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Would a proposed federal program prompt you to weatherize your house?

By Karen Datko Dec 15, 2009 4:51PM

Regular readers here know that budgets are sexy. Now insulation is, too -- according to the president.


President Obama held a roundtable at a Home Depot to push "cash for caulkers," then addressed a larger crowd at the store that included Home Depot CEO Frank Blake, union members and other folks. According to The Los Angeles Times, he said:

We were at the roundtable and somebody said, "Insulation's not sexy." I disagree. Here's what's sexy about it: saving money.

That is sexy, and so is the thought of being toasty warm when it’s beyond frigid outside -- without a budget-busting power bill. (The high here is supposed to be 15 degrees today -- a vast improvement over the previous 24 hours.) Congress would have to approve the cash for caulkers program, officially called Home Star, but here’s how it might work.


Jobless lack health care, have trouble sleeping.

By Teresa Mears Dec 15, 2009 2:12PM

Tammy Linville of Louisville, Ky., lost her clerical job a year and a half ago. Her boyfriend is still working, but his hours have been cut and he’s earning less. Her car broke down, and she can’t afford to fix it. The couple are struggling to support themselves and their two small children.


 “Every time I think about money, I shut down because there is none,” Linville told The New York Times. “I get major panic attacks. I just don’t know what we’re going to do.”


The 29-year-old woman was interviewed for a Times story about a new Times/CBS News poll demonstrating the emotional and financial toll that losing their jobs is taking on the unemployed.


It's the next 'big thing' but it can be a tremendous burden. Enjoy your freedom while you can.

By Karen Datko Dec 15, 2009 1:23PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Whenever my wife or I tell people what I do (personal-finance blogger), invariably one of the next questions they ask is if I have any stock picks for them. After I’ve explained that I don’t do that sort of thing, the next topic usually has to do with buying a house.

After graduating college, the next “big thing” on peoples’ minds is usually buying a home. My belief is that you shouldn’t buy a home within five years of graduating college or high school.


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.



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