6-costs-you-should-always-negotiate: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

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Most consumers think haggling is only appropriate when buying tchotkes at a street fair or facing off against a used-car dealer. But why not negotiate the cost of medical procedures? Or a new Sub-Zero refrigerator? If you’re not paying less than sticker price for these and other goods and services, you’re leaving money — and often lots of it — on the table. “Everything is negotiable,” says Stuart Diamond, adjunct professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and author of “Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World.” “All you have to do is ask.”

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With that philosophy in mind, follow these tips to negotiate the best possible deal on 6 common fees and expenses:

1. Credit Card Rates

• Why they are negotiable: Now that most of the dust has settled following the big credit card reform act, card companies are competing fiercely again for new customers. Issuers sent out 1.2 billion credit card offers in the third quarter of 2010 — more than three times the number sent during the same period in 2009. “Use the competition to your advantage,” says Ira Rheingold, executive director for the http://www.naca.net/” target=”_blank”>National Association of Consumer Advocates. “Don’t jump at the first offer. You should argue for the best rate.”

[Click here to check savings products and rates in your area.]

• Who to talk to: Call the 800 number associated with a new card offer (or the number on the back of a current card) and talk to the customer service rep. If the rep can’t — or won’t — adjust the rate, ask to speak with a manager.

• What to say: “I’ve gotten several credit card offers with lower rates. Tell me what you can do to beat those offers.”

• Possible savings: How much you’re able to lower your interest rate will depend on your credit and payment history, as well as your credit score. In a study conducted by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group several years ago, more than half of consumers who asked for lower rates got them, with their average APR dropping from 16 percent to 10.47 percent.

2. Mortgage and Refinancing Rates and Fees

• Why they are negotiable: “Mortgage lending has gotten difficult, which means that a lender will work hard to make a deal,” says Rheingold. And that’s particularly true for consumers with credit scores of at least 750.

• Who to talk to: Mortgage brokers or lenders at banks and credit unions.

• What to say: Get several estimates in writing and ask, “Here’s the best deal I can get. Can you beat it?”

• Possible savings: In addition to offering better rates, lenders might reduce certain fees or even waive them altogether. To negotiate the lowest out-of-pocket costs, ask for discounts on all upfront fees, including application and origination fees. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/homes/rea09.shtm” target=”_blank”>website, comparing and negotiating mortgage fees can result in thousands of dollars of savings.

3. Home Improvements

• Why they are negotiable: “Business is slow and that means contractors are willing to haggle over their prices,” says Greg Daugherty, executive editor of Consumer Reports. Plus, the prices of many common home building materials are down as much as 35 percent from their peak in the mid-2000s.

• Who to talk to: The contractor.

• What to say: “What are the options for less expensive materials? And what discounts can you offer me on labor?”

• Possible savings: Up to 20 percent of the cost of the project, according to http://press.angieslist.com/news/homeowners-planning-to-remodel-should-act-fa…” target=”_blank”>a new survey by Angie’s List, a website that publishes surveys and consumer reviews of service businesses. Of the home improvement contractors who were surveyed in 2010, 80 percent were willing to drop their prices to get a job (compared with 43 percent in 2008). And more than half of the contractors surveyed said they were willing to lower prices by 10 percent, with nearly 25 percent willing to drop their fees up to 20 percent.

[http://yhoo.it/h12UVz“>10 Golden Rules For Saving on Everything]

4. Home Appliances and Electronics

• Why they are negotiable: Store managers understand that a discounted deal done today is often better than a potential deal in the future (and definitely better than no deal at all). One trick is to go first thing in the morning or just before the store closes when there are fewer customers. “A manager will hesitate to offer a discount if he thinks he’ll have to make the same deal with all of the customers who overhear the negotiation,” says Consumer Reports’ Daugherty.

• Who to talk to: A store’s manager or assistant manager.

• What to say: “I like this model. If you can give me a discount and free delivery, I’ll buy it today.”

• Possible savings: Profit margins are generally fairly thin on appliances and electronics, so getting 10 percent off is a reasonable goal, particularly if you can also get them to throw in free delivery and installation. Consumer Reports found that three-quarters of shoppers were able to negotiate a better deal on major appliances, with an average savings of $100 per appliance.

