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New Frugal You: Archive of questions and expert answers

Each week, frugality expert Gary Foreman will tackle a reader's question about saving, budgeting or any other topic that helps you hang onto your money.

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Closing joint bank accounts after a breakup -- On joint credit card accounts, problems arise when you carry a balance. Legally, that debt belongs to both of you, even after a breakup ... (See Close joint accounts)

Pros and cons of charging automatic payments to a credit card -- Charging automatic payments on a credit card can be beneficial for busy consumers, but it also has its faults. Here are the pros and cons to think about ... (See Automatic payments)

Personal loan consolidation won't help win a mortgage -- In trying to qualify for a mortgage, it probably won't help to consolidate several small personal loans into a big one with a higher rate ... (See Consolidate)

Should I close card accounts to get a mortgage? -- While mortgage lenders want to minimize their risk, they usually just want credit card accounts paid off, not closed down ... (See Card accounts and mortgages)

Debt settlement vs. credit counseling: similar aims, different means -- Both debt settlement companies and credit counselors run ads offering help in getting out of debt. But their tactics are very different ... (See Debt reduction)

Prepaying principal, paying ahead not the same -- Your auto lender would probably prefer you just pay ahead, since that won't cost them anything. But if you want to lower your costs, prepay the principal ... (See Prepaying)

Taking over parents' finances: first steps -- Don't wait until it's too late, get information now and make necessary changes while they still have the capacity and legal authority to do so ... (See Parents' finances)

Pros and cons of becoming a first-time landlord -- If you're eyeing a property as a potential rental, do the math to see if it will make a profit, but also decide whether you want to do what a landlord does ... (See Landlord)

How to keep but not go broke with expensive friends -- Unless you want them to visit you in the poorhouse, understand why you want to match your high-spending pals dollar for dollar, then find less-expensive alternatives ... (See Expensive friends)

Tips for turning your part-time hobby into a full-time job -- Is it possible to turn your hobby into a full time job? Yes, but it's not easy and there's no guarantee of success ... (See From hobby to job)

To fight high energy bills, find the likely suspects -- An energy bill higher than the norm An energy bill that stays stubbornly high is cause for investigation -- starting with the big utilities that consume the most power ... (See Energy bills)

Saving money versus paying off debt -- Does it make sense to put money in a savings account while you still are repaying debts ... (See Savings)

Options you haven't thought of for raising quick cash -- Cash crunch? Yes, you should look for more income. But turn over every stone, including utility refunds, pawnshops, eBay and adjusting your withholding ... (See Quick cash)

Checklist for new graduates looking to rent 1st apartment -- New graduates faced with a tough job market have to crunch the numbers before deciding whether they can afford to leave the nest and get an apartment of their own ... (See 1st apartment)

Death, wills, remarriages can all change inheritances -- State law governs what happens when a person dies without a will. Typically they assume that any assets of the deceased should go to a surviving spouse before going to a child ... (See Lost inheritance)

Don't be a victim of home burglaries -- Home robbers prize homes easy to rob and hard to get caught robbing. These steps will prevent them from seeing your house as being on either list ... (See Preventing home burglaries)

Ways to save on dry cleaning -- Is dry cleaning your work clothes eating away at your pay check? Save that money by dry cleaning at home ... (See dry cleaning)

Recycling, rebuilding old furniture as a DIY money-maker -- It's the ultimate in frugality -- taking old furniture and recreating it into something new. It can even make you a few bucks ... (See Fixing up furniture)

Should I tap into my 401(k) to buy my retirement haven? -- As you near retirement, it can be tempting to use 401(k) distributions to fund big purchases. There are, however, lots of rules to follow and tax implications that you must be aware of before making a decision. ... (See Tapping 401(k) )

Don't blow your inheritance -- A large inheritance can create the temptation to spend and lend on a large scale. How do you balance your wants and needs (and those of others close to you) while keeping your newly obtained wealth intact? ... (See Inheritance)

