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Bundle: Parents go out more than you might think, dinner with the grandkids is a struggle, and where you live matters. A lot.

By Janet Paskin Feb 18, 2010 1:01PM

Among the obvious budget busters, dining tops the list. A week's worth of homemade grilled-cheese sandwiches costs about what you'd spend on the same lunch at the diner. Add tax and tip, and you're looking at a 25% surcharge, not even considering profligate splurges like -- gasp! -- a Pepsi.

Data from MSN partner blog shows, not surprisingly, that as people make more, they spend more on dining out; as they make less, restaurants command less of their dining dollar. Here's what is shocking:


The agency doesn't look kindly on the "taxes are voluntary" and other frivolous arguments against paying.

By Karen Datko Feb 18, 2010 12:49PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site


Now that we're well into another tax-filing season, the Internal Revenue Service is engaging in one of its annual rituals -- debunking the numerous, creative arguments citizens give as a reason they don't have to file a tax return.

With the rise of the Internet, these tax myths have gained new currency as they spread with lightning speed around the Web. The IRS says they are all bogus and that anyone who relies on them will end up in trouble.


For example, one argument claims that the law describes the tax system as "voluntary," and therefore no one really has to pay taxes.


New gadgets promise to enhance your workout. Are they worth the price?

By Karen Datko Feb 18, 2010 11:31AM

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


Has watching the 2010 Winter Olympics inspired you to get fit? New gadgets that coach couch potatoes to be more active can help, but only if you stick to a training schedule.

The latest fitness trackers promise to keep you motivated by helping you monitor the calories you’ve burned and the progress you’ve made toward fitness goals like losing weight, perfecting yoga poses or running a marathon. “Anything that gets people moving is a good thing,” says John Rowley, director of fitness at the American Institute of Healthcare & Fitness, an integrated wellness facility based in Raleigh, N.C. “These make it a little more fun and interactive.”


A writer who used to believe that every waiter deserved at least a minimal tip explains why he's changed his tune.

By Karen Datko Feb 18, 2010 10:35AM

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


I don’t believe in the idea of a “minimum tip.”


There, I said it. It’s a big change from my previous belief on tipping.


A few weeks ago, my family and I ate at a restaurant where the service was extremely poor. We sat for 25 minutes waiting for our server (my wife was literally putting on her coat).


After we ordered, we spied our server sitting at a table with other restaurant employees (where the server had also been while we were waiting). We did not get our drinks until after our meal arrived and we had requested them again (to our server’s annoyance).


When the plates were being served, mine was bumped on the edge of the table, knocking a portion of my food off the plate onto the floor.


Please Rob Me points out how vulnerable you can be when using location-sharing services like Foursquare.

By Karen Datko Feb 17, 2010 9:50PM

We’re not really interested that you’ve just spent $1 on a double cheeseburger at Burger King (going to $1.19 in April, by the way) so we won’t be tracking you on Blippy. And we don’t really care where you are right now, so while you might be sharing your location with your social-networking friends, Foursquare isn’t for us.


But someone else might care and, a new Web site points out in a somewhat humorous way, that someone might be a burglar. “Please Rob Me mocks all of the Foursquare users that have told Twitter to automatically broadcast their whereabouts,” Chris Gaylord wrote at The Christian Science Monitor.


TechCrunch explains how Please Rob Me works:


Consumers continue to report that mortgage servicers are difficult to work with.

By Karen Datko Feb 17, 2010 7:13PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site


Under pressure from the Obama administration, Bank of America says it has stepped up its efforts to modify mortgages through the White House's Home Affordable Modification Program.


Bank of America now says more than 12,700 of its mortgage holders have a permanent Home Affordable modification, up from nearly 3,200 a month earlier. Another 13,700 permanent modifications are pending, meaning final modified loan terms have been approved and documents have been sent for the customers' signatures, which will be their final step to a completed modification.


A reading of the Federal Reserve regulations suggests the law won't do what you think it will.

By Karen Datko Feb 17, 2010 6:43PM

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


In some ways, the CARD Act of 2009 was everything health care reform was not. It enjoyed broad bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by 361-64 and 90-5, respectively. It dealt with topics familiar to most Americans in simple terms. And it was refreshingly short, at only 33 pages.


A person might think that would make it a model for other legislation, an example of how effective government can be if reasonable people cast aside their partisan differences and write simple rules to make our lives better.


Then again, maybe not.


Music can affect our financial behavior, so don't take Lady Gaga shopping at Macy's. She could be helpful at Kroger.

By Teresa Mears Feb 17, 2010 3:57PM

We all know about the importance of the right music for workouts, the best music for a romantic evening and maybe even the most effective music to lull the baby (or yourself) to sleep. But who knew that music can make a difference in your financial life?


Numerous studies have linked music to spending behavior, writes Gina Roberts-Grey at “In fact, the kinds of music you listen to can impact your opinion of your finances, the likelihood you'll blow your budget at the grocery store and your approach to balancing your checkbook or paying credit card bills.”

Who knew?


So what kind of music is best for various times in one’s financial life?



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