5. Cars

• Why it’s negotiable: Car dealerships are one of the few places where price negotiations are not only acceptable, they’re expected, notes Philip Reed, senior consumer advice editor for car-buying site http://www.edmunds.com/” target=”_blank”>Edmunds.com. But instead of trying to negotiate your purchase price down from the MSRP (the sticker price), as you might for other items, ask to see the invoice price (the price the dealer paid for the car) and work your way up from there. You can look up dealer invoice prices for free on Web sites like http://www.intellichoice.com/” target=”_blank”>IntelliChoice.com, Edmunds.com, and http://www.kbb.com/” target=”_blank”>KBB.com.

• Who to talk to: Sales staff.

• What to say: “Another dealership has given me a better price on the same model. Tell me how you can beat their offer.”

• Possible savings: It’s possible to save more than $1,000 on a new car by negotiating smartly, according to Reed. And you’ll net even higher savings by also negotiating the value of your trade-in, as well as financing terms and the cost of extended warranties.

[http://yhoo.it/fsJ2gg“>Discounts You Can Get For Paying Cash]

6. Medical Bills

• Why they’re negotiable: Patients usually assume that the cost for various medical procedures and tests are set in stone, but often they’re not. And with health care companies shifting more out-of-pocket costs onto consumers, asking for potential discounts is essential, particularly since there’s often a huge variance in costs among providers, says Angie’s List spokeswoman Cheryl Reed. In Washington D.C., for example, the price for an MRI of the right knee ranges from $400 to $1,501, according to a http://press.angieslist.com/news/angie‘s-list-and-healthcare-blue-book-partner–to-.aspx” target=”_blank”>recent report. You can look up average prices in your area for various procedures at http://www.healthcarebluebook.com/” target=”_blank”>Healthcare Blue Book.

• Who to talk to: The billing administrator.

• What to say: “This is a significant expense for me. Is there a discount for paying upfront or in cash? What other kinds of discounts might be available?”

• Possible savings: Fifty percent or more. An Angie’s List poll found that 74 percent of respondents who negotiated their medical bills were successful, often paying less than half of the original cost.

___

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It always pays to do your homework when you’re looking to save money (and who isn’t, these days?!)
Here are some great tips from CBS MoneyWatch on 6 areas of your personal budget that are always negotiable…if you know to ask.

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SCORE Success Blog » Marketing: Small Business Marketing Plans for 2011 Reflect Optimism

Marketing: Small Business Marketing Plans for 2011 Reflect Optimism

November 2, 2010 rieva7–>

Find Out How You Can Start Your Business’s Recovery

Feeling optimistic that the economy is finally about to turn around? You’re not alone. Small business owners’ positive attitudes are reflected in their plans to increase marketing budgets for 2011, according to a new survey conducted by online survey and polling tool provider Zoomerang for my company, GrowBiz Media.

Entrepreneurs surveyed for the Small Business Marketing Practices survey reported plans to spend more on marketing overall in 2011, with a special focus on e-mail, websites and social media marketing. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of where they’re planning to spend:

  • Website                   17 percent
  • Direct mail               15 percent
  • Email marketing   15 percent
  • Social media           13 percent
  • Print ads                  10 percent
  • Online ads              9 percent

While just 4 percent of respondents planned to spend more on SEO next year, overall, online marketing methods dominated their areas of focus.

Interestingly, though, small businesses’ number-one marketing tool isn’t limited to online. When asked what marketing methods were important to their businesses, 86 percent named word-of-mouth. Asked which specific types of word-of-mouth marketing were important to them the business owners said:

  • In-person networking (70 percent)
  • Customer referral rewards (50 percent)
  • Social media (34 percent)
  • Event marketing (21 percent)
  • Public speaking (20 percent—this has always worked for me).

Though just slightly more than one-third of respondents are currently using social media for their businesses, Alex Terry, Zoomerang’s General Manager, predicts, “This area of marketing is poised to see an incredible uptick in the next year.” Among business owners who currently use social media, Facebook was far and away the most popular social media channel (used by 80 percent). Next came LinkedIn (37 percent) and Twitter (27 percent).

