Blog Posts by Dayana Yochim, The Motley Fool

  • Fiscal Fitness: Put Your Plan in Motion

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesThe Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.

    If you've been following along during our month-long Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp, great. But it's not good enough.

    I hate to play bad cop, but the point of this exercise -- finding at least $2,000 in savings we didn't know we had -- is to actually get something done, not just read along with the class.

    So if you've gotten this far and not picked up the phone to lower your cable bill, trimmed your supermarket spending, made some cash on stuff in your closet, stopped overpaying for basic bank services, or followed through on anything we've covered in the other 16 savings articles in this series, then it's time to step it up.

    In this, our next-to-last virtual money-saving class, you're going to take at least one concrete step that measurably improves your financial

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  • Fiscal Fitness: Score a "free lunch" that's genuinely free

    The Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.

    Need some help around the office? A haircut? A new filling?

    Services like these are among the first things to go when the belt starts tightening around our budgets. But you can still get your bangs trimmed, go for a massage, even get some help organizing your filing cabinet for free (or at least at a deep, deep discount).

    Yeah, I know -- by now everyone's hip to the fact that the ubiquitous "free lunch" hardly ever comes completely gratis. Still, there are ways to get otherwise costly services for a fraction of the price if you know where to look.

    First, two things to consider:

    1. Location matters. Big cities, college towns (or places with other formal training schools), and areas with active Chambers of Commerce tend to offer the most opportunities to
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  • Fiscal Fitness: Stop Robbing Your Own Bank Account

    The Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.


    Surcharges, maintenance fees, courtesy services, setup costs -- what banks charge consumers these days gives new meaning to the phrase "bank heist."

    Of course, no one's under the illusion that automatic bill payment, direct deposit, ATM access, and free toasters are offered out of sheer gratitude. Estimates from last year show that banks raked in nearly $40 billion in overdraft fees alone during 2009. Plus, they're desperate to raise fees wherever they can before new regulations put the kibosh on questionable practices.

    But desperate banks aren't the only ones to blame for the fee frenzy. More and more customers are in cahoots with the very institutions skimming a tidy sum from our accounts. Make a few stops at the Kwik-E-Mart ATM, fall a penny below your

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  • Fiscal Fitness: Take the "Guilt" Out of Your Guilty Pleasures

    The Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.

    Fountain soda. There, I said it in a public forum and I can't take it back.

    I spend $1.79 several mornings a week just to get my diet soda fix on my way to work. I do so even knowing that I could save $1.54 a day -- $30.80 a month -- simply waiting until I get to work and purchasing a can of the stuff out of our 25-cent pop vending machine.

    It may seem like a wasteful expenditure to most, but a fountain soda -- that perfectly proportioned mix of carbonation and syrup -- is my guilty pleasure. And I'm not going to give it up anytime soon.

    And now, a word from your inner party pooper
    Ask nearly anyone to name their guilty pleasure and I bet that, like me, they're able to pinpoint to the dime what they spend on their indulgence of choice. It's not that these things

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  • Fiscal Fitness: Now’s the Time to Sweat the Small Stuff

    The Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.

    My approach to budgeting is pretty simple: Sweat the big stuff.

    Big stuff equals big savings. So only after I complete Step 1 -- shaving triple- or even quadruple-digit dollars off my biggest-ticket expenses -- do I bother to move on to Step 2. And as you can probably guess from the title of this piece, Step 2 (and all others that follow) is all about sweating the smaller stuff.

    The key is to sweat the right small stuff first so that you don't wear yourself out and give up the savings exercise entirely.

    It's not all small stuff

    Despite best-selling books pointing out the contrary, not all small stuff is created equal, especially when it comes to finding ways to save money. When viewed through the filter of your finances, it's pretty easy to spot which

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  • Fiscal Fitness: Save $157.86 Just by Asking

    The Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.

    A serious customer with cash to spend can really call the shots these days on everything from electronics to housing to a root canal. Really.

    A 2007 Consumer Reports survey found that 90% of customers who negotiated with a salesperson got a price break on at least one purchase over a three-year period. They nabbed deals on furniture, electronics, appliances and even medical care, netting the best of the hagglers savings of $50 or more. And that was before the economy went all kamikaze.

    In other words, it really does pay to ask, particularly these days when retailers and service providers are struggling to get any cash flowing through the registers.

    But not everyone is comfortable asking whether there's any wiggle room in the price. So today's

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  • Fiscal Fitness: Get Cash for Your Castoffs

    The Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.

    Stop picking the spinach from your teeth with that unredeemed gift card, and stop using that old MP3 player as a paperweight. There's cash to be had for your castoffs -- even if it's just $40 for an early-generation iPhone or 70% of the value for the remaining balance on a gift card.

    There is a market for everything and a place to hawk it to the highest bidder. So in our mission to dig up $2,000 in savings opportunities this month, let's clean out our closets, wallets, and anywhere else we're stashing stuff and make some money.

    Here's a brief rundown of some services that can help turn your trash into cash. Start your sales research here (this is by no means an all-inclusive list). Even better, if you have successfully used another service, share it with the entire

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  • Fiscal Fitness: 3 Ways to Save $100 on Groceries

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesThe Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.

    There are those who keep color-coded files with meticulously clipped coupons indexed by category, retailer, and expiration date. And then there's the rest of us.

    The good news is that big supermarket savings can be had by those of us who can barely take the time to jot down a shopping list … or even remember where we put that 50-cent coupon for our favorite yogurt.

    Here are three tips for "the rest of us" (meaning those who know they aren't ever going to be Super Coupon Shoppers) that can add up to as much as $100 in grocery-store savings. (For those who want to test-drive the ways of dedicated deal shoppers, there are some more advanced savings strategies at the end of this post. And if you happen to actually be a Super Supermarket Shopper, please school

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  • Fiscal Fitness: Stop Paying to Heat the Whole Neighborhood

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesThe Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.

    For generations, parents have scolded their offspring about needless exposure to the elements. The most common admonishment: "Close that door! I'm not paying to heat the whole neighborhood!"

    That advice never ceases to be relevant, particularly given the rising cost of utilities. According to the Energy Information Administration, about 42% of the average household's utility costs are devoted to heating/cooling. (The remaining breakdown is 14% on heating water, 36% on lighting/appliances, and 9% on refrigeration.)

    Before you clear the backyard to install a windmill, try a little elbow grease. Big savings -- financially and atmospherically -- can be had by giving your home's biggest energy hogs (heating and cooling systems and major appliances) a little

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  • Fiscal Fitness: Go on a Cash-Only Diet

    Getty ImagesGetty ImagesThe Motley Fool's Fiscal Fitness Boot Camp is in session! Every weekday this month, we'll walk you through a fresh money-saving/money-making tip as we work toward finding $2,000 in savings you didn't know you had.


    Having a problem curbing the urge to splurge? Blame it on your brain - that, and how easy credit card companies have made it to spend your way into the hole without feeling a thing.

    The good news is that the no-brainer splurge cure comes down to a single four-letter word: C-a-s-h.

    That's right, if you want to cut your spending, simply leave your credit cards at home. Seriously, toss them behind a major appliance or bury them in the cat's litter box and spend the next few days, week, or longer subsisting on a cash-only diet.


    Why cash? Because using actual currency (not "play money," or non-cash types of tender like credit cards) significantly curbs spending -- and not just because we're short on change at the checkout counter. Forking over the

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