Companies love them, but for consumers they're less than attractive.
With a new year, many of us may have the illusion that time management can be increased in our lives. Time management, weight management and money management are likely the three most popular resolutions that return to the scene year after year. It makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense are the little things in life that we continue to do even though they violate the promise we made to ourselves to do better.
One such item that can be a strain on both time- and money- management skills is the rebate.
Karl Rabeder has traded unbridled luxury for life in a two-room flat.
This kind of story gives you faith in humankind, or makes you feel you’ve entered the Twilight Zone: An Austrian multimillionaire is giving away all his money to charity in pursuit of a simple, happy life.
Happiness and self-realization eluded Karl Rabeder as he indulged in a supremely materialistic lifestyle -- a $2.2 million, 3,455-square-foot lakeside villa in the Alps, a farmhouse on 42 acres in Provence, six gliders, an Audi A8. His entire fortune was estimated at $4.7 million.
Rabeder, now 47 and divorced, lives in a two-room apartment in Innsbruck, and gets by on just $1,260 a month. “The worst that can happen to me is that I have to take a small job to get by,” he told the Daily Mail.
''My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing. Money is counterproductive -- it prevents happiness.''
Really? We’re not so sure about that. And, believe it or not, Rabeder has critics.
Expect more mobile coupons as retailers seek to reach phone-addicted millennials.
Expect this trend to continue. The Dallas Morning News reports that J.C. Penney is rolling out cell phone coupons nationwide next month, and 7-Eleven just finished a test in San Diego. Sears offers some mobile coupons via Cellfire, the electronic coupon site used by Kroger and other supermarkets.
The co-founder of Seventh Generation says detergent is often unnecessary. She does a test.
"Frugal Scholar," who must read everything of value on the entire Internet, stumbled upon an amazing remark in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal. In an article, Seventh Generation co-founder Jeffrey Hollender remarks that it’s surprising most people use laundry detergent at all: “You don’t even need soap to wash most loads,” he says. The truth is, it’s the action of the agitator, not the chemicals, that gets most clothes clean.
Uhmmm …. Say what, my Captain of Industry?
Most of us have figured out that we need only a fraction of the amount we were brought up to pour into the washer, partly because newer detergents are far more efficient and partly because you don’t really need even the recommended amount. But … no detergent at all?
Well, of course, the gantlet was down.
Survey shows fewer companies believe employees will have enough money for retirement.
Good news for employees: About 80% of medium-size and large companies that suspended or reduced their company match to 401k programs last year are planning to restore their matching contributions in 2010.
But, the same survey also showed that employers don’t believe their employees have the ability to save enough for retirement and are looking for ways to help -- short of adding pension plans, of course.
Card issuers are supposed to consider a person's ability to pay before they issue a new card. But what does that really mean?
Most of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 -- that well-crafted and thoroughly thought through law that will fix all that is wrong about credit cards and allow us to carry guns in national parks -- comes into effect on Feb. 22. So it’s time for bloggers like me to revisit the act, particularly some of the less widely discussed provisions, and tell our readers all about the big changes on the way.
WalletPop beat me to it last week with a post “Lenders plan to guess your income from credit report.” It was about how the CARD Act "requires lenders to consider your ability to pay any new or additional debt before approving a credit card application." Apparently, that means verifying income, which puts a damper on those really annoying pitches you get to open a store-branded card whenever you try to buy something.
"Retail stores are quite upset about this change in the instant approval of their cards," Bill Hardekopf, CEO of LowCards.com, wrote to WalletPop by e-mail. "Consumers now need to show proof of income when they apply for a card, and not many of us carry this around when we are shopping in the mall."
This made me, briefly, optimistic that the CARD Act would improve my life after all.
Here's how the IRS picks tax returns to examine more closely.
Doing your taxes is never fun. Even if you ignore how you must spend a couple of hours filling out boring forms, finding documents and researching deductions, there’s always the fear that you’ll be audited. I remember having the most vanilla tax returns back when I was a teenager, the 1040-EZ, and even then I was irrationally concerned about an audit.
The reality is that very few people get audited -- just a couple percent each year -- and some of them deserve it. As much as we might like to think of the IRS as some cruel, emotionless monster trying to make the lives of hardworking Americans as miserable as possible, it's not. It's trying to collect tax revenue so the government can continue to provide the services hardworking Americans need.
- Bing: Biggest tax cheats
How does the IRS decide whom to audit? It’s actually very straightforward.
Organic markets have been cutting prices. Should you buy?
Going organic has become a lot less trendy in the struggling economy.
As consumers have cut back spending, one of the first places they’ve looked to save is in the organics aisle at the grocery store. Sixty percent of consumers say they have changed their organic purchasing habits since the recession hit, according to a December study from market researcher Mintel. Three percent have stopped buying organic altogether.
- Bing: Organic meat and poultry
The single biggest factor: price. Consumers have nicknamed Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck" for its high prices, and the store has struggled with that image over the last year, says Michelle Chang, an analyst who covers the supermarket industry for Morningstar. One thing that Whole Foods and other natural retailers have done to retain customers is cut prices to stay competitive. Whole Foods has also been pushing its lower-priced private label, which includes organics, she says.
When is the higher price of organics worth it? Here are five ways to shop within your budget:
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ABOUT SMART SPENDING
Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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