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DailyFinance.com

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    APTOPIX Apple
    Eric Risberg/APApple CEO Tim Cook discusses the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus during the Apple event Wednesday in San Francisco.
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Apple is taking a small step with its latest iPhone while trying to make a bigger leap in other key markets with its largest iPad yet and a long-awaited overhaul of its online video box for TVs.

    The trend-setting company unveiled its newest twists on technology Wednesday in San Francisco before the usual packed house that turned out for a glimpse at a product line that Apple is counting on to retain its faithful disciples and win new converts.

    As expected, Apple's next iPhone is making relatively minor improvements to the model last year that generated more excitement because it boasted a larger screen. The iPhone 6S hews to Apple's recent strategy of releasing major redesigns of its top-selling device every other year.

    The iPhone 6S will go on sale Sept. 25 in the U.S., China, the U.K. and nine other countries at prices starting at $200 with a commitment to a two-year wireless contract. Pre-orders begin starting Saturday.

    Perhaps just as importantly to the millions of consumers who still own older iPhone models with smaller screens, the price for last year's iPhone 6 model is dropping to $99 with a two-year contract. Some analysts believe that price reduction will unleash a wave of sales to consumers who stayed on the sidelines because they didn't want to spend so much for the bigger screen.

    A new tablet coming out in November may also give more people a reason to buy an iPad. Called the iPad Pro, it features a nearly 13-inch, diagonal screen and is designed to appeal to corporate customers and government agencies.

    Since releasing its original iPad, Apple has confined the screen size to 10 inches and focused on selling the tablet to consumers. But iPad sales have been falling since 2013 amid competition from lower-priced tablets and consumers' reluctance to upgrade from earlier models.

    Prices for the iPad Pro will range from $799 to more than $1,000. A stylus for the tablet will cost $100 and a detachable keyboard will sell for an additional $170.

    The redesigned Apple TV box relies on a system that revolves around apps and voice controls. Its price will start at $150, more expensive than competing devices from competitors such as Roku, Amazon's Fire TV and Google's Chromecast that already have been offering some of the same features that will now be available in the new Apple TV box.

    Investors seemed unimpressed with Apple's line-up. Apple Inc. (AAPL) stock slipped $1.20 to $111.10 in Wednesday's late afternoon trading them, leaving the shares 17 percent below their peak reached earlier this year.

     

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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks ended more than 1 percent lower Wednesday after rallying the day before, led by declines in Apple shares and in energy companies, which fell with oil prices.

    Apple (AAPL) shares ended down 1.9 percent at $110.15 in heavy trading, erasing earlier gains as it launched new products in San Francisco.

    Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook announced a new version of the Apple TV with an app store and voice-controlled remote control. Some analysts said investors sold Apple shares because expectations were so high heading into the event.

    Among Apple's suppliers, Qualcomm (QCOM) shares fell 1.6 percent at $54.32, Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) was down 1.5 percent at $86.42 and Avago Technologies (AVGO) was down 1.5 percent at $127.17. U.S.-traded shares of STMicroelectronics (STM) fell 6 percent to $7.04.

    Investors are still looking for policy developments out of China, and also wary of what might come out of the Fed next week.

    Energy led declines among S&P 500 sectors, falling 1.9 percent as U.S. oil prices settled down 3.9 percent. Chevron (CVX) was down 2.5 percent at $74.92.

    The volatile session reversed early gains of as much as 1 percent. Indexes had rallied more than 2 percent Tuesday.

    "We had a nice rally yesterday based on an oversold position. There really wasn't anything to create a follow-through, so the buying just kind of ran out of steam," said Bucky Hellwig, senior vice president at BB&T Wealth Management in Birmingham, Alabama.

    "Investors are still looking for policy developments out of China, and also wary of what might come out of the Fed next week."

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI)​ fell 239.11 points, or 1.5 percent, to 16,253.57, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC)​ lost 27.37 points, or 1.4 percent, to 1,942.04 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC)​ dropped 55.40 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,756.53.

    U.S. job openings surged in July, Labor Department data showed, suggesting strength in the economy ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's interest rate meeting next week.

    Overseas, China's Ministry of Finance said the government will strengthen fiscal policy, boost infrastructure spending and speed up tax reform, adding steps to reenergize growth.

    Global financial markets have been rattled in recent weeks by fears that China's slowdown could drag on already sluggish global growth, prompting some investors to bet that the U.S. central bank will delay a hike until the end of the year.

    Movers and Shakers

    Barnes & Noble (BKS) fell 27.6 percent to $11.80. The largest U.S. bookstore chain reported a decline in sales for the fifth consecutive quarter.

    Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals (TTPH) sank 78.8 percent to $9.49 after its experimental bowel drug failed to meet the main goal in a late-stage study.

    Netflix (NFLX), which was up 4.4 percent at $99.18, broke a seven-day losing streak and was among the biggest boosts to the S&P 500.

    NYSE declining issues outnumbered advancers 2,301 to 744, for a 3.09-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,949 issues fell and 865 advanced, for a 2.25-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

    The S&P 500 posted 4 new 52-week highs and 3 lows; the Nasdaq composite recorded 43 new highs and 51 lows.

    About 7.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the 7.4 billion daily average for the month to date, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

    What to watch Thursday:
    • The Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
    • At 10 a.m., Commerce Department releases wholesale trade inventories for July, and Freddie Mac releases weekly mortgage rates.
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
    • Lululemon Athletica (LULU)
    • Restoration Hardware (RH)

     

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    Save Thousands With Used Baby Gear
    Whether you're a new or expecting parent, you know that the costs of buying new gear for your newborn can quickly get old. Here are some tips on how to raise your bundle of joy without spending a bundle of cash.

    First, babies will outgrow everything in just a few months. Instead of buying new, go online to SwapMamas.com for a great selection of hand-me-downs. At Swapmamas, there's absolutely no money exchanged. Simply browse for an item you want and trade other parents for their used baby goods.

    Next, buying pre-owned baby furniture is great, but some items are best bought new. Car seats have a lifespan of about six years and should withstand only one crash before being replaced. Be sure to check the bottom of the seat to find its expiration date. Also, you should only buy cribs new. This will ensure it was made after June 28, 2011, when the latest government mandated safety codes went into effect.

    Lastly, buying used clothes is a fantastic way to save money, but for your child's safety, be sure to avoid anything with drawstrings, and check that all buttons, zippers and clasps are secure.

