Dear Mary,

I have always donated our unwanted clothing, but with 2-year-old twin daughters who are outgrowing their clothes faster than I can change their diapers, money is tight. I’d like to bring their old things to a consignment shop to earn a little extra cash. Can you give me some tips on how to make the most money? Debbie, Michigan 


Dear Debbie,

Make a list of the children’s consignment shops in your area, then do some research. Each will have its own unique policies on what clothes and condition of items they accept. Find out the terms—i.e., once an item sells, how will they split the proceeds with you? Do they accept only pristine condition items or gently worn? Read more

Dear Mary,

When I heard that you now can get one free credit report every year, I was excited. I went online and was all set to order a copy of mine when I noticed a small disclaimer at the bottom of the page that said I’d be charged a monthly $10 fee for credit monitoring services. I immediately cancelled the request. Is this legal, and can you recommend a site that really is free? Tami, New York

Credit Report

Dear Tami,

Yes, the law that requires credit bureaus to give us one free credit report once each year also grants permission to the bureaus to attempt to “up sell” or advertise other products and services to consumers at the time they request their reports. And you can say no thanks!  Read more

Dear Mary,
I love your “Everyday Cheapskate” newspaper column. You’ve changed my life! Now I need help. My house is worth half of what I owe on the mortgage. Is it still considered a secured debt? I would love to sell it. I’ve even tried to give it back to the bank, but they won’t take it. Many people are in my situation. I’m trying to play by the rules, but I feel they keep changing. Laurie, Michigan

Dear Laurie,
Thanks for your kind words. Many people tell me they’re getting the equivalent of a degree in personal finance just by reading “Everyday Cheapskate.”

The housing crisis in this country is a tragedy, and one that way too many people didn’t see coming when they mortgaged their homes so heavily. However, I do not see where the rules are changing, as you suggest. In fact, I see the opposite. Many people now want lenders to change the rules based on the economy. Read more

Dear Mary,
I’m self-employed and need to borrow money for a short-term expense. Using a credit card for this expense would be astronomical, and a bank won’t lend me money for only a short time. A loan through a family member isn’t possible. Do I have any other borrowing options? Kathy, California


Dear Kathy,
It all depends on how disciplined you are. If you don’t have the money you need now, but know for sure you will have it in a relatively short period of time to repay a loan, there is a pretty clever way that you can do this. Basically, you are going to treat the IRS as you would a credit card.
Read more

Dear Mary,
In a recent column you said you didn’t buy a front-loading washing machine, as you learned from others’ mistakes. What are the pros and cons of a front loader, and what’s your opinion of the top-loader machines without the middle agitator? Pat, email

Dear Pat,
Front-loading washers suffer from a unique set of technical problems, due to the drum lying sideways. If the clothes are out of balance or there are too few items in the load to properly balance it, many front-loaders will just shut down, or rock slowly until time runs out. I have received myriad of comments from readers with front loaders who complain about water left behind at the end of the wash cycle, bleach spotting, long wash cycles, excessive vibrations and other complaints.

One issue unique to front-loaders is most troubling of all: mold buildup in the rubber gasket of the door and the resulting odor on clothes, especially towels.

If all of this is not enough, recent studies of consumer-reviews posted across the Internet show a trend of U.S. front-loading washers to have problems with bearing failure usually within the first six years, with the repair costs close to a replacement cost. Read more

Dear Mary,
My husband has been handling our finances, but he was recently diagnosed with dementia. I feel so overwhelmed with everything. He has already forgotten to pay some bills, so I have gotten involved with our finances. My husband wants to sell our home, but houses aren’t selling in our area and I really don’t want to sell. We’re looking into refinancing. We need to get out of debt. I don’t know where to start with all this. Rhea, email


Dear Rhea,
It’s time for you to step in and take over the household finances. If you have not been involved all along, just plan on it being daunting. Make an appointment with a fee-only financial advisor, who will charge you a flat fee based on an hourly rate, rather than try to sell you financial products to earn a commission.

Once you have this appointment, gather together all of your financial information that you can find or know about, and take it with you. Go alone to this meeting so you will be free to speak openly with this counselor. You may also need to speak with an attorney who can work with your husband’s doctor to give you power of attorney over future legal and financial matters. Read more