It pains me to report this so late in the game, but only a little more than half (54 percent) of businesses in our survey have company websites.  Since small businesses obviously understand the value of word-of-mouth—and since word-of-mouth, increasingly, is spread online—a simple matter of connecting the dots should show you that every business today needs a website. It can be basic (80 percent of entrepreneurs with a website say they use it to provide “general information,” but you need one. If you need help building a website, check with a SCORE counselor for some expert guidance and advice.

Rieva Lesonsky, GrowBiz Media
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Any day is a good day for optimism. Although the headlines are filled with gloom and doom, ALL of the wildly successful business giants have made major leaps forward when the future looked the grimmest.

Nice to see that small businesses are not allowing themselves to be down and out, no matter what the headlines say.

What steps are you taking to boost your business’ recovery?

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Social networking under fresh attack as tide of cyber-scepticism sweeps US | Media | The Observer

“Twitter and Facebook don’t connect people – they isolate them from reality, say a rising number of academics.” I don’t completely agree with this view held by the rising number of academics. I’ll explain why. First of all, I’m neither on Face book nor Twitter:I am simply not interested; however, I find nothing wrong with either of these social networking sites.

The problem is not the sites – but the people who use them.

There are people who really need these sites to give them some sense of existence! In this case Facebook is the friend of the faceless: as I have previously cifed. These people are probably those that are already isolated from the real world: the loners, and the weirdos.In fact, it could be argued that Facebook and Twitter have a stabilizing effect on them.

Then, there are the people who are socially active in their everyday lives, normal people like you and me, but who also love to continue their social contacts on the net – perfectly normal. Indeed, you can meet a lot of interesting people and expand your friendship in real terms by becoming a member of sites such as Facebook: they are not all perverts, paedophiles, and weirdos, you know!

Turkle’s thesis is too simplistic and denigrates Man, the social being: incidentally, I’d like to see the scientific statistical analysis that supports this thesis. In fairness though, I am sure that social networking may influence some people in the way describe by Turkle: but this would be a minority, I believe.

So, in conclusion, I would say that it’s the person’s personality rather than the actual site that is to blame as it concern them becoming isolated from reality.

Indeed, fellow cifers of the Guardian – are we isolated from reality! Thank God for WikiLeaks – no amount of reality would have shown us what was going on in the real world if it hadn’t been for cyberspace!

Social media is often promoted as THE way to connect in today’s modern world. Heaven forbid that you not have a Facebook account, and if you haven’t “tweeted” today, best not chirp too loudly, or you could get mocked.

Certainly social media is bringing the world to our desktop, and even to our mobile phone, but is too much of a good thing detrimental? Some experts believe yes, and they are cautioning that what appears to be connecting people could actually be isolating them, often to a dangerous level.

Which end of the spectrum are you on…social media fanatic or socialmediaphobe?

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The World’s Happiest Countries

The World’s Happiest Countries

Most of the nations atop our list are democratic, business-friendly, and boast strong social safety nets.

By Christopher Helman

Norway: the world’s happiest country

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Think about it for a minute: What does happiness mean to you?

For most, being happy starts with having enough money to do what you want and buy what you want. A nice home, food, clothes, car, leisure. All within reason.

See the full list of The World’s 10 Happiest Countries

The Top 5 Happiest countries in the World

1. Norway

2. Denmark

3. Finland

4. Australia

5. New Zealand

But happiness is much more than money. It’s being healthy, free from pain, being able to take care of yourself. It’s having good times with friends and family.

Furthermore, happiness means being able to speak what’s on your mind without fear, to worship the God of your choosing, and to feel safe and secure in your own home.

Happiness means having opportunity–to get an education, to be an entrepreneur. What’s more satisfying than having a big idea and turning it into a thriving business, knowing all the way that the harder you work, the more reward you can expect?

With this in mind, five years ago researchers at the Legatum Institute, a London-based nonpartisan think tank, set out to rank the happiest countries in the world. But because “happy” carries too much of a touchy-feely connotation, they call it “prosperity.”

Legatum recently completed its 2010 Prosperity Index, which ranks 110 countries, covering 90% of the world’s population.