    As you stock up on used items for your new baby, remember these tips to keep both your child and budget safe. You'll see that buying used things for your little one doesn't have to mean big prices.

    View Poll

     

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    Churchill Downs
    Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/TNS via Getty ImagesRiders at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
    Companies aren't as generous with shareholder perks as they used to be, but there are still a handful of publicly traded companies that give investors more than just dividend checks and the potential for capital gains.

    It didn't always used to be that way. Two decades ago I was receiving gift packs of Wrigley's gum over the holidays, hotel discounts at Disney's (DIS) resorts and front-of-the-line passes at Rainforest Cafe just for being a shareholder.

    Perks were already drying up a decade later when I decided to chronicle the thinning list of companies still rewarding investors at ShareholderPerks.org. There were still some occasional benefits. Shareholders of Starbucks (SBUX) and McDonald's (MCD) were treated to free beverage vouchers in their annual reports, but as digital delivery began to become the communications platform of choice, we found most consumer-oriented companies put an end to their treats for investors.

    Let's go over some of the few companies that still shell out shareholder perks.

    Churchill Downs (CHDN)

    Churchill Downs is a provider of pari-mutuel horse racing and other casino gaming services. It's the company behind the Kentucky Derby, and folks who own at least 100 shares receive two free passes that allow free general admission at all of its racing and off-track-betting facilities.

    Shareholders get access to Churchill Downs' namesake venue, and that means the passes are also good for general admission to attend the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby.

    Carnival Cruises (CCL)

    The world's largest cruise line wishes its stakeholders a little extra bon voyage. Shareholders who own at least 100 shares of Carnival can apply for a stateroom credit on sailings. How much investors get in onboard spending money depends on the length of the cruise. Sailings of six days or fewer get $50, but that ramps up to $100 for journeys between seven and 13 days and $150 for sailings of at least two weeks. The credit isn't usable for gratuities or casino credits.

    Reservations must be made by the end of February for sailings through the end of July. Carnival updates the perk annually, but it's had the same credit levels over the past few years.

    If you want to save even more money, rival Royal Caribbean (RCL) offers a similar plan with higher levels of onboard credit that top out at $250 for sailings of 14 nights or longer.

    Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) (BRK-B)

    Warren Buffett is arguably the best investor of our time, and Berkshire Hathaway has certainly rewarded investors over the long haul. Owners who can afford at least a single share of Berkshire Hathaway also are entitled to discounts on Geico insurance. The rate varies by state, but it can be as much as 8 percent.

    However, the biggest perk of Berkshire Hathaway ownership is access to the annual shareholder meeting. Beyond getting to be in attendance while Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger offer investing insight for hours, shareholders also get to shop at the exclusive store during the meeting that offers markdowns from Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. He has run a site listing shareholder perks since 2006. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Berkshire Hathaway, Starbucks and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    The Best Birthday Freebies

    By Maryalene LaPonsie

    Are you ready for some freebies? (For maximum effect, say that again in your best Michael Buffer voice.)

    OK, good. Now that we've established you are in fact ready for freebies, I sincerely hope you have a birthday coming up sometime in the next 12 months.

    Yes? Excellent.

    Because there are dozens of businesses that want to give you free stuff on your birthday. Even better, they don't all have to be claimed on your actual birthday. Some may be used in the weeks before or after your big day. Play your cards right, and you could be enjoying free food all month long. Beyond food, you could be in line for discounts, coupons and goodies from other retailers.

    The catch is, you usually have to be signed up for a company's email newsletter in order to get the birthday freebie coupon. Make sure you sign up well in advance, because email subscriptions don't always kick immediately.

    In addition, since newsletter lists have the potential to fill your inbox with junk as well as freebies, I recommend setting up a separate email account to use specifically for these sign-ups. Live.com is one place to get a free email address.

    And finally, we need to, of course, put in the disclaimer that companies can and do change promotions without advance notice. However, these were all, to the best of our knowledge, accurate and available at the time of writing. If you find a freebie doesn't work or if you know of one we missed, please leave a message in the comments below.

    Now that the details are out of the way -- on to the freebies!

    30 Restaurant Birthday Freebies

    It seems as if just about every restaurant offers a birthday deal. They are hoping you'll not only come in for your birthday freebie, but also bring along 10 of your closest family members and friends who will spend big bucks.

    If you don't see your favorite restaurant on the list, check out their website and sign up for their mailing list anyway. You may just get a freebie coupon in your inbox. Plus, it never hurts to tell your server it's your birthday (assuming it actually is your birthday) to see if they do anything special in-house. 15 Retail Birthday Freebies Food seems to be the main event when it comes to birthday freebies, but don't overlook retail store offers. Here's a rundown of some of the retailers offering free stuff to help you celebrate another year of your feet on the ground. 5 Other Birthday Discounts These aren't freebies, but they are discounts that are only available to the birthday boy or girl. Again, sign up for the company newsletter to have the discounts sent to your inbox. How do you like to celebrate your birthday? Do discounts and freebies influence the way you spend your day? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

    Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free!

     

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    US dollars covered with autumn leaves
    Getty ImagesStruggling to save each month? Now's the time to rework your budget, so you don't fall behind in the last months of the year.
    By Sabah Karimi

    The year is coming to a close in a few short months, and if you're still struggling to meet your savings goals or are worried about upcoming expenses, now is the time to take control of your financial life. Autumn is the perfect time to review your spending habits and make some much-needed changes before holiday spending season gets underway.

    Here are seven budget moves you need to be making this fall:

    1. Take advantage of open enrollment season. If your employer offers a great health insurance benefits package, make sure you sign up for the right plan during open enrollment season. Most employers schedule their open enrollment during the fall months since your new coverage will start in January of the upcoming year. Get in touch with your human resources department if they haven't reached out to you yet so you can maximize your benefits, set up a flexible spending account for the upcoming year and make adjustments to your insurance plans as needed.

    2. Set new savings goals. Whether you want to save for your teen's college expenses or establish an emergency fund, there's no better time to start. The 2015 "How America Saves for College" report from Sallie Mae revealed that parents who plan for college have saved 46 percent more money than non-planners. Sallie Mae spokesman Rick Castellano recommends simply getting started. His approach: "Start by setting a specific goal and saving toward it and track your progress. By being able to take smaller, digestible bites out of long-term goals, saving becomes a more manageable task." Even if you fell short of some of those financial resolutions and savings goals you set at the beginning of the year, there's still time to end this year on a good note.

