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NASA's overblown spending on a 3-day conference to train procurement officials contained some pricey personal-finance lessons.

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 3:34PM

Question: How much did NASA spend on coffee, soda and snacks for a three-day conference in Baltimore to teach procurement officials how to determine a reasonable price for stuff they buy?

 

Answer: $62,611 total, or $66 per person per day -- some mighty pricey bagels, cookies and fruit.

 

It varies from less than a year to indefinitely, depending on the type.

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 1:00PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.

 

We recently purchased a sheet-fed scanner, a Fujitsu ScanSnap S300, to help organize our financial records. This purchase is easily one of the top 10 I’ve made in my adult life. We went from having a few banker’s boxes of documents down to just a few documents in about a week.

 

Using a sheet-fed scanner, versus a flat-bed scanner like a copier, saves you a ridiculous amount of time, and the ScanSnap will save your document into a .pdf file. It’s a bit pricey but definitely worth it if you’re looking to save things electronically.

 

One of the benefits of storing documents electronically is that it makes the “how long should I keep financial documents?” question a bit obsolete. Data storage is cheap so you can save documents forever, but I think it’s still important to know how long to keep documents because it gives you a better understanding of finances. For instance, knowing why you should keep tax records for seven years gives you a better understanding of the tax process.

 

So, how long should you keep financial documents? It depends.

 

But is anybody else tired of wimpy mortgage modifications and this endless national soap opera?

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 11:28AM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.

 

Anybody besides me sick to death of mortgage modification plans, programs, problems, hopes, dreams, failures?

 

I guess we’ll have to just suck it up and stay tuned because this big soap opera appears to have legs. The latest installment -- let’s call it the modified modification plan -- might have a chance at some modest success.

 

What’s wrong with the first one?

 

With D.C. packed for tourist season, bloom watchers might turn elsewhere.

By Karen Datko Mar 30, 2010 10:17AM

This Deal of the Day comes from Sarah Morgan at partner site SmartMoney.

 

Regardless of what you may have heard about May flowers, the blooms that draw the most visitors to Washington, D.C., arrive in late March.

 

This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival began on Saturday and runs through April 11. The more than 3,700 cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin and other sites in the capital are forecast to hit their peak bloom date on Thursday or Friday. Peak bloom for these famous trees, a gift from Japan in 1912, translates to peak tourism season for the city where they grow. Bloom chasers would be wise to time their spring trips this year with that in mind -- and maybe even consider some other destinations.

 

Two sisters face the challenge of caring for parents who are unable or unwilling to care for themselves.

By Karen Datko Mar 29, 2010 7:59PM

Shtinkykat” and her sister face probably the biggest challenge of their young adult lives: Their parents subsist on Social Security and a tiny pension in a rental after years of financial irresponsibility. Not even a modest home to call their own.

 

Now, their father is suffering from dementia. And adhering to a pattern she's consistently followed, their mother has left him in charge of the finances and is trying to lay a heavy guilt trip on the girls (which they resist). Sample One: "Oh, now I see you and your sister just want your dad and me dead!" Sample Two: "I've sacrificed EVERYTHING for you girls and this is how you treat me!"

 

The answer to this simple question can motivate and guide you as you reduce clutter.

By Karen Datko Mar 29, 2010 5:25PM

This guest post comes from Erin Doland at Unclutterer.

 

As part of my second set of 2010 resolutions, I started going through my entire home and office playing the “I’m moving overseas!” uncluttering game.

 

However, I ran into a problem because I know I’m not actually moving overseas. It’s like setting your alarm clock 10 minutes ahead -- you always know it’s 10 minutes ahead. I can’t seem to trick myself into behaving in a way that makes the game beneficial. And, since I already own much less stuff than the average American, I’m using that as some strange justification for my decision-making process.

 

I’ve come to realize that this game isn’t for me and that I need a new approach. Taking the place of “I’m moving overseas!” is my new “how much is enough?” evaluation procedure.

 

The premise of “how much is enough?” is simple:

 

Some companies that offer to help you settle your credit card debt for less are not what they claim to be.

By Karen Datko Mar 29, 2010 3:21PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

The ads for credit card debt-settlement companies make it sound pretty easy: If you have $10,000 or more of credit card debt, these firms say they can negotiate with your lender so that you can walk away from all but a small percentage of the money you owe.

 

Are these promises on the level? The Better Business Bureau calls the debt-settlement industry one fraught with "inherent problems." That's a diplomatic way of saying some of these companies are outright scams. In recent months several have been targets of legal action by state attorneys general.

 

Grab your unclaimed tax refunds by April 15. Plus, other places to find cash.

By Karen Datko Mar 29, 2010 10:53AM

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

 

Lose track of $100 or more? You? Even if you carefully balance every penny in your checking account, it’s a definite possibility.

 

The states are collectively holding on to more than $32.8 billion in unclaimed assets in the form of dormant bank accounts, stock splits, life insurance payouts, gift cards, uncashed payroll checks and other funds, reports the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. In all but two states, there’s no time limit to declare ownership. (Idaho allows 10 years to make a claim; Indiana, 25.)

But if you’re owed a federal tax refund, better get a move on.

 

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