Top 10 Student Loan Tips for Recent Graduates—and Not So Recent, Too!

Whether you just graduated, are taking a break from school, or have already started repaying your student loans, these tips will help you keep your student loan debt under control.

By “under control” I mean avoiding fees and extra interest costs, keeping your payments affordable, protecting your credit rating and paying those loans in full as quickly as possible. If you’re having trouble finding a job or keeping up with your payments, there’s important information here for you, too.

1. Know your loans. It’s important to keep track of the lender, balance and repayment status for each of your student loans. These details determine your options for loan repayment and forgiveness. If you’re not sure, ask your lender or visit NSLDS.ed.gov. You can log in and see the loan amounts, lender(s), and repayment status for all of your federal loans. If some of your loans aren’t listed, they’re probably private (non-federal) loans. For those, try to find a recent billing statement or the original paperwork that you signed. Contact your school if you can’t locate any records.

2. Know your grace period. Different loans have different grace periods. A grace period is the time between leaving school before you must make your first payment. It’s six months for federal Stafford loans, but nine months for federal Perkins loans. For federal parent or PLUS loans, it depends on when the loans were issued (see details). The grace periods for private student loans vary, so consult your paperwork or contact your lender to find out. Don’t miss your first payment.

Tackle Ant Problems with Ordinary Pantry Items

Ants are fascinating creatures. For example, each ant colony has several different kinds of ants. They are all the same species, but they look different. If the heat of summer has you in a constant battle, you might like to know that most of the ants you see are workers. They are female, but they cannot reproduce.

Inside the nest is the queen, she is a large female, and is the only one who can lay eggs. Only males and queen ants have wings, but the queens remove their wings when they start a new nest. Worker ants never have wings.

Now that you know what you’re looking, here are 11 ways to get rid of ants—especially those teeny tiny sugar ants*—using ordinary things from around the house or in the garage. Think of what follows as a kind of buffet where you pick the solutions that meet your immediate need with items you have on hand.

MOP AND VACUUM. To get rid of sugar ants, start by mopping the floor at least once a day. Mopping and vacuuming help to remove the ants pheromone trails. Cleaning and mopping will also rid your home of the food and crumbs that attract the ants. Make sure you don’t leave any dirty dishes in the sink and empty the trash bin regularly.

Simple Tool Keeps Garbage Disposal Clean Plus more Great Reader Tips

Some days I just have to smack myself in the forehead. Why didn’t I think of that?!

Doesn’t it make sense that by now someone would have come up with a simple, inexpensive gadget to clean an icky, stinky garbage disposal? It make sense to me, and guess what? Someone has!

FRESH AND CLEAN DISPOSER. Reading a recent post about cleaning a garbage disposer prompted me to tell you about a brush that is made just for this purpose. Mine is just like this Mr. Scrappy Disposer Brush (about $9), and I’ve had it for at least 10 years. This brush is designed to thoroughly clean all the way inside the disposer and also under the splash guard. I put baking soda, white vinegar and water into the disposal then push brush in while its bubbling to clean all around and up under the splash guard. It’s remarkable, easy to use and keeps my sink and kitchen smelling fresh and clean. My brush is showing some wear now, so I just ordered a new one. Fran

Put Denture Tablets to Work Around the House

I have a long list of reader questions that I’d intended to answer today. But I got so taken away with Sandy’s question, I used up all the space! I promise to get to the rest of the list real soon.

Can I use my Polident Denture Cleanser to soak/clean my mouthguard for several days in a row, or is it really necessary to start with a new tablet each morning? Sandy

You can, but I wouldn’t. Here’s the reason. Once that denture tablet hits the water it becomes activated to both clean and sanitize. It will fizz and bubble for a while as it cleans. But it loses steam slowly so that 24 hours later it won’t be sufficient to give that mouthguard another go round of cleaning and disinfecting. That may or may not concern you, but it would concern me. So my answer is no to your question of re-use. By I have some things you can do with that solution while it still has a bit of useful time remaining. Denture tablets are great little workhorses for all kinds of jobs around the house.

16 Facts and Uses for the One Cent Piece That are Worth Every Penny

For some people, pennies are so annoying, they don’t even bother picking up strays that end up on sidewalks and streets. Then there are those who eagerly collect the copper coin, living up to the Benjamin Franklin quote that a penny saved is a penny earned.

Assuming that the rest of us fall somewhere between those extremes, today I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few facts and uses for the lowest value coin in the U.S. currency lineup—the lowly penny.

Four, no more. Carry four pennies with you at all times so you always have just enough to avoid paying the odd cents when you make a purchase. This way you avoid getting pennies back in change. Serious “change savers” save other coins but want to get rid of the pennies as quickly as possible. This method will do it.