    3. Start or grow a holiday spending account. Are you ready for this year's holiday shopping season? If you ended up using credit cards or dipping in to a savings account to cover some of those holiday expenses last year, don't make those bad financial moves again by starting a savings account now. The average American planned on spending $765 on holiday gifts in 2014, according to a CNBC All-America Economic Survey. If you don't have money set aside to take care of holiday shopping duties this season, now is a great time to start. Even setting aside $50 a week will help you save up to half or more of your annual holiday shopping budget, so there is no need to turn to credit cards or a savings account to cover this year's costs. Tighten up your budget for the next few months so that you can set aside some extra cash specifically for those holiday shopping sprees.

    4. Start winterizing your home. Cleaning out the gutters, installing insulated windows and hanging insulated curtains are a few tasks that need to be taken care of around the home as temperatures drop. Get a head start on these activities and put together a to-do list with estimated costs. Starting now will give you a chance to get quotes from local service providers and shop around for the best deals on supplies and tools you might need to get the job done yourself.

    5. Prepare your vehicle for the colder months. Get your car ready for the cooler months so you aren't stressing about worn tires, window replacements or transmission issues in the dead of winter. Take the car in for a maintenance check, and take care of basic tasks such as oil changes, radiator flushing and other necessities. Seek out special deals and promos from area dealerships or service providers to save on car maintenance costs.

    6. Be smart with a wardrobe refresh. Fall is a great time to update your wardrobe, but make sure you do it without overspending. Take inventory of your closet and donate anything that you will most likely never wear again. Be sure to get a receipt for tax benefits. Clearing out your closet will give you a better idea of what you truly need so you can put together a shopping list of must-haves. Invest in some basics that you can wear for several months to come, and don't overlook the option to shop the clearance racks of summer inventory to pick out some pieces you can layer.

    7. Revisit your monthly budget. When was the last time you looked at your budget? Are you even working with a current one? If you're having a hard time saving money each month or always seem to be living paycheck to paycheck, now is a great time to create or rework your budget so you can get yourself ahead as the new year unfolds. Use tools such as You Need a Budget or the Mint smartphone app to track expenses and create a customized budget that works for you. Starting or updating your budget now can set you up for financial success just in time for the holidays and in to the new year.

    Sabah Karimi is a columnist for the blog Wise Bread, where you can find consumer tips like how to select the best balance transfer credit cards.

     

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    Elderly woman reading paperwork
    Getty Images
    By Cameron Huddleston

    Do you expect your parents to leave you a financial legacy? Nearly half of working-age Americans assume that they will receive an inheritance that will support them later in life, according to a recent survey by financial services company HSBC.

    Perhaps the bigger question, though, is how to even approach this topic with your parents. "No matter how you look at this, it's such a sensitive issue," said Gwen Morgan, author of the "What If ... Workbook," a guide that helps people give loved ones necessary information if anything happens to them.

    You don't want to appear greedy by asking your parents, "Do I have an inheritance?" But you do need answers to certain questions to ensure that your parents' financial wishes are carried out and there is a smooth transition of wealth and assets. Here's how to approach this touchy subject and get the information you need.

    How to Start the Conversation About Your Inheritance

    The burning question on your mind might be how much money you'll get in your inheritance from your parents. However, you shouldn't ask how much you stand to inherit because the amount can change over your parents' remaining lives, said Chris Blackmon, a certified public accountant with wealth management firm Biggers Blackmon. Plus, you don't want your parents to mistake your question as a sense of entitlement, he said. Instead, you should start by asking your parents about whether they have an estate plan.

    You can say, "I don't want to know the numbers. I just want to be able to follow your instructions out of love," said Saul Simon, a certified financial planner and author of "Simon Says: Love Your Legacy." It's important that your parents know that you want to know what they want if something happens to them, he said.

    A good way to start this conversation is to reference a resource, such as a book or an article you read about the importance of estate planning. You could share what you've learned or offer to let them read the resource themselves.

    Or, you could say that you're doing your own estate planning so that there is no question about who gets what when you're gone, then ask whether your parents have taken any similar steps. "You might even acknowledge how awkward and difficult this conversation is for you as you don't wish their demise but are just trying to figure things out," said Ruth Nemzoff, an expert in family dynamics and author of "Don't Bite Your Tongue."

    If one approach doesn't work, try another. Above all, be respectful and recognize that it could take time, said Simon.

    When to Talk About Your Inheritance Plan

    Both Blackmon and Simon said that the holidays are a good time to address estate planning with your parents if your family will be gathering together. "It is important that all are included and feel equally included," said Blackmon.

    This doesn't mean you should bring up your potential inheritance from your parents at the dinner table right after you ask Mom or Dad to pass the turkey. But, you should take the opportunity when everyone is gathered to start a conversation.

    You'll likely get a better reception from your parents if you let the conversation happen naturally rather than scheduling a time to talk, said Morgan. That's when using a story about your own financial planning or an example of someone's failure to plan can be effective.

    What You Need to Know

    Regardless of the way or when you approach the topic of an inheritance from your parents, the goal of the conversation is to make sure parents have a plan in place so there will be a clear path for whomever is left behind to go forward, Morgan said. Start by finding out whether they have these key legal documents:
    • A will
    • A power of attorney document that designates someone to financial and legal decisions if they are unable to do themselves
    • A living will or health care directive to designate someone to make health care decisions and specify end-of-life care
    Find out where your parents keep these documents and how you can access them if necessary. Also, ask if they have written funeral or burial instructions.

    You also need to ask your parents to provide other important information so you can handle their finances if they are unable to or when they die:
    • Account numbers and passwords
    • Insurance policies and contact information for their insurers
    • Contact information for their accountant, attorney, financial planner or other financial professional
    • Contact information for their retirement plan or pension administrator
    Morgan said most parents won't be willing to provide their children with their account numbers and passwords. So, she recommends that you ask your parents to make a list of accounts or use "The What If ... Workbook" to record important financial information and store it in a fireproof safe in their home along with their Social Security card, passport, deeds and other important documents.

    When Not to Ask About Your Inheritance

    The key to having any conversation about money is establishing trust. You don't want to talk to your parents about their estate if you've recently argued with them or haven't demonstrated to them that you can be financially responsible, said Nemzoff.

