Members-only travel sites offer big discounts, but you may be able to find a better deal.
As vacation budgets have shrunk, discount luxury travel websites have flourished, attracting more than 500,000 members in the last year. But the tactics these sites employ -- limited-time offers, limited-availability sales and simple marketing psychology -- mean those bargains might not be as good as they look.
The lure is simple: Sites like Jetsetter, SniqueAway and Vacationist offer deals at hotels that cut room rates by up to 50%, but members have just a few days to sign up, or until available dates sell out, whichever happens first.
Hoteliers complain about slow action on near-libelous comments. But fake positive reviews have also been a problem.
When I travel, I often look at online reviews before booking a hotel. A number of sites include reviews, but the site with the most reviews is TripAdvisor, which is owned by Expedia.
The site says it has more than 40 million reviews and opinions of properties worldwide, including restaurant reviews. Usually you can find enough viewpoints to avoid being swayed by one or two customers who had a bad experience or, conversely, friends of the hotel owner who piled on unwarranted praise.
In the last few years, tensions have been rising between TripAdvisor and hotel owners, who say TripAdvisor allows online reviews that border on libel. Hotels in Britain, apparently in response to TripAdvisor's "Dirtiest Hotels" list earlier this year, are organizing to file a lawsuit.
The suggestion of trimming this popular tax break has people seething. But, really, few of us -- very few of us -- get anything from it.
This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the mortgage interest tax deduction may be an endangered species, at least in its present form. From the reaction, you'd think they were proposing slaying all first-born children.
The bipartisan White House deficit commission (aka the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform) hands over its report Dec. 1. The Journal says it's considering suggesting trims to the popular mortgage tax break.
"The White House has said these and other breaks cost the government about $1 trillion a year," the Journal says. That's including "child tax credits and the ability of employees to pay their portion of their health insurance tab with pretax dollars."
The panel apparently isn't suggesting killing these tax breaks, just shrinking them.
Also: This is not a done deal. Not even a proposal. It's a rumor.
If you have an individual health insurance policy that was issued before March 23, some of the new health reforms may not apply to you.
Major employers that provide health care for employees have human resources departments that hopefully are making sure workers are taking advantage of the new reforms. But according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 17 million people pay for their own health coverage in the individual health insurance market.
If you're one of them, it's definitely time to give your policy a checkup.
Before you jump on these deals, wait for the Black Friday ads to come out.
This post comes from Melinda Fulmer of MSN Money.
These thick full-color displays of kiddie eye candy, released every year, are meant to get kids drooling over page after page of toys they didn't even know they wanted. But are they a sweet deal for parents?
It's off-season for gyms and trainers. Beating the New Year's resolution crowds can pay off.
As if virtue -- and thin thighs -- weren't rewards enough, there may be significant financial benefits for those eager to commit to workouts throughout the holiday season.
Between the flagging economy and the annual seasonal drop-off, gyms are especially eager to make a deal now, industry experts say. Gyms attract just 9% of their members during November and December, compared with 12% in January alone, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.
I know many eBay aficionados who could blaze through listing my stuff in no time at all, but I'm not one of them.
The result of deleting items from drawers and hangers is two large brown boxes taking up floor space in the closet, overflowing with castaways. The boxes have grown into mountains, and I can't walk to the back of my closet anymore.
My intention was to sell these items, which are the nicer things I actually like but don't work for one reason or another. I didn't want to drop them off at the consignment shop because the shop keeps 60% of the profit and accepts only in-season clothing, meaning I'd have to keep some of this stuff in my closet for almost a year. So I planned to sell it on eBay, thinking I could make some of my money back and maybe sell the out-of-season items.
Procrastination or lack of motivation?
Month after month passed, and I never got around to selling a single article of clothing. I even bought a cheap postage scale, convinced that the lack of a scale was what was holding me back from listing my stuff.
But last week I finally realized that there are about a hundred things I'd rather be doing than messing with this pile of stuff.
Credit card debt is the top culprit, but that may be the result of unemployment or other financial setbacks, not lavish living.
But these older people aren't piling up credit card debt because they're eating out every night and taking fancy vacations, studies show. Instead, they are going into debt because they can't make ends meet and are hesitant to ask friends or family for help. In fact, some are suffering financially because they are helping friends and family.
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