Updated on 02.26.09

Reader Mailbag #54

Trent Hamm

Each Monday, The Simple Dollar opens up the reader mailbags and answers ten to twenty simple questions offered up by the readers on personal finance topics and many other things. Got a question? Ask it in the comments. You might also enjoy the archive of earlier reader mailbags.

As usual, we’ll start things off with a few links to older articles that directly answer questions I’ve heard recently.
Ten Steps To Financial Success For A Minimum Wage Earner
Seven Tips For Avoiding Boredom During A Financial Turnaround
How to Create A Nifty Visual Savings Goal Reminder

And now for some great reader questions!

Would it be a wise investment to put away cash in a stock that yields 6.6% currently? We have 6 months of cash in a savings account but would this be a smart move with all cash above and beyond the emergency and retirement and bills?
– JayJay

I can’t simply give a “yes” or “no” answer to this question, because it depends heavily on the stock. Clearly, if the stock is paying that large of a dividend, it’s positioned as a value stock, so you need to evaluate it as such.

Is the company stable right now, meaning there’s no big changes in growth, major company crises, or significant shifts in the businesses that the company is engaged in? Does it have a lot of competitors (if they do, that’s bad)? Does it have a long history of paying dividends? Are those dividends steady?

If the company seems quite stable and likely to continue paying a good dividend, then it’s a reasonable place to put your money. But you need to do your homework on the company before you invest.

Do you believe in spirituality?
– Trevor

I spend a lot of my spare time reading and contemplating religion and spirituality. I was really spurred into this by reading Mere Christianity more than a decade ago, and ever since then, I’ve been studying these topics in depth.

I self-identify as a Christian and spend a lot of time participating in a Christian church that does a lot of good in the local community. However, most of my spiritual exploration is done on my own, and I often come to conclusions that are at odds with what one might call mainstream Christianity.

I don’t think the answers are easy. I tend to believe that many people who absolutely subscribe to a particular religion aren’t thinking about things critically and figuring out their own answers – they just accept the answers given to them by others.

It’s a journey, one that has fulfilled me for a long time.

A year ago you recommended TurboTax. Do you still recommend that suite? I have recently entered the work-force and will be grappling with a few issues (I no longer qualify to use the 1040EZ, I have to file in two states, I made several student loan interest payments…) Which version of TurboTax do you recommend?
– ub

I use TurboTax. I have for almost a decade. It’s worked like a charm

I’ll just point out that if JD at Get Rich Slowly (a far bigger blog with consistently more comments) or Leo at Zenhabits can participate in the discussions on their blogs, so can you.
– Jimbo

It would be very easy for me to “participate” in discussions by popping in and saying things like “Good point!” and “I hadn’t considered that!” and the like. To me, though, that contributes nothing to the discussion. I know that there are reasons for doing it – it can encourage people to participate and the like – but it’s just not me. It feels like soulless marketing. Again, that’s my perspective – it’s cool with me if others choose to do it.

I put a lot of consideration into everything I write. If I put up a post or a comment, I want it to add some authentic value to the world. I’ve written entire articles and simply deleted them because I didn’t think they added enough value. To me, most comments I could make add little or no value.

As I’ve mentioned before, I typically don’t dive into the comments with valuable responses because I just disrupt the discussion going on there. Instead, I save them for future posts or mailbags – if you’ll notice, my reader mailbag each week is a direct response to ten comments or questions from the past week.

I still write The Simple Dollar for the same reason that I started writing it: I want to help people figure out their personal finance problems, nothing more, nothing less. That’s why the only book deal – out of several offers – that I agreed to was one where the book sold for only $7.95, so that people could easily afford it – if I write another book, it’s going to be done not to mine money from my readers, but to explicitly reach people who don’t even read The Simple Dollar. That’s why I run the minimum number of ads I have to run in order to pay the bills and keep food on the table – compare the number of ads here to virtually any other site. That’s why I put my content in the public domain, so that resources like community newspapers and the like can reprint my articles without concern.

