Billshit, Travel 
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Traveling abroad requires planning at home to avoid unexpected fees on credit card and cell phone bills


My big trip this year is a 10-day Italian vacation. I’m excited, but I’m also doing a lot of planning beyond where to get the best pizza and what shoes to bring.

I’m making sure that I spend as little as possible on foreign transaction fees, current exchanges, and smartphone use so I’m not hit with any surprise charges once I’m back in the U.S.

Here’s what I’m doing before I go to make sure there are no nasty surprises when I get home.

Credit Cards

You want to bring a card that has no foreign transaction fees. Otherwise, you’ll be paying an extra 3% on everything you charge.

Fortunately, there’s lot of these cards are available.

If you already have a Capitol One card, you’re set — they’re foreign transaction fee free across the board. Most hotel and airline rewards cards are the same way.

If you’re signing up for a card just because it doesn’t charge those fees, make sure it also doesn’t also have an annual membership fee, or that you cancel it before the fee kicks in (most waive the fee for the first year), or that the fee is worth it.

I’m bringing my Chase Sapphire Preferred card with me as my main credit card (with a Bank of America card as a backup).
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 Personal Improvement 
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Manage your life like a CFO

If you want to save money, you’ve got to manage your life much like the chief financial officer runs the company where you work.

J.D. Roth of the personal finance blog “Get Rich Slowly” just launched a course that can help you do just that.

The course aims to help you eliminate debt, master your money and achieve financial independence.

It includes a 52-week email series with the best lessons from the Get Rich Slowly blog and a 120-page guide called “Be Your Own CFO” with supplementary downloads.

You’ll also find interviews with well-known individuals in the personal finance sector including Jim Wang (the creator of Bargaineering), Ramit Sethi, Pat Flynn, Jean Chatzky, Gretchen Rubin, Mr. Money Mustache, Paula Pant and Adam Baker, to name a few.

After taking a year off, Roth realized that there was an aspect of personal finance he hadn’t yet tackled.

“I think it’s imperative that people understand that they are responsible for building their own financial future,” he says.

It’s easy to sit back and take advice from your real-estate agent, broker, banker, family and friends, but Roth notes that the advice isn’t always geared toward your best interests.
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 The Home 
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Turn tantalizing foreign cuisine into budget meals

“Well, if I’m going to cook an authentic Argentinian meal, I’m going to have to buy grass-fed beef,” I said to myself. “But the spousal unit is totally going to kill me when he sees how much this meal cost.”

It’s thoughts like that that almost derailed the personal challenge I had taken to to cook a signature dish from all 193 countries in the United Nations.

But I’m off and running now, and you can follow my culinary adventure at Cliffieland: The Global Cooking Challenge.

One of the first things I learned is that some international cuisine can be a little pricey. Grass-fed beef [about $9.99 a serving] and authentic Cypriot Halloumi cheese at about $2.80 a serving (well, most cheeses actually) will set you back some.

But, happily, I discovered that the most familiar dishes from many less well-known countries are actually not only tasty but pretty damn easy on the pocketbook.

Take Botswana, for instance.

Seswaa, something of a national dish, is simply boiled beef, which, in and of itself sounds as exciting as fried dirt. But slow cooked for four hours, properly seasoned and paired with Bogobe, or sorghum meal, and you’ve got yourself a surprisingly tasty, authentic and inexpensive meal, with roast chuck being about $2.99 a serving.

Oh, yeah, sorghum. You’ll get really familiar with unfamiliar things quickly. (And at less than a dollar a serving for sorghum meal, you may want to remain familiar with it.)

For comparison, between pricey meats and various ingredients, your standard boeuf bourguignon (hello, France!) would cost about $8 a serving when all is said and done.

In my book that’s a pretty delicious budget meal. It certainly beats the cost of picking up dinner at the average rotisserie chicken place.
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 Personal Finance 
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Can CDs be a good place for your emergency fund?


If your emergency fund is sitting in a savings account that pays virtually nothing you might consider investing those dollars in a certificate of deposit.

CDs are just as safe and you’ll earn a little more interest.

The only caveat is that you’ll have to make sure you don’t get hit with stiff early withdrawal penalties should you need access to those funds before the maturity date.

And let’s face it, you never know when an emergency will pop up and you’ll be relieved you have six months or so worth of expenses socked away.

(How much do you need to have available? Take a look at our plan for setting your emergency fund amount.)

