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Put Yourself on an Allowance

It used to be that when I felt broke, I chased away the horrible feeling by turning to my bevy of credit cards. As long as I could spend money, it felt like I had money. And the more I used my credit cards to prove to myself that I wasn’t really broke, the more debt I created until finally I couldn’t fake it any longer.

It took me thirteen years to get out of the financial mess I got my family into. It was bad. But I did it and in the process I learned a very important lesson: No matter the situation, all of us need some money we can call our own.

At some point during that long journey back to financial health, my husband and I agreed to put me on an allowance. It changed everything for me. As long as I had my own money and it wasn’t money I was sneaking out of the account in hopes that he would not find out, I didn’t feel broke. And when I didn’t feel broke, I was much more willing to be frugal with the rest of our income. My change of attitude made all the difference.

A Vanilla Bean Hedge Fund

Back in 2013, I bought half a pound of Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans for $34.95, to make a pure vanilla extract for Christmas gifts,

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In 2016, because I didn’t want to run short as by then my homemade vanilla extract had become so popular with friends and family, I made a second purchase of the same quantity of vanilla beans from the same company. The price had suddenly become $66.95. It was shocking, but considering how many gifts I knew I could make from a half pound—plus never having to worry about running out for my own baking needs—I took a deep breath and carried on.

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One year later, I’m grateful I made that purchase. Today, the price of one-half-pound of Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans from the same company has skyrocketed to $276 (that’s $552 per lb.). The reason? A tragic vanilla bean shortage with global outreach. That story is HERE.

Great Recipes Know No Season

My mother-in-law, Gwen Hunt, was a very organized woman. She had file folders for everything you can imagine including one containing lists of her most valued possessions along with the name of the person who would fall heir to that item upon her passing.

Among the items I received are two three-ring binders, filled with magnetic scrapbook pages into which she had carefully placed hundreds of handwritten and newspaper-clipped recipes. Next to them are little handwritten notes about the recipes. She includes each recipe’s origin along with other tidbits of information she undoubtedly believed I would want to know, like for example, how many cookies she baked for her parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration on April 27, 1950 (10 dozen each of six different recipes, neatly arranged on facing pages). Many of the recipes are dated 1942 and, she notes, were in her original trousseau collection.

I stuck these binders away in a closet after we settled the estate and sold the house. I guess I just wasn’t ready to admit that her many years of cooking and mothering were over. Until this past week.

Going from one page to the next has been like sitting down with her over tea, once again. Oh, how she loved to recall names, occasions and “lovely times” with her friends and family. Each one of the recipes reminds me so much of her, and in that I’ve found comfort.

The Wonders of Epsom Salt

I can recall vividly—and count on one hand—the migraine headaches I’ve had in my life, all of them before age ten. Once I turned double digits, I outgrew them. Until a couple of months ago.

With no warning at all, there I was back to my 8-year-old self, flat on my back with a raging migraine. Why now, after all these years?

In reading up on the latest findings on what causes migraine headaches, I discovered how important magnesium is to overall health. Turns out that an estimated 80 percent of the U.S. population suffer from magnesium deficiency causing all kinds of health issues—one of them being migraine headaches. But  here’s the problem with that: magnesium supplements are not necessarily the answer because magnesium is not easily absorbed through our digestive tracts.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when I learned that common, ordinary Epsom salt is one of the richest sources of magnesium, which just happens to be easily absorbed through the skin—by soaking in it. In a nice warm bath!

You can be sure that Epsom salt soaks are now part of my routine to boost my magnesium and hopefully avoid migraines in the future.

Epsom salt, also known as hydrated magnesium sulfate (not to be confused with table salt, which is not at all the same thing) is plentiful, inexpensive and available at drugstores and supermarkets everywhere. And it has dozens of other practical uses and health benefits, too.

When It Says FREE! Look for the Hidden Price Tag

I couldn’t pass it up, and I mean that literally. Someone had dumped it right in the middle of my shortcut through the back of a neighborhood shopping center. I had two choices: Hit it head-on or stop to investigate.

Closer examination revealed a unique piece of furniture. It was a child-sized, solid wood, combination five-drawer-dresser-wardrobe. I dragged it to the side of the road and found it to be fairly intact. It would need a little work, but it had definite possibilities. Even in its needy condition, it was FREE!

Had this item appeared in the classified ads or at a garage sale with a price tag, would I have been so eager? Not likely. It wasn’t on my list of needs, or even my wants. But FREE? That’s different. I’ll take it!

Haven’t we always believed that FREE means we get something for nothing? That, if it’s free, it’s good? That there’s no obligation, no strings attached? Well, we shouldn’t believe that.

Rarely does anything really come for FREE. Before you accept anything that seems to be FREE, you should look for the hidden price tag.

Price Tag: A Purchase. FREE with purchase only represents something free to you if you would have made the purchase anyway. If the freebie is what closed the sale, you didn’t get anything for free at all. You only paid less than you would have otherwise.

The Frugal Lifestyle

I’ll admit I used to think frugality was a distasteful lifestyle forced upon the poor. I believed “frugal” was synonymous with never buying new clothes and dumpster diving under the cover of night.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn. And learn I did—and continue to learn—that is the path to building wealth on any income.

I’d say the most fun I’ve had learning the fine art of frugality has been in reading The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.