Every choice I make for this site is in the interest of reaching as many people as possible with good personal finance advice and concepts. I don’t feel that trolling my own comments accomplishes that – I used to invest a lot of energy in doing it, and all it seemed to do was alienate readers and create arguments that weren’t there before.

That doesn’t mean I don’t read the comments and that I don’t participate on occasion – I still do. I just don’t fill comment threads with disruptive material or pointless material – I’m very careful with what I contribute.

what are your thoughts on the Discover credit card? Especially that deal with the cash back at the end of the year?
– Margaret

My wife had a Discover card for a long time, lured in by the same “cash back” offer that interested you. However, she gradually stopped using it and now almost exclusively uses a Visa with a good reward program.

Why did she stop using it? First, the cash back reward wasn’t all that great – it was usually substantially lower than the rewards she could get on other cards. Second, it wasn’t as widely accepted as other cards. Third, they were really intrusive with their calling, often calling us with “courtesy calls” squarely in the middle of family time in order to promote some new deal that they had.

She got fed up with it after a while and switched.

What do you do when your best is not good enough?
– Chris

Many people who find themselves saying things like this are aiming for the stars. They’re expecting to rise to the very top of their field, when the truth is that they’re often lacking the many years of training and experience that the people at the top of the field have.

One easy solution is to aim a little lower. Don’t immediately aim for the very top. Instead, set goals that are more reachable. Maybe this means adopting a new career path. Maybe this means taking on jobs or tasks that you have told yourself are “beneath” you.

Another thing that everyone should do is practice their basic skills. Work on your communication skills deliberately. Learn a new language and practice it daily. Polish your skills in your spare time in any way you can find. In other words, get better at your craft by practicing the fundamentals. Michael Jordan didn’t become Michael Jordan by playing scrimmages over and over – he would practice little details obsessively until they became natural for him.

A younger member of our extended family is facing foreclosure (as are many these days, it seems). They have consulted a lawyer (helps to have one in the family) and all possible contacts have been made with the lender. Giving the bank a Deed in Lieu of Foreclosure versus hanging on to the bitter end – which is the lesser of two evils? Having a foreclosure and deficiency judgment against their credit either way, it seems to make sense to me to stay in their house as long as possible. What do you think?
– Gayle

Is the person upside down (or close to it) in the house? That’s the real question. If the person in question owes less than what the house could sell for, then they should hang on to the bitter end. If the person owes more than what the house could sell for (or it’s close), they should try to get the bank to accept a deed in lieu of foreclosure.

Here’s the scoop: a deed in lieu of foreclosure basically means that you’re asking the bank to accept the deed to the house in exchange for letting you out of the mortgage. The bank may or may not accept it, depending on their current business state and their policies, too. They’re more likely to accept it if the person has no significant additional assets – if the person has a lot of assets, the bank almost always won’t accept the deed, since they can go after the person’s assets during foreclosure.

Do you play fantasy baseball? How much?
– FM

I usually am involved in two or three fantasy leagues a season. One of them is usually competitive and eats up most of my focus – the others are ones with old friends where we mostly goof off and shoot the breeze. In those “other” leagues, I usually just attempt to acquire the starting lineup of the Cubs with a few ridiculous All Stars added in (last season in one league, I had basically the Cubs starting lineup with A-Rod).

I also play fantasy football as well, but I find fantasy basketball to be really inaccurate, since the players that really make a team good in basketball tend not to have gaudy stats (take Shane Battier, for instance – I’d love to have him on my team, but his stat line looks awful). I enjoy fantasy baseball the most, though, mostly because I’ve been a big fan of baseball all my life.

I didn’t do this before the advent of the internet – using tools like Yahoo! Sports makes it easy and quite fun to get involved in such games.

I am considering a Target Retirement fund, but i have a few questions/concerns. I have a Roth IRA: American Century Investments Equity Income. It has recently won some awards for funds that are doing well despite the current economic situation. Do you think i should transfer it into a Target account? Should i wait? Should i just gradually move it to something more conservative as my ret. age approaches (skip the Target fund altogether)? Any help would be appreciated.
– hb

If you’re happy with your current investment and are willing to manage the transition into more conservative investments yourself, then by all means, do it.

