Want to learn more ways to save time and money every day? Your fellow readers are ready to share their best tips. Get ready, you’re about to say it more than a few times—what a great idea!

Trade school student painting car

PROJECT FREE PAINT JOB. My car is 7-years old with 127,000 miles—and paid for. I wanted to get it painted to last me another 3 years but didn’t want to spend the $700 I was told it would cost. I have a friend who is a teacher at our a local BOCES school (a training center for adults and high school students) and he said they would do the job at no cost—the only thing I would pay for is the paint. I checked into it and learned that many trade schools that teach automotive painting need cars for student projects. They were happy to get my car for the students to learn on and they did a masterful job, with teacher oversight. John

SEE CLEARLY TILL THE STORM PASSES BY. Rain-X Windshield Treatment is a product that repels water from a car’s windshield. It really works. I can still see well, even when a truck passes me splashing water, mud and slush over my windshield. You have to really rub hard to get the streaks off and the windshield must be totally dry when you apply the Rain-X. Being able to see at all times during a blinding rainstorm saves me much more than money. Brittany
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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 Read more

Well, you’ve done it again! You clever readers have come up with another batch of fabulous ways that all of us can save time and money doing stuff like cleaning the annoying, cloudy film from your car’s headlight covers—and lots more. 

Cleaning car head light with toothpaste

AUTO CLEANER. Use plain old baking soda on a damp rag to remove bugs, tar and anything else from your vehicle. Works great, even on the grill and chrome work. Leaves no residue or odor and won’t harm the paint. I just make a paste with baking soda and water, clean away and just rinse off. Works better than any commercial product I’ve tried. This method even cleans away the cloudy film on headlight covers. Bud

CUSTOM FLOOR MATS. I wanted floor mats for our mini-van so I stopped by our local car dealership. Boy, was I floored (pardon the pun). I checked a discount department store and while their mats were priced more reasonably, they didn’t fit well. I found a perfect solution by buying clear plastic runner material that is available by the yard at the home improvement center. With a utility knife I customized the fit around the seat hardware. This saved a lot of money and works beautifully. Judith

FRIDGE DEODORIZER. Used coffee grinds can eliminate even the worst refrigerator odors. I store kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage with a distinct odor) in my refrigerator regularly and I don’t smell it anymore! Simply take out the used coffee filter with the coffee grinds in it and place it in your refrigerator in an open container. It works better than baking soda or any other commercial remedy. I’ve tried them all. Just replace the coffee grinds when they dry up. Jay Read more

It wasn’t our fault that a drunk driver plowed into our parked car in the middle of the night while we were on vacation more than 500 miles from home. The car was a total loss but no one was hurt; it could have been worse.

Our loss was insured and we got just enough money from the insurance company to pay off the loan. We wanted to replace that car anyway.

To buy a new car would have required borrowing the down payment and taking on bigger monthly payments. We could have financed a used car with lower payments, but that was beneath what we thought we deserved. A better option—or so we thought— was to lease a new car with nothing down and lower payments than we’d been used to making.

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There’s nothing like microfiber for cleaning just about any surface in and about the house. If you’ve never used a microfiber cloth, you’re going to be amazed by how fast and efficiently you can clean!

For household dusting, use a microfiber cloth dry as you would a traditional dusting rag. (Notice how it acts like a dust magnet.) But for more general cleaning, you always want microfiber to be damp, even when using to dry a surface.

The first time you use a microfiber cloth, force of habit will have you soaking it with water and adding loads of soap—both of which will reduce the cloth’s effectiveness.

I find the best way to use these cloths is with as little water as possible. You can use microfiber cloths to clean virtually any hard surface. Try them on your bathroom or kitchen surfaces and you’ll be amazed at the results.

If you’re dealing with a fairly dirty situation, use a standard cloth and soapy water to wash all the dirt off first, then rinse. Now polish over with your damp microfiber cloth. Notice the smear-free, sparkling finish. Sorry to sound like a bad TV commercial, but these things are really good! I think you’ll agree once you hear things getting squeaky clean and shiny with so little effort.

