Dear Readers: The holidays are over, and the decorations are back in the attic. What’s next? Here come the credit card bills.

If you need assistance with managing your money, here are some hints from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (

* How much money do you really have? You may not know. Write down all money coming in and all money going out. Then note all the expenses that seldom change: rent/mortgage, insurance, auto loan and electric bill. Next, list variable expenses: entertainment, food, clothing. What’s left is what’s paid toward your debt. If you have a lot of debt, cut back on entertainment and eating out.

* Honesty is always the best policy. If you’re having trouble paying a credit card, call the company and say so. Stay ahead of the situation. You can usually make arrangements for a lesser payment or even skip a payment. Don’t feel embarrassed; you are not alone.

* Finally, there are laws to protect you from aggressive collection agents. Hopefully, things don’t get this far, but collectors cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m., and they cannot bully, threaten or state mistruths to you.

Don’t be afraid to face your debt — it will decrease with time and diligence.

Dear Readers: It’s fun to post online and participate in conversations with other folks about current events, etc., but there are rules. Even if you have an opposing viewpoint from someone else, you can still get along. Keep in mind that your comments should be:

1. Helpful and polite.

2. Brief and clear.

3. And, most importantly, respectful toward others’ views and opinions.

Never attack someone personally. These steps are critical for kids to practice early on, too. Monitor their online presence.

Dear Heloise: Your column is read and enjoyed daily via The (Uniontown, Pa.) Herald-Standard newspaper. Your recent item about the use of "Dear" in the greeting of a business letter might benefit from an additional explanation.

The word has evolved over the centuries and has several meanings, some of which have been lost to time.

Before the 20th century, one of these now-obsolete meanings of "dear" was "noble." "Dear Sir" (or "Madam" or surname) might be said today as "Noble Sir." Another extrapolation might include "Honorable Sir."

David K., Farmington, Pa.

Dear Heloise: I wish groups to which I donate would stop sending return-address stickers in thank-you notes. I cannot possibly use them all, and I'm tired of cutting them up — I don't want them in the trash or the recycle bin.

Delores C., via email

Dear Heloise: If people still send checks in the mail, they should fold the check and then straighten it out again. That way it won't lay flat against other papers in the envelope and possibly be lost.

Mike, via email

Mike: It’s easier to grab out of the envelope too!

Heloise’s column appears six days a week at Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795001, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, or email it to

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