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Not everyone is physically able to push (or even ride) a lawn mower. If you can, though, why not fire the yard guy?

By Donna_Freedman Jun 4, 2010 12:05PM

One of my house-sitting responsibilities is to mow the homeowner's lawn. The property isn't huge but it's hilly and lumpy and I was unfamiliar with the equipment. After I trimmed I realized I'd forgotten the small side yard, so I had to get the lawn mower back out.

Even so, it took me only about 45 minutes from starting the mower (the first time) to closing the garage door afterward. I'm wondering what it costs to pay someone to do it.

Anywhere from $35 to $50, according to Smart Spending message board readers.


You could actually pay more in total interest under a refi than you would just sticking with your original loan.

By Karen Datko Jun 4, 2010 11:44AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


With mortgage rates near historic lows, we've been looking into refinancing our home loan. We have 24 years left on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at 5.625%. I called Wells Fargo and, for what's called a super conforming loan, we can refinance down to 5% for 30 years. So, should I refinance or not?

The answer to that question generally involves calculating how much you'll save each month if you refinance your mortgage. With the monthly savings in hand, you can then divide that number into the cost of refinancing to determine how many months it will take you to recoup the cost. If you plan to stay in your home at least that long, then refinancing is worth the cost.

There are two big problems with this analysis, which we'll cover in a minute. But first, let's look at an example.


Painted designs on the glasses contain a known carcinogen.

By Karen Datko Jun 4, 2010 10:55AM

This post comes from partner site


Fast-food chain McDonald's said it is recalling about 12 million "Shrek Forever After 3D" drinking glasses because paint used on the designs contains cadmium.

Cadmium is a chemical element that is a known carcinogen. It was once a major component of nickel cadmium batteries, but its industrial uses have been phased out in recent years due to its toxicity.

The restaurant chain was selling the collectibles -- promoting the recently released "Shrek Forever After" film -- for $2. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says consumers who purchased the glasses should stop using them immediately.


You'll find free admission to national parks this weekend, plus free museums, free 'summer camp' and 'fee-free' concerts.

By Teresa Mears Jun 4, 2010 8:03AM

We don't have too many food deals this week, but we do have some tips for finding free and cheap fun.


Today is National Doughnut Day, which means free doughnuts at many shops nationwide. Some of last week's food deals and coupons also are still good.


As the school year winds down, don't forget we also have information on free ways to keep your kids reading this summer and free and cheap movies to entertain them.

With some help from our friends at Cities on the Cheap, we also came up with a few more deals on entertainment:


Washington state woman left her $4.5 million estate to worthy causes. Hardly anyone knew she was wealthy.

By Karen Datko Jun 3, 2010 7:26PM

Even among stories of people who lived frugal lives and bequeathed millions to good causes upon their demise, the life of Verna Oller of Long Beach, Wash., is truly remarkable. She was our kind of gal.


According to stories in The Seattle Times and the Chinook Observer, Oller was a committed do-it-yourselfer who embraced the simple life. She labored until age 76 in jobs like picking cranberries, shucking oysters, and working in restaurants -- waiting tables, prepping food, whatever was required.


A widow since 1964, she grew her own organic vegetables and heated her home with a woodstove -- still able to split and stack wood, too, well into her 90s -- until she moved to a retirement home in 2007. 


She also researched her own investments, studying The Wall Street Journal after her lawyer had finished with his copy. Upon her death last month at age 98, 31 years after she began investing, she had an estate worth $4.5 million.


Retailers are adding programs and trying new tactics to retain your business.

By Karen Datko Jun 3, 2010 3:02PM

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


Retailers are pulling out all the stops to increase membership in their loyalty programs -- but frequent shoppers may want to think twice.


Loyalty programs have historically been an easy way for retailers to collect information about shoppers' habits. Now, with consumers spending cautiously, businesses that didn't have programs are adding them to better stretch marketing dollars. Those that already have programs are increasing the ways they interact with customers.


"It's the one-on-one marketing holy grail," says Michael Gatti, executive vice president of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, an industry group.


For consumers, growing programs are a mixed bag.


1.7 million Maytag and other dishwashers made by the company have been recalled.

By Karen Datko Jun 3, 2010 1:47PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site


Maytag Corp. is recalling 1.7 million dishwashers because of a fire hazard, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says.


The recall includes dishwashers sold under the Maytag, Amana, Jenn-Air, Admiral, Magic Chef, Performa by Maytag, and Crosley brands. Whirlpool Corp. purchased Maytag in 2006.


It's the largest dishwasher recall in three years.


The CPSC says consumers should stop using the appliances immediately because a faulty heating element can short-circuit and ignite.


Walking away from your agreements when you have the capacity to fulfill them is morally wrong, akin to lying.

By Karen Datko Jun 3, 2010 10:13AM

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


Kelli writes in:

My husband and I are sitting on a 30-year mortgage (with 26 years left to go). We still owe $330,000 on our home. A week ago, a very similar home to ours two blocks away sold for $220,000, so we're underwater by at least $100,000. We are thinking of just walking away from this mortgage and renting an apartment for a while until our credit clears up. What do you think?

First of all, there's a strong personal moral element to this type of decision. Is it morally wrong to walk away from a mortgage?



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