Do it because it's the right thing to do, rather than to get your picture in the paper.
At this time of year everyone wakes up to the fact that need exists in the United States. Everywhere you look are food drives, gift drives, coat drives.
Here's a news flash: Need exists all year long, not just in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Don't get me wrong: I love it when people do nice things. I just wish it weren't so holiday-specific. Pardon my grinchiness, but I think some of these once-a-year volunteers aren't doing it for the homeless, the seniors or the kids. They're doing it to make themselves feel good.
Anyone can find legitimate references -- former co-workers or teachers, your minister, the supervisor at the nonprofit where you volunteer.
You've heard the standard job-seeking advice, such as dress appropriately, don't chew gum during an interview, and don't lie on your resume. Ever.
- Applying for jobs? Estimate your credit score for free
It appears that more desperate people are ignoring the ban on lies, and at least one website is willing to help them out with that.
BOGO chicken sandwiches, free avocado, discount pizza and coupons for movie concessions, plus restaurant gift card bonuses.
Christmas is fast approaching, which means your chance to buy presents online and have them shipped in time for the holiday is almost over.
Today (Dec. 17) is Free Shipping Day, in which more than 1,500 merchants have pledged to offer free shipping in time for Dec. 24 delivery. Laura Heller at dealnews.com noted that many of the free shipping deals have restrictions, such as minimum purchases, and that many merchants have been offering free shipping all week. Still, if you're going to order online, free shipping is an important part of the deal, so today may be the day to order. Or maybe they'll offer better deals tomorrow.
Wal-Mart's free shipping offer for 60,000 items with no minimum purchase ends Dec. 20, and Amazon has extended its deadline for free Super Saver shipping (minimum purchase $25) through Dec. 19.
If you want to give the gift of eating out, lots of restaurants are offering bonuses if you buy gift cards.
The Federal Reserve has suggested that the fees merchants have been paying for debit card transactions are way too high.
A part of the recently enacted financial reform legislation called the Durbin Amendment required that "swipe fees" -- fees charged to merchants by banks for processing debit card transactions -- be "reasonable and proportional" to what it actually cost banks to process those transactions.
Now the Federal Reserve has proposed a 12-cent cap on those fees, charges that last year averaged 44 cents for transactions processed as a debit card and 56 cents if the consumer signed for the purchase as a credit card transaction.
The Federal Reserve's proposal suggests that the fees collected by the banking industry for debit card transactions have been unreasonably high and disproportional to costs.
It's important that you don't out-think yourself by getting a gift that ends up costing somebody money down the road.
I remember the worst gift I ever received. It was a vacation to the Bahamas that an old girlfriend of mine gave to me. It was one of those too-good-to-be-true ultra-low-cost package "deals" that was exactly that -- too good to be true.
Did you know the Bahamas had ghettos? I didn't either until we pulled up in front of our Freeport "resort."
To this day I also can't confirm that the sun has ever been seen in the Bahamas; while we were there it rained incessantly.
It turns out the whole experience was so bad that we ultimately came home after three days. Heck, I even wrote an article about my sad adventures on that trip entitled "4 lessons I learned on the worst vacation of my life."
Yep. Definitely the worst gift I ever received. Truth be told, it flat-out sucked.
Speaking of terrible gifts, British charity organization The Brooke conducted a study of 3,000 people regarding the most unwelcome Christmas gifts. I notice package-deal vacations did not make this particular list, but here were the top 10 items that did:
Call it a 'pantry challenge' if you like. Blog about it if you must. Just quit wasting food.
Lunchtime at my friend's house in Alaska. Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, maybe? Or tuna salad with pickles?
But wait. Half a loaf of Italian bread sat on the counter, getting staler by the minute. The milk in the fridge was two days past its sell-by date. Although I'd bought eggs 10 days previously, I still hadn't eaten any. In the back of the fridge was a wizened apple that had probably been there since my visit last summer.
I heard the voice of my mother chiding me: You're not going to let any of that go to waste, are you?
How will your perks change in the new year? Here's what to expect.
This post comes from Emily Brandon at partner site US News & World Report.
Seniors won't be getting a boost in their Social Security checks next year, but they will get some new Medicare benefits. Many employers also plan to tweak their retirement account investments to save money on fees and comply with new regulations. Here's a look at how retirement benefits are likely to change in 2011:
401k contribution caps stagnant. The savings limits for retirement accounts will stay the same next year because inflation wasn't high enough in 2010 to trigger an increase. Workers can contribute up to $16,500 to 401k, 403b, and 457b plans, or the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan in 2011. Those age 50 and older can make additional catch-up contributions of another $5,500 next year.
The idea is increasingly popular as state governments struggle to balance their budgets.
As part of our "What If?" series, let's take a look at a favorite target of the fiscal hounds. Since the dawn of time -- or 1992, anyway -- online merchants have collected sales tax on online purchases only if the vendor has a physical presence in the buyer's state.
Right now, people who buy online are supposed to pay the sales tax directly to their state, although very few do. But what would happen if online vendors were required to collect sales tax on all online sales?
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