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Proposed legislation would limit how much credit card companies can charge merchants who accept their cards. Is this a good thing?

By Karen Datko Jun 7, 2010 11:37AM

This guest post comes from "vh" at Funny about Money:


Every now and again, the credit union sends out a mass e-mailing to lobby members to ask elected representatives to vote this way or that on matters that affect credit unions in specific and banking in general. Normally I think: Yup yup yup! What's good for my credit union is good enough for me -- and I do as I'm told. This time, though, they're asking us to weigh in on the "interchange legislation" that is part of the proposed Financial Regulatory Reform Act.


And I'm not so sure.


My friend says he wants to change, he says he's learned his lesson from his bankruptcy, but his actions say otherwise.

By Karen Datko Jun 7, 2010 9:15AM

This post comes from J.D. Roth at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


I've been stewing over something for the past few days, and I'm finally ready to write about it.


I'm not a fan of judging others and their actions. Like Atticus Finch, I believe you never really know a person until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. But I'm human. Like everyone, there are times I can't help passing judgment. And although I know that judging others isn't productive, sometimes I'm at a loss to do anything else.


Rock bottom
I had dinner with my buddy Michael recently. He is moving back to Portland after several years away, and his financial life is a mess. He's had a rough couple of years:

  • He lost his home to foreclosure.
  • He lost his job.
  • His wife is out of work, too.
  • And, last month, he filed for bankruptcy.

Not all of his problems are due to the economy. He's brought plenty of woe upon himself due to a typical consumer lifestyle. He knows that.


Over a meal of Southern-style fried chicken -- my treat -- we talked a lot about his financial situation. We've chatted some in the past, but I never felt as if what I said made much of an impact.


Here's what smart-phone owners on AT&T and other networks need to consider.

By Karen Datko Jun 4, 2010 2:33PM

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


AT&T's decision to eliminate unlimited-data plans is one that will impact all smart-phone users, no matter which carrier they currently use.

AT&T announced Wednesday that starting Monday, June 7, it would stop offering the $30 unlimited-data plan to new customers, instead offering cell phone and iPad owners a monthly subscription choice of $15 for 200 megabytes or $25 for two gigabytes. Those who opt for the more expensive plan can choose to pay an additional $20 monthly to use their phone as a modem for portable computers.


Customers who currently subscribe to an unlimited-data plan can keep it "indefinitely," even if they switch phones, the company said. (Once users switch out of the unlimited plan, however, there's no going back.)


"This has been a long time coming," says Michael Gartenberg, a partner at technology consulting firm Altimeter Group in San Mateo, Calif. AT&T has blamed soaring data usage for dropped calls and other network problems, saying 3% of smart-phone users account for 40% of its data traffic. In December, Ralph de la Vega, chief executive of AT&T Mobility, told investors that usage-based pricing was likely. Spokesman Mark Siegel says the new plans are more fair to the bulk of subscribers. "We came to the conclusion that the one-price-fits-all model wasn't working," he says. The company expects that the lower data point could also entice more consumers to choose a smart phone for their next handset.


Other carriers are likely to move to similar pricing buckets as smart phones become more dominant in the market.


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.



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