Dear Mary: I recently inherited a certificate of deposit that came with a good interest rate. I left it alone until it matured, thinking I would renew it.
Rates are much lower now, and I'm wondering if I should use these funds to pay off the home equity loan we got when we did major work on our home. That would leave us debt-free, including our mortgage.
We are two or three years from retirement and have our one-year contingency fund in place. If I used the certificate of deposit to pay off the equity loan, I could take that payment amount and increase our retirement savings.
Does this sound reasonable? — Kim
Dear Kim: That sounds very reasonable to me, and based on the information you've given, I would highly recommend that you do it.
Investing in your debt is a safe bet, and it's one I do not think you will ever regret having made. You will have a guaranteed return on that "investment" equal to the interest rate you are now paying on that home equity loan.
Provided you continue making those monthly payments to yourselves, you'll be in great shape to retire when the time comes.
Dear Mary: When my brother-in-law was a pastor, he was authorized to use the church credit card to purchase things for the church.
He has not been at that church for over a year, and the church has never paid the final bill of $7,000.
Because he was an authorized user on the account, he is worried that this is going against his credit report. What should he do? — Cindy
Dear Cindy: Your fears may be well-founded because although your brother-in-law as an "authorized user" carries no financial obligation to repay the balance, the status of that account is being reported to his personal credit file every month.
If the church is making the required payments on time and not charging over the limit on the account, what is being reported will be positive. No worries.
But if the church falls behind in making the required payments each month, that information could quickly become negative for him if he is still on the account as an authorized user.
No matter the status of the account, he should contact the church immediately and ask to be removed from the account.
Dear Mary: I am trying to find recipe substitutes for the popular creamed soups, like cream of celery, cream of mushroom, etc. These condensed soups are killing my budget. I don't even want to pay a buck a can for the generic option at Walmart! — Nikki
Dear Nikki: Oh, I hear you! Not only can soups be pricey but they often have that "canned" taste. I have just the recipe you're looking for — homemade creamed soups from scratch.
But instead of making it all the way to "finished," you make a dry mix that you can store in your pantry. Then use it in place of canned cream soups in casseroles and other recipes. Here, let me show you:
In a large bowl, mix together:
2 cups powdered nonfat milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup instant vegetable bullion powder
2 tablespoons dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon dry basil leaves
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Store in an airtight container in your pantry until ready to use.
For the equivalent of one can of condensed cream-of-anything soup, combine 1/3 cup dry mix with 1 1/4 cups cold water in saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Add to your recipe as you would one can of soup. Yield: Equivalent of nine cans of soup.
To use this cream base for homemade soup:
Mushroom soup: Add 1/2 cup finely chopped mushrooms.
Celery soup: Add 1/2 cup minced celery, cooked.
Potato soup: Add 1 cup diced potatoes, cooked.
Vegetable soup: Add 3/4 cup mixed vegetables, cooked.
Broccoli soup: Add 1 cup chopped broccoli, cooked.
Asparagus soup: Add 1 cup chopped asparagus, cooked.
Would you like more information? Go to EverydayCheapskate.com for links and resources for recommended products and services in this column. Mary invites questions, comments and tips at EverydayCheapskate.com, "Ask Mary." This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a lifestyle blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."
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