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An affordable trip means no worries about credit card bills. Use these tips to plan a break that won't break the bank.

By MSN Money Partner 3 hours ago
This post comes from Donna Freedman at partner site Money Talk News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyHave you taken your summer vacation yet? Or has your vacation taken you?


Some people travel on autopilot. You cart the kids off to Disneyland because you're supposed to, or fly to Europe because everyone says you should see Paris before you die.


Man with tropical drink © CorbisYou book a trip to Hawaii after a co-worker raves about how beautiful it is, or sign up for a combination hot yoga/zip line/dude ranch adventure in Idaho because your sister-in-law says it was the most amazing experience ever.


But what do you want?


"Most of us don't take the time to think about what would make us happier -- what kind of vacation would be relaxing, would recharge our batteries, would be a great time with family," says Donna Skeels Cygan, a certified financial planner and author of "The Joy of Financial Security."


Cygan suggests having a "values talk" with your spouse and/or family before planning a vacation, to help clarify what everyone expects. Adventure? Relaxation? Roller coasters?

 

If you're looking to turn your poor credit into good credit, secured cards are a helpful tool.

By Credit.com 3 hours ago
This post comes from Jason Steele at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyIn America, we believe that everyone deserves a second chance. If you've seen your credit suffer due to bankruptcy, joblessness, medical bills or just a pattern of poor decisions, there is always a way for your to re-establish your credit.


Credit cards © CorbisThe problem is that you must obtain credit in order to build it, but it can be difficult to find a reputable lender when you have poor credit. However, a secured credit card can be a helpful solution. These are cards that require users to place a deposit with the bank as a condition of opening their account.


The deposit is held as a security against default, but in all other ways secured cards are just like standard credit cards. Cardholders receive monthly bills that they must pay, and will incur interest on any balance they carry over until the next month.


The good news is that payments are reported to the major consumer credit reporting agencies, so that your credit score will rise with your record of timely payments.

 

Your health may improve if you cut gluten out of your diet, but your pocketbook will take a hit -- unless you follow these tips.

By Credit.com Wed 1:30 PM
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyAlmost three years ago, I gave up foods with gluten. I wasn’t diagnosed with celiac disease, but I had heard that gluten could be triggering my migraine headaches, so I gave it a shot. It didn’t do much for my headaches, unfortunately, but I felt much better overall, and as a result decided to ditch it for good.


Gluten free bread seen in a grocery shop © REX/Chamleons EyeWhile I felt going gluten-free was good for my health, it wasn’t good for my pocketbook. Not at all. Loaves of bread now cost $5 to $7. A pound of pasta jumped to $4 to $5 or more. And without those cheap, fast staples I now found myself spending more on other foods.  My teenage daughter joined me in giving up gluten, and so now I had to come up with recipes she’d eat as well.


I thought I was eating pretty healthy before, but for the first few months I was in shock when I realized how much I had relied on inexpensive wheat-based foods: bagels, sandwiches, pizza, cereal and more.


The gluten-free food industry is expected to become a $6.6 billion industry by 2017, according to Packaged Facts. That’s just a fraction of the $117 billion fast food market fast food market (Fast Food Marketing), and the $18 billion consumers pay in credit card late fees (R.K. Hammer), but it’s not a drop in the bucket.

 

When we hit the road, here's where we like to stay if saving money is a priority.

By Credit.com Wed 1:07 PM
This post comes from Christine DiGangi at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyTraveling and frugality are often at odds with each other. As much as you want to get away, planning a trip can quickly become stressful as you search for affordable options. Everyone wants to save money, but few people want to stay in a dumpy motel.


Hotel maid © Simon Jarratt/CorbisIt's difficult to determine a hotel's quality based on price alone, so it helps to base decisions off past experiences or others' recommendations. Consumer reviews are a great resource, as well.


The best consumer-rated budget hotels

J.D. Power released its 2014 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study last week, ranking hotels from The Ritz-Carlton to Motel 6 based on customer feedback. The ratings use a 1,000-point scale and are determined by satisfaction in seven areas: reservation; check-in and check-out; guest room; food and beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost and fees. The average hotel received 784 points, up 24 points from the past two years.


Of course, the most luxurious hotels had the highest scores (Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts, 886), but there are great options for the cost-conscious consumer, as well.

 

Americans will spend an estimated $26.5 billion on back-to-school items this year.

By MSN Money Partner Wed 12:16 PM

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyBack-to-school shopping is in full swing. And parents are being forced to open their wallets wide to pay for their children's school-related expenses.


Children leaning against a school bus © Hero Images/CorbisA recent RetailMeNot survey found that two-thirds of parents will start back-to-school shopping by the end of July.


Also, it found that parents will spend some serious cash, $659 on average, on school-related costs for their family throughout the school year.


It takes a lot more than a new outfit or two and some pencils to prepare for a new school year these days. Parents now have to budget for multipage school supply lists and extracurricular activities. A RetailMeNot press release said:

"It's important to factor in the costs of extracurricular activities in order to stay within budget for the school year," says Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor for The Real Deal by RetailMeNot. "Surprises usually do come up during the year. Whether it's a birthday party for the classroom or a fundraiser for art class, there are plenty of ways to save and stretch your budget by shopping early and always looking for discounts."
 

Drowning in student loan debt? Here's where to find (totally free) help.

By MSN Money Partner Wed 12:13 PM

This post comes from Maryalene LaPonsie at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyIn their pursuit of higher education, Americans have racked up more than $1 trillion in student loan debt. While some may debate whether this amount represents a crisis, it may certainly be a problem for you personally if you have loans you can't pay off.


Not paying off your loans simply isn't an option. However, there are ways to reduce your payments or even wipe out your debt.

 

New rules mean that longevity annuities -- insurance against outliving your money -- are more attractive for retirement savers.

By MSN Money Partner Tue 2:08 PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWorrying that you could outlive your money? If so, you're not alone.


Senior man © Brand X Pictures/JupiterimagesIn the past it was common for employers to provide a pension plan, known as a defined benefit plan. These plans, like Social Security, provide a monthly check you can't outlive. Today, however, more companies shift the retirement burden to employees by providing a 401k or other savings-type plan. These plans, known as defined contribution plans, allow the employee to save money in a tax-advantaged investment account they can draw on in retirement.


The problem? No matter how much you build up in a 401k, you won't have a predictable, or necessarily comfortable, income for life. That's not a relaxing feeling for those entering into what are supposed to be relaxing years.


The insurance industry long ago recognized this problem and created a solution. It's known as a longevity annuity -- an investment you fund now that guarantees you a future income stream for life.

 

Who knows what lurks online about you? Unfortunately, a lot of people could, including potential employers. Here's how to deal with it.

By MSN Money Partner Tue 2:01 PM

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


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyThe Internet is a wondrous tool. It can answer virtually any question. It can find the best deal on anything from cars to cat litter. It allows you to maintain contact with virtually everyone you've ever met.


Damaged laptop © Jason Stang, Photo LibraryLike many tools, however, the Internet can be used for both good and evil. For example, while it allows you to find friends, it allows strangers to find information about you -- including information you'd prefer to remain private.


Here's this week's reader question:

I'm a big fan of your newsletter! I would love to see an article on an easy way to remove online personal information from people search websites (WhitePages.com, Spokeo.com, etc.). Are cleanup (services) such as Abine.com's DeleteMe worth it? -- Sylvia

Should you fear what the Internet knows about you?

The Internet is an ocean of information. Floating in it, like plankton, are the details of your life. Swimming in it, like sharks, are data miners, collecting and selling that information.

 

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