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An extended warranty might keep you from a budget-busting repair bill. But make sure you buy it right.

By Stacy Johnson Jan 15, 2010 7:08AM

You insure against untimely death, bad health and damage to your property. Should you insure against giant car repair bills too?

An extended warranty can provide protection against a budget-busting bill. But keep it in park until you understand what they do and how they work.

 

It's not quite as bad as it sounds, but you too could see this on your card statement.

By Karen Datko Jan 14, 2010 7:08PM

As the Feb. 22 deadline approaches for most of the new Credit CARD Act requirements to kick in, weirdness abounds. CBS MoneyWatch columnist Kathy Kristof can attest to that.

 

She opened up the first bill for her new Macy’s store credit card and read that the “minimum interest charge" on her average daily balance “worked out to ‘an actual annual percentage rate’ of 703.8%,” she wrote.

 

What, we thought -- are our eyes deceiving us? Sure enough, the headline on her post is “Credit reform and my new 703.8% card.” There is an explanation for this, and you should read it, lest you open your credit card bill and suffer a heart attack.

 

We're creatures of habit, and our new habit of saving more is sinking in.

By Karen Datko Jan 14, 2010 5:38PM

Will people continue to save, pay down debt and pursue frugal ways once the economy noticeably improves (oh, and can that day come soon enough)? Everyone has an opinion about that, but when Dan Ariely speaks, we tend to listen very closely.

 

Ariely thinks we’re developing a new set of habits.

 

He’s the Duke University behavioral economist (formerly at MIT) who wrote the bestselling book, “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.” In it, he examines why we make the spending choices we do. For instance, “free” compels us to do strange things.

 

Best option is to give cash to a reputable organization that has a track record of working in Haiti.

By Teresa Mears Jan 14, 2010 3:45PM

A tragedy of the magnitude of the earthquake that hit Haiti makes us want to help, but we also want to make sure that our donations get to the people in need. Scams diverted much-needed aid sent to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

 

The best strategy is to give to an established charity that is already working in Haiti. Haiti is an extraordinarily complex country, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere even before this disaster. It is not an easy place to work.

 

Among her 10 big blunders: She bought a new car and a condo for the wrong reasons.

By Karen Datko Jan 14, 2010 2:14PM

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, another blogger publishes a post about money blunders that includes some you hadn’t read about before.

 

Such was the case with Jessica Ward’s “Jessica’s top 10 money mistakes” posted at Debt Kid.

 

Jessica bought a new car because she couldn’t afford the higher interest on a used-car loan. That cracked us up. Apparently we’re not alone. “You may stop laughing now,” Jessica wrote after explaining that predicament.

 

Private-sale travel sites offer bargains to members. Here's what you need to know.

By Karen Datko Jan 14, 2010 12:53PM

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

 

Getting a good price on your next vacation is about who you know -- and that’s not necessarily a travel agent.

 

Private-sale sites that offer steep discounts exclusively to their members have long been popular for designer fashions. Now, they’re increasingly an option for luxury travel. Invitation-only fashion site RueLaLa.com recently expanded into luxury travel. Travel search engine Kayak.com also announced this month that it is preparing to launch a private-sale site for hotel, flight and vacation package deals.

 

The idea behind these moves:

 

Consider factors such as your child's development and the effect of more financial pressure on your lives.

By Karen Datko Jan 14, 2010 11:16AM

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

 

Marjorie writes in with a very interesting question:

I'm a single mom with a 4-year-old daughter. Each weekday, I take my daughter to stay with one of my aunts so that I can work to earn a living and keep food on the table. After Christmas, my mom sat down with my aunt and me and gave us a bunch of information about a few great preschools in the area. My aunt told me later on that she's supportive, no matter what I choose. So, for me, the real question is whether or not my daughter would get enough benefit from preschool compared to days with my aunt to make the extra costs worthwhile.

I live next door to a single mother, and I see time and time again how she is forced into making difficult choices about the time devoted to her children. Does she make a nutritious home-cooked meal or does she spend an extra half-hour with her girls? Does she spend some time in the yard with them or does she get some of the never-ending household chores taken care of? This comes on top of the prerequisite day of work for single parents, after which they're exhausted but also wanting a strong connection with their children. On top of that, there are money concerns -- a single-income household in the modern world is never easy.

When it comes to a choice between a good preschool and other child care options, I don’t think there’s a simple cut-and-dried answer because there are so many factors involved.

 

Changes to Medicare mean more people will receive financial assistance to cover prescriptions.

By Karen Datko Jan 13, 2010 5:48PM

This post comes from Mark Huffman at partner site ConsumerAffairs.com.

 

Seniors struggling to stay on a budget may get a little extra help from the government if they are enrolled in a Medicare prescription drug plan.

 

The Social Security Administration says a change in the law makes it easier to qualify for extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs. The extra help program provides assistance to more than 9 million senior and disabled Americans, saving them an average of almost $4,000 a year on their Medicare prescription drug plan costs.

 

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