Managing your fashion-forward teen's clothing allowance -- Keeping up with the latest fashion trends is a high priority for many teens. A clothing allowance is a great way for a parent to teach fiscal responsibility and keep the family's fashion budget under control. ... (See Teen's clothing allowance)

What to know before jumping into a rent-to-own lease -- It's both a lease to rent a home and a deal to buy it, rolled into a single document, so it has more moving parts and quirks than either document individually. In other words, study up and get expert help ... (See Rent-to-own)

Stretching a food budget to the extreme -- Stretching out a food budget of only $100 to feed a family of three for a month will require you to admit you need help, and then throw every trick in the cookbook at the problem ... (See Extreme food budget stretching)

Dealing with $8,000 card debt hidden from husband -- Whether you reveal the hidden debt to your husband is up to you, but you need to change habits to stop it from growing and get a plan to pay it off ... (See Hidden debt)

A diet of fresh fruits and vegetables needn't eat up your budget -- Working more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet is healthy, but it need not be expensive, if you shop seasonally and buy carefully ... (See Frugal veggies)

Doing the math to calculate your retirement savings goal -- While everyone's desired retirement goal is different, you can, with just a bit of math, come up with a rough idea of your savings goal. Here's how ... (See Retirement savings goal)

10 tips for having a frugal wedding -- Start by deciding on one or two items most important to you both. Splurge on those, scrimp on the rest and you'll avoid a runaway bridal budget ... (See Frugal wedding)

Withdrawing vs. borrowing from 401(k) to pay credit card debt -- When downsizing or job loss makes credit card debt unbearable, the 401(k) money looks tempting. But whether you take it or borrow against it, know the consequences ... (See 401(k))

Getting your family to eat generic grocery store brands -- When your family already likes the taste of a name brand, switching to a generic store brand isn't easy. But with some sleuthing, you can improve your odds ... (See Store brands)

3 keys to successful yard sales: prepare, advertise, organize -- If If you just want to clean clutter, do the minimum. But to make above-average dough, you need to create a better-than-average yard sale ... (See Yard sale tips)

Frugal freezer tips for proper meat storage -- Buying meat in bulk and freezing it can save you hundreds of dollars in food costs, but beware the dreaded freezer burn. Here's how to avoid ite ... (See Freezing meat)

How to check whether your parents left you an inheritance -- Emotions, time and distance can cloud memories, so if you think you may be missing out on an inheritance, go for the records ... (See Inheritance)

Tips for mothers trying to find part-time work -- A mother's schedule makes it harder to find a part-time job, but not impossible, if you just stop thinking like a job-seeker. Instead, think like a needs-filler ... (See Mom seeks work)

Making hard budget choices when work hours are cut back -- A 10 percent reduction in hours means a sudden drop in pay and new budgeting choices. They won't be easy, but here's where to start looking ... (See Hour cutback budget)

Tips for setting up a teen's clothing allowance -- With their own allowances, teens make their own choices -- and some will be doozies -- but you'll reduce friction and sneak in a financial lesson or two ... (See Teen allowance)

Pluses, minuses of renting out a spare bedroom to a tenant -- Turning an empty room into extra cash seems easy, but think through whether you're willing to put up with loss of privacy and other inconveniences ... (See Renting out a spare room)

13 inexpensive Valentine's Day ideas -- Popular culture invites you to judge your mate's devotion based on how much they spend. Consider these 13 ideas and avoid an unfrugal accident ... (See Valentine ideas)

How to keep the costs low on a kitchen remodeling -- This common home improvement job can be costly, so choose materials carefully and consider doing some of the job yourself ... (See Low-cost kitchen)

Mmmm, cheap: Finding frugal food, recipes -- When you come home tired with hungry mouths to feed, it's easy to take the prepared meal route. A bit of research and planning will yield less costly and more healthy results ... (See Cheap food)

Couch worn out? Less expensive alternatives to buying a new sofa -- Is your old couch about to give up the ghost? From deep cleaning to slipcovers to reupholstering, you have options other than to buy another ... (See Replacing old sofa)

