Dear Mary: It is that time of year when mice invade our homes. I'm a pretty good housekeeper, and we have two cats, but I just cleaned a disgusting mess of mouse tracks out of my pantry. Any suggestions on how to discourage mice for the future? I love your columns and read all of them! — Lucy
Dear Lucy: Oh, I feel your angst. I hate even the idea of a mouse in my house. As the temperatures drop in the fall, mice start looking for a warm place they can settle in for winter — and multiply. Any crack or crevice will do! That means we have to think like a mouse!
Start with the exterior of your home, looking for tiny places mice can slip in — damaged weatherstripping, under doors and around vents. Seal every place you find with a filler they can't chew through (that eliminates spray foam). An excellent choice is the Xcluder Rodent Control Steel Wool Fill Fabric DIY Kit. It's easy to use and holds up well as a permanent fix.
To prevent mice from coming in under doors, Xcluder also makes door and garage door sweeps from the same type of material.
Closing up all cracks and crevices is going to take some time, but doing it right will bless you for many years to come. And as a bonus, you'll be sealing your home from cold drafts as well.
Dear Mary: What kind and what brand of bed sheets do you recommend? — Janice
Dear Janice: I have to admit to being super picky when it comes to bed sheets. I need 100 percent cotton. And the fabric must have a smooth, soft "hand," (the way the fabric feels to the touch). My ideal sheets don't come out of the dryer horribly wrinkled, and they must fit well. (How annoying is it for a fitted sheet to pop off at the corners?)
I have tested so many bed sheets — yes, even microfiber, polyester, bamboo, 100 percent organic cotton, 100 percent fine cotton and all the brands from Red Land Cotton to Boll & Branch and lots of brands between.
My pick for best inexpensive continues to be bed sheets from JCPenney — specifically, JCPenney's Royal Velvet 400-thread-count, 100 percent Cotton WrinkleGuard Sheet Set.
These sheets have a velvety soft hand and are very well cut to fit perfectly, up to an 18-inch depth — without being baggy. These are the "cotton percale" sheets I remember from my childhood.
Dear Mary: Is there any advantage to sending in my credit card payment early? Or is it better to keep the money in the bank where it is earning interest and then sending it closer to the due date? — Jeff
Dear Jeff: Because interest on credit card accounts is calculated according to the "average daily balance," it does make a difference.
In fact, the sooner you can pay during the billing cycle, the sooner your balance will drop, which means you will pay less interest.
If you cannot make your entire payment early in the cycle, consider paying one-quarter of it every week or half of it every two weeks. Just make sure you have sent at least the entire minimum due before the due date. Getting socked with a late fee will undo all kinds of effort you've made to reduce your balance. I wish you well with getting that debt paid in full and never allowing a balance to roll over from one month to the next.
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 website at www.creators.com.