To build its index Legatum gathers upward of a dozen international surveys done by the likes of the Gallup polling group, the Heritage Foundation and the World Economic Forum. Each country is ranked on 89 variables sorted into eight subsections: economy, entrepreneurship, governance, education, health, safety, personal freedom and social capital.

The core conceit: Prosperity is complex; achieving it relies on a confluence of factors that build on each other in a virtuous circle.

Ultimately how happy you are depends on how happy you’ve been. If you’re already rich, like Scandinavia, then more freedom, security and health would add the most to happiness. For the likes of China and India (ranked 88th), it’s more a case of “show me the money.” What they want most of all? The opportunity to prove to themselves that money doesn’t buy happiness.

New Zealanders enjoy very high levels of social cohesion and a first-place ranking in education.

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No. 5: New Zealand

With very high levels of social cohesion and a first-place ranking in education, New Zealanders trust and help each other. The country ranks first in civil liberties. Ninety-four percent found the beauty of their physical environment satisfying (the other 6% must be blind).

Citizens of Australia trust their government.

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No. 4: Australia

Excellent education, strong personal freedoms, a tight-knit society. Australia’s economy is strong, led by raw materials exports, but it’s also a good place to start a business, with plentiful Internet connectivity and low startup costs. Aussies trust their government.

Low business startup costs give the Finns economic strength.

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No. 3: Finland

Excellent education, universal health care, plentiful personal freedoms, trusted government, peaceful. Lots of R&D and low business startup costs give the Finns economic strength. But as is to be expected in a country with the highest redistribution of wealth, only 75% of Finns believe working hard will help them get ahead.

Denmark reports the highest standard of living in the world.

Thinkstock

No. 2: Denmark

The world’s lowest business startup costs, excellent education, unrestricted civil freedoms. Danes have overwhelming faith in their government and in each other, and report the highest standard of living in the world.

In Norway, an unparalleled 74% say other people can be trusted.

No. 1: Norway

The world’s highest per-capita GDP at $53,000 a year. Spending on health care is second-highest after the U.S. An unparalleled 74% of Norwegians say other people can be trusted, 94% are happy with the beauty of their environment, and a very high 93% believe hard work will help them get ahead in life. Having a lot of oil and gas reserves helps.

See the full list of The World’s 10 Happiest Countries

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view-of-retirement-at-107: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

Eight years ago, at age 99, Leonard McCracken failed the eye test for renewing his driver’s license. He put his Lincoln Continental up for sale and got $1,600. “I sold it in three days — I got a good price. I love to haggle,” he says.

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McCracken, who lives in Florida, has been living in retirement since about 1969, when he left a position as a salesman with a now-defunct steel company in Ohio. Since then, he’s been living on savings, Social Security and a lifetime annuity that he purchased before he retired. He has never had a pension. At 107, after living in retirement for 41 years, he’s still paying the bills and getting by on his own resources.

“Dad never made more than $10,000 a year in his life,” says his son Bob, a 73-year-old retired GE aircraft engineer.

How does a guy with modest income manage such a retirement planning feat? McCracken points to a half-dozen basic principles that have gotten him through life and continue to serve him well.

Thrift

In his whole life, McCracken says, he has only owned two new cars. The rest of the time he bought used. He still shops at the thrift store. And he remembers vividly the time that his wife was holding a garage sale and left him in charge. When she returned, he had sold the living room sofa for $100. “I had a very understanding, frugal wife (Dorothy, who died in 2002 at 95 after 75 years of marriage). We gave up a lot of things that other people were buying in order to break even.”

kip.mcc.jpg
Leonard McCracken

Real Estate Investments

McCracken bought and sold 35 houses in his life, including five that he built himself. His son, Bob McCracken, says his parents “always invested in a nice house and that has helped my dad. He is living off the equity in the last home he and my mother owned.”

The elder McCracken agreed that buying and selling real estate was a smart move for him. “We didn’t make a lot of money in every case,” he says. “But we made something and that helped.”

What is his advice for current owners of real estate? “It’s bad now, but it will come back,” he says. “And people who buy now, they’ll make a lot of money,” he says.

Use Debt Well

During the Great Depression, McCracken worked for a bank. He watched people lose their shirts and learned from it. Throughout his life, he borrowed when he had to, but he borrowed as little as possible, he says, and he paid it back as quickly as he could.

