Our Best Father’s Day Gift Guide Ever!

I may know what you’re thinking: Father’s Day? What! When? The answer is yes, Sun., June 18. But don’t panic. You still have more than a week to make it a great day for the Dads in your life!

If there’s one thing I know about Dads, it’s this: They like cool stuff—gadgets, electronics, powerful things. And if a gift is slightly sentimental? That’s a good thing, too.

1. Outdoor Security Camera. This 24/7 live video 130° wide-angle view and all-glass lens will let the man of the house look after home in crisp 1080p HD, day and night. It’s weatherproof and has built-in speaker and microphone. Because it is hardwired, no worries about replacing batteries. Give Dad peace of mind with this cool yet affordable state-of-the-art gadget.  About $170.

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Best Inexpensive: Skin Care Products

How shocked was I? Speechless, but somehow I gathered enough strength to respond, “There’s no way!” Even so, I did a quick search only to discover it was no typo at all. 111Skin Celestial Black Diamond Cream 1.7 oz. retails for $1,095.

All I can say is at that price, it better contain a miracle. Seriously. It almost makes Le Lift Firming Anti-Wrinkle Cream by Chanel 1.75 oz., $152 and Lancome’s Hydra Zen Neurocalm Soothing Recharging Night Cream 1.7 oz., $70 look cheap!

Okay, back to reality: High-quality and effective skincare should not be considered a luxury available only to the wealthy. If you are diligent, you can find high quality, reasonably priced skin care products that are equal, if not superior to their department store cousins—right in your drugstore or discount department store.

Cleanser. Cetaphil makes is an excellent line of affordable skin care products. For example, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser is less than $10 for 8 oz. ($19 in a 2-pack) 

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Six Reasons to Celebrate!

Celebrate? With all that’s going on in our economy, our nation—our world?  Given the challenges of the day, you may be thinking that’s the last thing you’ll be doing now, or anytime soon. If so, let me encourage you to think again. Now, of all times, we need to celebrate wherever and whenever possible.

In their book, Why Good Things Happen to Good People, authors Stephen Post and Julie Neimark tell us that celebration is one of the most important ways that we express gratitude. Celebration is gratitude in action, and celebration—like rest, seat belts, and green leafy vegetables—is good for us!

Jumping

Celebration creates joy. Feeling down in the dumps? Celebrate something or someone. The gratitude you feel as a result of celebrating others, or creation in general, will help you to be less materialistic and therefore more easily satisfied with what life brings your way. It’s a fact that gratitude actually creates joy within our souls. 

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Take the Sag Out of That Closet Rod and Other Useful Tips

Whether it’s a sagging closet rod, kale down the garbage disposal or premium fuel in the gas tank, EC readers are always anxious to share their best tips, tricks and ideas for ways to save time and  money—and avoid potential headaches!

SAG NO MORE. To fix a sagging clothes closet rod, buy a length of 1/2-inch galvanized pipe and a length of 3/4″ thin-wall PVC (plastic, polyvinyl chloride) piping, both the same length as t rod. You can get these at your local home improvement center such as Home Depot or Lowes. Remove the existing sagging rod. Now slip the pipe inside the PVC to create a new rod and slide this into the existing rod brackets. If you are bothered by the printing on the PVC, clean it off with rubbing alcohol. Bob

STICKY MESSY SAP. A cheap and safe way to remove pine tree sap from your car without damaging the finish is to rub it with a soft cloth soaked with plain 70% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, available at the pharmacy or drug store for a buck or two. George

SECRET INFO. When you finish refurbishing a room in your home, write down this important information on a piece of paper and tape it to the back of the switch plate: the brand and color of the paint, how much it took to paint the room and the circuit breaker number that serves this room. You’ll be happy to find the information next time. Trevor

KALE, NO!  I made a big mistake recently when I cut a bunch of kale up into smaller pieces and put it down the garbage disposal. I let it grind like crazy, followed by tons of water down after it, and still it clogged up the system in my apartment building for three floors down. It took maintenance four hours to clear it. They said, “The lettuce (it was kale) turned into something similar to glue/concrete!” Naomi

SUPER CUBE. This is a crazy simple tip, but it works for me. I love ice cold water and must have it at all times. However, at work the water is just cooled, not the icy deliciousness that I require. I solved this issue by taking a bottle of water slightly less than half full and laying it down sideways in the freezer. (We are lucky enough to have two refrigerators in our break room).  Later, I grab the frozen half bottle and fill it up with water. Voila!  Ice cold water for several hours. I just keep filling it up until its time to get out another one! Just make sure not to put too much water in the bottle, or you won’t be able to fill it with water. Laurel

STICK WITH REGULAR. Most gas stations offer Unleaded Premium for $.10 to $.12 per gallon more than Unleaded Regular. Many customers think they’re giving their car some kind of extra care or a “treat” by filling up with what they think is the best. Don’t do it. Virtually all automobiles run just fine on regular unleaded; so unless your vehicle’s owner manual specifically states that your car requires a premium grade of gas with higher octane, save your money and stick with regular. David

