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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


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.


For example, one beauty blogger found that using Crisco on her skin worked just as well as an expensive face cream.

By Karen Datko Mar 29, 2010 7:02AM

This post comes from staff writer April Dykman at partner blog Get Rich Slowly.


Like many of you, I’m a proponent of quality over quantity. I’d rather buy one good coat that will get me through three seasons and last for years than replace a poorly made, cheap one every year.


But it’s important to consider that expense is not necessarily an indication of quality. And even when the more expensive item is of higher quality, it might not be the best buy.


The following are five examples that illustrate that the more expensive option isn’t always worth the extra expense.


For example: Both suitcases and meals could be lighter.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 26, 2010 4:51PM

I’m in Arizona on another frugal vacation, this time visiting my daughter and son-in-law. In a couple of months Phoenix will become Satan’s Fry Daddy, but current temps in the low 80s feel downright balmy. It’s a dry heat, remember?

Getting here was a nail-biter. I was on standby because I was traveling on a buddy pass given to me by a friend. At the last minute half a dozen airline employees showed up asking for seats. The only reason I got on the plane at all was that one of the employees, bless his heart, agreed to take the jump seat. Luckily he didn’t change his mind and require me to sit on a toilet for most of the flight.

Thanks to the pass my round-trip ticket cost only $86.40, including all fees. Not everyone has access to that kind of discount. But in the past week I’ve learned or relearned a handful of other things about frugal travel:


Even if you can't, it's a foot in the door for sanity -- finally.

By Karen Datko Mar 26, 2010 2:39PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.


Don’t go counting your mortgage chickens just yet. They’re not likely to hatch for some time.


If ever.


I’m talking about Bank of America’s decision to finally do what many people have thought for years was just plain common sense: reduce the principal on some mortgages. 


Trade your stuff for free -- but watch out for flaky friends.

By Karen Datko Mar 26, 2010 11:33AM

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


Admiring other people’s possessions isn't necessarily a bad thing -- especially if you can trade them for it.


I’ll admit to a slight shoe obsession, although it takes a deal to get me to indulge. (For example, stacking sales, coupon codes and a reward certificate at DSW recently netted me a $55 pair for just $18, a 67% discount.) Instead, I’ve decided to throw a swap party with five friends of the same size. Voila -- new-to-me shoes for free while clearing my closet of pairs I don't wear.


That kind of one-on-one and group swapping has thrived in the struggling economy as consumers look for ways to cut their budgets and still get the things they want. “It’s like Christmas,” says Darcy Cruwys, the founder of community swap site


Watch out for the flake-out factor:


It's a way for those without bank accounts to get their tax refunds sooner.

By Karen Datko Mar 26, 2010 10:33AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


Direct deposit of a tax refund is great news for some. You get your refund added to your checking account in about two weeks rather than the six to eight weeks it takes for a paper check refund. And you avoid the hassle of schlepping to your bank to deposit the refund check.


For those who do not have a checking account, however, the benefits of direct deposit are elusive. According to the FDIC, about 30 million U.S. households are underbanked or unbanked, so this is no small issue.


To make matters worse, those without bank accounts often turn to tax refund anticipation loans. These short-term loans come with extremely high interest rates, and are really no better than a payday loan. While they do give you access to your refund immediately, the fees can eat into a substantial portion of it. Fortunately, there is an extremely low-cost alternative -- having your tax refund deposited on a prepaid card.



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