in posts here on this blog and in my syndicated column, Everyday Cheapskate, which appears in many mid-size newspapers across the country.