Target Retirement funds are convenient for people who would never dig into specific investments enough to discover things like the American Century Investments Equity Income fund. Instead, Target Retirement funds are merely there to allow people to just toss their money in and not worry about the minutiae of managing the money – it automatically transitions from stocks to bonds as you approach retirement.

If you’re in tune enough that you prefer to manage it yourself with your own funds, then do it. My recommendation would be to use the Target Retirement funds as good guidelines as to what your proportions of stocks, bonds, cash, and real estate should be.

After last week’s question about vegetables, I’m wondering what you feed your kids for breakfast. Most breakfast options that kids want are really unhealthy.
– Mindy

My kids’ favorite breakfast food is oatmeal. They love the stuff, though the younger one usually makes a big mess because she insists on feeding herself (she’s seventeen months old).

If I have time, I like to make steel cut oatmeal for them because it’s more nutritious, but instant oatmeal is substantially better for the kids than most sugary cereals.

My advice, if they’re hesitant, is to jazz it up a bit. Add fresh fruit to it – blueberries, chopped up strawberries, and so on. Add cinnamon. Add a bit of brown sugar.

Most important, eat it yourself. Eat it in front of your kids and make it clear you like it. Kids are almost always more willing to try things if they see you eating them on a regular basis.

Got any questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll use them in future mailbags.

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  1. Trent, I liked your response about your motivation for conducting your blog as you do. You are a class act who provides excellent information. I think both of those qualities draw loyal readers. Keep up the outstanding work.

  2. Sense says:

    Excellent mailbag this week! just wanted to stop by and say I enjoyed it. :)

  3. Johanna says:

    @JayJay: It also depends on what the money is for. You say it is above and beyond emergency savings, retirement savings, and bills – do you have a specific goal in mind that you’re saving for (like a house, or educational expenses)? If so, then I wouldn’t put more than maybe 10-20% of it in any one single stock, no matter how nice the stock looks, unless it really wouldn’t bother you if you lost it all.

    On the other hand, if this is just a little bit of “mad money” that you’re playing around with just to see what happens, then do what you like with it, but realize that you’ve crossed the line from investing into gambling.

  4. Jake says:

    Sadly I have to agree with Trent on commenting. In the past, it seems that everytime Trent comments, someone gets the wrong idea and over reacts. This leads to flame wars.

    In a perfect world everyone drops it if the conversation goes off course, but that’s wishful thinking in the internet world. Everybody has to be right.

  5. J says:

    Single-stock investing is pretty much gambling, as Johanna pointed out. A likely “better course” would be putting money towards the “guaranteed return” of not having to acquire debt in the future for a car, vacation, etc. — or to pay off existing debt. If you have a mortgage, you could pay off an extra payment or to — doing that once a year cuts 9 years off a 30 year mortgage — and when you do the math, that’s a LOT of interest you don’t pay.

  6. IRG says:

    This is a blog. Not a message board.

    I totally understand and support your choice of not commenting on the comments. You’d have no time to research and write if you did, and you’re right, those “I agree” etc. comments on comments are totally pointless.

    I think many are missing the point of comments. You comment on something that was written. It’s not a dialogue per se.

    One would guess that if you see something that requires followup, etc., that you will do so in the future. As you have.

    Keep your focus on what you want to do. It’s authentic, unique and attracts/will attract the people who appreciate it.

    I don’t know why people think that anyone, let alone a blogger, should be writing for anyone/everyone. The whole point of a blog is a personal point of view and perspective.

    Otherwise, you might as well be writing for publications who hire people to espouse THEIR point of view.

    Life is not about agreement, but about polite discourse and you’re always polite (even if some of the commentators aren’t!)

