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    Tensed mature woman sitting in bed with man in background
    AlamyEarly retirement can become boring if all your friends and relatives are still working.
    By David Ning

    Early retirement is a long-term goal that requires discipline and perseverance. But hitting a desired number in your retirement accounts doesn't mean you are ready to walk away from your job. If you focus only on the finances you might end up surprised when retirement isn't what you thought it would be. Here are a few reasons not to retire just yet, even if you have saved enough to quit the rat race early.

    You don't know what you will do after you quit. If you don't have a plan for how you will fill your days, it's very easy to become bored. Without a job or social activities to draw you out of the house, you may find yourself sitting around, watching TV and gaining weight. Many of your friends will be busy during most weekdays, so you probably won't be able to pick up the phone and call all your pals to hang out mid-day. It's better to enter retirement with a list of things to do. The good news is that coming up with ideas for things to do in retirement is actually quite fun.

    You work in a job you hate. If you dislike your job, you may start thinking about early retirement as an escape. But the solution to an uncomfortable work situation is actually a different job, rather than quitting all together. Working in an enjoyable environment is actually better than not working, because you are spending time socializing and feeling productive while receiving income. If you hate your work, then definitely try another career that's more enjoyable before you consider retiring for good. You may find something more worthwhile than retiring early.

    You haven't figured out your retirement budget. If you just picked a retirement savings goal that sounded nice, then you aren't ready to retire yet. You may very well have enough money to quit working, but you definitely want to be sure by estimating what your retirement expenses will be once you no longer work. Financial surprises should be expected, so don't blindly give up a steady paycheck just because you read a rule of thumb online about how much the average person needs to spend in retirement.

    You just hit your net worth goal. This major financial milestone is a worthy achievement. But you should double check if the retirement number you may have chosen years ago still makes sense. Perhaps you forgot to factor in inflation when you first dreamt up the number. You also don't want to quit the second your retirement number shows up on your computer screen. If you are invested in the stock market, the value of your assets fluctuates constantly, and you need to make sure you have enough of a cushion to weather the volatility. While it likely took incredible discipline to meet this long-term goal, take a bit more time to make sure that money is likely to be enough to last for the rest of your life.

    You haven't sat down with your family to discuss the move. Talk with your loved ones at length about your intention to quit before you make this big life change. Find out how your family feels about you staying home all day. Family members still dependent on your income might be affected by the change. You've worked hard all your life and deserve to retire when your finances fall into place, but you still want to make sure your closest family members are comfortable throughout the transition. Make sure everyone understands that they won't need to worry about a drastic downgrade in lifestyle just because you aren't getting a steady paycheck anymore. Share with them all the great changes that will happen around the house now that you are going to be around more. The more open and positive you can be about life after retirement, the better everyone will feel about your decision. Their participation in the change will make the retirement transition easier for you.

    Early retirement can be a wonderful experience, but it doesn't mean quitting just because a retirement calculator says you are ready. Your life is much more than dollars in a retirement account. Treat the decision to retire with the respect it deserves.

    David Ning is the founder of MoneyNing.com.

     

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    Collection of Visa and Mastercard credit cards
    Craig McBeath/Alamy
    By Lisa Gerstner

    Devotees of rewards credit cards, take note: You may not be getting your full allotment of points for purchases made through third parties. Such transactions, which may include those made through mobile wallets, payment services such as PayPal (PYPL), mobile card readers, and sites such as Groupon (GRPN) and Expedia (EXPE), aren't necessarily eligible for the extra points or cash-back awards on purchases in bonus categories (the 3 or 5 percent you might get on gas or groceries, for example, when you get a lesser percentage on everything else).

    The reason? Merchant codes that card issuers use to classify purchases don't always transfer. Apple Pay transactions should earn full rewards because of Apple Pay's direct relationships with banks and card issuers, says Kari Luckett, content director for CompareCards.com. It remains to be seen whether Android Pay, a mobile tool replacing Google Wallet for in-store payments, will deliver full rewards.

    Check the rewards breakdown on your statements to make sure you're getting what you're due. If you've been shortchanged, ask the issuer whether it will supply the extra rewards.

     

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    Family Having Fun On Beach
    Getty Images
    Summer is a popular time to travel. Kids are out of school, making it an ideal time to be a tourist. Many seasonal attractions are only open during this peak travel season. You don't have to be a Griswold to enjoy an unforgettable vacation, but do you know how much it's really costing you?

