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Total cost of premiums didn't rise much this year, but employees are paying a higher percentage and seeing cuts in benefits.

By Teresa Mears Sep 2, 2010 7:59PM

Chalk up another budget category where you're paying more and getting less: employer-provided health care.

 

A new survey shows that workers are paying a higher percentage of their health insurance premiums as benefits are reduced and co-payments and deductibles rise.

The 2010 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust found that workers are paying 19% of the cost of individual insurance and 30% of the cost of family insurance, the highest rate in the 12 years the survey has been done. Last year, workers paid 17% of the cost of individual coverage and 27% of the cost of family coverage.

 

The cost of food is going up, experts say. Here's how to offset higher prices with smart savings strategies.

By Karen Datko Sep 2, 2010 1:21PM

This Deal of the Daycomes fromKelli B. Grantat partner site SmartMoney.

 

Coupons don't cut it for grocery savings anymore.

 

Although inflation has been modest lately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts food-price inflation is likely to jump 2% to 3% in 2011. That means food companies and supermarkets will soon be facing higher overhead costs.

 

Prices of commodities such as coffee, cattle and grain are rising, and they can go up only so far before the food industry is forced to reduce package size, raise prices or both.

"When a food that depends on one commodity like coffee goes up, we see it pretty fast in retail prices," says Jack Plunkett, chief executive of Plunkett Research, a market research firm.

Consumers who want to keep rising food costs in check will need to adjust their spending substantially, says Phil Lempert, founder of grocery information site Supermarket Guru.

 

Could the 30-year rate fall below 4%? Experts consider the possibility.

By Karen Datko Sep 2, 2010 12:19PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.

 

Mortgage interest rates dropped yet again this week.

  • Freddie Mac, the quasi-government mortgage company, reported that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages are averaging 4.32% (with an average cost of 0.7 point), down from 4.36% last week -- and from 5.08% this time last year.
  • Fifteen-year fixed-rate mortgages dropped to 3.83% (with 0.6 point), down from 3.86% last week and 4.54% last year.

Freddie Mac started tracking the 30-year fixed-rate in 1971 and the 15-year rate in 1991, and the prices this summer have broken every record.

Here's the new question: Could the 30-year fixed mortgage conceivably drop below 4%? It would be something to tell your grandchildren about.

 

If an item is vastly underpriced, are you required to tell the seller?

By Karen Datko Sep 2, 2010 10:49AM

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

 

In my recent post about cultivating your knowledge for fun and profit, I mentioned that you should hit yard sales, consignment shops, estate sales, etc., as a way to put your knowledge to work for you and take advantage of underpriced items. A few commenters thought this was unethical, so I thought I'd look at that particular point a bit more deeply.

I’ll start off by giving you a specific example of when I've done this in the past. As a teenager, I collected Magic: The Gathering cards (I still play with my wife using a handful of remaining cards). I had a very good idea of what some of the valuable ones were, including a few that sold for hundreds of dollars and a good number that could net $20 or more apiece.

 

Credit card companies are pushing 'professional' cards, which don't have the new consumer protections of personal cards.

By Karen Datko Sep 1, 2010 4:43PM

Aren't you special. Credit card companies have decided that you're a "professional" and are sending you applications for their "professional" cards. It doesn't matter if you're retired or, say, drive a tow truck for a living.

But therein lies a trap. While your personal status hasn't changed, the rules for personal credit cards have. The so-called professional cards, unlike personal cards, aren't subject to the consumer protections in the now fully implementedCredit CARD Act.

 

Automakers employ 'nose teams' to create distinctive scents for their brands while working to eliminate the toxic fumes of the past.

By Teresa Mears Sep 1, 2010 4:16PM

We all say we love the traditional new-car smell, but the truth is that the new-car smell of the past is the smell of toxic chemicals. That just won't do.

 

Knowing that smell is an important part of the new-car experience, Ford has a "smell jury" working on coming up with just the right fragrance for a new Ford, reports Forbes.

 

The smell jury's goal "is to pinpoint a scent that 'produces a sense of well-being inside a Ford,' says Derrick Kuzak, group vice president for global product."

 

Consumers looking for a seasonal flu vaccination can get them early and cheap.

By Karen Datko Sep 1, 2010 12:58PM

This Deal of the Daycomes fromKelli B. Grantat partner site SmartMoney.

 

Catching the flu can be a pricey proposition, what with lost sick days at work, doctor visit co-pays, and trips to the store for Tamiflu, tissues and chicken soup. In comparison, a seasonal flu shot for $30 seems like a bargain -- and yet even at that price, you may be overpaying.

After last year's vaccine shortages and widespread H1N1 (aka swine flu) cases, retailers are using public interest in seasonal flu shots as a way to get consumers in stores. Both CVS and Rite Aid cut prices from last year: CVS to $30 from $35 and Rite Aid to $25 from $30. Supermarkets including Safeway, Winn Dixie and SuperValu are sweetening their clinic offerings with store discounts and coupons.

 

One technology that hasn't kept up with the times is the power meter outside your house. Now new devices can help you track minute to minute how much you use.

By Stacy Johnson Sep 1, 2010 11:28AM

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

 

They say knowledge is power, but Microsoft and a partner are betting more knowledge means less power. The computer software giant has teamed with Blue Line Innovations and created a device that charts your home's electricity consumption -- and cost -- every 30 seconds, and displays it on a handheld device or your computer.

"You're getting real-time data so you can take real-time action," says Troy Batterberry, product unit manager for Microsoft Hohm -- Microsoft's energy-saving website.

 

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