'Historic' tax is expected to encourage about 1 million to quit.
Many smokers aren't finding the cost of cigarettes a laughing matter. The federal tax on a pack jumped Wednesday -- April Fools' Day -- from 39 cents to $1.01. The tax increase is so big, it's being called "historic."
Higher federal taxes apply to other tobacco products, so even those smokers who have taken to rolling their own to save money can't escape them. (To see how your preferred product is affected, click here.)
You can supplement your TV diet with rentals and downloads.
Are you tired of paying for cable or satellite TV?
Would you like to get digital-quality TV and many of your favorite cable shows for free?
If you answered yes to these questions, today is your lucky day. Today is the deadline for broadcast TV stations to switch from an analog to a digital signal. This switch from analog to digital broadcast television is referred to as the digital TV or DTV transition. Starting Saturday, June 13, full-power television stations will broadcast only digital over-the-air signals. Many local broadcasters have already made the transition.
Personal-finance bloggers share embarrassing moments.
Recently the Tough Money Love blog had its first anniversary. To help me celebrate, I invited my blogging colleagues to tell us about a personal-finance lesson he or she learned the hard way. Many responded with their own versions of the hard truth.
I encourage you to read every one of their contributions for their entertainment and educational value.
They don't necessarily mean the food is inedible
Anyone who has worked in a grocery store will tell you to look for the date on the package (and it's amazing how many shoppers don't). But what do terms like "sell by," "use by" and "expiration" mean about a product's freshness and safety?
Here's is what some of the dates mean:
The dos and don'ts for getting the most value
There's no denying it: When it comes to food discounts, the vast majority of coupons are for sugary snacks and preservative-laden convenience products. You'd do better to lick a septic tank for the vitamins and minerals it provides, "Low in fat! High in niacin!" claims aside.
What's more, coupons can lure you to buy foods you wouldn't otherwise, and oftentimes, those items are significantly pricier than generic or competing brands.
There are ways around the coupon trap. By applying the little buggers prudently, you can (and will) save a few bucks off healthy foods every week. It'll compensate for the cost of labor and materials, and the time commitment shouldn't take away from more important things. Like cooking, sleeping, or wondering why your boyfriend can get his laundry NEAR the hamper, but never IN the hamper.
So, here are a few guidelines to help you along.
You can track developments in major class-action lawsuits
There's also good news for those who purchased department store cosmetics over a somewhat recent nine-year period. As a result of another settlement, many stores will be handing out freebies like perfume and makeup.
We know these things because we've begun reading a very helpful Web site called TopClassActions.com. Not only can you find out how and where to file your claim, but these folks explain the legal intricacies of each class-action suit in a way that regular people can understand.
They're changing terms for responsible customers
Credit card companies are spending lots of money to tell you they're on your side.
Peter at Bible Money Matters has noticed the trend: Discover is pushing its cards as "a built-in easy-to-do budget and spending tracker," he said. He also got a mailing from Chase touting savings he could enjoy by using his rewards card, like discounts at Chase's online shopping portal.
We get irritated by the commercials claiming the card companies will bend over backward to help if you're having trouble paying your bills. (In all fairness, credit card companies do help some struggling customers with a variety of methods, like a temporary reduction in interest, to get them to keep paying. The companies don't want to write off the debt.)
Peter isn't buying all the feel-good stuff. He writes: "The credit card companies are not your friend. They just want your money."
Let's review some of the card companies' recent attempts to reduce their risk by assessing more interest and fees or getting rid of customers they no longer want.
How to use little sums to pay off debt
I have had several questions lately about snowflaking -- what is it, why do I do it, can we see examples of it -- so I thought I would write a quick primer answering those questions and more.
Snowflaking is a spinoff of the snowball approach to debt reduction popularized by Dave Ramsey. With the debt-snowball method, you figure out what amount you can pay to debt every month, and then you keep paying that amount, even as your debts shrink and your minimums get smaller.
To implement it, in a nutshell, make a list of all your debts, order them from either smallest to largest or highest interest to lowest interest (that is a debate in itself), and you focus all extra money above the minimum payments on a single debt -- one with either the smallest total or the highest interest.
When you eliminate a debt, you apply the payment you were making to that debt to the next debt in line until the snowballing effect of decreasing minimums and increasing amounts eliminates all the debts on your list.
Well, what are snowballs made of? Snowflakes!
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