Smart SpendingSmart Spending

When it comes to charity, most people have good hearts, but many don't use their heads.

By Stacy Johnson Dec 28, 2010 12:32PM

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


Americans are known for their charity. According to the Giving USA Foundation, Americans gave close to $300 billion last year, and the Charities Aid Foundation ranks the U.S. in the top five of global givers.

But although we're a giving nation, we could help even more if we used our heads as much as our hearts. Unfortunately, a lot of charities aren't what they claim to be.


Hunting, fishing and raising chickens are intriguing to this urban-dweller.

By Karen Datko Dec 28, 2010 10:06AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


One of the really fascinating parts of the recession is the effect it has had on news stories.


During the boom, mainstream media focused heavily on the excesses of those who had money. You had stories about the most expensive wine or the most expensive dessert. There were stories about luxury cars and of fantastic mansions on enormous estates.

Nowadays, the stories are focused on more pedestrian subjects. They're focused on people who grow gardens on their deck or raise chickens in the city. I find those stories infinitely more interesting because it shows our creativity and our resourcefulness, not our ability to write a check or swipe a card.


PC Magazine's 'top 100 websites of 2010' includes some with a money slant you may not have run across before.

By Karen Datko Dec 27, 2010 9:18PM

What are the coolest personal-finance websites you've never seen? We found some gems among PC Magazine's "The top 100 websites of 2010."

A tip o' the hat to NPR for mentioning this terrific compilation of "classic" and "undiscovered" sites, covering topics like fun, food, news, social, shopping, travel, and tech (of course). Oh, and they're free.


Foreclosure rescue scams, noncharitable charities and phony debt collectors top the list.

By Karen Datko Dec 27, 2010 4:45PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site


This year was marked by a continued slow recovery from a devastating recession, a still-sinking housing market, skyrocketing gold prices and a proliferation of charities that were less than charitable.


It all plays into our annual list of the top 10 scams of 2010.


Amazon has patented a system to 'return' gifts before they're shipped. It would save Amazon money, but is it tacky?

By Teresa Mears Dec 27, 2010 3:27PM

Here's a radical way to cut down on gift returns: Reject inappropriate gifts before they're even sent. The giver doesn't have to know.

Amazon has patented a system that will let you do just that: Pre-empt a bad gift before it arrives, surreptitiously exchanging it for something you'd like better.


Judging from the diagram from the patent reproduced at TechFlash, you could set up gift rules the same way you set up rules in your Outlook e-mail program. For example, you could tell Amazon to convert all gifts from a specific sender to gift certificates, verify sizes, convert VHS films to DVD or reject any clothing gift that includes wool.


As an aunt who nearly always sends educational gifts, I'm not sure I like this. I'd hate to see my gift of "How to Go to College Almost For Free" converted to "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation."


The protagonist is careful with her money and is a shrewd horse trader to boot.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 27, 2010 1:38PM

I've been reading and rereading this wonderful Charles Portis novel since I was a teenager. Mattie Ross, the narrator of "True Grit," is a hell of a protagonist. She's strong, determined, relentless and, above all, frugal.

Here are 10 things you could learn from her story, courtesy of Mr. Portis and the Coen brothers. And without a single song by Glen Campbell!


Follow these 10 rules, or even just three or four of them, to insulate yourself from con artists.

By Stacy Johnson Dec 27, 2010 10:56AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


If you've ever fallen victim to a scam -- and who hasn't -- you'd probably like to avoid repeating the experience. Well, follow these 10 golden rules of scam prevention -- or even just three or four of them -- and you likely won't be foolishly parted from your money again.

1. Testimonials are a testament only to how gullible people are. There's only one kind of testimonial worth believing -- the kind that comes from people you both personally know and totally trust. Testimonials from strangers you see on TV or online may very well be lies. I've met more than one infomercial actor whose told me they simply read a script without ever seeing the product.


Which financial benchmarks and milestones help you determine if you're on the right track?

By Karen Datko Dec 27, 2010 9:51AM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


In a recent link roundup, I pointed to an article over at Gen Y Wealth in which RJ has listed 20 financial milestones you should reach in your 20s. "I like this list," I wrote, "and I'd actually love to see similar lists for different age ranges. People could use it as a sort of road map to where they ought to be."

What sorts of milestones were on the list? Things like:

  • Pay off your student loans.
  • Build an emergency fund.
  • Learn to negotiate.
  • Set a target retirement date.
  • Learn to give.

Like me, a lot of GRS readers found RJ's list of financial milestones useful. Often, there's no real way to know if you're doing things "right." How much should you be saving for retirement? How much should you have in your savings account? How soon should you buy a home? Get married? Have children?



Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.