Work Even When Jobs Are Hard to Find

McCracken was unemployed about 45 years ago after his previous employer went bankrupt. He had to take a job driving a truck that paid $5 per day. It was a low point in his life, but between that and a commission sales job that he took at night, he and his family muddled through until he got back on his feet.

Save and Invest Conservatively

All of McCracken’s money is in CDs and bonds. He’s always avoided the stock market, even when people who purported to know more than he advised him differently. “When the economy tanked, he made a lot of us look real silly,” Bob McCracken says.

Stay Healthy

McCracken has hung onto his health and his wits and has had no major medical bills at all throughout his entire life. It has only been in the last year that he’s needed a little assistance. And even then, he doesn’t need much, his son says.

There is so much wisdom to be learned from our elders. These principles of smart living have helped Leonard McCracken to live in “retirement” for an amazing 41 YEARS!! Check this article from Yahoo.com to see the six things this 107 year old credits for his ability to maintain a happy lifestyle in retirement.

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22 ways to fight rising food prices

Food, clothing and shelter generally top the list of basic human needs. While shopping at a discount store instead of the mall generally takes care of the clothing issue, and living in a small apartment instead of a McMansion can address your housing situation, rising world food prices can lead to some significant challenges in the food department. Everything from rising transportation costs to the development of biofuels, such as biodiesel, push up the cost of food and put a pinch on consumers’ wallets.

[Click here to check savings products and rates in your area.]

While the need to eat isn’t something you can avoid, there are some steps you can take to keep the costs in check.

1. Eat at Home

Dining out is an expensive proposition. Just about any nutritious meal that you buy in a formal restaurant can be made at home for a fraction of the price. Even good coffee is cheaper to make if you do it yourself. Fast food is excluded from the category, as high-calorie, low-quality food can be had a bargain price, but the impact on your long-term health overrides the benefit of short-term savings.

2. Shop With a Plan

If you stumble around the grocery store and fill your cart with everything that catches your eye, chances are you will spend a lot more money that you needed to spend. To minimize your cash outlay, prepare a shopping list before you leave home. Plan your meals for the week ahead, and make careful note of what you need to buy in order to prepare those meals. Once the list is made, purchase only the items on the list, and avoid impulse buys.

3. Put on Blinders

Grocery stores are designed to make you go through a maze to get to the most basic items you need in the hope that you will make a few impulse buys along the way. If you keep to your planned list of needed foods, you won’t be tempted when you get forced down the junk food aisle to get at the milk. Because most necessities and basic cooking items are found along the outside perimeter of the store, start there and work your way around the edge of the store, only stepping into the maze to grab any leftover items on your list.

4. Eat Before You Shop

When you are hungry and you walk into a building full of food, there’s a high likelihood that you are going to fill you cart with unnecessary and expensive purchases that appeal to your taste buds. To keep your costs down, eat first and shop on a full stomach.

5. Avoid Prepared Foods

Our fast-paced society encourages convenience, and the grocery store has capitalized on this trend. Ready-made meals are easy to buy, but come with a premium price tag. Instead of putting that rotisserie chicken and macaroni salad in you cart, buy the ingredients and prepare the meal yourself. The same concept applies to frozen entrées, baked goods and any other food that has been prepared in some way for added convenience.

[See 10 Easy Ways to Save on Organic Food]

6. Skip the Bottled Water

If you don’t like the water that comes out of the tap, buy a water filter. The per-gallon cost is significantly less than the cost of bottled water – and without all the plastic bottles to discard, it’s a lot easier on the environment.

7. Shop Without the Kids

Hungry, tired, cranky kids increase the amount of time it takes to get your shopping done. Every extra minute that you spend in the grocery store increases the likelihood of extra items finding their way into your cart, including toys and snacks designed to keep the kids quiet while you try to focus on finding a few bargains.

8. Buy in Bulk

Bulk buying can save you a significant amount of money. Pay attention to the prices and pick up the family size package if the per-unit cost is lower and you have a place to store it. Shopping at big-box bulk retailers like Sam’s Club and Costco (NasdaqGS: COSTNews) can also save on your bill if you shop there frequently enough to cover the cost of membership, but pay careful attention to your spending habits. The big boxes are often no bargain at all when compared to sales prices and coupon savings at other stores. In addition, they may encourage you to buy more than you need, driving up your grocery bill.