8 emotional spending triggers - do you know yours? -- Budget plans usually start with a month or so of data gathering, but that's the easy part. Evaluating why you spend what you do is the trick ... (See Spending triggers)

Sticking with a frugal lifestyle -- Everyone wants to save money, but to make frugality a lasting lifestyle, you'll need specific goals and a support group around you ... (See Frugal lifestyle)

How to find an affordable, safe handyman -- Cast a wide net to get a reliable, reasonable person for your home repairs, and this is one area where cheapest isn't always best ... (See Finding a handyman)

Advatages, drawbacks to owning a duplex, renting out the other half -- Renting out half a building while living in the rest can be a path to greater wealth, or to grayer hair, depending on the property and your landlording temperament ... (See Duplex ownership)

Cutting a bare-bones budget even further -- If you need to punch another hole in your belt, look again at expenses. If it doesn't feed you, heal you, house you or boost income, cut it ... (See Painful budget cuts)

Uninsured? How to deal with an unfrugal emergency room bill -- You'll have to wrestle with the hospital bureaucracy, but these steps can help the uninsured prevent a big emergency room bill from leading to permanent financial damage ... (See Medical debt)

How to handle finances in a second marriage -- If your first marriage involved a lot of money fights, take the right steps to prevent those same issues from happening the second time around ... (See Second marriage finances)

Lunch isn't free, but these tips can hold down its cost -- Invest in the right containers and plan ahead to avoid the dreaded 'sandwich burnout,' advises New Frugal You columnist Gary Foreman ... (See Cheap lunch ideas)

The demographics don't lie: Social Security is slowly going broke -- There are plenty of solutions available, but America's demographics and the law don't lie: Social Security, without changes, will go broke ... (See Social Security)

Thinking about getting a dog for Christmas? Consider all the costs -- Expect to pay $1,580 to pay for a dog's first-year costs, so be sure you can afford one before you get emotionally attached ... (See Pet care costs)

Young adult financial lessons -- When teaching a young adult to make smart financial choices -- start with the basics and move in to the scare tactic. ... (See Young credit)

Tips for selling old furniture: Well built pieces from designers sell well -- To make a buck off that old furniture, you have to figure out what you've got. Then haggle! ... (See Tips for selling used furniture)

When to pay off credit card debt with a personal loan -- A personal loan may let you lower your rate and retire your credit card debt faster, but it will require a good credit history ... (See Personal loans vs. credit card debt)

Attention boomers: 8 don'ts (surrounded by 2 do's) for retirement planning in your 50s -- Boomers eyeing retirement confront a changed, post-recession landscape and need to deal with some new realities -- and avoid some common mistakes ... (See New retirement do's and don'ts )

Another 401(k) risk: Employer bankruptcy -- It's rare, but the transfer of 401(k) money from liquidating companies doesn't always go smoothly, leaving ex-employees with new fees, tax woes ... (See 401(k)s at bankrupt companies)

If you're a spender, the 'pay yourself first' method can force you to save -- If the savings habit doesn't come easy for you, try creating a savings "bill" for yourself -- and make it the one you pay first ... (See Pay yourself first)

How to set prices on your craft and hobby creations -- How do you decide how much to charge for your crafts? First, decide if you want to treat that hobby as a business, or if you just want to have some fun ... (See Set hobby/craft prices)

When a debt is 'written off' what does that mean? -- When a debt is 'written off,' that's just an accounting term that means one -- and only one -- creditor has given up on it. You can be sure another will follow ... (See Written-off debt)

Tips for holding down costs of pet food, vet care -- Fluffy and Fido are part of the family, so they need to part of the family budget, too. Here are ways to trim costs without sacrificing your pet's quality of life ... (See Frugal pet care)

How to build a home-based business frugally -- Take these steps to start up a successful home-based business. The first one? Establish the business in a product or service you already know well ... (See Frugal start-up)

