Just this past weekend, while selecting grout for my new laundry room floor, I did a double take in the flooring aisle at Home Depot. The beautiful "hardwood" flooring didn't seem to match the sign that clearly read "Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring." What?! Really? Truth.
But even the most luxurious vinyl comes with its own challenge, as evidenced by today's first reader question.
Dear Mary: We just installed vinyl plank flooring in our home. Instructions say to only place non-rubber-backed rugs and mats on it. Is there an anti-fatigue non-rubber rug out there that you recommend? — Karen
Dear Karen: This past weekend, I was looking at a new line of luxury vinyl plank flooring by Armstrong Flooring. Not only is it gorgeous and practical; it's amazingly affordable. Vinyl flooring has come a long way. But the problem remains that petroleum-based products like rubber can permanently stain vinyl over time. On light vinyl colors that stain will appear an ugly shade of yellow. On darker vinyl, the stain may create a dark, shadowy appearance over time.
The Guardian Air Step Vinyl Anti-Fatigue Floor Mat may be a good option for you. These mats come in a variety of sizes and two color choices.
Another option is to place rugs that have no rubber backing over thick felt rug pads. As long as the pads are heavy and slightly smaller than the rugs themselves, they should stay in place, and provide a luxurious cushion for your feet and protection for your floor.
Dear Mary: A co-worker had a programmable thermostat installed in her home. She says the temperature is always perfect and her utility bills are lower. The thermostat costs over $200, plus installation. Is it really worth it? — Martha
Dear Martha: Programmable thermostats that control central heat and air conditioning can return many times their original cost in lower electricity bills. You can set your timer to turn off the AC about the time you leave for the day and turn back on a half-hour before you get home. Contrary to popular belief, this does not use more electricity than having the AC constantly maintain a cool temperature; it uses less. In the winter, you can program your heat similarly.
On the low end, programmable thermostats online or at your local home improvement store like the Lux Products TX100E 7-Day Programmable Thermostat start as low as $27. The fabulous Nest Learning Thermostat, which is like a brain for your HVAC system that interfaces with your smartphone (amazing!), costs about $225.
All programmables come with installation instructions, but it's a quick job for an electrician if you're not comfortable doing the installation yourself.
Dear Mary: I'm a stay-at-home mom with a 1- and a 3-year-old. Lately, I've been thinking about working from home to earn some extra money. How do I go about finding legitimate work? — Beth
Dear Beth: Do you knit? Make jewelry? Sew? If so, there are lots of opportunities to sell handmade wares online. As a member of Etsy, you will have your own online store to showcase your items. It's free to become an Etsy seller, but you will pay a fee of 20 cents to list an item with up to five photos for four months. When the item sells, you pay a 3.5 percent commission to Etsy. There is no limit to how much you can charge. What you earn in a month is based on how sought-after your crafts are.
For specific information and resources for products mentioned above, go to EverydayCheapskate.com/123.
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.