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Survey measured variation in prices, plus how many shops changed their estimates when presented with the industry standard price.

By Teresa Mears Feb 25, 2010 3:44PM

If you want to get a fair and accurate estimate of the cost of fixing your car, you’re better off in Memphis than in Chicago.


That’s according to, one of several free online sites that give customers an estimate of what a specific auto repair should cost.

The site sent mystery shoppers to more than 600 repairs shops in the 50 largest U.S. metropolitan areas to get price quotes on a front brake replacement for a Ford Focus. The shoppers called back two weeks later, armed with the industry standard price for that repair.


Are you surprised to hear that more than two-thirds of the shops changed their price quote when presented with the usual price for that job?


Bundle: The very rich actually are very different.

By Janet Paskin Feb 25, 2010 12:14PM

From "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" to "Cribs," there is something fascinating about the excesses of rich people. I will never in my life have a movie theater in my house, nor will I spend $1,000 for a night in a hotel suite, nor will I ever carry a Birkin bag. To me, the people who do these things might as well be aliens. And yet, when given the chance to look behind a Hollywood mogul's knit platinum curtains, I'll always peek.

Data from Bundle let me look at just how much money rich people are spending -- and where.


7 tips for cutting the cost of drinks when you go out.

By Karen Datko Feb 25, 2010 11:41AM

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


Want to grab a drink tonight? How about meeting at . . . my place.


In the tough economy, a night out drinking is looking like an indulgence. Liquor sales were flat at $18.7 billion in 2009, and volume shifted. While sales for home consumption rose 2.2%, sales for restaurants, bars, hotels and nightclubs fell 3%, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.

Another reason people are drinking less: Bars are pushing pricey premium liquors and complicated cocktails. “The best bars are charging a premium because the cocktails take awhile to make,” says Noah Rothbaum, the founder of cocktail and spirits guide and author of “The Business of Spirits.” Freshly squeezed juices, exotic ingredients, even special ice, all add up. The more expensive a drink gets, the more likely drinkers are to savor rather than slurp.


How can you spend less without going for the cheap stuff -- or staying home? On your next night out, use these seven tricks to cut your bill:


They have $10,000 in credit card debt and a mortgage payment, and he just lost his job.

By Karen Datko Feb 25, 2010 10:29AM

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


Susan wrote in:

Yesterday my husband found out he has lost his job. We don’t know what to do. He was making $38,000 a year as an IT specialist. I make about $36,000 a year as a school teacher. We have about $10,000 in credit card debt spread across three cards and a $1,300-a- month mortgage payment. We don’t have anything saved either other than some retirement account money. I am so scared we are going to lose our house and lose everything! What do we do? Help!

First and foremost: Don’t panic. No problem is solved well in panic mode. Bad choices -- choices that you’ll regret down the road -- are made when you panic.


Take a deep breath. Here are seven things that you should attempt to do in the coming days.


The feds haven't banned irritating 'free' credit report commercials, but they are making it tougher for consumers to be misled.

By Karen Datko Feb 24, 2010 8:38PM

How many people, we wonder, have been burned by ordering a “free” credit report, only to find out they’ve unwittingly signed up for paid credit monitoring?


There is only one official site for free credit reports -- -- and thanks to new action by the Federal Trade Commission, you’ll have a better chance of landing there if you want a free report.


Recession brings out the deals in hopes of bringing out the diners.

By Teresa Mears Feb 24, 2010 3:54PM

Have you noticed more advertising for happy hours?


That could be because there are more happy hours, as restaurants seek new ways to compete for your dollars in the recession.


The latest casual-dining chain to roll out a happy hour is the Cheesecake Factory, which expects to have happy hour in all its restaurants by March 18. From 4 to 6 p.m. at the bar in most locations, drinks will be $5 and appetizers that normally cost $7.50 to $10.95 will be $5. The Orange County Register’s Fast Food Maven Nancy Luna has all the details.


Ways to jazz up a boring meal if you're brown-bagging your lunch.

By Karen Datko Feb 24, 2010 3:42PM

This post comes from Myscha Theriault at partner blog Wise Bread.


Brown-bag boredom got you down? Work-at-home lunch breaks bringing you the blues? If you need sandwich ideas to bust out of the boring box and keep you on track for healthy affordable eating this year, read on.


Sandwich ingredients

I’ve chosen to list my favorites here and place them into simple categories. Feel free to add your suggestions below.


The Lincoln Cent has been redesigned again. But not everyone is celebrating.

By Money Staff Feb 24, 2010 1:18PM

This post comes from Anna Vander Broek of MSN Money.


Those of you who still use the penny as currency (rather than as a screwdriver or for scratching off lottery tickets) may soon notice America’s 1-cent coin has gotten a facelift. 


The U.S. Mint has changed the design for the reverse -- or “tails” -- side of the 2010 Lincoln Cent, which entered circulation on Feb. 11 (everywhere but Puerto Rico, which received the new penny in late January). Michael White from the U.S. Mint says penny inventory is very high, however, so you may not see a new penny right away. 



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