Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to lower your internet bills without cutting the cord. Also in the news: How to write a business plan, when it’s okay to splurge, and how to save money on groceries by keeping a food waste list.

7 Ways to Lower Your Internet Bill
Without having to cut the cord.

How to Write a Business Plan, Step by Step
Making the first move.

Ask Brianna: Is it Ever OK to Splurge?
When to treat yourself.

Keep a Food Waste List to Save Money on Groceries
Don’t let your money spoil in the fridge.

Food stamps are the symptom, not the problem

eating breakfastThe conservative Wall Street Journal opinion page is not where you’d expect to see a piece headlined “In defense of food stamps.” Yet there it is, written by William A. Galston of the Brookings Institution.

Galston recounts the facts: that nearly half (47%) of the people on food stamps are children, that the typical income for families with children on food stamps is 57% of the poverty line (less than $11,000 for a family of three) and that 91% of food stamp benefits in dollar terms go to households living in poverty. Galston writes:

The large increase in the program’s cost over the past decade mostly reflects worsening economic conditions rather than looser eligibility standards, increased benefits, or more waste, fraud and abuse.

The only area where Galston concedes food stamp critics have a point is regarding relaxed requirements for able-bodied adults without children. He thinks those should be toughened up.

As for the argument that food stamps breed dependency? Galston disagrees:

The final complaint is the broadest: Food stamps are welfare, and welfare increases dependency. But the most rigorous research (summarized in a 2011 NBER paper, “An Assessment of the Effectiveness of Anti-Poverty Programs in the United States”) has found SNAP’s effects on work effort to be “small,” “statistically insignificant,” or “zero.”

What will get people off food stamps, he writes, is an improved economy. Now there’s a thought: Congress could focus on ways to help businesses generate jobs, rather than on beating up those who have lost them.

Help your local food bank

eating breakfastFood stamp benefits to 47 million people were cut Nov. 1–and further cuts may lie ahead.

Food banks already depleted by the lousy economy are now bracing for an influx of new patrons. So if you’re not among the one in seven Americans currently receiving food stamps, please consider a donation to your local food bank to help meet this growing need.

The best donation is cash (or checks, or payment by credit card). Food banks have relationships with food makers and distributors that allow them to get much better deals on bulk purchases than what you can get at the retail level. The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, which my family supports with a monthly donation, can provide four meals for every $1 donated.

If what you can offer is food, though, or your skills in organizing a food drive–that’s good, too.

You can find your local food bank through the Feeding America site.