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The terrain is already tough enough for new graduates. Don't make it worse by making these money missteps.

By MSN Money Partner May 30, 2013 11:58AM

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

moneytalksnews logoIf you're just graduating, I feel for you.

The economy is still bogged down and the job market is soft -- not a great time to start out in the world.

College graduate © Alys Tomlinson/Creatas Images/JupiterimagesBut don't make it worse by getting your financial life off on the wrong foot and developing bad money habits. In no particular order, here is a list of money moves to avoid as you enter the real world.

1. Borrowing to buy things that lose value

Cars, furniture, appliances, tech gadgets -- the value of these things is headed in one direction, and that's down. Paying interest means getting hit twice, first by the value loss, then by finance charges.

There are purchases where borrowing is justified: A home, a business, or an education can be among them because they at least have a chance of ultimately increasing your net worth. For pretty much everything else, the fewer borrowed bucks, the better.


Sometimes the easiest way to pay isn't necessarily the smartest. Here are 3 times when taking out a loan makes more sense than using a credit card to pay a big bill.

By MSN Money Partner May 30, 2013 10:37AM

This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site logoWhen you need something right away but can’t afford to pay cash, the easiest way to get it is to pull out a credit card and charge it.

Man paying with credit card © UpperCut Images/UpperCut Images/Getty ImagesBut that may not always be the best option. There are times when a personal loan trumps borrowing with a credit card. Here are three of them:

1. You don't want to risk your credit scores

Let’s say you need to borrow $4,000 to have dental work done. And let’s say you have a credit card with no balance and a $5,000 limit. If you charge the dentist’s bill, you will use 80% of your available credit on that credit card. When it comes to your credit scores, a high balance like that on a credit card is likely to hurt your scores.

The ratio of your balance to your available credit on a credit card is called the "utilization ratio." Consumers with the highest credit scores tend to use about 10% of their available credit.

But personal loans are viewed differently by many credit scoring models. If your loan is reported as "installment" rather than "revolving" credit, then utilization isn’t a factor.

2. You don't completely trust yourself

If you’ve ever run up a balance on a credit card with the intention of paying it off in full but found yourself making minimum payments instead, you know how easy it is to fall into the minimum payment trap.


What happens when your pet needs surgery or suffers another ailment that will cost thousands to treat? Many factors go into the decision of what to spend.

By MSN Smart Spending editor May 29, 2013 7:30PM
Recently we spent an unbudgeted $1,000 on a 10-year-old house cat. The pathology report on the tumor removed from her leg is not yet back, so we may be faced with more decisions. All this for a cat that has tested my strong stance against de-clawing by sharpening her talons on wooden bedposts and leather furniture.


Credit: © DenGuy/E+/Getty Images
Caption: Veterinarian Examines a Siamese CatWhat on Earth were we thinking? Perhaps we are not all that unusual. According to a 2010 survey, 62% of pet owners would spend up to $500 on a pet's medical care, although fewer than half say they would spend $1,000 and only one-third said they would spend $2,000 at the vet’s, according to The New York Times.


Of course, it is easy to set a budget in advance, but quite a different thing once you come face-to-face with medical decisions on a pet. There are tests, diagnoses and often more tests. The question is often, "How much more do we do?"

But sometimes, no matter what you spend, owners and vets conclude that further treatment will do nothing more than delay the inevitable. And what then? Pay for treatments understanding that you're essentially only buying your pet another month or so? Or make the call to end it all humanely.


What happens when a trip goes terribly wrong? Take these steps before you travel.

By Mitch Lipka May 29, 2013 6:13PM
An Arizona mom heads to Mexico for a funeral and ends up in prison as an accused drug smuggler. A travel nightmare? To be sure.

Image: Man with tropical drink (© Corbis)In fact, there's a whole lot that can go wrong when you're traveling. And when you've got a lot of time and money invested in the journey, you might want to think in advance about what could go wrong and consider whether you want to hedge against the worst case scenario.

