Blog Posts by Dayana Yochim, The Motley Fool

  • Financial Aid Offers: How much are you really getting and how to ask for more

    Graduation season is here, and the same scene is playing out across the country: High-school seniors line up to accept their diplomas and shuffle away to put in face time with the family before sneaking off to celebrate graduation with their pals. At the same time, pride-filled parents dab away tears of joy that turn to panic-y thoughts during the final measures of "Pomp and Circumstance": Our child got into college; now how the heck are we going to pay for it?

    Luckily, there's some relief waiting in the mailbox. Mixed in with the pile of "happy graduation" cards are financial aid offers -- letters outlining who is willing to pay how much and for what to educate your offspring.

    In simpler terms, the financial aid package answers the question: "How much are we on the hook to pay for college?" The answer, however, isn't as straightforward as the question. Here's how to assess what you've been offered, find out if there's wiggle room, and, most importantly, how to make sure

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  • Women Spend 399 Hours a Year Shopping

    With a nod to Sex & the City's Carrie Bradshaw, I used to joke that shopping was my cardio. It turns out that the punchline is actually less "funny ha-ha" and more "funny because it's true" than you might have imagined.

    According to a poll of 2,000 female shopper-gatherers by market research firm OnePoll.com, the average woman spends 399 hours and 46 minutes on 301 shopping trips a year. That adds up to 8 1/2 years of shopping over 63 years -- or 3,148 days (25,184 hours) of retail therapy over one's lifetime.

    Retail therapy or routine errands?
    Before we cue the survey highlight reel and accuse the fairer sex of rampant shopaholism, consider two important points:

    Households don't automatically restock themselves when they're out of milk, toothpaste, and proper gym shoes. Women tend to do the bulk of the shopping for the entire family. In other words, those aren't warm-up laps at the strip mall. They're a chore.

    It's not like gents spend their spare time toiling to find

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  • 7 Signs of a Student Aid Scam

    Every year, consumers lose more than $100 million to student financial aid scams, according to Finaid.org. It's not a stretch to see why. Finding money for college is rife with complexity and confusion:

    • Large fiscal outlay required? Check.
    • Complex financial aid process? Check.
    • Deadline pressures? Check.
    • A loved one's future at stake? Check.


    With deadlines for applying for aid approaching, 'tis the season for student aid scams.

    The price of convenience

    Applying for federal, state or college aid, loans, grants and/or scholarships is time-consuming, involved, confusing and pretty much the exact opposite of fun. Shady types love to take advantage of this.

    The most common pitch involves a company that offers to apply for federal student aid on your behalf -- for a fee, of course. It's equivalent to paying someone to incorrectly register your car at the DMV. Customers often end up fixing the errors on their own -- digging

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  • Supermarket Surprise! Smaller Servings, Same Price

    Out of toilet paper so soon? Who the heck ate all of the Haagen Dazs? Why is this grilled cheese sandwich less cheesy than before?

    Complaints like these - household staples getting used up faster; food not lasting as long -- are becoming more common.

    No, members of your household aren't being wasteful or taking extra helpings of dessert. Those boxes of pasta, rolls of paper towels, jars of pesto and packages of hot dogs really are getting smaller. But manufacturers hope that you haven't noticed.

    Same look, less filling!
    A recent Consumer Reports investigation found that the amount of dish detergent, toilet tissue, and first aid spray in those same old containers has shrunk as much as 20%. Here are a handful of items that are slimmer than they used to be:

    Product

    Old size

    New size

    Difference

    Tropicana orange juice

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  • Should You Switch Banks?

    You know how banks now have to give you more notice before hiking your credit card interest rates? And how they're no longer allowed to charge those crazy penalty fees on top of other penalty fees? Great stuff, right?

    That'll be $144, please.

    That's the minimum cost -- $12 a month -- of having a Chase Total Checking account if you don't maintain a $1,500 minimum balance (or $5,000 across all your deposit accounts) or make $500 in monthly direct deposits.

    These new fees from JPMorgan Chase take effect Feb. 8. And though I'm sure you're tempted, don't hastily blow off the bank for greener pastures just yet. The grass on bank lawns everywhere is getting browner by the day.

    What do you mean, I owe YOU money?
    Costs like these on formerly "free" accounts have been creeping onto bank statements lately, ever since new consumer protection laws capped some of banks' more usurious fees.

