You should see my email inbox. Yikes! It’s overflowing with reader questions, tips, stories, feedback, rebuttals, and all kinds of love from you, my dear readers. In this post, I’m making a tiny dent in the pile with these responses to a handful of your questions on auto leasing, homemade laundry detergent, and more.


Colorful graphic depicting Everyday Cheapskate readers with their hands in the air with their questions for Mary


Here is a quick summary of the questions answered in today’s post. You can click on one to jump straight to it or just scroll down for all.


  1. Lease or buy a car?

  2. Which is better? Powder or liquid laundry detergent?

  3. Can you put silver in the dishwasher?

  4. Is my washer repairman right?

  5. Daughter not going to college—now what?


Q1: Help! Should we lease or buy a new car?

Dear Cheapskate: My wife and I are disagreeing. I want to lease a new car now because ours is old and paying for repairs is like flushing money down the drain. She wants to keep it until we can buy a better car. I hate car trouble and think peace of mind is something to be considered. I’m sure we can afford the payment, but she’s not. What should we do? James


Dear James: I’d rather shove toothpicks under my fingernails than ever lease a new car again, which is another story, but enough about me.

Here’s my best advice: Do whatever you must to keep the old car running for now.

Then, for the next 12 months, live as though you are making $400 monthly lease payments—but make those payments to yourselves. Don’t even think about being late, just as if you were under a stern leasing contract.

At the end of a year will have two things: A good idea of your comfort zone for big lease payments and $4,800 cash. Now you’ve got options.

1) You can sell the clunker and together with the money buy a used car or 2) You can make a down payment on a newer car.

To me buying a car is far better than jumping into a lease where you will spend a fortune and have nothing, not even a car, to show for it at the end of the lease period.

Thanks for writing and for calling me “Cheapskate.” I love that because, as you may know, I used to be a world-class spendthrift and that nearly ruined my life.

Learning to live frugally turned my life around so I wear that cheapskate moniker with pride and joy.

MORE: My 22-Year Auto Lease Nightmare

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multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions.

If it’s Friday, it just might be Ask Me Anything day when I reach into the mailbag and pull out three recent questions from my loyal, loving readers—two of them with the same name!

My dog recently had a “scare” and piddled on my hardwood floor. I did not catch it right away. I now have a stain. Is there anything you would recommend to get rid of it without refinishing the floor? Thank you. Linda

Dear Linda: This is tough. It’s difficult to know if you have a stain sitting on top of the floor or if the floor’s stain has been penetrated and bleached by the heavy presence of ammonia in dog urine. Regardless, it’s surely worth a try to see if this can be reversed. Here is a recipe and instruction for removing dog urine from a hardwood floor:

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There’s nothing like a series of sunny days in late winter to awaken my inner gardener. Apparently, I’m not the only one as evidenced by my inbox these past few weeks.

Mary Hunt's garden in spring

Dear Mary:  I just moved into my first home after living in an apartment for the last 10 years. As a novice home chef, I’ve been dreaming of the day I could grow my own vegetable and herb garden and have a nice yard with grass and shrubbery as well. 

Do you have any suggestions for some basic tools I need to get started? Thanks for your help. I love your column and read it daily! Asher

Dear Asher:  I’ve got gardening on my mind, too. Currently, mine in this photo is under a few inches of snow but I have faith. I know that in a few weeks we’ll be back to temperatures in the 70s, which gives me a new appreciation for the condition known as spring fever! I’ve got it bad and can’t wait to get my hands dirty and my garden planted.

With that in mind, I came up with a list of my favorite inexpensive yard and garden gadgets and gear.

While this may look like a sizable investment, it’s not likely you will need all of these items on day one. Just hang onto this list as you begin to furnish your tool shed.

I’m confident you can rely on this list to build a collection of garden tools that will work well for many years to come. I’d rather see you spend a few more dollars on good quality tools from the start than to find yourself having to replace poor quality items every season. Been there, done that and wasn’t very happy about it.

Here for your gardening pleasure are my best inexpensive garden tools:

Gloves, trowel and weeder for the DIY gardener

1. Gloves

I tried so many until I found the gloves that work for me. Atlas Touch Gloves are awesome. Made of cotton with nitrile (similar to vinyl) coating on the palm and fingers, these gloves fit so well and are so flexible I can easily open a can, pick up a small pebble or even take a call while wearing them.

A pack of six pair comes in an assortment of pastel colors and sizes small, medium and large. These gloves are machine washable. Best garden gloves ever.

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Our kids are fortunate to be growing up in the most progressive and exciting time in history. Sadly, the very culture that offers them the world is also perpetrating this lie:

You are entitled to have everything you want even if you don’t have the money to pay for it. It’s not a problem. You deserve it. Get it now and you can pay for it later!


There’s a huge consumer-credit industry out there planning to give your kids their very own credit cards—personal passports into the abyss of consumer debt. This will not require your permission or approval, something that one reader is experiencing first hand.

Dear Mary: My daughter who is in college got a credit card and now she is in over her head, unable to pay what she owes.

She works part-time and makes a very small salary. With the high interest and late fees, the balance is now over $2,500. I will have to step in and handle the account.

