Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Need to slash your budget? Fire your housecleaner and pick up a broom. This won't take long.

By Donna_Freedman Jan 7, 2011 10:00AM

The topic of my most recent Living With Less column was eight quick ways to slash your bills. It showed how 20-minute blocks of time can save you hundreds of bucks -- things like energy-use fixes, haggling for lower prices, and negotiating better deals for cable TV or your credit card.

Space constraints meant I had to hold the line at eight quick ways. Here's another one:


You may not notice you're getting less because the packages may stay the same size. Oh, and the price isn't going down.

By Teresa Mears Jan 6, 2011 4:41PM

Do the things you buy seem not to last as long as they used to?


It's not that you're eating more ice cream (at least we hope you're not). It's that the packages keep getting smaller.


The incredible shrinking product trend that started several years ago is still going strong, Consumer Reports writes in its February issue.


Plaintiffs say devices use permanent ID numbers to access confidential information.

By Karen Datko Jan 6, 2011 3:29PM

This post comes from Jon Hood at partner site


Apple is facing two class-action lawsuits alleging that its iPhone and iPad tablet transmit private user information to advertising networks, without first obtaining permission from affected consumers.

The suits, both filed in California, contend that iPhones and iPads use so-called unique device identifiers or UDIDs to transmit consumer data to advertisers. UDIDs are 40-digit strings used to identify particular devices. Unlike cookies, UDIDs cannot be deleted or modified by users.


The company that owns Cash4Gold is now in the gift card resale biz. How it stacks up against the competition.

By Karen Datko Jan 6, 2011 2:45PM

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


Last year, roughly $8 billion worth of gift cards went unused by those who received them. Last weekend, during the televised college football marathon, fans were pitched an alternative: Send in your unwanted cards, and get spend-anywhere cash in return.

But the offer from gift card reseller CardWoo was unusual in the growing secondary marketplace for such cards.


But they won't be much of a deal. Charging $4.95 to send $25 may not lure many customers.

By Teresa Mears Jan 6, 2011 1:16PM

In an effort to drum up business, the U.S. Postal Service has decided to sell gift cards.


Stamp us underwhelmed.

The cards will be the type known as "open loop," issued by Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, usable anywhere credit cards are accepted.


They sound great, don't they? What an easy gift.


But those easy gifts come with hefty fees. The post office plans to charge $4.95 for gift cards with a set rate of $25 and $50 and $5.95 for cards in variable amounts ranging from $26 to $100. There is no word yet on whether the cards will have an expiration date or carry any additional fees.


Our son is starting to understand that money represents time and effort.

By Karen Datko Jan 6, 2011 12:44PM

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


For us, 2010 was a year of learning both for the parents and children in our household about what allowance means, how it works, and what kinds of money lessons our children are learning.

Let's roll back the clock to November 2009, when our children each received piggy banks and the allowance adventure got under way.


Worried about getting off to a bad start on your New Year's resolutions? Then it might be time to assess your goals with free online tests.

By Stacy Johnson Jan 6, 2011 10:33AM

This post comes from Karla Bowsher at partner site Money Talks News.


The new year is only a few days old, but your resolutions may already be off track. Americans would rather get rich than get skinny this year, as we reported, yet only one-third of them made a financial plan part of their resolutions.

What other New Year's goals are you in danger of missing? Whether you resolved to get richer, skinnier or smarter in 2011, these free online tools from reputable organizations will help you keep your goals on track.


Now we can learn something from the show about nothing.

By Karen Datko Jan 5, 2011 7:47PM

What can "Seinfeld" teach us about money and the economy? Plenty, it seems.


Three professors use the episodes of that 1990s show (which lives on in syndication) to teach the fundamentals of economics, according to our friend J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly. They share their lessons at a website called The Economics of Seinfeld, also known as


These lessons extend beyond the girth of George Costanza's wallet. Cindy Perman, in an article on, explains:

The "Soup Nazi," for example, offers lessons in the economic concepts of barriers to entry and monopoly power, since the scowling martinet cook seems to have a lock on the tasty soup market. Elaine stumbling on his stash of soup recipes shows how quickly a monopoly can be broken.


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.