Dollars & Sense columnist John Ewoldt searches the Twin Cities and beyond for bargains and strategies to spare you time, money and hassles.
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Posts about Home Improvement

Is Home Depot matching Menards' storewide 11% discount?

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: January 3, 2012 - 9:23 AM



I remember when the discount during Menards storewide sales used to be 17 percent. Did it used to be as high as 23 percent? Now it's 11 percent and the discount comes in the form of a storewide credit rebate check which is mailed.


Shoppers could quibble about the lower discount rebate,  but give Menards its due. Its prices have always been lower than Home Depot's, in general, although Menards' quality isn't always as high.


If you want an immediate discount on your purchase instead of a rebate card, try Home Depot. I called the Minneapolis Quarry store and the Bloomington store Tuesday morning and was told that they were honoring the discount, although the person in Bloomington thought it might only apply to the Pro Desk. Check with your own local Home Depot for sure.


I called Lowe's in Plymouth and was told they are not matching Menards, but again you may want to check first.

If you're shopping at Menards, this is a good time to troll through the aisles to see what's on sale. The 11 percent discount on top of a sale price should be a good deal if you need the item.


What you can do when Home Depot costs 50% more than Menards

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: November 15, 2011 - 9:12 AM

Friends who shop Menards and Home Depot a lot more often than I do say that Menards' prices are usually lower than Home Depot's, but you can find higher quality goods at Home Depot.

As a bargain shopper I like that Menards offers scores of sale prices each Sunday in its circular. A lot of Home Depot's prices in its circular are regular, not sale prices. What makes Menards even better, its sale prices run Sunday to Sunday, so you can shop two weeks' worth of sales on any Sunday.


But one of my complaints about Menards is that they often seem to be out of stock of the item I want. Yesterday I took a halogen under-the-kitchen-cabinet light bulb (base size GY6 35 watt 120 volts) into Menards in Richfield. The price for the bulb by Feit Electric was $3.99, but they were out of stock.


So I drove a few blocks to Home Depot in Bloomington where the same bulb by Feit Electric was $7.79 each, nearly double Menards' price.

I spent a few seconds marveling at the price difference, but I picked up four anyway. I took them to the Home Depot cashier (not self service) and told her that Menards' price is $3.99  I didn't have proof and expected the cashier to ask me for some or check with a supervisor but without comment she did a price override and saved me $15.20 on the four bulbs. 

Lowe's price, by the way, is $4.98 each on the same bulb, according to a price check by phone this morning. 

My point? Shop Menards for price, but don't hesitate to ask Home Depot or Lowe's for a price match if Menards is out of stock.  Anyone else want to comment about hardware store comparison shopping? I still think it's remarkable that a single item can have such a price variance. I haven't checked yet, but I can probably find it even cheaper online.


3 days after frying fish, the smell is gone. Your deodorizing tips?

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: August 18, 2011 - 11:38 AM


I vowed a long time ago never to fry fish in the house because of the stink. It's been so long that I cooked fish at home that I forgot my own rule. Last weekend I browned some halibut steaks on the stovetop for 4 minutes before taking them outside on the grill.


The smell from four minutes of browning took about 72 hours to vacate the premises, even after leaving windows open and running the exhaust fan hood. The halibut steaks were delicious, but if there is ever a next time, I need some tips to keep the smell at bay. 

Being a Nebraska boy who didn't eat a lot of fish growing up, I need help from Minnesotans who fry, broil, parbroil or cook fish more often. Surely you've got this Fish-B-Gone thing down pat. Here are some tips from Chowhound, but I'm curious what you think works best.

+Soak the fish in milk for a few hours before you cook it.

+Put out a small bowl of vinegar for a day after. (One wiseguy then asked how to get rid of the vinegar smell.)

+Create a masking odor such as making coffee or chocolate chip cookies. Others suggest burning a citrus-secented candle.

+ Try a Lampe Berger burner, but they're expensive. The burners start at $40, the scents about $15. Sold locally at Stone Crop in Maple Grove and also on eBay.

+ Lavender oil. Put a  few drops on a cloth and wipe affected areas with it.

+Try to prevent the odor by using a splatter screen, a vent fan and an....air purifier. Run the exhaust fan for an hour after cooking fish. If you can remove the exhaust filter, wash it.

+ Febreze (Another wiseacre commented that if her house smelled like Febreze or cheap, scented candles, she would fry fish to get rid of it.) 

