Trivia Bits – Week of May 29

May 29, 2017  


The U.S. Military Academy Class of 1846 stands out as possibly the most poignant in West Point’s history. Those 59 classmates, who studied, trained and made friendships together at the academy, included 22 who achieved the rank of general during the American Civil War — 12 on the Union side and 10 on the Confederate. Among them were George B. McClellan, briefly general-in-chief of the Union Army; Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, who died at Chancellorsville; and George E. Pickett, who led the unsuccessful Confederate charge at Gettysburg.

Star-nosed moles can detect scents underwater — an ability that makes them unique among mammals. They do this by exhaling bubbles into the water, then re-inhaling them to sniff for insects, fish and other prey. Like most moles, star-nosed moles have poor eyesight. They compensate for this with a cluster of super-sensitive tentacles around their noses that allow them to detect even the slightest movement. That star-shaped cluster of tentacles also gave the star-nosed mole its name.

Cayenne pepper is named for Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana. The pepper itself originated someplace in South America, possibly French Guiana, possibly not. Never the most hospitable place to live, French Guiana is a French overseas department notorious as a penal colony for much of its history. Trivia buffs know it as the largest European Union territory outside Europe. It is also the European Space Agency’s main launch site, the second-busiest in the world after Cape Canaveral.

At the library, geology books are shelved in the 550s, sports in the 790s, French lit in the 840s. That’s the work of Melvil Dewey (1851-1931), who devised the Dewey Decimal system of library classification — the world’s most widely used library classification system. Dedicated to order and simplification, he also was an advocate for spelling reform. He shortened the original spelling of his first name from Melville to Melvil and, for a time, took to spelling his last name Dui.

Baauer’s 2013 dance song “Harlem Shake” is the most recent instrumental track to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Prior to that, it was Jan Hammer’s “Theme from Miami Vice,” which hit No. 1 in 1984. Why so long between instrumental chart toppers? It wasn’t always so. The 1970s had 10 of them, from the Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein” in 1973 to Herb Alpert’s “Rise” in 1979. And that doesn’t include Silver Convention’s 1975 hit “Fly, Robin, Fly” — not strictly an instrumental even though its lyrics contain a mere eight words.

The fabric pattern we call plaid in the United States is called tartan in Scotland, where a “plaid” is a length of tartan fabric that may be used as a blanket or (more often) worn as an accessory by men in full Highland dress. The plaid, in the same tartan pattern as the man’s kilt, is wrapped around the chest and over the shoulder, and then belted at the waist.


1. Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” was delivered on what occasion?
A) A campaign stop in Pennsylvania
B) Christmas
C) Dedication of a Union Army cemetery
D) Independence Day

2. White-nose syndrome is a deadly disease that affects what creatures in North America?
A) Bats
B) Bees
C) Cows
D) Pigs

3. “Papillon” is a French word meaning what?
A) Bell
B) Butterfly
C) Pepper
C) Prisoner

4. Thomas E. Dewey, Republican presidential candidate in 1944 and 1948, was the governor of what state?
A) Arkansas
B) New York
C) Ohio
D) Wisconsin

5. Which instrument represents the grandfather in the children’s symphony “Peter and the Wolf”?
A) Bassoon
B) Cello
C) Clarinet
D) Oboe

6. Illustrator Grace Drayton created the red-cheeked kids used for decades in ads for what product?
A) Alka-Seltzer
B) Campbell Soup
C) Mott’s Apple Juice
D) Oreo cookies


1) Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” was delivered at the dedication of a Union Army cemetery in November 1863.
2) White-nose syndrome is a deadly disease that affects bats in North America.
3) Papillon is the French word for butterfly.
4) Thomas E. Dewey, Republican presidential candidate in 1944 and 1948, was the governor of New York.
5) The bassoon represents the grandfather in “Peter and the Wolf.”
6) Grace Dayton illustrated children’s books and magazines, but perhaps is most famous for creating the Campbell Soup Kids.

Plant an Edible Garden No Matter Where You Are or What You Have

May 25, 2017  
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Planting an edible garden is now trendy — not that being part of a trend is ever a good reason to start or learn something new. But if it helps you move forward by being part of the “in” crowd, then you really need to plant your own edible garden this year.