How can I negotiate with the credit-card company to settle for less? I don’t know how she got this card on her salary but she kept quiet about not being able to make the payments until we started getting collection calls for her. I appreciate your thoughts and expertise. Millie

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Over the years, I’ve had many wonderful opportunities to address audiences large and small, at all kinds of event from retreats to conventions, college chapels, and conferences throughout the U.S and abroad.

It’s one of the best things I get to do and I am always honored to be invited. The part I enjoy most happens when I’m done and it’s time to take questions from the audience. I value the trust my readers have in me, whether at a live event or right here on the blog.


A Gift You’ll Never Regret Giving Yourself

Dear Mary: We owe about $200,000 at 4 percent on our 15-year mortgage, and have the money to pay it off now. If we do this, we lose the tax benefit of the mortgage interest and the possibility of being pushed into a higher tax bracket. One way to avoid this would be to purchase a second home, get a mortgage and rent out the house. We’ve heard that the rental market is good in our area. What do you think of our idea? Alex

Dear Alex: My advice depends a lot on your age. If you are nearing retirement, I recommend you bite that tax bullet and pay off the mortgage. That will assure you a rent-free retirement—a gift you’ll never regret giving to yourselves.

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I love my overflowing inbox filled with questions from my dear readers. What I don’t love is not being able to respond personally to each and every one!

So today, rather than trying to decide which ones to answer, how about I just reach in and let’s see what comes out.

multi-ethinic arms outstretched to ask questions.

Upside Down in a Durango

Dear Mary: I have a Dodge Durango gas guzzler and I owe way too much money on it. If I sell the vehicle outright, I could probably squeak by ending up just $5,000 in the hole. If I trade it in, I would be about $9,000 in the hole.  

I could put the shortfall on a credit card, but I know that is a bad idea for so many reasons. What should I do to pay the difference?

We have an old pick-up truck and an older Subaru that will be okay for now, but how do I get out of the loan and the Durango? And how can I sell it to someone when I don’t have a clear title? Any help will be appreciated. Linda

Dear Linda: There’s no perfect solution here, but here’s a plan that might work: 

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In keeping with the rules of the TV game show, Jeopardy, how about I give you the answer, then you respond with the question, OK?

Answer: 88. Your turn [clock ticking].

Huh? Sorry but no. You’re right that 88 is the number of keys on a piano, but that’s not the answer I was looking for. Eighty-eight is the average number of emails a user receives per day.Laptop computer receiving messagesSo, how average are you? Me? Not even close. I’m fortunate to receive hundreds of messages every day from my wonderful fans and readers.

I just reached in to find the following:

Homemade Wrinkle Release

Dear Mary: I love the Downey Wrinkle release solution in the blue spray bottle. Do you have a homemade recipe? Thank you. Carol 

Dear Carol: Yes, I do. It’s pretty simple, too. You’ll need a spray bottle with a fine-mist nozzle, bottled or distilled water (in case your tap water is highly chlorinated or lots of minerals), liquid fabric softener (or hair conditioner works, too), and rubbing alcohol (70% or 91% are fine), which helps the spray evaporate quickly.

Wrinkle Release

  • 1 cup water bottled or distilled water
  • 3 teaspoons liquid fabric softener
  • 2 teaspoons rubbing alcohol

Pour the ingredients into a spray bottle. Give it a shake, and you’re good to go.

To use: Spray lightly on wrinkled areas. You want this to be damp, not wet. Pull the item taut to help smooth out the wrinkles, and allow to dry completely.

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I will admit to having an extreme aversion to mice. They give me the creeps and just knowing one is in the house totally disrupts my life.


A tiny chill ran down my spine when I read Lucy’s letter. Been there, solved the problem and hope to never experience that again!


It’s that time of year when mice invade our homes. I’m a pretty good housekeeper and we have two cats, but I just cleaned a disgusting mess of mouse tracks out of my pantry. Any suggestions on how to discourage mice for the future? I love your daily e-mails and read them all! Lucy

Dear Lucy: Oh, I feel your angst. I hate even the idea of a mouse in my house! As the temperatures start to drop in the fall, mice start looking for warm places they can settle in for winter and multiply. Any crack or crevice will do.

For me, it needs to be about preventing mice from getting in rather than finding ways to trap them once they’ve entered. That means we have think like a mouse!

Start with the exterior of your home. Look for tiny places mice can slip in through damaged weatherstripping, under doors and around pipes and vents. Seal every opening you find with a filler that mice cannot chew through (that eliminates spray foam) or will breakdown and rust.

An excellent choice is Xcluder Rodent Control Steel Wool Fill Fabric DIY Kit. It’s easy to use, resistant to critters’ attempts to chew through it, and will hold up and be effective for years to come.

To prevent mice from coming in under doors, Xcluder makes door sweeps and garage door sweeps DIY kits from the same type of material that is rust and chew resistant.

Closing up all cracks and crevices is going to take some time, but doing it right now will come back to bless you for many years to come. And as a bonus, you’ll be sealing your home from cold drafts, too. 



What kind and what brand bed sheets do you recommend? Your trusting friend, Janice

Dear Janice: I have to admit to being super picky when it comes to bed sheets. I need 100% cotton. And the fabric must have a smooth, soft “hand,” (the way the fabric feels to the touch). And sheets can’t come out of the dryer horribly wrinkled. And they must fit well (how annoying is it for a fitted sheet to pop off at the corners?).

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