EVERYDAY CHEAPSKATE: Kitchen appliances, counters and cleaners

Everyday Cheapskate is a new weekly household tips feature to the News-Sentinel and will appear every Tuesday on News-Sentinel.com

Dear Mary: We are remodeling our kitchen, which means all new appliances. Do you have a suggestion for the brand we should consider? And should we get matching appliances or do more of a mix-and-match to get the best prices available? Also, which type of countertop do you feel is better? We have nine grandkids, so we want everything to be very durable. — Liz

Dear Liz: With this, I do tend to be rather opinionated. (Ask my husband!) I’d love to weigh in on your situation. I think you will be happiest with your new kitchen when your appliances match — all the same brand and finish. As for which brand to choose, Whirlpool and GE are two of the top appliance manufacturers in the United States. I’d stay away from Samsung and LG because, if the appliances require service (Samsung and LG do, and more often than you’ll believe), it’s not easy to find a repair shop that will work on them, even during the warranty period. So if your budget allows, I would go with either the Whirlpool Gold or GE Profile lines.

As for when countertops meet up with lots of kids, I don’t think you can beat quartz counters for durability, easy care and beauty. Quartz doesn’t stain, doesn’t require any kind of sealant and cleans up like a dream. And it’s cheaper than granite.

Dear Mary: Thank you so much for your column! This is the first time I have ever read anyone anything not written by a friend or family member, so this is special. I accidentally threw out the column that had the information on Borax for cleaning the garbage disposal. I bought the Borax, but I don’t remember how I am to use it. Could you re-send that information? Thank you again ever so much for your wonderful advice and information. — Carol

Dear Carol: Of course! In fact, I was just searching for that column, “The Proper Care and Feeding of a Garbage Disposal,” because I wanted to use my new Mr. Scrappy Disposer Brush to get that Borax into all of the cracks and crevices. It’s nearly impossible for me to keep everything I write nicely archived in my brain, so I’m grateful for a search function. Here it is again:

Disposal Cleaner. Clean stubborn odors from your garbage disposal by pouring 3 to 4 tablespoons of Borax (like the 20 Mule Team Borax you’ll find in the supermarket laundry aisle) down the drain and letting it sit for an hour. Without running the disposal, turn on the hot water to flush the Borax away. Borax is a natural sink cleaner and sanitizer that effectively works on accumulated odor-causing mold and mildew in a garbage disposal.

By the way, columns are archived on EverydayCheapskate.com. There’s a search bar in the upper right corner, where you can type in a keyword or search by category.

Dear Mary: I have let my beautiful wooden kitchen cabinets accumulate a greasy, sticky, dirty buildup around the handles and the bottom of the doors. I need a safe cleaner that I can make at home, as my finances are limited. — Zelma

Dear Zelma: Here’s a recipe that will work well to clean up those areas on your kitchen cabinets. And it’s cheap because I’m sure you already have the ingredients!

Kitchen Gunk Remover: Bust through hard, dingy layers of old, sticky, dust-grabbing grease with vegetable oil and baking soda. Mix 1 part any vegetable oil with 2 parts baking soda. Apply this oily paste to dirty areas using a soft cloth or paper towel. That ugly, greasy, dirty buildup will begin to soften and disappear. Wipe clean and buff with a soft cloth.

A COUPLE’S GUIDE TO COMMON MONEY MYTHS

The wedding was complicated and expensive. But it’s over, and now it’s time to settle in and enjoy your new life together.

Lucky for you, I’m here to warn you about some common money myths that newlyweds have been known to bring with them into their marriage.

* Myth: Double the income, half the expenses.

This is what I call newlywed fuzzy math: Merging your lives and incomes into one household is the equivalent of getting a raise. Don’t believe that — not for a second.

Counter: Start out living on only one income, and save the rest. This will require going against everything our culture insists you deserve, but it will allow you to move seamlessly into parenthood. When that day comes, you’ll have an impressive savings account and options — and a gallery of envious friends.

* Myth: There’s stuff we can’t live without.

No, there isn’t. But it will be easy to convince yourselves that you absolutely must have matching furniture, new cars and all kinds of gadgets and services to make your lives easier and keep up with your expectations, to say nothing of your friends.

Counter: Make a pact that you will never go into debt for “stuff.” Period.

* Myth: If we qualify, we can afford it.

Whether it’s a new credit card or a new, nothing-down, interest-only mortgage for a house that you know in your hearts you cannot afford, never allow your ability to qualify to be the determining factor. If you cannot pay the entire credit card balance in full each month, or if the mortgage plus the insurance, taxes and maintenance is more than 30 percent of your net income, you can’t afford it. Getting in over your heads is the recipe for a marital disaster.

Counter: Never think of a credit card company, real estate agent or mortgage broker as a financial adviser. They are sales people looking to close deals. Get advice from a wise person who will not benefit financially from the decision you make.

* Myth: We have plenty of time.

It does seem as though you have a lifetime ahead and that you don’t really need to save money now, while things are tight and you are struggling to get going. But that’s a myth. The truth is you cannot afford to go one more day without a savings commitment for many reasons: You will want to retire. You do not want to feel forced into debt when something unexpected happens. You do not want to get used to spending all that you have. You want to create a sense of security and peace in your marriage.

Counter: Think of 10 percent of your net income as a mandatory savings obligation, just like your rent or mortgage payment. Pay it to yourselves without fail starting right now, if not sooner.

* Myth: Some money issues are best kept private.

Whether it’s the $40 pedicure you launder through your grocery tab using the convenient cash-back feature, the $80 cash you collected from your lunch buddies when you put the whole tab on your credit card, or a secret credit card account, keeping money secrets from your spouse is not good for your marriage. You might be able to pull off financial infidelity for a while, but eventually, it will come back to bite you.

Counter: Start out with a commitment to full disclosure and total honesty. That will build something into your marriage that money cannot buy: trust.

* Myth: Everything will be fine as soon as we make more money.

It does make sense that if you are struggling now, you won’t once you get a big raise or finish school or get your grandmother’s inheritance or win the lottery. The truth is that more money will never be enough until you learn how to manage well the money you have already.

Counter: Make the necessary adjustments now to live beneath your means. That will ensure when more money comes into your lives, you’ll know exactly how to take care of it.

* Myth: It’s too late.

No matter how long you’ve been married or how difficult your situation may appear, it’s not too late. It will take longer and be more challenging, but you can turn your situation around. Two people committed to reaching a single goal is a powerful force.

Counter: Decide right now that you are going to do whatever it takes to debt-proof your marriage.

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