Try 1 month for 99¢

Dear Readers: Shopping online today is big business, and with all those sales, there inevitably will be a return or two that's necessary. Fortunately for consumers, online retailers now have fairly generous return and exchange policies.

Many retailers provide a shipping label. The cost of this return shipping may be subtracted from your refund (if the item is defective, there's no charge), and some luxury retailers offer a paid label.

Time limits can vary. Decide if an item is a "go" as quickly as possible; 30-day return windows are common, but retailers like to resolve issues in a timely manner. Call the company, read the invoice or check out the website if you have questions. -- Heloise

P.S. Pull the plastic shipping bag inside out to use for your return, and seal with good-quality packing tape. Masking tape can't seal properly, especially if it gets wet. For larger items, cardboard egg cartons can be used as filler in a box.

Driving etiquette

Dear Heloise: I was at a stoplight in the right lane intending to make a right turn after I had stopped. The person in the left lane pulled up as far as possible and blocked my view of the oncoming traffic! This was inconsiderate! -- Neil S., Fayetteville, Arkansas

Quick charge

Dear Readers: You may find that your cellphone or other electronic device charges faster if you turn it off before plugging it in. This isn't the case for all models, but try it if you need a quick charge. -- Heloise

Email address

Dear Heloise: I email frequently, and sometimes I would press some key that would send the email before I was finished with it.

It occurred to me that if I don't enter the recipient's name until after I finish typing the email, I'll get a "please specify a recipient" message instead of the email being sent prematurely. Haven't lost an email since! -- Lisa S., Dayton, Tennessee

Memory maker

Dear Heloise: Years ago, my mom told me that she could remember the numbers on her license plates, but not the letters. I told her to pick a word for each letter, so "FJB" became "Fresh Jelly Beans." What an easy way to remember the letters! -- Kathleen M., Massillon, Ohio

Bottle washer

Dear Heloise: When my kids were young, we went to the beach often. They didn't like to rinse off in the cold water. We would take a 2-liter bottle of water and leave it in the car window to warm.

When we returned to the car, there'd be warm water to rinse them with. The bottles also are good to freeze for a large ice chest. As the water melts, you have cold water to drink. I read your column every day. -- Donna Jo, via email

The water in the car in the summer sun actually can get quite hot! Test the water before pouring it on skin. -- Heloise

Knife in rice

Dear Heloise: Store paring knives, blade down, on the countertop in a clear glass filled with uncooked white rice. Looks pretty, and a knife is close at hand. Naturally, keep away from little hands. -- A Reader, via email

Why not blot?

Dear Heloise: I blot excess grease with a paper towel before eating -- it cuts down on calories. I know the grease tastes good, but does extra grease really taste any better? -- A Reader, via email

Multiuse wipes

Dear Heloise: I found that baby wipes have several uses. You can clean your shoes with them, and your purses, too. Clean your computer keyboard (after you first turn it off) and remove makeup, especially stubborn eye makeup. -- Lori F., Santa Fe, New Mexico

Call reroute

Dear Heloise: Sometimes calling a company can be annoying. It takes forever to work my way through an automated system on the keypad to get to the department I need!

I've discovered a trick that works almost every time. I enter "000" at the beginning of the call. This will usually route my call to a live operator. -- Rita W., Lubbock, Texas 

Cleaning tip

Dear Heloise: To make cleaning the baseboards easier, I secure a microfiber cloth around my broom with a rubber band. The dust and spiderwebs cling nicely to the cloth. -- Michael B., Reno, Nevada

All belted up

Dear Heloise: My pet peeve is someone who has missed a belt loop. This can look sloppy. Guys, just take your time, know how many belt loops you have and make sure the belt makes it into all of them! -- Dan E., via email

Elder isolation

Dear Heloise: So many elderly people are isolated and need interaction with someone -- a family member, neighbor or friend to talk to or visit with. The effects of isolation and loneliness have a negative influence on a person's mental and physical well-being, and are often the cause of depression. If you don't know how to get started or need a list of places that help the elderly, go to: -- Irene D., Gainesville, Florida 

Sign here

Dear Heloise: How often do you have to ask others in the house if they have read the paper or a magazine? My husband came up with this system: When he has read something, he just initials it.

