I don’t really have a mailbag, but it would be fun if I did. What I do have is a file named ECMailbag. That’s where I save all of the questions and letters that you, my dear readers, send to me. I just don’t have the time to respond personally, so I love it when once each week I get to respond to your questions here.
Dear Mary: I just read your past column on keeping produce fresh longer. You said to not refrigerate potatoes. Why not? I have been doing this for several years. — Dee H.
Dear Dee: When potatoes are stored below 40F, the starch in them turns to sugar. This affects the taste, and you will also notice that refrigerated potatoes turn an ugly brownish color when cooked. The ideal storage conditions for potatoes are a dark, cool, well-ventilated place like the lowest shelf in a pantry. Too much light makes potatoes turn green. If that happens or if they spout, you can still use them. Just cut off the green spots and the sprouts before you cook them.
Next time you cruise the produce section at the supermarket notice how the potatoes are handled: never refrigerated and kept perfectly dry.
Dear Mary: Is it better to turn off fluorescent lights when you leave the room? I was always told that it took more electricity to turn them on than to let them burn all day. — Shirley, H.
Dear Shirley: When it comes to residential use, the Department of Energy suggests:
If you leave a room for more than 15 minutes, it is most cost effective to turn all lights off whether fluorescent, incandescent, LED or halogen. You can install smart timers that will do this for you. Check with your local home improvement center.
Dear Mary: I have two daughters in their twenties, both are married. One has a terrible credit rating and is getting further and further into debt. The other daughter and her husband have recently graduated from college and are very good money managers. They are budgeting, saving a down payment for a house and paying off their college loans very quickly. I am afraid that my one daughter will become very jealous of her sister’s financial successes. Do I just stand back and let it happen? I see this as a disaster waiting to happen. — Cheryl S.
Dear Cheryl: You’ve got a sympathetic ear in me. I have two adult sons and I know how my motherly heart wants to fix every little thing in their lives. But we both know that’s about the worst thing we can do for our adult children. Our “brilliant help” is not always appreciated the way we think it should be. So I’m going tell you what I would tell myself if I were in your situation: Back off. It is not your business.
Your children are adults with lives of their own. Both of them are learning to live with the consequences of the choices they make, both good and bad. As tempting as it might be for you give (or lend) money to your spendthrift daughter in an effort to level the playing field (I’m assuming that’s what you have in mind here), that would be a terrible mistake. It will only put a Band-Aid on the real problem and it could alienate your other daughter. I suggest that you focus your energy on coming up with a list of resources she’ll need, such as credit counseling, books and other resources, so that when she does come to you for help, you’ll be ready to give her what she really needs — and wants — to turn around her financial situation.
Mary invites questions at mary@everydaycheap skate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.
Mary Hunt is founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website.
To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.