Dear Cheapskate: My wife and I are having a disagreement. 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 afford to 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 R., Alabama
Dear James: I’d rather shove toothpicks under by fingernails than ever lease a new car again, which is a story for another time, but enough about me. Here’s my advice to you: Do whatever you must to keep the old car running for now. But for the next 12 months live as though you are making $300 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 you will have two things: A good idea of your comfort zone for big lease payments and $3,600 cash. Now you’ve got options. You can sell the clunker and, together with the cash, buy a better used car or 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.
Dear Mary: I’m so confused by laundry products, particularly detergents. Are powders better than liquid? Is the word “ultra” just hype? Thanks. — Cindy P., Pennsylvania
Dear Cindy: Here’s the scoop on laundry detergent: Typically the word “Ultra” means the product has been concentrated to fit into a smaller box. The problem is, unless you read the label and carefully measure and experiment to find the least amount that works for you, you’ll probably dump in the same amount you have in the past. Not good.
A product that has fabric softener added isn’t going to clean or soften as well, but generally is cheaper than buying two different products.
If a product says it has more stain fighters, it contains enzymes to dissolve stains better, but you’ll still have to pretreat heavy stains. Detergents with enzymes usually cost more than those without. Typically, liquid detergents are more expensive and work better on greasy stains, but the cheaper powdered detergents are better on clay dirt and mud stains. Both liquid detergent and liquid bleach will get a boost and work better if you add one-half cup of baking soda to the wash cycle, which means it’s possible you’ll be able to use less detergent. This is only cost effective when your soda products are less per ounce than the detergent.
And now for my super-duper laundry detergent savings secret: I make my own laundry detergent. Seriously. And it’s so cheap — about 5 cents per wash load. It has no perfumes or mystery ingredients and works better than any commercial laundry products I’ve purchased in the past. Give it a try. I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised.