Dear Mary,

My husband and I have really gotten ourselves in deep this time. At the time, we thought starting a franchise using our personal credit cards was a good idea. The manager we hired was inept and untrustworthy. Now we are in credit-card debt to the tune of $250,000. We are trying to crawl out from under this problem and are out of working capital to keep things going. We can’t find anyone who will make us a consolidation loan. We are sinking fast! Name withheld, Texas


Dear Nameless,

I wish you’d written before you headed down such a dangerous path. Instead you violated nearly every rule of self-employment: You went into business with borrowed funds. You hired employees before you were profitable. You thought of credit as “working capital.” Need I go on? I will say that if there’s one thing you did right it was not taking out a home-equity loan to fund this nightmare. As much as your unsecured creditors may scream and yell, hassle and harangue, they cannot take your home. But they can sue you if you are unable to keep up with your monthly minimum payments.

While bankruptcy is legal, I find it to be neither moral nor ethical. While you might be relieved of the burden through bankruptcy, discharged debts don’t disappear and there might be tax implications. However, it pains me greatly to suggest it’s probably time for you to consult with a bankruptcy attorney.  Read more

I asked readers on my blog to share their favorite tips for protecting their home and car in the winter. It’s amazing how many of you live in the ice and cold! I can honestly say I would never have thought to try Ranch Mommy’s genius tip.

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SHEETS ON THE WINDSHIELD. To make snow and ice removal easy, spread an old towel or sheet across your windshield and secure it in the car doors. In Wyoming, if something isn’t anchored down, the wind will take it away. Ranch Mommy, Wyoming

PASS DOWN FAMILY HISTORY. My children thought I was nuts when I kept so many of my parents’ things when they passed. But now, every Christmas they get a treasured item with a little note telling about its history and about that person’s life or childhood. June, EC Blog Read more

As the story goes, the local inventor invited the town’s pastry makers to observe his latest invention: an 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?”

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“I cover it with chocolate,” he replied.

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.  Read more

It is strangely ironic that the freedoms and affluence we enjoy in our society are the very things that stand to ruin our children if not addressed early and effectively.

The consumer-credit industry is doing all it can to get your kids to fall for the buy-now, pay-later lifestyle. If you do nothing to intervene, statistics indicate that your child is headed for a life that will be severely impacted not by credit—credit is not the problem here—but by the debt it can create.

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When the following three characteristics occur at the same time in the heart and mind of a child, they create a kind of “perfect storm” that has all the likelihood of creating a disastrous situation:

  1. attitudes of entitlement
  2. financial ignorance
  3. glamour of easy spending

For our debt-proofing purposes, “entitlement” is that demanding attitude that says, “I deserve it now even if I haven’t earned it or cannot pay for it.” Some call it the gimmes, others the I-wants. No matter what you call it, this attitude is running rampant, and not only among kids. Entitlement affects kids and adults alike.  Read more

Kids love to help out in the kitchen, but they don’t want to only watch. They want to get involved. To kids, cooking is like an edible art project. It’s fun for them to help with food preparation, but it’s more than that. Making their own food helps children develop confidence in the kitchen. It can also turn fussy eaters into kids willing to try new foods. Bringing the kids into the kitchen will help them develop skills for a lifetime.

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Here are some fun and tasty sandwich ideas to get you and your kids started.

Inside-out Sandwich

You will need a slice of ham luncheon meat, one slice of Swiss cheese, 1/4 teaspoon mustard and one soft Italian breadstick.

Lay the ham slice on a paper plate. Spread with mustard. Center the cheese over the ham. Place a breadstick at one end of the cheese-ham stack and roll up. Secure with a toothpick. Place on the paper plate with the seam side down. Cover loosely with a paper towel and  microwave on high for 20 to 25 seconds until cheese is melted. Let stand one minute. Remove the toothpick before serving.  Read more

Dear Mary,

I read your column all the time and can’t thank you enough for all the helpful money-saving hints you print. My mom bought 20-year term life insurance policies for my two sons when they were young in the 1970s. I know she finished paying on them and I know she didn’t cash them out. When my kids were in their late 20s, Mom told me she was going to give the policies to them so they could put whatever beneficiary they wanted on them. After she passed away, I found that neither of my sons even knew these policies existed. Now what do I do? Judith, email

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Dear Judith,

This is confusing. You say she bought 20-year term life insurance policies. The nature of term insurance is that it provides coverage for a period of time, in this case 20 years. As long as your mother paid the premiums, the insurance was in effect. After 20 years (sometime in the 1990s), the insured (your sons) could either drop the policy or pay annually-increasing premiums to continue the coverage. It sounds like they didn’t continue the coverage. Read more

I’m very excited about this month’s release of my book, Cheaper, Better, Faster. As you know I love tips, and having my favorite tips and tricks in one place sure is handy. So this week I’m sharing some of my favorites from Cheaper, Better, Faster: Over 2,000 Tips and Tricks to Save You Time and Money Every Day.

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Buyer consideration—warranties transferable? If the seller says the vehicle is still under the original manufacturer’s warranty or any dealer service contract, double-check that these benefits can be transferred from the original owner. Take no one’s word for it—read the contracts. Automobiles, p. 13

Sink-stopper leaks. To stop water from leaking out of the kitchen sink while you’re doing dishes, put a piece of plastic wrap between the drain and the drain stopper. This is also a handy trick to remember if you’re soaking something overnight. Cleaning, p. 61 Read more

Now and then someone asks me for this kind of investment advice: How can I get started investing in stocks and mutual funds that are risk-free and have guaranteed high rates of return?

Of course that makes me laugh hysterically, not only because there isn’t such a thing, but more because someone thinks I am an investment advisor. I am simply not qualified to advise anyone on traditional Wall Street, stock market investing.


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My investment advice is quite unconventional, but it makes so much sense you are going to be amazed.

First, let’s agree that the reason anyone wants to invest is to increase their net worth by making their money grow. There are two ways to do that. You can increase your assets or decrease your liabilities.  Read more