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Uncle Sam may help foot the bill for your next appliance purchase.

By Stacy Johnson Dec 3, 2009 5:34PM

The "Cash for Clunkers" program earlier this year got tons of press. But that's not the only program Uncle Sam has cooking that encourages you to toss out one energy-guzzler and buy something new and more efficient.

 

A Cash- for-Clunkers program for appliances is now starting to unfold nationwide. Again, the idea is rebates of up to $200, perhaps more, to entice Americans to replace old, energy-hogging appliances with new Energy Star ones.

 

Record low mortgage rates and a federal tax credit make this a good time to buy for some people.

By Teresa Mears Dec 3, 2009 3:22PM

If you can afford it, there has never been a better time to buy a house, especially if you qualify for the homebuyer tax credit of up to $8,000. But should you buy now?

 

Mortgage rates hit 4.71% for a 30-year loan this week, the lowest since Freddie Mac began keeping track in 1971. Home prices are down nationwide, more than 50% in some former boom areas, such as parts of Florida and California.

 

Waiting for prices to drop further could be a false economy. A $200,000 loan at 6% and $180,000 loan at 5% cost about the same. (Run the numbers yourself.)

 

Recession turns more people into semi-vegetarians, which may be healthier.

By Teresa Mears Dec 3, 2009 1:09PM

It’s no surprise that people are eating less meat during the recession.

 

The late Gourmet magazine published a story earlier this year about recession “flexitarians”  -- semi-vegetarians who eat meat occasionally.

 

The magazine noted that meat is the most expensive thing Americans eat, and reported a survey by the American Meat Institute that found that 51% of shoppers have changed their meat purchasing habits because of the economy.

 

That means there is a lot of surplus meat around, and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture has proposed the recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps, get increased benefits with the added benefits card good only for specified dairy, poultry and pork products. The proposal also calls for the government to buy up some meat products and distribute them to school lunch programs or food banks.

 

Consumer Reports survey finds dissatisfaction with high prices as well.

By Karen Datko Dec 3, 2009 12:25PM

This post comes from partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

Consumer Reports' most recent annual survey of more than 50,000 readers found that only 54% of respondents were completely or very satisfied with their cell phone service.

 

Despite “smarter phones,” more-flexible plans, and faster wireless networks, cell service continues to be among the lower-rated of all the services that Consumer Reports evaluates. The full report, which includes carrier ratings in 26 cities, is featured in the January 2010 issue of Consumer Reports.

 

The survey also showed that almost two-thirds of respondents had at least one major complaint. About one in five readers cited high prices as their top complaint, which was more than any other annoyance.

“America is in love with the cell phone, but they are lukewarm about cell-phone phone service,” said Paul Reynolds, electronics editor at Consumer Reports. “They’re especially concerned about its cost in these tight economic times.”

 

Service ratings

Verizon, the nation’s largest wireless carrier, was above average in every attribute, including customer support, voice connectivity and data service. It has the biggest network in the industry, but it tends to be costly.

 

Here are 6 reasons why people avoid thrift shops -- and arguments against all of them.

By Karen Datko Dec 3, 2009 10:04AM

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

 

Recently I conducted a quiet poll among friends and family concerning whether or not they shop at thrift stores. I received a few “yes” answers, but a surprisingly large number of “no” answers. Without arguing about the reasons, I also asked them why they don't shop at thrift stores and I found that there were six common answers.

Here are those six reasons, and I’ll argue why they’re completely false.

 

Thrift store stuff is dirty.

 

You can lighten any meal with these cheap and easy solutions.

By Karen Datko Dec 3, 2009 9:17AM

This guest post comes from Kris at Cheap Healthy Good.

 

When it comes to healthy cooking, one of the greatest skills a body can master is lightening up her favorite recipes. You’re reducing fat and calories, which is good for your waistline, but at the same time you never feel deprived because you’re always eating what you like. You don’t need pricey ingredients either, and after a while, you won’t need to consult any guides. You can lighten any dish straight off the top of your head.

Below then, are 10 strategies to get you started. Every single tip comes from personal experience (including, unfortunately, the fat-free cheese warning). Use them alone or in combination with one another for even healthier meals.

One caveat: These suggestions don’t apply to baked goods, since many baking recipes rely on precise ingredient quantities for flavor and structure. I’m not yet comfortable enough with my skillz to mess with them.

Cut back on cooking fat. Whenever I’m trying to lighten an existing recipe, the first thing I look at is the prescribed amount of cooking fat. And almost without fail, most dishes ask for way too much.

 

Stores are in the catbird seat, even rejecting clothes that haven't been worn.

By Karen Datko Dec 2, 2009 6:19PM

So many people are selling used or unworn and unwanted clothing that resale shops can be picky, rejecting even the priciest, most fashionable items if they’re not a good fit for the store, The Wall Street Journal reports. When resale shops do buy, the price may be shockingly low.

 

"Even the really, really great stuff that's in really great condition, they didn't even accept it," Ally Peet told the Journal after a Plato’s Closet in Utah turned thumbs down on her Dior and Juicy Couture apparel. "They said (the brands) wouldn't sell well here."

Resale shops are part of the triumvirate of used clothing depositories, which includes thrift stores and consignment shops. All are doing a booming business as people look for highly discounted apparel. Reportedly teens are among their best customers.

 

The WSJ offers some tips if you want to successfully sell your clothing items to a resale shop:

 

Web site encourages poetic commentary on U.S. finances.

By Teresa Mears Dec 2, 2009 4:31PM

We’ve all read (and some of us have written) reams of prose about the economy in the last few years.

 

Perhaps it’s time for some economic poetry.

 

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation, formed by the co-founder of the Blackstone Group private equity fund, has decided that’s just what the nation needs: fiscal haiku. So it has created a Web site, appropriately named fiscalhaiku.com, where people can express their feelings about the economy in the formatted Japanese poetry called haiku. A haiku has 17 syllables, five in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third.

 

So far, more than 375 people have waxed poetic, or attempted to, about the current economic climate. A few samples:

 

The quest for riches
led us into temptation.
Now we're all flat broke.

 

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