How budgets fail (and how to make yours succeed) -- Attempts at budgeting flop because they're poorly designed, unrealistic or was a poor match for the person using it. But you can make yours work ... (See Budgeting)

Gym cost too much? Inexpensive exercise alternatives abound -- Your workout needn't start with lifting the contents of your wallet for membership or fancy equipment. Run, skip or cartwheel over to these low-cost exercise alternatives ... (See Frugal exercise alternatives)

If layoff looms, don't touch your 401(k) plan money: Gary Foreman -- With your head on the chopping block at work, that retirement nest egg may tempt you now, but so much can go wrong and you're sure to regret it later ... (See Nest egg)

Renters' tips for reducing summer cooling bills: Gary Foreman -- Just because you don't own your home doesn't mean you have to swelter in your shelter. These tips will help you chill without big bills ... (See Renter's tips cool summer)

Gary Foreman: Cooperation key to a frugal family reunion -- Divide the tasks into manageable piles and put the Web to work so everyone buys in, watches the plan evolve and contributes ... (See Frugal family reunion)

We're paying off the mortgage - should we get a bigger house? -- With a last mortgage payment made, he wants to get a bigger house, she wants to consider other possibilities ... (See Paid off mortgage. Now what?)

Gary Foreman: How to price garage sale items -- Pricing garage sale items isn't an exact science. But if you consult pricing guidelines, know your market and group like items together, you'll do well ... (See Pricing garage sale items)

Gary Foreman: Paying down debt vs. saving - how to decide -- To get the most out of any extra money, compare how much you could pull in by saving it against how much interest you're paying out on your loans ... (See Pay debt or save?)

Gary Foreman: If your job's uncertain, avoid new debt -- Working in an uncertain industry can mean frequent job losses, so if you get a new job, reassess your prospects, start saving and avoid new debt ... (See Debt and unemployment)

Gary Foreman: 3 simple steps to having a frugally cool summer -- You can do a lot yourself, cheaply, to reduce the hot air coming in and stop the cool air from going out ... (See Reduce air-conditioning bills)

Gary Foreman: How to decide when you can tackle a do-it-yourself project, when to call in a pro -- You've got to know when to hold that wrench, know when to fold up that ladder and call in a pro. A little advance planning will help you from getting in too deep on home repair projects ... (See DIY vs. professional repair)

Gary Foreman: Traditional vacation vs. mortgage payment -- He wants a traditional, long break from the job. She wants a mortgage that isn't past due. Something's got to give ... (See Vacation or mortgage payment?)

Gary Foreman: We the frugal are frustrated with you spendthrift braggarts -- You did a staycation and eat bag lunches. Your co-worker came home bragging about the foreign jaunt she can't afford, and now whines about the bills ... (See Spender whines, saver fumes)

Gary Foreman: Tips for teachers with children facing a no-income summer -- For those on tight budgets worried about a summer without pay, the choices are tough, but obvious: Cut expenses, boost income ... (See Money tips for teachers)

Gary Foreman: How to stop home burglaries, cheaply -- A few common-sense -- and inexpensive -- precautions can make your home unpalatable to thieves and your property harder to pawn ... (See Home burglary prevention)

Gary Foreman: To fix budget problems, try the 'divide and conquer' technique -- If you're overspending but don't know why, break your budget down into thinner slices until you identify the problem area ... (See Budget problems)

Gary Foreman: Buying a first band instrument? Think used to avoid the blues -- A child's first band instrument can change a life -- or drain a wallet if you pay top dollar for what turns out to be an adolescent's momentary whim ... (See Shopping for a first band instrument)

Gary Foreman: Follow the rules carefully to claim your rebate -- Consumer forgetfulness plus difficult forms mean half of all rebates go unclaImed, but if you're diligent, you can be on the 'good' half. ... (See Get your rebate)

Gary Foreman: With home addition, budget, plan and know what you can do yourself -- Adding a room or converting a garage can be done frugally by homeowners, but only after an honest assessment of their do-it-yourself skills ... (See Home addition tips)

