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Taco Bell unveils $2 meals, plus we have tips for places to find free ice cream and free kids' meals.

By Teresa Mears May 14, 2010 11:30AM

It's a beautiful Friday morning in May (at least it’s beautiful where I am), and what more could anyone want but Friday food deals and freebies?

 

Taco Bell has unveiled four new $2 meal deals: your choice of a Beefy 5-Layer Burrito, a Gordita Supreme, a Grilled Chicken Burrito or a Double Decker Taco -- each with Doritos and a medium drink.  

 

This sets a new low in pricing for fast-food meals, USA Today notes. At most low-price chains, three items off the $1 menu add up to $3, though Taco Bell already has some items that cost less than $1 each.

This could be the day to walk to Starbucks for Frappuccino Happy Hour, which continues from 3 to 5 p.m. through Sunday, May 16. Some other deals from last week also are still good.

 

This is a great idea that's ahead of its time.

By Karen Datko May 14, 2010 9:14AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.

 

At first glance, pay-by-the-mile auto insurance seems like a great idea: Drive a lot, pay more. Drive less and save. But what seems like a great idea has had difficulty gaining traction.

 

For a variety of reasons, including technology, regulations and marketing, pay-as-you-go auto insurance has stalled in all but one state.

And if you are thinking that California is the forward-thinking jurisdiction, think again. The winner here is Texas, but more about that in a minute.

 

If you have the palate to pick up the combination of flavors, why not?

By Karen Datko May 13, 2010 5:04PM

Ah, the aroma, and then there's the taste: Hints of "apricot, pineapple, bergamot, kiwi and lime. The deeper tones are levels of chocolate, and the finish is super clean." But it's not wine.

That's the description from a connoisseur (he's also the guy who sells the beans) of the coffee made from the cherished Ethiopian Nekisse beans -- sold for $12 a cup at Café Grumpy, a New York City chain. One of those hilarious writers at The Gothamist said that “we detect notes of pretentious (potty word deleted -- you fill in the blank)."

What's bergamot? (As they say, if you have to ask, you can't afford it.) Regardless, would you pay $12 for a version of what many people consider a reliable delivery system for caffeine?

 

An inventor wins $25 million in a federal trial over a safety device that spares employees' fingers. Home Depot may appeal.

By Teresa Mears May 13, 2010 2:51PM

In a major victory for David over Goliath, a North Carolina man has been awarded nearly $25 million after a judge and jury found that Home Depot stole his invention.

 

The story began in 2004, when the home-improvement giant asked Michael Powell, who had worked with the company for 20 years as an independent contractor, to help solve a problem. Too many employees were cutting themselves when they cut wood for customers. If the company couldn’t reduce injuries, and quickly, it might have to quit cutting customers’ wood.

It didn’t take Powell long to come up with a solution, a “Safe Hands” device for radial saws. Home Depot loved it.

 

But the company didn’t want to pay the inventor $2,000 for each machine, a total of $4 million to outfit all 2,000 stores, according to a story in The Palm Beach Post. Home Depot offered $1,200 each. Powell said no.

 

A typical underwater homeowner can expect to recover lost equity in five to seven years.

By Karen Datko May 13, 2010 11:53AM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.

 

The foreclosure tsunami continues. It would be interesting -- like a disaster movie is interesting -- if only our homes and property values weren't being sucked down into this whirlpool.

A new report says who's got the worst negative equity. (Well, duh. We can all probably recite these five states in our sleep: Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Michigan and California.)

 

It also has a little good news:

 

With gambling revenue down, resorts look for new ways to draw guests.

By Karen Datko May 13, 2010 10:21AM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.

 

Getting a bargain for a trip to Las Vegas, Atlantic City and other casino destinations is a safe bet these days.

 

Hotel rates in Las Vegas dropped 18% during 2009, from an average $103 to $85 a night, according to the latest Hotel Price Index from Hotels.com. New Jersey rates are down 15%, to $115 from $135.

 

This powerful tool can be used for much more than paying off debt.

By Karen Datko May 13, 2010 9:21AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.

 

One of my favorite personal-finance tactics is "snowflaking." For those unaware, snowflaking refers to the idea that if you take little frugal steps throughout the month, you apply the total saved as an extra payment toward debt.

 

For example, if you used coupons to save $5 on your normal purchases, you would then add $5 to an extra debt payment at the end of the month. This knocks $5 off the total amount you owe, reducing your interest owed in future months and getting rid of the total debt that much faster.

 

Snowflaking is almost always used in a debt-related context -- the name itself comes from the popular "debt snowball" -- but I’ve actually found that snowflaking is incredibly powerful for almost any goal in life. In fact, I use snowflaking all the time in my own life for bigger goals.

 

Here are some examples:

 

Verizon says the rules were clear, but the FCC is looking into the 'unpleasant surprises' that customers sometimes face.

By Teresa Mears May 12, 2010 3:52PM

When the St. Germains of Massachusetts got their cell phone bill, they thought surely there had been a mistake. The bill that month for the family, normally about $100, was more than $12,000. When Bob St. Germain called Verizon Wireless to inquire, he was told that the next month's bill would be nearly $6,000.

 

Verizon explained that when the family had renewed its two-year contract, a free data download promotion had ended. Not realizing the service had changed, Bryan St. Germain, then a college student, downloaded 816,000 kilobytes of data the first month and 375,000 the second. Thus, their total bill for two months was nearly $18,000.

 

I downloaded 1.19 million kilobytes last month. It cost $29.99. That's Verizon's monthly charge for an unlimited data plan for my smart phone. Two months would be $59.98.

 

We don't know what a data plan cost in 2006, but if it was free for two years, it must not have cost the company $12,000 a month. Even if the St. Germains were 100% at fault, should making a mistake with your cell phone plan cost more than a new car?

 

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