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Bankrupt company? 3 moves to make with your gift card

Filed under: Gift Cards on March 13, 2015 @ 10:49 am

If you’ve been hanging onto a Radio Shack gift card, you’d better use it now before it loses its juice.

The electronics retailer filed for bankruptcy in February and will only accept gift cards through March 31, 2015, according to the company website, extending the deadline from March 6.

That’s bad news for consumers, who are holding about $44 million in outstanding Radio Shack gift cards, says Shelley Hunter, a gift card expert known as the “Gift Card Girlfriend” at

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3 ways to escape that cookie-inspired ad

Filed under: Fraud and Privacy Issues on March 11, 2015 @ 2:16 pm

Have you ever looked at merchandise online — maybe a nice shirt, a fancy gadget or an expensive sheet set — but decided not to buy, then gotten stalked for days or weeks by that exact item?

I have, and I’m convinced that this online advertising tactic, called ad retargeting, makes me spend more.

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5 online budgeting tools worth checking out

Filed under: Budgeting on March 4, 2015 @ 2:41 pm

For years, my husband and I used a simple Google spreadsheet to keep track of our finances. I wasn’t thrilled with it, but I’d never been able to find a budgeting method that I loved.

We tried other systems over the course of our relationship — for example, a legal pad and the cash envelope system during the recession, followed by a brief stint with Mint a couple of years ago. But, we kept coming back to the spreadsheet.

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7 questions to ask about charities before giving

Filed under: Finances on February 25, 2015 @ 1:05 pm

Is donating to charity a monthly budget line item? It used to be one of mine. I am planning to add it back in again soon, so I’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to pick a charity.

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The worst tax advice I’ve ever received

Filed under: Finances on February 18, 2015 @ 12:58 pm

When tax season rolls around, I sometimes think back to the worst personal finance advice I ever got, back when I was in my 20s and my money was in a mess.

Because my finances were such a wreck, I’d bought a personal finance book (I can’t remember which one), which is where I got this tip: If you’re getting a tax refund, go straight to the human resources department at work to reduce the amount withheld for the IRS from your paycheck. After all, why let Uncle Sam hold your money all year when it could be earning interest for you?

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How my mom prepared for a stress-free retirement

Filed under: Retirement on February 11, 2015 @ 10:46 am

My mom retired this year from her job as an elementary school teacher, but she started planning for her retirement about eight years ago, and it turns out, that was a smart move.

Before she sought advice, she wasn’t sure how long she’d need to work in order to have enough money during retirement, and she didn’t know the ins and outs of moving from employer group health insurance to Medicare.

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How to finance college without borrowing too much

Filed under: Student on February 6, 2015 @ 2:56 pm

When it came to saving for our two kids to go to college, my family found itself in a pickle jar good and tight.

My eldest plans to begin his college career this fall. My husband and I first thought about contributing about $10,000 a year to college, and the kids were expected to cough up the rest. (One study found that when parents give kids a blank check, grades are lower.) The goal was to avoid saddling the boys with student loans.

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3 annoying things that can go wrong at the ATM

Filed under: Banking on February 4, 2015 @ 8:12 am

I recently learned that an ATM isn’t the best way to make a big deposit. An ATM is basically a big computer and technological glitches happen.

In one extreme case, a Bank of America error caused multiple ATMs to let a customer with only a few dollars in his account withdraw more than $1.5 million. He gambled the money away. Oops.

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How I cut $400 in monthly expenses for a savings cushion

Filed under: Budgeting on January 30, 2015 @ 1:09 pm

Investing firm Fidelity recently noted that 2014 was good to many of us, with the stock market up and unemployment sinking to below 6 percent.

But rather than becoming complacent, which Fidelity warns could be happening (its annual financial resolution study shows that less than a third of Americans made financial resolutions this year), now is a great time to take advantage of your good financial situation.

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6 ways I became a more frugal medical consumer

Filed under: Finances on January 28, 2015 @ 12:01 pm

My husband and I have a high-deductible health insurance plan through his job, but that hasn’t stopped us from going to the doctor for any ache, pain or other problem.

That strategy used to work fine when we had more generous health insurance plans through previous jobs, but with this high-deductible plan, our approach is breaking our budget.

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