Letters to the Editor: Clean Cars, Home Chef, Second Incomes, Coffee Cream

One of the things I love most about my readers is the way you respond. Sometimes that’s with strong opinions and opposing points of view; most often with excitement and joy. Occasionally, I laugh right out loud because your messages can be so entertaining. But it’s your encouragement and heartfelt letters of thanks that keep me going.

To encourage the exchange of ideas and opinions—and to demonstrate that there just may be more than one way to skin a cat (for you youngers, that’s called an idiom; look it up) I’m introducing a new feature, Letters to the Editor, where you have an opportunity to react to recent columns.

Comments on Suddenly, It’s Spring!

I read the article and thought that sounds like a lot of work. I suppose people who want everything clean and shiny, “shipshape and Bristol fashion” as the old salts used to say, would find your detailing program useful. But for people like me who aren’t that sensitive to dirt, and find using two different vacuum cleaners plus assorted professional grade cleaning products for a car that’s just used for running errands and occasional excursions and is not going to be entered in the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance is not my idea of a good way to spend the morning. Bob


Making sure the car looks great is equally important to keeping it well maintained mechanically, especially if you are determined to drive that car for twenty years. After we drove our 1995 Toyota 4 Runner until 2015 it still ran very well and looked great. We had all the maintenance records and a fully funded car account (we saved to that account for the entir 20 years) for our next 20-year car purchase. These products are great, Mary, and I thank you for the tutorial. Betty

Comments on How to Meal Kits to Cut Your Food 

I was reading [Everyday Cheapskate] this morning and thought I should send you my comments on Home Chef, which I tried with the $30 coupon you offered. I really like it. I have health issues, need to lose some weight and have been concerned with how I’m eating. Add to that being bored with the way I have been preparing food. I’m single, and whenever I try something new, I’m concerned that if I have to buy a quantity of something, particularly fresh food, that it may spoil before I have a chance to eat it all. Home Chef takes care of that. Also, the instructions are easy to follow and I really like that I can get fresh fish. I live in a small town in the Midwest and fresh fish is hard to come by. Thanks for offering this from your column. Since I’ve used Home Chef, I have delicious and exciting meals to enjoy and am not tempted to eat takeout. Moira


Thanks for the intro to Home Chef. My wife and I both commute quite a distance to our jobs each day. By the time we get home, it’s late, we’re hungry and tired. We would end up eating junk or spending even more time away from home eating restaurant food. Expensive and not even that good. We tried Home Chef and loved it. We regularly order 5 meals a week now. It’s like we got our lives back. We know what’s for dinner. We how long it will take to prepare—and know we will have every ingredient we need, all ready to go. First one home is Chef of the Day. Best of all we know it will be just perfect—a great meal that is healthy, fresh and delicious. So far we have thoroughly enjoyed every single meal. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We cannot thank you enough for letting us know about the wonders of Home ChefRobert and Heather

Comments on How Much is a Second Income Worth, Really?

If Bethany wants to stay home she could save so a lot of money by buying groceries wisely and learning to love cooking. Sylvia


I read your column regularly, and learn a lot. I just read the letter about the woman who was considering staying home, because it seemed like work expenses took up her whole check. This is a fine approach if she worked in an unskilled job, but if she has any kind of career, this will very likely set her back to the point where she can’t recover, unless she puts a lot of effort into staying current and connected in her field. Sometimes staying home really is the right answer for the time, but there is a lot more to the equation. Mary Beth


Your column about whether a woman should stay home or keep working and pay for childcare was short-sighted and half true. I stayed on the job while my three children were young and half of my paycheck went to childcare. The result 35 years later? I make a fabulous yearly income, have a pension and Social Security, a hefty 401(k) and health care at retirement. You’re doing women a disservice by only suggesting that they look at the “now” instead of their future. RJK


I do not  feel that you covered all the right points with Beth.

