Were you swearing under your breath at the pumps in 2008? Here's why it'll be easier to handle if prices soar again (and they probably will).
When gas prices hit $4 per gallon back in the summer of 2008, America's drivers had a collective breakdown. No other single item affects the American psyche like gas prices, which are advertised on every street corner and magnified by the media every time they hit an uncomfortable threshold. No wonder car sales stalled, consumer confidence collapsed, and some motorists even mothballed their cars, switching to buses or bicycles to get around.
Gas prices retreated during the recession, plunging all the way to $1.60 by the end of 2008 -- a much-needed break for consumers at a time when many other things were going wrong. But a recovering economy has once again lifted the price of gas above $3, an unusual spike during the winter months, when motorists typically drive less. With the global economy heating up -- especially in oil-thirsty China -- many forecasters expect oil prices to keep rising, bringing gas prices along with them.
People often make big decisions without much information to go on.
Quick game: I have just invented a device that will show me a face or a tree at random every time I use it.
I'm going to use it 16 times, and you're going to guess the probability that the device will show a face the next time I use it.
OK, here are my results:
In your online statements, banks are inserting targeted ads from companies you patronize. Is that an invasion of privacy or an efficient way to get coupons?
Your bank statement is the last place you expect to be asked "Do you want fries with that?"
But McDonald's is among a number of retailers who are now advertising in online bank statements. They may not just suggest you get fries on your next visit, they'll offer you 10% cash back, with the clickable "coupon" going right on your debit card. You may get the same offer from McDonald's if you've used your debit card to charge a meal at Burger King.
Got a creative way to kill a card? Want to share how you got out of debt? Do it on video.
Planning to ditch a credit card? Doing so creatively may win you a prize.
Lending Club and Perk Street Financial are sponsoring the "Shred Your Credit Card" contest. It's a three-step process -- and you get to be evil if you want:
A reader poses that question. How would you respond?
What happens when a great opportunity comes along, but you don't quite have the resources to take advantage of it? That's what Greg wants to know. He and his wife have found their dream house. They think they can buy the place -- but only if they're willing to take on some short-term debt in addition to the mortgage. Greg wants to know if this is a smart move.
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Here's his story:
My wife and I are in our late 20s, no kids (yet), both safely employed and living very comfortably with a combined monthly income of around $5,000 after taxes. We currently have about $28,000 in student loans, and plan to pay them all off within the year. The original amount was $37,000 six months ago, so we've been making quick progress with them. One loan is in deferment while my wife is in school, another requires $80 a month for the payments, and the one we are aggressively paying off has no monthly payment due until 2014 because of our extra payments. Basically, we only need $80 a month to satisfy our loans for the next two years. We have no car payments, credit card debt, or anything other than the student loans.
Verizon picks up the iPhone but drops some generous customer discounts.
SmartMoney's exclusive story earlier this week detailing Verizon's decision to stop offering early upgrades and discount credits has led to several reader questions about the new policy. It's no surprise since before late Wednesday, Verizon wouldn't comment on the program.
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SmartMoney senior consumer reporter Kelli B. Grant answers the most-asked reader questions below:
Fake product reviews are more common than you might think, and even big-name companies sometimes get caught using them.
People often look at product reviews when deciding whether to make a purchase or choosing between brands. It's not that they necessarily care what a stranger thinks. Rather, a batch of reviews can offer an idea of common problems or complaints and sometimes suggest better alternatives.
The problem is fake reviews. Yes, there are people who actually spend time doing that.
Trade in old jeans for 25% off new ones, plus coupons for popcorn, pita, coffee and smoothies.
It's Friday, and we're here with new deals and freebies, both edible and inedible.
Admission to all national parks is free this weekend, Jan. 15-17. If you'd rather not visit a national park this time of year, you'll have more chances for free visits later in the year.
If you're looking for indoor family fun, Borders is having free game nights on Thursdays in January with board games for those 6 and older. Check to see if your local store is participating.
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