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Unlike investing in stocks, there's nothing glamorous about building savings for the unexpected.

By Karen Datko Feb 11, 2010 10:31AM

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


Tim writes in:

We are working on our emergency fund. We put almost all of our extra income into the fund. The problem that I am wrestling with is that it is hard to watch opportunities go by while we work on this fund. It will take a year or two to fully fund our emergency fund .... Example, I really wanted to buy some Ford stock when it was at $4/share. I was pretty sure that over the next year it would do well, but it is a risk and at the time we were starting our fund. It has hit $12 per share in about a year. I know there will be other opportunities like this, but it is hard to watch a missed opportunity.
Do you think the emergency fund should be fully funded before buying opportunities?

We love our pets. And what says love like money?

By Janet Paskin Feb 11, 2010 10:19AM

Have you ever heard a dog cough? It's a dry, hacking, wheezing thing, like a 90-year-old man with a hairball. It. Is. Horrible. Which may be why, when our dog, Lucy, caught a cold this winter, we bought her antibiotics, yes, and also a $50 bottle of doggie echinacea.

While that's embarrassing and we'll never do it again (we swear!), we're not alone in indulging our furriest family member. Americans spend $43.2 billion a year on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association, enough to build an oil-and-gas pipeline, close the budget deficit in California twice over, or bail out a major multinational bank.


But a closer look at who's spending how much might surprise you.


Expect 5 trends as banks look for new ways to make money and attract new customers.

By Karen Datko Feb 10, 2010 4:14PM

This post comes from James Limbach at partner site


Banks are adjusting to a new environment, one with stricter regulations, fewer opportunities for big risks and heavy public sentiment against them.


In that light, Mintel Comperemedia, a provider of direct-marketing intelligence, is forecasting five major changes for banks in 2010.

"Based on evidence from recent direct marketing, I see waves of change ready to wash through the banking industry," said Susan Wolfe, vice president of financial services at Mintel. "From the fall of free checking to the rise of comprehensive banking rewards programs, banks seem poised to make 2010 a year of innovations. The biggest challenge will be finding new opportunities for revenue."


The end of free checking.


Spending on home entertainment and communication is rising. Make sure you're not buying more than you need.

By Teresa Mears Feb 10, 2010 2:56PM

If you haven’t noticed when you pay your bills, the price Americans pay to be entertained and stay connected is rising.


According to The New York Times, the average American is expected to spend $997.07 this year for cable television, Internet and video game service, plus another $1,000 for cell phones. That’s up from $770.95 annually in home entertainment and Internet in 2004. According to The Times, “the average family is spending as much on entertainment over devices as they are on dining out or buying gasoline.”


Your smart phone might help you get a date, but it can also steer you wrong.

By Karen Datko Feb 10, 2010 2:24PM

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


Before your next date, prepare your cell phone to serve as your wingman.


Smart-phone applications aim to help users with every stage of a relationship, from hunting for a date to wining and dining to breaking up. While some of the advisory apps are free, others are pricey -- a background check on your dinner mate might run $40 -- and the information can be inaccurate.


Just remember: It's rude to pay more attention to your phone than to your date, says Jodi R. R. Smith, chief executive of Boston-based etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith. That's true even if you excuse yourself to better review your next move. "You want to be careful of leaving your date alone at the table frequently," she says. "If they are attractive, that gives someone else time to move in."


Use these five apps to plan and hone your dating skills, but tuck the phone away before you make your approach.


Companies love them, but for consumers they're less than attractive.

By Karen Datko Feb 10, 2010 12:31PM

This post comes from Tisha Tolar at partner blog Wise Bread.


With a new year, many of us may have the illusion that time management can be increased in our lives. Time management, weight management and money management are likely the three most popular resolutions that return to the scene year after year. It makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense are the little things in life that we continue to do even though they violate the promise we made to ourselves to do better.


One such item that can be a strain on both time- and money- management skills is the rebate.


Karl Rabeder has traded unbridled luxury for life in a two-room flat.

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 8:15PM

This kind of story gives you faith in humankind, or makes you feel you’ve entered the Twilight Zone: An Austrian multimillionaire is giving away all his money to charity in pursuit of a simple, happy life.


Happiness and self-realization eluded Karl Rabeder as he indulged in a supremely materialistic lifestyle -- a $2.2 million, 3,455-square-foot lakeside villa in the Alps, a farmhouse on 42 acres in Provence, six gliders, an Audi A8. His entire fortune was estimated at $4.7 million.


Rabeder, now 47 and divorced, lives in a two-room apartment in Innsbruck, and gets by on just $1,260 a month. “The worst that can happen to me is that I have to take a small job to get by,” he told the Daily Mail.


''My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing. Money is counterproductive -- it prevents happiness.''


Really? We’re not so sure about that. And, believe it or not, Rabeder has critics.


Expect more mobile coupons as retailers seek to reach phone-addicted millennials.

By Teresa Mears Feb 9, 2010 6:32PM

Target has become the latest retailer, and among the first major national retailers, to offer its coupons via cell phone. You can also download your Target gift cards to your phone.


Expect this trend to continue. The Dallas Morning News reports that J.C. Penney is rolling out cell phone coupons nationwide next month, and 7-Eleven just finished a test in San Diego. Sears offers some mobile coupons via Cellfire, the electronic coupon site used by Kroger and other supermarkets.



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