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Airfares are up, up, and away! It's getting tougher to find a bargain, but here are some steps that might help.

By Stacy Johnson May 6, 2011 1:40PM

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

 

On the ground, $4-a-gallon gas is a clear sign travel isn't getting any cheaper heading into summer. And the cost of flying is headed sky high too: Airfares have gone up seven times this year already.

 

On top of that, Southwest just completed its purchase of AirTran. Less competition usually means higher prices, although The Washington Post argues that fares may eventually drop because of it. We'll see.

 

Meanwhile, the best way to save isn't to log on to Orbitz and jump on the best deal you see. Not anymore. The rules have changed because airlines have been fighting with the big deal sites.

 

How do you find the best deal these days?

 

According to the government's lawsuit, the phony claims -- apparently processed by a single tax preparer -- were spread over some 300 accounts in several different banks.

By MSN Money Partner May 6, 2011 11:28AM

This post comes from Janet Novack at partner site Forbes.com.

 

Forbes.com on MSN MoneyOver the course of a year, the Internal Revenue Service processed and paid out $12.1 million in fraudulent tax refund claims submitted using the stolen names and Social Security numbers of 5,108 dead people.

 

Incredibly, the claims were all processed under the "Electronic Filing Identification Number" assigned to just one tax preparer, without, apparently, being blocked by any of the computerized screening programs used by the IRS to catch refund fraud.

 

That surprising disclosure is contained in a "Complaint for Forfeiture" lawsuit the government filed late last month in the Southern District of Florida. The suit seeks to keep $851,832 federal agents seized in March from 10 Bank of America accounts and $760,035 they seized from three JP Morgan Chase Bank accounts -- all the cash allegedly proceeds of the post-mortem identity theft scam.

 

We all are. A little planning makes it easier on your survivors.

By Donna_Freedman May 6, 2011 9:29AM
Over at Dinks Finance, blogger Kristina is reeling from the loss of her 34-year-old stepbrother, killed in a traffic accident while bringing back lunch for himself and his co-workers.

The man had a wife and two kids, plus a mom and stepdad who had to make funeral  arrangements "based on what they thought my stepbrother would want," Kristina writes in this post.

"But the truth is, they were not 100 percent sure."

Here's her advice for us, the living:  

Some people confuse frugality with miserly living. That is truly a perverted understanding of the word.

By MSN Money Partner May 6, 2011 8:49AM

This post comes from Len Penzo at partner blog Len Penzo dot Com.

 

Is it just me, or do I come off at times as a real financial stick-in-the-mud? Uh-huh. That's what I thought.

 

Look back at my archives and you'll notice I've written plenty of articles about the importance of saving money and spending less than you earn. But when it comes to posts on spending money and having a good time, well, you have to look a little harder.

 

Please accept my apologies; I never meant to be such a wet blanket.

 

The conflict between splurging and frugality

One of the first personal-finance lessons I ever learned came from my dad, when he first told me that he's never seen a Brink's truck follow a hearse. He's right, you know.

 

The 2-year test run will begin in June in about 2,000 post offices.

By MSN Money Partner May 5, 2011 5:25PM

This guest post comes from Gift Card Granny.

 

You know the U.S. Postal Service is in pretty mean straits when they start selling gift cards.

Actually, this may not be a bad idea for the cash-strapped agency. With prepaid gift cards one of the most popular gift items, it makes sense that postal officials would want to cash in on this trend. Plus, it allows the agency to target a desirable audience and encourage use of snail mail (a term the USPS prefers we not use).

 

What's a bargain for Memorial Day, and which seasonal items will actually be discounted at another time of year.

By MSN Money Partner May 5, 2011 12:50PM

This post comes from Beth Pinsker at dealnews.

 

The best sales in May happen over Memorial Day. So what kind of prices are you going to find if you are looking for seasonal items like grills, swimsuits and bikes?

 

We've culled through the dealnews data archives to let you know what you can expect. Is now the best time to buy or should you wait? Here are the best strategies we've found for eight key seasonal categories:

 

Following Wal-Mart's lead, Kmart provides an easy way for unbanked customers to pay their bills.

By MSN Money Partner May 5, 2011 11:25AM

This post comes from Brian O'Connell at partner site MainStreet.

 

Banks may not like it, but "Blue Light" shoppers likely will appreciate an aggressive new campaign from retail giant Kmart and Western Union to pay bills -- and even mortgages -- directly to vendors right there in the store.

 

With chief rival Wal-Mart already running its own bill payment system, Kmart needs all the help it can get.

 

Mutual fund fees can eat up a chunk of your retirement savings -- and you might not even be aware that it's happening.

By MSN Money Partner May 5, 2011 9:31AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.

 

Last year one of my largest expenses was one I never saw. I didn't get a bill for it. And I didn't have to pay it, at least not directly. But it still cost me a small fortune. I'm talking about investment costs in the form of mutual fund expenses.

 

Mutual fund expenses present two big problems. First, because you don't actually get billed for them, it's easy to forget about them. The cost comes out of your investments, so you never have to write a check for the expense. 

 

The second problem is that even small expenses can add up over time.

 

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