Links Roundup: Financially Fit - The List Edition

by Kimberly Cole on October 15, 2010

financial-tipsHere at Wallet Blog we strive to give you the best financial tips and suggestions possible. While we like to think we do a pretty good job of it ourselves, we are constantly inspired by our colleagues in the financial blogging world. So, in the spirit of camaraderie, today is the first of our links roundup, where we will periodically feature some of the best from our blogging buddies.

For our first roundup we’ve focused on the short and sweet – perfect for the financially curious seeking advice without the long-winded explanation. We’ve rounded up some great articles with tips for your financial future, all nicely packaged into pretty little lists. Now, if only finances were as easy as 1,2,3…

9 Tips to Avoid Coupon Scams

by Guest on July 30, 2010

couponingToday’s guest post is from the team at

A sweet coupon is tough to resist, but offers that appear too good to be true can be fraudulent. Coupons are easy to find and have become so popular that scammers regularly reared their ugly heads with sophisticated cons. With a little experience and the following nine tips, you can spot these con artists and avoid being taken for a ride.

Best Time to Buy Guide

by Guest on July 7, 2010

best-time-to-buyToday’s guest post is from the team at

The lazy days of Summer may be in full swing, but bargain shoppers might want to consider a little break from the beach.  There are quite a few deals to be had for those willing to plan ahead on major purchases.‘s “Best Time to Buy Guide” covers over 75 products and services, offering helpful tips on when to save the most money.  Knowing the best time to buy that new car, house or lawn mower could be the difference between saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars every year.  Read on for your best bets in July and August, use them wisely, then kick back with the knowledge that while temperatures may rise, your credit card bills don’t have to.

How to Save Money on Childcare

by Lynn B. Johnson on May 13, 2010

save-money-on-child-careIf you’ve had a kid recently, you’re probably torn between delight in your babykins and astonishment at the astronomical costs of childcare. Yeah, me too. Here are some tips for keeping at least part of your salary in your own pocket.

1) Neighborhood co-operative: If you have neighbors who are in the same boat, get everyone together to discuss ways you might be able to share the childcare burden. Taking one day off a week in exchange for two or three days of childcare can be a good deal. If you have even one neighbor who stays home with his/her kids, talk about whether they might be willing to accept a pittance in exchange for a morning/day/days of watching your own little one.

Two Well-Incentivized Checking Accounts

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 26, 2010

High-Yield Checking AccountA couple of checking accounts that come with worthwhile incentives might be of interest to you: one offers tunes, the other, cash.

Florence Savings Bank has a “FreeTunes Checking” account with no minimum balance, no monthly fees, and nationwide ATM refunds. On top of those bonuses, FSB offers free iTunes® downloads at sign up and then monthly, so long as you maintain qualifying status. Pretty neat. The account is only available to those who live in Western Massachusetts, though.

Sell Your Gift Cards at the New Gift Card Exchange

by Kimberly Cole on April 21, 2010

gift-cardAccording to TowerGroup, the gift card industry was worth $87 billion in 2009 alone. However, 6 percent of this huge figure – nearly $5 billion – was wasted due to gift cards that went unused. To help consumers take advantage of this five-billion-dollar untapped resource, is pleased to announce the launch of the Social Gift Card Exchange. This is the first gift card marketplace to cut out the middleman and provide a trustworthy environment for direct user-to-user interaction.

Card Hub brings a new level of innovation to the industry with its Social Gift Card Exchange that not only includes the primary functionality of other gift card depots, but also provides a platform for users to trade their gift cards directly with their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and trusted companies.

Are Eco-Friendly Funerals More Cost-Effective?

by Lynn B. Johnson on April 1, 2010

green-funeralThe only two sure things in life are death and taxes. We all know that April 15th is looming, so I thought I’d look at the other side of my opening truism. We’re all going to die, sure, but how can we encourage our survivors to make our own post-life existence as eco-friendly and “green” as possible? Will greener choices save money? And, let’s be real: what is the “ick” factor?

