Smart SpendingSmart Spending

The new study is based on the review of credit files from TransUnion. Does the large number surprise you?

By MSN Money Partner 20 minutes ago

This post comes from Krystal Steinmetz at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyDo you have delinquent debt? Apparently, you're part of a very large group.


Worried Man © CorbisA new study (.pdf file) by the Urban Institute, a Washington think tank, and Encore Capital Group's Consumer Credit Research Institute found that last year more than 35 percent of U.S. adults with credit files -- or 77 million Americans -- had bills that were unpaid for so long that they were considered "in collections."


What does that mean? CNN Money explains:

Once it is categorized as in collections, … it can follow one of three courses, according to the Urban Institute report. The creditor can charge it off and sell it to a debt buyer, put the account into default, or seek to collect what's owed through an in-house department or a third-party debt collector.

The Urban Institute used 2013 data from credit bureau TransUnion to measure Americans' past-due, non-mortgage debt. In the 7,000 credit files studied, that debt ranged from as little as $25 to a jaw-dropping $125,000. The average non-mortgage debt in collections was $5,178. The median was $1,350.

 

Name-brand items often aren't worth the extra cost. Here's a list of items you should always buy generic, along with a few exceptions to the rule.

By MSN Money Partner 1 hour ago

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWhat does your loyalty to brand-name products stem from? Do you think the items are truly superior in quality, or have you been won over by fancy marketing campaigns?


Either way, it's likely you're spending more than you need to just for a label. A new study "estimates Americans are wasting about $44 billion a year on name brands, when they could be buying the exact same products if they switched to cheaper store brands," CNN Money said.

 

When our furry feline friends aren't feeling fine, our finances often take a hit as well.

By Credit.com 3 hours ago
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyCats are generally low-maintenance: feed them, pet them (when they want you to!), and clean their litter boxes, and they are often happy.


Hannah an d Rusty Photo credit: Gusstavo Vasquez/courtesy Credit.comBut like any pet, they can get sick or suffer accidents that can quickly result in large medical bills that could put your credit in jeopardy.


Here are three stories of owners who put their own credit at risk to care for the felines they love.

 

Homeowners associations ban them and environmentalists love them. All that aside, though, a clothesline saves you money.

By MSN Money Partner Tue 1:27 PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis at partner site Money Talks News. 


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyClotheslines. Ugly nuisance or thrifty household friend? You'll find strong opinions on both sides of the question.


Clothes on a clothesline © Tetra Images / Alamy

Many homeowners associations across the country ban clotheslines as unsightly. They raise a number of objections, as the American Bar Association's ABA Journal explains:

(C)oncern that publicly airing clean laundry attached with clothespins to a rope or wire was unsightly, or obstructed views, or even created a safety risk (strangulation is sometimes cited) led a number of condominium associations and rental property managers to ban clotheslines.

Right-to-dry movement

This being America, a movement has sprung up for -- yes -- the right to dry your clothes outdoors. The "right-to-dry" movement points out that clotheslines save households money and have the added virtue of reducing the 32 million metric tons of carbon put into the atmosphere by clothes dryers each year.


Six states — Maryland, Maine, Florida, Colorado, Vermont and Hawaii -- have passed laws to overturn HOA clothesline bans, according to Sightline, a nonprofit organization that researches environmental issues in the Pacific Northwest. Another 13 states protect the use of "solar devices" or "solar energy systems," which includes laundry dried by the sun.


What's at stake, budget-wise?

Aesthetic arguments hinge on taste, but what's less open to disagreement is the fact that an electric dryer is one of your home's biggest energy users.

 

Credit cards are convenient and offer protection against theft and loss -- and, of course, some offer miles and other rewards. Not everyone is enamored with plastic, though.

By Credit.com Tue 1:13 PM
This post comes from Jason Steele at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyIt's easy for people to see the benefits of using a credit card. They offer the convenience of carrying around cash, while having protections against loss and theft. And rewards credit card holders can earn valuable points, miles or cash back when they use their cards to make ordinary purchases.


Worried man © CorbisFor merchants, credit cards offer a quick and easy way for customers to pay for their goods, and credit card payments are less vulnerable to fraud and theft than cash or checks. Furthermore, credit cards make it easier for customers to finance their purchases, which can increase sales.


Nevertheless, there are some people who simply hate credit cards.