  1. They may have their children in one of the most expensive childcare programs and could check and possibly reduce their cost.
  2. You did not mention whether they are filing a form 2441 Childcare Expenses on their federal taxes.
  3. Work related costs do not necessarily include clothes as one can wear their own personal clothes on most jobs and if they shop right that does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
  4. Most jobs you can take your lunch so that could mean less fast food. Also learn menus that can be cooked in a slow cooker to cut down on take out and if you are tired. This is a learning process.
  5. If you have to hire help for yard work and housecleaning, maybe you need to downsize or move to an apartment.
  6. You assumed she worked in an office and had office pools and gift expenses. Maybe not.
  7. Unless both parents have outstanding jobs with very high salaries, they probably won’t be in a higher tax bracket.
  8. If she is not trying to conserve money now, it is doubtful that she is going to cook, clean, and garden.
  9. What happens to her Social Security retirement and her IRA or 401 Retirement. Especially if something happens to her husband. Maybe they have enough life insurance to help out, but probably not enough to live the rest of her life and educate their children without working. It is harder to find suitable work if you have been out of the workplace very long.

It all sounds good but in reality, most are not prepared financially for their future. It takes life long dedicated work and there are many that have no work ethics or financial future plans. I think your advice should be reconsidered and learn more about the individual rather than give swayed advice that could damage the family down the road. However if they are lazy and just want to stay home, no advice will help them! I enjoy your column and agree with you most of the time. This time I think you missed the boat. I am a Tax Accountant and Financial Advisor. Jim

Mary: Of all the feedback to this column (there was a ton), I find it curious that no one mentioned the welfare of Bethany’s children and the short window of time they will be in the home compared to the years Bethany will have to produce a second income. I didn’t get that she was asking how she could afford to keep working, but rather how could she afford to stop working to be home with the children during their most formative years. It just keeps ringing in my ears that the days are long, but the years are short.

Comment on Make it Better Yourself: Homemade Coffee Creamer

You are contributing to the fattening of America. Your recipe is giving permission to people who read your daily column to eat/drink whatever they want. 40-50% of American’s are fat and the world is getting closer and closer to our increasing weights. Your column is a good one but this was not well thought out. Georgia

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12 replies
  1. Serenitycomes says:

    I can’t believe the fire storm this started. It sounds to me like the lady would like to stay home with her kids. I think that is the what she needs to decide. Does she want a career and all that includes or does she want to stay home with her kids which could possibly end that career as she knows it? I chose to stay home with my kids. I won’t have as much retirement. I’m doing something totally different now than I was before I had kids and I don’t regret a moment of it. On the other hand, I work with parents who are very good parents and have their kids in daycare. My daughter quit her career to stay home too and now has a great job that she does from home and loves! It’s a matter of where your priorities lie. Decide what you want to do and figure out a way to do it the best way that you can. Just be true to what you think is right for you and your children.

  2. Michelle says:

    In regards to “How much a second income is worth”, this is going to sound crazy but not every decision is based on finances. At the same time everyone has to do what they think is best for their family.
    But just to give another perspective, before we had children, my husband and I decided that I would stay home, work part time (I was fortunate to be able to work part time, two days a week) and home school my children.
    When our first child was born, we saw a financial adviser, and on paper we could NOT afford me staying home. But we did what we felt was important and what we valued, and that was for me to be home with our children.
    Almost 18 years later, what did we go through and what have we accomplished? We bought a home within our budget, small but enough. Yes I followed a budget and cut coupons, still do. Always went away or cruised at least once a year on vacation. Had only one car for four years. Had to say not to things because I knew what I was saying yes to. We always gave 10% of our income to our church.
    My husband had to go on disability in 2013 and I had to become the primary income earner.This was an extremely difficult transition as a family but our faith and commitment to make it work brought us through. Yes, we still home schooled. I was able to jump back into my career because I was still connected working part time.
    We have retirement accounts, but not huge. We have savings and still some debt. It’s not all perfect but it’s working.
    What’s most important for us? We have two incredible, independent, strong minded teenage sons who love God, love us, and still jump in our bed to say good night. One just graduated high school and is receiving scholarships (5 so far) which is all helping to reach his goal of graduating from the university loan free (because he knew we didn’t have a college fund he worked hard to get scholarships LOL) My other son is entering high school this fall and is an entrepreneur at heart, already starting his business.
    All this to say, follow your convictions, work hard, and be wise. It’s OK to want to be home with your children. They are only young once.