The only thing I knew about green funerals was what I saw on the last-season episode of “Six Feet Under.” One of the men who ran a family funeral home died, and his brother pushed the family to follow a greener, more eco-conscious funeral plan. The scene was awkward and a little more hands-on than appealed to me.

Save on Taxes, Now and Next Year

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 26, 2010

TaxesSo, April 15 is right around the corner, and with it, the dreaded looming day to pay Uncle Sam. If you earned too much money last year and are looking for some ways to trim your tax bill now, as well as next year, look no further.

If you need a break now and have a few extra thousand dollars kicking around, now is a great time to invest that spare cash in a traditional IRA. Make a regular (NOT a rollover) contribution and see how it reduces your adjusted gross income. This will lower your tax bill across the board, though the maximum deduction is dependent upon your modified adjusted gross income total and also your filing status and cohabitation situation (where applicable).

Slow-Consumption: Healthier for Wallet, Body, Soul?

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 16, 2010

slowI remember reading a profile of the now-dearly-departed Fred Rogers in Esquire magazine about 12 years ago. Mr. Rogers was looking up at a clock and commenting on how big it was, and wouldn’t it be nice if we would all wake up one morning and concentrate on doing something small, not big. Quiet, not loud.

Shortly after that, I heard the first rumors of a new-wave of cooking, called “slow food.” Italians had a festival celebrating the time-consuming recipes of their grandmothers; they held the festival outside a McDonald’s, as I recollect.

Save Money on Food

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 9, 2010

save-money-on-foodFood is one of the major line-items in my family’s budget. In my goal to save more money this year, I’ve been trying different ways to slash-and-burn my grocery bills. Allow me to share my hard-earned do’s and don’ts with you. Some might sound strange. It’s OK; when saving money is concerned, I have no pride.

Do shop at non-grocery stores: Many of the big-box stores have been increasing their grocery offerings. Seems you can hardly turn on the TV without seeing an ad about money-saving groceries at Walmart, but I’ve found another big-box store with surprisingly good grocery deals; if you have a Big Lots store in your area, check out their grocery aisles. They offer name-brand breakfast cereals, as well as canned and snack-food items you may never have heard of. They’ve been a particularly good source of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and canned beans, at prices at least $.25 less than my typical grocery store. (It’s better to go in with an open mind rather than a set menu, though I found black-eyed peas there in time for New Year’s Day, which was a pleasant surprise).

Pet Insurance: Money Saver or Scam?

by Lynn B. Johnson on March 5, 2010

pet-insurancePets can be a serious line-item in your yearly budget. A yearly vet physical can set you back anywhere from $30 to hundreds of dollars, depending upon whether the veterinarian finds anything wrong with your fuzzy, feathered, or scaly companion, to say nothing of the unexpected costs that arise when your pet is ill or suffers an accident.

I first became aware of pet insurance when my kitten, Maxwell, got into a scrap and had to have his face drained (sorry, TMI). I never signed up for it, though. It just sounded like a hassle and I wasn’t convinced the benefits would outweigh my assumptions.

Save Money by Understanding the Economics of Bottled Water

by Lynn B. Johnson on February 12, 2010

save-money-on-waterBack in August of 2009, Yian Mui of the Washington Post reported that “sales of bottled water have fallen for the first time in at least five years.” Its meteoric rise to popularity was astonishing: sales of bottled water “swelled 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages.”

So, economically, if you owned shares in a company that sold bottled water, you probably received a tidy return on your investment.

Shopping without Guilt... with Gilt!

by Lynn B. Johnson on January 25, 2010

giltI don’t remember how I first heard of Gilt Group, but its sales model intrigued me: Luxury branded items for sale at deep discounts, but only for a limited time. I received an invitation (yes, you need an invitation to join) on my birthday. I needed new shoes. I signed up.