+Take a whole clove (the prickly thing you stick in a ham) and simmer it a little water.

+ Stick a fan in the kitchen window while cooking fish and leave it on for a while afterwards.

That's nine tips. What say you, oh natives of the Land of 10,000 Lakes?  

Here's one more tip from me: Cook fish on the day before the garbage truck arrives. I made the mistake of cooking fish the day after garbage day. I endured a dead smell in my garage (where my association make us put our garbage cans) for almost a week.   

I needed a shrink. For my pet.

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: March 30, 2011 - 1:22 PM

Regular readers of my column may recall when I wrote eight years ago about Floyd, my problem cat who was peeing outside of his litter box. This cheapskate could hardly believe it as I spent $200 to have an animal behaviorist come to my house. She spent three hours interviewing me, on tape, and then taking a tour of my home. 

"Floyd feels he's under attack by neighborhood cats," she said. Cats roaming the 'hood were apparently spraying and even pooping near the egress windows along the perimeter of my house. Floyd, an indoor cat, could watch his attackers and no doubt smell them. It drove him crazy and I was oblivious to it.



The pet shrink's remedy was to place some crystals along the perimeter that deters cats, put a film on the window so Floyd couldn't see his enemies and place Feliway diffusers (like Glade plug-ins) to calm him down without drugs. It worked. Floyd returned to his litter box. 

Recently, Floyd's sister, Thelma Lou, developed a similar problem. After 14 years of perfect behavior, she started pooping a few inches outside of her litter box. Time to call back the behaviorist. Had a two hour session in my new home. The verdict? "Too much change." A new home, different food, new visitors. The solution was a trio of Bach's flower essences: Agrimony, Aspen and Chestnut Bud. I picked  up several bottles at the Wedge co-op and put the prescribed number of drops in Thelma's food.



What seems like voodoo has worked like a charm once again. After two days of lapping up the essences, Thelma started using her litter box again.

I can't promise that your pet will react as well to therapy as mine apparently do, but if your dog or cat needs help with inappropriate peeing and pooping, excessive barking, compulsive behavior and agression, consider hiring a pet shrink before surrendering as a last resort. Below is a list of resources.

Best Friends Behavior (612-624-0797). The fee is $150 for the first hour and $125 for additonal hours for an at-home visit.

University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine (612-869-6451). Fees: $413 for a 2-3 hour office visit for dogs or $519 plus travel for a dog home visit. A 90-150 minute office visit for cats is $207 or $292 plus travel for a home visit. The fees include two months of free phone or e-mail consults.

Animal Humane Society (763-489-2202). A free behavior hotline is staffed by trained volunteers. Leave a message for a callback within a day or two. Also ask about low-cost classes on cat or dog aggression, cat socialization and house training and destructiveness for dogs.

As a good friend said to me, pets are not disposable when they inconvenience us. Take responsibility within reason or don't get a pet in the first place.


BBB warns of consumers about magazine telemarketing firm

Posted by: John Ewoldt Updated: March 17, 2011 - 11:20 AM

"You've won a $1,00 online shopping spree!" That's part of the bait that Midwest Home Office telemarketing firm is casting to reel customers for its magazine renewals. According to the Better Business Bureau of MN and ND, the company then alleges that the prize will only be awarded if the person agrees to buy magazines.



Note: Any time you have to pay any amount to collect a prize, hang up or walk away.

Other Midwest Home Office customers have complained about overbilling, and not receiving magazines or the shopping spree, said the BBB.

Think about how much you're spending per month on magazines now. Some Midwest Home Office customers are paying $30 a month. If I were paying $360 a year for magazines, I'd need another family to help me read them.

Here are some much better tips to save on magazine subscriptions. Tanga is a really cheap source. Get on their e-mail list for alerts about great deals. They only offer a few at a time.

What about renewals? Good sources for renewals include Magazine City (1-800-787-1414 ) or NEA
Magazine Service

Your best bet might be to use a comparison site such as Magazine Price Search. Prices found at their sites are often 20 to 70 percent cheaper than with other magazine services.

Once you find the best rate, call the 800 number listed on the publisher's page, tell them your best rate, and ask them to beat it. Most will at least match it, and some reps will shoot you a lower price. If comparison shopping isn't for you, call the 800 number and ask for the best rate. If it's no better than the standard rate on the insert cards, use one of the comparison sites.


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