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What's cheaper: Tuna or egg salad? Len Penzo adds it all up in his second annual survey of how much homemade sandwiches cost.

By Karen Datko Aug 6, 2010 8:15AM

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


Yes, school is right around the corner, and the honeybee is once again gearing up for another season of endless sandwich making for the kids' brown-bag lunches. She won't be alone.


Every day, millions of people pack a sandwich or two to eat for lunch at their school or place of employment, and who can argue with that strategy?


While I realize that packing a homemade lunch is more economical and more healthful than eating out at a burger joint or some other greasy spoon, this intrepid personal-finance blogger was not satisfied to simply accept the obvious financial wisdom of forgoing a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese in lieu of the handmade ham and Swiss cheese sandwich. Uh-uh, not me.


So last year I took a vow to never rest until I knew which of the 10 most common brown-bag sandwiches offered the best value of them all. 


You don't have to be a billionaire to make your donations count.

By Karen Datko Aug 5, 2010 7:31PM

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


As of this week, 40 billionaires have pledged to donate the majority of their wealth to charity. Consumers inspired by the gesture can give just as effectively -- in smaller amounts.


Bill Gates and Warren Buffett announced Wednesday that their "Giving Pledge," a recession-inspired commitment to sign over at least half of their assets to nonprofits over their lifetime or after their death, now numbers 40 signers, including themselves. Among the philanthropists: Oracle founder Larry Ellison, film director George Lucas, designer Diane Von Furstenberg and hotel mogul Barron Hilton.


Paper or plastic? Here are eight reasons why credit cards beat cash (or debit cards) at the checkout line.

By Stacy Johnson Aug 5, 2010 6:38PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


Like many consumer advocates, I'm certainly no fan of credit cards. It's hard to like plastic when I've done so many stories about  people who end up in a financial death spiral due to revolving debt. (I've even written a book called "Life or Debt.") 


And I can't begin to count the stories I've done over the last 20 years about banks abusing their card customers with usurious rates, unfair fees and all manner of sneaky tactics specifically designed to transfer wealth from Main Street to Wall Street.


With all the negative press and recent legislation exposing the seamy underbelly of the credit card industry, it's easy to believe that credit cards are the downfall of Western civilization. But maybe this pendulum has swung too far.


Should you refinance? With rates this low, it's something to consider, but it's not for everyone.

By Karen Datko Aug 5, 2010 3:21PM

We're starting to sound like a broken record here: For the sixth time in seven weeks, mortgage interest rates have fallen to yet another record low. No one has seen the likes of rates like these since the 1950s, when Dwight Eisenhower was president, June Cleaver cleaned house in a shirtwaist dress, and mortgages typically were for 20 or 25 years.

The average rate for a 30-year fixed loan is 4.49%, according to Freddie Mac's weekly survey, down from 4.54% last week. The average rate for a 15-year fixed is 3.95%, compared with 4% a week ago.


My 4-year-old is saving for charity and has already made a contribution to his college fund.

By Karen Datko Aug 5, 2010 11:08AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.


My 4-year-old son thinks that the way you get a new video game is by trading for it at the used video game store. My 2-year-old daughter thinks the best way to get a new book is to go to the kids' room at the library.

At dinnertime, they both eat exactly what their parents eat, as opposed to making them a special kid-friendly meal that racks up extra food dollars.


They both think a spectacularly fun evening involves going to the local park and having a picnic.


The only times they're spoiled with the things they want is birthdays, Christmas, or when Grandma comes to town. After all, that's why they have an allowance. Meanwhile, my 4-year-old is saving part of his allowance for charity and has already made a contribution to his college fund.


What do these things have in common?


Some parents are making a major investment to get their unemployed grads jobs as CEOs of their own companies.

By Teresa Mears Aug 5, 2010 9:12AM

Are you tired of your new college grad moping around the house, watching cartoons and playing video games because no one will give him a job?


Maybe you should buy him a business. Or should you?


The Wall Street Journal's Sue Shellenbarger wrote a column about parents who bought their unemployed new grads businesses, including a fast-food franchise and a junk-hauling franchise.


Buyers are pleased, though. And agents find ways to get their licks in.

By Karen Datko Aug 4, 2010 6:28PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.


Home sellers are not a happy bunch, judging from a new survey on customer satisfaction with the nation's largest real-estate companies.


The survey, by J.D. Power and Associates, asked buyers to rate companies based on the sales agent, the office and other services. Sellers were asked to score companies on the agents, marketing, office and other services.


Here's what the survey found:


What do marriage, the Army and car leasing have in common? All are much easier to get into than out of.

By Stacy Johnson Aug 4, 2010 4:31PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


There are lots of things in life that are fairly simple to fall into, but much more complicated to extricate yourself from. Three examples? Marriage, the Army -- and a car lease.

When I started doing consumer news 20 years ago, there was basically no way to get out of a car lease: Either you paid it off (add up the total monthly payments remaining and send a check to the leasing company) or you ran an ad in the local paper on the off chance you'd find someone both willing and able to take over your payments.



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