Provided you remain frugal (it is possible to spend a fortune on a garden, thereby nullifying most of the reasons to do it), you’ll certainly save money. More than that, you’ll know exactly what you’re eating and where it came from.
There are myriad ways to get started. You can grow a garden in a black plastic trash bag, on a deck, in a pot or even on a windowsill. You don’t need acreage and perfect conditions to get started. You can do it now with what you have, right where you are.
There’s something soothing and satisfying about getting your hands dirty and watching stuff grow! Speaking of dirty hands … once you get going, here is a collection of great tips to further your success and enjoyment.
CLEAN NAILS. Keep dirt out from under your fingernails by scratching a bar of soap before beginning. When you’re finished, wash your hands thoroughly. The soap will wash away from under your nails.
NO RAILROAD TIES. Avoid using railroad ties in or around your vegetable garden. The chemicals used as preservatives to keep the wood from rotting are now thought to be toxic and harmful.
MAKE IT YOURSELF. Control powdery mildew with milk. Dilute 1 part milk in 9 parts water and spray on the plants.
MASTER’S TOUCH. Gently brush your hands across your tiny seedlings several times a day. This stimulates them to grow slightly slower, resulting in stronger, sturdier stems.
FREE WEED “CLOTH”. Use newspapers as weed barriers when creating a new bed. They are printed with soy ink and decompose nicely, and they are simple to replace once decomposed. Don’t use slick colored advertisements or colored pages. Once in place, cover newspaper with mulch.
FREE MULCH. Coffee and tea grounds make excellent mulch around acid-loving plants. Caffeine is a natural herbicide, but don’t overdo it.
PERFECT SEED STARTERS. Egg cartons make excellent seed starters. Punch a hole in the bottom for drainage. Fill it with potting soil. Plant your seeds. And watch them flourish!
CONSIDER CONDITIONS. When choosing plants for your yard or garden, analyze your sunlight, soil and climate first. Choose plants accordingly. Any garden center will have personnel to answer questions and help make appropriate selections.
MOSQUITO-REPELLING PLANTS.?These plants include citronella, lemon eucalyptus, cinnamon, castor, rosemary, lemongrass, cedar, peppermint, clove, geranium, verbena, pennyroyal, lavender, basil, thyme and garlic.
POTTING SOIL, PLEASE. Don’t use garden soil as potting soil in containers. Its quality and texture is variable; it may drain poorly, or be too loose and drain too quickly. It is also more likely to contain diseases, weed seeds and insects. Do it right the first time using a standard potting soil and you won’t be disappointed.
PROJECT HEAD START. Soak seeds to get a jump on the season. Before germinating, seeds need to drink up moisture, just as if drenched by spring rains. Once they become plump and swollen, the little embryo inside will begin to grow, signaling that it’s ready to be planted.
SEEDLING PROTECTORS. Keep cutworms away from seedlings with the cardboard centers of toilet paper rolls. Cutworms, which are moth caterpillars, creep along the soil surface, eating tender stem bases of young seedlings and cut sprouts off at the roots. That cardboard tube will protect seedlings from these predators.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at


How Much Is a Second Income Really Worth?

May 24, 2017  
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Most families these days assume it takes two incomes to survive. And many would be shocked if they were to take the time to figure out the real hourly wage in that second paycheck.

