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Get a call about missing jury duty? Don't fall for it -- and certainly don't pay out! It's a scam that is making the rounds, experts warn.

By Mitch Lipka Aug 19, 2013 6:16PM
Image: Phone (© Corbis)If you get a call that claims you missed a jury duty assignment, watch out if the caller asks you to pay a fine. It's a scam that's running hot right now -- prompting a spate of warnings.

Officials scattered from Massachusetts to South Carolina and Alabama to California and Utah have put out the word about residents getting shaken down to clear their records. Often the calls come from out of state, but because caller ID can be faked, they can also appear to be coming from the local courthouse or a law enforcement agency.

The most likely people to fall for this sort of scam are older folks who think they are doing the right thing and want to avoid getting a bad mark on their record, said Eduard Goodman, chief privacy officer of the personal security firm IDT911. Plus, he said, the calls can be quite convincing -- right down to including background noise that makes it seem like the call is coming from a police station.

 

It's easy to see why subscription-based companies love the automatic renewal. But many consumers hate it.

By Credit.com Aug 19, 2013 5:45PM

This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site Credit.com.


MSN Money PartnerWhen was the last time you tried to give a company $100 and it refused to take it?

Image: Credit card © Mike Kemp, Getty Images, Getty ImagesThat happened to me this week as I bargained with Sirius XM Radio over continuing my membership to the satellite radio service.  I said I would renew for a year, but only if the firm put in writing that it would not automatically renew my account. I'd had a bad time twice with the firm's renewal policies, as have many others, and I told them I wouldn't play renewal roulette again.

Sirius turned down my money rather than agree to my terms. That's how critical automatic renewals are to Sirius XM’s business model.
 

Even when money is tight, you should never have to choose between feeding yourself vs. feeding your pets. Here are 5 resources to find low cost food for your animals.

By Smart Spending Editor Aug 19, 2013 3:40PM
This post is by Val McCauley of Living on the Cheap.

MSN Money PartnerOwning a pet can be one of the most rewarding relationships in your life. Pets are loyal, loving and even provide health benefits for their owners, such as lower blood pressure and stress reduction. Unfortunately, pets can be expensive between food costs, supplies and trips to the vet. 

Image: Dog (© Alley Cat Productions/Brand X/Corbis)Many people consider their pets members of the family and are willing to spend the money to care for their pets, but when faced with money issues, sometimes there just isn’t any extra room in the budget to care for them. During tough economic times, there is often a steep rise in the number of cats and dogs being surrendered to animal shelters or abandoned as owners face unemployment, foreclosures, evictions and other financial hardships. 

And when shelters get full, they often have no choice other than to euthanize innocent animals.

Fortunately there are ways to get help without abandoning Fido or Fluffy. Local and national organizations can help people care for their pets over the short-term and long-term. Here are 5 ways to find help caring for your pet during hard times. 

Jeans, sports equipment or winter coats someone else has outgrown may be just exactly what your student needs, and at a fraction of the original cost.

By MSN Smart Spending editor Aug 19, 2013 12:51PM
This post comes from Tisha Tolar at partner site Wise Bread.

WiseBread logoThrift store shopping is not for everyone; some people find it intimidating, thinking that you need a lot of time or skill to find a great deal. While it helps to have the right mindset and an eye for a find, just about anyone can score real deals on quality stuff at thrift stores.

Mother helping son with homework © KidStock, Blend Images, Getty ImagesAnd during the coming back-to-school frenzy, a thrift store deal is exactly what parents need to help save some much needed time and money.

From designer jeans to new-to-your-kid dorm furniture, your local thrift store probably has lots of ways to save you a bunch of cash during your back-to-school shopping spree. Consider these six.

1. Jeans and uniforms

The price of jeans for kids who are still growing is almost obscene. They often cost as much as the adult-sized versions but only may be usable for a single semester of school. The good news is that because kids grow out of jeans so quickly, many pre-owned pairs donated to the local thrift store are still in like-new condition but priced for just a few dollars.  

While most people purchase cars rather than leasing them, leasing may be a better option for you. Here's what you need to consider.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 19, 2013 11:48AM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News. 


MTN logoIf you're ready for a new car, you're likely asking yourself what type of car you want, whether to upgrade to a larger ride and which color you prefer. But here's another question you should be asking yourself: Should you lease or buy?


Most people finance their vehicles or pay in cash, but leasing has some benefits too. How do you decide? Here are some of the factors you should consider before you make up your mind.

 

Scholarships and grants now pay for almost one-third of higher education costs. But you have to keep looking throughout your college career.

By Donna_Freedman Aug 19, 2013 9:57AM

Logo: Image: Graduation cap (Brand X Pictures/Photolibrary/PHOTOLIBRARY GROUP LTD)So your kid got enough scholarships and grants to pay for most or all of freshman year. Congratulations! Tell him to keep looking.

Yes, the past year was pretty fraught: writing application essays, poring over  the different financial aid offerings, deciding which school to attend, searching for those extra-long dorm bed sheets. It's tempting to take a breather and focus on being a college freshman.

But sophomore, junior and senior tuition also has to be paid, so the search for funds should continue year-round. Scholarships and grants now make up 30% of the average financial aid plan, according to a recent Sallie Mae study.

 

Can't remember the last time you stood in line at your local bank branch? You might be ready to make the switch away from a brick & mortar bank.

By Smart Spending Editor Aug 16, 2013 6:19PM
This post is by Simon Zhen of partner site U.S. News & World Report.

MSN Money PartnerWe're entering the next evolutionary stage of bank branches.

Businessman in car with smartphone © Image Source, Image Source, Getty ImagesBanks are introducing smaller branches, with bankers servicing customers through mobile devices instead of sitting at desks, and ATMs have been upgraded to mimic tablet-banking experiences. It's a response to the changing consumer banking behavior.

According to a Pew Research Center study published this month, 61% of Internet users do their banking online, and 35% of cellphone owners use mobile banking. And the percentages are on the rise.

So, if you're not relying much on branches, do you need to choose a bank that offers physical branches at all? Not burdened by the costs of operating physical locations, online banks can offer accounts with higher interest rates and lower fees -- both of which are attractive to any consumer.

Here are four signs that you can drop your bank and go with an online-only bank: 

Forgetting to add a spouse as a beneficiary or not disclosing your bad credit, among other missteps, can create financial and marital tension.

By MSN Smart Spending editor Aug 16, 2013 4:21PM
This post comes from Michele Lerner at partner site Insurance.com.

Insurance.com logoMoney often tops the list of topics that married couples argue about, but insurance issues can be just as financially and emotionally costly.

Man looking at fed up woman © Image Source, Getty ImagesRelationships can be complicated and insurance almost always is, so when the two intertwine, there's always the chance there will be misunderstandings that can lead to both insufficient coverage as well as marital distress.

"Insurance issues are serious and shouldn't be taken lightly," says Paul Blanco, managing director of Barnum Financial Group, a MetLife office in Shelton, Conn. "You should be proactive, not reactive, when it comes to insurance."

Here are five major mistakes: 

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