Washing Shower Curtains

shower_curtainAccording to the internet, when confronted with a shower curtain or shower curtain liner that has become icky with accumulated dirt, limescale and hard water deposits, mildew and mold, soap scum, and serratia marcescens bacteria (!) … many people will just throw it away and buy a new one.  Even members of my own family would do this!

However, a spin in the washing machine will make shower curtains and liners as good as new and repeated washings can add months or even years to their useful lives.  Just put them into the washing machine with a few heavy towels (especially for top-loading machines, which can tear up shower curtains without the towels to act as padding and buffers) and add the usual amount of detergent.  As a booster, add about a half cup of ammonia (my favorite), or some baking soda, borax, vinegar,  or bleach.  [Of course, never use ammonia and bleach together.]  Run the machine on the longest cycle with hot water.  You might pause the machine for some additional soak time.  There’s no need for a high-speed spin.  Don’t put the shower curtain in the dryer.  Just re-hang it in the bathroom and admire it as it dries.

You can also admire the money that stays in your bank account each time you do this.  A new shower curtain might cost at least $8.  Washing it in your home washing machine costs about 50¢.

If you have a mildew, mold, and serratia marcescens problem in your bath and shower area, a fan in the bathroom might help.


I Made A Mistake

amazon_store_cardA personal finance mea culpa:  During the recent holiday season I forgot to pay the balance on my Amazon credit card.  It was a store card, good only for purchases on Amazon.  I had paid the balance in full every month for over 3 years.  This one time I was about 10 days late, and wham — a $35 fee!  I called Amazon and cancelled the card, thinking they might wonder why I was cancelling and perhaps offer to refund the fee, but that didn’t happen.  So, just as an exercise in self-discipline, I’ll have no Amazon store card for at least a long while.  I’ve already purchased a couple things and charged them to my current I’m-only-in-in-for-the-bonus credit card.  Maybe Amazon will notice and they’ll make me an offer.  The $35 fee, the only fee I ever paid on this account, isn’t too bad.  I bought a couple computers when I first got the card, and Amazon allowed me 6 months to pay with no interest charges.  That might have been worth around $35. Still, my mistake means $35 is gone forever.

Update: A couple months ago, Amazon offered me a free trial Prime membership.  First one month free, and then when I started to cancel, another month free.  During this free trail, they offered me an Amazon Prime credit card with a $50 bonus.  Bingo.  I took the card, used it once, then put it away.  I’ll cancel the Prime membership before I have to pay for it.

Re-Use Pepper Grinder

pepper_grinderIt’s damn annoying that some of the “disposable” pepper grinders (the kind made by spice manufacturers and sold at grocery stores) can’t be easily opened so they can be refilled and re-used when they are empty.  I recently found myself with an empty disposable pepper grinder at the same time that I couldn’t locate my salt grinder.  I thought I could wash it and fill it with sea salt, but … the grinder top is designed to be very difficult to remove.

Here’s the trick:  Put the empty grinder container in a cup full of very hot water.  Near boiling is good.  A cup of water microwaved for a few minutes works fine.  Soak the plastic top in this very hot water for several minutes.  This makes the plastic just a bit more flexible, which should allow you to pull the plastic top off the glass jar.  Just hold the glass jar in one hand and the plastic top in the other and pull them straight apart.  Make sure everything is clean and completely dry and then you can re-fill it.  To put the top back on, after you’ve refilled it with peppercorns or sea salt or whatever, just put the jar on the counter and press the top firmly onto it.

Be Careful With Subscriptions

outlanderSometime last year, my wife got interested in a TV series, something about a woman who somehow was transported back in time to Scotland of the 1700s.  She (my wife, not the women in the TV series) watched the first few episodes on Amazon Prime, but then discovered that she would have to subscribe to a pay-TV service to see the rest.  She subscribed, watched the series, and promptly forgot about the subscription.  Just last month ago I noticed I could watch movies on Amazon Prime than seemed normal and I wondered if it was costing anything.  I soon discovered that her credit card had been getting charged $9 per month for several months.  Lesson learned.  Point is:  Are you paying for something you’re not even using because you signed up for it and then have forgotten about it?  Be careful with subscriptions and automatic payments.  Keep track of what you’re paying for every month.  Look carefully at your credit card and bank statements, your phone, cable, and utility bills.  Be sure and evaluate whether you’re getting value for what you’re spending.

Online Mistake Costs $70 (Which I Got Refunded)

I sorta like opening checking accounts (and setting up direct deposits and e-bill paying, maybe opening a savings account so as to avoid any monthly fee) just to get bonus of $150 or more.  One of the banks I’ve done this with offered me a credit card charging 0% interest for the first 12 months and paying me a $350 bonus if I charged $500 per month for the first 3 months.  I took the offer and earned the bonus.  All was going well until a few days ago.

I was online, making a payment, and I accidentally clicked the wrong button!  Instead of selecting to make a payment from the credit union where I keep most of my money, I accidentally selected the checking account at the same bank that issued the credit card.  I was paying off nearly the entire card balance (I guess it’s okay to carry a balance when the interest rate is 0%), which was a little over $1,000.  But I didn’t have that much in the checking account at that bank.  No matter!  Without any warning, the payment was made and the checking account had a negative balance.  I looked in vain for a way to un-do the transaction.  I was so flustered that I immediately made another mistake when I tried to transfer some money from the savings account at the same bank into the checking account, so as to partially offset the negative balance.  I accidentally did the transaction backwards, resulting in an even larger negative balance!  Finally, I transferred money from the credit union to the checking account at the bank (the money which I intended to use for the credit card payment in the first place) and I waited.
reverseJust as I feared, the next day there were two $35 service charges for insufficient funds.  Despite the fact that these accounts exist solely for the purpose of obtaining the bonuses for opening them, I felt pretty strongly about being charged $70 for just clicking the wrong button.  Especially when the bank’s online system didn’t give me any error message (“hey, you’re trying to make a payment of $1,000 from an account that only has a balance of $500”) or any way to un-do the transaction.

I did an online chat with one of the bank’s customer service people and, with sufficient amounts of politeness and contrition, along with the fact that I actually did transfer the $1,000 from my credit union account to the checking account at the bank, was able to get both fees reversed.

Moral of the story: Be careful not to click the wrong button. And, as is often the case with customer service, it often pays to ask.