We have a problem with our towels. We only bought them 18 months ago, but they’ve already lost their fluffiness. I’m wondering if it’s because our new, energy-efficient laundry machines are less powerful than our apartment’s industrial machines, but it’s a problem whatever the reason. I’m not ready to buy new towels yet (see how I deftly avoided the cliché there?).

Wash Towels in Vinegar or Baking Soda
Over time, towels pick up detergent and fabric softener residue, which can make them rough and less absorbent. You can remove that, though. Wikihow has a complete rundown of the steps, but the basics are simple: Run your towels, and your towels only, through two hot loads. No detergent, no fabric softener, nothing. Add 1 cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle of the first load. Run the towels through again, adding ½ cup of baking soda to the water. This should get out any smells or residue, but you might need to do it a few times. Then start using less detergent on future loads. You don’t need nearly as much as they recommend! If you can dry them outside on a line, that’s the best way to get fluffy towels.

Use Old Towels for Household Projects
At some point, a repair person will ask if you have some old towels they can use. Pull out those crappy, threadbare towels stuffed in the back of the linen closet. If they’re in really bad shape afterwards, toss them. If not, wash them and return them to the closet for future repair people.

Old towels are also great for cleaning up spills, pet vomit, and other yucky stuff.

I used an old set of towels to apply paint thinner to our hardwood floors. The paint thinner helped restore their finish, then I threw out the towels since I don’t want a lot of paint thinner in my washing machine.

Make the move from paper towels to cloth towels by turning your old towels into rags. They don’t have much lint left in them by the time we retire towels, so they’re perfect for cleaning tables and counters, dusting, and polishing silver. They might work well on mirrors and windows, but newspapers actually work best for that. If your towels are too big for your needs, just cut them up. It’s not like they need to look nice.

Make Believe Accessories
An old pillowcase or towel makes an awesome cape if you’re five. Making a Halloween costume? Puff it up with old towels. It’s cheaper than fiberfill and it doesn’t really matter if the costume falls apart the next day.

Pet Baths
We only bathe our cats once every couple of years, but we don’t use our nice towels when we do. Cats and water are not friends and good towels will only wind up shredded. I’m sure dogs are easier to bathe, but there’s no reason to use a new towel on something as furry as a pet.

Can you think of any other uses for old towels? Tell me in the comments!


I didn’t hate my job, but after four years, some of it was getting to be a bit dull. Not so much that I actively looked outside the company, but enough that I started considering possibilities within the company. As I discovered, a lot in life is a result of simply staying open to new possibilities. Last week, I got a new job without visiting a single job board or sending out a single resume. So how did I do it?

Make Good Use of Reviews and Networking
You don’t have to go to networking events or constantly troll Facebook and LinkedIn for new contacts. Simply keep your ears open and let it be known that you’re interested in new opportunities. My company does self-reviews, and one of the questions asks what we’d like to start doing more of. This year, I wrote that I wanted to move into two different areas of my company. My supervisors were surprised, but agreed I would be a good fit in those roles. At the time, neither was actually open, but it was in the back of everyone’s minds.

When a new position did become available, I was the first person they thought of. I accepted the offer, and it was done. I started almost immediately. None of that would have happened if I’d stayed silent.

Let Other People Know You’re Looking
You don’t have to send out an email blast, but you should let people know if it comes up in conversation. You never know when a friend might hear about an opening with their employer. If they know you’re looking, they’ll probably ask you to send over a resume. Having a resume passed along internally is much more likely to get you an interview than sending it in cold.

I recently attended a baby shower about a month ago and someone’s mom told me her son was in my industry and interested in changing employers. Once I found out my company was hiring, I got a resume and forwarded it on. I don’t have a personal stake in this, but it feels nice to have helped.

Check In with Job Boards Occasionally
You don’t have to dedicate hours to it every week, but hop on a job board every now and then to review the postings for higher –level positions than yours. Compare your qualifications to the requirements, then take the steps necessary to develop those skills. It could be that employers are looking for someone more specialized, so ask your current supervisor for additional training opportunities within your field. It could also be that the next step up for you is broader, so look for people with similar skills at your employer. Ask if they’ll talk about what they do or give you a training session. Most people are happy to help.

Volunteer – Inside and Outside
Many, many non-profits awash with unemployed volunteers, so there is competition here, but it’s still a great way to give back while also using your expertise and making new contacts. Find a cause you feel passionate about, then contact the volunteer director to offer your specific services. Not only is it something new for your resume, but you’ll meet other people who could be in a position to help you.

You can also volunteer inside your company. When my employer announced a special project, I offered to help with tasks I wasn’t currently trained on. That allowed me to work with other people to learn new skills AND put them to use immediately. And my supervisors knew what I was doing, so my work load was still manageable.