Gilt’s sales begin at noon EST daily and run for no more than 36 hours. They send a daily email to members — I usually get mine at 11:57 — announcing the brands and items for sale that day. In the few weeks I’ve been a member, they’ve offered goods from Vera Wang Collection, Judith Lieber, Rodanthe, American Apparel (really?), Marc by Marc Jacobs, and Alexander Wang.

More High-Yield Checking Options

by Lynn B. Johnson on December 14, 2009

High-Yield Checking AccountNow, here at Wallet Blog we’re no strangers to high-yield, interest-bearing checking accounts. Wrote about Focus Bank back in May and yes, their offer still stands. But how could I be content, knowing that I’ve only alerted you to one 4.51% checking account? Time to rectify that situation with a few other options.

For instance: Bank of the Sierra, based in my beloved California, also offers a 4.51% yield checking account. And you don’t have to be a millionaire to enjoy their top interest rate; you can open the account with only $50, and you’ll earn 4.51% APY on balances up to $25,000, so long as you meet the minimum qualifications for that statement cycle. (Qualifications include a minimum of 12 Sierra Check Card purchases per statement cycle, minimum of one direct deposit/automatic payment monthly, one Sierra BillPay payment per cycle, eStatements, and you must open the account line.) And, if that’s not enough, there are no monthly fees, you can earn up to $25 in ATM refunds each statement cycle, and there is a beautiful picture of Sequoia redwoods on their Sierra Reward Checking Web page. Click here to learn more and to open an account. Please note that the account is available nationwide, but you must be a U.S. resident or a U.S. resident alien to apply.

Free Samples -- Worth the Hassle?

by Lynn B. Johnson on December 12, 2009

free-samplesOK, the economy might be bouncing back but my wallet sure isn’t, so I went trolling on the Internet for some free samples. Call it cheapskate retail therapy. There are plenty of places where you can sign up for free stuff, but at what cost?

The first site I went to was  They list an appealing “fall sample pack” on their home page, along with other items that would be of interest to pretty much anyone who has pets, kids, or a pulse.

Why Buy the Steak when You can Get the Cow for Less?

by Lynn B. Johnson on December 5, 2009

SteakSo, my husband and I have been delighted with our choice to buy a CSA farmshare. Our summer has been chock-full of mostly local, mostly organic vegetables, and it’s pushed me to become a more adventurous cook and eater (yes, I ate the beets. Call the press).

But now, there’s a new buy-local buzzword in town. It’s called “cowpooling.” This is where neighbors pool their money to purchase all of the meat from one local cow.

Card Hub Eliminates the Guesswork from the Gift-Giving Process

by Alexandra McDougald on December 3, 2009

gift-cardsAccording to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend nearly $24 billion on gift cards this holiday season. Additionally, gift cards are the most requested gift for the third year in a row – over half of adults said they would like to receive a gift card and almost 80 percent of people plan to buy one this holiday season. However, given these statistics, how do consumers know which gift cards to choose for their friends and loved ones this season and beyond? To answer this question, Card Hub® is pleased to announce the launch of its Gift Card application for Facebook – a completely free, first-of-its-kind gift-giving tool. The Gift Card application from Card Hub® removes the hassle from the process for gift givers and ensures that the receivers will be happy with the gift card they’ve gotten.

The primary feature of the Gift Card application is the Gift Card Wish List. In less than 60 seconds, it allows users to pick their favorite stores and share their selections with their friends, giving them potential spending power at places they actually like. Currently, there are hundreds of stores to choose from including restaurants, department stores and e-retailers, and that list is constantly growing. What’s more is that users with niche or special interests can add stores to the application that wouldn’t be top-of-mind to most consumers, simply by keying in the associated URL.

Viva Vonage!

by Odysseas Papadimitriou on November 25, 2009

vonageGiven the upcoming holiday, I decided to do a light post about my favorite phone service. As we all know, there are plenty of heavy-hitters in the VoIP marketplace: Vonage, Skype, Google Voice, Magic Jack, Jupiter Jack, etc. But Vonage (VG) is the best of them based on my own subjective opinion. Here’s why.