    Before breaking hearts by introducing the concept of compounding math on the costs of typical getaways this summer, I may as well begin with the obvious disclaimer. Some of the best memories that you will ever make will take place during vacations. The opportunity to go out there and collect new experiences is theoretically priceless.

    Also, there are many tourist magnets that rely on a steady flow of out-of-towners to fuel the local economy. The last thing that I would want to do is write an article that discourages people from vacationing this summer, setting back the countless jobs and markets that rely on a steady flow of foreign visitors.

    However, that said, a lot of people may be spending more money than they realize this summer. The urgency of creating memories now could have implications later and it's a message that rarely gets told.

    Not-so-Bon Voyage

    The average price of a seven-day cruise is $2,358 for a couple, according to industry tracker Cruise Market Watch. Tack on shore excursions, spa treatments, alcoholic drinks and gratuities and the tab at the end of the sea journey will be substantially higher. Suddenly that $2,358 balloons up to $3,108.

    That's a lot of money. It's a couple of months of rent for most people. It's a ransom that could nab a decent secondhand car. However, what's the true cost of chasing midnight buffets in the Caribbean or getting pampered with a back rub in Maui?

    That's where the tragic magic of compounding kicks in. $3,108 is a lot of money now, but if it were invested in CDs, bonds, or other fixed-income investments generating annual returns of 4 percent over the next 10 years, we're talking about a little more than $4,600.

    Let's go more aggressive. Let's park that cash in a stock market index mutual fund that has historically returned closer to 10 percent. In a decade we would be looking at $8,061. In 20 years we're looking at $20,909.

    The returns are theoretical. There's naturally going to be volatility in chasing higher rates of return. However, the opportunity cost of taking that lavish vacation is real.

    The Road Not Taken

    We're talking about just a couple taking a cruise, but most of us have entire families that we take on the road. Those tabs can add up. The average vacation expense for a family of four last summer was $4,580, according to American Express (AXP). That's more than $30,800 after two decades of returning 10 percent a year.

    Let's aim smaller. You decide to stay closer to home to save money. You drive. You stay at bargain motels. Even a modest $1,500 getaway could top $10,000 after 20 years at 10 percent. Robert Frost talked about the road not traveled, but what about the vacation not taken?

    Let's close on an upbeat note, circling back to the joys of travel. A vacation is a treasure trove of memories and you only live once. You -- and your children, if you have any -- are only young once. Travel if you can, but don't live in regret for the getaways that got away.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends American Express. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool's one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    a young man in suit shopping online with a credit card via a tablet computer
    Alamy
    NEW YORK -- Hardly a day goes by that you don't get offers for new credit in your mailbox. And while the offers can be attractive, with great perks, low introductory rates and free balance transfers, that doesn't mean that you should jump at every offer of a new credit card. You might not just be setting yourself up for increasing amounts of debt. You can also negatively impact your credit.

    Credit and Your Budget

    "One of the first things you need to think about is how this will impact your budget," says Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education with Credit.com. Each new line of credit is a new monthly payment. "How much will that payment be and how long will it last?" While you might be able to afford an extra $350 for a car payment today, will you be able to afford it three years down the line?

    Detweiler points out that some changes in your financial situation are foreseeable. For example, you might know that you're retiring in two years or that your kids are going off to college. Or you might have an adjustable rate home equity loan that is going to go into full repayment. That's the kind of thing you need to anticipate and think about before you open up any new lines of credit.

    Detweiler says that you should always ask if it will take more than three years to pay back any outstanding debt. "Usually, you want to pay off your debts in three years and certainly no more than five," she says. If you can't pay back what you're borrowing in three to five years, you're probably taking on more debt than you can realistically handle. "I bought a new car last year," she says. "One of the things right in my mind is that my daughter is entering college in a few years. That's the kind of thing you need to think about when taking on new debt."

    Credit and Your Credit Report

    "Depending on the type of debt, new credit could help or it could hurt," says Detweiler. Credit card accounts and revolving lines of credit will have an impact on your debt usage ratio, the second biggest factor after payment history on your credit. So if you open up a new credit card account, your overall utilization ratio (the percentage of available credit that you're using) will go down, potentially giving you a bump in your credit score. On the other hand, if you open a new card and do a balance transfer of 80% of that available credit, you're probably going to take a hit.

    You also want to look at how many lines of credit you have open at any time. "Too many open lines of credit can paint a consumer as someone who relies upon borrowed money just to get by," says Randy Padawer, a consumer education specialist with LexingtonLaw. "A boat load of credit cards can damage your FICO score, even if you pay them all off every month and never max them out."

