Dear Mary: I have always valued your comments about various products and can honestly say that I have never been disappointed in anything I bought after reading your recommendations. Have you done any research on the Instant Pot multifunctional pressure cookers? I was thinking one might be a good gift. Thank you so much. — Conni
Dear Conni: Thank you for your kind words and trust. It means the world to me.
Yes, I am very familiar with Instant Pot, a single electric appliance that functions as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, maker, steamer and warmer and also sautes and browns. Its onboard microprocessor (think computer) is programmed with adjustable cooking modes, up to 24 hours of delayed cooking and automatic keep-warm for up to 10 hours. When it comes to modern technology, Instant Pot is it. This appliance can turn out perfectly poached eggs in two to three minutes and baked potatoes in 12 minutes.
Instant Pot has the power to change your life. Really, I can't say too many good things, and I agree wholeheartedly that an Instant Pot would make a wonderful gift for a very lucky foodie! While there are a number of different Instant Pot models, my pick for the best inexpensive option is the 6-quart 1,000-watt Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi Functional Pressure Cooker. It is sweet! It costs about $120.
Dear Mary: I have read your advice for years and gained so much from your tips. My husband and I are thinking of buying a big-screen TV. We have been told to get a smart one. Can you give me any recommendations? Thanks. — Judy
Dear Judy: I agree that if you're going to invest in a new television, it really should be a smart TV, one that is internet-enabled and supports movie streaming from content providers, such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. These days, there are so many to choose from. They all have their own features, and prices range from as low as $150 for an entry-level 32-inch model up to $20,000 for an 88-inch curved screen model that broadcasts in 4K Ultra HD!
Here's my advice: First, decide where you will put this television. That will help you determine the best size. Next, determine how much you are willing to spend. If you live within driving range of either Costco or Sam's Club, go there. You can get a day pass if you are not a member, so you can look around. Talk with the folks in the TV department. You'll learn a lot. And you'll see some great prices for beautiful smart TVs.
With all of that said, if you would rather just order one online and have it delivered to your home with free shipping (like me), here's my pick for the best inexpensive smart TV: the TCL 55-inch 4K Ultra HD Roku Smart LED TV. It's a great TV for the price — about $400.
Need a bit more help? Amazon has introduced a great new online feature that will take all the guesswork out of finding the right TV for your needs. Check it out.
Dear Mary: I am looking for a formula to wash down a vinyl-sided house. I read about it here years ago. I recall that one of the ingredients was Spic and Span. I hope you can help. Thank you. — Connie
Dear Connie: I can — here it is:
VINYL SIDING CLEANER: You'll need 2/3 cup Spic 'n Span, 1/2 cup powdered Tide laundry detergent, 1 quart liquid chlorine bleach and 3 quarts very hot water. Mix ingredients very well in a 2-gallon bucket, and allow them to stand for 4 to 5 hours. Pour this concentrate into an ordinary hose-end garden sprayer set to the midpoint, and apply the cleaner to the vinyl siding. Leave solution on siding for five minutes, remove the sprayer, and rinse the siding well with a hose.
Hope that helps. Let me know how it works for you. By the way, you can always find past columns on the Everyday Cheapskate website. Use the handy search bar to type in a keyword.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], 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.