  7. Jessica says:

    About the oatmeal post: I have two young daughters and they now LOVE oatmeal because of fairy sprinkles. I got then a small jar of the colored sugar (pink and purple) used to decorate cupcakes and such. I called it fairy sprinkles and they love to sprinkle it on the oatmeal. I figure that the little bit of sugar that comes out of the jar it is still less than sugary cereal.

  8. Shanel Yang says:

    Trent, love your response to Jimbo. Touche!

  9. C.I says:

    How are you doing with regards to your goal of working on a skill every day for one hour, have you been following it? I believe yours was to be able to solve the Rubik’s cube, which only takes a few weeks to learn if you look up how to do it and memorize the moves, but would take years of studying mathematics in order to be able to learn to solve it on your own with no assistance whatsoever. What path did you take?

  10. Battra92 says:

    Oh, so you mean you aren’t supposed to pop in and insult your readers (then scour every other blog that may have mentioned you and call them stupid for questioning your guru status?

    As far as oatmeal, I’m 26 and I still can’t eat the stuff. To me it’s just mush and bleh. Of course, I am English – not Scottish so that may have something to do with it.

    Oatmeal is good for making cookies and raspberry squares and the what not.

  11. SP says:

    Discover was my first card and their rewards were the best before all the cards jumped into the rewards game. I still think their More card and their Open Road card are great (and often can NOT be beat). I never had a problem with them calling me intrusively–I haven’t spoke to them in years. There are very few places that don’t accept it (but there are a handful).

    A person needs to know their spending habits and pick a card that lines up best with them.

    I favor another card right now, but I do use my open road card for all my auto expenses.

    Just another perspective.

  12. CPA Kevin says:

    I am with you on the oatmeal – our 19 month old son loves it – and loves to make a mess with it. We usually mix it with applesauce or oatmeal, add some cinnamon and he’s happy. (Personally, I like chocolate chips or raisins in mine.)

  13. Sarah says:

    Discover has recently instituted yet more reductions to their cash-back program (for instance, if you want actual cash back, they’ve raised the threshold to $50). I’d really only use them for purchases that fall into the 5% rotating categories or for one of the online stores that gives a 5% or more cashback for coming in via the Discover site. Honestly, I keep it nowadays mostly because it’s my oldest card by far.

  14. Aryn says:

    Actually, banks can’t always go after other assets during a foreclosure. It depends on the mortgage and the laws of the state. Some states allow recourse mortgages – which means they can pursue other assets to recoup the balance of the loan. Other states require non-recourse mortgages, which means they can take the house and nothing else. Some states allow both under different situations.

  15. CathyG says:

    Regarding fairy sprinkles in oatmeal – It’s a great idea. We used to do something similar for our girls – we let them use food color to make their oatmeal any color they wanted: purple, pink, green, blue. They really enjoyed it.

    But I offer a caution – one day we brought them to daycare and the younger one wasn’t feeling too well. She threw up pink oatmeal all over the front steps of the daycare center. We had a hard time explaining that she was not bleeding internally but it was just colored oatmeal!!

  16. Lisa says:

    A great way to cool down oatmeal is to toss in a few frozen blueberries. They act like ice cubes and add a wonderful dose of Vit C and a hint of sweetness.

    I just bought a fuzzy logic rice cooker. I moved up primarily for the option of cooking Steel Cut Oats in it. I set the timer and wake up to perfectly prepared hot steel cut oats waiting for me.

  17. Jim says:

    JayJay should be careful about investing money into a single dividend paying stock. First of all it should be diversified and not a lump sum in a single stock. Second make sure you’re well aware that there is NO guarantee that a dividend won’t be reduced or removed entirely. GE is a good example of how dividends can be cut unexpectedly.

    I’ve had Discover for many years and don’t recall ever getting annoying phone calls. But its possible I told them not to call me long ago. If a company is calling you then you need to politely request that they remove your name from their calling list and not call back. In my experience Discover is a great credit card and easy to work with. Their basic reward isn’t great but the 5% category deals are pretty good.


