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Protecting your identity is a great idea. Paying for that protection isn't.

By Stacy Johnson Dec 15, 2009 7:59AM

It’s a nightmare scenario. Someone, somewhere is pretending to be you. Using your credit cards, bank accounts, even getting loans in your name. It happens every year to millions of Americans and costs the banking industry billions.

And even though your losses might be limited by the law --ultimately you're not responsible for money obtained by someone illegally forging your signature -- should you become a victim, your life and credit rating will suffer, perhaps for years.

 

Enter American entrepreneurial spirit. Because ID theft is so highly publicized and so frightening, a crop of companies now offer to help -- for a fee, of course. Pay them every month and they'll help protect your identity. One even ran commercials showing a moving billboard driving around with the CEO's Social Security number on it: That's how confident he was that nobody could steal your identity with their $10-a-month service.

 

But here's something the ads don't say: The technique many services use is something you can do yourself in less than five minutes absolutely free

 

Maybe that's too small for most folks, but many agree that smaller is better these days.

By Karen Datko Dec 14, 2009 8:20PM

McMansions are out. Small spaces are in. But just how small can you go? Can a couple live happily in a Manhattan apartment that’s not quite 15 by 10 feet, plus a narrow, 3-by-9-foot bathroom?

 

Zaarath and Christopher Prokop share the space with their two cats, and have pronounced life “harmonious” after three months in what the New York Post calls the city’s smallest apartment. (View the photos here.)

 

It should be noted that their living arrangements are somewhat unusual.

 

Fluffier toilet paper takes a greater environmental toll.

By Teresa Mears Dec 14, 2009 7:09PM

I could be drummed out of the personal-finance blogging community for this confession, but here it is: I do not have a toilet paper strategy.

 

When I run out, I buy more, usually at the supermarket. Sometimes I use a coupon, but usually I don’t. I try to buy it on sale, but I don’t obsess if I pay full price. I do not buy toilet paper (or anything else) in bulk because I don’t have room to store it.

 

Now comes the news that not only should we worry about what we’re spending on toilet paper, we should care about how we are affecting the environment. And we don’t just mean using fewer sheets.

 

Viewers have been complaining almost since people first had TVs at home.

By Teresa Mears Dec 14, 2009 2:49PM

Since the 1960s, consumers have been complaining about loud TV commercials.

 

Finally, Congress and broadcasters seem to be paying attention (maybe consumers should have bought some loud commercials themselves?). Legislation filed two years ago by Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, may come to a House vote as early as this week.

 

It only took 45 years of consumer complaints, according to Consumers Union.

 

One reader said she even removes her diamond ring before entering the store.

By Karen Datko Dec 14, 2009 2:28PM

When you shop at thrift stores, do you feel guilt for depriving poorer folks of the items you purchased at bargain-basement prices?

  

Julia at Bargain Babe confessed that she does. She's felt bad about “sucking up a limited resource,” she wrote. “I can afford to pay more for clothes," her thinking goes. "Therefore I should, leaving the Salvation Army and Goodwill selection to the poor.”

 

Most readers advised her to get over it, and at least one thought Julia had lost her lid -- “You cannot be serious about this question,” Mimi said -- but others understood exactly what she was talking about.

 

We're negotiating all the time, so why not learn how to do it effectively?

By Karen Datko Dec 14, 2009 10:11AM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.

 

In May, I wrote about how to negotiate your salary. I argued that following the advice in Jack Chapman’s “Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1,000 a Minute” is one of the best ways to improve your financial well-being. I still believe it. If you’re looking for work or looking for a raise, you should absolutely read his book.

 

But negotiation is a skill you can use in other parts of your life, too. In fact, in “You Can Negotiate Anything,” Herb Cohen says that we negotiate constantly with our spouses, our children, our parents, our co-workers, and our friends.

The 3 crucial variables
In every negotiation, Cohen says, there are three crucial variables: power, time, and information.

 

California homeowners find strategic default and becoming renters the new American dream.

By Teresa Mears Dec 11, 2009 6:02PM

Is defaulting on your underwater mortgage and then renting a better house for less money the new American dream?

 

The Wall Street Journal this week wrote about several families in California who did just that and are happier for it.

 

"It's just a better life. It really is," says Shana Richey, a schoolteacher who gave up on a house in Palmdale, Calif., that had declined more than 50% in value since she and her husband bought it in 2004.

 

The people in the Snuggies marketing department are evil geniuses.

By Karen Datko Dec 11, 2009 2:41PM

This guest post comes from Andrea at Fools and Sages.

 

They’re everywhere!

 

Last year when the Snuggie commercial came out, it was just another silly product with a fun commercial -- although not nearly as fun as the ShamWow. When a parody went viral on YouTube, I was laughing along with everyone else. And when my neighbor admitted to actually owning one, I patted her on the arm and told her how much I appreciate her as a constant source of amusement.

 

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