DEAR MARY: We will need a new stove soon — a slide-in type with a glass cooktop. On preliminary pricing, it will cost about $1,200 to replace our current model. We’ve just moved in, and I am not sure when (or if) we will be remodeling the kitchen and what the new configuration will be. What are your suggestions for a cheap stopgap option? Sears wants $600 to fix the problems with the current oven and advised getting a new one because it is fifteen years old. I have enjoyed all of your tips and tricks over the years! — Cristy M., email
DEAR CRISTY: Given your plans to remodel, I’d go with getting your current stove repaired. You don’t say how soon you will be remodeling, but let’s say it’s in five years. If you opt for a new stove now, you may feel compelled to design your new kitchen around a five-year-old stove you purchased to fit an existing space. By repairing your current stove, you’ll save money now and also give yourselves more options when it’s time to tear out and start over. A lot can happen in five years. I wonder if maybe your salesman was thinking more about his commission than your best interests when he suggested you should buy a new stove.
DEAR MARY: My mother passed away a few weeks ago. She left a credit-card balance of $3,500. I had been paying her bills while she was in a nursing home and under hospice care, as she had no income. As her son, am I now responsible for this credit-card debt since she has passed away? — Frank G., Pennsylvania
DEAR FRANK: No, you are not, unless you are named on the account as a joint owner. If your mother was the only person on the account, the credit card company, upon notification of her death, will look to her estate for full payment.
Generally, (laws vary from one state to another) the executor of her estate will handle that. If there are no assets or insufficient sums with which to pay them off, the credit card company has to eat the loss. However, if she left assets (a home or anything of value), those assets must be liquidated to pay her creditors before they can be distributed to her heirs.
Check out Nolo Press (nolopress.com) for excellent self-help books and information that will help you settle her estate — which includes notifying her creditors — without spending a lot of money on attorney fees. I am sorry for your loss and wish you well in this difficult time.
DEAR MARY: My children love the apple slices available pre-packaged at the grocery store. I really appreciate the convenience, but I hate the price tag. I would love to prepare the slices at home myself for a fraction of the cost; however, I’m at a loss for the ingredient that keeps the apple slices from turning brown before their time. Any suggestions? — Michelle P., email
DEAR MICHELLE: Citric acid is the best way to keep apple slices from turning brown. An easy way to accomplish this is to create a citric acid bath — one gallon of cold water into which you have dissolved a package of unsweetened lemon Kool-Aid. Dip the apples slices in this bath, and then place them in zip-type plastic bags. Remember, this trick will only slow the browning process, not eliminate it.
Mary invites questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. 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 “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement,” released in 2013. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.