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Kelly Clarkson, the show's first winner, has probably earned about $40 million. Many who didn't win the top prize are doing very well.

By Karen Datko May 20, 2010 12:24PM

Just how much of a boost is the iconic TV show "American Idol" to the financial success of formerly unknown performers? It's big, according to a report by CBS MoneyWatch.


"You can rest on having been on 'American Idol' for years," Joel Peresman, CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, told MoneyWatch.

Of course, lasting fame and fortune are not guaranteed. For some, the trappings of winning -- a recording contract and instant celebrity -- didn't produce huge earnings -- but that's OK, too. "Ten years after finishing as a runner-up to Kelly Clarkson in the show's first season, curly-haired Justin Guarini is still doing live events and parades that likely earn him thousands of dollars a pop," MoneyWatch says.


Here's our abbreviated rundown of earnings compiled by CBS MoneyWatch for a post called "American Idol's biggest winners":


I won't save nearly as much as I expected, but having a TV-free life has many benefits.

By Karen Datko May 20, 2010 10:42AM

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


Over the years, I've made a strong case for abandoning television watching as a good move for financial and career success.


Not only does TV offer up a lot of advertisements glorifying unnecessary material stuff and rampant consumerism, but many programs glorify it through product placement within the programs. Many programs exist solely to promote an expensive materialistic lifestyle as well.

Add on top of that the amount of otherwise productive time devoured by television watching and you have a strong case for doing without.


Over the last few years, I've slowly been paring down my TV watching. I've stopped channel surfing, turning on the TV only to watch specific programs. I've gradually pared down the number of programs I regularly watch.


As of May 1, I ceased all TV watching at home (except for "Lost," which ends for good this Sunday).


You've gone online and gotten the best possible deals on your airfare, rental car and hotel. Think your costs are covered?

By Stacy Johnson May 19, 2010 6:21PM

This post comes from partner site Money Talks News.


Online search engines are great for seeking the lowest rates on anything travel-related, from plane tickets to rental cars. That's why when vacation time rolls around, the first trip many people take is to the computer.

There's only one problem: The base price you compare while searching and the final price you actually pay are often vastly different.


What government giveth, government can taketh away.

By Karen Datko May 19, 2010 2:27PM

Isn't there some sort of moral statute of limitations on this: About 180 employees of a Georgia county have been told to return a total of $39,690 they were overpaid -- in 1994.


Is this another sign of how desperate some local governments are because of the recession?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains the situation this way:

The payroll anomaly dates back to Sept. 30, 1994, when the county adjusted employee pay cycles.

No apology, and a credit blot from collection remains. Will our cell phone companies ever change and let us trust them?

By Teresa Mears May 19, 2010 1:21PM

The St. Germain family of Dover, Mass., got some good news this week: Verizon will no longer try to collect the $18,000 phone bill the family has been fighting since 2006.


The wireless company stopped short of forgiving the bill. The collection effort will remain a black mark on Bob St. Germain's credit report.


But the family is off the hook for the $18,000 in data-download charges Brian St. Germain, then a college student, ran up when he tethered his laptop to his cell phone after a two-year promotional period offering free data had ended, The Boston Globe reported. When Bob St. Germain called to complain, the company offered to reduce the bill to $9,000, and sent that amount to collections when he refused to pay.


"Nice to see Verizon dismiss all the charges," Bob St. Germain told The Globe. "But it's still on my credit report. Someone has to take the next step."


Cut costs now on home-improvement projects that add to your home's value later.

By Karen Datko May 19, 2010 10:01AM

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


In a "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade" scenario, the weak economy is having an unexpected impact on home renovations. With homeowners still finding it difficult to fund a major remodeling project through home equity, they are increasingly embracing smaller projects that will make them happy right now -- instead of insisting on improvements that will add to a home's resale value in the long run.

"There's no more faith in that saying, 'A dollar in, a dollar out,' that renovations will pay off when you sell," says William Hallisky, a vice president with Meridian Design Associates, a New York-based architectural firm. Owners are putting aside worries about beige paint or stainless steel appliances to appeal to buyers, and are considering small projects that will increase the livability of their space, says Hallisky. "It's more about personality, like, 'I would really like an orange refrigerator. Is that possible?'" he adds.

With the economy stumbling to its feet, spending on remodeling this year is expected to rise 5%, compared with 2009, to an annual rate of $121.5 billion, according to an April report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. That would be the first increase since 2006. If you are in the market to remodel, how should you make decisions that will leave you with more cash now (and later)? Here are some strategies to consider.


A buyer with exact change is a fantasy that ranks right up there with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

By Karen Datko May 19, 2010 8:23AM

This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner blog Wise Bread.


Warm weather invariably means spring cleaning, and spring cleaning means yard sales. There's nothing like declaring open season on clutter and taming those closets, attics and garages (if only to fill them again next season).

If you find yourself hosting a yard sale this year, here are a few common mistakes to steer clear of in order to increase sales and pave the way for a smooth de-cluttering.


Whether you own a business or work at one, customer service is crucial for success. Here's how the best companies pull it off.

By Stacy Johnson May 18, 2010 5:59PM

This post comes from partner site Money Talks News.


Every year Bloomberg/BusinessWeek and J.D. Power & Associates survey consumers to come up with the 25 best big companies for customer service.

What's interesting is that, despite the variety of businesses, the winners nearly all used some combination of only two techniques to get to the top: using the latest technology to better serve their customers, and creating employee loyalty.


Seeing how the top companies work tells you what you should look for as a consumer, as well as provides ideas to improve customer service at your business or workplace.



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