LEVEL PAY. What I’ve done with my electricity and heating bills, after consulting my yearly budget, is pay the same each month. Because I live on fixed income, I send each of those utility providers a flat $100 per month. This means I purposely overpay for heat in the summer when the furnace is not in use, and overpay in the winter to the electric company when I’m not running my central air conditioner. I’ve been doing this for years. No big bills in the summer for the electric, no big bills in the winter for the heat. This takes the mystery out of my budget and works for me quite well. Pam

FLIP THE PAINT. Store partially full cans of paint upside down. The paint will form an airtight seal, extending the useful life. Ted

Got a great tip you’d like to share? Use the comments below or send them HERE.

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Best Inexpensive: Hair Conditioners

Considering the huge reader response whenever I mention that the most inexpensive shampoos can actually be good for your hair, but not so for hair conditioners—a follow up post is in order.

Unfortunately, conditioners are not quite as simple as shampoos.

First, we need to demystify the term “conditioner.” It is a vague term that refers to a wide range of hair products designed to make hair more manageable and also treat common hair problems.

Conditioners fall into four general categories according to what they do and the problems they solve: moisturizers, reconstructors, acidifiers and detanglers.

Using the wrong product for the specific condition of your hair will produce disappointing results. For example, if your hair is thin and fine you are not going to be happy with my industrial-strength conditioner for thick, coarse, frizzy, color-treated hair!

While the specific products I am about to mention to you are available readily in supermarkets and drug stores, the prices quoted are for Amazon, at the time of writing.

MOISTURIZERS are concentrated with humectants, which are compounds that attract moisture into the hair and hold it there. If your hair is dry, brittle and limp, you should consider a moisturizing conditioner like Pantene Pro-V Daily Moisture Renewal DreamCare Conditioner (about $7.50 or $.30/oz.)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Pricey Shampoo Means Money Down the Drain

Come on … ‘fess up. You feel guilty using $.99 shampoo because it’s really bad for your hair. And anybody knows the $24 salon variety is so much better especially for chemically treated hair, right? Wrong!

Price has nothing to do with it (and I tell you this at the risk of getting angry letters from professional hair dressers and salon owners).

Fact: All shampoos are 80 to 90 percent water.  The rest is detergent with a few drops of fragrance, additives and preservatives. (Agua and eau are water in Spanish and French, respectively.)

Fact: There are basically two kinds of detergent: Anionic (harsh) and cationic (gentle).

Fact: The only part of the shampoo bottle that’s regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the list of ingredients. Manufacturers can make any claim they like on the unregulated portions of the label. Sometimes the hype has some merit, often it has none. Manufacturers can make just about any claim they can think up!

The secret to shampoo intelligence is to know your detergents. Pay little if any attention to anything on that bottle or packaging except for the list of ingredients. Water (or some fancy name for good old H2O) will always be the first ingredient. Next comes the detergent. Examples that you might find:

Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate – very harsh

Ammonium Laureth Sulfate – harsh

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) – still harsh

Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) – mild, great choice

TEA Lauryl Sulfate – gentle, good choice

TEA Laureth Sulfate – gentle, also a good choice.

Myth: Shampoo builds up on hair so you need to change brands occasionally to counteract this. Shampoo cannot build up on hair, however conditioners and other products and chemical processes do and you may need to use a stronger type of shampoo from time to time.

Myth: Salon-brand shampoos outperform inexpensive store brands. Not true. Salon brands may have more fragrance, foam more or have more ingredients, but all of it goes right down the drain with the detergent.

Myth: High quality shampoo can repair and nourish damaged hair. Hair is dead and cannot be repaired. Any hair product can only provide temporary benefits to the look and feel of hair.

Myth: Baby shampoo (no-tears) is great for adults because it is so gentle. The detergent in baby shampoo is way too gentle and not designed for cleaning adult hair especially when a lot of styling products have been used.

When purchasing shampoo, consider just two things:

  1. Price
  2. Type of detergent

Interestingly, the “rinse and repeat” instruction you will read on every shampoo bottle goes back to a marketing campaign one manufacturer created to increase sales. It does that all right, and you can make your shampoo last twice as long if you skip “repeat.”

Rinse thoroughly. If your hair turns out dull and lackluster the problem may be inadequate rinsing. Tip: Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar through hair during the rinsing process. This will remove all traces of the shampoo and leave your hair sleek and shiny.

If you clip shampoo coupons and match them with shampoo sales in your grocery store, you may never pay more than $1 for shampoo again.

Hint: Many in the Herbal Essences and Suave lineup of shampoos—found in most supermarkets and drug stores—contain the gentle option Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). Just don’t assume—read the label.

With the money you save on the shampoo, buy a quality conditioner. Unlike shampoo that washes down the drain, the quality of conditioner does make a difference.

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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.

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