Smart SpendingSmart Spending

Collective-buying sites offer low prices, but there's plenty of fine print.

By Karen Datko Feb 22, 2010 12:55PM

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


Get enough people together and you can leverage discounts of 50% or better on spa services, dinners out, yoga classes, event tickets and other services.


The key concept here is “enough.” Group-buying sites have carved out a niche promising deals if more than a set number of people opt in during a short window of opportunity. The idea works great when supply and demand line up:


Everyone outsources any number of tasks. So are you lazy if you hire someone to clean your house?

By Karen Datko Feb 22, 2010 10:21AM

This post comes from Kris, wife of partner blogger J.D. Roth at Get Rich Slowly


J.D. and I have been employing an independent housekeeper for about 10 years. The one who’s been working for us for almost five years, Michele, is fantastic and we feel lucky to have her. (We found her through Craigslist). Housecleaning is her full-time job.


It took us some time to get over our self-imposed barrier of hiring some help with the house chores. I’m not lazy, and it struck me as a weak, self-indulgent thing to do. But, as J.D. freely admits, he’s a slob.


Save some dough with these easily digestable tips, and use the savings to pay down debt.

By Stacy Johnson Feb 22, 2010 9:47AM

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


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008 the average American family spent $6,443 on food. To put that number in perspective, that "average" family consists of 2.5 people with an annual income of $63,563. So from these numbers we can surmise that our average family spends about 10% of their income on food.


Depending on whom you choose to believe (there's some dispute about this) the average American family also carries a $5,000 balance on credit cards. If that balance comes with a 15% interest rate, that's $750 a year in interest. 

Conclusion? We could materially affect two expenses simultaneously if we could persuade the average American family to eat their credit cards. But if that doesn’t sound like an appetizing solution, here"s another thought:


Radiohead, Sister Hazel and country stars are all on the free playlist this week.

By Teresa Mears Feb 19, 2010 5:21PM

While rounding up this week’s selection of food deals and freebies, I came across free stuff you can’t eat that seemed too good not to share.

How about some free music that you actually want to hear:


Free Pretzel Day and National Pancake Day are just three days apart. Or would you prefer bagel poppers?

By Teresa Mears Feb 19, 2010 2:11PM

It’s Friday, so that means it’s time for food deals and freebies. And we have some good ones, with thanks to our friends at Cities on the Cheap.


In the next few days, the world is celebrating pretzels and pancakes, and why not?


About $775,000 in annual fees will be returned.

By Karen Datko Feb 19, 2010 2:07PM

This post comes from Truman Lewis at partner site


With a little arm-twisting from the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Capital One has agreed to refund annual membership fees to customers who were assessed the fees after they had canceled their credit card accounts and had no outstanding balance.

The California and West Virginia attorneys general had challenged Capital One's practices. The OCC became involved when Capital One became a national bank, putting it under the OCC's jurisdiction. It announced the settlement today and said that Capital One would refund about $775,000 to customers affected by the actions, which occurred from 2004 to 2006.


The FTC has issued an alert about such plans. Here are some questions to ask.

By Karen Datko Feb 19, 2010 1:00PM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


Health insurance can be expensive. And if you are shopping for individual health insurance, you know it can be really expensive. Add to that pre-existing conditions, and the price can be outright ridiculous. And that's why the following claims can be really enticing to those looking for health insurance:

  • Affordable health care plan.
  • Pre-existing conditions? No problem!
  • No deductible or co-pays.
  • Thousands of providers in our PPO network.
  • Discounts up to 60%.

What's the problem with these claims? The problem is they aren't advertising health insurance. Instead, they are promoting what are called discount health plans. If you’ve spent any time researching individual health insurance, you’ve probably come across these plans, sometimes called medical discount plans.

While discounts are always good, many are questioning just how effective these plans are.


Pair coupons and sales, then add speed and vigilance to get the freebies.

By Karen Datko Feb 19, 2010 11:11AM

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


It is the holy grail of coupon clippers: When store sales and manufacturer’s coupons align just right, shoppers can grab certain items for nothing.


Through Feb. 20, for example, CVS shoppers can get Aussie shampoo or conditioner ($3 before $2 in store rewards and a $1 manufacturer’s coupon). At Rite Aid, there’s Motrin ($3 before a $1 manufacturer’s coupon and $2 store rewards).


Grabbing those freebies, however, requires fast reflexes. Consumers have been clipping more coupons in the struggling economy, and that means more competition, says Erin Gifford, the founder of Coupon Cravings. “You need to get there the day the [weekly] sales start,” she says, usually Sunday. “Stores run out quickly and they may not restock.”

Savings also hinge on loyalty to a particular store and a small initial outlay, says Briana Carter, the founder of, a coupon site that also offers a map of local deal bloggers, to help shoppers find promotions that vary by region.



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.