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Great deals can be found, but should you be concerned about possible health risks?

By Karen Datko Sep 25, 2009 2:58AM

If you track the blogosphere, it seems that the popularity of the humble dollar store is soaring, and that these stores aren't as humble as they used to be. 

Imagine this: The extremely picky "Mrs. Badger" at Lipstick is my Crack has even switched from body wash to bar soap because she found soaps she loves at the dollar store.

"Yeah! It's not all Irish Spring and Lifebuoy up in there anymore, y'all! And it's not all no-name generic soaps made out of battery acid and bacon grease (I just made that up; don't e-mail me) anymore, either," she writes.


It's easy to make a few bucks if you get creative.

By Karen Datko Sep 25, 2009 2:52AM

This guest post comes from PT at Prime Time Money.

I've written a lot lately about getting rid of debts and reducing expenses. I thought it was time I address the flip side of your finances: making more money. Thanks to suggestions by my Twitter followers, readers and other bloggers, I've been able to put together a solid list of 52 ways to make extra money. Most, if not all, can be done even with a full-time job.

I obviously haven't tried all of these methods, but when possible I've tried to link to an example of the opportunity actually making money. You should be able to find something here that fits you and your skills.


Man kept his spare change, but didn't invest it.

By Karen Datko Sep 25, 2009 2:47AM

We can hear the gears grinding in the minds of personal-finance bloggers everywhere as they process the following information: Paul Brant, 70, of Frankfort, Ind., used about $25,000 in spare quarters and dollar coins he had accumulated over 13 years to help pay for a $26,670 2008 Dodge Ram half-ton pickup.

Sheriff's deputies provided security as Brant drove the rolls of coins to the dealership. Brant, who works for Chrysler, decided to give his collection of spare pennies, nickels and dimes to his wife, Judy. 


They're making a big comeback

By Karen Datko Sep 24, 2009 6:00PM

Americans are crazy for coupons again -- clipping at rates not seen in years, and the attraction is not just the 30 cents off the canned corn, The New York Times reports. It's a psychological boost, a feeling that we're proactive and therefore better than those who pay full price.


As the Times puts it, "Because it takes more work to acquire them, the people who do so feel they have outsmarted other shoppers." It's kind of like that "delicious feeling of self-denial" inherent in frugality that our pal Frank Curmudgeon likes to write about at Bad Money Advice. We're saving money and feeling good in a way that's kind of creepy.


Our collective renewed love of the coupon is also good timing. Food prices have fallen by 2.5% since an ugly high point last November, with the biggest single decline between July and August.

Here are some interesting coupon factoids from the Times and other locations:


At a certain age, it's time to end the charade

By Karen Datko Sep 24, 2009 5:55PM

We have decided not to dye our hair again, and all of our women friends have an opinion about it.


Strong opinions -- ranging from enthusiastic support to this comment from an older friend: "If you go gray, you will be a granola. Still interesting to me -- but invisible to others. Don't do it -- savor your youth!"

That comment nearly stopped us in our tracks, but we're going ahead with this. It's not just the expense -- we color at home once a month for about $8.50, but if you have it done professionally, it's $40, $75 or even more depending on where you live. It's also the time, the handling of harsh chemicals (get that stuff in your eyes and you can go blind), the damage to our hair -- and the suspicion that we're denying the realities of age in a way that's not healthy or helpful.


At some point, this charade has to stop (I'm nearly 55), so why not now? (Plus, it's not like losing a limb. If we don't like what we see, we can always dye it again.)


What's the best way to proceed?


Going cloth-only is not a hardship

By Karen Datko Sep 24, 2009 5:49PM

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


We have little kids. Kids are messy. Our daughter spills milk or juice on almost a nightly basis. Our son, who's a bit older, doesn't make messes as often, but when he does, they tend to be even more disastrous, such as a full jar of salsa knocked off the counter and shattered all over the floor.


For years, our solution to this problem has been a big roll of paper towels. It's simply what we're familiar with and, like many simple and familiar things in life, it's almost an automatic thing to have on hand. We simply have paper towels in the kitchen.


A few weeks ago, though, after we bought another batch of them at Sam's Club, I began to really question that purchase. Sure, we have a lot of messes, but did we really need to be dropping $5 or more a month on paper that we wind up throwing into the landfill? Probably not.


Air conditioning, free refills, comfy beds are draws

By Teresa Mears Sep 24, 2009 1:30PM

We're the first to admit that shopping as a form of entertainment isn't exactly unheard of in the United States.


Still, Ikea browsers in China may have taken the idea of shopping center as entertainment to a whole new level. The Ikea store in Beijing has become an entertainment destination for Chinese who have no intention of buying anything more than lunch.


The Los Angeles Times, reporting on this phenomenon, interviewed Zhang Xin, who took his wife, son and mother to Ikea for lunch and a break from the smog.


 "We just came here for fun," the 34-year-old office manager told The Times. "I suppose we could have gone somewhere else, but it wouldn't have been a complete experience."


U.S. Census figures contain disturbing news

By Karen Datko Sep 23, 2009 8:30PM

If you were born before 1955, you're part of a group that's enjoyed remarkable prosperity. Born later and you're among those who are losing ground at an accelerating pace.


USA Today analyzed U.S. Census data to track just how far incomes have fallen since 2000. The story said:

Household income for people in their peak earning years -- between ages 45 and 54 -- plunged $7,700 to $64,349 from 2000 through 2008, after adjusting for inflation. People in their 20s and 30s suffered similar drops. Older people enjoyed all the gains.

Why is this happening?



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