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Blockbuster adds late fees, Warner Bros. delays new releases. Where to rent now.

By Karen Datko Mar 16, 2010 10:55AM

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

 

Renting movies to watch at home is cheaper than a night out at the theater, but it can still be a budget-buster. Now renters have new pitfalls, financial and otherwise, to watch for.

 

Blockbuster reinstated late fees this month, charging $1 per day after the rental period, up to $10 total. (Previously, consumers had a 10-day grace period before being charged a one-time $10 fee.) Getting hot new releases is no easy feat either. Desperate to boost DVD sales, studios are pressuring DVD-rental companies to withhold titles until a month after they go on sale. Redbox and Netflix struck deals with Warner Bros. earlier this year, agreeing to a "sale only" window of 28 days.

“Obviously, it isn’t the consumer who makes out on these deals,” says Dan Rayburn, a principal analyst with Frost & Sullivan covering the online video market. Companies are trying to better position themselves as consumers flock to inexpensive rental options such as mail subscriptions, online streaming and kiosks.

 

In the rapidly changing rental market, there's no longer one best choice.

 

It's good to have a stash in case of emergencies, but don't overdo it. Bad things can happen.

By Karen Datko Mar 16, 2010 9:41AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.

 

I had a conversation recently with a friend of mine who likes to keep a little bit of cash at home in the event of a zombie apocalypse. As I reminded him that zombies don’t take U.S. dollars, I thought about how we like to keep some cash on hand at home, too.

 

My friend was talking a thousand dollars or two; we keep maybe a hundred bucks. While he was trying to up his chances of survival, we do it to avoid an unnecessary trip to the ATM if we find our wallet or purse a little light one day.

That led me to wonder where the best places are to hide your money at home, and fortunately the Web did not disappoint.

 

New service lets kids and others without credit spend real money in the virtual world.

By Karen Datko Mar 15, 2010 7:30PM

Don’t have a credit card? That’s OK. You can use Kwedit -- essentially a promise to pay -- when you purchase virtual goods on the interwebs.

 

On the surface, it sounds goofy but harmless enough. So why did Stephen Colbert and personal-finance writer Kathy Kristof blast the new service? Colbert said on his show, “Instead of just having adults spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need, now we’ll have kids spending money they don’t have on products that don’t exist.”

 

Confronted with lower prices on healthful food, shoppers bought more. Then they spent their savings on junk food.

By Teresa Mears Mar 15, 2010 3:13PM

If healthful food were cheaper, would people buy more of it and less junk food?

 

Probably not, says a new study from the University of Buffalo. That same study found that a tax on junk food might be more persuasive.

 

"People are just more responsive to price increases than decreases," Dean Karlan, a behavioral economist at Yale University, told National Public Radio, which reported on the study during Monday’s "Morning Edition."

 

The experts offer some suggestions for increasing your chances of winning the pot.

By Karen Datko Mar 15, 2010 1:12PM

One of the benefits of schlepping to work every day is roundly enjoyed each spring -- the office March Madness pool. (Sure, you can do it online if you work at home, but an office pool is much more fun.)

 

Everyone does it. “The NCAA estimates that more than 35 million Americans participate in office pools, and, according to Nielsen Media Research, 92% of fans who watched games online do it at work,” The Tampa Tribune reports.

Been there, done that. And, back in the day, we used a combination of educated guesses, baseless hunches and emotional picks to fill out the bracket. We did OK for a round or two.

If only we’d known about the method described by Sarah Lorge Butler in a post at CBS MoneyWatch.

 

The first sets are crazy expensive and there's not much to watch yet.

By Karen Datko Mar 15, 2010 10:10AM

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

 

Consumers in search of TV bragging rights are checking out the first 3D-ready TVs. But while the technology is stoking interest, the price tags are budget-busters and the content sparse for early adopters.

 

The first 3D-ready TVs from Panasonic and Samsung went on sale last week, just a few months after the technology drew crowds at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, and more models are expected in coming months from LG (May), Sony (June) and Vizio (August).

 

Why the rush?

 

If you have high-interest credit card debt, that sandwich you charge costs more than you think.

By Karen Datko Mar 15, 2010 9:16AM

This post comes from Adam Baker, a staff writer at partner blog Get Rich Slowly, and the blogger at Man vs. Debt.

 

Courtney and I are big fans of what we call “mental filters.” These are simple little tips and tricks we can use to increase our financial awareness. (Get Rich Slowly's J.D. Roth likes to call these tips and tricks money hacks.)

 

For example, I’ve talked before about how we taped a picture of our daughter to our credit cards while we were paying down our debt. Many people I know use some sort of 30-day rule to curb their impulse desires, especially those that contribute to clutter.

 

Both of these techniques are examples of deliberately installing a barrier between yourself and a routine action. Many of us do this in various aspects of our lives to help raise consciousness, but this technique can be particularly powerful in our finances.

 

Today, I want to share a mental filter (or money hack, if you prefer) that Courtney and I used while passionately attacking our debt. But first, let me share a quick story.

 

The $6.25 foot-long

 

Panera Bread will become the first national chain to post calorie counts at its restaurants.

By Teresa Mears Mar 12, 2010 5:59PM

Panera Bread this week became the first national chain restaurant to announce it will post calorie counts at all its restaurants.

 

As someone who likes to know what she’s eating, I’m happy to hear it, and I hope other restaurants follow suit. I was, however, devastated to hear that my favorite, the Chicken Frontega Panini, has 860 calories. All I can say is that I usually eat only half of it. At Panera’s prices, splitting a sandwich is a good idea. Now if they’d just agree to leave off the mayo.

 

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