Microfiber cloths come in varying sizes and grades to clean every surface imaginable from eyeglasses to countertops, windows, and cars, too. The best microfiber cloths are made of 70 percent polyester and 30 percent polyamide (70/30).  If you wash and dry them properly (without fabric softener) and keep them in good condition, you’ll have them for many years to come.

HOUSEHOLD CLEANING

VibraWipe Microfiber Cleaning Cloths. I’ve tested every imaginable grade and size of microfiber cloth out there. For me, a cloth I use for housecleaning needs to be easy to use and able to stand up to my extreme laundry habits. (Note: Never use any laundry softeners when laundering microfiber.) I don’t want cloths that fray around the edge, give off tons of lint, stain easily or shrink over time. I’m hard on household linens because I demand so much from them. VibraWipes microfiber cloths (these are 80/20) are very good. A pack of 8 cloths has lasted me for years now and I see no signs of them wearing out anytime soon.

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An automobile is a major purchase and the consumer purchase most likely to throw a major kink into your fragile financial situation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What’s required is a little radical thinking and forethought.

New cars on a car lot

Here are the three rules to follow when buying a car:

RULE 1. Pay cash. Hang on. I know you may not be able to do that right now. Just be patient and I will teach you how. This principle is so important that I will repeat it: Pay cash for your car.

RULE 2. Opt for a late model. Make sure you are not the first owner. Let someone else take that 20 percent depreciation hit. Your goal is to drive the best late-model, previously owned car you can afford paid for with the cash you have.

RULE 3. Always make payments. I hope that got your attention! On the one hand, I just told you always to pay cash for your cars. And now I am telling you always to make payments. Both principles are true. You must adopt the attitude that as long as you intend to own a car you must cover the the cost by making monthly payments to yourself ahead of time—in anticipation of your next car. This way you are always earning interest (because you hold that money in a savings account), not paying it.

Even if your current car is doing well I can promise you that car will not last forever. That’s why I want to challenge you to start today so you can pay cash for your next car.  Read more

As you know, I travel quite a bit, which means I have the need to rent cars. Most of the time that goes well, and by “well” I mean I land a fantastic daily rate and I get to test drive a nice new car. Other times? Not so well, and now I’m talking about the stench of stale, cigarette smoke made even worse by trying to cover it up with an equally stinky floral spray.

 

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I was reminded of my last bout with car odor when I heard from EC reader Neil, who inquires, “Will Nok-Out work on removing smoke odor from a vehicle?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” and one I wish I could also offer to every car rental agency. In fact, I know of no other way to truly eliminate that odor—not cover it up with another odor—than Nok-Out.

Let’s do a quick review for what makes Nok-Out so amazing: It’s hypoallergenic, non-toxic, non-staining and non-masking which means it leaves behind only a fresh, clean smell. I can’t guarantee Neil can achieve that “new-car” smell, but I promise that if he follows the following procedures carefully, that car will be free of the lingering smell of cigarettes. Read more

Dear Mary: We have an aging car that is a lemon. We are keeping it going with bailing wire until we can afford a different car. When that time comes, besides our temptation to shove it over a cliff, what should we do with our lemon? In good conscience I cannot even donate it to a charity. Sue Ellen

Dear Sue Ellen: If you feel it is not drivable when that time comes, about your only option would be to sell it for salvage. Check with a local auto dismantling yard. Depending on the make and model, they may decide to “part it out,” which might make the car slightly more valuable to them than it is to you. In that case, they will probably accept the complete car. If you sell it for only the scrap metal, you will likely have to remove the engine, tires, radiator and other vital parts ahead of time, delivering just the metal. Just don’t expect to get much money from the deal. You may discover that it’s easier to drive a lemon than to get rid of one!

In the meantime as you wait out this car’s useful life, you might enjoy knowing how another reader lives happily with an old car. Read more