Gary Foreman: Can a new mom afford to stay at home? -- A new mom who really wants to stay at home may be closer than she thinks to getting by on one income, if she includes the commuting and child care savings that come with not working ... (See Stay at home mom)

Gary Foreman: Tips for landing a good, reliable used car with bad credit -- With bad credit and a car that's falling apart, a single mom with $3,000 saved up wants to know where to turn for a reliable used car ... (See Bad credit and car buying)

Gary Foreman: 8 questions to ask to make sure of wise buying decisions -- Ask these eight questions before you pull out your wallet and you'll be sure that you're buying the right thing at the right time at the right price ... (See 8 questions before buying)

Gary Foreman: Worried about burglary? Here's how to choose the right insurance -- About one in 140 Americans suffers a home burglary. Here's how to take inventory and choose the right insurance to limit the damage ... (See Insurance)

Gary Foreman: You're marrying your fiance's debts, too -- If your future spouse has present debt, discuss it openly, keep your accounts separate and consider a long engagement to see if your intended can straighten up financially ... (See Fiance's debt)

Gary Foreman: How to teach your children basic financial concepts -- If you teach your kids to 'sleep on' major money decisions and learn the power of compound interest, they'll have gained important lessons that will serve them a lifetime ... (See Teaching money lessons to your kids)

Gary Foreman: Bad credit mortgage alternatives -- You must start with the basics -- paying your bills on time -- but there are other alternatives for people with bad credit trying to buy a house ... (See Bad credit and mortgages)

Gary Foreman: Broke? Bad credit? Recent bankruptcy? Say humbug to lousy holiday loans -- If you're recovering from hard times, don't succumb to the lousy loan choices you have available. Find frugal ways to enjoy the season ... (See Bad credit and holidays)

Gary Foreman: How to set children's allowances -- Setting an allowance, and deciding whether to tie it to chores, is an art form, but one that teaches money lessons for life ... (See Setting allowances)

Gary Foreman: Easy, inexpensive home heating tips -- Some of the fixes won't win you awards from design magazines, but these inexpensive solutions will keep you warm without busting your budget ... (See Inexpensive home heating tips)

Gary Foreman: Beyond couponing - How big families can cut their food budgets -- A mother of a family of five who's already couponing wants to know how to trim her food budget further. Gary Foreman gives her an array of tips ... (See Big family food budgeting)

Gary Foreman: How (and why) to calculate your net worth -- It's not a display of coin-stacking greed, it's a necessary, periodic step to make certain you're on track with your personal finance goals ... (See Calculating your net worth)

Gary Foreman: Common tricks and traps in credit card fine print -- The appealing big headline in the credit card promo is often hedged and limited by the fine print -- so you had better understand it ... (See Beware credit card fine print)

Gary Foreman: Why every student needs a bit of economics -- You may not become an economist, but everyone needs to have basic knowledge of how they spend today impacts their saving for tomorrow ... (See Economics and spending)

Gary Foreman: Moves to make if you expect another economic storm -- Just as you plan ahead for hurricanes, you can weather rough financial times more easily with good preparation ... (See Plan for tough times)

Gary Foreman: Losing a job can be a big downside of 401(k) loans -- Unemployment triggers a swift demand for repayment, and you better have the money or be ready to face financial consequences ... (See 401(k) loans and lost jobs)

Gary Foreman: If my company goes bankrupt, is my 401(k) retirement fund in danger? -- A company going bankrupt does not directly endanger your 401(k) -- unless you've let too much of your investment pile up in that company's stock ... (See Bankrupt 401(k))

Gary Foreman: Where are you financially vulnerable? -- The economic storm clouds still haven't parted, so wise consumers know their potential money weak spots, and have a plan if something breaks down ... (See Financially vulnerable)

Gary Foreman: How charge-offs work, how they affect your credit -- The phrase charge-off comes from the world of financial accounting, but if one happens to you, expect the damage to your credit to be substantial ... (See Charge-offs)

