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New kind of sunburn: Some are unhappy with tanning tax that helps finance health care reform.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 6:10PM

This post comes from Truman Lewis at partner site


We've been told over and over that too much time on the tanning bed is bad for our skin. Now it's bad for our wallet as well, as the federal government's new 10% excise tax on indoor tanning services became effective July 1.

It's the first of 21 excise taxes created by Congress to help pay for the health care overhaul that was passed a few months ago. Congress calculated that it would be able to sweat about $2.7 billion out of tanning taxpayers over the next decade.


Since it's Congress we're talking about, nothing is quite as simple as it sounds.


More good news for homebuyers: Congress extends closing deadline for tax credit.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 5:02PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.


Mortgage interest rates have dropped again -- beneath even the 54-year record-busting lows reached a week ago, when 30-year loans fell to rates seen last in the 1950s.

According to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey, Americans can sign up for an average 4.58% on a 30-year loan and spend an average of 0.7 points to get that rate. (A point is a fee -- usually 1% of the loan amount, as "Mortgage Professor" Jack Guttentag explains.)


Last week, the average 30-year rate was 4.69%. This time last year it was 5.32%, which seemed pretty darned low at the time.


What difference do these little fractions of a percent make?


Several less-than-popular offerings will be phased out. Meanwhile, the breakfast war heats up.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 3:46PM

When we read that McDonald's is dropping the Big N' Tasty from the regular menu, we had to wonder: Which sandwich is that? Not exactly an iconic item -- no one's had a Big N' Tasty attack.

With only about 20 a day sold at some stores, the Big N' Tasty is among several items that will be phased out at McDonald's in coming months. Meanwhile, oatmeal is set to debut with great fanfare on the breakfast menu early next year. 

Among the changes in store at McDonald's:


As our nation's birthday approaches, something to consider: The Constitution protects free speech but exercising that right can be costly.

By Stacy Johnson Jul 1, 2010 11:30AM

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


Freedom of speech is one of our Constitution's greatest protections. But in this country, guns and the government aren't what suppress speech.


Here it's money and corporations that keep people quiet.

It's called a SLAPP suit: strategic lawsuit against public participation. A company doesn't file a SLAPP suit because it feels it's been legally wronged. The suit is filed because executives know that defamation lawsuits cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend, and the vast majority of people will stop using the "offending speech" rather than face such an expense.


Sometimes I think the business of tracking every penny that's spent on this or that category is just obsessive.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 9:51AM

This guest post comes from "vh" at Funny about Money.


Here's the question: Is it better to mound up your spending money in one big pile, or does it make more sense to divide it into "piggybanks" dedicated to one purpose or another? Is it an over-complication to dedicate x or y amount to, say, groceries or eating out?


Wouldn't it be simpler to give yourself a set amount of money to spend for a given period, and not obsess over how it's spent?


Outsourcing your chores isn't logical if you'd just waste the extra time it frees up.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 8:30AM

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


Most of this article applies to any situation in which someone hires someone else to perform work, whether it's paying someone to change the oil in their car or hiring a plumber to fix a leaky faucet. On that note, Connie writes in:

Your schedule seems overstuffed. Have you ever considered hiring an assistant or a housecleaner or something?

I have, actually. We earn enough right now to be able to afford hiring some additional help to take some of the hours off my shoulders, whether it's helping with the grunt work behind the scenes of The Simple Dollar or doing some of the household chores -- dusting, vacuuming, etc.

We haven't done it yet, for one simple reason. Let's say, hypothetically, that I hired someone to take care of 10 hours of grunt work a week. What would I do with those extra 10 hours?


Forget about the official 9.7% unemployment rate. A new study shows that more than half of American workers lost jobs, hours or pay.

By Karen Datko Jun 30, 2010 5:36PM

A new study contains this depressing statistic: 55% of American workers have either lost a job, experienced a reduction in hours or pay, or were forced into part-time status at some point during the Great Recession.


But the Pew Research Center survey does have one tentative bright spot. The Washington Post reports:

More than six in 10 respondents say they expect their personal financial situation to improve in the next year, which the report called the rosiest outlook since before the recession began in December 2007. Similarly, 61% predict that the damage caused by the recession will be temporary.

The Pew survey also indicates that no matter how well the recovery goes, many are unlikely to borrow and spend as they did in those giddy, good ol' days. Also, many think the good times won't be as good for their kids:


Life's tough enough without paying for things you could be getting free. Here are some examples.

By Stacy Johnson Jun 30, 2010 2:23PM

This post comes from Donna Gehrke-White at partner site Money Talks News.


Your mom always told you that money doesn't grow on trees. She's right, so why waste it. There are plenty of free things you can pluck from the Web as well as from libraries, parks, banks and other businesses.

Here's a look at 10 potential freebies.



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