 

Hackers have an arsenal of ways to steal your passwords, so researchers want to protect your data with something else.

By Credit.com Tue 12:57 PM

This post comes from Bob Sullivan at partner site Credit.com.


Credit.com on MSN MoneyIs it possible that your next password might be as simple and subtle as the way you type or hold your smartphone? If you hate trying to fill out those CAPTCHA forms with impossible-to-decipher characters, a new strategy for telling the difference between people and computers might give you some hope.


User name field on computer screen © William Andrew, PhotographerSecrets are used to keep our stuff safe on computers; for nearly three decades now, that secret has chiefly been a password, or in security lingo, "something you know." Advanced security systems can deploy an added layer, such as a token (or at banks, a debit card), which is "something you have." And really high-tech systems involve biometrics, such as a retina or fingerprint scan, known as "something you are."


So far, none of these techniques has proven robust enough to stop hackers’ endless efforts to steal critical information, whether it’s millions of Target credit card numbers to access to computers that control national infrastructure.

 

A reader visited a website that says he's owed millions in unclaimed lottery winnings, and that they'll hook him up for a fee. Here's where he should go instead.

By MSN Money Partner Tue 12:43 PM

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


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyHere's this week's reader question:

Dear Stacy, My name is John. I checked to see if I had unclaimed money and found I have $19,887,000 out there. It is supposed to be from a lottery I won. I cannot find out where it is from or who has it and I cannot afford to pay someone to get it for me. How can I get my money for free? And who has it?

One of the most common scams these days is foreign lotteries and contests.

Lottery Tickets © Scott Speakes, Corbis

Unfortunately, they often target older folks, with devastating results. The way the scam works is that the crook will notify the intended victim by phone, email or snail mail that they've won a contest or lottery. The only catch? They have to send in money to claim their prize.


One of the saddest stories I've done in recent years was about the elderly victim of such a scam who lost nearly her entire life savings. You can check it out here.


But that's not what happened to John. I wrote him back to ask where he discovered this unclaimed prize, as well as where he had been playing the lottery. He responded:

 

The e-commerce giant is not always the best place to go for these items.

By Money Staff Mon 2:38 PM

This post comes from Catey Hill at partner site MarketWatch.


MarketWatch on MSN MoneyWhen we need books, soap, diapers, electronics — pretty much anything — many of us head right to Amazon.com Inc., assuming it has the lowest prices. But for some things, you may be better off shopping elsewhere.


A parcel moves on the conveyor belt at Amazon's a logistics center © Michaela Rehle/Reuters 
Last week, Amazon released its quarterly earnings, making one thing crystal clear: Customers are dropping a load of cash on the site. For the 52nd straight quarter, Amazon’s sales grew double-digits with revenue increasing to more than $19 billion, up 23 percent from a year earlier.


In many cases, it isn’t a bad idea to shop on Amazon. Savings.com, which just launched the PriceJump browser plug-in and app that compares Amazon prices with prices around the Web, examined the prices of roughly 1,500 new products priced $10 or more on a day in May.


It found that about half of the time, Amazon did, in fact, have the best price (which is pretty good, considering that it compared Amazon’s prices to those of 5,000 other retailers). In particular, Amazon tends to have the best prices on digital downloads like books, inexpensive items (things under $10, which were excluded from the survey) and on items you buy in bulk, says Meghan Heffernan, a spokesperson for Savings.com — which is a lot of what we buy on the site.


"The cheap stuff on Amazon is cheap," says Matthew Ong, a senior retail analyst at NerdWallet.com.


There’s also the issue of shipping. For $99 a year, Amazon gives its Prime members free two-day shipping. If you order multiple items a month and would otherwise pay for two-day shipping, a Prime membership may save you a pile of loot, says James Crompton, an analyst with IBISWorld — and that’s particularly true if you buy multiple, inexpensive items or bulk items, which Amazon tends to have cheaper, the Savings.com data revealed. This analysis will help you determine if Prime makes sense for you. Furthermore, some consumers use Amazon’s Subscribe & Save feature to save up to 15 percent off items when they get automatic delivery on some of their frequent purchases (just be careful that this doesn’t make you stock up on items that you don’t need at that time).


But sometimes, Amazon’s prices aren’t the best, according to the analysis by Savings.com. Here are a few of those items. 

 

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