Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions

Ask Me Anything: Best Robot Vac, Denim Dye Transfer, Medicare HELP! and More

Once again, it time to reach into the mailbag to pull out a handful of questions from you, my dear readers. I never know what I’ll find, but I can usually count on some questions having to do with issues of personal finance, others that zero-in on household quandaries and from time to time, some that are just plain weird. I usually set those aside. And who knows? Perhaps sometime soon, you’ll find an entire post devoted to weirdies from the mailbag.

Multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions

But for now, on with the questions!


1. Best robotic vacuums?

2. How to remove denim dye transfer?

3. Resource to compare Medicare options, please

4. Insuring youthful drivers

5. How to dispose of used cooking oil?

6. My deadbeat relatives


Q1: Best robotic vacuums

I’d love to know your opinion of the best robotic vacuums. My situation is that I have a dog that sheds, a home that is 2,000 sq. ft., and floors are laminate and carpet. Thank you in advance for your help.

A: My pick for Best Inexpensive robot vacuum continues to be this Eufy Anker RoboVac 30C. This is the Eufy robot I own and use continuously. It is really awesome.

Because you have a dog that sheds (I don’t, so I cannot give personal experience here, only the unsolicited reports I have received), this iRobot Roomba 614 deserves your consideration. It gets rave reviews from pet owners for its ability to pick up bagfuls of cat and dog hair. Just know that it is not as automatic or “robotic” as the Eufy Anker RoboVac 30C.

Those are the two I recommend you consider and compare thoroughly. Hope that helps!

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Q2: How to remove denim dye transfer

I bought a new pair of Levis last Spring and since then have laundered them 8 to 10 times. They fit great! The problem is these jeans have ruined two light-colored summer purses and continue to transfer dye onto every light surface they come in contact with, including my bone-colored car seats. I contacted Levi’s, who said they were unable to help me and told me to go back to the store I bought them at. I keep receipts for a long time, but not for six months for a pair of pants. Help!

A: Even without seeing the problem, I know what you are talking about. You need Lestoil. I am confident that Lestoil can take care of all of these problems. Spray Lestoil full strength directly on any washable items that have rubbed up against the jean. Let it sit for about 20 mins (or even overnight), then launder as usual.

For the leather purses, I would treat them as well with a weak solution of 2 tablespoons Lestoil in 1 cup warm water, or with a bar of good saddle soap following the instructions on the label.

For those car seats, Lestoil is your friend there, too. Use that solution of Lestoil and warm water with a soft clean white terrycloth to scrub those stains, rinsing well and then buffing dry with another clean soft cloth. You may need to repeat, depending on how long those stains have been there.

As for those Levi’s, I’ll bet they’re dark indigo. That dye is notorious for bleeding and transferring. I don’t have a surefire way to “set” the dye, but there is some evidence out there that soaking them in white household vinegar may help. Fill a container with warm water, add 2 cups of vinegar and then let them soak for a few hours. Rinse, launder as usual in cold water. Never put dark indigo denim in the dryer.

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Q3: Resource to compare Medicare options

Can you recommend a good source to compare the pros and cons of Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap plans? All the sources I have found seem to have a clear bias toward one or the other, often seeming to be promoting their own business. I’m not looking for specific plan details, just a balanced comparison of the two kinds of coverage. Thank you for all of the wonderful information you provide!

A: I do, but first let me commend you for recognizing the clear bias you speak of. Here’s the problem: These resources who are attempting to “educate” you and advise you on your decisions stand to benefit financially when you take their advice. That’s a problem because their advice cannot help but be biased. (These companies are advertising heavily right now during Medicare open season.)

Instead, I recommend that when it comes to any kind of insurance, you research and learn from sources that do not have any vested interest in the decision that you make. That is what you will find in an excellent book which I recommend you read this book from cover to cover: Get What’s Yours for Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Costs, by Philip Moeller is easy-to-read and covers everything you need to know so you ask the right questions and make your own well-informed decisions. This book should become required reading for everyone approaching age 65.

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Q4: Insuring youthful drivers

Our 15-year-old daughter recently got her learner’s permit. I called our auto insurance agent about how to handle this and she told us to add our daughter to our policy, which we did. Then we got a bill for an additional premium and paid the bill. Later, we heard that a teen driver with a learner’s permit is already covered under a parent’s (or guardian’s) policy. Do you think we are being charged an additional premium for coverage we have already? I can’t seem to get a straight answer from the company.

A: According to the Insurance Information Institute, most insurers extend coverage for learners on the customer’s existing policy. However, this is not required by law, so it is difficult to say if your company does or not. In that they are vague when you inquire, I’d be a little suspicious, myself.

If you think you are being overcharged, ask the company to provide you with a copy of its underwriting policies so you can read them for yourself. If they are unwilling to do this, contact your  state’s department of insurance for assistance. Should you determine that you’ve been overcharged or feel you’ve been ripped off, contact your local Better Business Bureau as well.

On the other hand, if you discover your company is unique in that it does not cover youthful learners on your existing policy, you should shop around before your next renewal. My thought would be that if they are not competitive in this one area of coverage, are they failing to give you the best rates in other areas as well? They only way to find out it is to look around and ask a lot of questions.

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Q5: How to dispose of used cooking oil?

I need to know what to do with the oil after deep frying, like oil from my FryDaddy that gets cloudy and thick. Can it be filtered somehow, and if not how should I dispose of it?

A: You can reuse oil once or twice, but give it a sniff before the next use; if it smells rancid, get rid of it. Each time you reuse the oil, the oil deteriorates and the smoke point (the temperature at which it will burn) degrades. Strain it through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth to remove any particles and crumbs, and store it in an airtight container in a dark place.