    Nor do you want to ask about their finances at times of turmoil, such as the recent drop in the stock market, Morgan said. Your parents might think you're touching on the topic only because you're concerned about whether there will be money left for you.

    This story, How to Talk to Your Parents About Your Inheritance, originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.

     

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    Businessmen Eating Lunch
    Getty Images
    By Ryan Ermey

    We all love to eat at restaurants with great service and delectable food. But how do you indulge without running up an outrageous tab? This former waiter talked to restaurant owners and industry insiders to find ways to save money.

    Know the margins. Alcohol is notorious for high markups, but fountain sodas are also items for which diners often overpay. "We charge $2.50 for a 20-ounce soda," one owner says. "Even with a free refill, that costs us maybe 20 cents to deliver." Other profit leaders include pasta, salad and egg dishes. The best values in entrees: seafood and steak.

    Sit at the bar. Most restaurant-industry people do that when they eat out. The bartender likely won't try to peddle all the peripheral items, such as sparkling water, appetizers and desserts, that servers push to pad a check. Plus, you may be more comfortable ordering, say, a smattering of appetizers instead of an entree.

    Ask about corkage. Many restaurants will let you bring your own bottle of wine for a fee (typically from $10 at a casual eatery to $50 or more at a high-class restaurant) and some places will uncork your first bottle free. If you drink a Lafite-Rothschild or even a Caymus cabernet, you'll come out ahead. Note that it's bad form to bring a bottle that the restaurant already has on its list. And don't carry in a bottle of bottom-shelf wine or, heaven forbid, a jug.

     

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    A real estate agent standing by a FOR SALE sign
    Alamy
    By Brian O'Connell

    NEW YORK -- The U.S. real estate market, like most economic sectors, has been buffeted by the zig-zagging stock market, rising energy prices and the uncertainty over whether the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates this year, as many experts predict.

    Still, the outlook for the autumn residential real estate market seems robust, according to industry analysts. "Recent stock market volatility and seasonal trends may give buyers better financial options and more time to make purchase decisions entering the fall," says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com. "August data remains positive with regard to overall housing health as both demand and supply continue to grow." In particular, Smoke points to an 8 percent rise in domestic median home prices on a year-to-year basis (to $233,000) and shorter "time on the market" for homes (down 6 percent on a year-to-year basis, Realtor.com reports).

    Smoke says buyers and sellers are both trying to find that elusive sweet spot where supply and demand merge in a way where deals are fair to everyone. "This year we [saw] inventory continue to grow in August, and while overall demand is strong, the trend in median days on market is suggesting that the market is finding more of a balance," says Smoke. "This bodes well for would-be buyers who have been discouraged by the inability to find a home to buy this spring and summer."

    Many say that though "balance" is desirable, other sweet spots aren't really all that sweet. "I'm seeing higher-income buyers pulling back and buying smaller, less expensive homes, and lower income buyers reaching too high and buying homes they can't afford," says Rick Thorpe, a Doylestown, Pennsylvania-based mortgage broker. "But I'm busy -- there's no doubt about that."

    Right now the hottest real estate markets in the nation reside largely in two states -- California and Texas. The former has six of the U.S.'s "Top 10" markets (including San Francisco and San Diego), while the latter has two (Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston). The hottest markets in the country are little changed from July, reinforcing the strength of supply and demand demonstrated by each market on the list, says Smoke.

    "Continuing the trend of California domination this year, 11 of the 20 hottest markets this month sit in the Golden State," Smoke says. "California's tight supply and strong economic growth continues to propel its cities to the top month after month."

    Still right now, though, balance and stabilization are buzzwords many industry professionals are using. "The Houston market is normalizing," says Sissy Lappin, co-founder of ListingDoor.com, in Houston. "We have lost the majority of the transferee market from oil companies, so the market is stabilized." Lappin says sellers need to be flexible, as multiple offers are down, while homes are taking up to 60 days to sell. "The market is not crashing; it's just returning to a normal market. 2014 was crazy and sellers could dictate the price and terms. That's no longer the case."

    In California, and in many other parts of the U.S., fall is known as a "divider" to real estate professionals.

    "That is, when the seasons turn, those who continue to find success are the buyers and sellers who are more motivated to make the transaction, rather than the casual "summer-goers" who "like to go out and see what's on the market as an adventure and go to open houses as a hobby or casually list their homes to see what offers come in," says Virginia Clark, an agent with Carrington Real Estate in Orange, California.

    "Sellers looking to target these more motivated fall buyer need to maintain a "show-ready" home -- free from odors, clutter, laundry on the floor, etc. -- so that when the buyers come in, they can visualize themselves in the house and want to move quickly on the sale," she says.

    That's the ticket, for both buyers and sellers in the U.S. real estate market this autumn. Be aggressive, be ready to pounce, and be determined to cut a good deal -- those are the hallmarks of what looks to be a fairly vibrant market over the next few months.

     

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    Pickup Surge
    Seth Perlman/AP2012 Ram pickup
    By TOM KRISHER

    DETROIT -- Fiat Chrysler is recalling more than 1.5 million trucks to fix problems with side-impact and driver's air bags.

    The biggest of two recalls announced Thursday covers 1.35 million Ram 1500, 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks and 3500, 4500 and 5500 Chassis Cabs, mainly in North America. All are from the 2012 through 2014 model years.

    Fiat Chrysler says a company investigation found that some trucks may have steering wheel wires that can wear due to contact with a spring. That can cause a short circuit that could make the driver's side air bags inflate without a crash.

    The company says it knows of two injuries caused by the problem but no crashes. It says an analysis of warranty data found that less than 1 percent of trucks repaired for the problem had air bags that inflated without a crash.

    In some affected trucks, an air bag warning light will come on before there's a problem.

    Dealers will inspect each vehicle, tie off the wiring harness and install protective caps on the springs. The company is now mailing notices to owners telling them about the recall.

    The second recall covers about 188,000 Ram Quad Cab pickups from the 2014 and 2015 model years.

    Fiat Chrysler says the side curtain air bags don't comply with federal regulations that protect rear passengers if the trucks roll over.

    The company says it knows of no crashes, injuries or complaints.

    Owners will be told when they can make an appointment to fix the problem.

    The company says drivers and passengers should wear seat belts in addition to relying on air bags.