    With new limits on how much they can shake down customers for every infraction,

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  • Help For Your Failed Financial Resolutions

    Just a few weeks ago we were all swearing that 2011 was the year that we would [insert ambitious financial goal]. But then the second week of January rolled around and [insert daily distractions] threw us off track.

    If your resolve to spruce up your finances this year is starting to wane, don't throw in the towel just yet.

    How does putting a savings plan in place, ignoring it for months, and reveling in your success at the end of 2011 sound to you? If it seems like less drudgery than what you had mapped out, then give this four-step savings shortcut a shot.

    STEP 1: TAKE A PAY CUT.
    No one puts $20 in their wallet in order to save it. It's there to spend, so spend is what we do.

    That's why the first shortcut to help you secure your financial future is to give yourself less money to spend. As they say, out of sight, out of mind. And so it goes with money.

    Take a couple of minutes - yes, right now - to complete this task:

    · Pick a dollar amount you can bear to part with every

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  • Dear Loved Ones: It’s All Yours!

    'Tis the season to bond with loved ones -- to sip hot toddies by the fire and hope that none of your regifts are recognizable to this year's recipient.

    As long as you're filling out gift tags and place cards -- and before visiting family members start getting on your nerves -- it's a good time to check and see whether you've jotted down the right names on your beneficiary forms.

    Drudgery? Yeah, sure. But if you really need a break from the "family dynamics" for a while, updating your beneficiary forms is an awesome excuse for why you disappeared for a few hours.


    Which accounts need beneficiary designations?
    Any assets disbursed outside a will or not accounted for in a trust require a beneficiary designation. That list includes common kinds of accounts we all have, such as:

    • Retirement accounts: IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, 457s, pensions, and self-employment retirement plans (e.g., Keoghs).
    • Banking services: Credit unions, checking accounts, and savings
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  • Make Money Buying Makeup

    Who says men are unwilling to stop and ask for directions?

    For decades, investors have looked to ladies for signs about which way the economy was headed. During the Great Depression, the length of our skirts revealed how reserved (or racy) consumers felt about our financial means.

    In the early 1990s, the tea leaves shifted, and cosmetics sales became the gauge for consumer sentiment. The so-called "Lipstick Indicator" was coined by Leonard Lauder, former chairman of Estee Lauder (which trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol "EL"). He noticed that sales of lipstick (a relatively cheap splurge) were outpacing purchases of higher-priced indulgences - a signal that correlated with consumers' uneasiness about the economy.

    Use female intuition to boost your net worth
    While my fellow stock picking chick Alyce Lomax and I appreciate Wall Street's acknowledgement of the power of female intuition, we're not pushovers for just any pretty-face-products

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  • Stock Picks with Chicks: One Word, Ladies: Plastics.

    There are two things that people never leave behind at a potluck: their kids and their Tupperware. Seriously, have you ever seen anyone repark the car to fetch the lid to the "Tall Entree" GladWare container they brought to the party?

    Heck, my mom's kitchen cupboards are still stocked with '70s-era "burping" bowls in avocado green and citrus-orange plastic drinking cups. (Our neighbor, Dotty, was a Tupperware Lady.)

    Tupperware is more than just some plastic container to keep leftovers fresh for the next couple of days. It's such an icon of its product category that -- like Kleenex, Xerox, and Band-Aid -- "Tupperware" has become a synonym for any old food storage container.

    So Alyce Lomax and I decided to dig into the company - Tupperware Brands Corp. - to see if the company stock has what it takes to remain fresh in today's economy. Here's our take on this investment idea. (For more details, see our Tupperware write-up on Fool.com.)

    For more investing ideas from

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  • A Supermarket Stock for Your Shopping List

    Who here gets excited to go to Safeway? Anyone? Anyone? Exactly.

    Similarly, most grocery store stocks are
    about as appetizing as that mystery dish hiding at the back of the fridge. With one notable exception...

    Whole Foods Market -- besides being a a store that makes shopping an experience, not a chore -- is one of the few supermarkets that we Stock Pick Chicks deem worthy of our investing dollars.

    Yes, it boasts impressive revenue growth, high margins, and manageable debt. But what makes it particularly appealing to female investors like us are a the intangible positive factors that so many male investors brush off as "soft metrics" when they crunch the numbers.

    Sure, the competition might be cheaper, but when fellow stock picking chick Alyce Lomax and I dug in, we found that on so many levels Whole Foods makes a much tastier investment:

    What do you think of Whole Foods -- the store AND the stock?

    Join us next week for our next installment of Stock

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