Education 
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‘Pay As Your Earn’ gets lots of attention, but it isn’t the best way for many of us to repay our student loans

When I was a new college graduate, I owned $10,000 in federally subsidized student loans.

I paid them off the boring way: I wrote a check every month. Then I took a bit of time off from my repayment schedule when I was unemployed. Eventually I wrote a bigger check and I was done.

Since then, the government has added more repayment options, including programs that can actually forgive a portion of unpaid loans after a couple of decades. (If you know anything at all about student loans, you know that they are virtually never forgiven. Unpaid student loans stick with people through bankruptcy and retirement.)

One of these, the Pay As You Earn option (PAYE), is the result of a YouTube video that then-candidate Barack Obama made in 2011, promising college students wouldn’t have to devote more than 10% of their discretionary income to student loan payments.

Under current rules you’re eligible for PAYE if you are repaying direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans, direct PLUS loans made to students, and/or direct consolidation loans that do not include PLUS loans made to parents.
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 Family 
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Don’t let your savings go to the dogs …

6 tips to save on pet care


You love Rover and Whiskers but the cost of treating your furry friends like family adds up. From vet bills and pet meds to gourmet kibble, pet owners are expected to spend a whopping $58.5 billion on their four-legged charges this year, according to the American Pet Products Association.

“There are many ways to save money and still provide quality care,” says Dr. Liz Hanson, a veterinarian at Corona del Mar Animal Hospital in California.

Try these six savings strategies to keep pet care costs in check.
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 Credit 
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Why I don’t bother with manufactured spending…Gaming credit card reward programs just isn’t worth it

Do you envy colleagues and friends who vacation for free thanks to all of the credit card reward points and cash rebates they’ve earned from work-related travel?

Travel that doesn’t cost them a dime?

Well, the proponents of “manufactured spending” would have you believe that you can enjoy similar rewards even if you spend eight hours in the same cubicle every day.

These enthusiastic credit card bloggers have developed all sorts of schemes to rack up tens of thousands of points and hundreds of dollars in cash rebates with their credit cards without actually spending any money.

Or, to be more precise, without spending very much money.

Now that I’ve done all the research on manufactured spending, I don’t think it’s worth the time and trouble for most people — including me.

But I know it’s the latest money-for-nothing fad out there in the blogosphere, so I’ll walk you through how it works and show you why I’m not going to game my credit cards like this.
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 Family 
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5 sibling discounts you simply have to ask for


How would you like to pay thousands less for the most common big ticket kids’ expenses?

If you have two or more kids, you’ll be surprised how many places have existing policies for sibling discounts, which can slash 10% to 25% off the stated cost for one or more of your children, depending on the policy.

You just need the balls to ask for the discount whenever paying for more than one-at-a-time for these common, expensive kid costs.

Daycare

The average annual cost for two children (an infant and a 4-year-old) in a full-time childcare center ranged from $9,175 in Mississippi to $28,606 in Massachusetts.

It’s the highest single household expense in the Northeast, Midwest and South, surpassed only by housing costs in the West, according to, “Parents & The High Cost of Child Care 2013″ which surveyed state Child Care Resource & Referral network offices about 2012 daycare costs.
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 Credit 
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6 costly credit cards to avoid

Sky-high interest rates. Ridiculous fees. Piddling rewards and modest perks.

That’s what makes these credit cards stand out to me.

Let’s spend a few minutes looking at some of the most disappointing deals currently being foisted on unsuspecting consumers and consider what a more reasonable card might offer.

Least Bang for Your Buck: Visa Black Card

Even though it is made out of stainless steel, don’t confuse the Black Card with the famous Centurion Card from American Express it’s copying, or any other metal-level card, for that matter. For its $495 annual fee, you’ll only get one point per dollar you spend – that’s what many other rewards cards with much lower fees offer. You also get access to some airport lounges and a vague promise of “luxury gifts from some of the world’s top brands” as a token of appreciation.

The alternative: You won’t have any trouble finding a reward card with the same, or even more generous, rewards system and charges an annual fee of $100 or less. All of that other stuff? You’re paying a premium price for perks you not want or use.
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 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.
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 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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