Dear Mary: With two little boys, my husband and I are paying through the roof for day care. It seems like almost all the money I earn goes to child care, so I’ve been thinking of quitting my job and staying home with the kids. I’m excited at the thought of spending more time with them, but I also want to be sure my family will be OK financially. Is there an easy way to make sure the decision is right for us? — Bethany
Dear Bethany: I think you’re on to something. But before you make any rash decisions, do this: Write down a figure that represents your monthly take-home pay (net pay). Deduct from that all of your work-related costs, including day care, transportation, clothes, lunches, gifts, office pools and any other costs you can come up with that would go away if you were to stay at home. Divide that result by the number of hours you’re away from home to get your real hourly wage. But wait, there’s more.
Consider all of the hidden expenses you have because you work, like more fast food, take-out and restaurant meals because you’re too tired to cook. Do you hire help for the yardwork or house cleaning? If you are home, there’s a good chance you can do those jobs and reduce your expenses even further. You may be shocked to discover it’s actually costing you to hold down a job because you’re paying out more than you earn and this job is putting you into a higher tax bracket. Unless you have a whopping salary, you may be better off financially by being at home with your kids and being able to cook, clean and garden.
Dear Mary: My son Jake graduated from college about a year ago. He has a job, but with student loans and a bit of credit card debt, he is struggling financially. I know he could pull himself out of this with smarter choices; however, Jake just asked his father and me for help. We want to be good parents and provide for him. At the same time, we also think that since he’s an adult, he needs to start taking care of himself. Is there any compromise? — Suzanne
Dear Suzanne: I have two grown sons, so I can relate. Since he has asked for help, this might be the perfect time to teach. Don’t just give him a handout. Help him set up a budget. It’s possible he, like so many people, has never learned how to manage money. Because he has come to you asking for help, it’s possible he’s open to receiving your guidance as well. He needs to be accountable but not in a child-parent way. Think of this as more of a client-counselor relationship. In the same way he would have to create and submit a business plan to get a business loan, have him create a personal finance plan for how he intends to use the money you lend to him, how he intends to manage his income each month and how he plans to pay you back. It’s time for Jake to get real about his money, and this could be the perfect opportunity you need to teach him valuable lessons. Not sure how or where to start? Pick up a copy of my book “Debt-Proof Living” (most libraries have it). I’ll teach you everything Jake needs to know!
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at





Suddenly, It’s Spring!

May 23, 2017  
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Without a doubt, the best thing about living in Colorado is the change of seasons. The folks here live from one season to the next. In the summer, we can’t wait for the cooler weather and colors of autumn. In the fall, we’re just dying for winter so we can pull out the winter wear, skis and snowboards. Once Christmas is packed up, it’s all about the promise of new life as the days grow longer and the weather warms.

Suddenly it’s spring! I’m cleaning like a crazy woman — and I’m not talking about the house. Around here, winter takes its toll on our cars. It’s nearly impossible to keep a car clean during a Colorado winter.
For months, while the days are short, the garage is cold and the driveway is unpredictable, I remind myself that when it warms up and spring gets here, I’ll clean and spit-shine my car back to showroom elegance.
CLEANING PRODUCTS. I consider the care and maintenance of our vehicles to be an investment in their long and useful lives (we drive our cars for a minimum of 20 years). That’s why I use products that the professionals use: KevianClean Interior Defense, KevianClean Leather Cleaner and Conditioner, a good professional carpet stain remover, window cleaner and microfiber cloths.
EVERYTHING OUT. I start by removing everything except the spare tire and safety equipment. That means winter floor mats and car seats. I empty the glove box, center console, backseat pockets, door cubbies — everything!
VINYL, PLASTIC SURFACES AND TRIM. There is no better product than KevianClean Interior Defense to clean, condition and protect the vinyl and plastic trim and flat surfaces of a car. Not only does it clean well but it also leaves a natural low-gloss finish. It also contains carnauba and — the best part — maximum UV protection. That keeps your dashboard and other surfaces (think: patio furniture, cushions and awnings) from being baked by the sun to an ugly crackly finish! This product will extend the life and beauty of any automobile’s non-leather and non-fabric surfaces.
LEATHER SEATS, SURFACES AND TRIM. KevinClean Leather Cleaner and Conditioner is what I use to clean the seats, armrests, steering wheel and every other leather surface in the car. It not only cleans the leather (and leather shoes, handbags and furniture, too) but also conditions it by putting back the moisture leather needs to be remain supple and beautiful. HINT: Once the leather is properly cleaned and conditioned, apply a coat of KevianClean Interior Defense to give it maximum UV protection.
(Wanna know a secret? These two KevianClean products are what car dealers use to take tired and dirty trade-ins and turn them into creampuffs for resale. Haven’t you always wondered how they do it?)
VACUUM. I use both my corded vacuum and handheld vacuum to make sure I can reach into every crack and crevice. With any luck, you’ll find that missing earring and that mobile phone that disappeared!
CARPET AND FABRIC SEATS AND SURFACES. Next, clean the fabric seats, armrests and carpet. Treat spots and stains first. Once the stains are removed, hot water with one or two drops of liquid dishwashing detergent plus some good old elbow grease should do the trick to clean fabric upholstery (if any) and the carpet.
WINDOWS AND MIRRORS. Any good glass and mirror cleaner, even a homemade mixture of 50-50 rubbing alcohol and white vinegar in a spray bottle, along with a microfiber cloth will get the windows, windshield and mirrors — inside and out — clean. Using a microfiber cloth to scrub and wipe dry is the secret to streak-free glass surfaces.
Once you clean everything you took out, replace them as necessary, stand back and take a look. You just did a professional job at a do-it-yourself price.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at





