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Archive for January 2011

Logging on for love: What's the catch with online dating sites?

Published 2/1/11  (Modified 3/22/11)

Logging on for love: What's the catch with online dating sites? By Peter Andrew

Time was when it was, "In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love." Nowadays, young and old, male and female seem pretty focused on the subject year-round, although Valentine's Day may well trigger many to seek out their perfect partner through an online dating site. But at what cost?

How not to get dates

When I was on the dating scene, in the days before the web, I had a tried and tested five-step process for attracting new partners:

  1. Meet friends at appropriate bar/club
  2. Pick from a distance the person/people I wanted to chat with
  3. Drink bladder-bursting quantities of beer in order to build up Dutch courage
  4. Eventually, stagger across to the object of my desire, and slur--in a haze of foul alcohol fumes--some corny chat-up line
  5. Receive a withering put-down/slap/false phone number

Yes, it was tried and tested, and it almost invariably failed.

How to get dates

If I were in the market for a new lover now, I'd save a fortune in bar tabs, and do my liver an enormous favor. Because I'd almost certainly try online dating. And why not? It sure can work: the last two weddings I've attended have both been the result of Internet encounters through matchmaking websites, and one 2010 study suggested that 17 percent of new marriages over the previous year had come about this way.

But what I would save in beer, I could easily spend on dating site fees. Because online dating can be quite expensive.

Putting a price on love

It's not

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Frugal ways to be sexy on Valentine's Day

Published 2/1/11  (Modified 1/3/12)

Frugal ways to be sexy on Valentine's Day By Jim Sloan

Plan a beautiful Valentine's Day this year but with a difference Read the full article »

What an Internet Tax means to you

Published 1/31/11  (Modified 3/22/11)

What an Internet Tax means to you By MoneyBlueBook

I recently bought a laptop over the Internet. Shopping online, I found a great price and I didn't have to drive around to different stores to compare products and features. But is it fair that I didn't have to pay any sales tax because I bought the laptop online?

Retailers say the playing field should be leveled out with an Internet sales tax that would be collected at the point of purchase. Now I am not fan of paying more taxes, but the thought of helping put a local company out of business because I like to shop in my pajamas doesn't sit well with me either.

Taxing e-commerce

During President's Clinton administration, the Internet Tax Freedom Act was signed into law to protect commercial aspects of the Internet. The law prohibits federal, state and local governments from taxing access to the Internet or adding taxes that would limit Internet usage. The Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) has now been renewed through Nov. 1, 2014, but the law does not address the collection of sales tax. So a few states have made it mandatory for online retailers to charge a sales tax, while a few others left the burden on the consumer to self-report their sales tax.

The latest twist is that some states have now decided that large retailers like Amazon or Overstock should be forced to collect sales tax even

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6 signs your date is a financial dud

Published 1/28/11  (Modified 3/22/11)

6 signs your date is a financial dud By MoneyBlueBook

Dating is like walking on a minefield: You never know what your next step will bring. Now to make it even harder, dating experts are adding a new twist.

It used to be as easy as intuition, dinner and a movie, but now experts say that financial compatibility is an important factor in finding the right person. If turns out that if the man or woman you are dating is a financial mess, they can take you down with them.

If you survived the dating battlefield like me and are now married, you probably have some of your own war stories. But if you are still out there in dating never-never land, you may need a little help. I can give you a few tips on how to figure out if your date is a financial dud.

You just have to read the signs:

1. Overspends like crazy

If your date keeps trying to impress you with how much everything they own costs, you might think twice about your future with them. Wild spending can lead to all kinds of financial problems as witnessed by the record number of mortgage defaults and credit card delinquencies seen in the last couple of years. If your date seems overly impressed by their own spending, it may be that they are forgetting an important fact: Eventually they have to pay for it all.

2. Leases to impress

Although it is not a set rule, in most

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The return of the reset button: Zero percent balance transfer offers make a comeback

Published 1/20/11  (Modified 4/11/13)

The return of the reset button: Zero percent balance transfer offers make a comeback By Richard Barrington

Did you ever wish life had a reset button?

Sometimes you just need a fresh start, to get organized and get on top of things. If you've accumulated some credit card debt, a zero percent balance transfer program might be just the reset button you need. No, it won't make your debt go away, but a zero interest balance transfer can give you the breathing room you need to start paying down your debt.

Balance transfer offers went into hibernation during the financial crisis, but they are making a comeback. The number of special interest rate and balance transfer offers increased in 2010 compared with 2009, accelerating as the year went along, according to SmartMoney.

Credit card companies are focusing on customers with the best credit ratings, so if you think you might qualify, here are three things you should know about zero percent credit card offers:

1. How they work.

Some specific examples show how banks are starting to get more generous again with their balance transfer offers:

  • Citibank has a zero percent introductory APR balance transfer offer on their Citi Simplicity Card. With this card you would pay the greater of 3 percent or $5 on any transferred balance, but beyond that you'd pay zero percent introductory APR for 18 months on transferred balances. You'd also get 18 months of zero percent introductory APR on new purchases.
  • Discover's it card offers zero percent introductory APR on balance transfers for the first 14 months...
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Federal tax-relief bill gives many a pay raise

Published 1/19/11  (Modified 3/9/11)

Federal tax-relief bill gives many a pay raise By Jim Sloan

The media made it sound like the tax relief law passed late last year was designed to make a lot of older, rich taxpayers happy with new tax deductions and more favorable federal tax brackets.

But in reality, the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 contained a lot of new and extended tax deductions and benefits for those of us just starting out with our careers and businesses.

For starters, the new law included a payroll tax cut on our federal income tax that will put about $112 billion back into the paychecks of some 155 million workers. Any employee who pays into Social Security will see their portion of FICA federal income tax drop from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent.

For the average worker, that translates into a monthly pay increase of about $83 a month. If you have been receiving the Making Work Pay tax credit, which expired at the end of 2010, your raise will be more along the lines of $50 a month. If you earn more than $95,000 a year and weren't eligible for the Making Work Pay credit, you'll get the full 2 percentage point cut from your federal income tax, or nearly $2,000 over the course of the year.

Helping parents, college students

Another important portion of the law was the extension of emergency unemployment benefits for another 13 months. That alone gives an estimated 7 million workers a little breathing

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