     

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    Apple
    Eric Risberg/APApple's new iPad Pro is displayed in three different finishes following an Apple event Wednesday.
    This holiday shopping season is shaping up to be the tale of two tablets. Apple (AAPL) introduced the high-end iPad Pro on Wednesday, starting at a steep $799 that goes all the way up to $1,079. Amazon.com (AMZN) is reportedly going the other way, rolling out the cheapest Kindle Fire tablet that it has ever produced, at a mere $50.

    Apple and Amazon aren't merely at opposite ends of the pricing spectrum. As Apple gets bigger -- the iPad Pro measures in at a beefy 12.9 inches -- The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Amazon's $50 tablet will be just 6 inches.

    Now, to be fair, Apple did lower the price of its entry-level iPad mini 2. It will now be available at $269, and some will argue that this is the Apple device that will be competing with Amazon's new bargain-priced device. Either way, with Apple and reportedly Amazon pushing cheaper value-priced gadgetry to market, it's going to be a tempting holiday shopping season for someone in the market for a tablet.

    Breaking the $50 Barrier

    The cheapest Kindle Fire on the market right now will set you back $99. It's also 6 inches, but it's HD. The Wall Street Journal speculates that several aspects including the display, battery life and processor of the $50 tablet will all be inferior and rightfully so: Amazon's already working on razor-thin margins when it comes to hardware.

    However, that $50 price could be the sweet spot for many shoppers. Parents won't have a problem handing a $50 tablet to a toddler when that's less than the price of a single console video game. The low price makes them less likely to be stolen at school for older children.

    A $50 tablet would also open the door for newspaper subsidization that has yet to materialize. The original Kindle hit the market at $399 and no newspaper would dare eat some of that cost by bundling with a discounted subscription. At $50, the options change. It may not be long before your local paper offers you a free Kindle Fire if you commit to a digital subscription of the publication.

    There are also plenty of commercial applications. More restaurants could switch to table-side tablets or even make them available on busy nights to folks waiting for a table. Schools that were set on going iPad next year may be pressed to consider the significantly cheaper Kindle Fire.

    Take Two Tablets and Call Me in the Morning

    The beauty of a $50 tablet is that the product itself will make its way deeper into the mainstream market. That's what Amazon wants. It's never been shy about professing that it would rather make a profit selling digital media than the hardware that plays it.

    Folks stepping up for the cheap Kindle Fire will find themselves drawing closer to the Amazon ecosystem of digital delivery and discounted real-world merchandise. After the flop of its Fire Phone, Amazon needs a hit. It priced its smartphone too high relative to what Apple already had on the market. It won't make the same mistake this time around.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Amazon.com and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on the Apple Watch to learn where the real money is to be made for early investors.

     

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    Unemployment Benefits
    Lynne Sladky/AP
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- The U.S. labor market appeared to gain momentum in early September as fewer Americans filed for weekly unemployment benefits, but weak inflation pressures may complicate the Federal Reserve's decision whether to raise interest rates.

    Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 275,000 for the week ended Sept. 5, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the 27th straight week that claims remained below the 300,000 threshold, which is usually associated with a strengthening labor market.

    The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, ticked up 500 to 275,750 last week.

    "Consistently low readings for initial and continuing jobless claims suggest that the separations side of the labor market remains healthy, and we see little reason to expect a meaningful shift in labor market dynamics in the near term," said Jesse Hurwitz, an economist at Barclays in New York.

    In another report, the Labor Department said import prices fell 1.8 percent last month as the cost of petroleum and a range of goods dropped, after sliding 0.9 percent in July.

    August's drop in import prices was the largest in seven months and suggested a strong dollar and soft global demand continued to put downward pressure on imported inflation. Import prices now have declined in 12 of the last 14 months.

    In the 12 months through August, import prices declined 11.4 percent, the largest drop since September 2009.

    Very low inflation, in the face of a tightening labor market and strengthening economic growth, poses a challenge for the Fed's policy-setting committee, which meets on Sept. 16-17.

    Economists are divided on whether the U.S. central bank will raise rates at that meeting in the wake of recent volatility in global financial markets, which was sparked by fears of slower growth in China and other major emerging markets.

    The Fed hasn't raised rates in nearly a decade.

    "Coming at a time when the Fed is contemplating a lift-off in rates, the weak tone of this report should come as a key reminder to the Fed that the disinflationary impulse is re-emerging," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

    U.S. stocks were generally flat, while prices for longer-dated U.S. government debt rose. The dollar was slightly weaker against a basket of currencies.

    Healthy Job Market

    The labor market is tightening rapidly. Job openings are at a record high and the economy has added an average of 221,000 jobs monthly over the past three months, far more than the amount needed to keep up with population growth.

    The unemployment rate, which is at a 7½-year low of 5.1 percent, is within the range that most Fed officials see as consistent with a low but steady rate of inflation. That could bolster expectations that a pick-up in wages will help lift inflation toward the central bank's 2 percent target.

    For now, inflation is trending lower. Last month, imported petroleum prices tumbled 14.2 percent, the biggest drop since January, after falling 5.9 percent in July.

    Import prices excluding petroleum slipped 0.4 percent in August, the eighth consecutive monthly drop.

    That likely reflects the impact of the dollar's 17.5 percent rise against the currencies of the United States' main trading partners since June 2014. Imported food prices rose modestly last month and prices for capital goods automobiles fell.

    A third report from the Commerce Department showed wholesale inventories fell in July for the first time in nearly two years, a tentative sign that businesses were starting to whittle down a huge stockpile of merchandise that could weigh on production in the second half of the year.

     

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    US-IT-APPLE-NEWS-FEED
    Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty ImagesHave an older iPhone model? You're better off upgrading to the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, instead of shelling out for the 6s.
    By Mike Cetera

    The iPhone 6s will almost certainly be one of the best smartphones on the planet when it goes on sale later this month.

    Don't buy it.

    The 6s and its big brother, the 6s Plus, will cram an enormous amount of power into a small space, making for a very, very fast mobile computing experience.

    Don't buy it.

    It will have an improved camera that will capture stunning pictures and video, rich with color and depth. It will incorporate new touch controls that promise to change how you use apps. And the new iPhone will even come in four -- count 'em -- four colors.

    Don't buy it.

    If the gushing passages above haven't made a convincing case that you should shun the latest Apple product, consider these five reasons why you really, truly, definitely should not buy the iPhone 6s -- at least not yet.

