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How to cut winter bills without making major home improvements.

By Karen Datko Jan 13, 2010 12:58PM

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

 

As consumers grow more energy conscious, and environmental advocates push for greater awareness, there is no shortage of suggestions for new ways to cut energy bills and help the planet in the process. The cost-savers can be great for homeowners -- but what about renters?

 

It turns out that many leases prevent tenants from making changes that could lead to substantial energy savings.

 

Spending money strategically now can save you lots over the long haul.

By Karen Datko Jan 13, 2010 11:04AM

This post comes from Philip Brewer at partner blog Wise Bread.

 

Frugality sites are full of advice for cutting your expenses right away. Everybody's got a list of unnecessary expenses, an exhortation not to buy stuff you don't need, and some ideas for how you can get the things you do need more cheaply. Living cheaply for the long term is different. Call it "strategic frugality."

 

Most people don't really have a goal to live cheaply. Rather, within the constraints of their income and their important long-term goals (like college for the kids and retirement), they want to live as well as they can. The problem is, boosting your living standard at each opportunity makes it impossible to take the strategic actions that let you live better for less. (And once you've got that down, funding your long-term goals gets a lot easier.)

 

Converting to a Roth IRA doesn't eliminate uncertainty about future tax rates.

By Karen Datko Jan 12, 2010 6:18PM

This guest post comes from Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice.

 

As most of you know, 2010 is a special year for taxes. It is the last year covered by the Bush tax cuts which, as you may remember, were engineered as a package of temporary adjustments and deals rather than permanent changes. Most of it goes poof on Dec. 31 of this year.

In the meantime, 2010 is a special year for converting traditional IRAs into Roths. When the Bush cuts were being constructed there was a need to find more government revenue, particularly at the end of the period covered by the law, i.e., 2010. IRA conversions fit the bill because, in the short run, they generate additional income tax revenue. (In the long run they do not, since conversions reduce income taxes paid in the future.)

 

So as of a few days ago, the income limitation on conversion to a Roth is gone. And just to get things started with a bang, for 2010 only, you have the option to defer the income tax bill on the conversion to 2011 and 2012. (That is, it is split between those two tax years.)

 

Predictably, the arrival of 2010 has brought a flurry of interest in IRA conversions in the mainstream and not-so-mainstream media.

 

Blogger is offering a savings tip every day for the entire year.

By Karen Datko Jan 12, 2010 4:56PM

In 2010, “Mrs. Modern Tightwad” is dispensing savings tips like vitamins -- one a day -- for the entire year.

 

Following her new “365 days of saving money” series could have benefits. She wrote:

If you did one thing each day that could save as little as $5 over the course of a year, you could have an extra $1,800 in your pocket at the end of the year.

We’re game. Among her tips so far:

 

The silver lining of the downturn is that more people are learning to live within their means, he says.

By Teresa Mears Jan 12, 2010 3:23PM

What should people do to improve their finances during a recession?

 

The same things they should have been doing before, financial author Dave Ramsey tells Success magazine: “Live on less than you make; get out of debt; have some money set aside for a rainy day, because it’s going to rain; invest for the future; learn to give.”

 

When you punch in a PIN to pay with your debit card, you're saving the store -- and maybe yourself in the long run -- some money.

By Karen Datko Jan 12, 2010 2:37PM

We recently changed the way we buy most stuff -- be it groceries at the supermarket or paint at the hardware store. When we swipe our debit card, we type in our PIN. That's the “debit” choice when card users are asked to pick “credit” or “debit.”

Why are we doing this? When you say “credit” and provide a signature -- sometimes waived, depending on how much you “charge” with your card -- you’re allowing the banks to siphon more money from the store and, ultimately, the consumers.

 

A recent New York Times story explained how this came to be -- and gives a lot of the credit, shall we say, to Visa. Here’s a very condensed version:

 

A new crop of e-readers seeks to compete with the netbook.

By Karen Datko Jan 12, 2010 11:55AM

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

 

Think $200 is too much to shell out for an e-reader in the era of increasingly cheap netbooks?

 

Guess what: E-reader makers are out to change your mind. At the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, manufacturers trotted out a variety of new models that allow users to not only store their digital library, but also to surf the Web, edit documents, record video and audio, check e-mail -- and even download Android apps.

Sales of e-readers doubled last year, and the Consumer Electronics Association predicts they will double again this year, in part due to their versatility. Yet it will be several years before your e-reader will qualify as a computer in its own right -- as the netbook does -- despite design similarities, says Andrew Eisner, the director of content for Retrevo.com, an online electronics marketplace. The big hurdle: screen lighting technology. Tablets use the same backlit LCD screens found on most computing devices, while e-readers use electronic paper display, or EPD, screens. EPDs, unlike LCDs, are readable in most lighting conditions and are also much easier on the eyes for long periods of reading.

 

Here are four of the newest e-readers available soon:

 

When you consider the time, money and risk involved, the stock market seems preferable.

By Karen Datko Jan 12, 2010 10:58AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.

 

There are two parts to any investment -- cash flow and equity appreciation. Cash flow refers to how much money the investment generates, and equity appreciation is how much the investment itself grows in value. When you look at real estate, cash flow refers to any rents you can earn, and equity appreciation refers to any increase, or decrease, in the property’s value.

In the past few years, real estate has taken a huge hit because prices simply grew too quickly, financially incapable people were given loans they couldn’t afford, and the myth that “buying a home is the best investment ever” was finally revealed to be the result of incredible anecdotes and not a statistical look at historical home values.

 

I’ve never liked the idea of real estate as purely an investment for a variety of reasons.

 

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