Gary Foreman: Bride and groom from different financial worlds? Talk, budget -- If he's from financial Mars and she's from financial Venus, premarital discussions about money expectations will help prevent problems later ... (See Premarital money talk)

Gary Foreman: How to calculate the energy cost of appliances -- By knowing the right formula and "watt" each appliance consumes in electricity, a landlord and tenant splitting an electric bill can divide it fairly ... (See Appliance energy costs)

Gary Foreman: You've got to know your 'monthly nut' -- Your 'monthly nut' is the minimum amount you need to make to keep ahead of your bills and avoid always coming up short ... (See Your monthly nut)

Gary Foreman: Rich bride, poor groom and mom can't pay country club reception tab -- Mom should be honest with herself and her wealthy in-laws about her financial limits, and their kids should discuss money expectations before the ceremony ... (See Rich bride, poor groom)

Gary Foreman: How to figure out how much rent you can afford -- Renting? The rule of thumb is spend no more than 33 percent of your after-tax income on housing; these money-saving tips will help you get there and into a home you can afford ... (See Renting: How much?)

Frugality's about value, not about being cheap -- For both practical and personal reasons, on some items, it's OK to go ahead and splurge ... (See Spend it, frugally)

Gary Foreman: Credit card rate too high? How to negotiate a lower one, how to leave if you don't get it -- Credit card rate too high? Here's how to ask for a lower one -- and how to leave if you don't get it ... (See Negotiate your credit card rate)

Building a better envelope budgeting system -- With a few refinements and simplifications, this old cash-based system still works, says our expert ... (See Envelope budgeting)

Gary Foreman: Alternate strategies to saving for emergency funds -- If you have trouble leaving emergency funds untouched, you may be able to prepay some items, or just make your savings tough to tap ... (See Emergency fund strategies)

Gary Foreman: Tips for finding fun while staying frugal -- You may have 'frugal fatigue,' but lamenting the good old days when you could spend freely will only make your mood worse ... (See Frugal tips)

Gary Foreman: Tips for getting grown children out of the nest -- Yes, jobs are tough to find, but kids need to stand on their own financially and leave the nest. It's a parent's job to know how to help them learn to fly ... (See Financial independence)

Gary Foreman: How to diagnose your financial health -- There are parallels between financial and physical health: Both need to be properly diagnosed and the right steps taken to cure the ailments ... (See Financial help)

Gary Foreman: Inflation is coming; here's how it will hurt -- Before inflation returns in force, there are steps you can take to readjust your investments and loans to minimize its impact ... (See Adjusting for inflation)

Living frugally? 6 ideas for enjoying life without busting a budget -- A tight budget doesn't mean giving up all the things that make life enjoyable. You just have to find inexpensive ones ... (See Frugal fun)

Gary Foreman: In your 40s? It's not to early to plan for retirement -- Now's the time to take a broad look ahead, define what you expect from retirement, estimate expenses see if you have the income to live out your dreams ... (See Retirement plan)

Gary Foreman: With gas prices skyrocketing, will an electric car save money? -- Thinking about ditching your gas guzzler and going electric? Here's how to make a compare by calculating your overall cost per mile ... (See Buying a car)

Gary Foreman: Should you put your money in a mattress? -- Savings rates are still horrid, housing prices are still falling, but hoarding money in a mattress still isn't wise ... (See Money in a mattress)

Pull the plug to save some money on a little-used refrigerator -- A fridge is your most expensive appliance because it consumes a lot of power, but it's made to be turned on and off ... (See Appliance costs)

Gary Foreman: Want grocery store bargains? It's easy: Look high and low -- Grocery stores study their shoppers, so they know most customers grab first for the name brands at eye level. Want bargains? Look at the top and bottom shelves ... (See Grocery store bargains)

Buying a car? Know your budget, save up, buy what you can afford -- Car shopping is the most fun, but it should be the final step. Knowing what you can afford (and not just the monthly payment) is the first ... (See Car-buying plan)