    It's not really that much better than previous models.

    Innovation is kind of slowing. It's harder to come up with a sort of whiz-bang, must-have feature that's on a phone.

    When smartphones first hit the market, there were huge technological jumps from one year to the next. For example, the base model second generation iPhone, the 3G, doubled the speed and storage capacity of the first generation model introduced just a year earlier.

    That doesn't happen anymore. Improvements are far more incremental, which means an older model still should suit most users just fine.

    "Innovation is kind of slowing," says Marguerite Reardon, a senior writer with CNET, a tech news and review website. "It's harder to come up with a sort of whiz-bang, must-have feature that's on a phone."

    This is good for consumers, Reardon argues, because it means smartphone owners should no longer feel compelled to replace their phones every two years.

    Speaking of which ...

    You should hold onto your phone longer.

    This applies primarily to people who bought a phone without a contract -- a situation that will become far more common now that wireless carriers have begun moving away from phone subsidies. Those are the "deals" that allow you to take home a phone for as little as $200. But each month you pay for the phone -- even after you've repaid the subsidy -- because the cost is baked into your monthly bill.

    Today, you can pay for the phone in full upfront or on an installment plan. Once the phone is paid off, your monthly bill should become cheaper.

    This move by the carriers is going to retrain consumers, Reardon says, to keep their phones longer. And, if your phone is in working condition, there's no need for you to upgrade.

    "I say hold onto it as long as you possibly can, until it doesn't work anymore," says Reardon, who writes the Ask Maggie column for CNET.

    That means you, too, iPhone 5s owners.

    So your phone is now two generations old. That must mean it's time to retire it, right?

    "The iPhone 5s should run well on iOS 9 [Apple's latest mobile operating system update]," says Louis Ramirez, a senior features writer at DealNews, a bargain-hunting website. "However, your best plan of action is to wait and let others install the new OS on their phones before you install it on yours."

    In other words, let someone else be the guinea pig to make sure iOS 9 works properly on older phones. However, if you absolutely need to buy a new phone, but your budget won't accommodate the 6s, last year's model -- the iPhone 6 -- is "your best bet," Ramirez says.

    And there's good news there, too.

    The iPhone 6 is about to get much cheaper.

    Last year's iPhone was pretty cool. All the hip tech reviewers said so:
    • "The iPhone 6 is an exceptional phone in nearly every way except its average battery life: it's thin, fast and features the excellent iOS operating system. It was the best overall phone introduced in 2014." -CNET
    • "With fast performance, a great display, an elegant new design and a much-needed software update, it's one of the best smartphones you can buy right now." -Engadget
    • "The iPhone 6 is one of the best-built, best-performing smartphones you can buy. You can find a sharper display, you can find a better camera ... you can find better speakers, but you can't find all of them together in such a capable package." -Gizmodo
    Now this phone that everyone raved about is about to land in the discount bin.

    Apple will continue to sell both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and you'll pay $100 less for each model -- $99 and $199 respectively on a two-year contract.

    You'll also be able to find deals on resale websites, particularly now that some iPhone 6 owners are looking to upgrade. The market is about to get flooded with last year's model, says Kendal Perez, a savings expert for CouponSherpa.com.

    "There are so many used devices out there," she says. "It's a really great way to save money on smartphones."

    One caveat: Before buying a used or refurbished phone, research the store's return policy and find out what kind of warranty your phone comes with, DealNews' Ramirez says.

    Hey, wait, the iPhone 6s also will get cheaper.

    Apple and the major wireless carriers aren't likely to offer you any deals on the latest and greatest smartphone. But other retailers soon will. If you absolutely must buy the new iPhone, you can save a few bucks by waiting a month or two, Perez says.

    If past practice holds true, Perez says, retailers such as Walmart and Best Buy should start offering a $10 to $20 discount on the iPhone 6s within about a month. Wait even longer and those discounts could grow to $50 to $100, she says.

    Still not convinced that you shouldn't rush to buy an iPhone 6s? In the end, it's your call on whether to upgrade. Just ask yourself if it's necessary.

    "As long as you're able to run the apps that you want at a speed you're comfortable with, that's all that really matters," Ramirez says.

    Mike Cetera is the mobile finance editor for Bankrate.com, a personal finance website that provides news and advice to help consumers make informed money decisions.

     

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    Shoppers Inside A Kmart Store Ahead Of Black Friday Sales
    Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
    By Nathan Layne

    Kmart has expanded its layaway program and dropped a required down payment on a lease-to-own plan, joining other U.S. retailers in trying to get a jump start on grabbing holiday shoppers.

    Kmart, a unit of Sears Holdings (SHLD), started allowing customers to buy in installments with no down payment last week, an option it will offer every day through the end of November.

    During last year's holiday season it limited the no-money-down option to certain weeks, said Jai Holtz, president of financial services at Sears.

    There is absolutely a trend to an earlier holiday. And so we are trying to meet that demand.

    Kmart is also allowing customers to tap its rent-to-own program without a down payment for big-ticket items such as refrigerators and televisions for the first time since it was launched in 2013. The option also runs through the end of November.

    The moves by Kmart come as rivals try to capture holiday business. Walmart Stores (WMT) started its layaway program in late August, two weeks earlier than 2014. The largest Texas supermarket chain, H-E-B, which also sells toys and appliances, has also launched a layaway plan and related promotions.

    "There is absolutely a trend to an earlier holiday. And so we are trying to meet that demand," Sears' Holtz said, noting research by the National Retail Federation showed more than 40 percent of Americans begin holiday shopping prior to October.

    Holtz said toys, electronics and apparel were among the top categories in layaway. While many customers used the program to budget their spending, others use it to store toys that might be discovered by kids if they were in the house, Holtz said.

    The leasing program has a minimum purchase of $69 and ownership can come at a cost. Using a calculator on Kmart's website, a customer seeking to buy an item worth $500 would end up paying $692 to buy out the lease after financing it over five months.

    Holtz said the company had devised early-purchase options at 30, 60 and 90 days that would limit the premium paid over the initial price.

    Similar to Walmart, Kmart's customer base tends to skew toward the lower end of the income scale.

    Holtz said the layaway and leasing program were designed to tap into demand at various income levels.

    "We see a great layaway business in our Beverly Hills Kmart store. This is a program that goes across all demographics," he said.

