Clean Up the Cloudy Headlight Covers

Well, you’ve done it again! You clever readers have come up with another batch of fabulous ways that you save time and money every day.

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AUTO CLEANER. Use plain old baking soda on a damp rag to remove bugs, tar and anything else from your vehicle. Works great, even on the grill and chrome work. Leaves no residue or odor and won’t harm the paint. I just make a paste with baking soda and water, clean away and just rinse off. Works better than any commercial product I’ve tried. This method even cleans away the cloudy film on headlight covers. Bud

CUSTOM FLOOR MATS. I wanted floor mats for our mini-van so I stopped by our local car dealership. Boy, was I floored (pardon the pun). I checked a discount department store and while their mats were priced more reasonably, they didn’t fit well. I found a perfect solution by buying clear plastic runner material that is available by the yard at the home improvement center. With a utility knife I customized the fit around the seat hardware. This saved a lot of money and works beautifully. Judith

FRIDGE DEODORIZER. Used coffee grinds can eliminate even the worst refrigerator odors. I store kimchee (Korean pickled cabbage with a distinct odor) in my refrigerator regularly and I don’t smell it anymore! Simply take out the used coffee filter with the coffee grinds in it and place it in your refrigerator in an open container. It works better than baking soda or any other commercial remedy. I’ve tried them all. Just replace the coffee grinds when they dry up. Jay

When Life Happens

Dear Mary: I’m in a quandary. I can’t see the forest for the trees. By some coincidence, my washing machine died this month after my having babied it for 18 months. Within a week, my dishwasher, refrigerator, and screen door all announced they were on their last legs.

On top of that, a pipe burst and water leaked for weeks underneath my yard till we got a $670 water bill. A plumber ripped up the yard and fixed the leak ($450), and the Dept of Water and Power gave me a bill for $220 (a usual water bill is $45). Two days ago in the rain storm, my car wouldn’t start. Turns out water got into the hybrid battery which may cost $5000 to replace. Property taxes are due next week.

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I have paid off one credit card, am existing on the other, and my Contingency Fund is nowhere near able to handle the cumulative disaster that has become my life. I managed to pay the property taxes, but I’m not sure how to prioritize or what to do next. It’s so overwhelming, I feel paralyzed.

It’s so surreal that all of this has happened in such a short period of time. I have one dollar and some change in my purse. Do you have some advice for me? I need some structure and a light at the end of the tunnel. I still have a young teenager at home I need to provide for. Thanks in advance for your wisdom. Amy

Stick it Out or Get Out Now?

Dear Mary: Last summer, I refinanced my home and paid off my car so that I could begin a new career in insurance sales. I’ve been at my straight-commission job for just over six months now and although I am doing well by company standards, I’m making less than half of what I used to earn.

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Business is slow for me right now and my debt is starting to creep up again. I’m good in sales but getting started in this market is tough. I know you started with nothing in the real estate business and did well. Insurance and real estate are similar in that they are heavy referral industries.

Do I bail and find another job to protect my family’s finances or do I give it my all to make this career a success? Where’s the line? I know you can’t make my decision for me but your thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Dinah

Dear Dinah: When I went into real estate sales and property management back in the 1980s, I was on salary plus commission, so we had something to count on. Three years later, my husband and I started our own real estate company, which then became commission only.

I had three years to establish a clientele and we’d also accumulated enough money to live on as we got established in our own business. I landed my first big commission as a commissioned salesperson in the business that I also was co-owner, within weeks of opening our business—only because I’d built a strong customer base of users and repeat buyers (investors) who trusted me. We had a lot of strength going in.

Credit-Card Payment Options Riddled with Risk

Dear Mary: May I ask your advice?  I have a credit-card balance of $4,500 at 18 percent interest. My FICO score is 700. I am determined to pay this off in the coming 12 months. Would it be wise for me to transfer this to a new CHASE Slate credit card that offers 0 percent interest with no fees for 15 months? Or should I keep what I have, bite the bullet and just pay it off over the next year? Mary Beth

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Dear Mary Beth: First, let’s look at the numbers. If you keep what you have and pay off the $4,500 at 18 percent interest over 12 months, you will make 12 payments of $412.56 each, for a total of about $4,950, of which $450 will be interest.

If you transfer this $4,500 balance to a 0 percent card, you will make 12 payments of $375 each, saving you that $450 in interest. That’s looks like a no brainer. If it were only a matter of dollars and cents, it would be better to go with the no interest option and keep $450 in your pocket. But there are other things to consider.