  18. Jimbo says:

    It’s sad to say but your entire answer is predicated on how you believe JD and Leo answer questions. If you spend time to go through their comments you will see their “participation” is MUCH GREATER than just saying “Good point!” or “I hadn’t considered that.”

  19. Lenetta says:

    I prefer my oatmeal thick (could almost use a fork on it kind of thick) and make it similarly for my daughter. It’s easier for her to scoop and get to her mouth than the thin stuff. I also bought spoons with a relatively deep, flexible “bowl” for her, which also seems to help. There are days, however, that I set oatmeal in front of her and she hollers until she gets a regular spoon – and the thickness helps it stay on there, too. She turns 2 tomorrow . . .

  20. PR says:

    I have been a fan of you ever since I stumbled upon this website. You are truly “Suze Orman’ of the web.

    Now, to the Question –
    I came to this country 12 yrs ago, worked really hard and made some good money. I was very conservative in spending due – the fact that I was living on visa made me cautious. But few months ago, I became permanent resident.
    I never even bought a new car when I was making over 6-digit salary. Now, that I have my green-card, I am thinking on settling down – basically thinking about buying home. But at the same time I do hear Jim Cramer’s and some of top CNBC analyst’s comments as well – where they suggest not to buy anything big for next few years until market settles down. So, the question is: Should I invest in international market like Indian real-estate (I know it’s booming by the month) OR should I make my (our) dream come true of buying house here? Pls advise.

  21. Chris says:

    As for investing in high divident stocks, I guess it all depends on what you want with the money. Things to consider, is it a common or preferred stock? Common stock dividends can be cut at any time. In fact, Capital One just cut theirs by 85%. Preferred stock might be the way to go especially if it is cumulative, where whether they pay it now or later, they have to pay it.

    If you are looking to get a better yield, don’d discount a corporate bond. With the market drying up, it might be a better to get a 6% coupon on a corporate bond and have the added advantage of being higher priority in the case of bankruptcy. Remember equity holders are at the end of the food chain after employees, govt, and general creditors.

  22. Chris says:

    I have oatmeal every morning. Whether I like it or not the health benefits are still there. I add a little milled flax seed to give me some more fiber. I have also been sweetening it with Stevia extract. Anyone else used it? I have been pleasantly surprised at how good it works.

  23. Char says:

    Jimbo, I think you are picking a fight. He just said that he choses not to answer that way, he did not give JD and Leo up as an example, only you mentioned their names, he said “as others do” He gave legitimate reasons for not commenting, and I totally agree. He does a great job at providing 2 great posts a day and doesn’t get terribly involved in the discussion – thank goodness – I would rather get the post and skip the comments! I also like hearing what others have to say without Trent’s input – we ALREADY got his input from the blog post, time to let others give their 2 cents!

  24. The Personal Finance Playbook says:

    I love oatmeal, too;) It’s easy, healthy and delicious. Fruit, cinnamon and organic milk make it even better.

  25. Jen says:

    @Jimbo: I agree with Char. Trent doesn’t have to comment, even if you want him too. I’ve seen him explain his reasons twice now, and he has been extremely polite. It’s time to move on. If you want blogger participation in the comments, look elsewhere.

  26. Des says:

    @Char & Jen & Jimbo

    I would like to see discussion in the comments. But, I do agree that if the choice is between two posts a day or comments, I would prefer the two posts a day.

  27. SteveJ says:

    I’m thinking about the commenting thing. I think in general the reason I might want an author to respond to comments is that his/her response validates how smart I am and what good points I make. To provide that reassurance for thousands of readers seems impossible, I can barely do it for the kids.

    I don’t know, but what I’ve gleaned from Trent’s description of his habits, I imagine he’s working a few posts ahead, and he may not check the comments for a particular entry in a timely fashion. I tend to read all the posts and comments, but I’ll batch process when I get busy. What’s the point of commenting on a post from 4 days ago? If Trent followed a similar procedure everyone would complain that he doesn’t work to their schedule. I know I’ve killed hours of what could have been productive time trying to have a civil argument with people on a message board. That time could have been much better spent.

