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. Maxine Conwell says:

    Regarding Medicare choices, Isn’t there a legitimate, nonbiased resource that is free? Like a Medicare information site? Not only does the book you recommend cost $14, it is outdated. Surely there have been changes made in the past four years!

  2. Emily Booth says:

    My best friend divorced her husband after their 3rd bankruptcy filing. He was a spendthrift who saw nothing wrong with debt. He spent their retirement savings. He thought there would always be money and saw no reason to save. She was a saver. She’s now with someone who is frugal and she’s happier.

    I lent money to the daughter of an old family friend. She claimed she would pay it back; I let it go. She called back 2 years later to borrow more. I balked. I sent her 1/2 of what she requested, again, letting it go. I didn’t think she’d pay it back. She did. She enclosed her phone number. I wrote it down but I didn’t call her and don’t plan to.

  3. Angie Schrantz says:

    Medicare is a complicated and moving monster. There are agents that will give you the comparison you desire and will give their best advice for which they may or may not suggest to you. I am one of those agents. I have been selling Medicare products and prescription plans for almost 10 yrs. I am very dedicated in helping you get what is right for you. I sell both Medicare supplements and Advantage plans (all-in-one’s). There are pros and cons with both. If you care to reach out to me, I’ll give you my honest opinion and help you understand it. I won’t SELL you on either plan…only give you the info you need to make a decision. I understand it’s complicated and sometimes difficult to make the decision. I’m here to help. If you choose to go another route, I wish you only the best. You may look up my information at Blessings!

  4. Amy says:

    For help with Medicare. First, I agree with others who suggest local SHIP programs. You can also go to go through the prompts for comparing plans available in your area. It is very helpful since you can compare the plans side by side. Everything is written in plain English and not “insurance ease”

  5. Belle Mieloch says:

    We had 3 different Medicare policies we now Aetna and are very pleased with them our policies cover all medical costs it reasonable priced.I just had major spine surgery and will pay nothing out of pocket If call them they give advice on which policy is right for you

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