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9 Financial Lessons to Learn from “Downton Abbey” (Spoiler Alert)

By Jacqueline Curtis

downton abbeyIf you were one of the 8.5 million viewers who sighed when the latest season of “Downton Abbey” came to an end, join the club – I’m a diehard fan. Blame it on my love for all things British and the amazing costumes – and, of course, the juicy storyline and gasp-inducing plot twists as well.

But while “Downton Abbey” might simply be seen as a bit of fun for a Sunday night, I’ve noticed a recurring theme that colors literally every part of the show, characters, and plot: money. After all, the entire premise of the show is to prove that between the “have” and the “have nots,” everyone has their own challenges. With this in mind, I started watching the show with renewed interest in the theme of money and financial security.

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How to Start Urban Beekeeping – The Importance of Honey Bees

By Michael Lewis

honey beeThe bee has always occupied a special place in man’s psyche. Young children learn the origins of babies with stories of “the birds and the bees,” while their industry is so respected that a person engaged in intense activity is “as busy as a bee.” “Spelling bees” and “quilting bees” are so named because a meeting of people working together resembles the scenes within a beehive. Closely guarded information is “none of your beeswax,” and the flappers of the 1920s popularized the “bee’s knees” to express the coolness of an object or activity.

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Pros & Cons of Owning and Managing Rental Properties

By Mary McCoy

rental propertyThe idea of fuss-free income beckons many people into owning and managing rental properties, such as apartments, duplexes, guest homes, and even large houses. From the outside looking in, it appears that property owners simply sit back and collect rent checks on the first of each month, with little additional work. On paper, it’s a lazy (or savvy) worker’s dream come true.

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Best New Bank Account Promotions, Offers & Free Money

By David Bakke

stack cashWith many financial institutions experiencing a decrease in profits, banks are vying for your business. This is good news for you, because instead of just offering standard perks like no fees, free checking, or a free pen when you sign up for an account, some banks are raising the stakes with cold hard cash, giveaways, and great interest-bearing products.

April is a good month for bank promotions from both big and small banks. Banks are giving away a lot of free cash to attract new customers and get them to open up accounts. The banks listed below have some pretty sweet deals that you should take advantage of if you are in the market for a new bank.

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How to Use a 21-Day Financial Fast to Improve Spending Habits

By Jacqueline Curtis

saving moneyIn “The 21-Day Financial Fast: Your Path to Financial Peace and Freedom,”¬†financial advisor and Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary outlines the “financial fast,” a sort of money diet that promises to break bad spending habits, create a plan to become debt free, and set yourself on a better financial course for the future. While on a financial fast, you can’t spend any unnecessary money – at all. Unless it’s food, shelter, or something else essential to survival, you’re committing to making do with what you already have.

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8 Best Mobile Coupon Apps to Save Money Shopping With Your Smartphone

By Jacqueline Curtis

using a smartphone while shoppingExtreme couponing can save you a lot of money, but it can also take a lot of energy. Fumbling through newspapers, clipping the best deals, and waiting for them to scan at checkout can make any quick supermarket trip an epic errand. People with kids or full-time jobs typically don’t have the time to scour the Internet and print out, organize, and use anything more than the occasional coupon.

That’s where couponing apps can come to the rescue. The ability to upload, “clip,” and scan coupons directly on your smartphone can make the process a lot more efficient.

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10 Best Affordable Spring Break Destinations on the Cheap

By Brian Martucci

outer banksDepending on where you live, spring can be a frustrating time of year. For folks in more temperate parts of the country, late March brings warm breezes and an explosion of color from early flowers and tree buds. But in the mountainous west, the U.S.’s northern tier, and most of Canada, winter’s grip remains tight, and cabin fever continues. And down south, March and April mark the return of the uncomfortable heat that can last through October.

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Obamacare History – Winners & Losers of the Affordable Care Act

By Michael Lewis

obamacareThe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as “Obamacare,” is destined to be one of the most controversial legislative acts of the 21st century. It is both a symbol of compassion and good intentions, as well as a monument to the complexity of a modern society with conflicting goals and philosophies.

