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Smaller portions will reduce your food bill (and your waist).

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 11:57PM

This post comes from Abby Freedman, a freelance writer and daughter of Smart Spending blogger Donna Freedman.

An MSN article about portion sizes got me thinking about the economics of eating. Food is, arguably, one of the most expensive aspects of modern life, whether you make your meals at home or eat out.

We order our days around meal breaks. We deny ourselves some foods and force others down our throats -- when was the last time someone willingly ate a rice cake? Finally, we pay tons of money to gyms so that we can work off all that food.

I don't have diet foods or delivered meals worked into my spending plan. But I do have to fit into a wedding gown in 5 1/2 months. So I decided to try a little experiment with portion size, and see if I couldn't make food a bit more affordable at the same time.


Our abstract notion of cash may explain some bad national habits.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 1, 2009 9:46PM

This guest post comes from Abigail Perry at I Pick Up Pennies.

Unless you're living in a soundproofed house with no connection to any media, you've heard about the ongoing turmoil on Wall Street. 

Here's what I see as an underlying theme for recent personal and national financial crises: We've stopped seeing money as real. 


We're going to have to pay more to slash the deficit.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 8:14PM

Should Americans pay higher taxes to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit?


There. We’ve said it. Before you get all riled up, pro or con, remember that this is not a political blog. We’re looking at this from a personal-finance perspective.


It’s timely because the deficit for the federal fiscal year that ended Wednesday, Sept. 30, is expected to be $1.58 trillion.


Actually, we’re not the first to bring this up, not hardly. Author and Republican economist Bruce Bartlett raised the issue in Forbes with the recent column “Fiscal responsibility requires higher taxes.” Some rich folks, including Warren Buffett, argue that they and their wealthy peers should pay more.


You can shop around for caskets.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 7:05PM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.

The memorial for Michael Jackson cost the city of Los Angeles $1.4 million, according to The Associated Press. While most of us won't be remembered at the Staples Center in front of 11,000 people, funerals are expensive.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, a traditional funeral costs about $6,000, and many funerals run well over $10,000. Costs include the casket, embalming, the service, cemetery site, and grave liner. In short, death is big business in the United States.

And to make matters worse, most of us plan a funeral while dealing with the emotional trauma of the death of a loved one. We find ourselves making important financial decisions in the midst of an emotional crisis with very little time to consider our options. Our sadness for the loss of a loved one, moreover, sometimes expresses itself in high cost funeral decisions.


Help them shape their financial futures.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 6:57PM

This post comes from Linsey Knerl at partner blog Wise Bread.

Kids may think they know what they want to get for the holidays this year, but that doesn't mean they have a clue about what they need. Use this gift-giving opportunity as a chance to invest in them and help change their financial futures

Here is a rundown of some of the best money-management gifts I have used for kids under 12.


You must learn to seperate wants from needs.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 6:53PM

This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

Coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, bottled water, manicures, car washes (full detailing), weekday lunches, vending machine snacks, interest charges on credit cards, and unused memberships. Do you know what these items have in common? They are the top 10 money sinkholes, according to

You could try to commit that list to memory and see if you can cut out any of those items to find a little extra cash. For instance, cut out a pack-a-day smoking habit and gain, on average, $1,660 a year.


Even recycling them is not a good solution.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 6:29PM

"Fox" at Squawkfox has taken up a cause we can strongly embrace: "It's time to sack plastic bags."

Shouldn't we all, with the price of oil -- yes, they're made with oil -- and environmental worries, be moving to reusable shopping bags and bins? Plastic shopping bags are a blight, and they never -- for all practical purposes -- go away.

"With few exceptions, plastic bags will take thousands of years to break down," Fox says. "The bag my first pair of shoes came in a couple decades ago is out there, somewhere."

Here are other good points to keep in mind (to read her entire list of 50 reasons, click here):


Health care can be a big expense.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 6:17PM

Guest poster Emily Starbuck Gerson at Sense to Save had a revelation not uncommon  among new pet owners: "I love my pets, but I had no idea they would be so costly."

The cost of pet ownership has been discussed by many personal-finance bloggers lately, and we'll share a lot of their ideas here, starting with one of the most expensive and emotionally difficult issues. My Money Blog asks how much you would pay to treat a pet with a serious illness or injury.

He writes: "For us, we would give up just about all of our luxuries before withholding health care for our dog." But, he adds, if treatment will merely extend your pet's misery, "there is a time that palliative care is the most humane choice."

Free Money Finance writes about a recent article in Parade magazine on pet care. One point he stresses is that you need to keep your pet at an ideal weight, and observes -- correctly, we think -- that "it seems like most pets I know are fat."



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