  28. Michael says:

    pink oatmeal vomit! that’s hilarious! thank you for making my day end on a high note. HAHAHA!

  29. Trent great answer on you commenting on everyone’s “comments” Love your brutal honesty, while RESPECTING others way of doing things. Also about not publishing something if it didnt have enough Value.. you must be a disciple of Seth Godin. He’d be proud iof you

    I am.

    Tim at Smile-Therapy.com

  30. Mo-Town says:

    As Aryn notes in comment no. 14, your response to the mortgage question fails to discuss several important factors. For example, California is a “non-recourse” state where the lender’s only recourse upon default is to foreclose upon the house.

    If a person living in a non-recourse state is underwater and really can’t afford to pay the mortgage, his best bet is to stop paying the mortgage and live mortgage free until the lender forecloses. It can take up to a year for the lender to foreclose, and that’s a significant amount of cash the person could put toward paying down his bills.

    Now this isn’t “ethical” by most people’s standards, but it’s perfectly legal, and doing this isn’t going to hurt a person’s credit any more than negotiating a deed in lieu of foreclosure would.

    I love your site, and I’m not trying to criticize you personally, but I think you really missed the boat on this particular question.

  31. Ken says:

    Trent – not looking to start a flame war in the comments here, but is it possible that those people who “absolutely subscribe to a particular religion” have thought about things critically and found that their beliefs line up pretty well with a particular religion? Just because someone is (close to) 100% on board with a religion/denomination doesn’t mean they have no critical thinking skills or will just agree with everything someone tells them.

  32. Mol says:

    Any word on how your adoring public can get an autographed copy of your book? =)

  33. J. says:

    Ken>> he said “he tends to believe that many people…” As someone who subscribes to a particular religion/denomination something very close to 100% (at least on the important stuff), I agree with him. Most people just don’t dig that deep, and those who do often find more questions than answers, which fits in some religions and denominations but not others.

    so to answer your question, yes, it is possible. but in his estimation and mine, not the most typical possibility.

  34. Mary says:

    Hi Trent,
    Perhaps you’ve covered this before but I am new to your site. I have been out of the work force for 20 plus years (stay at home mom) and now would like to get back in. I know I lack many skills that employers are looking for today and would like to know a couple of things, 1. how and where do I go for general training for (office) skills? and 2. would you recommend going to a temp agency for part time employment? I am a bit overwhelmed starting this process,so any suggestions you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

  35. Carrie says:

    Breakfast ideas for kids:

    ++Trent’s Apple & Granola “5-item” crockpot breakfast, with whole milk plain (or vanilla) yogurt over it.

    ++Oatmeal (make Steel-cut in the Thermos the night before like Martha does!) with a bit of peanut or almond butter stirred in.

    ++Homemade French Toast made with cinnamon-raisin bread.

    ++Whole-grain pancakes and scrambled eggs.

    ++Eggs over medium on whole-grain english muffins with a bit of cheese on top.

    ++Fruit muffins (prevention magazine has a great recipe for ‘no-cancer’flax-seed muffins) and scrambled eggs.

    ++Fruit smoothies (banana, frozen strawberries and whatever other frozen fruit we have on hand, raw baby spinach and a bit of soy milk and water) with any of the above.

    I try to get three things in the kids in the morning: whole grain (complex carbohydrate), protein, and fruit (or veg, but that’s never been successful!). Now that I think about it, it’s probably what I should aim for for the adults in our house, too! I DO put more effort into breakfast because I believe so strongly in the value of it. Most of the prep can be done the night before, and that not only helps our nutrition level in the morning, it also helps our emotional stress level. When I come downstairs at 6:00am and see a nicely set table (with cloth napkins and everything) and know what we’re having for breakfast, I feel like I’m so far ahead on my day already. Juggling 3 kids, a part-time job and a husband who’s gone during the week, it’s amazing how much that helps me!