Gary Foreman: How to cut back on credit card spending -- A reader who gives in easily to credit card temptation needs to take ever-stronger preventive steps ... (See Cut credit card spending)

Gary Foreman: In hard times, keeping credit lines high may trump paying off debt -- Ordinarily consumers should use spare cash to pay off highest-rate debt first. But for those with shaky income, that strategy might not be the best ... (See Credit lines)

Gary Foreman: Renters: How to protect yourself if your landlord faces foreclosure -- A federal law temporarily provides some protection against instant eviction, but check to see if the mortgage is being paid ... (See Renters face foreclosure, too)

Upside down in your mortgage? Consider your credit before walking away -- Short sales and deed-in-lieu deals may get you out from under an upside-down mortgage, but they're just as bad on credit as a foreclosure ... (See Walking away from a mortgage)

Prepaying your auto loan: How to see if you can, how to do it -- If your car loan doesn't include prepayment penalties, it's good to pay down car debt quickly. Here's how ... (See How to prepay an auto loan)

How big a home can you afford in retirement? Size your 401k, sharpen your pencil -- If you want to figure how big a house you can afford in retirement, first size up your 401(k), then sharpen your pencil. There's math involved ... (See How big a home can you afford in retirement?)

Retirement in sight? Balance your risk tolerance, need for growth -- As retirement age approaches and a recession ends, it's natural to be skittish about taking risk with your nest egg, but some may be necessary ... (See Retirement nest egg)

Gary Foreman: Save 401(k) hardship withdrawals for true emergencies -- You gave up total control over the account when you agreed to take the tax breaks, so weigh other choices before robbing your own retirement ... (See 401(k) hardship withdrawals)

Gary Foreman: How to budget when starting a new business -- A nervous wife asks for advice on how her family should budget to handle the inconsistent income that comes with the starting of a new business. ... (See Start-up budgeting)

Gary Foreman: How to start using credit cards again after handling them badly before -- To get a good credit score and the best loans, you have to get back in there and start using credit again, even if it burned you the first time ... (See Re-establish credit)

Even if first credit card's terms aren't the best, think before canceling -- Your first credit card sets up your future credit choices, so use it wisely and weigh the impact of canceling it ... (See First credit card)

Gary Foreman: Transfer car loan to a low-rate credit card? Yes, but carefully -- On the surface, transferring a car loan to a 0 percent credit card looks like a no-brainer. The fees and fine print may say otherwise ... (See Transfer car loan to a card?)

Interchange fee changes coming, and what that means for consumers -- Cash payers had been subsidizing card users at stores, but that system's under fire; if it changes, so could rewards and prices ... (See Interchange fees and consumers)

Gary Foreman: Thinking of closing little-used credit card accounts? Not so fast -- Think twice before closing little-used credit card accounts because you're mad at the issuer. It could backfire by damaging your credit score ... (See Closing credit accounts)

Gary Foreman: The first step in any budget: monitoring spending -- If the money always runs out before your payday, the first thing to do is find out where it's going. Here are tips for that crucial first budgeting step ... (See Budgeting steps)

Gary Foreman gives a 'live for today' man his best 'save for tomorrow' motivational advice -- Our frugality columnist reminds a man who lives for today that he could get hurt or laid off and quickly face financial devastation ... (See Live for today)

Gary Foreman: Want to cut electric bills? Beware the 'phantom loads' -- Many of today's devices continue to sip power in 'standby' mode, so cutting off the worst offenders can cut your bill ... (See Cut electric costs)

Gary Foreman: Ask for a lower credit limit? Unless you can't control your spending, don't -- Unless you can't control your spending, don't ask your credit card issuer to lower your limit; you'll be lowering your credit score, too ... (See Lowering your credit limit)

Gary Foreman: How to deal with debt after a divorce when ex won't pay -- Even if there's a court order, getting money out of a deadbeat ex isn't easy ... (See Divorce and debt)

