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Spring training games can be affordable -- if you're able to snag tickets.

By Karen Datko Mar 25, 2010 12:29PM

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

 

Travelers looking to see their favorite baseball team in action before opening day may strike out unless they’re willing to get a little creative.

 

Major league teams practicing in the Grapefruit (Florida) and Cactus (Arizona) spring training leagues wrap up by April 3. Fans hoping to book a last-minute trip must battle spring-break tourists for hotels and airfare. There’s also reduced availability for tickets thanks to avid fans who booked trips months in advance.

 

Reader wonders if having higher deductibles on her insurance won't cost her more in the long run.

By Karen Datko Mar 25, 2010 9:39AM

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

 

One common, painful bill that we all face is the insurance bill. Whether you’re talking renters insurance, homeowners insurance, or automobile insurance, the bill feels painful because it’s not something we can often see the benefit of. It just comes in handy when something goes wrong.

 

One of the most common tactics you’ll see in cost-cutting articles is calling up your insurance company and requesting an increase in your deductible -- the amount you have to pay before the insurance kicks in.

 

On the surface, this works well. If you increase your deductible, your premiums (the amount you pay each month/quarter/year) will go down, meaning your insurance bills are lower. You can chip a hefty percentage from your insurance bill just by making this move.

One of my longtime readers, Jeanne, has been writing to me about insurance this week. She has considered doing this, but something is convincing her that it’s not the best move:

 

Interactive map shows how much your state and county are suffering in the recession.

By Karen Datko Mar 24, 2010 4:57PM

The Great Recession has undoubtedly taken its toll, but how close to home is the pain? You can track it in your county and state with the Economic Stress Index prepared by The Associated Press.

 

“The thing is fascinating,” said our pal “vh” at Funny about Money, who recently discovered this tool. “As bad off as things are in Michigan, what with the struggles of the automotive industry, things generally are far worse in California. The Imperial Valley has an unemployment rate of 27.7%!”

 

We love poring over statistical snapshots like this, and not all trace misery.

 

New federal rules are an attempt to streamline the process. Will they work?

By Teresa Mears Mar 24, 2010 1:47PM

When you want to sell a home that is worth less than your mortgage, doing a short sale -- making a deal with the lender to sell it for less than you owe -- is usually considered preferable to just letting the home slide into foreclosure.

 

But lenders have often made the process difficult, taking months to respond once buyer and seller have signed a contract. The uncertainty keeps many buyers from even considering short-sale homes, or the buyer may walk away before the deal can be completed, forcing the seller to start over.

 

New Treasury Department rules (.pdf file) that take effect April 5 are supposed to streamline and shorten the process. In addition to offering lenders cash incentives, the rules require them to respond to a purchase offer within 10 days. Sellers also can get as much as $1,500 in relocation assistance.

 

New regulations designed to protect consumers from surprises.

By Karen Datko Mar 24, 2010 12:05PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

The Federal Reserve Board has announced final rules that will restrict the fees and expiration dates that may apply to gift cards. The rules are expected to protect consumers from certain unexpected costs and require that gift card terms and conditions be clearly stated.

 

The new regulations prohibit dormancy, inactivity and service fees on gift cards unless:

 

Entry-level handsets for smart-phone newbies on a budget.

By Karen Datko Mar 24, 2010 9:34AM

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

 

The market for more affordable smart phones is heating up.

 

Consumers who haven’t yet purchased a smart

phone tend to be scared off by the price of the phone or carriers’ requirement for a pricey data plan, says Michael Morgan, a mobile device industry analyst for ABI Research. To push consumers over those hurdles, cell phone manufacturers have cut prices on existing handsets and introduced new lines of inexpensive, feature-rich models -- and in the process boosted sales 25% during the fourth quarter of 2009.

 

Most birthdays are not landmark occasions. And think of all the money we could save.

By Karen Datko Mar 24, 2010 8:26AM

This post comes from Paul Michael at partner blog Wise Bread.

 

What if we suddenly stopped celebrating every single birthday in our lives, and instead concentrated on just the important ones? Would you care? Would you support it? I’ll tell you one thing -- we’d all save a bunch of money.

 

The idea comes from one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt. If you don’t know the name, you’ll certainly know the voice. He played Remy in “Ratatouille.” He was also Spence Olchin in “The King Of Queens,” and he’s an exceptional comedian.

On his CD “Werewolves and Lollipops,” he outlines a plan to stop the celebration of most birthdays, saying that there’s nothing special about most of them. And he’s right. What’s so special about hitting 36 (my next birthday)? Or 42? Or even 14? They’re not landmark dates in your existence. They’re just another year.

 

The full list is printed below.

 

More couples who want to split up are staying under one roof because of the economy. How do they cope?

By Karen Datko Mar 23, 2010 8:51PM

The divorce rate actually dropped -- a remarkable 4% -- in 2008 and that trend appears to be continuing. Does that mean that during bad economic times, more couples are rediscovering true love and harmony?

 

Could be, but for many, probably not: Financial strain can be the final straw in a shaky relationship. What’s likely is that many people who would otherwise split can’t afford to break up. There’s too little money for legal fees or operating two households. Also, homeowners can find it nearly impossible to dispose of the family house.

So, many unhappy couples remain together (and many divorce lawyers report that business is the slowest it’s ever been).

 

Here's another strange Great Recession trend: Many couples are forced by finances to live together while going through a divorce. The Washington Post said 20% to 25% of the clients of one area law firm are in that boat, and other news stories reported similar statistics. Doesn’t that sound like hell here on earth? “It was torture, a scene waiting for a crime of passion,” Nordette, a poster at BlogHer, said about her experience.

 

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