Smart SpendingSmart Spending

The Bank of America offer of free coverage has a catch.

By Karen Datko Oct 20, 2009 12:20PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


I remember a few years ago when credit card companies would send out $5 checks to customers. The catch with the $5 check was that it enrolled you in some sort of service, usually identity theft or employment-related coverage, which was free for a month.


After a month, there was a monthly fee that was either flat, in the case of the identity theft service, or a percentage of your balance, in the case of the employment-related service.


Last week, I received letters from two banks reminding me of their complimentary offer of accidental death and dismemberment insurance. It’s clear in both cases that they're marketing promotions trying to get you to buy AD&D insurance from their partners. However, the two offers are very different in how they approach the customer.


Taking these precautions could greatly reduce your risk.

By Karen Datko Oct 20, 2009 8:41AM

This guest post comes from Adam Baker at Man vs. Debt.


Identity theft is the fastest growing white-collar crime in the world. The Federal Trade Commission has stated that there are more than 9 million cases of identity theft per year in the United States alone. Even if you've been able to avoid any issues thus far, chances are that you know someone whose identity has been compromised.


It's estimated that well over 50% of all cases of identity theft were perpetrated by someone the victim knew.

Note from Karen: It's National Protect Your Identity Week, sponsored by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling and the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Here's some related reading that you'll find very informative.

·         Find 'shredding parties' in your state

·         Are you safe? 10 questions to find out

·         Steps to take if you've been victimized

·         Questions on identity theft? Ask an expert

If you take anything from this post, realize you can never be too safe with your personal information. You need to be on your toes, especially around your co-workers, friends and family. Although you likely won't be liable for any fraudulent charges and/or spending, it can takes months of consistent effort to clean up. Here are some ways you can avoid becoming a victim:


State advises that if you plan to move there, you should have a job lined up first.

By Karen Datko Oct 19, 2009 7:56PM

We heard a fascinating tidbit in a weekend CNN report about how the recession has finally arrived in beautiful Alaska, where the official unemployment rate is now 8.4%, and much higher in the Bush.

The job market is so tight that the state now posts a caution on its Division of Employment Security Web site suggesting people not move to Alaska unless they already have work lined up. "We have a fair amount of people who think that Alaska is the promised land, and they have misconceptions maybe about what is up here. And they load up the family and head out on the Alaska highway, and we want to encourage them not to do that until they have something lined up before they get here," (regional job center manager Brad) Gillespie said.

Sounds like great advice. When we lived in Alaska nearly a decade ago, we got calls from acquaintances Outside who assumed that a pipeline was always under construction somewhere (they're not), that jobs were plentiful, and that if all else fails, you can live off the land.


Apparently the dream lives on.


Make sure to move automatic payments to new card.

By Teresa Mears Oct 19, 2009 5:35PM

When you’re a victim of identity theft, one of the first things you should do is cancel all the credit cards that have been compromised. If you have regular payments charged automatically to a card, don’t forget to change those payments to another card.


Forgetting to set up new automatic payments for a bill can have serious consequences, as my late partner and I learned. She was the victim of identity theft in 2003, when several of her cards were taken over by another person, who charged a lot of items and had the bills diverted to another address in the next county.


Falling prices mean Social Security recipients will get no cost-of-living increase next year.

By Karen Datko Oct 19, 2009 4:39PM

Under the time-honored formula used to calculate Social Security payments, recipients will get no increase AT ALL next year -- for the first time since the automatic cost-of-living adjustment was adopted in 1975. Prices have actually gone down, you may or may not have noticed.


Social Security payments cannot, by law, decrease when the cost of living declines, but neither are they supposed to go up when there is no inflation. And, the Los Angeles Times notes, "The decline in prices means that seniors will be able to buy more with the dollars they're already receiving."

But President Obama and many in Congress want Social Security recipients to get an increase anyway -- in the form of a $250 bonus.


Is this fair or even reasonable?


Online high-end shopping sites can throw the sage shopper off his or her game.

By Karen Datko Oct 19, 2009 12:15PM

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


I have a favorite, although rather obscure, Monty Python sketch. An older housewife type (a "pepperpot") sits on a park bench. Another approaches dragging a car engine on a cart, saying she's been shopping.


"Did you buy anything?" asks the first.


"A piston engine!"


"What d’you buy that for?"


"Oooh! It was a bargain."


It's not their most memorable bit. But it deftly sums up a way in which we can short-circuit our own thinking when we shop.

As I've written here several times, when we shop we are not creatures of cold calculation. We can't be. There are just too many choices at the mall and not enough time to find the one optimal allocation of our money over everything we could buy. Instead, we operate on a set of learned behaviors that approximate the optimal outcome. One of those is bargain hunting.


I sometimes feel ashamed that I can afford things that others can't.

By Karen Datko Oct 19, 2009 10:39AM

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


Recently I shared a guest post from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. His guide to minimalist money was a sort of overview of good financial skills, useful information for those in the first stage of personal finance. But some longtime GRS readers couldn’t relate to Leo's post.


Today's post goes in the opposite direction. It's a meditation for those in the third stage of personal finance (or beyond), and it's probably going to seem foreign to those who are still struggling to get debt under control.


The evolution of spending
Before I developed smart money skills, I spent without thinking. I accumulated debt because I had no self-control. I bought what I wanted, even when I couldn't afford it.


Candor the best option, blogger says.

By Karen Datko Oct 19, 2009 2:44AM

This post comes from Trent Hamm at partner blog The Simple Dollar.

I received a heart-wrenching e-mail from a reader I'm going to call "Peggy." 

This e-mail (which I edited to protect the family's privacy) was the most painful I've read since I started writing The Simple Dollar. I look at my almost 3-year-old son and I can't imagine having to explain to him in a few years why we have to move out of the house he's grown up in.

Here are a few excerpts from that e-mail:



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.


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.