How do you decide what to spend on a computer?

Decide to buy a computer these days and immediately you're confronted with a complex decision process wherein you pit features against price. The choice is intensely personal and a total reflection of your tastes, priorities, and pocketbook. I know how I've gone about it in the past, but I was curious to see how other people approach the problem.

It wasn't hard to get people to talk. (People are passionate about their computers!) But as they did, I identified three basic methods to decide on price:

  1. The features route
  2. The cheap route
  3. The set-price route

Now that I think about it, this may be true for a lot of purchases!

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More about...Budgeting

Cheap luggage or expensive luggage?

It's spring! Don't you just feel like hitting the road? Well, maybe you do if you don't travel for a living.

Either way, luggage. I've had my fair share of experiences with luggage over the years. Lost luggage, broken luggage, matching luggage -- you name it. Currently, I travel with a non-descript, black roller that I can barely distinguish from anyone else's. I bought it for $49 at Target in 2008. It replaced a smaller roller that lasted two trips and cost all of $19. (No wonder, right?)

I can get away (haha) with a $49 roller because I don't travel a lot these days. If anything, it's a weekend jaunt to visit family and friends every six months or so. I expect I will have to buy something new later this year because one of the wheels is shot and it wobbles when I walk too fast.

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More about...Travel, Frugality

What is the last day to ship before Christmas?

What is the last day to ship before Christmas? Well, that depends, actually. Traditionally — that is, say, prior to 2008 — the last day to ship was around the second week of December. These days, it really depends on how much you are willing to spend. FedEx offers same-day shipping on Christmas Day. Yes, the FedEx SameDay department is open seven days a week, 365 days of the year. And they deliver “door to door within hours, depending on availability” according to their website. Think something in the neighborhood of $48/pound for the SameDay City service plus any surcharges. Wow.

But seriously, what this means is that, if you have been super busy at work or you're just a full-on procrastinator, you still have (expensive) options. Check their websites for all the particulars, but here's how they actually lay out from now until Christmas for the major shippers and retailers:

United States Postal Service

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More about...Side Hustles

Are home security systems worth it?

The small, rectangular ceramic flower pots I kept in the two window sills of my bathroom had never budged an inch in the 14 years I owned the home, but one day I saw that one was close to falling out onto the counter below. I wondered if a small earthquake had caused it to move as I pushed it back in place.

About a week later, I came home to find that the pot had actually fallen completely off the little ledge and onto the counter. This time I stopped to understand why, and I discovered that the small window was separated from the sill. I went outside. From there I could tell that the window had been pried from the house and someone had left a hacksaw on the ground. Evidently, I surprised whoever was trying to make their way into my home.

That day marked the end of my being blissfully unaware of the fact that there were people who were willing to commit crimes in my neighborhood. At the time, I was a single mom with a nine-year-old, and I felt a profound sense of terror. I locked the side gate and alerted my neighbors. The police couldn't lift any fingerprints, so nothing ever came of the incident except how it affected me. It wasn't long before I was interviewing home security companies.

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More about...Home & Garden

Can you really get rich quickly from fix and flipping homes?

Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.

Mark Ferguson has been a Realtor since 2001 after graduating from the University of Colorado with a business finance degree. He runs a real estate team of 10 that sells over 200 homes a year, fix and flips 10 to 15 homes a year and owns 11 rental properties. Mark also runs, a blog that discusses Mark's fix and flips, rental properties, becoming a real estate agent and everything real estate related.

Many television shows portray fix and flipping as a very profitable business that can easily be done in your spare time. Sure there are usually a few contractor problems, but in the end the house sells for a lot of money and the owners make a killing. In reality, you can make money fix and flipping homes, but it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of flipping to make a lot of money. It is also very easy to lose a lot of money if you do not account for all the costs or overestimate the value of your flip.

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More about...Investing

Living in a car to pay off debt

Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income.

I don't spend lavishly on clothes, hair appointments, or travel. I drive a 12-year-old Honda Civic. I got into debt by trying different business investments, including real estate and selling refurbished tablets. I also took out a student loan that I really didn't need but couldn't turn down the money I automatically qualified for. Those are the main sources of my debt.

My debt payments began to total more than $1,100 a month. I moved in with an aunt and uncle to make ends meet. When they wanted to raise the rent, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I was fed up with my situation. I couldn't even afford to rent a room anymore.

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More about...Debt

Unintended Consequences of a Move

This Reader Story is from GRS reader Jon, who writes for MoneySmartGuides, a personal finance blog that helps educate people on personal finance so that they can reach their financial dreams. He focuses mainly on investing and paying off debt since those are the two of the most challenging personal finance topics we face.

Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. 

Many of us dream of owning our own home. When we finally save up enough for a down payment and buy our first house, the emotions can be overwhelming. If I close my eyes, I can still see myself pushing the key into the lock on the front door of my house for the first time. I went right over to my new home after signing the paperwork. I walked through the empty house, overjoyed and with my mind racing with all of the things I was going to do to make it my own. I can even still smell my house. That was five years ago. I am now in a bigger house, planning on starting a family soon.<

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More about...Psychology

Year-End Tax Tips

Right after the most wonderful time of the year comes everyone's least favorite season: tax season.

If you usually try to avoid thinking about taxes until after January 1, you may be missing out on the chance to save a little money. According to some tax experts, now is the time to take last-minute action if you want to reduce your tax bill in April.

Here are seven-year-end tax tips

1. Double-check your tax withholding and payments

"Before year's end, take a peek at your income," advises Mary Kay Foss, a Certified Public Accountant with Sweeny Kovar in Danville, Calif. "Check your last pay stub and year-to-date income from brokerage accounts. Estimate December and compare the figures to what was on your last year's tax return. Also compare your withholding and scheduled estimated tax payments to last year."

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More about...Taxes