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After weeks of Washington back-and-forth, President Obama and GOP leaders have reached an uneasy agreement. But will what helps families now hurt them later?

By Money Staff Dec 8, 2010 7:40PM

This post comes from MSN Money's Liz Pulliam Weston.

 

Liz Pulliam WestonI'm feeling some tax-cut whiplash.

 

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were contemplating a tax bill that would rise at least $6,500 next year if the Bush-era tax cuts expired or weren't extended for households, including ours, that make over $250,000.

Today, we stand to benefit from a deal that not only preserves our current tax breaks, but also gives us an additional $4,200 tax cut -- a giveback much bigger than that enjoyed by the vast majority of workers.

 

What the hell?

 

53% of Americans plan holiday gifts for pets, but more dogs than cats will get presents.

By Teresa Mears Dec 8, 2010 6:32PM

More pet owners plan to buy gifts for dogs this year than for cats, another sign of the blatant discrimination felines face daily.

 

Oops. Get that cat off my computer keyboard! Perhaps the cats are getting fewer gifts because they are ingrates and often ignore the gifts they do receive.  

 

An AP-Petside.com poll found that 56% of dog owners plan to buy their pooches gifts this holiday. In contrast, only 48% of cat owners plan to buy something for their feline friends.

 

Among them: Charitable giving can be jolly or folly, depending on whom you give to.

By Stacy Johnson Dec 8, 2010 4:44PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.

 

The holidays are a time for gift giving and gestures of good will -- which makes them the perfect time of year for scammers. When better to be selfish than in the season of selflessness?

There are lots of rip-offs out there, especially online, from fake charities to knockoff merchandise sold at "bargain" prices. If you're not careful, you can go from good Samaritan to victim in a blink of an eye, or the click of a mouse.

 

Microsoft responds to FTC concerns about online privacy with new user controls for the upcoming Internet Explorer 9.

By Teresa Mears Dec 8, 2010 3:15PM

Less than a week after the Federal Trade Commission endorsed a "do not track" option for consumers who don't want advertisers and marketers following them around the Web, Microsoft announced a browser solution.

A new feature in Internet Explorer 9, due early next year, will allow users to designate sites that they don't want to track their movements. That gives them the option of allowing tracking for some merchants but not others. (Microsoft publishes MSN Money.)

 

Sweaters are a very popular gift this year. But how can you tell if you're getting a good buy?

By Karen Datko Dec 8, 2010 12:33PM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.

 

Alongside iPads, e-readers and Pillow Pets, this year's letters to Santa have an unexpected entrant: the humble sweater. But although advertised sweater sales are plentiful -- with prices sometimes as low as $20 -- truly good deals are few and far between.

Even though $25 sweaters of all kinds can now be found at almost every retailer, it's tough to tell what's worth even that rock-bottom price, says Asta Skocir, a knitwear design consultant and assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

 

Still using a high-interest credit card or paying for a cool ringtone? Act your age.

By Karen Datko Dec 8, 2010 10:39AM

This post comes from Chris Birk at partner blog Wise Bread.

 

Climb out from beneath the covers and face the harsh light of day: You're 30.

 

Surprisingly, it isn't the end of the world. In fact, consider it an opportunity to shed some of the bad habits and poor financial decisions of the past. That's not to say you should run from the previous decade of your life.

Embrace the all-nighters, corporate climbing, and occasional beer-fueled mayhem that led you to this point. But recognize that while age is just a number, the Big 3-0 can signal a turning point regarding some of the fiscal baggage that may be weighing you down.

 

Students waste time and hundreds of dollars pursuing fake credentials. For the record, you can't get a GED online.

By Teresa Mears Dec 7, 2010 5:50PM

When Becky Ploense got ready to enroll in massage therapy school, she pulled out the GED certificate she had earned online several years earlier, at a cost of $500. The massage school wasn't impressed.

 

It turned out her "GED" was fake.

You can't earn a GED online, as the American Council on Education, which administers the GED Testing Service, has been telling consumers for years. If you did not graduate from high school and want a General Educational Development credential, you must take the test in person.

 

Despite that, online institutions that purport to offer online GEDs proliferate, charging students $200 to $1,200 for a credential they could earn for little or nothing from their local school system.

 

Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae and and two major banks announce that they'll hold off evictions during the holidays.

By Karen Datko Dec 7, 2010 4:49PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.

 

Scrooge seems to be taking his holiday Prozac again: Troubled homeowners are getting a temporary amnesty on foreclosure evictions between Dec. 20 and Jan. 3. That's for mortgages insured by the government giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, anyway.

The two companies own or insure about half of all the mortgages in the country, according to this story by The Associated Press.

 

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