Dear Readers: A PRE-OWNED CAR can be a great gift or smart purchase for yourself, but be careful. Cars damaged in floods can wind up for sale. Let's discuss what to look for:


Rust is a dead giveaway that there has been water damage to the vehicle.
The presence of residual mud/water staining on the carpet or upholstery points to water damage.
Hiring a mechanic to do a once-over on the car? That's money well-spent.
There are websites that will check the VIN for the car you are buying.

-- Heloise

THE THIRD 'R'

Dear Heloise: I enjoy reading all of the recommendations about recycling and reusing items. Please also mention the first "R" in the three R's: "reduce."

If I don't need it or already have a suitable substitute, I don't get it. Plastic or paper shopping bags are one example that comes to mind. If I can carry my items in my hand throughout the store, I can carry them to the car or home. -- Karen K., via email

Karen, excellent point! -- Heloise

PERFECT PIZZA

Dear Heloise: During last winter, I turned on the seat warmer in my car, and this hint came to me: If it can keep my backside warm, why not pizza?

Voila! I turned on the passenger seat heater, put the pizza on the seat, and when I got home, the pizza was perfectly hot!

This would work with just about any food you'd like to keep warm. -- Joann H., Massillon, Ohio

SLUSHY SOLUTION

Dear Heloise: I recently had total knee replacement, and my physical trainer passed along this tip to me. For icing down after exercising, he said to mix 1 part rubbing alcohol with 2 parts water in a zip-close plastic bag and freeze it for about 12 hours. It becomes a cold gel pack. -- Peter H., Staten Island, N.Y.

Readers, add a drop of food coloring if you'd like, and label the bag. -- Heloise

LONELY CHECKOUT

Dear Heloise: In the big-box stores, they have many checkout registers, but nobody to run them.

It's not a good idea to make buyers stand in line too long -- they'll take their business somewhere else. If the register doesn't RING, then no sales, no money, store closes! -- Burch E., Dayton, Ohio

It does look silly to have upward of 20 or more checkout registers and maybe only five open. Management needs to open more lanes as the flow demands. -- Heloise

LETTER OF LAUGHTER

Dear Heloise: File this one under "sometimes it irks me; sometimes I laugh": If I text somebody, and that person calls me to respond!

The reason I texted you is because I didn't necessarily want to talk to you! -- Julie H. in Texas

Send a money-saving or timesaving hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5001, or you can fax it to 1-210-HELOISE or email it to Heloise@Heloise.com. I can't answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in my column.