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A few months ago, I answered a reader mailbag question from Randu about what constitutes a reasonable food budget for a family of four. Here’s Randu’s question and my response: What is the minimal food budget for a family of four? – Ragu The USDA “thrifty” family cost of food estimation for a family of four is $558 per month with young children and $639.60 if you have older children. We have a family of five (two adults, two “older” …

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Everyone starts out with a blank slate when it comes to their credit reports. The trick, of course, if you have never established any type of credit, is to learn how to go from “no credit” to “good credit” in the shortest amount of time possible. How long does it take to build credit? Establishing a good credit history doesn’t happen overnight, of course. But with the right strategy, you can certainly expedite the process. You Don’t Start from Absolute Zero A …

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What’s inside? Here are the questions answered in today’s reader mailbag, boiled down to summaries of five or fewer words. Click on the number to jump straight down to the question. 1. Body wash in foaming dispenser? 2. International stock market index funds 3. Country club membership 4. Inexpensive hobby for kids 5. Time management tools 6. Repeating the same meal plan 7. Pay off which card first? 8. Bean soup? 9. Chicago Cubs 10. Water conservation and money savings …

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With the fall season in full swing, it’s only natural to take a closer look at our financial goals for this year. There are only a few short months left, after all, and those months include the busy – and expensive – holiday season. With a brand new year on its heels, it’s smart to take stock: Did you accomplish everything you hoped? If not, don’t despair. If I’ve realized anything about money over the years, it’s this: Success – and especially …

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As a former professional basketball player who had to buy things in Israel, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Russia, and Germany, I became quite familiar with how hard it can be to find a good deal when exchanging currency. I’m pretty sure I’d be retired right now if I hadn’t been taken for a ride in so many airports exchanging my Shekels for Euros. But when you’re young and dumb, using the high-priced airport exchange kiosks seems like the best option. …

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When searching for a new employer, most people look at the full package of benefits they’ll get in return. How much will your new salary or hourly rate be, and will you have paid vacation, health insurance, and dental? After those considerations, things like company culture, long-term career objectives, and your daily commute come into play. But, what about other benefits? With private pensions going the way of the dinosaur, employees typically look for a 401(k) – and a company …

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For most of my life, I’ve just drifted. I would work passionately at one thing for a while, then I’d burn out on that thing and move on to something else. I felt like I had a good grip on what I needed to do today, but in terms of thinking about the big picture of my life, I just didn’t have any idea. I would often hear people ask questions like “What do you want to do with your …

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When it comes to financing your home, a basic understanding of certain financial principles will help you get the lowest mortgage rates. For example, you should know that your credit score might determine what kind of mortgage rate you qualify for. Also, it’s crucial to understand the different types of mortgages available, what their drawbacks and benefits are, and which ones come with the lowest rates. Seven Ways to Get the Lowest Mortgage Rates There are several ways to get a lower rate …

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If you’re unable to make the minimum payment on your credit card, using another credit card to pay your bill might sound ideal. By paying off one credit card with another one, you can avoid paying anything out of pocket for an entire month. Does it get any better than that? Before you move forward, however, you should know how this works, how much it costs, and the consequences that arise when you shuffle debt around instead of paying it off. While …

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If you carry an American Express credit card, you probably already know the drill. Once you’re done shopping and ready to make a purchase, you approach the checkout counter at some random store. But instead of swiping your favorite AmEx card, you catch a peek of the one sign you didn’t want to see – “American Express not accepted.” This is an unfortunate scenario, but it’s one that plays out time and time again. Due to high American Express merchant fees, many retailers …

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