What To Do When You Can’t Pay All of Your Bills and More
Dear Mary: Our mortgage was due on the first. As I write it is the 21st. We have the money to pay it, however my husband thinks it would be better to pay our credit card bills and get 30 days behind on our mortgage. What do you think should be paid first? — Lisa P., Florida
Dear Lisa: When you cannot pay all of your bills, you need to prioritize them according to the consequences you will suffer for nonpayment. If you fall behind on your mortgage or rent, you have to assume the mortgage lender or landlord will foreclose and you will be out on the street with the kids, your big screen TV and Barcalounger. If you are late with your credit card payment, about all you’ll get is a late fee and a trashed credit report. While neither consequence is great, there’s little doubt which is more severe. For more information, please read “What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Bills” at EverydayCheapskate.com/bills.
Dear Mary: My son owes $3,000 on his truck at 8.5% interest. Would it be smart to transfer the balance to my 5.5% credit card? — Nancy, Alabama
Dear Nancy: You have two issues here: the 3% difference in interest rates, and more important perhaps is the idea of you accepting legal responsibility for his debt. Sure, I know you think he can just make the payments to you, but it’s not the same as your son being personally responsible to the creditors. If he repays the $3,000 over 24 months at the 8.5%, he’ll pay just $98 more in interest over the term than at a 5.5% rate. That’s a small price for the self-worth he’ll gain if he retains sole responsibility for paying this debt.
Dear Mary: I followed your suggestion to track our spending for 30 days. I am so embarrassed to admit this family of four spent nearly $685 on fast food in one month! I thought I knew what our expenses were but hadn’t even made a category for this. I know we have to stop eating out so much because we need that money for something else. But I’m a terrible cook and don’t know where to start. Help! — Claudia, New Jersey
Dear Claudia: I can identify. When our two boys were young, I believe we ate out at least one meal every day. That really adds up! Here’s the solution that turned things around for me: Come up with one meal your family loves that you can fix from scratch. Then make it over and over until you perfect it. Then select one more meal and perfect it. Before you know it, you’ll be eating fabulous meals at home, and saving a bundle. This will do wonders for your family life, too.
Dear Mary: Recently, we moved from the “big city” with public utilities to a home that came complete with a septic system. In previous columns, you’ve suggested using white vinegar in the laundry as a cleaning agent and also to remove hard water buildup. Can you tell me if vinegar will harm the system or destroy the beneficial bacteria? Thank you in advance. — Anne J., Maryland
Dear Anne: I know this may come as a big shock to you, but septic tanks have never been high on my list of Things I Need to Know About. Your question sent this city girl on a research mission. I learned that not only is vinegar OK in your system, it is recommended. You should use mild detergents or baking soda, borax, vinegar and rubbing alcohol rather than stronger and potentially system-damaging chlorine and commercial household cleaners.