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Retailers are offering presents -- with a few strings attached. Here's a list.

By Karen Datko Mar 31, 2010 11:29AM

This Deal of the Day comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


You don’t need to look much further than your inbox to see that friends and family aren’t the only ones wishing you a happy birthday. Today, plenty of stores and restaurants offer you bargains on (and ahead of) your birthday, but these deals aren’t always worth celebrating.


The birthday marketing tool is particularly common among chain stores. Starbucks gives reward club members a free coffee; Baskin Robbins, a free ice cream cone. DSW loyalty members get a $5 reward certificate, while Express credit card holders receive a $15 coupon toward their next purchase.


Save the Earth as well, and do it all in one afternoon.

By Karen Datko Mar 31, 2010 10:27AM

This post comes from G.E. Miller at partner blog Wise Bread.


Ambitious title for a post for sure, but not that far off when you look at the facts surrounding freshwater.


According to, 884 million people (one in eight in the world) lack access to a safe water supply. Less than 1% of the world's freshwater (or about 0.007% of all water on earth) is readily accessible for direct human use. Furthermore, an American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than the typical person living in a Third World slum uses in a whole day (learn how to take a shower in 60 seconds).


All environmental guilt issues aside, saving water is not only good for the planet, it can be a highly efficient way to cut your water and energy bills (energy to heat the water). Here are the top five ways that you can cut your water use today.


Food fraud can mean that you're being overcharged and misled. How can you tell if you're being hoodwinked?

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 6:41PM

We first read about large-scale food fraud when The New Yorker wrote about the Italian olive oil industry several years ago. Whoa. Was the pricey EVOO in our cupboard really something else -- hazelnut oil, perhaps?


Actually, food fraud is growing so quickly, The Washington Post reports, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is under increasing pressure to get involved. Without verification that labeling is accurate, you could be paying Cadillac prices for the food equivalent of a Hyundai Accent.


Here are some examples we came across in the Post and elsewhere:


NASA's overblown spending on a 3-day conference to train procurement officials contained some pricey personal-finance lessons.

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 3:34PM

Question: How much did NASA spend on coffee, soda and snacks for a three-day conference in Baltimore to teach procurement officials how to determine a reasonable price for stuff they buy?


Answer: $62,611 total, or $66 per person per day -- some mighty pricey bagels, cookies and fruit.


It varies from less than a year to indefinitely, depending on the type.

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 1:00PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


We recently purchased a sheet-fed scanner, a Fujitsu ScanSnap S300, to help organize our financial records. This purchase is easily one of the top 10 I’ve made in my adult life. We went from having a few banker’s boxes of documents down to just a few documents in about a week.


Using a sheet-fed scanner, versus a flat-bed scanner like a copier, saves you a ridiculous amount of time, and the ScanSnap will save your document into a .pdf file. It’s a bit pricey but definitely worth it if you’re looking to save things electronically.


One of the benefits of storing documents electronically is that it makes the “how long should I keep financial documents?” question a bit obsolete. Data storage is cheap so you can save documents forever, but I think it’s still important to know how long to keep documents because it gives you a better understanding of finances. For instance, knowing why you should keep tax records for seven years gives you a better understanding of the tax process.


So, how long should you keep financial documents? It depends.


But is anybody else tired of wimpy mortgage modifications and this endless national soap opera?

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 11:28AM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.


Anybody besides me sick to death of mortgage modification plans, programs, problems, hopes, dreams, failures?


I guess we’ll have to just suck it up and stay tuned because this big soap opera appears to have legs. The latest installment -- let’s call it the modified modification plan -- might have a chance at some modest success.


What’s wrong with the first one?


With D.C. packed for tourist season, bloom watchers might turn elsewhere.

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 10:17AM

This Deal of the Day comes from Sarah Morgan at partner site SmartMoney.


Regardless of what you may have heard about May flowers, the blooms that draw the most visitors to Washington, D.C., arrive in late March.


This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival began on Saturday and runs through April 11. The more than 3,700 cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin and other sites in the capital are forecast to hit their peak bloom date on Thursday or Friday. Peak bloom for these famous trees, a gift from Japan in 1912, translates to peak tourism season for the city where they grow. Bloom chasers would be wise to time their spring trips this year with that in mind -- and maybe even consider some other destinations.


Two sisters face the challenge of caring for parents who are unable or unwilling to care for themselves.

By Karen Datko Mar 29, 2010 7:59PM

Shtinkykat” and her sister face probably the biggest challenge of their young adult lives: Their parents subsist on Social Security and a tiny pension in a rental after years of financial irresponsibility. Not even a modest home to call their own.


Now, their father is suffering from dementia. And adhering to a pattern she's consistently followed, their mother has left him in charge of the finances and is trying to lay a heavy guilt trip on the girls (which they resist). Sample One: "Oh, now I see you and your sister just want your dad and me dead!" Sample Two: "I've sacrificed EVERYTHING for you girls and this is how you treat me!"



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