Dear Mary: Last summer, I got a $3,000 bonus that my brother helped me invest in a couple of mutual finds. When my quarterly statements come in the mail, I'm totally confused by the pie charts and graphs and tend to toss them out. My brother says it's really important to track my investments. Is there an easier way to do this? — Erin
Dear Erin: The idea behind a mutual fund is simple: Lots of small investors pool their money and hire a professional to invest and manage the fund. Reports can be confusing because you're seeing details of everything your fund owns. The one number you need to keep your eye on is the net asset value, or the NAV — the value of the fund's assets on a specific date, minus liabilities and divided by the number of shares held by fund members. Compare the NAV each quarter with previous statements to see how the fund is doing. In the meantime, start following investing-related websites like Kiplinger and MarketWatch.
Dear Mary: I have a great pair of leather shoes that I just love, but they aren't in a color that goes with much in my wardrobe. I bought them over 10 years ago and would love to purchase another pair in black. The brand is Karen Moore Shoes. — Pam
Dear Pam: I've had no luck finding that brand. However, I'm not convinced you need to replace these shoes simply because they are the wrong color. Because these shoes are made of leather, a reputable shoe repairman should be able to dye your shoes black. While prices vary throughout the country, you could get an excellent-quality job for far less than the cost to replace them. I'm so sure this will work out for you that I'm going to congratulate you for having the foresight a decade ago to invest in classically styled, excellent-quality leather shoes!
Dear Mary: The tag on my favorite pair of slacks is marked "Wash by hand." Is there any way that I can get around this? They are 97% polyester and 3% spandex. — Amberleah
Dear Amberleah: This is curious because polyester and spandex are both washable fabrics. I have a feeling the manufacturer is erring on the side of caution to limit all liability. I am hesitant to suggest you go against that instruction, but I would wash them by machine in a heartbeat. I'd turn the pants inside out and wash them alone or with like colors on the gentle cycle using cool water. Then I'd lay them flat or hang them from the ankles, not the waist, to dry. Never put spandex in the dryer. Of course, I am not officially recommending that you do this (wink, wink).
Dear Mary: A friend and I were talking about portions and quantities in recipes. If a recipe calls for two eggs, what size should they be: small, medium or large? Does it matter? — Ann
Dear Ann: Although any size egg may be used for frying, scrambling, boiling or poaching, most recipes for baked dishes, such as custards and cakes, are based on the use of large eggs. The correct egg size can be important in recipes with exact measurement requirements, such as cakes or souffles. A large egg contains about 4 tablespoons of content (2 2/3 tablespoons of white and 1 1/2 tablespoons of yolk). Five large eggs or six small eggs equal one cup.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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