Webster’s defines “frugal” as behavior characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources. The opposite is “wasteful,” a lifestyle marked by lavish spending and hyperconsumption. Wealth has nothing to do with how much you earn, but what you do with it and how much you keep.

Salt Stains on Leather Boots? Old Paint on Carpet? No Worries! And Lots More

It’s March 14 or 3-14 … which looks curiously similar to 3.14 or Pi (Greek letter “π”) …. which means it’s PI Day! And we’re celebrating in the DPL Bookstore. TODAY all of Mary Hunt books and DVDs in stock are just $3.14 each plus shipping, only while supplies last. Scroll down for details.

Salt. It’s mandatory in a human diet. But salt can be as destructive as it is needful due to its ability to eat holes through metal and leave ugly stains on footwear. Here’s a terrific way to take care of that problem—quick and easy!

SALT STAINS. Olive oil removes salt and stains from leather boots and shoes. Shines the leather, too. It’s an Italian thing!

SUPER-QUICK DRY. Need to dry a pair of jeans or pajamas in a hurry? Put them and a completely dry bath towel into the dryer. They’ll be dry in a fraction of the time they would have taken on their own.

ICE BAG. Pour 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol into a quart-size Ziploc bag and seal tightly. Put it into another bag and seal it for double protection. Label clearly as non-edible and freeze. It will remain slushy because the alcohol cannot freeze. Perfect to mold to the wounded area when you need an ice pack

PAINT STAINS. Even if it’s been there for a long time, you can get latex paint out of carpet or fabric with lacquer thinner (not paint thinner), available at hardware or home improvement centers. Using a clean white cloth, wet the dried paint with the thinner. Allow it to penetrate then gently blot with the cloth. Be sure to test the carpet or fabric for color fastness in an inconspicuous place first, keep the thinner out of the reach of children and pets and use in a well-ventilated area.

CLOSET STRATEGY. When you change your closets over for a new season, put the hangers on the rod backwards. When you wear an item, turn the hangers the conventional way. At the end of the season you can easily see what you haven’t worn and the items you need to evaluate for culling.

POWER BRUSH.  If you use an electric toothbrush and are like me you hate throwing away those old, not so cheap but need-to-be replaced toothbrush heads. Hang onto them because I recently found a use for them. The stones in my wedding rings tend to get dull and dirty from everyday wear but now I just place an old head on the toothbrush and spin the dirt away. Once you decide to replace the entire toothbrush hang on to the old one to be used for deep down house cleaning in smaller places such as baseboards, corners or between the knobs on your faucets.

VISIT THE MEN’S DEPARTMENT. Buy mens toiletries if you have a choice when it comes to unscented deodorant, shaving foam and hair colorings, for example. Products manufactured specifically for men are significantly cheaper ounce for ounce than those made for women. Go figure.

STRAIGHT CUT. Ladies: Need only the bottom of your long hair trimmed a barber can cut just as straight as a beautician. And the cost? Typically, less than half the salon price.

HEARTBREAK IN THE DRYER. Melted-on crayon can be removed by first applying WD-40 to the area, working it into the stain with your fingers. Once the WD-40 has begun to break down the petroleum base of the crayon, apply concentrated detergent to remove both the stain and and the WD-40. Put back into the washer and launder as usual. It works like a charm.

SUEDE SPOT REMOVER. Most leather cleaning products caution that they should not be used on suede. Recently I managed to some kind of ugly gunk on the suede portion of my leather shoe. I grabbed the Folex Carpet Spot Remover (my favorite for carpet spots) and an old tooth brush and went to work on it. It worked fabulously to remove the stain. Stains treated with Folex just don’t reappear either—in carpet or suede shoes.

CUCUMBERS. You know how the expensive English cucumbers at the store are wrapped in plastic? The guys at Cooks Illustrated tested wrapping regular uncut and cut cucumbers in plastic wrap. Both work and amazingly to allow you to keep any cucumber fresh for up to a week!


TODAY ONLY … ALL MARY HUNT BOOKS IN THE DPL BOOKSTORE ARE JUST $3.14 PLUS SH.

We’re celebrating PI DAY in the DPL Bookstore. TODAY all of Mary Hunt books and DVDs in stock are just $3.14 each plus shipping, but only while supplies last!

The following titles are available at this writing (as titles sell out they’ll disappear from the bookstore, showing only what remains.)

Debt-Proof Your Marriage

The Smart Woman’s Guide to Saving for Retirement

Debt-Proof Living

Live Your Life for Half the Price

7 Money Rules for Life

DPL Live! 2-Hour Seminar DVD Set

Cheaper Better Faster

Look What I Got For Christmas!

I love gadgets and apparently I’ve not kept that a secret from my friends and family. I’m still excited about these five new gadgets I got for Christmas—each one amazing and fun to use.

THE KNIT KIT. What a cool little gadget. It contains the nine essential knitting tools every knitter needs to have handy at all times—all of them excellent quality and cleverly tucked into this handy gadget. No more having to dig and search for a stitch counter, tape measure, crochet hook, yarn/thread cutter, stitch markers, point protectors, darning needle, needle gauge and collapsible scissors. All nine essentials are in there and part of The Knit Kit. What a brilliant and clever gadget. I love it so much I just can’t stop knitting. About $30.