    Padawer says that there's no way of knowing precisely where that number is, but he says that most people will see a degradation in their credit score with five cards or more. "If you have ten or fifteen cards, you've probably damaged your credit," he says. It gets worse, because closing accounts can also damage your credit through a shortened credit history and a higher utilization ratio. The best thing to do is to combine cards that are offered through the same bank.

    "Remember that credit cards are just licenses to borrow money," says Padawer.

    He believes that people all too often confuse a new line of credit with more income. "People get a shiny new credit card with a $15,000 limit and spend it on things they've always wanted," he says. "It's a terrible mistake and it gets lots of people into a whole heap of financial trouble."

     

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    How to Waste Less Food and Money
    Getty ImagesReducing waste can start with organizing your fridge.
    By Jon Lal

    Do you ever find you're throwing away uneaten or rotten food every week? You're not alone; the government estimates food waste adds up to over $900 per household each year.

    Not only is it bad for the environment and wasteful, especially considering that many people around the world go hungry, but it's a hit on your wallet, as well. Summer can be an especially difficult time to avoid wasting food, as it's a season of abundant fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as generous CSA, or community supported agriculture, shares. Do yourself and the ecosystem a favor and employ a few of these easy tips to waste less food:

    Plan ahead. One hour of planning at the beginning of the week can save you time, energy and money in the long run. If you think of it as the same amount of time you watch a TV show, it's easier to realize how little time it takes to plan meals.

    Start by taking an inventory of your kitchen. Knowing exactly what you already have can help you avoid buying the same thing twice, which for perishables will almost certainly result in wasting food.

    Then, plan your meals for the week. Create a grocery list of items that you will need, as well as any staple groceries that you know you eat each week. You can even plan for a "leftovers" night at the end of the week where dinner is created with whatever is still in the fridge and pantry.

    Depending on your schedule, you may want to consider a few smaller trips to the store each week instead of bigger, less frequent shops. This lessens the chance that you will buy too much and end up wasting it.

    Check your storage. Make sure you understand where to store food. Certain fruits and vegetables need to be refrigerated, and others do better in a cool pantry or at room temperature. Print out a list and put it on your fridge for quick reference.

    As for inside the fridge, make sure to keep your vegetables and fruit separate, since they will spoil when stored together. Bring older food and leftovers to the front of the fridge instead of hiding them in the back where they won't get eaten in time. If you can easily see food, then you're less likely to forget about it and end up wasting it.

    For pantry items like cereal, crackers or cookies, try taking products out of boxes as soon as you buy them and store them in airtight containers instead. This will prolong shelf life and keep them from getting stale too soon.

    Understand expiration dates. Sometimes, it's obvious when food needs to be thrown away, whether that comes in the form of mold or a sour smell. But other times, food may seem fine yet the expiration date has already passed. So how do you know if it's safe to eat?

    "Use by" and "Best by" dates are recommended by the manufacturer, but you can also trust your own smell test. If your food is past this date slightly but still seems fine in smell and appearance, then it probably is. If you still have doubts, you can look up the specific item in a database online. There are many resources available.

    "Sell by" applies to perishable items, such as meat, poultry, seafood and milk. The date is used by stores to know how long they should have a product on the shelves. If you buy the product before the sell-by date expires, then you can still store it at home beyond that date. Again, consult an outside reference to see recommendations for storage times.

    When in doubt, freeze it. If you find yourself with too many fruits or vegetables that may spoil soon, freeze them. You can do countless things with them later on: Turn them into a stock or soup, create delicious smoothies, bake a quick bread or muffins (and freeze again for later) or chop them up for cooking in an omelet or frittata.

    I hope these suggestions can help you eat and enjoy much more delicious and nutritious food while minimizing the amount that gets tossed in the trash.

    Jon Lal is the founder and CEO of coupons and cash back website BeFrugal.com, which saves shoppers an average of $27 an order thanks to coupons plus an average of 7 percent cash back at more than 4,000 stores.

     

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    Marc Lore is about to launch a new e-comerce dark horse jet.com 4 years after selling his successful e-commerce company Quidsi t
    Shin Woong-Jae/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesEmployees of jet.com work and comics super heroes characters are displayed on the wall at Jet.com headquarters in Montclair, N.J. Jet.com team named its system after super hero characters like Batman, Superman, Iron Man and more.
    By Trent Gillies

    Start-up e-commerce membership site Jet.com took off less than two weeks ago, but it's already flying with big ambitions.