Trivia Bits – Week of May 22

May 22, 2017  


On May 22, 1960, a 9.5 magnitude earthquake occurred near Valdivia, Chile. It remains the largest magnitude earthquake ever recorded. Tsunamis resulting from the quake caused destruction and loss of life in Southern California, Hawaii and as far away as Japan and Alaska. Four years later came the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964. With a 9.2 magnitude, it’s the second-largest earthquake ever recorded.

For World Turtle Day, celebrated annually on May 23, let’s honor leatherback turtles — the world’s largest sea turtles. They may grow to be 8 feet long and weigh 2,000 pounds. They can dive deeper than 3,900 feet and remain submerged for 85 minutes, and their migration from nesting sites to feeding sites may take them from Indonesia to Portland, Oregon, thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. All of this on a diet that consists mainly of jellyfish!

Concertos for violin, piano, cello, horns — most composers have those in their repertoires. But in 1954, English composer Ralph (pronounced Rafe) Vaughan Williams broke new ground by writing a concerto for the orchestra’s most stalwart member — the tuba. Its debut took place during the London Symphony Orchestra’s 50th anniversary Jubilee, with Philip Catelinet as the featured tuba soloist. This wasn’t the only time Vaughan Williams composed for an overlooked musical instrument. Two years earlier, he’d written “Romance in D-flat” for harmonica virtuoso Larry Adler.

Royal epithets tend to be complimentary. Take Catherine “the Great” of Russia or the Ottoman Emperor Suleiman I “the Magnificent” for example. Monarchs have been known as “the Brave,” “the Bold,” “the Pious” and even “the Handsome.” Less-beloved rulers have borne unflattering tags, from “the Bad” (William I of Sicily) to “the Crazy” (both Maria I of Portugal and Juana “la Loca” of Castile in Spain). Then there are those who defy categorization, like Ivaylo “the Cabbage,” a medieval peasant revolutionary who briefly reigned as the king of Bulgaria.

The most famous obelisk in America, the Washington Monument, was originally designed to have a flat top (which, technically, would have made it not an obelisk). That’s what architect Robert Mills (1781-1855) intended when he designed the monument in 1836. After waiting some 10 years for the groundbreaking, construction was further delayed numerous times for numerous reasons, including the Civil War. By the time the monument opened in 1885, 30 years after Mills’ death, the design had been altered to add a pyramid-shaped top capped with aluminum to serve as a lightning rod.

Daisies take their name from the Old English for “day’s eye,” because the flower opens its petals at dawn and closes them at dusk. According to folklore, daisies can predict whom you’ll marry, protect your home from lightning strikes and heal bruises. Some misguided folks even believed that puppies will stay little forever if you feed them daisies. (Do not do this!) For Victorians, daisies symbolized innocence and loyalty. In the United States 100 years ago, people decorated soldiers’ graves with daisy wreaths on Memorial Day. Some people still do.


1. Which well-known composer wrote the score for the 1974 disaster film “Earthquake”?
A) John Barry
B) Elmer Bernstein
C) Ennio Morricone
D) John Williams

2. “Fear the Turtle” is the unofficial slogan of what school’s sports teams?
A) Columbia University
B) University of Delaware
C) University of Maryland
D) Temple University

3. Which TV character had a best friend named Jenny Piccalo?
A) Joanie Cunningham
B) Kim Possible
C) D.J. Tanner
D) Laura Winslow

4. Charles the Great, better known as Charlemagne, was the son of which king?
A) Augustus II the Strong
B) Ethelred the Unready
C) Gorm the Old
D) Pepin the Short