A generic budget: Guidelines for spending categories -- These rules of thumb for how much you should spend for housing, entertainment, etc., help you know if your spending's a little out of whack or a lot ... (See Budgeting guidelines)

How to haggle to reduce your credit card debt and rates -- You've heard the ads promising quick and easy debt reduction, but there's nothing easy or quick about them ... (See Negotiating lower debt, rates)

Gary Foreman: How to re-establish responsible credit card use after debt problems -- After cleaning up past debt mess, the first question to ask is whether you've learned your credit card lesson and can handle credit responsibly now ... (See Re-establishing credit)

Gary Foreman: After co-signing daughter's mortgage, both the loan and retirement plans turn upside down -- When their daughter's home loan went upside down, a couple's retirement plans went topsy-turvy. But there are options ... (See Co-signed mortgage troubles)

Fill your car's tires with nitrogen, not air? It's not worth it -- Although proponents say nitrogen reduces leakage and prevents tires from deteriorating, the claims don't stand up to scrutiny ... (See Nitrogen-filled tires)

Save money with online coupon services -- Traditional paper coupon-clipping is fine, but as long as you steer clear of the too-nosy ones, online coupon sites have advantages, too ... (See Online coupons)

Credit Card FAQ: Gary Foreman: Should you co-sign a loan? -- Each day this week, our columnists will answer one of our readers' most frequently asked questions. Today, 'New Frugal You' columnist Gary Foreman ponders, should you co-sign a loan? ... (See Co-signing)

How to create a price book to help you comparison shop -- It takes a while to gather the information you need, but once you do, you'll never be fooled into buying an overpriced 'sale' item again ... (See Price book)

Gary Foreman: Don't use 401(k) to pay off credit card debt -- Yes, you could pay debt off and cut back to a three-day work week, but the price would be working many, many more of those weeks ... (See 401(k) and credit card debt)

Is Dad responsible for stepmom's credit card debt after her death? -- Responsibility for debt after the debtor's death comes down to who signed the contract and what state they're in ... (See Credit card debt after death)

Buying a car? Know the 3 main costs of auto ownership -- As with the car itself, the decision on what to buy has a lot of moving parts, so weigh the cost variables carefully when comparing new, used autos ... (See Buying a car)

Making a budget? Break down the 'Big 4' expenses first -- A debt-laden, recent business school graduate wants to trim some expenses to help pay his student loans. Our expert says the key is consider the four biggest areas of expense first ... (See Big 4 budget)

When must you start to make 401(k) withdrawals? -- A 70-year-old is about to retire and wonders if he'll soon be forced to start making withdrawals from his 401(k). Our expert has the answer. ... (See 401(k) withdrawal)

A 'workout plan' to shed debt, build credit scores -- Just like an exercise plan helps you shed weight and build muscle, a credit plan can help you shed debt and build your scores ... (See Credit score workout plan)

How to plan for, face a student loan debt disaster -- Deep in student debt and needing to borrow much more to graduate, a student looks ahead to try and plan a debt escape route ... (See A plan for student debt)

Go used: A new car's value will fade faster than the new-car smell -- When considering whether to buy a new or used car, remember the 40% rule: New cars' value fades that much in just three years ... (See New vs. used car)

How to keep up the enthusiasm for saving, fight 'frugal fatigue' -- Staying on a tight budget is no fun. To keep your enthusiasm for saving from waning, indulge a little in luxury -- cheaper imitation luxuries, that is ... (See Stick to a budget)

Odds are, you're better off retiring debt with a windfall than saving -- Sure, you could save it, but paying off high-rate loans is your best bet ... (See Use windfall on debt)

Your first budget in 3 easy steps -- Don't be scared of budgeting, it's really not very hard, says New Frugal You columnist Gary Foreman ... (See Your first budget)

New Frugal You: You've cut out the obvious budget killers. Now go for the big stuff -- The New Frugal You, a weekly reader Q&A feature on, debuts with frugality expert Gary Foreman advising a reader to aim at the big targets ... (See Spending cuts)