Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Calculating the True Cost

Have you ever figured how many hours you’ll have to work to pay for the new car of your dreams or fancy restaurant meal? Perhaps you should, suggests one of my readers who starts out today’s batch of clever reader tips:


My husband and I have finally found a way to curb our runaway spending. When we see something we want (eating out, new vehicle, clothes, etc.) we immediately calculate how many hours we would have to work to pay for it. Here’s an example: Car payment of $400 per month divided by $25 per hour (bring home pay) equals 16 hours. That means we’d have to work two days to make one car payment. Not too bad for driving a new vehicle. Dinner out: $40 divided by $25 per hour equals 1.6 hours. This means we’d have to work longer than it takes us to actually eat the meal. Not a good investment. This has been the only way we have found to calculate the true cost of goods and to control our spending. — Libra M., Texas


A magnetic business card (like the ones you receive from local Realtors and pizza deliveries) laid magnetic side up is perfect for keeping straight pins from rolling off the table and onto the floor. — Dawn N., Arizona


I keep my cereal in clear plastic food storage containers to preserve freshness. Because we keep several varieties on hand I cut out the front of the box and put it inside the container so we can see at a glance which cereal is inside. I keep these box fronts and use them over and over. — Terri, email


You can buy lemons in the winter when they are cheap (citrus from California, Texas, Florida and Arizona come into season in January and linger into early summer) and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. One ice cube section equals about 1 tablespoon of juice. — Michelle C., Kentucky


Instead of trying to figure out how and where to store the artwork my children bring home from school, I take a picture of my child holding the picture or object. I can then put it in their scrapbook for everyone to enjoy. This takes care of the constant battle of where to put these items without taking over my limited storage. — Debora M., Indiana


I always dislike having to buy new printer ink cartridges because of the cost. In the past I have purchased refill kits, but these can be difficult to use. I find that I can conserve ink by adjusting print quality. I select Print or Print Setup from the File menu (sometimes I have to click on a Preferences button from there to get to the right window) and change the setting from Normal to Draft or Fast Draft. The document prints lighter and faster, but this works fine when print quality is not a big issue. — Maria P., Kansas


Some time ago when making chocolate chip cookies I used broken pretzels as a substitute for nuts. The pretzels provide the crunch of nuts for a fraction of the cost and are a perfect alternative for those who are allergic to nuts. By the way, I’m NUTS about your column. Thanks for all you do! — Cheryl G., Maryland

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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