Smart SpendingSmart Spending

People are sacrificing top-shelf booze for the cheaper stuff in tight times.

By Kim Peterson Feb 2, 2010 1:58PM
Expense habits © Steve Mason/Getty ImagesAmericans have set the bar lower when it comes to drinking liquor. We're still drinking, all right, but Grey Goose has been replaced by Popov, and Macallan has been booted by Black Velvet.

The amount of liquor sold in 2009 edged up only 1.4%. That's the smallest increase since 2001, reports The Associated Press.

The lowest-priced liquors grew the fastest, at 5.5%, while the top-shelf brands fell by 5.1%. 

Coupon use rises for the first time in 17 years. It's a mixed bag for consumers.

By Karen Datko Feb 2, 2010 11:46AM

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

 

Coupon clippers, sharpen your scissors -- and your judgment.

 

Last year, for the first time in 17 years, coupon use rose, with consumers redeeming 27% more coupons in 2009 than in 2008, according to a study by Inmar, a redemption-services consulting firm. That adds up to an estimated $3.5 billion in savings.

 

Most of the increase of course can be attributed to the rough economic conditions of late 2008 and 2009. “Coupons are an easy way for people to stretch their budgets,” says Matthew Tilley, the marketing director of Inmar.

 

But beware: Coupons can also be budget-busters if you let them dictate your shopping list instead of using them to save solely on items you would have purchased anyway. Before your next trip to the store, here are three trends to take advantage of -- and two pitfalls to watch out for.

 

One sign of the banks' optimism is that credit card direct-mail solicitations are on the rise again.

By Karen Datko Feb 1, 2010 8:20PM

This post comes from James Limbach of partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

The junk mail is back.

 

Mintel Comperemedia, a provider of direct-marketing information, reports that in the fourth quarter -- for the first time in three years -- the volume of credit card direct mail increased from the previous quarter.

 

With a 47% increase in direct mail compared with the third quarter, credit card issuers showed increased confidence in the economy and a willingness to extend more consumer credit.

However, last year's direct-mail volume still pales in comparison with recent years.

 

The old favorite has gotten a makeover for its 75th anniversary, but will we like it?

By Karen Datko Feb 1, 2010 7:23PM

Cash may be king in some households, but we are a society that increasingly prefers plastic to paper money. So it seemed inevitable that the 75th-anniversary edition of Monopoly, which will debut in stores this year, will be cashless -- no funny money.

 

The Huffington Post reported that “instead of pastel-colored paper money, little real estate magnates will gobble up house and hotel pieces with credit cards.” The metal tokens -- the race car is always our choice -- will be replaced with plastic tabs, and the game board itself will be round. (The best photo we could find is here.)

Is this welcome progress or change we don’t need? The Huffington Post polled its readers:

 

Online aid lets homeowners try out different scenarios to weigh financial implications of keeping or giving up their home.

By Teresa Mears Feb 1, 2010 4:23PM

We’re hearing more these days about whether homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages should give up and walk away, taking a hit on their credit.

 

In addition to dealing with moral and emotional issues, homeowners have to look closely at the financial repercussions: Is walking away from a home on which the mortgage owed exceeds the value -- a situation faced by about one-quarter of U.S. homeowners who have mortgages -- a good financial decision?

 

The New York Times Bucks Blog tipped us off to a calculator at You Walk Away, a company that, for a fee, helps homeowners walk away from their mortgages.

 

Beat florists at their own game with these 7 tips.

By Karen Datko Feb 1, 2010 1:53PM

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

 

Getting a good deal on flowers this Valentine's Day requires that you not linger too long when you stop to smell the roses.

 

Valentine's Day is the biggest holiday for fresh-flower sales, accounting for 40% of annual revenue, according to the Society of American Florists, a trade group. Prices can easily top $60 for a bouquet of a dozen long-stemmed roses, with fancier arrangements well above $100.

But wait much beyond the start of February to order, and you can expect to pay a premium.

 

Think you're the world's best at making smart money moves? Find out by seeing if you've ever fallen for these dumb money moves.

By Stacy Johnson Feb 1, 2010 9:38AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner blog Money Talks News.

 

Do you waste cash by spending money on dumb things? There’s one way to find out: Take a look at this video and article and see if you’ve ever fallen for any of these dumb deals.

 

The truth is, it does for many people.

By Karen Datko Feb 1, 2010 8:46AM

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

 

Writing “Your Money: The Missing Manual” has been intense. I’ve spent a ton of time researching personal-finance topics ranging from buying a car to funding a 401k to the relationship between money and happiness. My research has reinforced some of my convictions (index funds are the best investment for 99% of personal investors, for instance) but has toppled others.

One of my beliefs that’s been set on its head is that Americans are better off buying their own homes. I don’t believe that’s necessarily the case anymore.

 

DATA PROVIDERS

Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

ABOUT SMART SPENDING

Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

TOOLS

More