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More than 1 in 3 mortgage applications don't result in loans. Here's how to make sure yours does.

By Stacy Johnson Jun 10, 2010 7:08PM

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


If you're planning to shop for a house, there's good news and bad news to consider.


The good news is that home prices are relatively low -- an absolute bargain in some parts of the country, especially those hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. In addition, finding the lowest rates on mortgages takes a fraction of the time it used to, thanks to mortgage search engines like the one we have here.


The bad news is that mortgage money isn't easy to come by. Then again, with the exception of the heady bubble days, it never was.


Few Americans can take advantage of near-record rates. But down-payment requirements for purchases may be easing.

By Teresa Mears Jun 10, 2010 2:37PM

How low are home mortgage rates?


The average rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is within one one-hundredth of a percentage point of the lowest rate we've seen in most of our lifetimes, the 4.71% reported the week ending Dec. 3, 2009. If rates decline two one-hundredths of a percentage point, we're back to the spring of 1956, when the average rate hit 4.68%, according to National Bureau of Economic Research statistics.

Rates for 15-year mortgages fell for the fourth straight week, to 4.17%, the lowest rate since Freddie Mac started tracking 15-year loans in 1991.


Where are the balloons and confetti?


Should education about how to budget for and prepare healthy food be a mandatory part of every child's education?

By Karen Datko Jun 10, 2010 2:07PM

Way back when, boys had to take shop, and girls were required to take a home economics class. 


Times change -- thank goodness the gender barriers came down -- but somewhere along the road, home ec was abandoned or made optional. Now, some clever bloggers ask: Is it time to bring it back in an updated format for every student to take?


Yes, why not bring it back, with some emphasis on budgeting for food and home? (All I recall from my home ec days was that we learned how to cook up a pot of chocolate goo on the stove. That was pre-microwaves. Oh, and I made an apron and a dress, and learned how to iron a man's shirt.)


Company is paying customers more than they spent, in hopes of getting back millions of glasses recalled over cadmium.

By Teresa Mears Jun 10, 2010 12:11PM

If you bought Shrek drinking glasses at McDonald's, the restaurant wants them back. It wants them back so badly that it is paying $3 per glass, up to $1.01 more than customers spent for them.


The 12 million glasses, painted with characters from the film "Shrek Forever After," were recalled June 4 after California Congresswoman Jackie Spier passed along an anonymous tip she received to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Cadmium is a heavy metal that can cause health problems with long-term exposure.


McDonald's distributed about 7.5 million of the glasses, and it is offering the unusual financial incentive of reimbursing customers more than they spent in hopes of getting them all back. To get the refund, customers merely have to bring the glasses back to any McDonald's restaurant (inside only) and fill out a form, no receipt required. McDonald's has created a page to explain the process.


Earning a kickback for online purchases after Microsoft's Bing cash-back ends.

By Karen Datko Jun 10, 2010 10:21AM

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


Getting a little extra back on online purchases is as simple as using the right middleman.


Reward portals offer cash, point or mile rebates for shoppers who use the portals to link to and purchase from partner retailers. The sites have taken off in recent years as a way for banks, airlines, hotels and independent businesses to promote loyalty.


The competition is fierce. Microsoft announced last week that its Bing cash-back portal will stop offering rewards on July 30.


Some people complain that used stuff smells funny, or that buying used stuff makes them feel cheap.

By Karen Datko Jun 10, 2010 9:19AM

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


I revel in used stuff.


I use PaperBackSwap almost religiously. I love shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops. I look forward to yard sales and make a day out of "community yard sale day."


Undeniably, though, there are drawbacks. Sure, you get a nice bargain, but no purchase is a perfect one. Whenever I talk about my love of buying things used, I hear from people about the problems of buying used -- and some of the same topics come up time and time again.


Used stuff smells funny or isn't clean.


It appears that some of those Top 10 or Top 100 lists of best cities for retirees are better than others.

By Karen Datko Jun 9, 2010 5:18PM

Retirement is beckoning, but where should you live out your golden years? Luckily, several respected media outlets produce recommended Top 10 or Top 25 or Top 100 lists. (And not one of them includes a spot beneath the railroad bridge. Hope springs eternal.)

But how are these lists compiled? What are their criteria? Is one better than another for matching locations with your actual plans and income? Richard Eisenberg rated the raters for CBS MoneyWatch, and here's what he found:


Some people report improved health from money-saving tactics, but financial stress can make it harder to embrace healthy habits.

By Teresa Mears Jun 9, 2010 2:36PM

Here's a new survey that tells us something we could have told them: Being frugal can be good for your health.


First Command's monthly financial survey of 1,000 families making more than $50,000 per year found that 49% of the respondents believe that their frugal habits are making them healthier, and 45% believe that some of their frugal habits are making them healthier. Only 6% said frugality was making them less healthy.



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