If he wants it back because there is an article he wants to save, he prints "save" on it. That way, I know to give it back to him. Otherwise, when I see his initials, I know I can toss it after I read it. I do the same if I read the paper or magazine first. Saves a lot of time and questions. -- C.L., The Villages, Florida

Schedule this!

Dear Heloise: I put my housework on a weekly schedule. Basic tasks -- vacuuming, mopping, dusting and cleaning bathrooms -- are done every week.

Other jobs (dusting fans, blinds, baseboards and windowsills, and washing kitchen cabinets) are done once a month. It works for me!

The house is always ready for unexpected guests, even for overnight. I just freshen up the guest bathroom, and we are ready! -- Tammi in Big Lake, Texas

Sticky situation

Hi, Heloise: I purchased a set of four 18-ounce plastic drinking glasses that were nestled inside each other.

When I tried to separate them, they were stuck together, and I can't get them apart. What do you suggest to get them separated? -- Barbara, via email

Barbara, this should be an easy fix. Fill the top glass with ice cubes, then circle a bit of vegetable oil around the lip of the second glass. The ice will cause the top glass to contract slightly. Give it a few minutes, and then they should be unstuck! -- Heloise

Great questions

Get tips on free stuff and fun ideas delivered weekly to your inbox

Dear Heloise: As a widow, I've had to manage on one income with two kids. To keep from derailing my budget when I'm tempted to splurge on something frivolous, I always ask myself: First, do I really need this or just want it? Second, how is this going to benefit my children or myself? Lastly, if I buy this, what do I have to give up to afford it? This has saved me from some very foolish expenditures. -- Pat J., Springfield, Oregon

Hotel tipping

Dear Heloise: When we stay at a hotel for more than three nights, we always leave a tip for the maids. We put the money in an envelope with "For housekeeping" written on it, and leave it in the room on a desk. -- Penny N., Fort Wayne, Indiana

In a jam

Dear Heloise: The retractable handle on my wheeled suitcase was jamming. Before replacing it, I decided to lubricate the handle with a commercial lubricating oil. It worked like a charm. -- Linda W., via email


Dear Heloise: When I know that a weather-related power outage is possible, I turn the temperature of my refrigerator and its freezer compartment to the coldest setting until the threat has passed. -- Mary H., Arlington, Virginia

Ringing responses

Dear Readers: In a previous column, a reader asked for delivery drivers to ring the doorbell when they leave packages on the porch. Several readers wrote in. Here's a sampling:

"I'm a delivery person. There are people who don't want us to ring because of a sleeping baby, barking dog or both. If you would like us to ring the doorbell, please leave a note on the door." -- Lisa, via email

"I was happy that someone mentioned what should be obvious: Ring the doorbell. I made a sign and put it on my front gate: 'All Deliveries, Please Ring Doorbell.'" -- Dave B., Anaheim

"We installed a doorbell with a camera. It is great! We can see, via our cellphones, who is at our front door." -- Mary A., Vancouver, Washington

"Some people are day sleepers. There are apps that'll notify you when your package has been delivered, and every stop along the way. You'll get a text once your package has arrived." -- A Retired Late Sleeper in Louisiana

"The solution is simple: Build your own storage container, bolt it to your porch and leave an unlocked padlock on it. I repurposed a toolbox out of my pickup truck, and it works well." -- Eric P. in California

Thank you for your feedback! -- Heloise

Crosstown traffic

Dear Heloise: Businesses that advertise their address should give the cross street. -- S. Gorman, West Palm Beach, Florida

Handwritten address

Dear Heloise: If you're writing your email address by hand -- say, to give to a colleague -- and it has lowercase L's in it, the number 1 or a capital I, make sure it is clear what these characters are -- this will save a lot of time. -- Jack L. in San Antonio

The same goes for zeros and capital O's! -- Heloise

Jar sparring

Hi, Heloise: Why do manufacturers attach jar lids so tightly, even when there is a sealed disc inside? I can't open the jar, even using hot water, attaching a rubber disc around the lid or trying any other type of help. Thanks for letting me rant! -- Doris Brown, Spokane, Washington

Subscribe to Breaking News

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Send a great hint to: Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio TX 78279-5000; fax: 1-210-HELOISE; email: