Travel 
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Asking me to tip the maids at high-end hotels is a lousy plan to fight poverty among women


When you stay at a Marriott hotel this fall you’ll be asked to pay for more than just your room.

The giant hotel chain wants you to start tipping its maids.

Tip envelopes have been placed in 160,000 of its 700,000 guest rooms at Marriott, JW Marriott, Courtyard, Renaissance, Fairfield, TownePlace Suites and Springhill Suites hotels.

It wasn’t actually the company’s idea. Marriott was asked to do this by Maria Shriver of all people as a way to fight poverty among women.

Wow. What a breathtakingly dumb idea.
(Click to continue reading…)


 Credit 
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My favorite no-fee credit cards provide lots of perks

A credit card that offers cash rewards, a low interest rate and no annual fee? What’s the catch? There might not be one – you may just have scored a good deal.

The best credit cards are the cheapest credit cards and annual fees are often the biggest out-of-pocket expense for consumers who never, or rarely, carry a balance.

They range from $80 or $90 for a typical airline reward card to $500 for prestige cards that cater to the famous and well-to-do — and those who think the card will make them appear famous and well-to-do.

Don’t be fooled by offers that waive the fee for the first year. You’ll forget about it and then 13 months later find a $200 fee charged to your account.

So I’ve been shopping around for the best credit cards with no annual fees.

I found some incredibly attractive terms. Up to 5% cash back on purchases. No interest and even no fees on balance transfers. Introductory interest rates of 0% on purchases and regular interest rates as low as 10.9%. Even a sign-up bonus.

Could one of these be the perfect plastic companion for you?
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 Family 
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How to save money and avoid birthday party drama

The school year’s well underway and the weekly birthday party invitations are pouring in.

If you’ve got a couple of kids in school, with 20 to 30 children in each of their classes, the birthday party circuit can get very expensive, very quickly.

If you don’t want to add a line item into your budget to cover kid gifts and party items, or become that party pooper parent, here’s a game plan for keeping birthday spending in perspective.

When you’re the guest…

Don’t go to every party. As much as you want your child to be social, only attend parties for the friends that your child is closest with, or that he or she is really excited about attending. And if you’re not going to a party, no, you don’t have to send a gift. If you have a social butterfly type of child who’s disappointed about missing out, make an effort to invite a couple of friends over another day for a play date.
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 Shopping 
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How to buy furniture you like without spending too much money

In February 2013, I moved back into my house. Yes, moved back in.

I bought the place in 2007 and turned it into a rental property when I moved in with my then-boyfriend.

The relationship went bust at about the time my tenants were moving out, so I decided to go back home, and used that transition as an opportunity to finally create the home environment I always wanted.

First, I stripped out the carpets, refurbished the hardwood floors and painted the interior walls. That was easy. The harder part was finding furniture to fill the house without going broke.

I like older furniture that’s solid wood instead of pressed board, so used was always my first option.

But I didn’t just take anything that came my way.

Here’s what I did.
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 Banking 
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Why I’m no longer afraid to deposit checks by mobile phone


Your co-worker, your neighbor, the corner market owner. They all joined the modern world long ago.

For awhile I was reluctant, but I too have gotten hip to the new age.

Yes, I’ve started cashing checks through my smartphone

I resisted the convenience for two big reasons.

First, when the technology debuted, the time from upload to deposit was slow. At least, that was the case when ING Direct, now Capital One 360, first offered CheckMate in 2012.

The bank would make $100 per check available in my account the business day after I made the mobile deposit. The remaining balance on the deposited check became available a week later. And any check for more than $3,000 had to be deposited by mail.

I’m a freelancer writer, and a lot of my clients still pay me in paper checks.

That kind of time between the deposit and when the money became available is unacceptable.

Why jump through these hoops when I could just go to the bank a mile from my house, deposit a check through the ATM and get access to all of my money the next day?
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 The Home 
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A YouTube video taught me how to fix my oven, saving $1,000 in repair bills and boosting my confidence

My old oven

When my oven went out a few months ago, I put off dealing with the problem.

The appliance looks about 30 years old, so I assumed it was beyond repair and that replacement parts wouldn’t be available.

Because it’s a wall oven, not a freestanding range, my research revealed that it would cost at least $1,000 to replace it with a bottom-of-the-line model.

How depressing.

I only use my oven about once a week, so the payback period seemed too long. There are other things I’d rather spend $1,000 on.

I made do by learning how to cook the things I used to make in my oven on the stove, in the toaster oven or on the grill. I even found recipes for baking bread in a crock pot.

I decided that when my husband and I finally undertook the kitchen remodel we’ve been coveting since we moved in, we would get a new freestanding range and solve the problem.

But that’s about five years off.

Then I decided to research my oven’s symptoms online.

I found information on common oven problems at Appliance411.com. I knew from having my father-in-law and the gas company examine my oven that even though the electric starter was glowing, it was probably too old to create enough heat to ignite the gas burner.
(Click to continue reading…)


 Travel 
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With ticket prices taking off, here’s how to save on your holiday and winter air travel


Feel like you’re paying ungodly amounts of dough for each plane ride you take lately?

You’re not imagining (or exaggerating) the state of air travel.

The price of the average round-trip airfare, with taxes, rose to $509 in the first six months of 2014, according to recent data from the Airlines Reporting Corporation.

The cost of flying is outpacing overall inflation, a 2.7% increase in airfare compared to a 2.1% gain in the Consumer Price Index.

It’s not just that airlines have shrunk the number of flights, and reduced the number of available seats on virtually every route. They’ve done so just as the economy has improved enough to get Americans traveling again.

While higher ticket prices aren’t a reason to call off holiday visits with family and friends, or winter escapes to tropical beaches, they’re definitely our cue to shop harder, and smarter, for the best deals.

Here are the best ways to make your hard-earned dollars fly farther.
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 Personal Finance 
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How To Win McDonald’s Monopoly Game, 2014 Edition

Welcome to the 2014 edition of McDonald’s Monopoly game. The game has returned to its traditional schedule this year with a fall launch.

The fast-food giant last year caught everyone off guard by launching the game two months early — in July.

But fall just feels right for this game, doesn’t it?

The 2014 game began Sept. 30 and will end in restaurants Oct. 27 and online Nov. 10.

As we’ve done every year, we go over the rules to put together this guide to winning the game. It depends mostly on luck — and a ton of that, of course — but with our guide you can have a better-informed gaming experience.

New this year, you’ll have four chances to win $100,000 by finding the “Free Parking” game stamp on certain food items. And then there are shots at winning “experiences” with celeb sports stars like LeBron James combined with a trip to see a game or race. Target also makes an appearance this year, offering $5,000 shopping experiences with early access to Black Friday sales. Gas-for-a-year and $10,000 to help pay bills are also up for grabs.

Overall, though, the game hasn’t changed much. You can get a game board at www.PlayatMcD.com or participating restaurants, though the board isn’t required. Get game pieces by purchasing food from McDonald’s or mailing in self-addressed, stamped envelopes.

Game pieces offer a mix of instant win prizes for food, money and other items, and additional prizes — including the $1 million jackpot — for putting Monopoly properties together. The odds of winning at least something in the store are about 1 in 4.
(Click to continue reading…)


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