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Your smart phone might help you get a date, but it can also steer you wrong.

By Karen Datko Feb 10, 2010 2:24PM

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


Before your next date, prepare your cell phone to serve as your wingman.


Smart-phone applications aim to help users with every stage of a relationship, from hunting for a date to wining and dining to breaking up. While some of the advisory apps are free, others are pricey -- a background check on your dinner mate might run $40 -- and the information can be inaccurate.


Just remember: It's rude to pay more attention to your phone than to your date, says Jodi R. R. Smith, chief executive of Boston-based etiquette consulting firm Mannersmith. That's true even if you excuse yourself to better review your next move. "You want to be careful of leaving your date alone at the table frequently," she says. "If they are attractive, that gives someone else time to move in."


Use these five apps to plan and hone your dating skills, but tuck the phone away before you make your approach.


Companies love them, but for consumers they're less than attractive.

By Karen Datko Feb 10, 2010 12:31PM

This post comes from Tisha Tolar at partner blog Wise Bread.


With a new year, many of us may have the illusion that time management can be increased in our lives. Time management, weight management and money management are likely the three most popular resolutions that return to the scene year after year. It makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense are the little things in life that we continue to do even though they violate the promise we made to ourselves to do better.


One such item that can be a strain on both time- and money- management skills is the rebate.


Karl Rabeder has traded unbridled luxury for life in a two-room flat.

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 8:15PM

This kind of story gives you faith in humankind, or makes you feel you’ve entered the Twilight Zone: An Austrian multimillionaire is giving away all his money to charity in pursuit of a simple, happy life.


Happiness and self-realization eluded Karl Rabeder as he indulged in a supremely materialistic lifestyle -- a $2.2 million, 3,455-square-foot lakeside villa in the Alps, a farmhouse on 42 acres in Provence, six gliders, an Audi A8. His entire fortune was estimated at $4.7 million.


Rabeder, now 47 and divorced, lives in a two-room apartment in Innsbruck, and gets by on just $1,260 a month. “The worst that can happen to me is that I have to take a small job to get by,” he told the Daily Mail.


''My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing. Money is counterproductive -- it prevents happiness.''


Really? We’re not so sure about that. And, believe it or not, Rabeder has critics.


Expect more mobile coupons as retailers seek to reach phone-addicted millennials.

By Teresa Mears Feb 9, 2010 6:32PM

Target has become the latest retailer, and among the first major national retailers, to offer its coupons via cell phone. You can also download your Target gift cards to your phone.


Expect this trend to continue. The Dallas Morning News reports that J.C. Penney is rolling out cell phone coupons nationwide next month, and 7-Eleven just finished a test in San Diego. Sears offers some mobile coupons via Cellfire, the electronic coupon site used by Kroger and other supermarkets.


The co-founder of Seventh Generation says detergent is often unnecessary. She does a test.

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 4:56PM

This guest post comes from “vh” at Funny about Money.


"Frugal Scholar," who must read everything of value on the entire Internet, stumbled upon an amazing remark in, of all places, The Wall Street Journal. In an article, Seventh Generation co-founder Jeffrey Hollender remarks that it’s surprising most people use laundry detergent at all: “You don’t even need soap to wash most loads,” he says. The truth is, it’s the action of the agitator, not the chemicals, that gets most clothes clean.


Uhmmm …. Say what, my Captain of Industry?


Most of us have figured out that we need only a fraction of the amount we were brought up to pour into the washer, partly because newer detergents are far more efficient and partly because you don’t really need even the recommended amount. But … no detergent at all?


Well, of course, the gantlet was down.


Survey shows fewer companies believe employees will have enough money for retirement.

By Teresa Mears Feb 9, 2010 3:41PM

Good news for employees: About 80% of medium-size and large companies that suspended or reduced their company match to 401k programs last year are planning to restore their matching contributions in 2010.


But, the same survey also showed that employers don’t believe their employees have the ability to save enough for retirement and are looking for ways to help -- short of adding pension plans, of course.


Card issuers are supposed to consider a person's ability to pay before they issue a new card. But what does that really mean?

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 1:13PM

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


Most of the Credit CARD Act of 2009 -- that well-crafted and thoroughly thought through law that will fix all that is wrong about credit cards and allow us to carry guns in national parks -- comes into effect on Feb. 22. So it’s time for bloggers like me to revisit the act, particularly some of the less widely discussed provisions, and tell our readers all about the big changes on the way.


WalletPop beat me to it last week with a post “Lenders plan to guess your income from credit report.” It was about how the CARD Act "requires lenders to consider your ability to pay any new or additional debt before approving a credit card application." Apparently, that means verifying income, which puts a damper on those really annoying pitches you get to open a store-branded card whenever you try to buy something.


"Retail stores are quite upset about this change in the instant approval of their cards," Bill Hardekopf, CEO of, wrote to WalletPop by e-mail. "Consumers now need to show proof of income when they apply for a card, and not many of us carry this around when we are shopping in the mall."


This made me, briefly, optimistic that the CARD Act would improve my life after all.


Here's how the IRS picks tax returns to examine more closely.

By Karen Datko Feb 9, 2010 9:41AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Doing your taxes is never fun. Even if you ignore how you must spend a couple of hours filling out boring forms, finding documents and researching deductions, there’s always the fear that you’ll be audited. I remember having the most vanilla tax returns back when I was a teenager, the 1040-EZ, and even then I was irrationally concerned about an audit.

The reality is that very few people get audited -- just a couple percent each year -- and some of them deserve it. As much as we might like to think of the IRS as some cruel, emotionless monster trying to make the lives of hardworking Americans as miserable as possible, it's not. It's trying to collect tax revenue so the government can continue to provide the services hardworking Americans need.

How does the IRS decide whom to audit? It’s actually very straightforward.



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