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The Frugal Fix for Dingy Gray Laundry

If you’re sick and tired of perfectly functional household linens or clothing items ending up in the rag bag simply because they turned a dingy shade of gray when you expected your white laundry to come out brilliantly white, help is on the way.

A woman sitting on a bed

Dingy gray is usually a sign of a build-up of too much detergent that is not getting rinsed away completely in the rinse cycle.

If you have well water or hard water that contains unusually high amounts of iron, that could also be contributing to this problem.

The frugal fix

Here’s a frugal way to fix and also prevent this problem of white and light-colored items like sheets, shirts, and towels taking on an ugly shade of pale gray.

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Questions on Auto Leasing, Homemade Laundry Detergent, Silver in Dishwasher, HE Washers, and 529 Plan Money

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.

 

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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.

Contents

  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.

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Forget the Dry Cleaner: How to Wash a Down Comforter

If you’ve ever wondered if it’s okay to wash your down comforter instead of taking it to the dry cleaner, the answer is yes. You can absolutely wash a down comforter without spending upwards of $60 (depending on the size, where you live, and how dirty it is) to have it dry cleaned professionally.

You need a mild detergent, wool dryer balls (or tennis balls); a few hours to spend at a laundromat, and patience. And if yours is a king-size comforter, a lot of patience.

Cleaning and Washing

To do this, you’ll need mild detergent (our homemade detergent is ideal, or Woolite), wool dryer balls (or tennis balls work as well), an extra-large front loading washing machine (most home models are too small for this task) and an extra-large dryer. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1

Big machine

Load your down comforter into the largest extra large front-loading washing machine at your local laundromat. The less crowded the comforter is in the washer and dryer, the better the results.

Step 2

Detergent

Add a small amount of mild detergent. Be careful here as too much detergent will strip the down or feathers of their natural coating that makes down or feathers such a superb  thermal insulator.

Step 3

Warm and gentle

You want to wash a down comforter using these settings on the washer: Warm wash, cold rinse; gentle (delicate) agitation and two rinse cycles. It is very important that the last bit of detergent be rinsed out.

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What’s Up with the Clumps of Crystals in My Laundry Detergent?!

Several times over the past years, I have wished with all my heart I could call Mr. Migaki, my favorite teacher of all time who sparked curiosity and the love of science in my fifth-grade self. I needed to ask him about minerals and crystals and why something called borax can be powdery soft one day and hard as a rock the next.

dry and liquid soap

 

Dear Mary: Your Everyday Cheapskate column is one of the few emails I receive that I open and read every day, without fail. Both your product recommendations and your recipes are wonderful.

I also use your homemade laundry detergent recipe, and it works well to clean our clothes, but I have a question about it. The last batch I made went into two clean gallon containers, and as I was pouring the last out of the first container, I got a lot of white crystallized lumps at the bottom. So I strained the contents of the second container into another jug and got a lot of the same white crystalized lumps from it. So:

1. Did I do something wrong? The previous several batches were fine and lump-free, and I followed the same recipe with the same ingredients. (I know you probably can’t answer this, but maybe other readers have reported the same phenomenon?)

2. Do you know what these lumps are?

3. Is the strained liquid going to be an effective cleaning agent? Where I live in Southern California we’re still under drought water-usage rules. I don’t want to waste a couple washer loads of water with useless detergent if I don’t have to. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Pat  Read more