Don't be this person, and thoroughly research your destination and activities. In addition to checking out the tourism board, my favorite place to stop is the website of the local paper or city magazine. Periodicals geared toward locals usually have reviews of newer places and upcoming events, sometimes even discounts, too!
The experience isn't exactly like taking an actual course. For one, you won't be awarded any credits, but considering it's all online and free, it seems a fair trade. You may not have access to everything from the class, but that's not really the point — as Money Magazine's Pat Regnier might tell you. He downloaded Berkeley's American economic history course on iTunes last year and a Yale professor's lecture series on the Civil War.
He wasn't seeking a secondary degree, but the lectures satisfied the urge to sharpen his intellect, without shelling out cash for grad school or a costly MBA. Just check out iTunes, Academic Earth, or OER Commons to find out what's available. So, what do you think? Would you take the time to give your intellect a boost with a little free online education?
Financial organization has been a top priority for many of us this year, and the money management tools that make this easier deserve a place in the Best of 2008. These tools do awesome things like showing all of our accounts in one place and depicting our spending habits in pretty pie charts that let us see where we should cut back. In short, budgeting has never been so simple. Which of these tools do you favor over the rest?
Tracking your spending is the best way to learn your money leaks and begin the path of budgeting, which will hopefully make you feel more in control of your money. Forget entering every expense in your spiral notebook; all you need to get started is your computer.
Wesabe is a free website that makes it easy to track your finances. It lets you see all of your bank, credit, and savings accounts in one place and has budgeting tools for organizing your spending. Seeing the big picture of your money in one place makes the budgeting process a no-brainer, and having one place to check in takes much less time than figuring out where you stand by looking at each account separately.
Aside from its money-management capabilities, Wesabe is unique in that it has an active community where members hash out financial issues. The site has groups, similar to the ones on TeamSugar, but they are geared toward specific money questions like debt dilemmas and how to be a smarter spender.
Have you ever used an online money management site like Wesabe?
Buying gifts for kids is fun and easy — who doesn't love sorting through all of the cool toys and adorable books geared toward lil ones? If there's a child in your life who will be getting gifts from you often, like a niece or nephew, you may consider giving a gift that takes into account the child's future.
State-sponsored 529 plans are a great way to save for college because they are tax-deferred accounts, and only the interest earned in the account is taxed once the funds are withdrawn and put toward educational expenses. Traditionally, gifting contributions to an account that doesn't belong to your own child have been paperwork ridden and a hassle.
Freshman Fund has developed a system that allows contributions to be made online — no paperwork required — and lets account owners (usually parents) invite others to contribute to a 529 plan. After you've completed your information online, you simply mail in a check to complete your gift.
What do you think of giving college fund contributions as gifts?
Numbers have a powerful way of providing shock-value, and that's what M.P. Dunleavey for Good Housekeeping was going for when she told readers how much it takes to waste $10,000 a year — just $27.40 a day. Little purchases here and there can add up to a much bigger amount, so the best way to get a grip on what you're spending is to hold a magnifying glass up to the big picture.
Dunleavey tested free money management sites Mint.com and Geezeo.com and preferred Mint for its customer-friendly system. After you've plugged in your account information, the site allows you to view recent transactions and breaks them into spending categories. You're even able to set spending limits for yourself — following a budget really has never been so easy, and getting a reality check on what you're spending should help limit the amount of money you waste overall.
Online degree and certificate programs have become increasingly popular in the last 10 years. They're convenient, inexpensive and allow you to gain an additional notch on your belt while working elsewhere. Despite all the perceived flexibility of such programs, this weekend's New York Times offered some good advice for anyone considering signing on: before you enroll you should understand the commitment that will be involved. Here's more:
- How long will it take to get a degree? Before you make the leap, be prepared to spend at least 10 to 20 hours a week, for at least one or two years, on your online learning — and possibly more, depending on the degree.
- How much will it cost? The price varies widely, but in many cases tuition fees are comparable to those at brick-and-mortar schools — minus the added cost of things like room and board.
- How will it compare to college outside the virtual world? Professionals who opt for online degrees will almost certainly miss out on many of the impromptu lunches, barroom debates and other serendipitous learning experiences that occur on a college campus. You may also be less likely to make lasting personal and professional connections with your online classmates.
Have you ever taken (or considered taking) a class or certificate program online?