     

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    By Cameron Huddleston

    When you're in your 30s, retirement planning is probably not at the forefront of your mind. After all, it's at least 30 years away, and you likely have more immediate concerns, such as paying off student loans, saving for a house or starting a family.

    The earlier you start planning your retirement, however, the better your chances of being able to retire when and how you want. Regardless of your current situation, you should be thinking about your future now and taking steps to secure it. Here are 10 ways you can set your retirement plan in motion.


    This story, 10 Quick Steps to Plan for Retirement in Your 30s, originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.

     

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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Caroline Valetkevitch

    NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks ended higher Thursday in another day of broad swings as investors showed nervousness ahead of next week's much-anticipated Federal Reserve meeting, but gains in Apple and biotech shares supported the day's advance.

    Apple (AAPL) shares rose 2.2 percent to $112.57, rebounding from losses the day before when the iPhone and iPad maker unveiled new offerings.

    It's this tug of war, and that gives big moves going both ways at the moment. Obviously investors are very unsettled with regard to their conviction.

    Biotech also boosted the market, with Gilead (GILD) up 3.3 percent at $107.25, giving the second-biggest boost to the S&P 500 and Nasdaq after Apple. The Nasdaq biotechnology index was up 1.9 percent.

    The day's gains follow Wednesday's 1 percent market decline and weeks of volatility largely tied to worries about a slowdown in Chinese growth and its impact on the global economy. Investors also have been nervous about next week's Fed meeting and whether the central bank will decide to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

    "It's this tug of war, and that gives big moves going both ways at the moment. Obviously investors are very unsettled with regard to their conviction," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

    "It certainly doesn't seem as though we have a groundswell of demand coming into stocks that can push the market up significantly."

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) rose 76.83 points, or 0.5 percent, to 16,330.4, the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) gained 10.25 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,952.29 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 39.72 points, or 0.8 percent, to 4,796.25.

    Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by the health care, up 0.9 percent, and technology, up 1 percent.

    Adding to uncertainty surrounding the Fed's next meeting, data showed the U.S. labor market appeared to gain momentum in early September as fewer Americans filed for weekly unemployment benefits, while another report showed import prices fell last month.

    Influential fund manager David Tepper of Appaloosa Management told CNBC that corporate earnings may not rise as much as expected and he wasn't overly bullish on stocks next year.

    Notable Losers

    Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD) fell 11.7 percent to $15.65, a day after the doughnut chain cut its 2016 profit forecast.

    Also, shares of Avon Products (AVP) fell 9.5 percent to $4.10, reversing earlier gains. The Wall Street Journal reported the company was in talks with private equity firms about an investment through a stake sale in the struggling company.

    Lululemon Athletica (LULU) was down 16.4 percent at $53.54. The yogawear retailer's gross margins continue to be under pressure as it spends more on product development and sourcing.

    NYSE advancing issues outnumbered declining ones 1,623 to 1,398, for a 1.16-to-1 ratio; on the Nasdaq, 1,656 issues rose and 1,155 fell for a 1.43-to-1 ratio favoring advancers. The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 1 new 52-week high and 8 lows; the Nasdaq recorded 28 new highs and 62 lows.

    About 6.8 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, above the 8.1 billion daily average for the past 20 trading days, according to Thomson Reuters data.

    -Tanya Agrawal contributed reporting.

    What to watch Friday:
    • Kroger (KR) reports quarterly financial results before U.S. markets open.
    • The Labor Department releases the Producer Price Index for August at 8:30 a.m.
    • The University of Michigan releases its initial survey of consumer sentiment for September at 10 a.m.
    • The Treasury Department releases federal budget for August at 2 p.m.

     

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    Get Multiple Uses Out of Hair Conditioner
    Hair conditioner can do more than just soften your hair. It can soften your spending, too.

    Instead of shelling out cash at the dry cleaners, use hair conditioner to wash your favorite silk shirt at home. Simply fill the sink with water and add a tablespoon of conditioner. Next, immerse the shirt in the water and let it sit.

    The hair conditioner will soften your shirt more than regular detergent. After about five minutes, rinse the shirt and hang it up to dry. You just saved yourself time and money.

    Hair conditioner is also great at preventing rust. Just apply a light coat to things that are exposed to moisture like door hinges or bathroom faucets and it'll keep the rust away.

    So remember, a little bit of hair conditioner can help cut your spending in a big way.

    View Poll

     

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    Hand drawing Business Goals Chart with marker on transparent wipe board.
    Ivelin Radkov/AlamyThinking big helps you spend small.
    By Karen Cordaway

    In a recent survey on back-to-school promotions, the National Retail Federation revealed coupons, in-store promotions and advertising inserts still carry the most sway when it comes to shopping for back-to-school. If you're tech savvy, maybe you're guilty of liking every coupon website page on Facebook. Perhaps, you even get a 140-character dose of the latest deal updates on Twitter to stay current on sales.

    Whether shopping this time of year, for the holidays or any other time, ask yourself, does social media cause you to spend less when purchasing necessities or more? After all of this effort, if shopping still tends to throw a monkey wrench in goals for spending while at the store, consider forming new shopping habits. Instead of chasing every discount, consider linking your shopping to dream-based goals.

    No matter what new habit you're looking to reinforce, Tom Corley, author of the bestselling book, "Rich Habits" and soon-to-be released book, "Change Your Habits, Change Your Life," emphasizes creating habits around meaningful goals.

    Through his research, Corley discovered the reason why most people fail to achieve their goals. He explains that it's largely due to the goal-setting process. "In order to develop meaningful goals, goals you want to pursue, you need to create those goals around your dreams and wishes. So, the starting point to goal-setting is dream-setting," he says. Here are some tips:

    1. Take your budget along for the trip. Dorethia Conner, financial coach, author of the book "Money Chat" and website owner at MoneyChat.com, understands traps that people fall into while shopping. She encourages her clients that use spreadsheets to print their budgets out and bring them on the trip to help them stick to their budget.

    She explains that they can fold them up and keep them in their wallets, so they'll have a concrete, visual reminder to cue the new habit of only spending what they can afford when they go to reach for their money. Conner adds that crossing out the former amount and subtracting what you just purchased right then is vital, too. Updating the total keeps you from estimating in your head and potentially spending more than you planned. This approach is especially helpful if you need to head to another store. "It holds them accountable to themselves and helps stop impulse purchases," she explains.

