Readers Seeking Help With Cloudy Shower Doors, Expensive Hair Dye, and Bigger Paychecks

September 30, 2020 Updated: September 30, 2020

Dear Mary: How can I get the hard water marks off my glass shower doors? I’ve tried vinegar, and that helped some, but the marks remain. Thanks! —Julie

Dear Julie: There’s a chance the glass has become permanently “etched” due to hard water sitting on it over many years. But I’d give it one last try with the mother of all hard-water mark removers: oven cleaner.

I’d go with Easy-Off maximum-strength fume-free oven cleaner, available in most supermarkets and stores such as Walmart and Target. Be sure to put on rubber gloves, and then apply with a sponge. Leave it overnight, and rinse in the morning. Good luck!

Dear Mary: For years, I have been coloring my hair with an $8 name-brand product. It looks pretty bad, and I need professional help. But how can I save money on this? Salons appear to charge at least $100 per session for color and highlights. Thanks, from a grateful reader. —Sheila

Dear Sheila: If I were you, I would look for a college of beauty or a community college with a cosmetology department that offers services to the public. (Actually, I have!) Typically, you will pay for materials only, plus a gratuity. Students perform services under the close supervision of instructors. Try to get a recommendation from a satisfied customer, or request a senior student who has demonstrated excellent colorizing skills.

Dear Mary: The laundry aisle at my grocery store is overwhelming. Is “ultra” detergent worth the extra money? What’s the difference between liquid and powdered detergents, besides the price? Is one brand better than another? —Malcolm

Dear Malcolm: Here’s the scoop on all those laundry labels: The word “ultra” means the product has been concentrated to fit into a smaller box. The problem is that unless you carefully measure, you’ll probably dump in the same amount as you have in the past, so go easy!

A product that has fabric softener added isn’t going to clean or soften as well but generally is cheaper than buying two different products.

If a product says it has more stain fighters, enzymes have been added to dissolve stains better, but you’ll still have to pretreat heavy stains.

Liquid detergents are more expensive and work better on greasy stains, but the cheaper powdered detergents are better on clay, dirt, and mud stains.

Dear Mary: I just got a raise that translates to about $200 a month spendable. I have no savings and am working hard to rapidly repay my credit card debt. How should I use this money? —Daniel

Dear Daniel: Wow, this is great! And you are smart to think of this now because, without specific direction, that $200 could easily evaporate into thin air.

While your debt is very expensive for you, I do not recommend you use these new funds to repay the debt more quickly.

Instead, you should build a contingency fund, commonly known as an emergency fund, with your raise. Without money you can get your hands on in a true emergency, you will be forever running to credit cards when the car breaks down or you experience a temporary lapse in employment.

Just make sure you park it in a safe place where it is safe from you and can earn some amount of interest. Do not dip into your contingency fund unless you are faced with a genuine emergency.

You need a minimum of three months’ living expenses in your contingency fund (six is better). I suggest that you check out the Ally Online Savings Bank website. As of this writing, you can earn 0.80 percent on savings with no minimum requirements or fees. For more information go to their website or call 1-877-247-2559 anytime day or night.

Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments, and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, “Ask Mary.” This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Copyright 2020 Creators.com