Sticky Situations: Bankrupt Mortgage Lender and $10,000 Engagement Ring

Money matters can affect every area of life, often stirring up emotions of worry, fear, anger, and resentment. If not dealt with swiftly, those feelings can turn to bitterness, which can eat a person from the inside out.

How to avoid that bitterness thing from taking hold? Talk it out. Ask for help. Get advice from someone you trust.

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Dear Mary: I just read that that the company that holds my home mortgage is under investigation by the Feds, has a net worth of negative 63 million dollars and is expected to file for bankruptcy. This company holds title to my house. If it goes into bankrupt, am I at risk of losing my home, even though I’ve never been late on my payments?

I don’t want to refinance with another company because I am locked in at a great rate for the life of the loan and refinancing would cost a lot of money. Angela

Dear Angela: From what you’ve told me, I don’t think you have a thing to worry about. I do believe you have stated incorrectly that the lender holds title to your home. I am quite certain the title is in your name, with the lender having a lien on the property secured by a note and deed of trust.

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How to Remove Cloudy Film from Headlight Covers Plus More Great Reader Tips

Well, you’ve done it again! You clever readers have come up with another batch of fabulous ways that all of us can save time and money doing stuff like cleaning the annoying, cloudy film from your car’s headlight covers—and lots more. 

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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

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When All Else Fails, Cover It With Chocolate

As the story goes, the local inventor invited the town’s pastry makers to observe his latest inventionan automated pastry-making machine. To his dismay, the bakers deemed it unfit because it could not consistently turn out perfect pastries.

Not one to give up easily, the inventor took one of the chefs aside and asked, “What do YOU do when you make a mistake?”

“I cover it with chocolate,” he replied.

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With that, the inventor went back to his workshop, made a few strategic changes to his machine and invited the testers to return. To his joy, the pastry-makers were so impressed each of them commissioned a machine for their bakery. Little did they know he programmed it so that when something went wrong it sent a signal to simply cover it with chocolate.

The moral of our little story: It’s only a cooking mistake if you can’t come up with a clever way to cover the mistake. 

DRIED OUT STUFFING. If your Thanksgiving stuffing turns out dry as dust, don’t toss it out. Drizzle chicken broth over it, cover with foil and allow it to sit for several minutes. It will become soft and moist and no one will be the wiser.

RUNNY MASHED POTATOES. When making homemade mashed potatoes, if you misjudge and add too much liquid you can thicken by adding a small amount of uncooked instant potato flakes. If the mashed potatoes still seem too thin, wait a few minutes before adding more because the thickening occurs upon standing.

SALTY GRAVY. Gravy too salty? Don’t fret! If it’s only a slightly salty problem, add a pinch of brown sugar or 1/3 teaspoon white vinegar to counter the saltiness. For a more serious situation drop a peeled raw potato into the gravy and allow it to sit for a few minutes, stirring gently. The potato will absorb much of the salt leaving the gravy much improved.

SOFT FUDGE. If your homemade fudge refuses to set, put it back in the cooking pan over low heat, stirring constantly. Add just enough of the liquid you used in the recipe to bring it back to a simmer. As long as you can see large bubbles, keep simmering. When the bubbles reduce in size until they are almost nonexistent the fudge will be ready to set.

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Credit Card Payment Dates and Credit-Limits: What Difference Does it Make?

Few things in this world are more confusing than credit cards—how they work, what they really cost and how to manage them responsibly. While it’s only my opinion, I think credit-card issuing banks are just fine with that.

But I’m not fine with that and you shouldn’t be either! When it comes to credit cards, ignorance is not bliss.

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What’s the solution? Stop being ignorant. Learn all you can. Ask questions in order to grow your financial intelligence. That’s the way to win the credit-card game.

Dear Mary: I am on the fast track to paying off my credit-card debt in full and forever. I’m like a racehorse heading into the final lap. Here’s my question: Does it matter when I make my monthly credit-card payments? Would it make any difference if I paid earlier in the billing cycle rather than just before the due date? Kevin

Dear Kevin: Wow, this is great news and I’m out here cheering you on. The answer to your question is Yes, it does matter. Here’s why:

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The Case for Keeping IRS and State Tax Returns Forever

You may recall from a past post on record-keeping, that you should keep copies of your IRS and state Tax Returns forever.

