Dear Mary: It’s summertime and I would like to wash the large blankets and comforters on the beds, but they’re too big for my standard size washing machine. A large machine at a laundromat is at least $5 a load! Yikes! What’s a better and/or cheaper way to get them washed and hang them out on the clothesline at home to air-dry and freshen? Thanks again for all you do! — Marie
Dear Marie: If your home is like most, you have the perfect vessel large enough to hand-launder blankets, making them line-ready to air-dry. It’s the bathtub. Read this post; then adapt the method for your blankets according to their specific laundering instructions.
Basically, run a tub of water. Add your preferred detergent, being careful to err on the side of too little, but not too much! If you use too much detergent, you’ll have a challenging time getting it all rinsed out. Allow a blanket to soak in the wash water for several hours. Then, using a long wooden spoon or similar implement, gently stir that blanket, agitating it as if it were in a washing machine. Pull the drain plug and allow all of the wash water to drain out. Replace the plug and fill the tub again with clean warm water. Agitate to release any remaining detergent. Drain, and leave the blanket in the tub until enough water has drained away that you can pick it up. Then, gently squeeze out as much water as possible. Roll in dry bath towels to blot out even more water, then hang to dry.
Dear Mary: I have a lot of books I’d like to get rid of — mostly on the subject of internet technology. What is the best way to sell used books? — Deborah
Dear Deborah: There are multiple online sites that buy used textbooks — each with a different criteria. And let me warn you that book buyers can be fickle about which books they’re buying on any particular day. It all depends on trends and what a particular buyer believes is hot for its particular audience.
Rather than try to find all of the individual companies that purchase used textbooks yourself, I suggest you go to BookScouter.com. This is a one-stop shop that searches more than 20 different online book buyers with one click. You’ll quickly discover which book dealer, if any, is interested in buying the texts you have. With that kind of an audience looking at what’s on your bookshelves, I think you have a decent chance to make quite a few sales. Most buyers make it easy to send the books by paying for shipping and allowing you to simply print a prepaid mailing label. Just keep in mind that IT is a quickly-changing field.
Good luck. I hope you can make a lot of sales.
Dear Mary: I enjoy your column and just read about life insurance. My husband and I retired within the last year and are 64. We live on our social security plus investment income from 401(k) and SEP/IRA accounts. We don’t have a lot of “extra” income, but we live frugally and are doing fine. I have a $250,000 term life policy and my husband has a $150,000 term policy. Should we keep these or reduce our monthly payments and cancel them? — Gail
Dear Gail: There is only one reason to have life insurance and here it is: To replace income that would disappear upon your death. Specifically, that would be minor children, and perhaps elderly parents you support financially who are so dependent that without your financial support, would become financially destitute.
Let’s look at your situation. You do not mention any dependents, such as children, grandchildren or elderly parents who depend on your income. That leaves one another. If your husband were to precede you in death, even with the provision that you would continue to receive the higher of your two Social Security monthly benefit checks, would the loss of the smaller monthly check put you into a financially difficult position? If you answer yes, then life insurance is an excellent way to replace that income that will go missing and upon which the remaining spouse will depend.
As for the funds in your 401k and SEP/IRA accounts, either of your deaths should not affect them, provided you have named each other as beneficiaries.
Once you have determined the monthly income you will need to replace upon either of your deaths, if any, multiply that by a reasonable life expectancy of the remaining spouse. That is a good estimate of the amount of term life insurance each of you need.
I suggest you leave the policies in place for now while you do your own independent research. As we age, life insurance becomes more expensive and many companies require a health exam as part of the application process. I wouldn’t cancel any term insurance until you are confident a remaining spouse will be well protected without it.
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.”