Smart SpendingSmart Spending

It's a throwdown between name- and store-brand kielbasa, canned corn, chunky salsa and more. The winners may surprise you.

By Karen Datko Mar 2, 2010 7:32PM

Let’s tootle on over to the Penzo house where, if we’re lucky, Len and other members of the Penzo clan will be engaged in their new brand of family fun.


They’ve become masters of the blind taste test -- a safe and inexpensive activity you can try at home. Their taste tests pit name-brand foods against cheaper, store-brand equivalents. Whenever the store brand wins, that can end up saving lots of money.


Plus, Len’s posts are the most entertaining blind taste test accounts we’ve ever read. (“Too close to call,” Len exclaims at one point. “Nobody can accuse the Albertsons soup of being a laughing stock.” For a more staid approach, check out those done by Consumer Reports.)


Here’s what they’ve tested so far, as reported at Len Penzo dot Com (we’ll get to some results below):

  • Blind Taste Test No. 1: Name-brand vs. store-brand cookies (Oreos vs. the Albertsons version), sliced provolone, canned peas, kielbasa, tortilla chips and chunky salsa.

Facebook app lets you chide your friends about their bad spending habits.

By Teresa Mears Mar 2, 2010 4:50PM

From Mighty Bargain Hunter comes news of yet another useless Facebook application: Buddy Bailout, in which friends confront friends about their bad spending habits.


Is your friend The Fashionista, The Gambler, The Credit Abuser or The Over-Blinged? Maybe he needs a public nudge, with a posting headlined “(Your name here) thinks YOU need a bailout!”

Just think what it will do to the relationship when you post on your best friend’s wall, “Your ride looks great, but you can't afford the gas to drive it. Pimp out your bank account, not your ride.”


Let us channel Suze Orman for a moment and scream with our best Midwestern twang: “Are you kidding?!!!”


Before you put that tax stuff away, here's an idea: It's time to go paperless.

By Stacy Johnson Mar 2, 2010 1:40PM

This post comes from partner site Money Talks News.


Spring cleaning is an American ritual that traditionally entails dusting places you normally don’t, cleaning out closets, and straightening up places you might have been letting go.


But what about your file cabinet? Before you put your tax paperwork away this year, add something to your spring cleaning list: Eliminate as much paper as possible in your life.


To keep clients, spas are offering deals. Try these tips to get more value from your spa purchases.

By Karen Datko Mar 2, 2010 12:35PM

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


Business is slow at the spa. How good are the offers designed to lure customers back in?


Like hotels and restaurants, spas would rather fill empty space with low-priced appointments than have staff members sitting idle. "A room empty for that hour is lost," says Hannelore Leavy, executive director of the Day Spa Association. Some locations are offering a greater selection of short, cheap treatments to entice customers who want, say, a facial but can't afford the usual hour-long service. Others are creating specials for first-time visitors or repeat customers.


The trade-off:


Is your time best spent looking for ways to save a few dimes or dollars here and there?

By Karen Datko Mar 2, 2010 10:47AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


I bet this Devil’s Advocate post, which is part of a series I do to challenge conventional wisdom, is going to ruffle a lot of feathers.


Frugality is a pretty big topic in the personal-finance blogging community because there are so many things you can do to trim a few cents or dollars here or there. You can buy gadgets like a Kill A Watt to find out how much energy your appliances are using and disconnect them when they’re not in use. You can make your own laundry detergent or buy a rack to line-dry your clothes. There have been books filled to the brim with thousands upon thousands of ways to save a few dollars and cents here or there.


However, they never get to the heart of the issue:


The garden-variety millionaire is shopping at Target and Wal-Mart, just like you.

By Karen Datko Mar 1, 2010 8:57PM

We’ve noticed that SmartMoney’s “10 things a millionaire won’t tell you” (a version appeared here at MSN Money) is still provoking commentary long after it was initially posted. We never tire of the inside scoop on the rich, even if they’re not famous.


So what’s it like to be a millionaire? Two bloggers who apparently are members of that club examined the question by asking: Did SmartMoney get it right?

Yes and no, they said, but on one point they and we can all agree: Millionaires don’t feel rich, and with good reason.


States are rolling out "cash for clunker" appliance rebate programs. Check the rules to see if your state is offering a good deal.

By Teresa Mears Mar 1, 2010 5:58PM

The federal government wants to help you buy new energy-efficient appliances.


The program doesn’t have a catchy name, but $300 million was allocated last year to encourage consumers to upgrade their appliances and save energy. Exactly how the programs will work and which appliances are included is up to the states.


Once an employed homeowner, blogger is now jobless and living with her kids in an RV.

By Karen Datko Mar 1, 2010 2:34PM

This post comes from Sierra Black, a staff writer at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


The recession has hit families where they live. For many, it’s forced a change of address. Think about all those foreclosed homes and urban deserts: One in every 400 homes received a foreclosure notice last year. Unemployment is nearly 10%. Some families no longer have a place to call home at all.


That’s the situation for Jamie Alden (not her real name), a single mom of four kids who found herself caught up in a series of recession nightmares that have left her homeless and jobless, but not hopeless. She’s chronicling her adventures at The Boxcar Kids, where she writes with painful frankness about trying to find a job, help her kids thrive at school and keep her family together while living in a small travel trailer.



Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.