Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Bad presents can have a snowball effect.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 4:23PM

"Lazy Man" knows a grade-school kid named John who got a stuffed Garfield a couple years ago. Now John has 15 Garfield things in his bedroom. Lazy Man saw them and said, "I can't believe I didn't know you liked Garfield this much." John replied, "I don't."

Someone saw that stuffed Garfield in John's room and assumed he loves all things Garfield, and it escalated from there. This little story at Lazy Man and Money explains how people accumulate huge collections of frog, owl or strawberry figurines, posters, pendants or whatever and they really don't want them.

What's the worst gift you've been given? Lazy Man describes five categories of gifts he wishes he hadn't received. As Shadox said at Money and Such, "You know what? It is not only the thought that counts, people."


You can learn a thing or two from this blogger's mistakes.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 4:15PM

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

When I was a sophomore in college, I got my first credit card. I thought it was awesome -- it was like free money. Soon I got another credit card, and before long I'd maxed them both out. I entered the work force with a handicap. I had the start of a nasty credit habit.

My parents had never been good with money, and as a result I had no notion of proper financial skills. I made some bad decisions, which were in turn compounded by some rotten luck. Just five years after graduation, I had about $20,000 in credit card debt. For the next decade I tried to kick the habit. Sometimes I'd make progress, but then I'd find other ways to fall behind.

Here are some of the mistakes I made along the way and the steps I took to correct them.


Most maintenance can be done for free.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 4:03PM

By day, Joe Morgan works in the IT field, where co-workers routinely upgrade their personal computers every two or three years. By night, he says, he's like Scotty on "Star Trek," "always beating the odds to do the impossible with limited resources at hand . . ."

Joe comes by that claim honestly: He has coaxed two PCs to operate for an amazing 10 years each. He explains how to get more life out of your computer in a post at Saving Advice that's written in language non-geeks can understand. 

We'd be less than honest if we claimed to know much about computers, so, as always, we suggest you read the full post. Meanwhile, we'll offer a simplified version of a few of his tips (and point out that most of the stuff he recommends can be done for free):


Re-examining your major expenses can pay off

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 3:53PM

This post comes from Nora Dunn at partner blog Wise Bread.

There are a number of ways to stretch your dollars simply by rearranging your finances. Here are 11 tips to help you find some extra money.

Change your withholding tax. If you typically receive a tax refund each year, ask your employer to reduce the amount of tax withheld from your paychecks. I know, I know. You like getting those fat checks at tax time each year. But in reality it's an interest-free loan to the government. Your money is much better in your own pocket, thank you very much.

Reduce interest rates on your debt. As cited in a previous article, if you ask for a discount by calling your credit card company, you often will receive one.

This also applies to other loans. If you happen to be drowning in your finances, you can call creditors and explain your situation, and they can make concessions for you. If the agent you are talking to can't do it, politely ask for the manager, who has more clout for granting rate discounts.


Pharmacy errors can be life-threatening.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 3:44PM

This post is from David Wood at partner blog

As an expectant mom, Kendra of Brooklyn, N.Y., wanted the best for herself and her baby. Part of that care was a prenatal vitamin.

"My doctor gave me a prescription for the prenatal vitamin Primacare One," wrote Kendra. "I dropped off my prescription at the CVS pharmacy and when I returned to pick up the prescription, I was instead given Prednisone."

The problem Kendra encountered is one of the most common prescription errors -- the kind that occurs when a pharmacist can't read the prescription properly. Instead of contacting the authorizing physician to confirm the prescription, the pharmacist plays Russian roulette with someone else's life.


A garage stuffed with stuff is a big red flag.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 3:21PM

Do you automatically think that "budget" is the name of a rental-car company? Chances are you have a problem with spending.

A post by Ron at The Wisdom Journal identifies 24 signs to look for to determine if you're a mega-consumer. He said he was inspired to write the post after his kids noticed that someone they know has four yard sales a year and asked, "How much stuff do they have?"

Another sign: "You cannot fit anything else in your garage  -- and you don't even have your car in there."


First step: Make sure it's not illegal where you live.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 3:00PM

"Not the Jet Set" is sorely tempted on the way to work by perfectly usable things people have left out by their trash cans. But what are the rules for Dumpster-diving? Do you need to be sneaky? How do you handle shame?

We did some research and found a handy post at Sueann's NWPR Blog, plus photos of her remarkable finds, including brand new KitchenAid food processor attachments. (Her finds don't include food; she hasn't become a freegan.)

"Dumpster divers have rules," Sueann Ramella wrote. Here are some we gleaned from her post and from other sources:


Do you know how to successfully bribe someone? You should.

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 2:54PM

This post comes from partner blog Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.

Popular Mechanics created a list called "100 skills every man should know," which naturally gravitated toward DIY/physical skills like jump-starting a car and splitting firewood. The Frisky listed "30 skills every woman should have before turning 30," which actually touched on more than physical skills (though No. 12 is physical), with a handful of financial skills (Nos. 17-20).

The following isn't a checklist of things you necessarily need to do in your life. It's a list of things you should know how to do in case the need arises.



Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.