Parents will spend more this year than last on their schoolchildren. But will they spend it wisely?
Welcome to the end of August -- the second-most beautiful time of the year, at least for retailers. After Christmas, back-to-school season is when they rack up their biggest sales figures.
But, like Christmas, if you don't shop smart, you could end up paying too much or buying stuff that'll end up in the back of a closet or bottom of a drawer.
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Hint: Let others do most of the cooking.
A former co-worker hosted a potluck for me during a recent visit to Alaska. I was the guest of honor but gently urged the hostess to tell me what I might contribute. It wound up being deviled eggs and two 12-packs of Diet Coke.
Someone suggested that potlucks would be a good subject for a frugality column. I laughed. Then I realized that she was right. If I were unemployed or underemployed, I'd be attending or hosting potlucks as often as I could get away with it.
Credit cards can be the chainsaw of personal finance unless you use them correctly. Here are some essential behaviors to master.
Recently, we had a great discussion about the socioeconomic implications of credit card rewards programs (or lack of implications, depending on your viewpoint). The conversation wasn't nearly as tedious as my description makes it sound.
In response to that article, Califia e-mailed:
(Could you provide) a quick elaboration of this statement from your recent post: "I've gone from anti-credit card to pro-credit card -- but only for those who can use them responsibly." How do you define "responsibly"? Why did you change from anti to pro?
I think I've written plenty about the whys behind my switch from anti-credit card to pro-credit card. But it occurred to me that I've never really elaborated on the hows.
A pet project can fetch extra cash, or even lead you to a new career.
Of all the luxuries and necessities we're willing to sacrifice when times get tough, our beloved pets are rarely among them.
Gap coupons benefit charities, plus a chance to trade in old baby items for a discount on new ones.
These days, every business wants to be your friend -- at least on Facebook.
And if it takes coupons to win your friendship, that's what they'll do.
One of the latest businesses to reward its Facebook friends is Regal Cinemas, which is providing weekly coupons for free or discounted items from the concession stands. This is good, since the chain won't let you bring your own snacks. This week's deal is for free popcorn. If you "like" Regal Cinemas on Facebook, you can get a coupon for a free small popcorn, good Aug. 27-29.
This weekend is the Gap's annual Give & Get promotion, which benefits both customers and charities. If you print out one of the Give & Get coupons, you can get 30% off your purchases at Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Gap Outlet and Banana Republic Factory Stores. The charity listed on the coupon will get 5% of the amount you spend.
And why I hate them even more now.
I recently bought tickets to see Maroon 5 at one of their upcoming shows in Los Angeles this October. Let me tell you, I love Maroon 5 almost as much as I love my dog -- which puts them pretty far up my totem pole of most-cherished entities.
Of course, like most mere mortals in Los Angeles without a connection to Ryan Seacrest or some other music industry insider, I reluctantly bought my tickets online through Ticketmaster.
Anyway, a few days ago I got my tickets in the mail and was immediately reminded of why I hate them so much.
Or why not take both? Massages, facials, Pilates and even prenatal yoga will be discounted next month.
Here's help: Hundreds of spas, day spas, and yoga and Pilates studios across the country are offering deep discounts during "Wellness Week," which takes place Sept. 20-26.
That's still a month off. So why worry about it in August?
Signing up for credit-monitoring and then canceling is only one way to get your score for free.
Over the years, readers have asked me how to get their credit score without a credit card. What they want to avoid is signing up for a free trial of a credit-monitoring service to get their score and then having to cancel the service to avoid being charged. And in some cases, folks don't have credit cards to begin with.
There are several ways to get your free credit score without a credit card.
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