Stop the Cycle


Sometimes, just a simple change in the way we do things can result in significant savings over time. Take the way you wash your clothes. I have to admit to using lots of cycles on my washer just because they’re there. And every cycle adds more time and uses more resources. Today’s first reader suggests a simple way to reduce the resources without sacrificing good results. Great idea, Natalie!


Pre-soak. Instead of using the pre-soak and pre-wash cycle on your washing machine use the regular cycle but turn it off after the clothes agitate after a few minutes. Let them soak an hour or overnight then resume the cycle. This way you save water and electricity but achieve the same result. Natalie H. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Tips 6 Comments

Invest in Your Debt


Dear Mary: Soon I will receive an inheritance that is almost equal to the amount remaining on my mortgage. I am a widow, age 55 with no dependents. I have 25 years with the same employer and have been participating in the company’s 401k plan for the past 15 years. I plan to work until I am 65. Should I use the inheritance to pay off the mortgage or, as friends suggest, invest it in a variety of stocks and bonds and keep my mortgage because the interest is tax-deductible? Eleanor D., Iowa


Dear Eleanor: You need to check with your tax professional because, as you know, I am not one. However, If I were you I’d pay off that mortgage so fast the lender would get dizzy. Investing in your debt is always a wise decision because you cannot lose and your mortgage should be the last debt you pay off—after you have a healthy emergency fund and you have paid off all of your unsecured debts. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Dear Mary 1 Comment

Hurry! HARP 2.0 to Expire Soon


At first you might mistake it for a large, stringed musical instrument. It’s not, but the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP 2.0) could be music to your ears if your home mortgage is still underwater.

First announced in March 2009, the federal government program designed HARP to help underwater or near-underwater homeowners refinance into a fixed loan with a lower monthly payment.


The first HARP was not that successful. It was difficult to qualify to refinance under the terms of the program and contained too many roadblocks for the typical homeowner who needed the service so badly.

The program was revised in 2011 to be much more successful and available to many more needy homeowners. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Home & Family 2 Comments

An Ounce of Prevention is Cheaper than a Pound of Cure


If the terms Snowden, NSA and “top secret information” ring a bell, it’s possible that you follow the national news and understand the issues of privacy—both national and personal.

I’ll be honest. I find it a bit creepy to think that someone out there may be monitoring my emails, phone calls and financial history. That’s one thing, but should that “someone” actually make a move to harm me in any way because of that knowledge? Well, that’s where I know I can do something about it. And I would much rather choose prevention than face the daunting task of repair.

Here’s the problem:

How can I prevent someone grabbing my Social Security number, using it to open a credit-card account and running that baby to the moon—before I know what’s happening?


How can I prevent someone from financing a car in my name using my identity—then crashing it and causing all kinds of damage and personal liability for me, before I can even figure out what on earth happened? I can’t. I wish I could, but I just do not have the resources, network or ability to track and monitor my personal identifying information to stop someone from stealing it. And you know what? No individual does. That would be logistically impossible. Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Best Inexpensive, Home & Family, Mary's Perspective 4 Comments

Apples of the Fall


I love autumn. And I mean everything about it—the colors, the smells, the feel in the air and the food. Oh, the food. I’m talking apples—apple cider, applesauce, apple pie and apple cobbler. And who could possibly leave out the caramel apples?


Now look at that list again. It’s all fabulous, but all sweet. I know what you’re thinking: How about savory apple dishes? That’s what I’m thinking, too! Continue reading

Posted on by Mary Hunt in Food & Recipes 5 Comments