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Free Pretzel Day and National Pancake Day are just three days apart. Or would you prefer bagel poppers?

By Teresa Mears Feb 19, 2010 2:11PM

It’s Friday, so that means it’s time for food deals and freebies. And we have some good ones, with thanks to our friends at Cities on the Cheap.

 

In the next few days, the world is celebrating pretzels and pancakes, and why not?

 

About $775,000 in annual fees will be returned.

By Karen Datko Feb 19, 2010 2:07PM

This post comes from Truman Lewis at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

With a little arm-twisting from the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Capital One has agreed to refund annual membership fees to customers who were assessed the fees after they had canceled their credit card accounts and had no outstanding balance.

The California and West Virginia attorneys general had challenged Capital One's practices. The OCC became involved when Capital One became a national bank, putting it under the OCC's jurisdiction. It announced the settlement today and said that Capital One would refund about $775,000 to customers affected by the actions, which occurred from 2004 to 2006.

 

The FTC has issued an alert about such plans. Here are some questions to ask.

By Karen Datko Feb 19, 2010 1:00PM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.

 

Health insurance can be expensive. And if you are shopping for individual health insurance, you know it can be really expensive. Add to that pre-existing conditions, and the price can be outright ridiculous. And that's why the following claims can be really enticing to those looking for health insurance:

  • Affordable health care plan.
  • Pre-existing conditions? No problem!
  • No deductible or co-pays.
  • Thousands of providers in our PPO network.
  • Discounts up to 60%.

What's the problem with these claims? The problem is they aren't advertising health insurance. Instead, they are promoting what are called discount health plans. If you’ve spent any time researching individual health insurance, you’ve probably come across these plans, sometimes called medical discount plans.

While discounts are always good, many are questioning just how effective these plans are.

 

Pair coupons and sales, then add speed and vigilance to get the freebies.

By Karen Datko Feb 19, 2010 11:11AM

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

 

It is the holy grail of coupon clippers: When store sales and manufacturer’s coupons align just right, shoppers can grab certain items for nothing.

 

Through Feb. 20, for example, CVS shoppers can get Aussie shampoo or conditioner ($3 before $2 in store rewards and a $1 manufacturer’s coupon). At Rite Aid, there’s Motrin ($3 before a $1 manufacturer’s coupon and $2 store rewards).

 

Grabbing those freebies, however, requires fast reflexes. Consumers have been clipping more coupons in the struggling economy, and that means more competition, says Erin Gifford, the founder of Coupon Cravings. “You need to get there the day the [weekly] sales start,” she says, usually Sunday. “Stores run out quickly and they may not restock.”

Savings also hinge on loyalty to a particular store and a small initial outlay, says Briana Carter, the founder of BargainBriana.com, a coupon site that also offers a map of local deal bloggers, to help shoppers find promotions that vary by region.

 

Credit is a privilege to be earned, not an entitlement.

By Karen Datko Feb 18, 2010 7:45PM

Much has been made about new restrictions on credit cards for those under 21 when most provisions of the Credit CARD Act take effect Feb. 22. (Too much, in fact, according to our buddy Frank Curmudgeon at Bad Money Advice.)

 

It remains to be seen whether people under age 21 will have a more difficult time getting a credit card as a result of the new law. But just in case your child applies and is turned down because of insufficient income, should you co-sign for that first credit card?

 

Our answer: No, absolutely not. Not even if it were the last card on earth, flat-screen TVs were 60% off, and your birthday was four days away. (Particularly not then.)

 

Can you tell we feel strongly about this? Here’s why:

 

'100 Thing Challenge' advocates liberation from the consumer lifestyle. It might even save you some money.

By Teresa Mears Feb 18, 2010 5:58PM

How many “things” do you need in your life? Could you live with just 100 things?

 

A blogger named David Michael Bruno at GuyNamedDave nearly two years ago started what he called the “100 Thing Challenge,” an attempt to pare his stuff (not counting shared household items such as furniture) down to 100 items. He ended up classifying his considerable book collection as one item, making the challenge more manageable. But he did pare down.

 

Bundle: Parents go out more than you might think, dinner with the grandkids is a struggle, and where you live matters. A lot.

By Janet Paskin Feb 18, 2010 1:01PM

Among the obvious budget busters, dining tops the list. A week's worth of homemade grilled-cheese sandwiches costs about what you'd spend on the same lunch at the diner. Add tax and tip, and you're looking at a 25% surcharge, not even considering profligate splurges like -- gasp! -- a Pepsi.

Data from MSN partner blog Bundle.com shows, not surprisingly, that as people make more, they spend more on dining out; as they make less, restaurants command less of their dining dollar. Here's what is shocking:

 

The agency doesn't look kindly on the "taxes are voluntary" and other frivolous arguments against paying.

By Karen Datko Feb 18, 2010 12:49PM

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

 

Now that we're well into another tax-filing season, the Internal Revenue Service is engaging in one of its annual rituals -- debunking the numerous, creative arguments citizens give as a reason they don't have to file a tax return.

With the rise of the Internet, these tax myths have gained new currency as they spread with lightning speed around the Web. The IRS says they are all bogus and that anyone who relies on them will end up in trouble.

 

For example, one argument claims that the law describes the tax system as "voluntary," and therefore no one really has to pay taxes.

 

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