96 Money Tips: Smart 401(k) Saving, Dumb Pawn Shop Purchases, and More

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This week’s roundup also includes insights on technology rip-offs, the future of coupons, and tactics for handling everything from hard-nosed negotiations to selling stuff on Craigslist.
3 new rules for today’s home buyers. Don’t expect to flip a house for a profit anytime soon. Think long-term investment instead. Though no one knows for sure, these days, it looks likely you’ll need to own for a full decade before seeing a solid return on your investment:

In many cases, 10 years long, says Paul Bishop, vice president of research at the National Association of Realtors — if buyers are hoping to make a profit or just break even. As mortgage fees rise, buyers have to recoup larger costs, which takes a longer time.

5 rules for 401(k) savers. To invest wisely, and in sufficient enough funds, take a close look at what’s in your garage. Wait, what? Yep, here’s an argument that smart investors should drive inexpensive cars they can pay for in cash, and here’s why:

The main problem people have with 401(k)s is that they don’t put enough in. And one reason they don’t have the money to put in is that they are paying interest on car loans and credit cards.

Your next car should be whatever you can afford to buy for cash. It will probably be used, maybe with a few small dents.

5 things to never say while negotiating. Among the negotiating no-nos are:

“I think we’re close.” We’ve all experienced deal fatigue: The moment when you want so badly to complete a deal that you signal to the other side that you are ready to settle on the details and move forward. The problem with arriving at this crossroads, and announcing you’re there, is that you have just indicated that you value simply reaching an agreement over getting what you actually want.

7 biggest technology rip-offs of 2011.
The nominees include “buy back” programs from the likes of Best Buy:

While buybacks are a good way to get rid of electronics you no longer need, retailers tend to pay no more than 50% of the value of the item, often accepting buybacks no later than six months after you purchased. Most electronic devices depreciate in value about 40% over one year, not six months. You may be better just outright selling your items on eBay.

7 things you should and shouldn’t buy from pawn shops. Suggestions for the “should” list are tools, jewelry, and DVDs, while the “shouldn’t” list includes many electronics, such as:

Vacuum Cleaners. You just don’t know what other people have tried to suck up with their vacuums before. You can also introduce new germs and allergens to your house by using a vacuum that has been used elsewhere.

7 financial lessons from odd sources. None odder than Charlie Sheen, but also from playing Dungeons & Dragons:

If you can run a D&D campaign — a months-long series of adventures requiring infinite attention to detail, exacting execution and on-the-fly problem-solving — you can run an advertising campaign. Or run an IT company.

9 secrets of highly successful Craigslist sellers. You’ve got to have a good photo of the item you’re trying to sell, you’ve got to include all the specs, and you have to price the item competitively. Also, it helps if your ad is at the top of the list so it’s the first one would-be buyers see. To get that to happen, you occasionally take a few moments and repost the ad. Here’s why:

Buyers don’t want to go through pages and pages of old posts, and if you wait 30 days to repost (the time is takes for your ad to expire), it could take a long time to get it sold. If you haven’t had a response within a few days of posting, it’s probably time to repost.

10 questions (and answers) about coupons. One involves the misconception that coupon users are poor, when in fact the average coupon clipper is in the mid- to upper-level income bracket. Here’s another Q&A revealing how coupon usage is likely to change in the near future:

Are coupons-on-demand in the near future?
Some will be. As shoppers go down the aisle, they’ll get a coupon alert on their mobile phones that will last for 30 minutes or less, said Phil Lempert of Supermarket Guru. Only coupons for items preselected by the user will be sent.

12 ways to save by cutting waste. It’s the double bonus scenario in which you feel good because you’re not wasting and you’re not spending money. Here, for instance, are some techniques to squeeze more out of the toothpaste tube:

Put a binder clip at the end of the tube to dispense the toothpaste more efficiently. When you can’t squeeze any more out, run the smooth, hard side of your toothbrush handle over the flattened tube.

13 money drains in your life. Life’s full of them, like:

Store credit cards. Sure, you got 20 percent off your total purchase when you signed up for that store card, but if you didn’t pay it off in full the first month, you’re going to be hit with a high interest rate. Typical store cards average 22-25 percent and the initial savings you thought you seized will be long gone.

25 best financial blogs. TIME’s roundup ranges from Krugman to The Consumerist. For what it’s worth, I always find Megan McArdle at The Atlantic interesting too:

McArdle writes about everything under the economic sun, from the jobs impact of proposed Republican budget cuts to why congestion pricing won’t open up heavily used roads. Her answers: very little, and because people don’t like paying.