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Time's running out, but here are projects you can do at home in very short order.

By Karen Datko Feb 14, 2011 2:45PM

This post comes from Justin Brown at partner site Bundle.

 

There's very little time left to get your Valentine's Day gift plans in order. If you hope to hand out individual well-wishes today, your options are limited -- especially if you want to stick to a very small budget (and who wouldn't?).

Luckily, you may be able to solve this problem this afternoon and likely with supplies already in your house.

 

A 1990 law was intended to protect consumers' privacy, court rules.

By Karen Datko Feb 14, 2011 12:39PM

This post comes from Truman Lewis at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

Does it annoy you when a store cashier asks for your ZIP code? If so, and if you live in California, you'll be glad to learn the state Supreme Court has upheld a 1990 law that makes it illegal to do so.

The law prohibits merchants from requesting and recording a credit card holder's "personal identification information." The court ruled that such information can include not only a telephone number or street address but also a ZIP code.

 

Having a little ready cash at home means you're, well, ready -- no matter what happens. But where should you hide it?

By Donna_Freedman Feb 14, 2011 8:56AM

The other day I used a Groupon voucher to get myself a discounted massage. The practitioner didn't take debit or credit cards. Time to raid the cash cache.


For the past six years I've kept a stash of ones, fives, 10s and 20s hidden in my apartment. I believe in having legal tender on hand for emergencies.

Call it pin money, bail money or get-outta-town money. If you're a numismatist, call it a collection of state quarters. Having a little ready cash means you're, well, ready.


You should be ready. Uncle Sam says so.

 

High-fructose corn syrup could become 'corn sugar.'

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2011 6:22PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

What's in a name? The National Consumers League thinks quite a lot, when it comes to food ingredients.

The Washington-based consumer group is taking issue with a proposal before the Food and Drug Administration to change the name of high-fructose corn syrup, a sweetener commonly found in soft drinks and processed foods, to "corn sugar" on food labels. The group says consumers have begun to increase their awareness of HFCS and its possible effect on expanding waistlines.

 

Calling it something else, the group says, is confusing and misleading.

 

New era for American home loans: Few may get traditional 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages in years to come.

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2011 3:54PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.

 

Interest rates will rise. Down payments will rise. Home loans won't be easy to get.

 

That's the probable outcome, media outlets say, if Congress accepts the toughest of three options for resolving trouble at the two big government-run housing agencies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

As a Reuters story puts it, "The Obama administration nailed a 'condemned' sign on the wrecked U.S. housing finance system on Friday, but did not offer a clear blueprint for a rebuilding project that could go on for years."

 

The details will be for Congress to hammer out.

 

Long time coming

The day of reckoning has been a long time coming.

 

The league will stop paying for players' health insurance when the collective bargaining agreement expires next month. What are the players' options?

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2011 3:19PM

Now that Super Bowl XLV is history, the NFL has turned its attention to labor negotiations and a possible player lockout. As part of that, the league has announced it won't pay for players' health insurance after March 4, when the collective bargaining agreement expires.

 

So what, you might think. These guys can buy insurance with their NFL-size salaries.

What options do they have? Can they be insured? Or do concussions, torn ACLs, the greater risk of dementia, and all the other physical problems that go with the game count as pre-existing conditions? Insurance companies don't like to insure people who have health problems.

This seems complicated, and misunderstanding abounds. "Some of that misinformation has included suggestions that wives of players need to induce labor prematurely to give birth before March 4, that children with serious illnesses will lose their insurance coverage overnight, or other equally inaccurate and inflammatory statements," NFL senior vice president Dennis Curran said.

  

Fortunately, NFL players do have options, just like many other people who are out of a job. We can all learn something from the choices they face:

 

You should always have some, so you don't turn into 'that guy.' (Hint: Nobody likes him.)

By Donna_Freedman Feb 11, 2011 11:12AM
Over at Budgets are Sexy, personal-finance blogger J. Money lists four reasons you should always have at least some cash on you.
  • Not every venue accepts plastic. Examples: toll booths, some cab companies, vending machines.
  • You can't always find an ATM.
  • Cash makes it easier to split the check fairly.
And then there's what I think is the most important reason of all:  

How the ant, the grasshopper, the Honeybee and COBRA all play a part in my planning for a job loss.

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2011 10:05AM

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

 

One of my favorite fables attributed to Aesop is "The Ant and the Grasshopper." I mean, really. What's not to love?

 

You know the story: The grasshopper spends all summer long partying it up like a rock star while the ant prepares for the coming winter by building a shelter and storing food. Of course, winter eventually arrives and the industrious ant finds himself well fed and toasty warm while the improvident grasshopper simply ends up as, well, toast. The fable offers a terrific lesson for kids -- and adults -- on the importance of saving and hard work.

 

Why I'm constantly saving for winter

As an engineer, I occasionally have to endure business cycles when my employer has to lay off employees. It's the nature of the industry and one that I have always taken very seriously, especially since I am the sole breadwinner for my family.

If I were laid off tomorrow, I would be entitled to roughly three months of severance pay, after which I would be eligible to receive unemployment benefits of roughly $2,000 per month (before taxes) -- which on the surface would seem to pose a tremendous problem because our household expenses are currently, on average, more than $8,100 per month.

 

Don't panic -- this is only a test

With that in mind, this week I decided to undergo a little layoff drill to try and ascertain exactly how much we'd have to cut back to make ends meet on unemployment benefits alone.

 

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