August 2010

How to Avoid Overdraft Protection Fees

Welcome readers of US News’ Alpha Consumer blog! If you want to know more about our budgeting system, I’ve linked to a few budgeting posts about halfway down this post. If you’d like to learn more about how we paid off $40,000 in debt in one year, I detailed it last September. This morning I heard a story from the Financial Times, by way of NPR, that banks earn $38.5 billion a…
Continue Reading

Tax Updates for 2011

It’s the beginning of the year, which means the IRS is busy sending out all sorts of tax changes and alerts. Let’s break them down. Deadline Extension First, let’s start with a bit of good news: Your taxes aren’t due until April 18. That’s because there’s a little known holiday in Washington, DC that will be observed on April 15, and April 16 and 17 fall on the…
Continue Reading

To Gift Card or Not to Gift Card

This year, that is the question. Do you give someone a gift card because it’s easy, but run the risk that the store will go out of business before they spend it? Or do you give them cash and then wonder if they bought something fun or used it to pay bills? There’s no right or wrong answer, so here are a few gift card dos and don’ts.…
Continue Reading

Homeowner Help: Home Depot vs. Lowe’s

I don’t think I’ve spent as much time visiting hardware stores as I have in the last eight months. Our local hardware store is an Ace, which we use for small parts and screws. It’s a bit pricier than the big box stores, but it’s also only a half mile from our house. We also do some garden shopping at OSH. However, our main hardware stores are Home…
Continue Reading

The Documents You Need: Computer Backup

A computer backup isn’t a document, per se, but it’s still something you should include in your emergency preparations. Once you get in the habit of backing up, it’s a quick and easy way to make sure that your data is safe in case your house burns down or your computer blows up. Set a Computer Backup Schedule No matter which method you use for your computer backup,…
Continue Reading

Magazines and Labor Day at the Carnivals

This week was a short week, but we still managed to get out three good personal finance carnivals. Here are my selections from them. Money Hacks Carnival #28 hosted by $aving to Invest included my post on withdrawing from a Roth IRA tax-free. If you liked that, you might also enjoy My Retirement Blog’s tips for unconverting a Roth conversion. Next up, the Carnival of Personal Finance #168 hosted by One Caveman’s Financial Journey.…
Continue Reading

Simple Home Improvement Project: No-Sew Window Swag

This weekend I embarked on a simple home improvement project that was as cheap as it was easy. I made swags to go over my kitchen windows. It didn’t require any sewing, and depending on the price of the fabric, costs as little as $30 per window. You don’t have to sew, but you will need some power tools. No-Sew Window Swag Materials (in order) Measuring tape Fabric:…
Continue Reading

Don’t Have Financial Discussions on the Fly

So this week we accidentally paid our mortgage twice. Fortunately, we have a large enough cushion in our checking account right now that we could cover both payments without moving money around. Unfortunately, we have only ourselves to blame for this snafu. How We Came to Pay the Mortgage Twice It started like this: we refinanced our mortgage. Our first payment was due on February 1. Because our…
Continue Reading

25 Household Uses for Lemons

I’m the proud owner of a lemon tree, which means that I have a LOT of lemons. I do use 3-5 lemons a week in cooking, but I’m going to have get much more creative to keep all that bounty from going to waste. Fish: Fish and lemon just go together. Squeeze a bit over the top or add it to the pan juices for a lovely sauce.…
Continue Reading