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The Fine Art of the Effective Complaint Are you ever frustrated with customer service? Have you been ripped off, taken to the cleaners and hung out to dry by a store or service provider? To claim the title of savvy consumer you need know-how and confidence to make sure that, no matter …Read more. How to Beef Up Home Security on the Cheap As a kid, I lived in a house with security that rivaled Fort Knox. Every exterior opening was fitted with an old-fashioned hook-and-eye latch, which my mother would latch from the inside each and every time someone left the house. As one who would …Read more. Hail Damage is Bad -- But Better Than Owing Money to the IRS Dear Mary: I was wondering how you feel about relying on homeowners insurance for getting a roof replacement. I have had State Farm homeowners insurance since 1995 and have never made a claim. But now the 20-year-old roof on my house has suffered …Read more. Questions About Down Comforters and Inexpensive Vacuums Dear Mary: I love your articles, and I have learned so much from you about which products to purchase. I don't know if you have ever written anything about down comforters, but I am looking for one that is machine washable, not too expensive, can be …Read more.
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See How They Grow


Like most families, we had a special wall where we recorded our sons' growth, making marks to record their heights from time to time. When we remodeled, we cut out that section of the wall and framed it, and it hangs today as a precious visual memory. It's good, but not as great as today's first clever tip. It beats my wall a thousand times over.

GROWING BOY. I have a tradition that has brought me much joy. On my son's first birthday, I bought an extra-large T-shirt and put his initial on the front. I placed an 8-by-10 photo of him wearing the shirt in an album. I do this every year on his birthday; he wears the same T-shirt. It is fun to see how he has grown! When the shirt fits him, I will give it to him, along with the album. — Vicky F., e-mail

DISAPPEARING ACT. I tried everything to get ink off a doll's face: rubbing alcohol, magic eraser, baking soda, lemon extract and nail polish remover. Nothing worked. Then I did an Internet search and found that acne cream with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide could do the job. I dabbed it on and placed the doll in the sunlight. It worked within several hours. The ink marks, which had been there for weeks, disappeared! — Mary A., Georgia

MICROWAVE MAKEOVER. I burned popcorn in my microwave, and the smell was terrible, even after I cleaned it several times. I finally removed the odor by placing a two-cup glass dish full of white vinegar in the microwave.

Several times a day, I heated the vinegar, leaving the dish inside unless I was using the microwave to heat something else. Every other day, I changed the vinegar. After about a week, the burned-popcorn smell was completely gone. — Fran H., e-mail

SALT SCRUB. Instead of steel wool, try using salt for scrubbing pots and pans, especially iron skillets. It does a great job; it is environmentally friendly; and it is cheap. — Gigi B., California

BURN RELIEF. If you get a grease burn, relieve it quickly with mustard. Two of my teenage children work at a fast-food restaurant, and they learned that mustard brings the best pain relief. — Stephanie L., Missouri

TEAR REPAIR. If your kids are like mine, a small tear in their play clothes in the morning will be 4 inches wide by the end of the day. A stopgap measure is to put a piece of duct tape on the underside of the tear. The rip won't get any bigger on its own; the child won't be as tempted to pull on it and make it larger; and the smooth side of the tape isn't rough against the child's skin. I confess that I have made this "temporary" repair last for several wearings. — Helen M., e-mail

Would you like to send a tip to Mary? You can e-mail her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. Mary Hunt is the founder of and author of 18 books, including "Debt-Proof Living" and "Tiptionary 2." To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



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