Supporters claim that it can lead to affordable healthcare for all Americans for the first time in the nation’s history, while detractors believe it may destroy the national healthcare system and bankrupt the country. What is the truth?

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Series I Savings Bonds: What They Are and How to Buy Them

By Brian Martucci

savings bondsThe financial crisis of the late 2000s may be an increasingly distant memory, but it has left a persistent legacy: stubbornly low interest rates on low-risk, low-reward investment vehicles. Rates on savings accounts, money market funds and government bonds remain at or below the rate of inflation. Of course, interest rates on consumer-facing mortgages and auto loans remain historically low as well. Many economists believe that the American economy wouldn’t be doing nearly as well without this tailwind.

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How Much Renters Insurance Do I Need and What Does It Cover?

By Brian Martucci

insuranceIncredible real estate deals in select buyer’s markets notwithstanding, there are plenty of advantages to renting over buying. In most cases, renters enjoy more flexibility and mobility; they also avoid responsibility for the maintenance, repair, and renovation projects in which homeowners (and landlords) are obligated to invest.

But renters do face one apparent disadvantage: They’re not eligible for homeowners insurance. However, thanks to renters insurance, this is no big deal, as it provides many of the benefits of homeowners insurance, including protection from personal liability and coverage for damaged, destroyed, or stolen possessions. For people who don’t own a home, renters insurance is the answer to homeowners insurance.

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10 Beautiful Home Decorating Ideas for Warm Weather on a Budget

By Mary McCoy

springtimeEach year, at the end of a long, cold winter, millions of Americans breathe a collective sigh of relief with the dawn of spring. For many, warmer temperatures equate to spring cleaning, open windows, fresh breezes, and a blurred line between indoor and outdoor decor.

No matter how you celebrate the arrival of warm weather, make sure you update your home so that you and your family can enjoy the energy and vitality of the turning seasons. You don’t have to spend a fortune with these inexpensive and classic updates that will leave your home looking fresh and bright.

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10 Weighted Body Bar Exercises You Can Do at Home

By Laura Williams

body bar exercisesOne of the best ways to shape up and add muscle definition to your body is to start strength training. This doesn’t mean you need to head to the closest gym and start training for a body building competition – all this means is that you should use some form of weight, whether it’s your own body weight or an external source of added weight, during exercise at least two times per week.

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10 Best Cities to Buy a Home – Buyer’s Markets in the United States

By Brian Martucci

portland, maineIf you owned a home between 2005 and 2009, there is a strong chance that you lost a good chunk of change on your investment. If you were lucky enough to sell at the top of the bubble and rent during the subsequent downturn, you’re probably still reveling in the afterglow of your fortuitous decision.

Fortunately, many U.S. housing markets have recovered (at least somewhat) from the trauma of the late 2000s. Some pockets of weakness remain, and while just one-sixth of U.S. markets have recovered to pre-recession price levels, things are looking up.

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10 Affordable Travel Tips to Stay Within Your Vacation Budget

By Jacqueline Curtis

travelIt seems like every time I log into Facebook or Instagram, I’m hit with a barrage of pictures from friends traveling the world. Whether they’re backpacking across Europe, sightseeing in Asia, or exploring South American jungles, it’s hard for me not to get a little travel envy. With two kids and a mortgage, though, dropping everything to jet set around the world just isn’t in the cards – or in our budget.

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What’s the Best Online Tax Preparation Software? TaxACT vs TurboTax vs H&R Block

By Kira Botkin

taxes-online-computerAround February 1st, advertisements for tax preparation services start flooding TVs, radios, and newspapers. Every company wants you to know how great its services are, and that it can get you a bigger refund and will make tax filing easier for you. Essentially, tax preparation companies tell you anything they think will appeal to you and get you to use their service.

However, not all tax services are created equal. Many have significant benefits and drawbacks when compared to other services and for different tax situations. What follows is a comparison of three of the largest tax prep services: H&R Block, TurboTax, and TaxACT.

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