Smart SpendingSmart Spending

More good news for homebuyers: Congress extends closing deadline for tax credit.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 5:02PM

This post comes from Marilyn Lewis of MSN Money.


Mortgage interest rates have dropped again -- beneath even the 54-year record-busting lows reached a week ago, when 30-year loans fell to rates seen last in the 1950s.

According to Freddie Mac's Primary Mortgage Market Survey, Americans can sign up for an average 4.58% on a 30-year loan and spend an average of 0.7 points to get that rate. (A point is a fee -- usually 1% of the loan amount, as "Mortgage Professor" Jack Guttentag explains.)


Last week, the average 30-year rate was 4.69%. This time last year it was 5.32%, which seemed pretty darned low at the time.


What difference do these little fractions of a percent make?


Several less-than-popular offerings will be phased out. Meanwhile, the breakfast war heats up.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 3:46PM

When we read that McDonald's is dropping the Big N' Tasty from the regular menu, we had to wonder: Which sandwich is that? Not exactly an iconic item -- no one's had a Big N' Tasty attack.

With only about 20 a day sold at some stores, the Big N' Tasty is among several items that will be phased out at McDonald's in coming months. Meanwhile, oatmeal is set to debut with great fanfare on the breakfast menu early next year. 

Among the changes in store at McDonald's:


As our nation's birthday approaches, something to consider: The Constitution protects free speech but exercising that right can be costly.

By Stacy Johnson Jul 1, 2010 11:30AM

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


Freedom of speech is one of our Constitution's greatest protections. But in this country, guns and the government aren't what suppress speech.


Here it's money and corporations that keep people quiet.

It's called a SLAPP suit: strategic lawsuit against public participation. A company doesn't file a SLAPP suit because it feels it's been legally wronged. The suit is filed because executives know that defamation lawsuits cost tens of thousands of dollars to defend, and the vast majority of people will stop using the "offending speech" rather than face such an expense.


Sometimes I think the business of tracking every penny that's spent on this or that category is just obsessive.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 9:51AM

This guest post comes from "vh" at Funny about Money.


Here's the question: Is it better to mound up your spending money in one big pile, or does it make more sense to divide it into "piggybanks" dedicated to one purpose or another? Is it an over-complication to dedicate x or y amount to, say, groceries or eating out?


Wouldn't it be simpler to give yourself a set amount of money to spend for a given period, and not obsess over how it's spent?


Outsourcing your chores isn't logical if you'd just waste the extra time it frees up.

By Karen Datko Jul 1, 2010 8:30AM

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


Most of this article applies to any situation in which someone hires someone else to perform work, whether it's paying someone to change the oil in their car or hiring a plumber to fix a leaky faucet. On that note, Connie writes in:

Your schedule seems overstuffed. Have you ever considered hiring an assistant or a housecleaner or something?

I have, actually. We earn enough right now to be able to afford hiring some additional help to take some of the hours off my shoulders, whether it's helping with the grunt work behind the scenes of The Simple Dollar or doing some of the household chores -- dusting, vacuuming, etc.

We haven't done it yet, for one simple reason. Let's say, hypothetically, that I hired someone to take care of 10 hours of grunt work a week. What would I do with those extra 10 hours?


Forget about the official 9.7% unemployment rate. A new study shows that more than half of American workers lost jobs, hours or pay.

By Karen Datko Jun 30, 2010 5:36PM

A new study contains this depressing statistic: 55% of American workers have either lost a job, experienced a reduction in hours or pay, or were forced into part-time status at some point during the Great Recession.


But the Pew Research Center survey does have one tentative bright spot. The Washington Post reports:

More than six in 10 respondents say they expect their personal financial situation to improve in the next year, which the report called the rosiest outlook since before the recession began in December 2007. Similarly, 61% predict that the damage caused by the recession will be temporary.

The Pew survey also indicates that no matter how well the recovery goes, many are unlikely to borrow and spend as they did in those giddy, good ol' days. Also, many think the good times won't be as good for their kids:


Life's tough enough without paying for things you could be getting free. Here are some examples.

By Stacy Johnson Jun 30, 2010 2:23PM

This post comes from Donna Gehrke-White at partner site Money Talks News.


Your mom always told you that money doesn't grow on trees. She's right, so why waste it. There are plenty of free things you can pluck from the Web as well as from libraries, parks, banks and other businesses.

Here's a look at 10 potential freebies.


Free pancake puppies, discount jelly beans and free food samples at Wal-Mart are among this week's deals.

By Teresa Mears Jun 30, 2010 12:46PM

It's time to fire up the grill and get ready for the July Fourth holiday.


Just in time for outdoor parties, Mark Bittman, The Minimalist at The New York Times, has come up with a list of 101 fast recipes for grilling. If you're looking for more recipes, check out all the offerings from our friend Kris at Cheap Healthy Good.

The freebie offerings for the Fourth of July weekend are sparse, so you may want to stay home and throw a big potluck dinner for family and friends. After dinner, you can probably find a free fireworks display in your town.



Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.