    2. Take time to get a discount even before you shop. Radio and web producer Joel Larsgaard for the Clark Howard Show and website owner at SaveOutsideTheBox.com also makes it a habit to keep a budget and emphasizes that not going over is key. After checking it, he makes an effort to maximize his dollars on a regular basis. Larsgaard suggests buying a discounted gift card to get anticipated purchases for less. He adds that choosing stores where you often shop from a site like GiftcardGranny.com can work to your wallet's advantage. You get the gift card at a discount so you are spending less before you even begin to shop. If you purchase an item on sale, you can stack the discount.

    3. Take advantage of discounts where you shop on a regular basis. Larsgaard makes it a habit to buy gift cards when he knows he's about to make a big purchase. "For instance, I just bought some new windows for my rental home and I knew roughly what I was going to spend. So I bought a discounted gift card and saved an additional $45 on my purchase," he says.

    4. Take a look at what you have before buying clothes. Kathleen Celmins, website owner at FrugalPortland.com, makes a clean sweep before shopping for clothes. She strongly believes that you shouldn't go shopping until you have cleared out room in your closet. She thinks this will give you a clearer picture of what you actually need. "You'll be motivated by that instead of being swayed by the more expensive fashions the store is trying to get you to buy," she says. This approach can also be applied to grocery shopping or stocking up on any other items needed for your household. Shop your pantry first. I don't know how many times we've purchased duplicate items unnecessarily.

    5. Take a minute to shop online if it stops you from overspending. Though there are certain things I have to get in-store, I personally find it easier to keep better tabs on what I'm spending when I shop online. I can more readily click away from flashy sales and keep myself in the sections where I need to shop. I don't get lured into looking at items I wasn't intending to buy. I can also check in on my subtotal whenever I like to see where I stand without needing a calculator at a store. I find that I tend to be more efficient and can cut back on my shopping time.

    Smart spending patterns can be established with a little planning and practice. Use these tips to better guide your spending when planning a shopping trip. Find a way to link your habits and purchases to dream-based goals so you're more likely to succeed. Remembering the big picture can help you avoid buying impulsively or overspending.

    Karen Cordaway is a teacher and writer who currently shares money saving tips on her website, MoneySavingEnthusiast.com.

     

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    Used Furniture Store
    Getty ImagesShop secondhand to save money on essentials for your first apartment or house.
    By Trent Hamm

    There is great joy to be found when moving into your first apartment or your first home. You finally have space all to yourself. You can decorate how you want! You can spend your time how you want!

    Sadly, that initial burst of joy is often deflated by the realization that you need a lot of little things when you first move into a place of your own. For many people, that means an online shopping spree on Amazon or a trip to the local department store.

    Instead, consider making your first stop the local secondhand store. Many of the items you need to set up an apartment or a home for the first time or in a new area can be found at a secondhand shop, which means you'll cut back on that big burst of spending that can really hurt your wallet.

    Here are nine items to purchase secondhand for your new place.

    Silverware is a requirement for eating food at home without making a complete mess. Fortunately, most secondhand stores have a selection of silverware on hand. You might not have perfect matching silverware, but you'll have more than enough for your needs at an inexpensive price.

    Dishes are also a dining necessity. Again, it's easy to find plenty of plates and bowls at a secondhand store for a pittance, though you may not find a matching set. Still, you're far better off buying two or three partial sets for pennies than shelling out the money for a single matching set from a store.

    Glasses and cups for consuming beverages are another household essential that's perfect for a secondhand purchase. As with silverware and dishes, you'll likely not find a matching set, but what you will find are many cups and glasses to fill your cupboards at an inexpensive price.

    A toaster or toaster oven both perform the task of toasting bread, bagels, English muffins and other such items. A toaster oven goes further, making it easy to make grilled sandwiches and cook small items. Both can easily be found at secondhand stores in working order and can make for a valuable addition to your kitchen to help you with food preparation.

    Lamps are simple items that are often found in abundance at secondhand stores. All varieties of lamps, from desk lamps and floor lamps to clip lamps and table lamps, can usually be found secondhand at a very reasonable price.

    A dining table is an essential piece of furniture in most apartments, as it provides a place to eat and share meals. You can often find simple dining tables at most secondhand stores, and they often come with simple, solid chairs. The key thing to remember is you can buy an inexpensive starter set, and then upgrade later when you have money to easily do so.

    A side table is often a key part of a living room, providing a place to put a beverage, snack plate or remote controls as you watch TV, study or read a book. Side tables can be incredibly inexpensive; it's easy to find one secondhand for well under $10.

    A bed frame is a key piece of furniture for those who have moved beyond the "mattress on the floor" style of bedroom decor. Bed frames can be expensive if you purchase them at a furniture store, but there are often many varieties of metal and wooden bed frames you can find at secondhand stores if you shop around. It's important to remember that bed frames are purely functional items meant to be covered with a mattress and other decorative materials, so don't worry about beauty.

    Decor might seem like an unusual item to buy secondhand, but it's easy to find things such as picture frames and wall hangings in secondhand stores, particularly in more upscale neighborhoods. If you're creative, you can find a variety of decor items at a very nice discount.

    One final suggestion: Don't buy used furniture unless it comes from a trusted source. Used furniture can be a source of bedbugs or other unwanted travelers that you simply don't want in your home. Solid wood items are fine, but be wary of upholstered used furniture.

    The thing to always remember when buying secondhand items is that they're replaceable as time goes on. They can serve you for a long time if needed, but they simply provide an inexpensive and functional solution that can significantly trim the costs of setting up a new home.

    Trent Hamm is the founder of the personal finance website TheSimpleDollar.com, which provides consumers with resources and tools to make informed financial decisions.

     

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    By Jessica Hulett

    There's a reason disposable cleaning products like wipes and sponges are so popular -- they make keeping your home fresh and shiny much easier.

    But they also often come with a higher price tag than that of their more laborious counterparts. Naturally everyone can decide to pay a premium for convenience, but it's still important to be aware of how much we're actually spending on that convenience.

    We looked at some popular cleaning products to illustrate just how much they'll cost over the course of a year, and some less expensive -- and more sustainable -- alternatives. We searched grocery stores, drugstores, and big box stores to determine a "standard price" that you're likely to pay, and estimated how much a typical consumer would use in a year.

    So, are these disposable cleaning products worth your money?

     

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