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Take the money you're lending the government and apply it to debt instead.

By Stacy Johnson Feb 2, 2010 5:35PM

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


Think you don't have any money to pay down debt? If you're an average American, you may have more than you think.


Much of what I've done for the last 20 years, in both books and news stories, is talk about debt -- specifically, why you should avoid it and how to find the money to destroy it. Most of the money I suggest harnessing for debt destruction comes in dribs and drabs from doing things like smart shopping and avoiding dumb deals. But sometimes there's something big you can do.


This is one of those times.


Simplified form, new online resources aim to help students and parents apply for college aid.

By Teresa Mears Feb 2, 2010 5:24PM

Here’s good news for prospective college students and their parents: The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) has been simplified.


The Kansas City Star notes that “most high school seniors and their parents would rather sandblast the oil stains from the garage floor or rearrange the attic” than complete the form, which is required to receive federal grants and loans for college.


Citi had planned to impose fees on holders of two types of 'free checking' accounts.

By Karen Datko Feb 2, 2010 3:33PM

This post comes from partner site


Citibank has reached an agreement with New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to alter its plan to charge more than 1 million consumers nationwide fees on what were supposed to be "free checking" accounts.

Under the agreement, Citibank will extend the benefits of those free checking accounts throughout 2010 for consumers who signed up for them in 2009. Citibank also will not charge fees on checks until Jan. 31, 2011. The company had originally planned to begin charging the fees on Feb. 1.


Who qualifies


The best way is to avoid the post office and print postage at home. Here's how it works.

By Karen Datko Feb 2, 2010 2:02PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


You don’t have to ask too many of my friends, or my wife, to learn that I am not a fan of waiting. I hate sitting in traffic, especially if it’s just “congestion,” and I really hate waiting at the post office, where it seems as if there are always twice as many counters as there are people staffing them.

So that’s why, over the years, I’ve developed a few simple strategies to help me avoid waiting at the post office.


The overall strategy is to deconstruct the post office experience and try to avoid needing counter service whenever possible. Here are some tips to help you reduce the time it takes to get your packages on their way.


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


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:



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