Every day my email box loads up with messages -- many of which contain questions from you, my dear EC readers. And if you've sent a message, you are aware by now that while I read my mail and keep it filed, I just do not have enough time in my days to answer every message personally. However, once each week I reach into that file and select questions I believe will have a wide appeal for readers.
Dear Mary: What is the best way to dispose of expired medication and old household cleaners? I want to do this in a safe manner. -- Chris, Virginia
Dear Chris: Call your local refuse company to inquire about the disposal of hazardous household items. Or visit search.earth911.com to find convenient recycling locations by ZIP code for various material types.
Most have an accommodation center where you can drop off cans of paint, cleaners, medications and other such items that should not end up in the regular landfill. A couple of times a year on a Saturday morning, I load up potentially hazardous items that have accumulated around our home and drive over to our recycling center. It's quick and easy, even when there's a long line.
You might learn that once a year or so the company will pick up hazardous waste provided you have followed the proper guidelines for setting it out for pickup.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control (www.dtsc.ca.gov) regulates the generation, treatment, storage, transportation, and disposal of hazardous waste. Visit their website for additional information.
Dear Mary: I own a four-year-old Lexus that I bought new. The dealer just offered me a four-year extension, and I accepted. Now I'm having second thoughts. I'm retired and drive the car about 10,000 miles a year. The current mileage is 42,000. The new warranty runs through 2018 or 91,000 miles. This will cost $3,000 at $200 a month for 15 months. I'm 62 and on a fixed income. I can pay my bills but I have trouble saving money. Is it wise for me to purchase this warranty? -- Alma, California
Dear Alma: Given your circumstances, I would advise against buying this extended warranty.
Your Lexus is a well-made automobile. At 10,000 miles a year, your usage is relatively light. Statistically speaking, if you are careful to have the oil changed regularly, you will experience no breakdowns or mechanical difficulties that would be covered by the extended warranty. My advice is to cancel it. But don't stop there. Go directly to your bank or credit union and open a savings account. Instruct them to transfer $200 from your regular account into your new savings account once each month. After all, if you can scrape together $200 every month to throw away on this warranty, you should be able to do the same, but for your own good. See this as a non-negotiable expense. Once it is an automatic transfer, you won't miss the money so much.
If you take my advice, I wager that at the end of 2018 you'll be driving a trouble-free car and you'll have at least $3,000 in savings, too -- or $9,600 if you make this $200 a month savings a regular habit. If by some fluke you do need to pay for a car repair, you'll have the cash in your savings to cover the bill.
Mary invites questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.