    With a $49.99 annual membership fee and free shipping for orders of more than $35, the site has Amazon Prime, warehouse clubs and online retail sites squarely in its sights. In an interview with CNBC's "On the Money," founder and CEO Marc Lore claims that shoppers get more value the more they buy.

    Jet.com differs from its competition because of an algorithm that is able to adjust prices as you shop, he said.

    "We built this technology that actually helps pull supply chain costs out of the system," Lore told CNBC, adding that the more you buy, the less you pay for each item.

    "We built this dynamic pricing engine that actually reprices products in real time as consumers shop to reflect the true marginal cost of getting that product to you, based on knowing what's in your basket," he added.

    Lore says the savings are mostly on the cost advantage of more efficient shipping.

    "The more product you get into the same box," he said, "and the closer the buyer is to the inventory, lowers shipping costs."

    Loss leader

    "This is really a scale game. And we put out there that our goal is to get to $20 billion [in annual sales] in five years, at which point we'll be at scale." -Marc Lore, CEO of Jet.com

    According to data from e-commerce intelligence firm Profitero, Jet.com's prices were on average 8 percent lower than Amazon's and 6 percent below Walmart's (WMT). Profitero analyzed 16,000 identical items across seven categories at the three retailers in its study last week.

    Lore told CNBC that Profitero's analysis was based on the "starting price," and that consumer savings will be even greater over time -- perhaps as much as 10 to 15 percent less.

    "As you shop in a smarter way and build your basket, the marginal cost to ship additional product comes down so you see that in real time," he said. "The prices are coming down."

    Jet.com has $225 million in investor funding. Not unlike Amazon -- which recently stunned Wall Street by posting a rare profit in its latest quarter -- Lore told CNBC he expects the company to lose "hundreds of millions" of dollars until 2020.

    "This is really a scale game." Jet's CEO explained. "And we put out there that our goal is to get to $20 billion [in annual sales] in five years, at which point we'll be at scale."

    In other words, Lore has no fear of red ink -- at least until he gets what he wants. "In the short term, we will incur losses until we get to scale," he said.

    CNBC asked Lore about an order placed for a single toothbrush for $2.11. It was part of a larger order, but the toothbrush arrived separately in a shipment from Walmart.com, and the receipt Jet.com sent showed a total cost of $8.10. How can the company afford to absorb those kinds of losses?

    "In that particular case, we're simply bridging. We're start-ups still. So it's still the early days," Lore explained. "So the fact we went out and bought it at Walmart.com, in this case, is just a temporary bridge."

    Lore said the company has warehouses in New Jersey, Kansas and Nevada, and expects to increase that number. "By the next 12 months we'll have just about every everyday essential product you can imagine in the warehouses."

    Lore has had success in this sector before. He was co-founder and CEO of Quidsi, the company behind Diapers.com, Soap.com and pet supply site Wag.com. He sold the company to Amazon in 2010 for $545 million, only to go head-to-head with them five years later.

    Yet could history repeat? Would he contemplate selling Jet.com to Amazon.com (AMZN) or someone else?

    "We're not thinking about that now," Lore said, "We think there's a really big opportunity to create a large business."

    "On the Money" airs on CNBC Sundays at 7:30 p.m., or check listings for airtimes in local markets.

     

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    Comcast CEO
    Jeff Chiu/APComcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts
    It probably wasn't a surprise to see Comcast (CMCSK)(CMCSA) top the list of most reviled corporations last year. The cable television and Internet provider gets routinely slammed for its high TV prices, spotty online connections and questionable customer service.

    All of this was factored into Consumerist's annual Worst Company in America award last year with Comcast winning the unflattering distinction. If you deal with Comcast -- or used to deal with Comcast -- there's a fair chance that you dislike the company that has become the country's top dog in cable television and broadband connectivity. However, you may not hate the company as much as you used to last year. Let's go over a few of the reasons the public may be warming up to Comcast these days.

    1. It's cleaning up its customer service. Prolonged service outages, a lack of punctuality with technician service appointments, and unkind customer service calls that have gone viral have stung Comcast over the years, but it's making a legitimate effort to improve the experience.

    Comcast announced in May that it was creating 5,500 more customer service jobs, hoping to beef up its workforce. Late last year it struck a deal with UPS (UPS) to allow folks to return their cable boxes, modems and other rental gear directly with the parcel delivery specialist, eliminating the need to deal with long lines at local Comcast centers.