Did you wonder about that? Many of my Dear Readers, like CMC, wrote to inquire. Well, wonder no more …

Shocked young woman seeking copies of past Tax Returns

Dear Mary: Why do you recommend people keep tax returns forever? The IRS has electronic copies of every return, and can only go back 7 years for audits. Thanks for this great blog! Call Me Curious

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Get Clever with Leftovers: Coffee, Meatloaf, Mashed Potatoes

Leftovers and I have a kind of love-hate relationship. I can’t bear the thought of tossing perfectly delicious food into the garbage just because I made too much of it.

So I pack it, seal it, and fill the refrigerator with it. Once leftovers are past prime—looking more like a science project than tomorrow’s dinner—I find that they’re so much easier to part with.

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The solution, of course, is to have an immediate plan for leftovers and then be diligent to follow through. Check out these terrific ideas!

COFFEE

Freeze it. Coffee ice cubes are great in iced coffee; they don’t dilute the drink as the ice melts. Or add your preferred milk and flavorings to the coffee and pour into Popsicle-type molds for a frozen treat tomorrow.

Make a Sauce: After pan-frying chicken or pork, deglaze the pan with coffee instead of wine for a deeper, Southern-style gravy.

Beef Jerky: Marinate beef slices in strong coffee and your favorite flavorings for up to eight hours, then dry the beef in the oven at 200ºF for about four hours.

Related: Make It Yourself: Beef Jerky, French Salad Dressing, Steak Sauce

Instead of Syrup: Combine hot coffee with melted butter and pour over pancakes or waffles.

Brine a Chicken: Coffee-based brines that include spices such as cloves, star anise, peppercorns and, of course, plenty of salt make for delicious and super moist roast chicken. Here’s a recipe for your consideration: Coffee Brined Chicken Breasts

Dress a Salad: For a simple coffee vinaigrette, cook equal parts brewed coffee, balsamic vinegar, and maple syrup on the stove at a low heat until the mixture is syrupy. Top it off with a little lemon juice.

Don’t miss: How to Get Started Roasting Your Own Coffee Beans 

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Tomorrow is the Day—Don’t Make These Tax Filing Mistakes

Money For Your Used Clothing Tax Year 2017 still available!

Here we are, one day before Tax Day 2017—the day by which we must file federal and state tax returns for Tax Year 2017. Hopefully, you’ve rounded up your receipts, figured out allowable deductions and loaded all of that onto the proper tax forms. And if not, it’s not too late. You have time.

But this is not the time to get sloppy. Make sure you don’t run any of these red flags up the flagpole of your tax return and you will greatly reduce the chances of getting hit with the most dreaded of all tax events—the audit.

MESSED UP MATH. Double check to make sure your arithmetic is correct. Math errors are not limited only to miscalculations. They could also be truncated numbers—dropping decimal places. Negative numbers need to have brackets around them. Consider attaching a spreadsheet or adding machine tape. Messed up math is the number one tax filing mistake so double check everything. E-filing makes sure that math calculation errors don’t occur.

Credit Karma’s Simply Free Tax Filing to E-file your federal and state taxes is 100% free!

SLOPPY RECORDS. If you are self-employed your deductions need to be very carefully documented. As a member of this group, don’t be tempted to blur the line between personal and business expenses, especially mileage deductions and home-office usage.

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Demo Day and Beyond Starring Instant Pot!

We and I use the term loosely as in the “royal we,” are remodeling our kitchen. Think demo day, a la Chip Gaines of the popular HGTV show, Fixer Upper.

Rather than using the sledgehammer method, my husband Harold carefully deconstructed the entire kitchen in order to donate it—cabinets, appliances and even the kitchen sink—intact to our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

Demo Day! Let the deconstruction begin

But before he removed a single screw, my personal home improvement designer/planner/hobbyist and talented woodworker remodeled the laundry room by stacking the full-size washer and dryer to make room for a new sink, more cabinetry, and counters.

Voila! A new temporary kitchen.

It’s small. Think: Barbie’s Dream House. Or cooking in a tent trailer. However, and quite amazingly, it works with just enough space for my Breville Smart Oven, Bunn Coffee Maker, Induction Countertop Burner, and Instant Pot.

I haven’t missed a beat; still making three meals a day, which would be nearly impossible were it not for my Instant Pot. The more I use it the more I learn. I could write for hours about all of the ways it has brought ease to my life—and delicious meals to our table—but I’ll save that for another day.

Today, I want to share recipes for some of our favorite Instant Pot meals.

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