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Call it a 'pantry challenge' if you like. Blog about it if you must. Just quit wasting food.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 17, 2010 9:00AM

Lunchtime at my friend's house in Alaska. Tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich, maybe? Or tuna salad with pickles?

But wait. Half a loaf of Italian bread sat on the counter, getting staler by the minute. The milk in the fridge was two days past its sell-by date. Although I'd bought eggs 10 days previously, I still hadn't eaten any. In the back of the fridge was a wizened apple that had probably been there since my visit last summer.

I heard the voice of my mother chiding me: You're not going to let any of that go to waste, are you?

 

How will your perks change in the new year? Here's what to expect.

By Money Staff Dec 16, 2010 7:49PM

This post comes from Emily Brandon at partner site US News & World Report.

 

US News & World ReportSeniors won't be getting a boost in their Social Security checks next year, but they will get some new Medicare benefits. Many employers also plan to tweak their retirement account investments to save money on fees and comply with new regulations. Here's a look at how retirement benefits are likely to change in 2011:

 

401k contribution caps stagnant. The savings limits for retirement accounts will stay the same next year because inflation wasn't high enough in 2010 to trigger an increase. Workers can contribute up to $16,500 to 401k, 403b, and 457b plans, or the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan in 2011. Those age 50 and older can make additional catch-up contributions of another $5,500 next year.

 

The idea is increasingly popular as state governments struggle to balance their budgets.

By Karen Datko Dec 16, 2010 7:30PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner site Bargaineering.

 

As part of our "What If?" series, let's take a look at a favorite target of the fiscal hounds. Since the dawn of time -- or 1992, anyway -- online merchants have collected sales tax on online purchases only if the vendor has a physical presence in the buyer's state.

 

However, as many state governments ponder how they will get their budgets back into the black, collecting sales tax on all online purchases seems to be a popular idea.

 

Right now, people who buy online are supposed to pay the sales tax directly to their state, although very few do. But what would happen if online vendors were required to collect sales tax on all online sales?

 

Strategic use of gift card bonuses, savvy Black Friday shopping and other frugal hacks yields nearly 20 holiday gifts for almost nothing.

By Teresa Mears Dec 16, 2010 5:15PM

How much are you spending on holiday shopping this year? $100? $200?

Katiria Colon of Hollywood, Fla., did all her Christmas shopping for $6.32.

 

That's right. She spent less than $7 to buy presents for about 20 people: her husband, 8-year-old son Kyle, grandparents, mother, two sisters, two nieces, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, her boss and his wife, a cousin and the cousin's daughter, a neighbor family and her son's teacher, reports Marcia Heroux Pounds of the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale.

 

More kids are asking Santa for necessities rather than toys. The requests show that the recession isn't over for many families.

By Teresa Mears Dec 16, 2010 2:45PM

Kids still write letters to Santa. Among the requests for Barbies and video games this year are some more poignant pleas: requests for clothes, shoes, and help with parents' bills.

Pete Fontana is the "chief elf" at the main post office in New York City, one of about 25 post offices around the nation that match families in need with people who want to help.

 

"The need is greater this year than I've ever seen it," he told USA Today. "One little girl didn't want anything for herself. She wanted a winter coat for her mother."

 

As part of a settlement with the states, some customers with unresolved complaints may be entitled to refunds.

By Karen Datko Dec 16, 2010 1:08PM

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

 

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna gets a lot of complaints from his state's consumers in a year's time. But the many complaints generated by DirecTV in recent years made him sit up and take notice.

Washington became the first state to file suit against DirecTV, the nation's largest satellite television company, over allegations of unfair business practices. Now, the company has agreed to make restitution and pay $14.25 million to settle Washington's complaint and a separate action filed by 49 states and the District of Columbia.

 

You can make the process less stressful by learning 5 steps before you venture out.

By Stacy Johnson Dec 16, 2010 10:40AM

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

 

Diamonds are a girl's best friend, the saying goes. Odd, because they can be a man's worst enemy. They're expensive, they're complicated and, as a retail experience, about as far as you can get from Home Depot.

To make matters worse, because they're always a popular holiday gift -- more than a third of diamonds are bought in December -- when you go to the jewelry store, you'll be in a pack of other dazed men being preyed upon by commissioned salespeople. Not a pretty picture.

 

The lawsuit by a consumer group alleges that toys bait children to eat junk food.

By Karen Datko Dec 15, 2010 4:50PM

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

 

As it threatened in June, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has filed suit against McDonald's, charging that its Happy Meals use cheap toys as "bait" to lure children into gorging on "unhealthy junk food."

The suit, which seeks class-action status, was filed in California on behalf of Monet Parham, a Sacramento mother who said the Happy Meals make it "so much harder" for her to say no when her children beg her to take them to McDonald's.

 

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