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Three services offer a glimpse of your credit record.

By Teresa Mears Oct 12, 2009 3:02PM

Since 2005, we’ve all been able to get a free credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax) once a year. But those reports don’t include the numerical score, often called a FICO score. For those, you have to pay extra, usually about $8 from each bureau.


Three services are now offering free credit scores, or something close to them, The Wall Street Journal’s Cranky Consumer column reports. WSJ writer Jane J. Kim ordered her scores from all three services, paid for her real credit scores and put together a detailed report on her results.


She found that the information she received from the free sites matched the information in her real credit reports. The scores were not the same. But, she said, the scores were in the same tier as her real credit scores, providing a good indication of how lenders would view her credit.


Without debt, you can live well with less money.

By Teresa Mears Oct 12, 2009 10:29AM

This guest post comes from "vh" at Funny about Money.


I’m such a bag lady. Not literally…but I suffer acutely from Bag Lady Syndrome. You can tell me till you’re blue in the face that I have plenty to get by, but I won’t believe it until the bills are paid and no one has carted me off to the poor farm.


Matter of fact, this morning after I’d run another Excel spreadsheet that showed, contrary to the present optimistic theory, an average shortfall in 2010’s enforced “retirement” of $740 a month, my financial adviser was on the phone, cooing in soothing tones, “You’ll be f-i-i-n-e.” Even though I don’t have anything like a million bucks in the bank, he says, there’s more than enough to supplement Social Security and cover all my expenses for about 50 years, at a 4 percent drawdown.


The other day Frugal Scholar, the professor with the penchant for thrift-store shopping, reported a delightful revelation: truth to tell, she and Mr. FS could rent their paid-for house and retire to Costa Rica. Today. Gone fishin’. Once and for all… If they so chose.


Ah hah! Financial independence: freedom to do as you please, absent the chains of debt.


Tips to look better by owning less.

By Teresa Mears Oct 12, 2009 9:55AM

This post comes from staff writer April Dykman at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


A couple of years ago, I had a Great Closet Clean-Out. My clothing racks and drawers were overflowing, and some of it still had price tags. Hoping to accomplish that European knack for owning less and looking better, I donated, consigned and gave away about 75 percent of my wardrobe. Today it’s 100 times more functional.


These are the best tips I picked up while going through the process, gleaned from fashion gurus, designers, and style bloggers. These tips are applicable to women and men, whether you’re a high-power attorney or a stay-at-home parent.


It depends on spending habits and the local cost of living.

By Karen Datko Oct 12, 2009 1:18AM

This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

More than one reader has e-mailed me in the last month asking how much house I thought they could afford in our sinking housing market.

One reader, Chester (not his real name), lives in California, where home prices still seem in the stratosphere despite lowered prices. The other, Wilson (also not his real name), lives in the Washington, D.C., region, where demand has kept home prices relatively stable.

In both cases, I think the question of how much house you can afford is independent of the local real estate market and more a product of your spending habits and the local cost of living.


It's not hard to find someone who really wants it.

By Karen Datko Oct 12, 2009 1:01AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.

Did you ever receive a gift card for a store where you never shop? Or have you ever had a gift card for a store that filed for bankruptcy? When a retailer files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, gift cardholders get in line with every other unsecured creditor.

What does that mean? It means you can kiss the value of your gift card goodbye. One solution is to run out and spend the gift card if you hear the retailer is in financial turmoil. But there is another solution.


For short durations, it's not worth the effort, blogger says.

By Karen Datko Oct 12, 2009 12:48AM

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

When I was young, my parents were adamant about turning off lights, and would be rather upset with me when we'd go on a two- or three-day trip and my bedroom light remained on.

My wife and I go through the house and turn off lights, sometimes even if we're just leaving for a couple hours.

Is this tactic worth the time invested in it? Let's crunch the numbers, but let’s first make a few assumptions.


Buy a house to make it your own, not to get rich.

By Karen Datko Oct 12, 2009 12:29AM

This devil's advocate post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.

A few years ago, when the housing market was sizzling hot, everyone and their mother talked about how their home was a fantastic investment. They talked about how a home that sold 10 years ago had quadrupled in value over the last five and cursed themselves for not buying more.

I knew someone who owned four rental properties, all bought with adjustable-rate mortgages, and was making a "killing" on the rents and appreciation. I knew someone else who was looking at his paper riches and marveling at how wonderful homeownership was.

Then the housing market stalled. ARMs reset. People were in rough shape. Those who overextended learned something the prudent have always understood: As much as your home is a great place, it's not an investment.


If it happens to you, don't get discouraged.

By Karen Datko Oct 12, 2009 12:14AM

Adding insult to injury, employers are opposing unemployment benefits claims in record numbers, The Washington Post reports.

Imagine being among the multitudes getting pink slips, applying for benefits that will help you keep your home -- and then getting notice that your former company contends you're not entitled because you were let go for misconduct or that you quit. Protests are being filed by former employers in more than a quarter of all new benefits claims, the Post says.



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