From dishwashers to debt, readers of this column ask great questions. And if statistics can be trusted, we know that for each one who asks there are 999 others who have the same question but just haven't gotten around to writing — yet!
Dear Mary: Do you have any suggestions for cleaning the inside of a dishwasher? I have seen packaged cleaners in the supermarket, but are they worth the money? — Kelly
Dear Kelly: While I'm a big fan of Glisten for that once-a-year major dishwasher cleaning, I do have a super-cheap solution that works really well for routine maintenance. You'll need 3 packets of unsweetened lemonade Kool-Aid powder — they cost about 25 cents each and are available in any supermarket or in a case of 48 on Amazon. Divide the contents of the three packets between the two detergent cups. Run the dishwasher empty on the hottest, longest cycle. Lemonade Kool-Aid is loaded with citric acid, which will remove rust, hard-water buildup and soap scum, leaving the dishwasher sparkling clean. Just know that lemonade is the only Kool-Aid flavor that works for this task.
Dear Mary: It's a long story. In a nutshell, I ran up more than a few credit card accounts (OK, seven), lost my job and stopped making payments. Now all of those accounts have been charged off. Can these creditors still come after me? I no longer hear from any of them, or from any collections companies either. Is it possible that I just don't owe the money? — Anonymous
Dear Anonymous: It does make sense that you no longer owe the money. After all, if they're charged off, it sure sounds like the debt went away, right? And it did — just not away from you. Even though those accounts have been charged off, you still technically owe the money.
While statutes of limitation vary from one state to the next, in the most basic terms, a debt is owed until it is paid.
In addition to damaging your credit score, an unpaid charge-off could really hurt you when applying for a mortgage, renting an apartment or competing for a job. Most businesses are leery of someone with long-term unpaid credit accounts. Many will overlook a previous history with late payments if you eventually paid what you owed, but usually, they're less forgiving if you did not.
Your charged-off accounts will remain on your credit reports for seven years and then must be removed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. So, if you decide not to pay, you will have to wait seven years from the date of the last activity on those accounts for the charge-off(s) to no longer affect you.
You made a mistake and hopefully learned some things that will prevent you from making the same mistake in the future. The best way to move forward is to clean up the debt mess you made by paying what you owe and not falling into this trap again.
I can't think of a better way for you to do that than by reading my book, "Debt-Proof Living" (published by Revell in 2014). It's my own story, which in many ways reflects yours, together with the specific steps I took to get out of debt and stay out. I hope you will read it.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.