Alpha Consumer

June 2008


Starting Over, Financially

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Dear Alpha Consumer,

I lost a very good job with benefits and everything. I lost it. Then I got into an accident requiring $40,000 surgery, and I started a business that failed.

Not a good trifecta. I went from a 700 credit score and money to spare to having $100,000 debt, little to no ...

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TAGS:
personal finance

Where to Stash Long-Term Cash

By |

Dear Alpha Consumer,

I have a $10,000 bank certificate of deposit that matures in a month. I don't expect to need this money anytime soon, and CD rates have dropped so much that they're not attractive. Would it make more sense for me to use the money to pay down the principal on my 5.75 percent ...

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TAGS:
savings
personal finance

Last Call for Book Club Questions

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It's the final call for questions for Rob Walker, author of Buying In, the first selection for the Alpha Consumer Book Club. (It's also the last chance to win a free copy of his book, which will be given to a randomly selected questioner.) Either post your question below, E-mail me at ...

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TAGS:
books

This Summer, Nesting Is Cool

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Are you settling in for a summer of nesting? There's been a lot of buzz about people opting to stay home instead of traveling to exotic locations because of high gas prices. According to one Kmart television ad, "This summer, there's no place like home," and the company's website is promoting patio ...

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TAGS:
consumers

How to Make a Budget

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I recently spoke with Felicia Taylor at Retirement Living TV on how to make a personal budget. One tip: Think long term, in terms of the year instead of the month or the week, to make it easier to anticipate costs that come up less frequently.

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TAGS:
money
personal finance

Quiz: How Tightly Are Consumers Squeezed?

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Everyone knows times are tight. But do you know just how tight? Take this Alpha Consumer Quiz to test yourself on how the economic slowdown is changing consumers' daily lives.

  1. How much credit card debt does the average consumer carry?
    1. Which state has the highest average ...
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      TAGS:
      consumers

      George Carlin, Consumer Critic

      By |

      Comedian George Carlin, who died Sunday, may be best known for his monologue "Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television," but he also had some memorable lines about consumerism:

      Consumption—it's the new national pastime... The only true lasting American value that's left—buying things...

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      TAGS:
      consumers

      Debt Collectors Hounded Reader, Too

      By |

      After posting my item about dealing with debt collectors yesterday, I heard from another reader, Melissa from Alexandria, Va., with the same problem. A debt collector called and said she owed money to a health clinic. But the collector had the wrong person, albeit with the same, relatively common ...

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      TAGS:
      debt

      Standing Up to Pesky Debt Collectors

      By |

      A debt collection company has left automated messages on my answering machine almost every day for the past six months. Erasing them within a few minutes of getting home from work has become part of my daily routine.

      At first, I assumed they were telemarketing calls and that the company would ...

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      TAGS:
      debt

      Two Credit Card Quandaries, Solved

      By |

      Two readers, both dissatisfied with their credit card companies but for different reasons, recently wrote to me. Here's the first problem:

      I just received a notice from Capital One that my credit limit is being cut from $17,000 to $9,100 because I 'have not taken full advantage of [my]

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      TAGS:
      credit cards

      Can You Afford a Baby?

      By |

      If you're of a certain age and life stage, then you might be asking yourself: Should I have a baby? Before getting carried away with visions of Baby Bjorns and onesies, consider this: Babies cost more than ever. According to the Agriculture Department, middle-income couples spend an average of ...

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      Top 8 Money-Saving Web sites

      By |

      With almost everyone looking for ways to trim their budgets right now, my mailbox has been overflowing with links to Web sites designed to help consumers do just that. I've picked out some of the most useful ones, which focus on food, coupons, and comparison shopping. If you know of any others,

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      TAGS:
      personal finance
      money

      4 Easy Ways to Save at Home

      By |

      Listerine as mosquito repellent? Vinegar as air freshener? These ideas might sound unconventional, but some people swear they work. After my friend Cindy shared some of her best tips with me, I had the chance to try them out over the weekend. If they remind you of any creative tricks that you rely ...

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      TAGS:
      personal finance
      products