5. Who was the ancient Egyptian god of the sun?
A) Anubis
B) Geb
C) Osiris
D) Ra

6. Juliette Gordon Low founded what organization in 1912?
A) Daughters of the American Revolution
B) Girl Scouts of the USA
C) Junior League
D) National Woman’s Party


1) “Star Wars” composer John Williams wrote the scores for the “big three” disaster movies of the 1970s: “The Poseidon Adventure,” “The Towering Inferno” and “Earthquake.
2) “Fear the Turtle” is the unofficial slogan of the University of Maryland Terrapins.
3) Jenny Piccalo was Joanie Cunningham’s best friend on “Happy Days.”
4) Pepin the Short, King of the Franks, was the father of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne.
5) Ra was the ancient Egyptian god of the sun.
6) Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1912.


The Frugal Lifestyle

May 22, 2017  
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I’ll admit I used to think frugality was a distasteful lifestyle forced upon the poor. I believed it was synonymous with never buying new clothes and dumpster diving under the cover of night.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn. And learn I did — and I continue to learn — that it is the path to building wealth with any income.
I’d say the most fun I’ve had learning the fine art of frugality has been in reading “The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy” by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko.
Webster’s dictionary defines “frugal” as behavior characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources. The opposite is “wasteful,” a lifestyle marked by lavish spending and hyperconsumption. Wealth has nothing to do with how much you earn. It’s about what you do with it and how much you keep.
Ask most people to name a financially savvy American and a regular guy like 41-year-old Paul Kieffer, profiled several years ago in Money Magazine, wouldn’t even be in the running. At that time, Kieffer lived in St. Charles, Minnesota (population 3,735), spent about $38,000 a year to support his wife and two kids, drove a three-year-old used car, refused to sign up for cable TV and worked six days a week at the local Red Wing shoe store. Oh, yes. Kieffer also happened to own the store, as well as five trailer parks in the St. Charles area, which gave him a net worth of $1.4 million.
The reason folks like Kieffer are financially independent is because they live understated lifestyles. They live frugally. They aren’t showy; they are careful how they spend and invest their money.
Stanley and Danko identify the following self-imposed rules of self-made wealthy Americans:
–Live below your means. Reduce your spending as necessary, so you eventually save 15 to 20 percent of your annual income before taxes.
–Meticulously budget your spending. Make a belt-tightening plan for everything you spend, and do whatever it takes to stick to it.
–Take on secured debt sparingly. Every dollar you pay in interest is one less you have to invest. Unsecured debt is not in the vocabulary of the authentically wealthy.
–Participate in serious tax sheltering. Pay as little as legally possible in income taxes by maxing out on contributions to tax-deferred retirement accounts.
–Launch a disciplined investment plan. More important than the amount of money you put away now is establishing the habit of regular investing.
–Get help from a sharp fee-only financial advisor. Such a professional can assist with a wide range of financial needs for a flat fee. To find a good one, go to the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors website. Another good resource is the Garrett Planning Network.
–Work hard — ideally in your own business. Salaried workers are pretty much limited to what an employer will pay them. Savvy business owners can grow their business and thereby increase their income.
Keep in mind as you consider what role frugality will play in your household and in your life that any of the people who flaunt the trappings of success often have little wealth. I’m told that Texans describe these people who live flashy lifestyles in a very simple yet colorful way: Big hat, no cattle!
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at




Refinance Credit Card Debt? Sell an Auto Short? Yes and No!

May 18, 2017  
Filed under Blogs


These days, with so many resources available on the internet, it’s not always easy to know who or what can be trusted. After all, if you can refinance your home mortgage, you should be able to do that with your credit card debt and car loan as well, right?

