Smart SpendingSmart Spending

A short -- and achievable -- list of rules regarding your finances.

By Donna_Freedman Sep 20, 2010 12:00PM

Want to drop a bad habit or develop a good one? You need a plan. Or, rather, you need a list.


We Americans love our lists. We especially love short lists. Just check the headlines on magazines, Internet news sites or blogs. You'll almost certainly see ones like "3 easy steps to lose weight/stop smoking/become a millionaire."

Having a list makes us feel we're already halfway to achieving our goals. Lists make us feel confident and in charge: I've got it all figured out! Now I just have to implement it!


It's never really that simple, of course.

 

Earning more than that may make you feel more successful, but it won't make you happier.

By Karen Datko Sep 20, 2010 8:40AM

This post comes from Sierra Black at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.

 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how money really can buy happiness -- if you spend it right. A big-screen TV isn't a ticket to happiness, but a vacation might be. Giving your money away can boost your well-being, and so can investing it in time with your family.

A new study from Princeton University hangs a price tag on that happiness: $75,000 (.pdf file). That's the annual household income that gives you the most joy for your buck. People with incomes below that magic number report less happiness, overall, than those at or above it.

 

The bad news: He got laid off. The good news: It happened AFTER he'd cleared his consumer debt.

By Donna_Freedman Sep 17, 2010 4:30PM

I feel very bad for Smithee, a staff writer for the Consumerism Commentary personal-finance blog. With no warning he was laid off from his job at a small Web design agency.

In a post called "Laid off, 2010 edition," Smithee wrote that the job loss was particularly frustrating because he had only recently -- and for the first time in his life -- managed to zero out his credit cards.

"I was just learning what it was like to walk around without worrying about paying all my bills on time," he lamented. "I was about to start seriously saving money and/or paying down loans faster than expected. I was going to be in a position to be more than a couple of months away from homelessness. I was stable, and I had plans."

Here's where I think Smithee errs in his thinking:

 

New report details how large banks finance the payday loan industry.

By Karen Datko Sep 17, 2010 2:40PM

This post comes from James R. Hood at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

The weak economy is making it harder for big banks to lend money, and that's driving cash-poor consumers into the arms of unscrupulous payday lenders, right?

Well, not quite, says a report that finds big banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America are only too eager to lend billions of dollars to some industries like, oh, the payday lenders.

 

"While small businesses and individuals have struggled to get affordable loans in the wake of the taxpayer bailouts, payday lenders have received new and amended credit agreements from Wall Street," says the report.

 

Great American Dine Out includes coupons; plus deals for free museum admission and BOGO smoothies.

By Teresa Mears Sep 17, 2010 1:35PM

Next week is the Great American Dine Out, a restaurant fundraiser to help fight childhood hunger in America. As part of the promotion, which is Sept. 19-25, restaurants nationwide are offering discounts, coupons or other incentives to encourage donations to Share Our Strength.

 

Among this year's participants are Joe's Crabshack, Corner Bakery Cafe, McAlister's Deli, Boston Market, T.G.I. Friday's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Taco Bueno, The Palm Restaurants, Legal Seafoods, P.F. Chang's and First Watch. You can search for participating restaurants in your area here.

If you have a great idea to combat childhood hunger or contribute to your community in another way, you might be able to get $100,000 from Ikea for a sabbatical to turn your plan into action.

 

If you don't use your credit card number while shopping online, no one can steal it. That's the idea behind virtual credit cards.

By Stacy Johnson Sep 17, 2010 1:11PM

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

 

The best way to protect your credit card number online might be to use a fake one.

 

Well, it's not actually fake -- it's "virtual." Yes, it's legal. It's also smart, and may be free depending on your bank.

Virtual credit cards have been around for a while now, and the idea is simple. You can use the financial backing of your real credit card -- or debit card, or checking account -- to make all the purchases you normally would on a computer, but without using the card itself. Instead, you use an alternate, virtual credit card number, which is linked to your real one, but protected by computer encryption and other state-of-the-art security measures.

 

What can this 'luxury snack' teach us about hype and value?

By Karen Datko Sep 17, 2010 9:38AM

This guest post comes from Len Penzo at Len Penzo dot Com.

 

Last week, Britain's Daily Mail reported that celebrity chef Martin Blunos had created a very unique sandwich with a menu price of £110. For those of you here in America, based on current exchange rates, that comes out to approximately $168.80.

According to Blunos, who happens to be a Michelin-starred chef, "We Brits are known to love our cheese sandwiches, and here's one that not only comes with a royal price tag but is fit for the banqueting table."

 

I know what you're thinking. Did he really say cheese sandwich?

 

I don't know about you, but if I'm going to pay $168.80 for lunch -- not counting my beer, plus tax and tip -- I want something a bit more substantial than a cheese sandwich. In fact, I would demand that my sandwich be loaded up with a couple pounds of thinly sliced Kobe beef. I'd also want a bag of chips and a lobster tail on the side with drawn butter.

 

And a pickle spear.

 

Should McDonald's share the blame for obesity and bad heart health, or are individuals solely at fault?

By Karen Datko Sep 16, 2010 7:18PM

When public health advocates want to take aim at unhealthy fast food, McDonald's has become the target of choice. McDonald's is to fast food what Wal-Mart is to a retail industry that pays rotten wages and offers negligible benefits.

 

It's far from being the only offender, but it's the one that's singled out as a purveyor of too many unhealthful, fattening foods and not enough nutritious choices.

 

The latest group to take on Mickey D's is the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which is airing TV ads showing a pudgy dead guy on a gurney -- the victim of a heart attack, no doubt -- gripping a partially eaten burger.

 

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