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The Frugal Life – Living Well With What You Have

Published Weekly by Randal Watkins
July 15, 2002





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Need Your Help

Finding Financial Advisors

Your Yard Can Be A Wildlife Habitat

Poisons In The Home & Flea Solutions







Hello Everyone,

The weather has been great here in Virginia. Especially, since we had a few days of a good slow rain. Our state forrests and plants around our house were getting very dry. In fact, the lake we live near has been down several feet. Water sure is important and certainly something we want to use frugally.

Now I would like to ask your help on preparing the ezine. It would be a great help when you are writing if you will specify in the subject if this is a tip, question, article or answer. If an answer to a previous question please include the original question. All these changes will help me a great deal on knowing where to categorize the respective emails.

Please, remember I reserve the right to “edit” your contributions. I do this for space, grammar and (only a few times) a better choice of words.

Lastly, I am getting contributions to questions that are for back issues. I think it will be best to set some sort of date restriction. Otherwise, I will be handling questions that are from some way back issues. Let’s make two weeks old the cutoff time. For example, if any answers are sent in later than 2 weeks from when the original question was posted then they may not be posted in the ezine. It’s possibe they could be posted on the website if appropriate.

I think it’s important we have some guidelines and I do appreciate your understanding the need for them.

I can see the question answer exchange is catching on by the increase in the number of questions. I believe this offers a very good means to exchange ideas and find answers to the questions we encounter. With out your readership and involvement this wouldn’t be possible. Thanks again!

Until next week!

Randal Watkins


(Gary is on vacation, this is a repeat of an article from last year)

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
A financial corporation offered a class on money and how to properly use it.
I sat through their spiel and asked questions. Of course they offer the full
array of services from investments to mortgages. All of this sounds good
during the presentation. But it has always been my understanding that no one
is willing to do something for you without getting something in return. Can
you tell me what you think of these corporations and what they are offering?
Is there a catch? How can I tell who is reputable and who is just going to
take me for a ride? Thanks. Brent

Brent’s right. Generally speaking there is no free lunch. Strangers may be
willing to give you something, but they do have hopes of getting something

Teaching a class or hosting a seminar are common and legitimate ways for
financial institutions to find new clients. Back when I was a broker I even
taught a few classes. The hope is to impress your ‘students’ enough so that
they do business with you.

What do I think of this firm and class? Impossible to say. Because there is
no one right financial firm, broker or planner for everyone. Brent’s needs
are different than mine. So it would be pointless for me to offer an opinion
about the class. But with a little help Brent can answer the question for

He can begin by deciding what he’s trying to accomplish. Some things are
fairly simple. For instance, finding a good deal on auto insurance. Other
things, like estimating how much money he’ll need for retirement, are more

Next he’ll need to determine how much he already knows about the subject and
how much he’s willing to learn on his own. He’ll face a trade-off. He can
save money by becoming more knowledgeable. But, it takes time and effort to
gain that knowledge.

Brent will find information readily available. Resources that were only
available to brokers 20 years ago are now as close as your computer. He’ll
also find a wealth of books on all areas of money and investments.

One rule should guide Brent when making financial decisions. If he doesn’t
understand an investment, he shouldn’t put his money into it. A careful
explanation should allow him to understand exactly how his money is expected
to make more money.

Next Brent needs to find out how the financial firm will be compensated.
Generally, they make their money by charging premiums, commissions and fees.

You’re used to paying premiums on insurance policies. The premium is
determined by the insurance company. It is not a set percentage of the
coverage. Typically maximum premiums are regulated, but Brent should shop
for the lowest price.

On investment products he could run into commissions. A commission is a
charge that’s added to the cost of the securities being purchased or
deducted from the proceeds of a sale. It’s not a flat percentage but is
related to the amount of money involved.

There is no standard commission rate. Full service brokers who provide stock
trading advice get top dollar. Less service means a lower price. It’s up to
Brent how to decide how much advice he needs.

Fees come in a couple of different disguises. Some are charged when you take
a certain action. A common one is the fee for a bounced check. Mutual funds
may charge a fee for trading funds within their family. Typically fees are a
set, flat amount and are not dependent on the size of the transaction.

Many investment managers are compensated through “management fees”.
Typically they’ll charge a preset percentage of the money they control for
making the day-to-day investment decisions. Charges are usually between
….25% and 1.5%. The fee schedule for any money manager (including mutual
funds) should be readily available.

With some mutual funds you’ll incur a fee if you sell the fund. Those are
known as “12b-1 Fees”. If Brent hears the phrase “12b-1” he needs to be sure
he understands what fees he could trigger later.