Dear Mary: With your guidance, I have successfully refinanced my credit card debt with a peer-to-peer loan, or P2P loan, from Prosper. I’m still surprised by how easy it was.
I have three credit card accounts that totaled $7,523. The minute the Prosper loan proceeds hit my bank account, I went online and paid each of these accounts to zero dollars.
Now I have these three credit card accounts with a zero-dollar balance, plus a new Prosper installment loan. I have two questions: How will this affect my FICO score, which was 720 when I applied to Prosper? And should I close the credit card accounts? — Jonathan
Dear Jonathan: This move could actually improve your credit score. Because you have zero-dollar balances on your credit card accounts, your current revolving utilization rate is zero percent, which in credit-score talk is perfect. That means you are utilizing none of the credit limits on those open-ended credit accounts. That should boost your FICO score because 30 percent of your score is based on your revolving utilization rate. The lower your rate, the more points you get in that category.
Assuming you’ve learned your lesson about credit card debt and you will never allow debt to roll over from one month to the next again, keeping just one of the credit card accounts open and active (the one you’ve had the longest) should be sufficient to maintain a great FICO score. You can confidently close the other two without tanking your score — but only if the account you keep does not accumulate debt!
I suggest you close those other two accounts over a period of time, like one next month and the other in six months.
By the way: Congratulations! You will be completely debt-free much sooner now that you have refinanced your open-end revolving consumer debt into this closed-end installment loan that is fully amortized, has a fixed rate of interest and a fixed monthly payment, and is paid automatically each month so you don’t have to think about it.
Dear Readers: My e-book, “The Complete Guide to Refinance Your Credit-Card Debt,” is currently available for free download on my Debt-Proof Living website. It’s an easy read, and it gives step-by-step instructions. Jonathan’s right: The process is easy!
Dear Mary: Is it possible to do a short sale for a vehicle? We have a 2009 vehicle on which we owe approximately $13,700. Its market value is $7,000 at most. Our payment is $326 per month.
The loan consultant gave me several options, including a two-month deferment on payments, which I accepted to give us a little breathing room.
He also mentioned a short sale, where we would find a dealer to purchase the car from us and get our loan company to accept the sale amount. That would be the end of it; we could walk away without owing anything else. This seems too good to be true. Can you tell me what I need to know about a short sale? What are the pros and cons? — Lori
Dear Lori: I don’t know what a loan consultant is, but I think you’ve been scammed. There is no such thing as a short sale on an auto loan. And you should be very concerned about how not making car payments for two months affected your credit score.
You need to do a couple of things right away. First, call your auto lender and see where you are and what you need to do to bring your loan current.
Next, find a buyer to purchase your car at its current market value. If you cannot come up with the difference between the sale price and the amount you owe in cash, find a way to borrow it from a family member or your credit union (your chances here may be diminished depending on your credit score).
Yes, you will have to make payments on this gap loan, but they will be considerably smaller than your current monthly payments.
In the future, wise up. Pay attention to your common sense when it suggests that something is too good to be true. I fear that it was this time.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at




The No-Scrub Method for Sparkling Clean Coffee Carafes, and More Great Reader Tips

May 17, 2017  
Filed under Blogs


All kinds of methods exist for cleaning glass coffee carafes, most of which are brought to us by hardworking super-experienced restaurant servers. Who better to know how to get things done fast and efficiently?

I thought I’d heard every method, too — that is, until I heard from Laurie. I’ll be the first to say she’s right on. I love her method. I would caution to make sure you don’t splash bleach on that cute apron or those beautiful kitchen towels. That’s the challenge with bleach in the kitchen.
SUPER CLEAN. After years of scouring, scrubbing and scratching hundreds of coffee carafes, I have discovered an absolutely miraculous cleaning method that you will not believe. Fill the carafe up a few inches from the top with water. Add 1/4 cup liquid chlorine bleach. Add exactly two drops of blue Dawn (no more, no less). Top it off with water so it’s all the way to the top. Do not scrub. Within 10 minutes, your pot will be sparkling like new. Rinse well with clear water. This would have saved me lots and lots of time, many pounds of salt, many bushels of ice cubes and endless elbow grease if I had come across it sooner. — Laurie
HAPPY KIDDOS. Whenever I go to friends or relatives with a gift for a new baby or a birthday, I take dollar store toys for the other small children in the house. That way, there are no jealous siblings, and the cost is minimal. — Mitzi
MESS-FREE. I save all empty plastic cereal bags to coat chicken and fish and then throw away the bag. — Shirley
ORGANIZE YOUR STUFF. My son is in the U.S. Marine Corps and has several remotes attached to the wardrobe in his barracks with self-stick hook-and-loop tape. The product comes in handy when living in tight quarters. I think a supply of it should be on your list of gift ideas for college-bound students! — Kelly
DORM SECURITY. College dorms are not the most secure places to live, and it always bothered me that there was not a place to secure items like keys, passports, etc. I gave all my kids a secure lockbox. It’s a handy place to put their money, ID cards and charge cards. They tell me how often they used it. — Susan
(I like the kind of lockbox that comes disguised as a boring book! — M.H.)
SUB OR RAIN CHECK, PLEASE. Is a supermarket sale item out of stock? Ask whether there is a substitute product available for the same price. This is an especially good tip to try at the deli, where there are several brands of the same type of meat or cheese. No alternative product? Take a rain check, so you can take advantage of a sale at another time. — Holly
ALL THE FLYERS. Did you miss this week’s sales circulars in your mail or local paper? You’ll likely find what you’re looking for on the Retale website and app, which consolidates the weekly flyers of more than 100 retailers. Enter your ZIP code and check out the circulars that pop up, or search for a specific store. A quick glance will let you know how much time is left before a sale ends, which is super helpful since the old Sunday-to-Saturday sale cycle isn’t so common anymore. Click on “stores” to find a store near you complete with address, phone, hours of operation and a map to get you there. — Steven
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at