  36. Mary Nasfell says:

    I belong to a group of volunteers sponsored by AARP and the IRS, called TaxAide. About 60 of us here in Boise (and others in sites across the nation) do taxes for free, specializing in low-income and seniors, though we do all taxes except for some complicated things, such as rental income or depreciation. We work in donated spaces, mostly libraries, churches and senior centers, complete and e-file (for free) about 3000 returns a year here in Boise, and would love to do more. Would you consider including this great service in your blog?

  37. Kathy says:

    I don’t even remember how i happened on your site, but I’m glad I did. You are insightful and inspiring and I appreciate reading what you have to say. Thanks so much and God bless you even more on St. Patricks Day!

  38. leslie says:

    I just wanted to add that although I no longer use my Discover Card, I don’t ever remember receiving calls from them ever.

  39. Gwen says:

    Hi Trent,

    I have a question for your next mailbag.

    I discovered your blog a few months ago and quickly subscribed to it via Google Reader. I find many of your ideas very helpful. I have noticed that every so often you write about an email you receive of someone who has criticized your ideas and/or style of writing pretty harshly. Do these emails make you feel bad? How do you resist being offended or resist taking these criticisms personally?

  40. Ilah says:

    I’d like to weigh in on the health benefits of oatmeal. My father ate oatmeal every day for breakfast, he was 94 when he died. As an old butter maker and creamery manager he loved his butter. I’ll bet he ate at least a stick a day plus about 1/4-1/2 pound of cheese every day. Loved his eggs and pie also. He was scrawny as they come with no cholestral problems and was about 91 before he had any health concerns.

  41. Jake says:

    Think rolled oatmeal is better that steel cut (In my opinion anyway) and cooks in 20 min. It can be cooked in a coffee pot so it’s ready when you get up.

  42. Another Elizabeth says:

    My two-year-old daughter has been eating oatmeal for breakfast since she graduated from infant rice cereal. We put fruit in it, or spices like cinnamon and nutmeg; and of course we stock up when the instant stuff is on a good sale. I agree with Lenetta that making it a little bit thick helps with the self-feeding messes. Also, having it thick to start with allows me to stir in a little milk to cool it without excessively thinning the stuff. This was important during her no-milk-drinking phase.

  43. Charlette says:

    Have you ever tried adding any additional ingredients (ie: Oxy Clean) to your laundry detergent receipe?
    I have been making my own laundry detergent from your receipe for a few months now with great results. Recently, I tried adding Oxy Clean and the results were not the same. The batch came out separated with a thick, creamy top layer and a clear, watery bottom layer. No matter how much I mixed it, it would not blend.
    I was wondering if you had any similar results?

  44. Sandy says:


    Here’s a question for you: I got a Canon Powershot camera two Christmases ago, and just a little over a year later, the display went black and it won’t take pictures. I sent it back to Canon for repair and since it’s just past the one-year warranty, Canon is giving an estimate of $100 with no guarantee that the problem will be fixed. The person who bought it for me paid $200 on Amazon and it’s currently priced at $277. What is the frugal thing to do here – buy a new camera or take our chances with the repair? Is there a point when a repair isn’t worth it?

  45. Tina says:

    I stumbled upon this oatmeal recipe and now I’m addicted:
    4 tablespoons instant oatmeal with just enough water to cook it- microwave for 1 minute
    2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (has omega’s and fiber and gives the oatmeal a good texture)
    1 cup of vanilla yogurt
    1 handful of walnuts or any nut you like
    1 cup of your favorite fruit. Pineapple/peaches/banana work very good

    Stir it all up and enjoy! You will be full for hours.

  46. denise warner says:

    hi first id like to say thank you as you have inspired me to walk thru my fears and start selling and writing along with persuing my lifetime dream of becoming a multimedia artist. so my question to you is, are there any places to start your own website that are very user frendly and reasonably priced as im working on a budget.
    i currently sell on ebay and etsy but im looking to link my own site to it and dont really know too much about writing scripts and things so any help would be more than i have now. thanks denise

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