125 Tips for Saving Money, Shopping Smarter, Finding Jobs, and Just Getting Through a Bad Day

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This week’s tip roundup includes things you must do (find a checking account that doesn’t charge fees), products that come with less “product” than they used to (like Häagen-Dazs), and coupons you probably don’t use but should.
4 most affordable kinds of colleges. You can’t beat the price of tuition at certain colleges:

Cooper Union is one of a handful of schools where tuition is free for its entire undergraduate body (see list below). Another handful of schools have pledged to give free tuition to students whose families fall below certain income thresholds. At Dartmouth College, students’ families must earn less than $75,000 to qualify; at Harvard College, it’s less than $60,000.

5 steps for putting your spending on a New Year’s diet. Unfortunately, like most diets, most money resolutions fail. But not all of them fail. Increase your chances of success by taking steps such as:

Avoid temptation. If you were on a diet, would you stare at chocolate chip cookies all day? Of course not. So why do we torture ourselves by allowing catalogues full of shiny, new kitchen gadgets or tempting electronics to come through our mails slot every day? Cancel them.

5 things to do with your money in the new year. Checking accounts are less likely to be free nowadays, and even debit cards are expected to soon charge annual fees. Fee-free banking is not totally out of the question. It’s just that it’s harder to come by than it’s been in the past. With that in mind, one thing to do this year is seek out a no-fee checking account:

Shop around for free checking offers at community banks and credit unions (go to findacreditunion.com or findabetterbank.com).

5 changes coming to retail in 2011. Not sure exactly how this one would work, but it’s interesting:

Have you ever abandoned an online shopping cart? Yes, there are lots of us out there. Retailers are desperate for more people to follow through and wondering what they can do to get people to complete purchases they start. A top strategy for 2011 includes allowing shopping carts across different brands to be combined online.

7 rarely used coupons. Plenty of people use coupons at supermarkets and drugstores. But why not at the auto shop when it’s time for an oil change?

Jim Mangelin, manager of Tires Plus in Janesville, WI, says that he sees only one or two coupons per day in his shop. “We do all we can to help our customers save, but very few redeem our coupons.”

The average cost of an oil change at Tires Plus is more than $50 and yet you could be paying just $19.99 with a coupon.

7 video games that provide financial life lessons.
Here’s another one to file under the category of Financial Lessons Learned from Unusual Sources. The old-school game of Paper Boy, for instance, is …

… about your first job, back when jobs were innocent and carefree. How sweet was that first paycheck, back when you were young? Sure, in Paperboy you have to deal with obstacles, like cats jumping out at you, and old man Farley getting up in your grill, but that just added to the drama and excitement of feeling like an adult.

7 kitchen gadgets that are worth the money. I feel like a fool for never having heard of this term—which I’ve known simply as a “grater with a handle”:

Roughly $15
Several chefs told us that they just couldn’t live without one of these fine, sharp graters. They’re versatile enough to handle softer things like citrus, ginger and garlic as well as tougher nutmeg, chocolate and Parmesan cheese, says personal chef Kathy Rana of Madeline’s Table. Although you can buy ones with various specialties (citrus, spices), an all-purpose one is really all you need.

8 commonly overlooked tax deductions. Deduct the expenses you incur while deducting your expenses:

Tax Preparation Fees. You can claim a deduction for out-of-pocket expenses paid for tax preparation software, tax publications and the costs associated with electronic filing. Those expenses would be deducted in year paid, not necessarily for the year of the return (for example, fees paid in 2011 would be reported on your 2011 return, not your 2010 return).

10 free financial services.
Here are a couple more resources to help you accomplish the goal mentioned above, finding a no-fee checking account:

Ally Bank Interest Checking: $0 monthly fee, $0 balance to open, free checks, zero ATM fees (they actually pay for fees charged by other banks!), and you earn interest earned on your balance (with a high enough balance you exceed 1%).

Everbank Yield Pledge Checking: $0 monthly fee, $1,500 to open, free checks, zero ATM fees (they also reimburse), and a high starting interest rate of over 1%.

10 supermarket items that shrank. It’s not your imagination. All sorts of products now give you less “product” for the same old price. For example:

Häagen-Dazs ice cream
Old: 16 oz.
New: 14 oz.
Difference: -12.5%
Reason: Due to the cost of ingredients and facility costs, it was either change the size of the container or raise the price.

10 ways to blow a job interview. Among the no-nos are dressing as if you were going to a bar, or dressing as if you were Britney Spears:

“A young woman dressed extremely inappropriately, forgetting to wear undergarments. In spite of what she may have thought, it was a sure-fire way not to get asked back for a second interview!”
— Paul Solomon, founder of Wall Street recruiting firm Solo Management

10 best jobs for 2011. It’s not as if you could shift careers all of a sudden to snag a hot job, so I suppose these kinds of lists cause envy and regret more than practical info. But they’re still interesting nonetheless. And the year’s highest-rated job is … drum roll please …

Software engineer overtook last year’s top job, actuary, which fell to No. 3, behind mathematician. The rise was mainly due to a robust hiring outlook, attributable in part to the rising popularity of social media and mobile applications, said Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast and JobsRated.com. Last year, software engineer placed second.

12 one-hour sessions to get your financial house in order. The idea is to pause once a month and take an hour to address and, if need be, adjust a different financial issue. Good idea, though many of the issues—reevaluating investments, planning summer vacation, preparing your taxes—take way more than one hour in my household. This one, suggested for May, shouldn’t take up much time and could result in significant savings:

Shop your property insurance
Once a year you should spend a few minutes shopping around to see whether you can get a better deal on two of your biggest annual expenses — homeowner and auto insurance premiums…

The Internet makes shopping easy too, with dozens of companies including Esurance and Geico providing fully automated quotes in a matter of minutes.

25 quotes for when you are having a craptastic day. Gotta love those wise quotes to get you through the worst—even the most craptastic—days. Here’s one that was originally aimed at parents, but it applies to all sorts of people, in all sorts of situations.

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” — Benjamin Spock