It would have been hard to see Yanira Maldonado's situation coming. And trip insurance would be of little consolation or help if, as her family contends, you get arrested for no reason and are jailed for refusing to pay a bribe to a judge.

So, what's an American traveler to do when they're traveling abroad and end up, well, locked up? 

Suspect your new appliance isn't as good as the old one? You might be right. Here's what you can do to minimize the repair cost.

By MSN Money Partner May 29, 2013 4:17PM

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

MoneyTalksNews logoAppliances, both large and small, just aren't what they used to be. Case in point: I'm using a 10-year-old food processor borrowed from my mother because the blade in my one-year-old KitchenAid stopped spinning.

Here are some disturbing statistics from Consumer Reports. In three to four years, here are the odds of an appliance breaking down:


Even when you're supposedly off the treadmill, your credit score still matters. Here are 5 reasons why.

By MSN Money Partner May 29, 2013 4:10PM

This post comes from Robert Berger at partner site U.S. News & World Report.

MSN Money PartnerThoughts of retirement conjure up many things, perhaps including exotic travel, long walks and even a second career. Retirement is the prize after years of work. What probably doesn’t come to mind when you think of retirement is your credit score.

Senior couple embracing on beach, rear view © Digital Vision, Digital Vision, Getty ImagesYou may think that you can just stop monitoring your credit score once you retire, but this may not be true. While you’re (hopefully) not racking up more debt during retirement, here are five reasons you should still put effort into ensuring that your credit history stays clean and your credit score stays high:

1. Refinancing your mortgage. Sure, the goal is to go into retirement debt-free, but almost 40% of households headed by people ages 60 to 64 carry a mortgage, according to a study by the research group Strategic Business Insights. If you’re one of those adults heading into retirement still saddled with a mortgage, a high credit score can be a big help.


For those on a budget, national parks can be an ideal family summer vacation. Here are ways to save money on such trips.

By May 29, 2013 2:53PM
This post comes from Alyssa Goldman at partner site

National park trips can make ideal summer vacations: They're relatively inexpensive, appropriate for all ages, and brimming with entertaining activities. Even with the high season fast approaching, there are ways you can save on travel to national parks. Here are six tips for exploring national parks on a budget:

Family of three loading car with luggage, low angle view © Juice Images, Cultura, Getty Images1. Carpool. Not only will you save money on gas by piling family and friends into one car, you'll also save on entrance fees: Most national parks charge per vehicle, rather than per person, which can make a tight squeeze worth it.
Within large parks, take advantage of free shuttles and try to avoid getting gas until you get back to civilization, where it's more plentiful and affordable.

Got your diploma? Now give yourself some credit -- with these best credit card picks for new grads.

By Smart Spending Editor May 29, 2013 12:59PM
This post is by Odysseas Papadimitriou of partner site

MSN PartnerWhile 2013 college and high school graduates probably thought they’d seen the end of homework (at least for three months, if not forever), there is one task they must address if they want to enter the real world with a running start: credit building. 

Image: Shopping online (© Creatas/SuperStock)The difference between good and bad credit can be hundreds of thousands of dollars and a great deal of stress, as your credit standing impacts the loan and credit card terms you’ll get, whether or not you’ll be able to rent an apartment or lease a car, the insurance premiums you’ll have to pay, and the jobs for which you’re qualified. 

No one wants to enter the already-tough job market behind the eight ball or pay more than necessary for essentials when future income is anything but assured.

Luckily, credit building is a pretty simple homework assignment. All you really must do is open a credit card account and keep it in good standing. Whether you lock it in a drawer unused or pay for your purchases by the due date, the information that automatically gets sent to the major credit bureaus (i.e. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) each month will be positive, thereby helping your credit improve over time. You can expedite things by maximizing your credit lines and minimizing credit utilization, but the basic premise is the same regardless. 


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