First off, Vonage is different from its competitors because you do not need a PC to utilize it. Basically, you connect the Vonage box to a digital modem (either DSL or Cable), and then you unplug your regular phone from the wall and instead plug it in to the Vonage box.

Black Friday Round-Up of Deals

by Lynn B. Johnson on November 23, 2009

black-friday-salesGetting ready to shell out your hard-earned ducats for some holiday gifts? Here’s a round-up of what’ll be “in store” for the day after Thanksgiving. Click the store name to see the entire list of Black Friday incentives.

Best Buy: Twenty to 50-percent off many appliances, and a slew of digital camera offers that you can also access via eBay.

National Geographic for $15/year

by Lynn B. Johnson on November 17, 2009

National GeographicNational Geographic magazine is a national treasure and as such, those of us in the US should support it. At $15/year, you’ll receive the best journalistic and nature photography ever, and you’ll learn something, too.

Visit this link and subscribe all your nieces and nephews. They’ll receive 12 issues for $15. Even if they don’t read, they’ll enjoy the beautiful pictures. Also, you can repurpose them into dioramas, collages, and other art projects. National Geographic employs the best photographers worldwide and has also awarded more than 8,000 grants for exploration, research, and conservation efforts.

The Economics of Clutter

by Lynn B. Johnson on October 24, 2009

ClutterMy clutter is costing me money. I figured this out a few days ago when, struck by the mad desire to clean my apartment, I found not one, not two, but three unopened packages of swim diapers. At about $8 apiece, that’s $24 wasted dollars.

Enough was enough. So far I’ve decluttered my office, the nursery, and half of my bedroom, and as a result I’ve taken 11 tall kitchen garbage bags worth of stuff to my local Goodwill. (Yes, I could have had a garage sale, but I wanted this stuff out of my place pronto.)

Expect More Free Minutes on Your Cell Phone Plan

by Brian Johnson on October 22, 2009

cell-phoneIn light of the imminent prospect of network neutrality rules being voted on by the FCC, AT&T has announced that it will allow Internet calling services to be placed and received over its wireless network.  The FCC’s proposed rules will likely affect the validity of exclusive relationships, like the one that exists between AT&T and Apple’s iPhone, and will ensure that broadband providers don’t abuse their power over Internet access in order to favor their own services or harm competitors.

The result of allowing products like Google Voice and Skype over wireless phone networks should be similar to the effect that Voice Over IP (VOIP) has had on land-line phone services.  As we all know, once people began to use their computers to make phone calls at significantly reduced rates or even for free, traditional phone companies were forced to significantly reduce the rates they charged for phone calls.  Then, they covered their lost revenue by developing new products and  introducing new services.

Is Layaway the Big Deal it's Cracked up to Be?

by Lynn B. Johnson on October 18, 2009

Layaway ProgramLast year around holiday-time, we heard a lot about layaway: “It’s coming back!” “Helloooo, 1980s, your purchase-plan just called.” In particular, Kmart earned buzz with its layaway program last year, and now offers layaway items on Sears’ purchases as well.

But is layaway really a big deal?

Plan Ahead to Save Money on Halloween Costumes

by Lynn B. Johnson on October 6, 2009

Halloween Plan AheadIf you or someone you buy for is planning to dress in costume for Halloween, you can save big money by taking care of those needs right now instead of a couple of days prior to October 31st.

For the younger set, Toys “R” Us/Babies “R” Us lets you save $10 on purchases of $30 or more if you’re a new “Bill Me Later” customer, subject to credit approval.

Quick Hit: $25 Gift Certificates for One Dollar

by Lynn B. Johnson on September 10, 2009

For a very limited time, is offering gift certificates worth $25 for the price of $1. Just enter the Discount Code NINETY at checkout and hit “apply.” Oh, and be sure to say “no thanks” when they ask if you want to complete the survey, because if you click “yes” you’ll get charged an additional twenty bucks.

This offer is good for 99 hours starting 9/9/09, so act quickly!

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