The Checkout

Archive: May 2008

Another Sales Tax Holiday

Hurricane season starts June 1. Do you know where your glow sticks are? Don't worry -- we can't find ours either. Enter the Virginia Department of Emergency Preparedness, which is offering a state sales tax holiday through Saturday on the equipment you need to weather this season's storms. The holiday covers products costing less than $60 each, including: batteries, bungee cords, duct tape, portable self-powered radios, cell phone chargers, first aid kits -- and yes, glow sticks, flashlights, lanterns and other "self-powered light sources." Portable generators and certain power cables costing less than $1,000 are also included. The full printer-friendly...

By Ylan Mui | May 26, 2008; 7:46 AM ET | Comments (1)

Babies v. Rubber Duckies: Round One

In all the fuss over whether to officially consider the polar bear an endangered species, environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts have apparently overlooked another equally endangered creature: the rubber ducky. Or so says a group called Consumers for Competitive Choice (C4CC). C4CC, which says it is "an alliance of consumer organizations with one million members throughout the United States," has launched a campaign entitled "Save the Rubber Duckies!" Why, you ask, are these creatures in need of saving? Does it have something to do with global warming? Or predators perhaps? Or is their natural habitat being destroyed and replaced by soaking...

By Annys Shin | May 22, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Should You Care About Buyouts?

Excuse my absence. I am just back from the wilds of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. Okay, it wasn't really wild, but I did see some buffalo. Anyway, while I catch up, I thought I'd bring up something I wasn't able to delve into before I left. I wrote not long ago about Bain Capital's buyout of Bright Horizons Family Solutions, the nation's largest provider of employer-sponsored child care. The Service Employees International Union , which doesn't represent any Bright Horizons employees but has decided to speak up anyway, is worried the buyout will be bad for workers and parents....

By Annys Shin | May 19, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Do You Know Why You're Getting that Higher Rate?

The Federal Reserve is at it again. After going after credit card companies for deceptive practices, the agency has joined the Federal Trade Commission in proposing another seemingly pro-consumer set of rules. The latest effort has to do with risk-based pricing. Most lenders determine the interest rate for a customer based on his or her credit report. If your credit score is low, lenders will think you pose a higher risk of not repaying the loan and give you a higher rate. Together with the Federal Trade Commission, the Fed has proposed requiring lenders to notify borrowers taking out a...

By Nancy Trejos | May 14, 2008; 7:07 AM ET | Comments (3)

Does Overdraft Protection Really Protect You?

Last week, the Federal Reserve proposed new rules forbidding "unfair or deceptive" practices by credit card issuers, such as arbitrarily raising interest rates and applying finance charges to debt that has already been repaid. That, not surprisingly, grabbed the average consumer's attention, judging by all the e-mails and phone calls this personal finance writer received. But there was a part of the 510-page proposal that was largely overlooked. The Federal Reserve also proposed banning "unfair or deceptive" practices related to overdrafts in deposit accounts. You may know it as overdraft protection. If you overdraw your account, many banking institutions will...

By Nancy Trejos | May 9, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Regretting Extra Therms Among Other Things

A couple of weeks ago, I did a piece on how to go about buying natural gas and electricity from someone other than your old utility. Soon after, I got a call that I think highlights an element of so-called energy choice that I touched on indirectly in the story: buyer's remorse. It's not a sensation that usually accompanies the reading of an electric bill, but several of the folks I talked to for the story--including those who saved money--experienced some share of regret. The Northern Virginia woman who called me has been buying from an alternative gas supplier for...

By Annys Shin | May 7, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Retailers Want Your Rebate!

Retailers are feeling very Jerry Maguire these days. All they seem to be saying is "SHOW ME THE MONEY!" That money would be your rebate check, or in government parlance, your "economic stimulus payment." The IRS announced last week that it had begun depositing money in taxpayers' bank accounts and expected to continue the payments through mid-July. The agency has posted a schedule for the rebates on its Web site, along with a calculator to help you figure out how much you're going to get. Retailers, of course, are wasting no time in helping you figure out how to spend...

By Ylan Mui | May 5, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (4)

Credit Where It's Due

Have you ever had your credit card interest rate increase for no apparent reason? Have you ever been charged interest on a late fee? Or have you ever been charged an overlimit fee twice for going over your limit just once? If so, you're not alone, and several lawmakers have taken notice. In recent months, one member of Congress after another has introduced a bill to curb "unfair" and "deceptive" practices by credit card companies. The latest bill was unveiled this week by Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich). Their Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure...

By Kathy Lally | May 2, 2008; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

The Global Food Crisis

Today, my colleague Jane Black from the Food section has dropped in to share what she learned while working on a piece for the Post's Global Food Crisis series on local shoppers trying to rein in their growing food bills. She picked up some tips on how to reduce food costs and she's been kind enough to share them with us. Take it away Jane: Since last March, the price of a dozen eggs has jumped 36 percent; a gallon of milk is up 23 percent. Bread, meat and other staples are up, too. New studies show that shoppers are...

By Annys Shin | May 1, 2008; 7:00 AM ET | Comments (0)


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