  3. Cathy says:

    I stayed home and worked at home while my children grew up. I have zero regrets – My kids never minded that they couldn’t have expensive clothes/toys/vacations/cars like some of their friends. They were able to participate in sports and activities they loved and I was always there to watch. I could volunteer at the school when needed. I was home when they came home from school (most of the time with friends in tow) to tell me about their day’s trials and tribulations. Teachers always told me they could tell my kids were raised at home not in a daycare by how well they behaved.
    Staying home is a choice – we chose to eat home-prepared meals and snacks, have fewer clothes and shoes, one car, stay-cations and camping trips, etc. Sure we don’t have pensions from a workplace as both my husband and I are self-employed. But that is just money – we have a loving family, a happy home and memories that will last a lifetime. And if “Jim” thinks being at home is for lazy people he really has never seen the amount of work any stay-at-home parent does every day. Raising children is the most demand and most rewarding career anyone can undertake!

  4. davistrain says:

    “The world is getting closer and closer to our increasing weights.” What??? I don’t have a clue what that means. But for those of us who buy the store bought version of coffee creamer, it is a joy to have a recipe to do it ourselves, without the multisyllabic chemical ingredients and at a lesser cost.

  5. Robin McGuire says:

    WOW! Jim, I am a stay at home mom. I have three autistic children that needed my help and guidance.
    I am NOT lazy, I did not just sit around my house and eat chocolates. It was worth living on a little less to take care of my children. This so called Lazy mom now has 3 autistic adults who can now work and support themselves. My son went on to get the highest college honors and a full-time job as a software engineer. So I guess my laziness paid off.

  6. Amanda says:

    I had to lol at the “fattening of America” comment. By giving out a recipe you are getting us fat? So we should ban all ‘fattening’ recipes from the internet? Isn’t that called censorship? Aren’t we mature enough to decide what we can consume, especially since we are ultimately paying the consequences? I was so excited to see the second recipe! I’m on a low carb (high fat) diet and losing a ton of weight, so thanks for the ‘fattening’ recipe, i substitute for the maple syrup, but otherwise it’s perfect! Thank you for your great column.

    • PJ says:

      Amen Amanda. Wow, Georgia’s comment is a perfect example of how some internet commentors assume that anyone who reads the articles or advice does not have the intelligence to utilize the information for their own lives. Georgia, if the creamer recipes aren’t healthy for you, don’t use them, but please don’t presume to tell me or anyone else that we can’t or shouldn’t, that’s our choice.

    • Nichole says:

      Agreed. it’s not as though we’re being ‘forced’ to use it. In all aspects of life, be it money, family, or food, we all make choices. Mary simply offered another option to choose from. Georgia seems to feel blaming others for the mere availability of ‘incorrect’ choices is easier than educating ones self before acting, and accepting the consequence of ones choices.

  7. UncommonSensesc says:

    With the offspring these days, do you really think they’ll be leaving the home before 30 or 40 years? I really do disagree with you about dropping everything, giving up a good job/career along with work relationships to make the world rotate around a person’s children. If you raise a centered child then they know you love them, will be there for them but you also have a life. You’re also a wife, girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend, mentor – the list is endless, but you’re also a separate entity that has a lot of facets that didn’t end when you had children. I have 2 daughters and I raised them to be independent but to also know that I love them.

    • Cjsongbird says:

      Thank you for this comment! I was beginning to think I was the only one noticing Mary’s many typos and grammatical errors. Rarely do I find a post without at least one. We need to band together and find her a proof reader as it detracts from her valuable advice.

    • maxhalberg says:

      This is a letter to the editor column, so comments are taken from readers directly as they sent them – that is not Mary’s writing.


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