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General purpose gift cards come with fees many people don't know about.

By Karen Datko Oct 28, 2009 2:32PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site


A consumer survey commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America and undertaken by the Opinion Research Corp. earlier this month revealed widespread misunderstanding of general purpose gift cards, also sometimes called bank or cash gift cards. Most are issued by Visa, MasterCard and American Express.


Only 33% of a representative sample of 1,004 adult Americans know how much these cards cost to purchase, and only 54% are aware that "six to 12 months after purchase, some of these gift cards charge a monthly fee."

A large majority of the more than $50 billion consumers are expected to spend on gift cards this year represents purchase of store cards with no fees or expiration date. But nearly $4 billion, and a growing percentage, will be spent on general purchase gift cards that can be used at most stores. They usually cost $4 to $7 to purchase and sometimes are subject to monthly fees as high as $4.95 as early as six months after purchase.


With one exception, the deals are just decent

By TracyC Oct 28, 2009 1:49PM

If the new Sears Black Friday sales ad is any indication, the deals could be tepid this holiday shopping season.


While there are a few decent bargains -- the $39.99 Craftsman drill (regularly $79.99), the $289 Kitchen Aid mixer for $149.99, and a $999 Samsung 50” plasma HDTV marked down to $699.99 -- most of the advertised discounts elicited a yawn.


“Well so far, I can stay in bed,” said DealVixen, responding to the posted ad in a forum. “Those are some pretty lukewarm prices for TVs. Everything else was just OK.”


There's one striking exception.


Bring back the mop, feather duster and rags. Also, buy a bread machine.

By Karen Datko Oct 28, 2009 12:05PM

This post comes from Annalise Silivanch at partner blog Wise Bread.


Cleaning? Cooking? Ugh, you say. Make friends with it, compadre; they've got to be part of the frugal warrior's toolkit.


Me, I avoid cleaning as much as possible until a young offspring can't find clean underthings and I want to howl in the chasm of Boring Adult Responsibilities and go hide in the kitchen, which I enjoy much more.


When that no longer works, and when the children look at me like you did this to me, I look for ways to make it easier. I also look for ways to make it cheaper, because when my frugal and eco-selves are in partnership, then I can feel my groove coming back. Because if there is one thing I've learned, it's that I want to spend my better days kicking butt and making change, and not spend them in Target buying overpriced refills and feeling like some crazy woman on a commercial who smiles at her mop while a song plays in the background.


The cost of Swiffer refills can really add up.

By Karen Datko Oct 28, 2009 11:19AM

When we had our hardwood floors refinished, our floor guy finished the job by cleaning with a Swiffer Sweeper, a product he heartily endorsed.


Yes, it's great -- until you have to spring for new cloths. A box of the wet pads can cost about $11.50.

Knowing we're exposing ourself to potential ridicule from Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice, who has poked fun at this and similar pursuits in a weekly post called "Frugal Friday," we've researched cheap alternatives to the very efficient but costly Swiffer cloths.


Meanwhile, Congress may make it more difficult to hide money overseas.

By Karen Datko Oct 27, 2009 8:10PM

When the IRS offered amnesty to those hiding money in offshore accounts if they fessed up, it was just getting started.


The Internal Revenue Service has formed the Global High Wealth Industry Group, which will delve into the often fantastically complicated finances of the very rich to discover what they may be hiding. A small number of audits targeting those with tens of millions in income or assets will begin next month, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"You cannot assess compliance among the nation's wealthiest individuals by looking only at their 1040s," IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman told the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' national conference this week.


Some are vampires that can suck your finances dry.

By Karen Datko Oct 27, 2009 4:48PM

This guest post comes from Ron Haynes at The Wisdom Journal.


Some people claim that fear is based on ignorance, but my personal fear of 13 financial vampires masquerading as loans is based on knowledge. Some of these loans are scary because of how they’re structured, some are scary because of what you’re buying with them, and still others qualify because of whom you’re borrowing from.


I plan to stay far away from these loan monsters:


This week's airline sales are a treat, not a trick.

By Teresa Mears Oct 27, 2009 2:11PM

In the mood for a winter trip? This may be the year to take one. The airfare sales just keep coming, including some great sales this week.


Southwest Airlines launched a 72-hour sale today with fares as low as $25 each way for short flights. According to Tom Parsons’ Best Fares, these are the lowest fares offered by Southwest in 13 years.


Tickets are $25 each way for up to 375 miles, $50 for up to 549 miles, $75 for up to 999 miles, and $100 one way for more than 1,000 miles. On some routes, it’s a great deal. On others, the deals have been better.


Fake e-mail says your bank has been taken over by the FDIC.

By Karen Datko Oct 27, 2009 1:11PM

This post comes from partner site


It's all too easy to believe these days that your bank has failed and been seized by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The current crop of bank failures is ripe for scammers trying to fool unsuspecting account holders into handing over their personal information.

The FDIC has received numerous reports of a fraudulent e-mail that has the appearance of being sent by the FDIC.


The subject line of the e-mail states: "Check your Bank Deposit Insurance Coverage."



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