Tons of copper. Since its beginning, the U.S. Mint has produced more than 288.7 billion pennies. Lined up edge to edge, these pennies would circle the earth 137 times. The average penny lasts 25 years.

Big waste. It now costs more than one cent to produce a penny. In 2007, the U.S. Mint lost $31 million in making 6.6 billion new pennies.

Turn Your Dishwasher Into a Workhorse Plus More Great Reader tips

The dishwasher in my house is a workhorse. It does a great job of cleaning dishes of course, but also baseball caps, waste baskets, and de-crystallizing honey* (yes, you read that right). Now I can add cleaning refrigerator shelves to the list.

SPARKLING CLEAN SHELVES. When I clean my refrigerator I put all the shelves, including the door shelves, in the dishwasher. I run the short cycle, which saves time, and the shelves come out sparkling. Emma

DOG HAIR-REMOVAL GLOVES. My Labrador Retriever frequently goes places with me, traveling in the back of my car. Needless to say, lots of dog hair gets stuck on the carpet. I’ve tried everything to remove it including sticky roller tape and special sponges, but nothing has worked. Finally, I tried my gardening gloves. The palm of the glove has a rough, rubbery texture and they work beautifully. I put on the glove and run my hand palm down along the carpet. The hair piles up in my glove. Kathryn

Going on Vacation? Make Your Own Plant Nanny Plus More Great Reader Tips

Every day I get loads of mail including wonderful notes, letters, and email messages from my awesome readers.

Tucked into many of those messages are tips, hints, tricks and great ideas for the ways you save time and money every day. I’m pretty sure I have the best job on earth!

PLANT NANNY. When I go on vacation, I fill bottles with water and push them upside down into my plants—houseplants and outdoor plants as well. The water keeps the plants moist for days! Sophia

I’ve been using Sophia’s tip for several months now, only I’m not on vacation! I fill bottles every couple of days in addition to regular watering. As you can see from the photo above (this is a $12 Walmart plant bowl that was tiny and pretty sick looking when I got it in May), constant watering must be the trick! Especially in the super hot Colorado sun.  -mh

Clever Ways to Use This for That

What a great idea!

For anyone who has had to deal with a child in pain, it can be a painful experience for everyone regardless the age of the child. That’s why as a parent and now a grandparent, I appreciate hints and tips that will help me be even more resourceful.

BABY ORAJEL NOT JUST FOR BABIES. Our teenage daughter badly stubbed her toe and we needed to clip the nail. Unfortunately, she wouldn’t let us near it because of the pain. My wife found a tube of Baby Orajel and covered the area using a cotton swab. It was like magic. It numbed the area well enough that I was able to take care of things. I would never have thought to use Baby Orajel this way. Randall, Texas

DAWN FOR SPONTANEOUS CLEANING. I keep a bottle of Dawn, an automotive detailing brush and an old toothbrush in my shower. Dawn cuts the soap scum and does not leave a gritty residue. Just don’t overdo it since it can get pretty slippery! Laurel, email

SHOUT OUT THOSE STAINS. I found the best cleaner for my dirty golf shoes: Shout laundry stain remover. It works like a charm, getting down in the creases and crevices to get out the ground-in dirt. My golf shoes are leather, and it has not hurt them or the color. Brenda, Michigan

ERASE THE RED POLISH. Red fingernail polish accidentally spilled on my carpet, making a long red streak. A friend told me to use Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. The polish had already dried, but with a little elbow grease and several erasers, it all came out of my carpet. This is a wonderful product! Carolyn, Tennessee

LOOK OFFICIAL TO GET ATTENTION. Take a clipboard with you when you’re shopping. You’ll get waited on quickly, since sales associates will think you’re either a mystery shopper or you’re snooping for the competition. LaVonne, California

PEROXIDE CLEANS UP. I use a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water in a spray bottle to clean just about everything in my house. It works great on windows using newspaper, and it freshens my wooden cutting boards. On the lip of my sink, it foamed and cleaned up what I thought was rust. And the best part is it’s cheap. Carol, Illinois

FOAMING BUBBLES AROUND THE HOUSE. I took my foaming bath cleaner out of the bathroom and started using it on my walls, floors, patio furniture, kitchen basically, anything and everything. It cleans it all. When we removed the carpet in the hall, the old vinyl flooring underneath had seen better days. After using the foam on the floor, the dust and carpet fibers came up, and I didn’t have to replace the flooring right away. For most things, just spray, wait a few minutes and whip away the dirt. And it disinfects, too! Jennie, email

Share your own tips in the comments section below, or HERE. Include your first and last name and state.

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