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

May 25, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

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 mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

How Much Is a Second Income Really Worth?

May 24, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

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 mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

 

Suddenly, It’s Spring!

May 23, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

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 mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

 

The Frugal Lifestyle

May 22, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

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 mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

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

May 18, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

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 mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

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

May 17, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

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 mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

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

May 16, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

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.
INSTANT POT
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
HOME CHEF
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
CHEAPSKATE ETIQUETTE
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
TAP WATER
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 mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

 

First-Class Style for Secondhand Clothes

May 15, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKAT
BY MARY HUNT

Consignment shopping is an excellent way to purchase clothes that are often brand-new and less than one-third of the retail price. Most cities these days have specialty consignment shops for babies, children and teens.

The consignment process is simple. The store sets criteria for accepting merchandise from sellers and sets the price — usually 50 percent of the new retail price.
Expect a consignment shop to have very high standards for what it will accept. Often, items must be a current style, brought in clean, and have no visible wear, holes or stains. You bring your items to the store to be reviewed and submitted for sale. Because most stores have limited hours for this process, be sure to call ahead.
Your items will be put on the sales floor and displayed for 30 to 60 days. Once sold, you’ll get 30 to 50 percent of the purchase price, depending on that store’s policy.
Most consignment shops have a process by which they reduce the sales price regularly until the item is sold or the time runs out. At that time, you have the option of either picking up the item or agreeing to have the shop donate it to a charity.
Stores will often give you the choice of taking your proceeds outright or crediting it to a store account. Most people discover that building their account to allow them to shop in the store is the best option. In this way, money rarely changes hands.
Have you ever paid a lot of money for an outfit only to find you don’t like it after all? Of course, you have! Many times, people are reluctant to part with clothes they paid a lot for and never wore for one reason or another. Consignment shopping solves the problem.
The big step is letting go of the guilt and getting rid of the clothes. When you start buying your clothes at consignment stores, that guilt is never there. If you decide you don’t like something you bought, take it back and consign it. You didn’t pay much for it in the first place, and you can use the money you get from consigning it to buy something else.
If you don’t have a consignment store in your town, check out the nearest big city the next time you’re there. Even if you make a trip once or twice a year to clean out your closet, it will be worth the effort.
These days, there’s no reason you should feel compelled to spend a large percentage of your income on new clothes. Let your kids see all the great bargains at a consignment store. Even your teens will be impressed, provided you scout out the best stores ahead of time.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

How to Move from Overspending to Spending Less

May 11, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

Even the mention of words like “frugality” and “thrift” send some people over the edge because for them, those words conjure up thoughts of poverty and deprivation.

They assume that cutting costs is tantamount to diving into dumpsters to find one’s next meal. No wonder so many people prefer a life of debilitating debt to one of frugality.
Let me set the record straight. Please.
There is nothing undignified about spending less than you earn. That’s called living below your means, and it’s a fabulous way to live! When you spend less than you earn, you have some to save, and some to give away. When you spend less than you earn, you are not dependent on credit to get by. It’s a very good thing.
You may be wondering how you can move from overspending to spending less without giving up your quality of life. It starts with prioritizing everything according to how important it is in your life. Then, you only spend on things at the top of the list, ruthlessly cutting your spending on the things further down.
The way to get started prioritizing things in your life is to come up with a system, like a scale of 1 to 10, and then apply this to every way you spend money. Do not hand out 10s willy-nilly. Reserve that designation for only those things you truly love, that bring incredible joy and fulfillment to your life.
As you prioritize, examine everything. Do you eat out often? Go to the movies? Travel? Do you spend on home-improvement projects, kitchen gadgets and visits to the gym? Are cable television and electronic devices a main source of joy? Are you most fulfilled when you are donating your skills and time to a charity in your community? Is fancy jewelry your thing, or are you more into driving a fancy car? Perhaps it’s shoes or gifts for those you love.
Our lists are not likely to be the same. For example, eating out at mediocre chain restaurants is not a priority for me. To me, the food is overpriced and of inferior quality. Having my own car is not high on my list either. And I’m not crazy about English bone china or maintaining a koi pond, but I know people for whom those are both a 10.
But having a beautifully maintained yard with flower gardens, traveling to beautiful places and spending time with good friends are all at the top of my list. I will cut mercilessly in other areas to have money for the things that I really love.
Personal finance is not about saying no to spending on the things you love. Living below your means is not about adopting a life of poverty. It’s about conscious decisions, not guilt. It’s planning and thinking and deciding what’s really important to you.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

Cheapskate Etiquette: Be Gracious; Be Generous; and Always Be Fragrant

May 10, 2017  
Filed under Everyday Cheapskate

EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE
BY MARY HUNT

Face it: Living below your means requires a good bit of creativity from time to time. You have to get pretty clever to stretch a buck.

But just how far can you go in matters of etiquette before you cross the line?
Ask yourself these questions when making a decision having to do with gracious living and etiquette:
–Is my choice to be cheap going to harm or insult another person?
–Will my behavior leave a fragrance or an odor?
Be cheap with yourself and generous with others. Don’t, for example, require a service person to forego a tip so you can live below your means. If you cannot cover a decent tip, don’t eat out. Or order less.
–When in doubt, err on the side of generosity.
–I am invited to a bridal shower I cannot attend. Must I send a gift anyway?
No. Simply respond with your regrets. However, if you are invited to the wedding and cannot attend, you should send a gift.
–Do I have to tip the bellman to carry my bags to the room? I really do think it is ridiculous but don’t like that awkward moment when he just stands there.
Yes. It is customary in our culture to tip a bellman $1 per bag, or $2 per bag if it is heavy — but only if you choose to use that service. You may carry your own bags and save the tip.
–I received a gift certificate for an elaborate day at the spa. Am I obligated to tip the staff?
Determine in advance whether a service charge is included in your gift. You can either look on the certificate itself or call ahead to ask. If none is included, then you should tip 10 to 20 percent of the value of the treatment to be shared between those who provided the individual services.
–On what portion of the restaurant bill do I pay a tip?
Pay the tip on the total for food and beverages before tax. It is customary to pay 15 percent for good service and up to 20 percent if the service was excellent.
–When using a two-for-one restaurant coupon, how do we figure the tip?
Determine what the cost would have been for the meal had you not had the coupon. Figure your tip on this amount before tax.
–The pastor of our church will perform our wedding ceremony. Do we have to pay him since we are members of the church and weddings are part of his job?
Performing weddings and funerals is typically outside the scope of a minister’s regular duties. You must pay him a minimum of $200; more if travel is involved. Give this gratuity to the best man, who will give it to the officiant after the ceremony.
–Must I tip a flower delivery person?
No. When the customer pays a delivery charge for non-food deliveries like furniture, flowers and balloons, a tip is not required. Flower delivery people do not expect to be tipped.
However, if the driver goes out of his way to make a delivery under special circumstances or has had to return more than once to catch the recipient at home, a small tip of $2 to $5 is a gracious gesture.
–When we eat out in a group, the bill is often divided evenly among group members. We are not big drinkers, nor do we make extravagant food choices. Some people in the group go nuts. How can we ask to pay just our portion of the bill without seeming too cheap?
Kindly ask the server for a separate check before you order. If this is not possible, try to position yourself so you are the one to accept the check from the server. Check to see whether the gratuity has been already added to the bill (this is not an unusual practice when there is a large group).
Place your money on the check, being careful to include every item you ordered plus tax and a generous tip (round up), and then pass it along. Believe me: Your gentle boldness will be appreciated by others, and they will follow your lead.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, 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 www.DebtProofLiving.com, 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 www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2017 CREATORS.COM

 

 

 

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