Dear Mary: Thanks for your article a few weeks ago on making homemade laundry soap. Do you know whether it is OK to use it in high-efficiency washing machines? How much should we use? Why are we supposed to use special soap in HE machines? — Jackie, e-mail
Dear Jackie: Stephanie Woods of SoapsGoneBuy.com (she's the one who taught me how to make homemade laundry detergent and at whose online store I always can find the simple ingredients) says homemade laundry detergent is ideal for the new HE washers because it creates no suds.
HE washing machines — including all front-loading machines and some top loaders, such as the Kenmore Elite Oasis — use less water and energy than traditional machines. These washers require specially formulated HE detergents, which become less sudsy than regular laundry soap. Use of a regular detergent in these machines can leave suds on clothing and in the machine, which can lead to mildew.
Homemade detergent, I'm learning from my readers, works well in regular washers, too, provided you do not have to see suds to know the stuff is working. Just take a look at the dirty water, and you should be convinced. Just remember that you need to experiment with the amount to use given the size of your washer, the soil level of the clothes you are washing, and the hardness of your local water. All of those things come into play.
Dear Mary: At the beginning of the year, I went back to work as a contractor to help us catch up on bills and pay down our debt. I work out of my home, working some weeks part time and some weeks full time. I get paid straight time, and there are no taxes taken out of my paycheck. I am so afraid that I am going to have to pay the government tons of money come next tax season! How do I organize and prioritize saving for taxes? — Jennifer, Arizona
Dear Jennifer: One of the best things I ever learned when I first became self-employed was the necessity (this is not a choice; it is a command) to put 30 percent of every nickel I collected into a special account for taxes. That's a ballpark figure, but I think you'll find by the time you consider you must pay 100 percent of your Social Security (generally, when you are an employee, the employer pays half) plus federal and state taxes as applicable, 30 percent is a good rule of thumb. And remember that you must pay quarterly estimated taxes. If you wait until the end of the year and then come up owing, you will be assessed a big penalty. Ouch!
I suggest you make an appointment with a good accountant to get your estimated payments figured out so you are making them on schedule. You do not want to get in trouble with the Internal Revenue Service. That could cost you all that you've managed to earn by contracting plus a lot more.
Do you have a question for Mary? E-mail her at email@example.com, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. Mary Hunt is the founder of DebtProofLiving.com and author of 17 books, including "Debt-Proof Living." To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.