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Pepsi wants to tap into Americans' desire for healthier soft drinks. Plus: Coupons and kids eat free at Quiznos.

By Teresa Mears Oct 8, 2010 12:45PM

Poor beleaguered soda. Though Americans still drink too many sweetened soft drinks, they are starting to ask questions about whether they should. Cities and states have tried to tax soda, and New York City even wants to ban its purchase with food stamps.

Seeking to capture the "healthy soda" market, or at least tap into consumers' desires for healthier beverages, PepsiCo has turned the old Sierra Mist into the new Sierra Mist Natural.


As part of a major marketing campaign, Pepsi is giving away 10 million cans on Saturday, Oct. 9, at 2,800 Wal-Mart Supercenters nationwide. The giveaway is not on the Wal-Mart sampling calendar, but we believe it is 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.


All that stuff you never use can benefit others. You get a tax write-off and more room in your life.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 8, 2010 11:24AM

Following my divorce I received dozens of paintings, prints and posters as part of my share of the community property. Some I've been able to sell. Some of it I probably never will.

I've decided to give away some of it, starting with one framed photo of Mount McKinley and three examples of the Alaska art genre known as "moose and goose in the spruce."

So who'd want it?


Elite status comes with perks worth the extra trip. But how do you get it without overpaying?

By Karen Datko Oct 8, 2010 10:57AM

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


Seth Miller has neither family nor business in Spokane, Wash., but that didn't stop the New Yorker from making three cross-country trips to the Eastern Washington city this year. Miller went solely for the miles, to secure his 2011 status as a platinum-level elite flier on Continental Airlines. "I didn't know what I was going to do there," he says. "I booked the (sale) fare and figured it out after."

Late-fall "mileage runs" are common among frequent fliers who are just a few miles shy of the 25,000 they need for "elite" status, which includes perks like seat upgrades and waived baggage fees. For the more casual traveler, such unnecessary trips might seem like flights of fancy. But with fares and fees on the rise, elite status is starting to confer tangible benefits. "Getting elite status used to be all about seat upgrades," says Randy Petersen, the founder of InsideFlyer, which tracks frequent-flier programs. "Today it's about saving money."


One man's tale of how 'requirements creep' crept into his kitchen remodeling plans and spread to the bathroom.

By Karen Datko Oct 8, 2010 7:55AM

This guest post comes from Len Penzo at Len Penzo dot Com.


As I've previously mentioned, the Penzo household is in the middle of a long-awaited home renovation project.


Originally, it was supposed to be a fairly modest kitchen renovation that involved replacing our porcelain tile countertops with granite and adding a new tumbled stone backsplash. It also included some new appliances.

Then, one quiet evening not too long ago, while we were watching the 6,000th episode of "House Hunters," the Honeybee decided to see if she could push the budget boundaries just a tad.


American Tax Relief's ads on TV, radio and the Internet said it could settle customers' tax debt for a fraction of what they owed.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2010 5:20PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site


A federal judge has halted a national operation accused of bilking consumers out of more than $60 million by falsely claiming it can reduce tax debts.

The California state business license of American Tax Relief was suspended last year for nonpayment of its own taxes, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which is seeking to make the defendants pay restitution to victims.


"We've made it a top priority to go after scammers who try to exploit the financial hardship of others," said David C. Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.


Citing obesity epidemic, New York wants to add sugary drinks to the list of items you can't buy with food stamps. Is that fair to the poor?

By Teresa Mears Oct 7, 2010 3:52PM

New York has a modest proposal: Don't let people use food stamps to buy soda.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Jay Patterson have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the food stamp program, to authorize a two-year demonstration project in New York City in an effort to combat obesity.


The ban would apply to any beverage that contains more than 10 calories per 8-ounce serving (soda has 150), except for milk and fruit juices without added sugar.


Being of the mind that no one should drink soda except as an occasional treat, we think this sounds like a great idea.


Economic woes keep many folks out of the housing market, and those who want a loan will must surmount bureaucratic obstacles.

By Teresa Mears Oct 7, 2010 12:32PM

Mortgage rates have again hit historic lows, with the average rate for a fixed-year mortgage at 4.27% this week, down from 4.32% last week.

That rate is the lowest since Freddie Mac began keeping statistics in 1971 and the lowest rate seen since 1950, according to National Bureau of Economic Research statistics from a time when loan rules were different.


Are we starting to sound like a broken record here? Maybe you should get out your 78 rpms, because you probably were still playing them the last time rates were this low. At least the value of vinyl is rising.


This year's previous low for mortgage rates was last week's  4.32%, also seen the week of Sept. 2, according to Freddie Mac's weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey. The average rate for a 15-year loan was 3.72%, down from 3.75% last week. That also is the lowest rate recorded since record-keeping began in 1991.


There are ways to try out the service before you buy, but it's a labor-intensive process.

By Karen Datko Oct 7, 2010 11:38AM

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


Kevin Van Dyk is perfectly willing to talk about why he is counting the days until he can ditch his cell phone service provider, AT&T, in March 2011. But you might not be able to get a hold of him.

"My phone only works half the time in my house," says Van Dyk, a Spring Hill, Fla., resident. He isn't sure if any of the other providers can do better -- spotty service is a problem in and around the small town, too. But with rampant billing errors and poor service from AT&T, he says, they can't do much worse.



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