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One of the frustrating things about money is that our goals are often years away.

By Karen Datko Feb 5, 2010 11:27AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller


Wouldn't it be great if you could boil down into one simple goal everything you need to get your finances on the right track? Like what they call a swing-thought in golf, what one thing should we keep in the front of our minds when it comes to money?


The possible list may seem daunting. From retirement to mortgages and credit cards to insurance, our financial lives have become increasingly complicated over the last 20 years. So how can we possibly boil everything down to just one idea? Let me explain.


The company is taking a beating right now, but the recalled cars will likely regain value.

By Karen Datko Feb 4, 2010 7:59PM

Everyone we can think of who has had a Toyota loved that vehicle. We loved ours too -- a used four-cylinder 4Runner that took us places we’d never have gone without it, including a boulder-encrusted, switch-backing, cliff-hugging strip of dirt imitating a road in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. (Our knuckles were white.)


Years later, when we sold that rig to a DIY mechanic type, we cried as it drove away.


So, like many who’ve considered Toyota a more-than-dependable brand, we’re amazed at its sudden fall from grace -- massive recalls for gas pedals and dangerous floor mats, and now concerns about brakes in the 2010 Prius. And we wonder, if you own one of the millions of recalled Toyotas, should you trade it in and buy a different vehicle? Clearly, other automakers are willing to deal.


Here’s what the experts say:


Heinz introduces larger, easier-to-use package, plus makes health-related improvements to its products.

By Teresa Mears Feb 4, 2010 7:09PM

Now here is an innovation the world has been waiting for: a new ketchup packet that’s less messy and easier to open.


Not being ketchup eaters, we didn’t realize immediately how important this is. But if you think that people were happy with the old flat ketchup packets, just check Facebook for all the groups that have sprung up in support of better (and more) ketchup packets.


"The packet has long been the bane of our consumers," Dave Ciesinski, vice president of Heinz Ketchup, told The Associated Press. "The biggest complaint is there is no way to dip and eat it on the go."


Prices begin to make up some lost ground, and sellers are acknowledging the long road back to 'normal.'

By Karen Datko Feb 4, 2010 5:28PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.


The good news about housing is that prices aren't as awful as they were.


Prices are rising and, as of November, the latest data available, stand where they were in September 2003, as the real estate boom was taking off. The Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index released last week reports that in four cities -- Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco -- month-to-month prices have risen over six straight months or more.


Michelle Meyer, a Barclays Capital economist, told Bloomberg, "We're seeing what looks to be a bottoming out in prices."


Great, just four more years of loss to make up and we'll be back to square one.


Consumer Reports tastes 37 ground coffee blends and isn't overwhelmed with the results.

By Karen Datko Feb 4, 2010 3:16PM

This post comes from partner site


You may have a hard time finding a standout cup of coffee.


None of the 37 caffeinated and decaffeinated ground coffee blends tested by Consumer Reports coffee experts earned an "excellent" or "very good" rating.


However, that's not to say there aren't any "good" cups of coffee.


Trent's friend says she eschews frugality because she 'wants to have a life.'

By Karen Datko Feb 4, 2010 1:02PM

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


Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about some of the things I write about here at The Simple Dollar. Even though she’s struggling with some serious debt issues, she told me flatly that she didn’t want to take most of the advice given on The Simple Dollar. When I asked her why, she breathed in deeply and told me the following (paraphrased):

I don’t want to be a “frugal” person. I don’t want to be the person who is no fun because I’m always chasing every dime and I’m always vetoing the fun things to do. I don’t want to be the person who leaves out cheap toilet paper for guests. I don’t want to just sit at home every night cackling as I count my pennies. I want to have a life.

The restaurant chain again uses Super Bowl ads to launch its hugely successful Grand Slam breakfast giveaway. With video reports.

By Teresa Mears Feb 4, 2010 12:56PM

Ready for a Super Bowl instant replay?


Denny’s, which practically shut down the Internet when it offered a free Grand Slam breakfast during its Super Bowl commercials last year, is doing it again. This time, you don’t even have to watch the game to get the details.


The free breakfast will be 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday. Anyone who shows up at a participating location gets a free Original Grand Slam, which is two eggs, two slices of bacon, two pieces of sausage and two pancakes. You can take a brisk walk later.


Slumping hotels are offering guests freebies and discounted rooms.

By Karen Datko Feb 4, 2010 10:53AM

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


Romantics on a budget can get some love this year from the lodging industry -- if you don’t mind a little rain or long plane rides.


Travel has yet to pick up from its 2009 slump, and properties are trying to convince consumers to book a quick Valentine’s Day getaway. While holding the line on room prices, some hotels are offering free extras such as sparkling wine, spa credits and candlelit dinners. Others are reducing room rates by as much as half.



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