The financial services industry is creative in finding ways charge you for
their work. So Brent will need to dig a bit to find all the premiums,
commissions and fees he could be facing. In some products he’ll find a
combination of the different charges. Generally the company is required to
advise you of all expenses before you purchase. But expect to study some
fine print to find them.

How can Brent find a good advisor? Going to seminars and asking respected
friends who they use are good ways. He needs to have realistic expectations.
A broker can’t afford to spend much time with someone who’s going to
generate $50 a year in commissions. And that’s ok. For transactions that
will generate small commissions Brent should be able to use a discount or
online broker. And, for a regular investment program, he might be better off
choosing a mutual fund.

The good news is that there’s plenty of help available for just about any
financial situation. Hopefully Brent will get just what he needs for a
bright future.

Gary is a former Certified Financial Planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletter at this site which includes: Online Habitat Planner, Tips and
Projects, The Native Plant Guide and Wildlife Finder, “Ask The Expert,”
Message Boards, and much, much more! Check it out!



We’ve heard a lot about toxic wastes, but it’s not only government and
industry that has to deal with poisonous substances. Most households
regularly use poisons to wash clothes, clean stoves, kill pests, and manage

They’re often dangerous to use – and always danger to dispose of. It would
be better to “just say no” to such household poisons. Use up what you have,
dispose of the container carefully, and find an alternative.

For gardens, here’s a great site with alternative solutions:

To stop fleas in the house, there are many products available online.
Here’s a link to one that lasts for 7 months:

For flea control on the pet, give a weekly bath in gentle soap, followed by
a weekly powder with rotenone (a harmless and edible garden and pet

Our favorite natural soap/cleaner/laundry detergent is Sunshine Concentrate.
I’ve used nothing else for 14 years: href=””>

FRUGAL TIPS – From Our Subscribers

I can’t help commenting on the example given to illustrate the principle
(basically sound) that one should pay no more than 25% of income for a house
payment. Maybe the example was supposed to be illustrative. In it, one
should not pay more than $500 per month for one’s mortgage.

I am really surprised at the $500.00 per month figure given. At least in
the Washington, D.C. area (possibly more expensive than some), NOTHING is
available for $500 a month. Way back in 1988, I rented a 480-square-foot
apartment for $520 a month, and had to pay extra for air conditioning.

These days, it’s hard to find an apartment for under $800 a month. No one
for miles around could find a house payment for under $1,000, and many are
far more. Incomes are no doubt above the national average, but the
percentage of it required for housing often exceeds 25%.

In any case, housing should not consume such a large percentage of income
that nothing is left for all the other bills one must pay. Marianne


I just wanted to share these suggestions for Bounce Dryer sheets. – Vonceil

All this time I’ve just been using Bounce in the dryer.
1. It will chase ants away when you lay a sheet near them.
2. It takes the odor out of books and photo albums that don’t get
opened too often.
3. Repels mosquitoes. Tie a sheet of Bounce through a belt loop when outdoors during mosquito season
4. Eliminates static electricity from the television screen. Since
Bounce is designed to help eliminate static cling, wipe the television screen with a used Bounce sheet to keep dust from resettling.
5. Dissolve soap scum from shower doors. Clean with a sheet of Bounce
6. Freshen air in your home. Place an individual sheet of Bounce in a drawer
or hang in the closet.
7. Prevent thread from tangling. Run a threaded needle through a sheet of
Bounce before sewing.
8. Prevent musty suitcases. Place an individual sheet of Bounce inside
empty luggage before storing
9. Freshen the air in your car. Place a sheet of Bounce under the front
10. Clean baked on foods from a cooking pan. Put a sheet in a pan, fill
with water, let sit overnight, and sponge clean. The anti-static agent
apparently weakens the bond between the food.
11. Elimate odors in wastebaskets. Place a sheet of Bounce at the bottom
of the wastebasket.
12. Collect cat hair. Rubbing the area with a sheet of Bounce, will
automatically attract all the loose hairs.
13. Eliminate static electricity from venetian blinds. Wipe the blinds with
a sheet of Bounce to prevent dust from resettling.
14 .Wipe up sawdust from drilling or sandpaper-ing. A used sheet of
Bounce will collect sawdust like a tack cloth
15. Eliminate odors in dirty laundry. Place individual sheet of Bounce
at the bottom of the laundry bag, or hamper
16. Deodorize shoes or sneakers. Place a sheet of Bounce in your shoes
17. Golfers put a Bounce sheet in their back pocket to keep the bees away


