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Agency creates own goofy ads, seeks comments on new rules.

By Teresa Mears Nov 3, 2009 2:01PM

We’ve all seen those silly commercials where the two goofy guys get bad jobs because they didn’t monitor their credit reports at (tell your dad, tell your mom).


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is not amused, The New York Times reports. Because not only is the site competing with the government approved, the credit reports are not really free. They require you to sign up for a credit-monitoring service at $14.95 a month. The only way you can get your report for free is to sign up for the service, get the report and cancel within seven days.


The FTC has used several tactics to brand its own site as the official free credit report site, including the unusual step of making spoof videos featuring its own trio of slackers. In song, they warn: “Other sites may turn your head; they say they’re free, don’t be misled. Once you’re in their tangled web, they’ll sell you something else instead.”


As part of the CARD credit reform laws, the FTC is seeking public comment through Nov. 30 on new rules that would delay any advertising or marketing until after consumers have obtained their reports.


They're not supposed to have a minimum-purchase requirement, but you can see why they'd want to.

By Karen Datko Nov 3, 2009 1:14PM

Has this ever happened to you? You pull out your MasterCard to buy a pack of gum, and the clerk says you’ve got to spend more, say $5 total. The store has a minimum-purchase requirement for plastic.

If that’s the case, the store is violating the rules set by MasterCard and most other major credit card brands, David Seaman recently wrote at MainStreet.


But we can understand a store’s motivation: If it followed the rules on accepting credit cards for small purchases, it probably wouldn't make money on the sale.


Here’s how this works, David explained:


These guidelines will help, but it's really about how much you can afford.

By Karen Datko Nov 3, 2009 11:07AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


The holidays are about spending time with family and friends, being thankful for the things we’ve accomplished and the lives we’ve led, and showing appreciation to everyone who has made the year possible. Sometimes the year ends on a high note, as we celebrate the achievements. Sometimes we simply want to turn the page on a difficult 12 months.

For many, this year will seem more like the latter, but it’s important to remember that as difficult as it was for you, chances are many were facing much tougher challenges.


It’s on this more somber note that I present to you the 2009 Holiday Tipping Guide, which hopefully will give you an idea of what is considered customary when it comes to showing appreciation to those in the services industry who have gone above and beyond. These are merely guidelines; it’s up to you to decide what makes sense for both your area and your own finances.


A new study shows that nearly half of workers do when they lose or change jobs.

By Karen Datko Nov 2, 2009 6:20PM

What’s the best type of 401k to have? One that you don’t cash out when you lose your job or move on to the next one.

A new survey by Hewitt Associates of 170,000 people whose employment changed last year showed that 46% did in fact cash out -- and the percentage was higher among the youngest investors. The amount they lost to taxes and early-withdrawal penalties -- often 30% or more -- apparently wasn’t a disincentive. And neither was the loss of substantial compound interest over time.


The Associated Press said:

An employee who cashes out a $5,000 retirement balance at age 25 would get a check for just $3,500 after taxes and penalties. Left in an account, that $5,000 may have grown over decades to $75,000 at retirement, Hewitt said.

American, United start new round of discounts.

By Teresa Mears Nov 2, 2009 2:55PM

If you missed last week’s airfare sales, don’t despair.


American Airlines and United Airlines have launched some new sales, and some of their low-fare deals are even good around the holidays, Smarter Travel reports. Not only that, other carriers have matched the sale prices on some routes, with fares as low as $104 round-trip (plus taxes and fees). These fares can be booked through Nov. 12, or whenever the cheap seats are sold out. Fares are higher on the most popular travel dates, of course.


If your landlord doesn't offer you a deal to stay, ask for one.

By Teresa Mears Nov 2, 2009 1:54PM

If the lease on your rented house or apartment is up soon, you may get a little gift from your landlord: a flat-screen TV, lower rent or even a cash payment.


Because of the soft rental market, landlords are offering incentives to renters who renew their leases, The Wall Street Journal reports.


For example, UDR, a Denver-based rental company, is offering tenants who renew their leases a choice of a flat-screen TV, new carpet, a kitchen upgrade or $300 in cash. Cash is the most popular choice.


They're no substitute for insurance, but, for the uninsured, every little bit helps.

By Karen Datko Nov 2, 2009 1:34PM

These days people do what they can to get health care, whether it’s a free flu shot at the local strip club or bidding online at PriceDoc, which WalletPop calls a Priceline approach to care.


With so many people going without health insurance, why not give the benefit of health care via a gift card?


Tackle trouble BEFORE it begins.

By Karen Datko Nov 2, 2009 11:17AM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


Ron Lieber writes the excellent “Your Money” column for The New York Times. Recently, he shared a list of four money talks to have before marriage. Lieber writes:

Divorce tends to be emotionally gut-wrenching for the people who go through it (not to mention those around them). But most couples don’t realize that divorce can also be among the most ruinous financial moves anyone can make.

This article struck home for me. No, Kris and I are in no danger of getting a divorce (I love my wife!), but we’re at that stage in life where the people around us are passing through rocky stages of their marriage. Some are even getting divorced.

I recently spoke with a friend -- let’s call him Mike -- whose marriage is floundering. Mike and his wife are wrestling with a variety of issues. The acute crisis was caused by infidelity, but the chronic crisis -- the ongoing problem -- involves a conflict over money.



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