You have to think about where this balance came from in the first place. You paid for stuff with credit because you didn’t have enough money. For whatever reason, you saw a revolving balance on a credit-card as a viable option. Apparently, things got out of control. You did not have the financial maturity to make wise decisions and you ended up with a big pile of high-interest credit-card debt.

How to Protect the Kids From Identity Theft

Dear Mary: I have been following your column for years. My husband and I recently signed up for LifeLock based on your recommendations and I thank you for that.  

Just this past week, he has had numerous credit-card offers taken out in his name and the alerts have been coming through. Orders were also placed for several thousands of dollars for computers in his name.

I believe at one time you recommended LifeLock protection year for children in case someone steals their information and tries to open accounts in their names because you might not know their identity has been stolen for a while since they are not applying for loans or credit cards yet.  

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photo credit: Madmezza

We have 6 children and at $5 per month per child, that adds up to $360 annually just for the kids. I value your opinion and would like to know what you think. Robyn

Dear Robin: You recall correctly. Protecting your children’s identities is vital, and for the reason you state. I’ve read case studies of young people applying for their first credit card or home mortgage, being shocked to learn that someone has been using their SS number to open lines of credit for many years—accounts that have gone to collection, been written off and any number of horrific black marks. Before they even get started in life, their credit is ruined.

Sure it is illegal, sure you can fight to get all of that off one’s credit report. But can you even imagine the hassle? The stress, headaches and total nightmare such a thing would be? It kinda’ boggles my mind to even think about it. It can take up to seven years for negative items to finally clear.

They’re Paid Off and Debt-Free!

Dear Readers: Every day, as you can probably imagine, I get a ton of mail. These days, most arrive via email which is convenient and inexpensive. But I still get plenty of cards and letters in envelopes with postmarks and stamps. Your messages are all so encouraging, I wish I could personally respond to each and every one. Imagine my excitement to get the following report from this couple in New Jersey:

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Dear Mary: We just want to say thank you. Your columns, advice, thoughts and ideas helped our family out of debt. On Nov. 1, 2014 we became debt-free and paid off $232,793.59. Your newsletters were encouraging and helpful and we are grateful for your gift. Continue your work and again, Thank You. Judy and Dwayne.

Dear Judy and Dwayne: I get some fabulous mail but I have to admit that after  reading your note (handwritten on a beautiful greeting card, I might add) I had to pick myself up off the floor. Wow. Nearly a quarter of a million dollars in repaid debt. That is remarkable. I am so proud of you. I’d love to know more. In fact I would love to write your story one day. That would be so encouraging to others on their journeys to getting debt-free, and would affirm and validate this amazing thing that you’ve done in your own lives.

Sometimes the Solution is Worse than the Problem

Dear Mary: You are my last resort. Please help. I bought a lovely cedar-lined wood chest at an auction about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, I have not been able to use it for storage of anything due to the brutal smell of mothballs. Obviously, the former owner used them and I cannot rid the chest of this terrible smell. When we first purchased it we left it outside with the lid open for weeks and weeks. That didn’t help at all. Can you suggest anything? Joanne

Dear Joanne: I’d like to wring the neck of the guy who invented mothballs in the first place. To me, that odor is worse than moths. As for your problem, it’s a tough one for sure. The only thing I know for sure that will get rid of that odor is a product called Nok-Out, which has worked for me with a similar problem in a piece of antique furniture.

The trick is that you must completely cover ever square millimeter of the wood surface, as well as the areas in cracks and crevices, with Nok-Out. Then it must be allowed to sit for at least 10 minutes. Nok-Out must come in contact with the offending odor.

I would not be fearful at all of using Nok-Out liberally on and in this chest. It is not toxic, has no fragrance of its own and is clear like water. It doesn’t not need to be rinsed off or removed. I would set the piece outdoors and allow it to air dry. Hint: Use coupon code DPL at checkout for 10% off at NokOut.com

Another option is to sand down all of the cedar lining with fine grit sandpaper. Vacuum away all of the dust. This will renew the cedar fragrance that may be strong enough to overcome the smell of mothballs. Hang in there. I know you’ll find the solution. Just don’t give up.

Car Dealer Spills the Beans on Treating Leather Interiors

Dear Mary: I recently purchased a newer vehicle. The dealer tried to sell me a package where they treat the leather seats. Because of the cost, I opted not to purchase the package. 

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My question is, do you know the type of treatment that car dealers use to treat leather seats? Is it even necessary to do this? The car is an expensive purchase for me and I need to know how to take good care of the interior to make it last.

Thank you for your very enjoyable column.  I read it from top to bottom and always learn or find something I can use daily. Jan G.