Friday’s need-to-know money news

smartphones_financeToday’s top story: A good retirement savings option for the self-employed. Also in the news: Jobs that could mark you as a risk for late payments, what to ask before giving a cell phone as a gift, and the financial perks of not celebrating Christmas.

A Good Retirement Savings Option for the Self-Employed
Consider a Solo 401(k).

Study: These Jobs Could Mark You as a Risk for Late Payments on Personal Loans
Is yours on the list?

Ask These Questions Before Giving a Cell Phone This Season
What you need to know before making a purchase.

The Financial Perks of Not Celebrating Christmas
The upside to being The Grinch.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Staples becomes the latest employer to start paying student loans. Also in the news: Places with the highest and lowest credit scores, why you can’t always bring your cell phone to a new carrier, and the pros and cons of paying for travel over time.

Staples Jumps on Hot Employer Trend: Paying Student Loans
Better than a discount on office supplies.

Places With the Highest and Lowest Credit Scores
Where does your area rank?

Why You Can’t Always Bring Your Phone to a New Carrier
Deciphering the maze of rules.

Should You Pay for Travel Over Time?
Is the immediate gratification worth the expense?

Monday’s need-to-know money news

homebuyerToday’s top story: How to get the most for your old phone. Also in the news: Why starter homes are becoming a thing of the past, five surprising things that could leave you poor, and how to invest your way to a million dollars.

How to Sell Your Old Phone
Because a newer version is always right around the corner.

Why ‘Starter Homes’ Aren’t What They Used to Be
Starter homes are becoming a relic of the past.

5 Surprising Things That Could Leave You Poor
Start with the company you keep.

How to Invest Your Way to $1 Million
The tiny things add up quickly.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: What life is like when you default on your student loans. Also in the news: How to get the most from selling your old cell phone, five financial questions everyone needs to know the answers to, and how having no credit score can make life difficult.

3 Grads Reveal What It’s Really Like To Default On Student Loans
It’s not a pretty picture.

Selling Your Old Cellphone? Read This First
How to get the most out of your phone.

Here’s a Financial Literacy Test You Need to Pass
Can you answer these five questions?

5 Ways Having No Credit Score Can Hurt You
Not having a credit score can hurt as much as having a bad one.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Social Security is in better shape than originally though. Also in the news: how to reduce your monthly expenses by having a “bill haggle day”, personal finance tips for recent college grads, and why you may want to wait before upgrading your cell phone.

4 Reasons Not to Panic About Social Security’s Future
Things aren’t as bad as we thought!

Have a “Bill Haggle Day” to Reduce Your Monthly Expenses
It may take multiple phone calls but it’s worth it.

4 Personal Finance Tips For Recent College Graduates
Don’t let your loans intimidate you.

Do the math before upgrading your cellphone
It could be worth waiting a bit to get the latest gadget.

The Most Important Tip For Avoiding Investment Fraud
You’ll want to remember this one.

Communicating in Europe: Our cell phone solution

Bayeux

Bayeux, France

If your cell phone works overseas (and not all do), your wireless carrier is happy to sell you an international plan that typically includes a small amount of minutes, texts and data at what feels like a pretty inflated cost. (The cheapest option from AT&T: 120 megabytes of data for $30 a month, $10 for 50 messages, $30 for 80 minutes, for a total of $70 per month per phone for a fraction of what we’re used to at home.)

Apparently, if you don’t use your phone much, you might be fine with that. Given the way I use my phone—to scan email, translate signs and menus, find my way around, coordinate plans with friends and family, book restaurant reservations and check opening hours for museums —I couldn’t imagine paying so much for so little.

The good news is that you can get a lot more for a lot less, as long as you can get your hands on an unlocked phone. Fortunately for us, my iPhone was no longer under contract and we had an old iPhone 3 that my daughter could use, so AT&T sent instructions on how to unlock each one. A friend lent us a Samsung he’d purchased for overseas travel.

I unlocked our phones the day we left for Europe (I was still able to use it in the States that day, as per usual). Once we landed in London, we found our way to a little mobile phone shop just across the street from Harrods and picked up a SIM card for five pounds (about $8.50), which included a five-pound credit for talk time. The gentleman behind the counter inserted the new cards, showed us our new phone numbers and told us where we could buy a package of minutes, texts and data (just around the corner at a news stand, as it tuned out).

Our British numbers worked even after we arrived in France, but I wanted more data than the small plan we bought. Two blocks away from our apartment was an Orange store where another nice gentleman sold us SIM cards (for five euros, including a five-euro credit) plus calling/text/data plans. For 30 euros each, Daughter and I got plenty of minutes, texts and a full gigabyte of data for the month we’re spending in Paris. Hubby, who is not as entranced with the online world, got a less generous plan for 20 euros.

You can, by the way, buy SIM cards at airports, train stations and lots of other locations from kiosks or news stands. I highly recommend finding a mobile phone shop that has someone to help you set up your service, though, especially if you’ve never done it before.

My plan paid for itself just on our recent road trip to the D-Day beaches. I used Google Maps navigation as a GPS to get us from the edge of Paris to every location on our agenda and back again, complete with turn-by-turn voice instructions. That saved us the $12 daily rental fee for our four-day trip.

AT&T customers, check your plan!

Internet shopping by cell phone - concept illustrationWhen I heard last month that AT&T was dropping prices for its wireless plans, I thought our family could save a little money. I was startled to find we can save a whopping $60 a month and get a plan with twice as much data.

AT&T cut its prices to compete with T-Mobile and the pay-as-you-go companies that have been offering a lot more data for a lot less. But AT&T isn’t going to foist the savings on you–you have to seek them out. Fortunately, that’s as easy as going online to check your account (a savings offer should show up on your screen) or you can just call the carrier from your phone and ask how you can save.

I try to make it a point to call our communications providers once or twice a year to see if we can get a better deal. I wished I’d called this one a little earlier, because I was only able to backdate the changes to the beginning of last week (the start of our current billing cycle).

Changing plans does not extend your service term or add any additional termination fees, an AT&T rep assured me. So if you’re under contract to AT&T, go save some money!

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Car crashWhy students are a prime target for identity thieves, an easy way to save money on homeowners insurance, mistakes to avoid when buying a house and how cell-using drivers set themselves up for disaster.

The ABCs of Back-to-School Identity Theft Protection
Students of all ages are easy targets for identity theft.

Simple Tip Can Save You Big on Homeowners Insurance
Your deductible could be the key to savings.

The IRS Filed a Tax Lein on Your Home—Now What?
Don’t let your panic become a distraction. Buying a House? Don’t make these mistakes.
Things not to be overlooked while house hunting.

25% of Car Crashes Involved Cel Phones
Drivers using cellphones fail to see up to 50% of the information in their environment.