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Everyday Cheapskate

In Credit Scores and Horseshoes, Close Is Good Enough


Dear Mary: My husband and I paid off our home mortgage and bought a lake cabin. We have no outstanding debt. We share one major credit card and a store credit card. We never carry balances on those accounts. However, when we completed the paperwork to apply for a loan for the cabin, we were given a credit score of 813 out of a possible 950 with a note about outstanding balances on open accounts. We do NOT have any outstanding balances on loans or credit cards. Can you help explain the meaning of this factor in our credit score? — R & B, e-mail

Dear R & B: Your credit score is so great it’s ridiculous! I’m sure you qualified for the best rate your lender has to offer, so you can relax.

As for that explanation you got for why your scores are not perfect, credit scoring doesn’t care that you pay your balances in full during the grace period each month. Credit-scoring computers constantly are taking snapshots of how much credit you are using at any given time. If you charge a $5,000 diamond ring to an account today and pay it off in full before the grace period is over, you might think you don’t have an outstanding balance, but the credit-scoring machine sees an outstanding balance the moment you make the charge.

The people at FICO, the company that started all this credit scoring business in the first place, say that to maintain an excellent score, you never should be using more than 30 percent of your available credit on an individual account or 30 percent of your collective available credit, even if you pay the balance to $0 within your grace period.

Dear Mary: I once used a simple cleaner for burned-on food on my stainless steel griddle. It was a solution that you recommended some time ago, and it had the best results. Now I can’t find it. Do you by any chance have the remedy for it? — Rita, e-mail

Dear Rita: You are taxing my memory, for sure. I have several remedies, depending on the severity of the situation, so I don’t know which you used before. For a really icky burned-on mess in a casserole or a stovetop pan, fill the vessel with hot water and drop in a dryer sheet. If you leave it overnight, all of the gunk will release and slide out in the morning.

As for your griddle, I would use original blue Dawn full-strength dishwashing liquid on a sponge plus a sprinkling of borax (or baking soda, for a less severe situation). Add a little elbow grease and that stainless steel will be as shiny and clean as it was when it was new.

You’ll be happy to know that you can download “Cheapskate Solutions,” a booklet filled with more than 200 recipes to make your own household cleaning supplies, as well as health and beauty potions. The download edition is only $1.99 right now, available at

Do you have a question for Mary? E-mail her at, or write to Everyday Cheapskate, P.O. Box 2135, Paramount, CA 90723. Mary Hunt is the founder of and author of 18 books, including “Can I Pay My Credit Card Bill With a Credit Card?” To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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