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Expect more mobile coupons as retailers seek to reach phone-addicted millennials.

By Teresa Mears Feb 9, 2010 6:32PM

Target has become the latest retailer, and among the first major national retailers, to offer its coupons via cell phone. You can also download your Target gift cards to your phone.


Expect this trend to continue. The Dallas Morning News reports that J.C. Penney is rolling out cell phone coupons nationwide next month, and 7-Eleven just finished a test in San Diego. Sears offers some mobile coupons via Cellfire, the electronic coupon site used by Kroger and other supermarkets.


The co-founder of Seventh Generation says detergent is often unnecessary. She does a test.

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 4:56PM

This guest post comes from “vh” at Funny about Money.


"Frugal Scholar," who must read everything of value on the entire Internet, stumbled upon an amazing remark in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal. In an article, Seventh Generation co-founder Jeffrey Hollender remarks that it’s surprising most people use laundry detergent at all: “You don’t even need soap to wash most loads,” he says. The truth is, it’s the action of the agitator, not the chemicals, that gets most clothes clean.


Uhmmm …. Say what, my Captain of Industry?


Most of us have figured out that we need only a fraction of the amount we were brought up to pour into the washer, partly because newer detergents are far more efficient and partly because you don’t really need even the recommended amount. But … no detergent at all?


Well, of course, the gantlet was down.


Survey shows fewer companies believe employees will have enough money for retirement.

By Teresa Mears Feb 9, 2010 3:41PM

Good news for employees: About 80% of medium-size and large companies that suspended or reduced their company match to 401k programs last year are planning to restore their matching contributions in 2010.


But, the same survey also showed that employers don’t believe their employees have the ability to save enough for retirement and are looking for ways to help -- short of adding pension plans, of course.


Card issuers are supposed to consider a person's ability to pay before they issue a new card. But what does that really mean?

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 1:13PM

This guest post comes from Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice.


Most of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 -- that well-crafted and thoroughly thought through law that will fix all that is wrong about credit cards and allow us to carry guns in national parks -- comes into effect on Feb. 22. So it’s time for bloggers like me to revisit the act, particularly some of the less widely discussed provisions, and tell our readers all about the big changes on the way.


WalletPop beat me to it last week with a post “Lenders plan to guess your income from credit report.” It was about how the CARD Act "requires lenders to consider your ability to pay any new or additional debt before approving a credit card application." Apparently, that means verifying income, which puts a damper on those really annoying pitches you get to open a store-branded card whenever you try to buy something.


"Retail stores are quite upset about this change in the instant approval of their cards," Bill Hardekopf, CEO of, wrote to WalletPop by e-mail. "Consumers now need to show proof of income when they apply for a card, and not many of us carry this around when we are shopping in the mall."


This made me, briefly, optimistic that the CARD Act would improve my life after all.


Here's how the IRS picks tax returns to examine more closely.

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 9:41AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Doing your taxes is never fun. Even if you ignore how you must spend a couple of hours filling out boring forms, finding documents and researching deductions, there’s always the fear that you’ll be audited. I remember having the most vanilla tax returns back when I was a teenager, the 1040-EZ, and even then I was irrationally concerned about an audit.

The reality is that very few people get audited -- just a couple percent each year -- and some of them deserve it. As much as we might like to think of the IRS as some cruel, emotionless monster trying to make the lives of hardworking Americans as miserable as possible, it's not. It's trying to collect tax revenue so the government can continue to provide the services hardworking Americans need.

How does the IRS decide whom to audit? It’s actually very straightforward.


Organic markets have been cutting prices. Should you buy?

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 8:48AM

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


Going organic has become a lot less trendy in the struggling economy.

As consumers have cut back spending, one of the first places they’ve looked to save is in the organics aisle at the grocery store. Sixty percent of consumers say they have changed their organic purchasing habits since the recession hit, according to a December study from market researcher Mintel. Three percent have stopped buying organic altogether.

The single biggest factor: price. Consumers have nicknamed Whole Foods "Whole Paycheck" for its high prices, and the store has struggled with that image over the last year, says Michelle Chang, an analyst who covers the supermarket industry for Morningstar. One thing that Whole Foods and other natural retailers have done to retain customers is cut prices to stay competitive. Whole Foods has also been pushing its lower-priced private label, which includes organics, she says.


When is the higher price of organics worth it? Here are five ways to shop within your budget:


A guide to using your coupon without demonstrating to the server that you're stupid or cheap.

By Karen Datko Feb 8, 2010 4:55PM

Lots of restaurants are so desperate for business right now that dining coupons are relatively easy to come by. (And we help you locate them every week.) That being said, there’s nothing wrong with using a little etiquette while you’re getting 20% off, or two dinners for the price of one, or a free appetizer or piece of cheesecake.


It appears that some of you have been acting like jerks. Hanna Raskin observes in a post at Slashfood that “coupon users tend to be among the most impolite diners.”


To avoid being that person, read her tips. Among them:


For most homeowners, insulation gives you the best bang for your buck, but you might want to start with an energy audit.

By Teresa Mears Feb 8, 2010 4:20PM

If you live in an older home, you may be looking at old windows, old doors, an old furnace and high power bills -- and wondering which improvement would save you the most money on energy costs.


Tax credits of up to $1,500 per homeowner, for 30% of the cost of energy-saving improvements, make 2010 a good year to tackle some of those jobs. But which ones will give you the best bang for your buck?



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