Reader Feedback: Instant Pot, Home Chef, Etiquette and Tap Water

May 16, 2017  
Filed under Blogs


I have the most loyal and responsive readers on Earth. Every day, I can count on my inbox filling up with your opinions, reactions, gratitude, funny stories and arguments, and even the occasional rebuke from a reader who lets me have it!

What really gets my attention is when I receive hundreds of responses to a single column. That’s when I know we’re on to something. Here’s a tiny sample to show you what I’m talking about.
Dear Mary: My new Instant Pot sat in the box for a few weeks. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, and maybe I was a little scared. Thanks for pushing me to give it a try. Now I use it every day to make at least one meal. It has paid for itself more than once by now. I’m hooked on Instant Pot! — Sally
Dear Mary: I love my Instant Pot so much I gave one to my daughter-in-law for her birthday. Let’s just say that was the best money I could have spent. — Molly
Dear Mary: For the first time in my life, I look forward to making dinner when we have a Home Chef meal kit in the fridge. My 15-year-old son and I do it together (that’s a miracle, right there) just like we’re on TV. Even better, we love everything about the food. — Myria
Dear Mary: I haven’t been in a restaurant or take-out joint since meeting Home Chef. Kudos, and many thanks. — William
Dear Mary: I, too, tried Home Chef after you last mentioned it. I love it! I look like a genius in the kitchen now. I give Home Chef five stars. — Janine
Dear Mary: Thank you for the “should I pay the minister” advice. I am the wife of a minister, and I am amazed at what people think regarding this topic. I get pretty annoyed when people don’t pay considering he spends his entire Saturday afternoon and evening (his day off) away from his family performing a wedding. His qualifications allow him to perform weddings, but it is not part of his job. He could say “no, sorry,” which I encourage because people are so cheap and my time with him is so valuable. Honestly, I have to tell myself not to ask because otherwise I get so angry. You were his instrument today. Bless you and your advice through the years — it has helped me tremendously! — Anonymous
Dear Mary: Thank you so much for telling your readers to ask for separate checks when or before they order. I’ve been a server nearly two decades, and I can say without a doubt that this makes the server’s job so much easier, and it allows them to give all their tables the best service because they don’t have to scramble and ignore others in a last-minute crisis when one table wants to get out the door but needs the bill split 10 ways with three different payment methods. — Nicole
Dear Mary: I have read about fluoride — what it is and how it came to be used in municipal water supply — and I avoid tap water whenever possible. I invested in a Berkey water filter with the added fluoride filters. It has paid for itself because non- fluoridated water is so much better for my health and I no longer pay for questionable bottled water. — Donna
Dear Mary: I enjoyed this column because I, too, think the bottled water industry has taken advantage of folks. As a retired pediatric dentist, I am concerned about the widespread use of bottled water (which often contains negligible fluoride, depending on its source or processing) and folks avoiding tap water containing fluoride.
You recommended use of a reverse-osmosis filter. If the system uses reverse osmosis, fluoride will be removed from the water. Many of these products do not use reverse osmosis, and the child will receive fluoride. The parents should check the system they install to make sure it is not reverse osmosis. — Daniel W. Shaw, DMD, formerly clinical associate professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a personal finance member website and the author of “Debt-Proof Living,” released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at