So what CD should you choose?

To make a CD worthwhile, you’ll need one that beats the top nationally available savings rate, which has been stuck at 1.01% APY for more than a year.

To achieve that return you’ll probably need to commit your money to at least a 2-year CD.

Search Bankrate’s regularly updated database of the best CD rates to see how much you can earn.
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 Personal Finance 
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Do loyal customers really get treated better?

Whether it’s through rewards programs or special invites, companies often tout an appreciation for customer loyalty.

Yet, every few months, I find myself challenging my Internet service provider over a “promotional offer” that has expired, which means I’m paying more than new customers.

It’s become a pretty standard call, and with a little negotiating, I can usually get them to bring my bill back down. But recently, this made me wonder: Do loyal customers actually get treated better?

Customer loyalty undoubtedly has great value for companies. But what about consumers?

Do consumers actually benefit from staying with a company or institution for a long time? Is there any added benefit to your loyalty to a company, or will a business exert the same amount of effort on any customer?

I spoke to a few professionals and experts to find out.
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 Career 
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Blindly chasing any and every job isn’t a smart way to launch your career…Here’s how to do better

I think we can all agree that time = money. But, when it comes to job hunting, that may not be the only equation worth considering.

I’m in my mid-twenties, and since graduating college, I have always been told to apply for jobs, as many as I can, even those that seem far out of my league. I think this is advice that permeates an entire generation. We can “have it all.” That is a great notion and I fully support the idea of challenging oneself and pushing the boundaries of our respective comfort zones.

But, many people like me (a full-time freelance journalist) wind up spending massive amounts of time applying for jobs we will never get under the misconception that we can land that dream job if we just keep trying. Some of us will! But most won’t.

Fortunately, I think there are ways to job hunt that need not waste our precious time. (Of course this advice is not applicable to everyone — recent grads, and others, from all walks of life, often just need to find something to keep them afloat.)

If you have a little wiggle room though, you should be looking hard for jobs you could realistically perform and wantto do.
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 Angel's Advocate 
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Boss ripping you off? Here’s what to do about it

Angels Advocate Logo
This is a Angel's Advocate post.

Earlier this year, beloved celebrity chef Mario Batali agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by his employees for $5.25 million. Their claim? Batali’s restaurants were allegedly confiscating tips from workers to increase profits.

Maybe it comes as a surprise to you; maybe it doesn’t. But wage theft is a pretty common occurrence in the United States. Kim Bobo is the author of Wage Theft in America: Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid-And What We Can Do About It. She says the issue is a systematic problem that’s often assumed and accepted, despite the fact that it’s illegal.

“It’s a business model that is accepted. It’s almost like the Wild, Wild West in terms of wage theft right now. It’s so pervasive in this society,” Bobo says. “I think what happens is that so many of us think it’s just an individual problem. We don’t think about it as sort of a systemic problem.”

Bobo explains that the problem exists in a variety of industries, but especially construction, retail and restaurants. Essentially, low-wage workers are targeted most. In fact, about $2,600 a year is stolen annually per low-wage worker.

And it’s not limited to skimming tips.
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 MoneyDerp 
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Student raises $1,000 to take burrito skydiving

A design student from Chicago recently launched a fairly ridiculous Kickstarter campaign: He wanted to buy a burrito and graph its “deliciousness.”

With an original funding goal of $8, Noboru Bitoy has blown that target out of the water. As of this post, he’s raised a whopping $1,050, all based on this simple promise:

    “Just how delicious is a chicken burrito from my local Chipotle? I will find & display the answer in a creative presentation!”

Bitoy is hardly the source of “derp” in this story; it’s most definitely the 258 donors who have backed his campaign. Although, to be fair, those who donate $10 are given a sticker, and those who pledge $25 or more get a T-shirt, too.

If anything, Bitoy might just be a Kickstarter genius. He mentions that he’s in no way affiliated with Chipotle. However, after this, they may consider recruiting him for marketing.

The minimum pledge amount on Bitoy’s campaign is $1, and for that amount, he promised to graph the deliciousness of his burrito, and then send “a completed version of the Deliciousness Graphic in a .PDF file.”

Because accountability is important on Kickstater, Bitoy made sure to list the risks and challenges, which include an order mix-up and his own inability to successfully consume the burrito.

“I might drop the burrito on the floor,” he wrote.
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