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Resist the urge to panic.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 4:05PM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


Make no mistake about it -- a recession is here. While we do not know how long or painful it will be, we do know that it has the potential to be the worst financial crisis any of us have ever lived through.


The stock market lost more than 20% in 10 trading days. Retirees and those nearing retirement have seen their nest egg eroded, some by 30% or more. And the banking system is under severe stress in the United States and globally. That's the bad news. Now for some good news.


There are steps we can take now to better prepare for potentially difficult financial times ahead. There is no silver bullet that can insulate us from any financial crisis, of course. But there are basic things we can do to make sure we are as ready as we can be to weather the coming financial storm.

 

They're not as high as you may think.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 2:49PM

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

 

Note: Although I try to keep GRS a politics-free zone, today's topic is inherently political. I've stayed as neutral as possible in the article, but I know that there'll be some political discussion in the comments. Please keep conversation civil, as always.

 

Because I was frustrated with my own ignorance about the U.S. federal budget and our tax system, I recently spent 12 hours researching a variety of tax topics. From my research came two articles: my recent short guide to the federal budget and today's post, which answers some of my personal questions about taxes.

 

In the earlier post, we tried to take a few small steps toward understanding the federal budget. We looked at where the U.S. government spends its money. But where does it actually find the cash to spend?

 

Consumers can only hope this is a trend.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 1:37PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

One of the more aggravating aspects of gift cards are the fees that companies tack on. Take John of Lansdale, Pa. When his 10-year-old son tried to use the $50 gift card he'd forgotten he had, he found there was only $12 left on the card.

 

But not to worry. From now on, American Express says its monthly fee is a thing of the past.

 

For instance, changing your oil too often wastes money.

By Karen Datko Oct 1, 2009 9:14AM

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

 

Whenever I write a post and mention oil changes, I always encourage people to check their car owner's manual to find out how often they should change their oil. Why? The frequency of oil changes varies greatly depending on the type of engine you have in your car, varying anywhere from every 3,000 miles to every 10,000 miles, with many different levels in between.

Often, when I mention this, a reader or two will say we should ignore the manual and change the oil every 3,000 miles in order to truly protect the engine.

 

Sure, some of these folks might be running a Jiffy Lube, but some of them simply are very cautious. They’d prefer to pay a little more now in extra maintenance costs to avoid a major crisis later.

 

Farewell, wobbly chairs; hello, $99 discount-store dining set.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 1, 2009 4:39AM

Some people seem to think that I never buy anything new. That's not the case. A few weeks ago I bought a dining table and chairs.


Although it's like placing a "Kick Me" sign on my own back, I'm going to admit that I bought these things from Kmart. 


Discount department stores have a down-at-the-heels reputation: their merchandise is low-end and their employees -- when you can find them -- are surly and unhelpful. 


That wasn't my experience. When I couldn't find the advertised dining set, a manager brought one out from the stockroom. Then he loaded it into my car, chatting pleasantly.

 

I even found a way to make a little money.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 1, 2009 4:33AM

Some of you who read "Always budget for a carousel ride" wrote to tell me to go ahead and splurge on a cheesesteak during a trip to visit family. I grew up near Philadelphia, home of that deliciously cheesy, greasy, oniony sandwich that's impossible to duplicate elsewhere.


Turns out that the one store in my hometown offers a daily special: a 9-inch cheesesteak, small bag of chips and a can of soda for $4.59.


At that price, how could I resist? And a 9-inch cheesesteak consumed at 2 p.m. eliminated the need for supper. 


This wasn't my only frugal hack, though.

 

It's not just a way to find cheap stuff, it's also fun.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 1, 2009 4:04AM

The best thrift shops are as good as garage sales, offering a variety of offbeat items at low prices. Things like "Talk to the Hand: Getting Everything You Want With Ventriloquism," a how-to manual with a set of four finger puppets. Originally it cost $9.95; I paid 50 cents yesterday at Cloud 9 Consignment & Thrift


In all, I spent $9.97 for six items that will make good birthday or holiday gifts, two books for my church's library, and four tins that I'll fill with homemade cookies and give as Christmas presents.


But what made the trip memorable was discovering that Cloud 9, like some yard sales, has a free box. In it I found an olive green sweater that's from Bill Blass, if labels mean anything to you. I was more interested by its excellent condition and the fact that it is machine washable. And free.

 

Don't let the stuff you own end up owning you.

By Donna_Freedman Oct 1, 2009 3:59AM

You never know how much stuff you have until you need to move it 1,500 miles. Just ask my daughter and son-in-law, who are heading to Phoenix, Arizona. Although they sold some items online, staged a yard sale, donated many other belongings to charity thrift shops and gave lots of things to friends, they still couldn't fit everything into a 6x7x8-foot moving cube.


I don't suppose anyone out there could use seven dozen plastic hangers and some ice cube trays? 


Or a bentwood rocker? A medium-sized pet kennel? Or how about a Brita pitcher, stone sundial, curtain rod, vegetable steamer, small gargoyle, chips-and-salsa tray, flashlight or cookie press? Any takers for the fabric-lined storage basket, bags of canned food, picture frames, coffee mugs, half a dozen saucers, two bowls, or a bunch of food storage containers?


My living room looks like a yard sale. Thank goodness for Freecycle.

 

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