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How to Give Yourself a $2,000 Raise in a Hurry

If there’s one thing that I love about you, my loyal readers, it’s how responsive you are. Sometimes you like what you read, other times not so much. Now and then you simply need more information. But no matter what, I can always count on hearing from you. Which brings me to what I wrote on pulling the plug on subscription pay-TV. It brought a huge response.

According to this 2012 article from NPD Group, the average pay-TV bill was predicted to hit $123 per month by 2015—more than $1,400 a year—and will hit $200 ($2,400 a year) in 2020. So far the predictions are right on the money.

For many, that’s money that could be better used to build an emergency fund or pay off debt. No wonder that column struck a chord with so many readers.

Overhead close up photo of a woman putting money in her purse.

 

The most-asked question had to do with the need for an antenna to receive free, local HD broadcasting. Which kind? Which one works best?

As I was fielding your messages, my husband and I were in the process of relocating. In 2015, we moved from California to northern Colorado. What a change from big city life in Orange County to a little village boasting a population of just 18,000. And what a perfect opportunity to test antennas to find the best way to enjoy free TV and quality programming in our new location. Read more

5 Home Buying Mistakes That Will Make You House Poor

Buying a home is likely the largest purchase you will ever make. This is not the time to make mistakes that could easily plunge you into a financial situation you cannot afford. 

During my 18-year career as a real estate broker, I learned a lot of things but none as valuable as what not to do! I didn’t learn this in a seminar or while studying to pass the licensing exam. I witnessed real-life situations where buyers did really dumb things related to buying real estate—buyers who then went on to regret the decisions they’d made.

Avoid these five home-buying mistakes and you will avoid getting in over your heads with a house you cannot afford—and save yourself many thousands of dollars and heartaches in the process.

 

Young couple looking at their dream house

Mistake: Allowing a lender to determine how much you can afford

When you meet with a lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage, that lender is going to tell you how much house you can afford and how much money the company is willing to lend to you. Understand this: He or she is concerned about only two things: 1) Your ability to repay the mortgage and 2) the size of his commission.

This lender wants to steer you into the biggest mortgage possible. Ignore that number. It is not based on what you can afford because the lender has no idea what you can afford.

You need to set your own housing budget before you ever sit down with a lender or other real estate professional, which is based on your specific financial situation and lifestyle. And that housing budget should be realistic enough so that you can afford to make progress on all your other important financial goals like maintaining a healthy emergency fund, getting debt-free, and funding retirement accounts. Read more

Caught Between Aging Parents and Adult Children

A lovely new assisted living complex is under construction close to where I live. As beautiful as this place is, it has become a daily reminder to me for how difficult it can be to talk to aging parents about their health and future needs.

Baby granddaughter walking with her grandparents on a nature path

If you’re 40 or older, you’re part of the Sandwich Generation, which refers to middle-aged individuals who feel pressured to support both aging parents and adult children. You likely fall into one of these categories:

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9 Surprising Things You Can Clean with a Clothes Steamer

A compact clothes steamer is handy for removing wrinkles and stale odors from fabric, but is that all? Just another single-purpose tool that sits on a shelf gathering dust? Don’t be so sure! I’ve been amazed to discover all the ways to use an ordinary clothes steamer to steam clean, sanitize, renew, and refresh all around the house.

 

Woman releasing wrinkles from a blue polka dot dress with garment steamer

Basics

Before we get started, let’s go over a few steam clean basics.

  • Always use distilled water in a steamer. The minerals in tap water can cause it to clog up and can also leave behind traces of minerals.
  • Never use steam on silk or other delicate fabrics. Always test first in an inconspicuous place for color-bleeding or spotting.
  • Do not use steam on freshly painted surfaces, vintage surfaces, waxed or polished wood or musical instruments.

Loosen carpet stains

A blast of steam can loosen a tough carpet stain that’s been difficult to remove. Hold the steamer a few inches away from the spot for at least 30 seconds, then blot it with a clean white cloth. Repeat until nothing more is transferred to the cloth. If you still see evidence of the spot, it should respond more effectively to a good stain remover like Spot Shot. Just make sure you follow the instructions on the label, which may require rinsing once the stain is gone.

Remove labels and stickers

A blast or two from your trusty clothes steamer can soften and melt the adhesive that keeps a stubborn label or sticker stuck so you can easily remove it. Be cautious if you’re dealing with an unpainted surface.

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Ask Me Anything: Smelly Sponges, Linx Stick Vac, Wood Cleaner, Kids’ Savings Accounts and More

Once again, it’s time to reach into my inbox and pull out a handful of questions from you my lovely readers. Every day I get questions galore, great stories, lots of love, and tons of encouragement. Please, never stop writing to me!

Laptop computer illustrating email by envelopes coming out of the screen

While I do read every message, I simply cannot respond to all of them. And honestly, I don’t have specific criteria for which questions to answer in posts like this.

Generally, I select questions with universal appeal and a high likelihood that others have the same or similar questions. And here’s a hint: Well-written, complete messages with a clear situation and question get special consideration.

Here is a quick summary of the questions I’ll answer in today’s post. You can click on one to go straight to it, or just scroll down to read all. Enjoy!

Contents

1. Smelly Sponge Syndrome

2. Which Hoover Linx?

3. Wood Floor Cleaner OK for wood cabinets?

4. Costco or Sam’s Club?

5. Kids’ Savings Accounts

6. Pesky Ant Invasion

7. Print option, please!

 


Q1: Serious case of smelly sponge syndrome

I was wondering if you had a quick and easy way to keep the dish scrubbers—like ScotchBrite with a sponge on one side attached to a pad for scrubbing pans on the other side—from smelling like mildew.

