Dear Mary: My husband and I have really gotten ourselves in deep this time. At the time, we thought starting a franchise using our personal credit cards was a good idea. The manager we hired was inept and untrustworthy. Now we are in credit-card debt to the tune of $250,000. We are trying to crawl out from under this problem and are out of working capital to keep things going. We can't find anyone who will make us a consolidation loan. We are sinking fast! -- Name withheld, Texas
Dear Nameless: I wish you'd written before you headed down such a dangerous path. Instead, you violated nearly every rule of self-employment: You went into business with borrowed funds. You hired employees before you were profitable. You thought of credit as "working capital."
Need I go on? I will say that if there's one thing you did right, it was not taking out a home-equity loan to fund this nightmare. As much as your unsecured creditors may scream and yell, hassle and harangue, they cannot take your home. But they can sue you if you are unable to keep up with your monthly minimum payments.
While bankruptcy is legal, I find it to be neither moral nor ethical. While you might be relieved of the burden through bankruptcy, discharged debts don't disappear, and there might be tax implications. However, it pains me greatly to suggest it's probably time for you to consult with a bankruptcy attorney.
Dear Mary: I enjoy your column very much. You have shared and taught me many ways to save money and time. Do you have a solution for removing heavy scratches from windows? The brick masons dropped mortar on the windowpanes and then tried to remove it by using their trowels, which left big scratches. -- Wylodean, email
Dear Wylodean: This is likely a job for a professional, since you describe them as heavy scratches. You need to call a company that specializes in removing scratches from storefront windows and doors, or a windshield repair specialist. Not all cracks can be repaired, but most scratches can, so it should be worth your time to at least get a professional opinion. I would also get an estimate on replacing the glass, which you may find to be more economical.
Dear Mary: How do you remove rust from metal muffin pans? My husband let them soak overnight and then didn't dry them. Now I can't get the rust off. I have tried Brillo, scrubbing and even begging, but to no avail. Help! Thanks. -- Diana, Florida
Dear Diana: I have two magic words for you: Bar Keepers Friend. This is a fabulous household cleanser that removes difficult stains from stainless steel, aluminum, copper, china, plastic, brass, grouting, tiles, Corian countertops and composition sinks. Look for it in the cleaning aisle next to other household cleansers like Comet and Ajax or online at Amazon.com.
Do you have a question for Mary? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2099, Cypress, CA 90630.