If you’re unhappy in your current job, but afraid to quit, you’re not alone. According to a recent article, the number of people open to accepting a new job is 110 million! You can be one of them without risking your current job or expending a lot of time pursuing new opportunities.

Last week, Chase sent me a notice about their “new and improved” checking accounts. The enhancement? My free checking account is no longer free. That may be improved for them, but not for me. I will be closing that account shortly because it was primarily a pass-through account for freelancing income, which I have little of.

Now, there’s word that Bank of America is testing four new checking options that will make it difficult to avoid a fee unless you have the most basic account with direct deposit, paperless statements, and no teller visits. I actually don’t have a problem with that particular account, because we already do all of that. Other than the no teller visits rule, it’s not a big change from their current basic account, which we have. We might visit a teller once a year to cash in collected change, but we can also cash in change for free at Coinstar if we opt for a gift card rather than cash.

Customers “Want” a Fee
The part of the Bank of America story that makes me stabby is their claim that they’re doing this not to recoup the revenue they’ll no longer receive once interchange fees are capped, but so that we can “compensate them” for the cost of checking accounts. And, this is the best pat, one of their spokespeople says, “Many of our customers choose to have a monthly fee. They like that predictability.”

I have never met one person who liked paying a bank fee. Customers don’t “choose” to have a monthly fee. They either aren’t in a position to receive direct deposits or can’t maintain a high minimum balance, so they’re forced into a fee-based account.

Banks Make Plenty of Money Despite Free Checking
In fact, free checking accounts still make the banks money. They do this in three ways:

1. Bounced check fees. Those fees aren’t going anywhere and banks rake in lots of dough for those, especially since they charge the person who bounced the check AND the person who received the bounced check.

2. Interbank loans. They take our deposits and use them to make overnight interbank loans. The interest is small, but when you’re moving millions of dollars, it adds up.

3. Customer retention. Free checking accounts are basically a loss leader. Consumers are more likely to choose other financial services from the bank where they hold a checking account. This includes mortgages, car loans, credit cards, savings accounts, CDs, money markets, and in some cases, investment accounts. The bank might lose 50 cents a month on a free checking account, but they’re certainly making up for that with other products.

Look, I understand that banks are in the business of making money. I don’t begrudge them that. I’m not even get angry with them for wanting to make more money – that’s the nature of business and their duty to shareholders. The part that angers me is their insistence that customers “want” those fees. No, we don’t. In some cases, we accept them because we have no other option, but no consumer wants them. Banks should just admit they need to make up for the lost money from other fees somewhere and not try to convince the public that they’re doing this for us.

It’s the beginning of the year, which means the IRS is busy sending out all sorts of tax changes and alerts. Let’s break them down.

Deadline Extension
First, let’s start with a bit of good news: Your taxes aren’t due until April 18. That’s because there’s a little known holiday in Washington, DC that will be observed on April 15, and April 16 and 17 fall on the weekend. Taxes can’t be due on holidays or weekends, so you get an extra weekend!

Of course, if you’re getting a refund, there’s no reason to wait to prepare your taxes. The software makes it so easy, that you might as well get it down early. If you discover you owe, you can wait until the last minute to send your payment, but at least you’ll have the paperwork monkey off your back.

Filing Delay
Along with the extension comes a delay for tax filers who itemize, claim the Higher Education Tuition and Fees deduction, or claim the Educator Expense deduction (teachers). That’s because Congress changed the tax laws at the last minute and the IRS needs extra time to reprogram their computers. But, you can still file around mid-February. I often find that some of my documents don’t drift in until the end of the first week of February anyway, so the delay shouldn’t be a huge burden for most people.

Updated Withholding Calculator
If you were planning to update your withholding because you received a raise, received a pay cut, or had a life change, you’re going to have to wait a little longer to use the calculator at IRS.gov. It also has to be updated to reflect the new tax rates and laws. You can use it to get a rough estimate now, because this year’s brackets and deductions haven’t changed that much from last year, but check back in February to make sure your withholding is correct.

Updated Income Tax Brackets
This year’s income tax brackets have been released. The lowest rate increased the income threshold by $500 and the rest are equally small. The standard deduction only increased $200, which is to be expected given our current economic situation/low inflation.

Brackets courtesy of FiveCentNickel.

Remember, you don’t pay the same amount of tax on the whole salary if you’re in the higher tax brackets. You only pay the higher rate for the amount above the lower threshold. So, if you earn $70,000, you don’t pay 25% on all of that, while someone who makes $68,000 only pays 15%. You both pay 15% on the amount up to $69,000, then you would pay 25% of the remaining $1000.

When I said last week that my husband and I were getting a refund because his four months without taxable income pushed us into a lower tax bracket, I was actually saying that we had less taxable income, therefore all of it is in the same tax bracket, which saved us a tiny bit on our taxes. Not earning money for four months was the big saver, but it also put a dent in our financial goals!

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