Mine is fine for a few days and then starts smelling. I try to run it in the dishwasher, but don’t always remember. I sometimes spray it with bleach and let it sit for a minute or two before rinsing, and that seems to work, but I was wondering if there was a better way. I tried microwaving a wet sponge, and that just created a hot smelly sponge. Bronson

Smelly sponge, stinky kitchen sponge

 

Dear Bronson: First, let me congratulate you on discovering a popular cleaning hack that doesn’t work—sponges in the microwave. The theory is that high heat kills most bacteria. However, the amount of time needed in a microwave to reach the desired temperature to kill the bacteria and mildew harbored in the center of a sponge will result in a flaming, incinerated sponge. As reported in The New York Times citing this study, nuked sponges still harbor about 40% of their bacteria, some of which can be life-threatening.

Putting that kitchen sponge in the dishwasher daily, or as often as you run a load of dishes, is a better solution. The heat, and detergent are sufficient to kill bacteria and mildew.

I’m going to assume that you use one sponge at a time, and that may be the problem. Let me suggest you have at least two sponges going. This way, one will always be available to wipe the counter and so forth, while the other is getting sanitized in the dishwasher. Do this without fail for a couple of weeks and soon it’ll become a habit.

All that being said, a better choice is to use cotton or microfiber cloths that can be tossed in the washer after every use.

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How to Clean a Shark Vacuum and Its Filters

You know by now just how much I love my Shark vacuum cleaner. And given my readers’ letters and comments, I know that many of you have Sharkies, too. Now you need to how to clean a Shark so it keeps performing at top efficiency.

I love your messages. They make me smile because I understand the range of emotions that come from using a Shark vacuum for the first time—from amazement to flat out embarrassment.

Where on earth did all of this dirt and debris come from? I can’t believe what’s been lurking in my carpet!

 

Shark vacuum taken apart for cleaning

With all of the miles I’ve put on my numerous Shark vacs over the years, I’ve never had one fail. And while the manufacturer boasts that Sharks never lose suction, that is predicated on regularly cleaning Sharkie’s canister, filters, and rotating brush.

It’s right there in the owner manual, which most of us don’t think to read until we have a problem. You need to clean your Shark every three months to keep it working at top efficiency—more often with heavy use. It’s easy.

Signs Sharkie needs a bath

  • loss of suction
  • dirt being left behind
  • sounds weird like Sharkie is gasping for air
  • an unpleasant, dirty odor

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Simple Secrets to Make Clothes Look Better and Last Longer

You should see the big wad of lint I just plucked from the trap of my clothes dryer. Ack! Where does all of that come from? I know I emptied all pockets and I’m certain I did not wash a bag of pillow stuffing.

I’ll tell you what it is, and I am not happy about this: It’s visual proof the dryer is wearing out our clothes. Those fibers were neatly woven into these clothes only 30 minutes ago. For all the convenience a clothes dryer offers, it may come at the price of having to replace clothes much too often.

Overdrying clothes causes them to shrink and not only the first time they’re washed. Sleeves and pant legs continually get shorter and shorter when machine dried improperly.

 

Colorful clothes hanging to dry on a laundry line and sun shining in the blue sky.

 

There are tactics to counteract the abuse suffered by a clothes dryer and you don’t have to go back to the days of sheets frozen stiff on the clothesline (does anyone but me remember that?). You don’t have to machine dry your clothes to death to end up with comfy jeans and fluffy soft towels.

Get the soap out

Residual detergent in fabrics causes them to feel rough. Measure carefully erring on the side of too little rather than too much detergent. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the last rinse. This will help remove the residual detergent from the fabrics. Even when air-dried, they will be softer.

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Absolutely the Best Window Cleaning Tips Ever

I have this thing for clean windows. I love them, which means I have an equal but opposite disdain for dirty windows. And when I say clean, I mean the kind of clean that makes windows sparkle like diamonds in the morning sun. Some days I wish that by some miracle, a professional window-washing service would come to my home every week to clean windows—every single one both inside and out.

But I have a two-story house with a lot of windows—to say nothing of the time and money that would require to move everything away from every window to get ready every week!—so right there you know why I can’t and I don’t.

Instead, I depend on these great DIY window cleaning tips I’ve learned over the years—many of them from you, my awesome readers.

Clean windows using Homemade Glass Cleaner and Microfiber

 

Dry, cloudy day

If you’ve ever tried to clean outdoor windows on a bright sunny day, you already know the problem. Your cleaning solution dries on the glass faster than you can turn around to grab your cleaning cloth. You’ll end up with a horrible streaky, muddy-like mess. Instead, wait for a dry, cloudy day.

Microfiber cloths

Paper towels and newspapers have long been touted as best for scrubbing and drying the glass (my mother-in-law Gwen swore by the New York Times as the only newspaper worthy of window-washing)—but what a dirty, icky mess they create! Paper options break down and leave lint behind. Besides, newspapers are not as available for recycling as they once were. If you’re interested in efficiency and clean, streak-free windows, forget the paper.

Instead, use microfiber cloths (like these from Amazon) to clean windows. Microfiber grabs dirt and dust. Microfiber cleaning cloths are soft and non-abrasive. They won’t scratch glass or painted surfaces and you will enjoy the lint- and streak-free results you get with microfiber. And the best part? These cloths can be washed, rinsed and reused hundreds of times.

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