Last week we shared Cathy Levan's tip for buying petroleum jelly in bulk and packing it into pill boxes to save on lip balm, and suggested it would be a great Valentine's Day gift. What better way to show someone your love than to make them more kissable and teach them how to save $227.83 over 20 years?
We've learned that appreciation for such gifts of thrift is not universal.
Ernie Svites, of Hellertown, was so struck by the idea, he took the time to send us a note and tell us how it made him feel.
"Spencer, you have reached a new low," Ernie said. "This is by far the worst column I have ever seen in any newspaper, ever. What an extreme waste of valuable print space. That was the dumbest idea ever and it's embarrassing to have to read this garbage. Your remark that you should get another valentine if they don't like is a joke. It's the opposite. If my wife gave me that, I would show her the door … . Get a life, will you please."
A woman who was equally moved left us a message on the On The Cheap hotline.
"That Vaseline tip that you said that somebody should give their sweetheart, they better not give me any Vaseline," said the caller, who didn't leave her name. "I have some at home. Every home has it. Oh my God. They can tell you what to do with it, but they don't give that as a gift instead of chocolates. That's so dumb."
We agree that it would be dumb to give your valentine Vaseline. Generic brand petroleum jelly, which we suggested in the column, costs a lot less.
You can hear reader feedback at http://www.mcall.com/onthecheap.
David Hoyt, a retired pharmacist, said petroleum jelly can actually dry out the skin. He suggested another product, and challenged us to verify his claim and write a correction.
"Otherwise people trying to save a buck may try Vaseline and discover that sometimes your advice is not so good," David said. "Shouldn't you try to verify readers' suggestions first anyway?"
We always try reader advice, David. And we understand the confusion about the effectiveness of different moisturizers, especially when there are so many expensive products whose marketers want us to think they are superior.
So we checked with the National Eczema Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the health and quality of life of people with eczema.
"Generic petroleum jelly and mineral oil [without additives] are two of the safest, most effective moisturizing products," the foundation states.
Lastly, we got a nice note from Ann Tachovsky in Emmaus, who said she looks forward to reading On The Cheap every week. She made her own hazelnut spread, using the recipe we shared a few weeks ago from Hence Bollinger and Matt Miller. And she's still using a tip we shared years ago.
"The first great tip I got from your column was the cereal bags in place of wax paper," Ann said. "It is perfect for freezing my own hamburgers and my friend's great cheese ball …Thanks again for the great column, except, of course, the stupid idea that someone would want to peel the banana in the store to save money."
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