ENERGY

Cutting utility bills

Appliances can put a strain on monthly utility bills. Refrigerators, dishwashers and other appliances designed with energy efficiency in mind, however, can reduce a household’s energy expenditures with time.

Several websites spotlight energy-efficient appliances, as well as other energy-saving options in the home. Here are a few:

• American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy: Explore energy-efficient products in under “Consumer Resources” section. http://www.aceee.org/consumer

• Eartheasy: Covers buying energy-efficient appliances, Energy Star Appliances and appliance energy-saving tips. http://eartheasy.com/live_energyeffic_appl.htm

• Federal Trade Commission: Focuses on shopping for energy-efficient home appliances. http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0072-shopping-home-appliances-use-energyguide-label

• Natural Resources Defense Council: Offers energy-saving purchasing tips to consider when shopping for an appliance. http://www.nrdc.org/air/energy/fappl.asp

— By Chuck Myers

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

REAL ESTATE

Dealing with foreclosure

Q: I have been in foreclosure for the past several years and have been unsuccessful in getting a loan modification because I don’t make enough money. My attorney just told me that the case is going to trial in two months. What can I do?

A: Foreclosure lawsuits can seem to last forever, but they, like all things, eventually come to an end. Many people have been able to work with the bank to keep their home, but in some circumstances, like yours, the numbers will never work out for a loan modification.

At your trial, the judge will make a final determination on the foreclosure, and the bank wins a large majority of the time. You should concern yourself with your future living arrangements and with trying to get the bank to waive any deficiency judgment — the difference between what you owe and what your house is worth. The reason that most lawsuits settle before trial is that neither side is positive of the outcome, no matter how strong the case may be. You can use this uncertainty to your advantage by negotiating with the bank to forgive your remaining debt and give you money for moving expenses.

You may also want to look into completing a short sale. You should speak to your attorney about the possibility of filing for bankruptcy to potentially save your home or at least allow you a fresh start without the dark cloud of debt hanging over your head.

Now is the time to start looking for your next place to live, because it can take a while to find a suitable rental.

— By Gary M. Singer

Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook at work

Tread carefully if you want to expand Facebook “friends” list. A recent survey finds that your bosses and co-workers probably don’t want to accept your social-media invitation. A poll distributed by OfficeTeam says that more than 6 in 10 managers don’t want to be “friended” by their bosses or workers they supervise. Nearly half don’t want to connect with workplace peers, either.

— By Diane Stafford

Kansas City Star