There are several ways to safely dispose of used cooking oil, but it should never be poured down the drain. To throw it away, allow the oil to cool. Carefully pour it into a strong sealable container, such as an old jar, milk carton or another disposable container with a lid. Then, dispose of it with your regular household trash.

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Q6: My deadbeat relatives

How does one go about telling a loved one she is ruining her financial life? I have an older sister who is a spendaholic. Her husband is co-dependent and they have a spoiled brat for a daughter who gets everything she wants. They are at least $25,000 in credit card debt, have a car loan and other debts and bills, yet continue to spend like they have money.

Recently, she picked up a $10,000 bonus check. She told me she was going to “knock down some of the balances.” And this week they are shopping for a hot tub to put in their back yard! What is the best way for me to confront her?

A: I know how difficult it is to stand by and watch as those we love make serious financial blunders. But these are not your dependent children. It is really none of your business what they do with their money or the way they raise their child. The way you conduct your financial life will speak much louder than anything you could say.

Keep your unsolicited advice to yourself and your nose out of their financial lives. In the meantime, devise a plan of recovery you would recommend just in case they come to you and ask for your advice. They just might.

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Got an engaging question you’d like to ask Mary? One that would be of interest to lots of other readers who may be facing the same situation or need? You can send it to her HERE. Then watch for her response in an upcoming “Ask Me Anything” post. 


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  1. Denise says:

    Dye transfer: I swear by Shout Color Catchers in the washer. One or two with your jeans, wash darks seperately, remove clothes from the washer immediately. Indigo dye just doesn’t set. It will always transfer.

  2. Richard says:

    How about the weather. When we lived in Denver in the early 70s, we were told if you don’t like the weather just wait five minutes. They were right.

  3. Elaine Behrendt says:

    I bought a Eufy robo vacuum using your advice.. I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!! It really had to be emptied ALOT at…didnt know my house was so dirty. It cleans, total, about 1500 sq ft..low pile carpet and linoleum..wonderful job…highly recommended!

  4. Caroline says:

    Relatives who live above their means are a lose-lose situation for those who save. My husband and I did the beans-and-rice thing and did without much for years as those relatives spent every cent they had and more on credit cards. They did ask for advice for a while but then always had an excuse why it wouldn’t work for them. Their kids “had” to have cell phones, car insurance, cars (even as “adults”), expensive colleges, etc. Now they’re mad at us because we’re debt-free, our kids have good jobs and no college debt, and have we plans for retirement. We haven’t closed the door but are tired of the abuse and blame game. Yes, they had some temporary health issues but they also compounded it by making further poor financial decisions.

    • crabbyoldlady says:

      Just be glad they don’t come to you for money. Both my daughters are in their 40s, spend too much and continue to make stupid decisions. They are always coming to me for money. Currently, one wants $20,000 for implanted dentures!

    • Frugal Fran says:

      Your sister would not be mad at you for being debt free if that info was not shared with her. We do not share that we are debt free with anyone other than our children. No one needs to know that our children do not have college loans. You may want to consider being more stingy with financial information.

  5. Sue in TX says:

    I agree! DON’T get involved with spendthrift relatives – either as an adviser or a lender. We have done both, and all that comes of it is ill-feelings and insomnia. We have a dear friend who finally came to the same conclusion after semi-supporting a grandson and his growing family for years.

  6. Shelly Alvine says:

    I am a SHIP volunteer counselor. There is a SHIP available in every state. We are charged with giving unbiased information about everything to do with Medicare. Go to and look for a SHIP in your state. An experienced counselor will be able to answer your questions and/or point you in the right direction and you may be able to do it over the phone. “The SHIP Mission is to empower, educate, and assist Medicare-eligible individuals, their families, and caregivers through objective outreach, counseling, and training to make informed health insurance decisions that optimize access to care and benefits.”

    • Dorothy Meyers says:

      we went to the aging and disability agency for our county before my husband needed to start Medicare. He was on my group insurance while I was working. The lady at the agency was very helpful and gave us some very sound advice. One thing that was interesting to me was that you get better coverage with traditional Medicare than advantage plans especially if you have pre-existing conditions.

  7. Linda says:

    About Medicare. Anyone with questions about their Medicare plans should call their local SHIP (Statewide health insurance program). Volunteers are unbiased and can provide information on all plans. It’s a year round program not just during open enrollment that can help with any Medicare or health insurance related issue from co-pays to questions about billing and enrollment.

  8. Ginger says:

    Every state is required to provide help to people signing up for Medicare. Go to (not .com or .org, those are private organizations with a likely bias) and scroll down to click “find local help” or call 1800 Medicare to get help choosing a plan. They are probably pretty busy right now but should be able to help at no cost.

  9. Betty Thomas says:

    I would like to add something to the lady that has a financially irresponsible sister she is worried about. From personal experience I know how important it is to resolve, that when her sisters bottom falls out of her fantasy financial world that she be there as a shoulder to cry on and only offer advice if asked. The most important thing is do not fall into a trap of loaning her any money to get out of their desperate condition. They have to do it themselves and if you help the chances are good that the help will be temporary as they go back to their spendthrift ways once the immediate need is met. When I loaned a sister in law money to get out of trouble it left me upset and even mad when they continued their foolish spending. Save yourself that stress.

  10. Jeanne says:

    Regarding disposal of used cooking oil: Check with your local recycler (if you have one) and see if they accept used oil for recycling. Our local city recycler even gives out sturdy, one-gallon containers for free, just for that purpose.
    Regarding the spendaholic family: In addition to devising a plan should they come for advice, I’d also develop a plan in case they come asking for a “loan” to bail them out. You’ve covered this many times, Mary.

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