I just recently began receiving your ezine so I don’t know if you have
already had this submitted. We have had quite a bit of remodeling to do in
our home, alot of which was painting and wallpapering. We do the work
ourselves and Home Depot is our home improvement store of choice. Rather
than immediately spend $20 on a new gallon of paint, we always shop the
paint that has been mixed incorrectly. We have found colors we love and the
cost is only $3-$4 per gallon! It’s a great deal! In addition to that I
have found excellent wallpaper borders at Garden Ridge for $1 per roll.
There have only been few times that I have paid full amount for the
wallpaper that is in my home, and they were for special areas. I also shop
our local resale store for wallpaper. Many times it is bought by someone
only to be given to the resale store because they never get around to using
it. I snatch it up for $1-$2 dollars per roll and save a bundle. Happy
shopping & remodeling! – Robin


Shop at a discount grocer like Sav a Lot food stores! I only spend $115
dollars for 2 carts full of groceries – Jennifer



Research links 80% of disease to stress. Dig in
and find the roots to health problems with Henry
Wright’s book, “A More Excellent Way.”

This book gives insight into:
* Why mankind has disease
* Spiritual roots of disease
* Disease prevention
* Blocks to healing
* Specific diseases discussed



Q. Is there any natural way to get rid of ants other than the commercial
sprays and powders? I ‘ve been seeing lots of little black ants around my
sink and counter area. Thanks for the help. – Ana

Q. I love the large waffle cones sold at premium custard stands. Does
anyone have a recipe to make them at home? I have a round waffle iron
(purchased for $1 at a garage sale of course!). Thanks. Theresa

Q. We live in Alabama so imagine my surprise when we found cactus growing
scattered about all over our yard. How can we get rid of them? My
granddaughter can’t play outside!

Q. I have a problem with mice in the spring and again in the fall. I am
told it is because I live close to a river. Anyone know how to keep the
nasty things out of my house for good? I am freaking out!

Q. My attic fan recently quit, so i took friends advice & had ridge vents
installled. Not a large investment, but figured over time, it would save
electricity & purchasing a new fan. I appears the attic temperature is
HIGHER with the ridge vents! They were installed (properly, i assume) by
the same people who re-roofed my house 3-4 years ago. Any suggestions? I
hate to have to buy another attic fan ON TOP of the ridge vent purchase – GJ

Q. I really enjoy your newsletter and have a question for your readers.

I would like to know if anyone has any advice or knows any good resources
for budgeting on a fluctuating income. My husband is self-employed in the
construction business, I am a stay-at-home mom with 5 kids. His income can
fluctuate from $500-$4000 a month. This amount also includes the money we
use for business expenses such as tools, gas, materials etc. We always
manage to just barely get by, of course many times we are late on bills,
etc. Then when we make more money we are having to play catch-up and it is
very hard to get ahead. I would appreciate any advice from your wonderful

Q. How do you clean out your dryer vent? – Patti
NOTE: This question was prompted by someone suggesting to improve dryer performance the vent needed to be cleaned on a regular basis.

Q. I was wondering what should I do with my 401K plan if I were to get laid
off? I couldn’t contribute as much as I could if I were employed. I also
understand when you do get another job it costs you to roll it over. I have
13K in my 401K already. What would be a smart thing to do with it in the
time frame of getting a new job? Just wanting to know in case I do get laid
off. – Elaine

Please post your questions/answers to our new bulletin board. You can find directions here.


Q. Does anyone know how to get cat urine out of inside of a mattress. Our
cat urinated on the top of our new mattress and we used enzymes and blotted
up all we could by pushing down the mattress top. However, we think some
may still be inside the mattress. Thanks in advance for any ideas! Editor

A. Friends of ours bought a plastic mattress cover that zipped around the
mattress and blocked out any urine smell their cats left in the mattress. JH

A. Believe it or not but a good way to get cat urine out of most things
INCLUDING leather is a nice smelling feminine douch. I found this out the
hard way when on a routine trip to the vet my wonderful cat went all over my
cloth seats of my car. the next day when i had to bring my car in for a
brake job my mechanic told me about this neat and wonderful trick. I tried
and it worked!! – Lisa


Q. Does anyone have any ideas on getting rid of urine odor? My daughter
just moved to Germany where her husband is stationed in the military. She
lives in an old apartment building and she can`t get rid of the urine odor
in the bathroom from previous tenants, no matter how much she cleans or what
kind of air freshners she uses. It`s worse on humid days. Any suggestions
will be appreciated. – JF

A. I have read that cleaning the floor around the toilet with foam type
shaving cream will get rid of the odor. I haven’t tried it myself as I
have carpet there.