Trivia Bits – Week of May 15

May 15, 2017  


In poetry, an anapest is a group of three syllables: two unstressed and one stressed. A poem written in anapestic tetrameter has four anapests in each line. (The prefix tetra means four.) It all sounds very fancy, until you realize that much of the poetry you loved best as a kid — and possibly still do! — was written in anapestic tetrameter. That includes most of Dr. Seuss as well as Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” Read them aloud and you’ll see.

With a median age of about 15, the African nation of Niger has the youngest population of any country in the world. Uganda is a close second, and eight more African nations round out the top 10. By comparison, the world median age is around 30. The United States comes in with 40; Germany and Japan are nearly 47. Monaco has the world’s highest median age at an estimated 52.4.

In 1849, landscape artist James F. Wilkins made a 151-day journey from Missouri to California, keeping a diary and sketching throughout the trip. His route took him through southern Idaho past spectacular granite formations that were landmarks for westward bound emigrants. In his diary, Wilkins called the area “City of Rocks,” and the name stuck. Since 1988, it’s officially been known as City of Rocks National Reserve, part of the National Park System.

The oldest surviving globe of the world is the 1492 “Erdapfel” (earth apple), attributed to German merchant/geographer Martin Behaim. A close second is the Laon Globe made in France and dated 1493. They’re not the first globes ever made. In fact, Columbus probably brought a globe with him when he set sail for India in 1492. (Not that it did him much good.) What makes the Erdapfel and Laon Globe unusual, however, is that they were made before Columbus returned from his voyage. Thus they don’t depict the Americas.

The blackbird singing on the Beatles’ 1968 song “Blackbird” really is a blackbird. Paul McCartney recorded the song solo, playing an acoustic guitar. He wanted the recording to sound as if he were playing outdoors. So sound engineer Geoff Emerick added the birdsong from an Abbey Road Studios sound effects collection. The bird had been recorded by another sound engineer in his backyard a few years earlier.

Trench coats come to us from World War I, where they were worn by officers in the battle trenches. Their characteristic features had practical purposes: Epaulets displayed the officer’s rank; a back placket allowed water to run off the garment; front flaps provided cushioning against the butt of a rifle; gear was clipped to D rings on the belt. Resistant to “wind, wet and mud,” some trench coats also had a detachable fleece lining that could be used as an emergency blanket.


1. Dr. Seuss’s Thidwick was what type of creature?
A) Cat
B) Elephant
C) Lidwick
D) Moose

2. Dayton, Ohio, is named for Jonathan Dayton, who holds what distinction?
A) Aviation pioneer
B) Youngest Civil War general
C) First governor of Ohio
D) Youngest signer of the U.S. Constitution

3. Who carved the presidential portraits on Mount Rushmore?
A) Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum
B) Daniel Chester French
C) Henry Augustus Lukeman
D) John and Washington Roebling

4. What imaginary line runs through India, China, Mexico and the Bahamas at approximately 23.5 degrees north latitude?
A) Equator
B) International Date Line
C) Tropic of Cancer
D) Tropic of Capricorn

5. Suggested by reader Bob Sluis: What was Johnny Cash putting together in his 1976 song “One Piece at a Time”?
A) His broken heart
B) A Cadillac
C) A perfect woman
D) A railroad track

6. Which fictional detective is involved in the case of the Maltese Falcon?
A) Sherlock Holmes
B) Philip Marlowe
C) Hercule Poirot
D) Sam Spade


1) Thidwick was the “big-hearted moose” in a Dr. Seuss story.
2) Dayton, Ohio, is named for Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey, youngest signer of the U.S. Constitution.
3) Father and son Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum carved the images of the presidents in Mount Rushmore.
4) The Tropic of Cancer runs around the globe at approximately 23.5 degrees north latitude.
5) Johnny Cash was putting together a Cadillac in his 1976 song “One Piece at a Time.”
6) Dashiell Hammett’s detective Sam Spade is involved in the case of the Maltese Falcon.


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