Smart SpendingSmart Spending

AmEx tries to convince us that not being able to borrow money is a feature.

By Karen Datko Dec 23, 2009 11:04AM

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


Investing was actually my second career. For the six years between college and B-school I wrote software. Back then, we Dilberts had a phrase we used to parody the marketing types who sold what we made. "It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!" In other words, that obvious flaw in the software is not, in fact, a mistake that makes it less useful, it is a brilliant design decision that actually makes it better and worth more to you, the customer.

I also, at this time, had an American Express card, paying, I think, $50 or $75 a year for the privilege. I honestly forget why. I think I got it while still in college under some kind of special deal. And there was this store I frequented that in those days only took AmEx. Anyway, by the time I was 25 I came to my senses and canceled the thing. They sent me a nice letter saying that if I ever came back I could still have a card that said "Member Since 1986."


So I’ve got that going for me.


I was reminded of both these things from my past by a brilliant new marketing campaign from American Express.


Many of these 36 ideas will work in a pinch. You likely have many of these materials in your home.

By Karen Datko Dec 22, 2009 8:04PM

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


Trying to maintain eco boundaries in the middle of winter holiday chaos? It can be tough, particularly with all of those ribbons and bows tempting us at every turn. If your tastes lean more toward silk and satin than burlap and tin foil, here are 36 green gift-wrapping ideas to get you started.

Some use less plastic. Others recycle materials that might otherwise go to waste, or include something that can be reused time and again. The overall theme is that they all take planetary impact into consideration in some way. Feel free to contribute your additional thoughts and ideas below so we are armed with strategies that will let us celebrate with style.


Here are some ideas for presents that will save the recipients money.

By Teresa Mears Dec 22, 2009 5:33PM

We’ve been talking throughout the holiday season on how to save money on holiday gifts. How about gifts that save the recipients money? And if you can regift any of these items, so much the better.


Here’s Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine’s list of 12 gifts that save money for the recipients:


British clergyman's advice to the destitute ignites a firestorm.

By Karen Datko Dec 22, 2009 5:01PM

The Poverty News Blog called this “news of the weird”: With a “heavy heart,” a British pastor said it’s OK to shoplift from big chain stores -- but only if you have no other choice. It’s a “least worst option,” preferable to robbery or prostitution, he said.

The hometown Press in York reported on what Father Tim Jones told parishioners:

"I do not offer such advice because I think that stealing is a good thing, or because I think it is harmless, for it is neither. I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices. I would ask them not to take any more than they need, for any longer than they need."

His advice wasn’t well-received in many circles. The Press called what ensued a “furious controversy.”


Think young people know technology? They're not learning what they need for the jobs of the future.

By Teresa Mears Dec 22, 2009 3:43PM

We have this perception that today’s young people are all great with technology. But just try to find a young relative who can set up your wireless network. In my family, the people over 50 provide all the tech support.


The fact that most young people don’t learn any but the most basic computer skills in school is a problem, The New York Times reports.


The U.S. economy needs more nerds.


Spending conservatively during the holidays is a good idea, except when it comes to your flexible spending account.

By Karen Datko Dec 22, 2009 2:38PM

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


Consumers with a flexible spending account, or FSA, may have just days left to use funds in these pretax accounts -- or lose them for good.


These accounts let you put aside pretax dollars for payment of out-of-pocket medical expenses. But the funds don't usually carry over year to year, so come Dec. 31, you could forfeit any unspent funds. (You may have as late as March 31, 2010, to submit expenses for reimbursement, depending on the plan.)

"Having $200 to $300 left at this point is not uncommon," says Tom Billet, a senior benefits consultant at Watson Wyatt, an employee-benefits consulting firm. "Then, panic sets in."


You never know when you'll need this service. Here's how to easily find one.

By Karen Datko Dec 22, 2009 1:05PM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


When I bought my house a few years ago, I was introduced to the idea of a notary public. In most capacities, a notary public is a “public official” given the right to administer oaths and affirmations. In many of the cases where you’ll need a notary public to “notarize” a document, they are there to affirm that the person signing the document is in fact the person who is supposed to be signing it.

When you get a document notarized, you provide proof of your identity, you sign the document in their presence, and then they sign and stamp the document, usually with a raised seal (depending on the state).


More recently, I had to get a notary to notarize my Pennsylvania claim form after I found some unclaimed property about a month ago (an old Best Buy rebate, I think). It was a little trickier than when I still worked at a company, but eventually I found one. Now I’m going to write it down so I don’t make the same mistakes again.


Policies about the same as last year, says Consumer World.

By Teresa Mears Dec 21, 2009 6:44PM

With gifts come gift returns. It’s smart to know a store’s return policy when you buy a gift, in case your loved ones don’t love the gift you picked out as much as you do.


Consumer World says that most policies are the same this year as they were last year, partially reversing a trend toward more restrictive return policies. However, many stores have different return policies for different types of items, making returns more complicated.



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.