[See the Best Stuff to Buy in Bulk]

9. Use Store Reward Cards

If the store that you visit most frequently has a reward card, be sure to sign up. In some cases, stores raise their prices when they offer reward cards, and without the card your bill will certainly be higher. If the reward card offers other benefits, such as a ham for the holidays or a discount on gasoline, be sure to maximize your benefits by paying attention to the cutoff dates and cashing in your points before they expire.

10. Use Coupons

Coupons provide an easy way to save money. Clip them and cash them in, paying particular attention to stores that double the value of manufacturers’ coupons. A number of websites also offer coupons exclusively, and they are a great place to search for discounts on the items you have on your list. If you frequent a website of your favorite brands, they will often offer discounts to their faithful public. A few minutes of surfing online can make a difference at the till.

11. Buy Locally

Locally grown or produced food is often available at a cheaper price because you don’t pay for long transportation costs. Farmer’s markets, fairs, and the local aisle at your grocery store are all game for deals on tasty and fresh food.

12. Look Down

Stores often place the most expensive items at eye-level. To find less expensive items, look down. Also, looking around your brand-name food can find you a cheaper generic alternative. Generic label products are often nearly identical to name-brand goods (in fact, they’re often produced in the same factory), so don’t pay for packaging when what you really want is the food inside.

[See 7 Things You Should Always Buy Generic]

13. Avoid the End Caps and Checkout Temptations

Those displays placed at the end of each aisle often feature premium brands. Rather than grabbing those high-priced batteries or that extra box of cereal, walk down the aisle. Chances are good that walking a few extra feet will reward you with a less expensive option.

Many grocery stores now offer checkout lines that don’t feature candy. Using these lanes not only helps you avoid the temptation to spend your money on sweets, but it also encourages a healthier lifestyle.

14. Compare Prices and Stores

Some consumers have trouble calculating the cost per unit in their heads, but it’s something that gets a lot easier with practice. You can even carry a calculator. Looking at the brands and comparing prices is an easy way to shave a few cents off most purchases.

The store that features the lowest average prices in your area is often the best place for routine shopping, but the higher-priced competitor may run sales on specific items that undercut the cost at your most frequented venue. Watch for these sales and take advantage of them when possible.

15. Shop for Sales

As mentioned above, sales can be a great incentive to switch stores — but only if you need the items on sale. Pay attention to sales on necessity items and stock up on non-perishables and freezer goods. Keep an eye on the prices so that you know when a sale price is merely a small savings or when it is a significant discount to the normal price.

16. Watch ‘Best Before’ or ‘Sell By’ Dates

As the “sell by” or “best before” date approaches, you are virtually guaranteed a discount. For example, grocery stores lower prices as meat ages. Ask the butcher when the meats get marked down. Most stores have a fairly regular schedule that you can learn and follow. When you get a good deal, stock your freezer so you can avoid buying when the price is high. And if you plan on freezing the food, “best before” dates shouldn’t worry you; the product will stay fresh until you thaw and cook it.

17. Substitute Recipe Items

If you have a higher-priced item that reoccurs in your favorite recipes, it may be time to shake up your taste buds. Often a lower-priced alternative can be found. For instance, if you consistently bake with olive oil and you see that the price has skyrocketed, a simple switch to applesauce (something that you might even be able to make if you have an apple tree) is a great cheap and low-fat substitution for many recipes.

18. Keep Your Kitchen Stocked

A well-stocked kitchen means that you won’t run out of staple items and need to buy them on the spur or the moment. Knowing what you have in the cabinet means that you can wait to make your purchases until items are on sale.

19. Shop Infrequently

Reducing the number of trips that you make to the store each week or month reduces the odds of unnecessary purchases, and minimizes the amount of gasoline spent getting there.

20. Pay Attention to Time

Weekly sales often run from mid-week to mid-week. Hold off on your shopping until after you’ve had a chance to clip coupons from the Sunday paper and you’ll not only enjoy the sales prices but you might also get a coupon. Shopping during the evening or early morning also helps you avoid the crowds and spend less time in the store.