A. Hi: I rented my house and the renter’s cat urinated all over my den rug.
It took many time of doing it, but I put Baking soda down all over the rug,
let it sit a day and vacuumed it up. I also put pieces of soap, unwrapped in
each corner of the room. All the doors and windows in that room were opened
each day to air it out. When I put the house up for sale, a prospective
buyer asked the Realtor, “Did she ever have animals in the house?” The
Realtor said, “No, you can tell there is no smell”. I also use Baking Soda
to clean my bathroom as my husband sometimes misses the toilet. Hot water
and baking soda are wonderful odorless cleaners. – Betty

A. I’d like to recommend OdorDestroyer for the Urine Odors that some of
your readers were experiencing. I tried it on a carpet in my daughter’s
bedroom. After applying it (comes in a spray bottle), a musty smell is
present for a while (a couple of months so far), but it is by far better
than the urine smell we had before. Cats are such bad house guests – but we
love them anyway. Go on the internet and type in odor destroyer – philip
doolittle is the distributor in the US somewhere. The product is a solvent
base so needs some attention when using and storing. Reasonably economical
and versatile. You can talk to him about your specific problem. RS

A. I would try using Oxiclean 2 on the urine smells. Sonya

A. Hi this is for the lady who has a urine odor in her bathroom. Paint ,
paint , paint!ANything that can be painted will seal the smell right
out!When we moved into a rental 3 years ago, the laundry room smelled so bad
we couldn’t stand walking in there. We tried everything. Nothing worked and
I didn’t know what to do.Someone suggested we try painting , and it really
worked! Good luck!! – Susan

A. To Randal and the lady in Germany….the only thing that works for me on
cat odors is a product called Nature’s Miracle. You can buy it in PetSmart
or order on line I am sure. You have to completely saturate the area and
let it dry naturally so that the enzymes will kill the germs causing the
odor. Sometimes you have to do it twice, but the key is not to force it to
dry, but to totally saturate the area involved. It worked a Miracle for us.
It will not remove the stain…you have to live with that part or sand it
off of a floor or wall if you can. – RS

A. Removing the odor of urine on materialor mattresses is easy..Wash
article, then soak in 50/50 % white vinegar. For the matress dampen well and
allow to dry..Good luck… Marie


Q. Can anyone recommend a financial advisor in the Miami area.? – Maria

A. To the person who wants a recommendation of a financial adviser in the
Miami area. We can heartily recommend George Garcia of Dunedin, Florida.
He was recommended to us by our accountant here in Canada about 15 yrs. ago.

He has moved to Florida about 5 yrs. ago. He is one of the most
trustworthy, intellegent, and learned man you could every meet. We still
have contact with him and from 1 to 10 he is a number 10 in our books. Give
him a call and see what he can do for you.

Toll Free – 1-866-667-8351. Office 727-441-2661 Fax – 727-441-3111.

You will be most pleased with the gentleman – Elaine

A. Mutal Funds magazine listed the best financial advisors by area. I
don’t know which issue, but it was done within the last year. Also, The
Millionaire Next Door (a book) recommends the best way to pick your
finanical adviser. Good Luck. – Michellle


Q. We just had several poplar trees cut down in our yard. However, little
shoots are popping up all over the yard. What do you recomend to kill the
stump so that these shoots stop growing?

A. I’d like to help the person who is having problems with sprouting shoots
from a cut tree. We had that problem. We moved onto a property with lots
of locust trees. They pop up everywhere.

To get rid of the stump once and for all, use rock salt. Dig, drill or hack
a nice sized hole into the stump and fill it with rock salt. A
horticulturist told us this. It works. – Maria

A. To the lady about the tree trunk….pile mulch up around the trunk, but
better yet, leave it there as a feeder for the critters.. But for heaven’s
sake, don’t use any chemicals! – RS


Q. Our son will be attending a University in Montreal, Quebec this fall (we
live in Vermont). We are looking for cell phone service that covers both
areas at a reasonable price. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thank you,

A. Long distance phone cards from AT&T are available from Sam’s Club . For
1,000 minutes, the price is $34.70. I know of at least four people who no
longer have a long distance carrier and only use these cards. You can add
minutes when your time gets low. That would be ideal for the college
student. – Jane


Information in The Frugal Life News (TFL) has been derived from sources
believed accurate and reliable. In no event shall *The Frugal Life,* Randal
Watkins, or the TFL staff be liable for any damages whatsoever resulting
from any action arising in connection with the use of information herein.

TFL does not knowingly accept ads from advertisers deemed detrimental to
TFL’s readers, however, publication of an ad in TFL does not constitute an
endorsement for such product or service.

There is no remuneration for suggestions, tips, or ideas submitted by
readers. All suggestions, tips, and ideas, submitted for publication in The
Frugal Life, become the property of The Frugal Life, notwithstanding similar
rights of the reader submitting such suggestions, tips, or ideas. TFL
publishes readers’ names with their suggestions, tips, and ideas unless a
reader requests otherwise at the time of the submission.

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