Dear Mary: My wife and I are having a disagreement. I want to lease a new car now, because ours is old and paying for repairs is like flushing money down the drain. She wants to keep it until we can afford to buy a better car. I hate car trouble and think peace of mind is something to be considered. I’m sure we can afford the payment, but she’s not. What should we do? — James R.

Dear James: I’d rather shove toothpicks under by fingernails than ever lease a new car again (which is a story for another time, but enough about me). Here’s my advice to you: Do whatever you must to keep the old car running for now. But for the next 12 months, live as though you are making $300 monthly lease payments — but make those payments to yourselves. Don’t even think about being late, just as if you were under a stern leasing contract. After a year, will have two things: a good idea of your comfort zone for big lease payments and $3,600 cash. Then you’ll have options. You can sell the clunker and buy a better used car with the cash, or you can make a down payment on a newer car. For me, buying a car is far better than jumping into a lease where you will spend a fortune and have nothing, not even a car, to show for it at the end of the lease period.

Dear Mary: I’m so confused by laundry products, particularly detergents. Are powders better than liquid? Is the word “ultra” just hype? Thanks. — Cindy P.

Dear Cindy: Here’s the scoop on laundry detergent: Typically, the word “ultra” means the product has been concentrated to fit into a smaller box. The problem is, unless you read the label and carefully measure and experiment to find the least amount that works for you, you’ll probably dump in the same amount you have in the past. Not good.

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

If a product says it has more stain fighters, it contains enzymes to dissolve stains better, but you’ll still have to pretreat heavy stains. Detergents with enzymes usually cost more than those without.

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

Both liquid detergent and liquid bleach will get a boost and work better if you add a half-cup of baking soda to the wash cycle, which means it’s possible you’ll be able to use less detergent. This is only cost-effective when your baking soda products are less per ounce than the detergent.

Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheap skate.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.”

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