21. Pay In Cash

When you put groceries on your credit card and don’t pay off the card in full each month, you pay interest on the purchase. To avoid this extra cost, pay in cash when you shop and keep necessities off your credit cards.

[See Secrets of a Former Credit Card Thief]

22. Check Your Bill

Electronic scanners make the shopping experience faster and more convenient, but scanners aren’t perfect. Be sure to take a look at the receipt to make sure your coupons and discounts were taken into account.

Shop Smart

Food is one of those purchases that you just can’t avoid, but careful shoppers can minimize the amount spent on this necessary purchase. All it takes is a little time, patience and effort.

This article is part of a series related to being Financially Fit

Food inflation is predicted to be one of the largest issues facing consumers in the next decade.
What can you do to protect your family? How about implementing almost 2 dozen different tips to cut your food budget, without notching in your belt? How many of these ideas are you already using for your family? How many more could you put into place in 2011?

And, whatcha gonna do with that extra cash??

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6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook: Personal Finance News from Yahoo! Finance

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The whole social networking phenomenon has millions of Americans sharing their photos, favorite songs and details about their class reunions on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and dozens of similar sites. But there are a handful of personal details that you should never say if you don’t want criminals — cyber or otherwise — to rob you blind, according to Beth Givens, executive director of the http://www.privacyrights.org/“>Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

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The folks at Insure.com also say that ill-advised Facebook postings increasingly can get your insurance cancelled or cause you to pay dramatically more for everything from auto to life insurance coverage. By now almost everybody knows that those drunken party photos could cost you a job, too.

[http://yhoo.it/abmTZY“>See 7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook]

You can certainly enjoy networking and sharing photos, but you should know that sharing some information puts you at risk. What should you never say on Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking site?

Your Birth Date and Place

Sure, you can say what day you were born, but if you provide the year and where you were born too, you’ve just given identity thieves a key to stealing your financial life, said Givens. A study done by Carnegie Mellon showed that a date and place of birth could be used to predict most — and sometimes all — of the numbers in your Social Security number, she said.

Vacation Plans

There may be a better way to say “Rob me, please” than posting something along the lines of: “Count-down to Maui! Two days and Ritz Carlton, here we come!” on Twitter. But it’s hard to think of one. Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like. But don’t invite criminals in by telling them specifically when you’ll be gone.

[http://yhoo.it/9qWW5g“>See Burglars Picked Houses Based on Facebook Updates]

Home Address

Do I have to elaborate? A study recently released by the Ponemon Institute found that users of Social Media sites were at greater risk of physical and identity theft because of the information they were sharing. Some 40% listed their home address on the sites; 65% didn’t even attempt to block out strangers with privacy settings. And 60% said they weren’t confident that their “friends” were really just people they know.

Confessionals

You may hate your job; lie on your taxes; or be a recreational user of illicit drugs, but this is no place to confess. Employers commonly peruse social networking sites to determine who to hire — and, sometimes, who to fire. Need proof? In just the past few weeks, an emergency dispatcher was fired in Wisconsin for revealing drug use; a waitress got canned for complaining about customers and the Pittsburgh Pirate’s mascot was dumped for bashing the team on Facebook. One study done last year estimated that 8% of companies fired someone for “misuse” of social media.

Password Clues

If you’ve got online accounts, you’ve probably answered a dozen different security questions, telling your bank or brokerage firm your Mom’s maiden name; the church you were married in; or the name of your favorite song. Got that same stuff on the information page of your Facebook profile? You’re giving crooks an easy way to guess your passwords.

Risky Behaviors

You take your classic Camaro out for street racing, soar above the hills in a hang glider, or smoke like a chimney? Insurers are increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to Insure.com. So far, there’s no efficient way to collect the data, so cancellations and rate hikes are rare. But the technology is fast evolving, according to a paper written by Celent, a financial services research and consulting firm.
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It’s always amazing to me how much private information people blindly share on their social networking accounts. It’s critically important to use common sense when engaging with others online. Remember, just because someone is called “friend” in your Facebook or Twitter account doesn’t mean they have your best interests at heart.

Be safe out there!

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