    Spotty outages will continue to eat at its reputation, but at least it's getting better about responding to the difficult moments.

    2. It's hopping on the streaming TV bandwagon. It may have been a late arrival to the stand-alone streaming television revolution, but it's hoping to make up for lost time now. Comcast will be rolling out Stream, a streaming service that for $15 a month will offer streaming access to HBO and all of the major networks. It also offers a cloud-based DVR to record shows to watch later.

    It's not perfect. It will only be made available to its Xfinity customers. Stream can be viewed on PCs, phones and tablets, but only in their homes. That may be a deal breaker for many, but it's not a bad way to go for folks who were ready to cut their premium TV provider loose, looking for a cheaper home-based alternative. Comcast's Xfinity is the country's largest Internet service provider -- it now has more broadband customers than cable TV accounts -- so it stands to benefit from the popularity of streaming services.

    Stream will kick off in Boston later this summer, rolling out nationwide by early next year.

    3. Those theme parks are pretty irresistible. Comcast's chain of Universal Studios theme parks is on a roll. Its theme parks entertained 40 million guests worldwide, and it's closing the gap with Disney (DIS) in the U.S. with its theme parks in Florida and California on a pace to post double-digit attendance growth this summer. Disney isn't growing that quickly.

    The addition of lavishly themed Harry Potter lands in Florida -- and California early next year -- have been helping. There's no shortage of Potter and theme park fans who have set aside their hate for Comcast long enough to patronize one of the theme parks.

    4. Losing out on Time Warner cable makes it mortal. Consumers may have cheered when antitrust regulators shot down Comcast's proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable (TWC), but it ultimately makes the company more human. Comcast doesn't always get what it wants.

    Regulators have let other major deals go through, but drawing the line here for Comcast makes it less likely to continue growing by acquisition. It's going to have to earn its future growth organically, and that means that we can't say that it's just trying to buy its way to success.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends United Parcel Service and Walt Disney and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.​​

     

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    Couple sorting out bills
    Getty Images
    Mutual funds are a great way to buy into the historical success of stocks and bonds without having to take the time to research investments one at a time. Mutual funds are cheap, especially if you stick to no-load funds that pack low expense ratios.

    The luxury of investing in a mutual fund is that with someone else calling the shots, you are free to live your life. You don't have to worry about the daily market gyrations. Buying into a fund should be a "set it and forget it" experience. However, there are a few events that should force you into reevaluating your investment. Let's check them out.

    1. Your fund manager is gone. Mutual fund ads claim that "past performance is no indication of future performance," but if you're buying a fund based on its track record, what you're really doing is buying into the vision of the person managing the investments.

    Fund managers can come and go. A hot fund's manager will draw attention from rival mutual fund operators, and sometimes rock stars get pulled away to be at the helm of a new fund at the same family. If your fund managers change, you need to pay attention, especially if it was that shot caller's picks that drew you to the fund in the first place.

    It doesn't always mean you bail. This doesn't apply to index funds, naturally. Some multimanager funds hold up if some of the seasoned leadership sticks around. However, if an entirely new management team is in place, it's only fair that you dismiss the fund's past performance.

    2. The fund gets too big. It's probably not a surprise that top-rated fund managers sometimes struggle as their funds get too big. Legg Mason's (LM) Bill Miller had a legendary run at Legg Mason Value Trust. He beat the stock market for 15 consecutive years through 2005. However, with fund assets topping $21 billion at its peak, it got harder to beat the market.

    Miller made some bad bets on financials during the banking crisis, but it was probably hard to manage a fund so large. You have to buy in big chunks, and that often means either limiting oneself to the largest stocks or buying into so many different companies that it dilutes the performance of winners. It wasn't a surprise to see Miller bounce back after he moved to the helm of a smaller fund at Legg Mason.

    3. Your fund changes. Some mutual funds change over time, and it's not often for the better. A fund family can often combine two funds into one, often when one is underperforming or too small. If your fund is the one being absorbed into another, you may find you're invested in a fund with entirely different objectives than you had originally intended.

    Mutual fund families can also acquire other families, and that could result in unflattering fee changes or fund combinations. The bottom line is that if the name of your fund changes, you should take the time to investigate what has actually happened.

    It's your fund. If it ever becomes something else -- whether it's through new management, new size, or new objectives -- you may want to move on.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    Young couple looking at bills
    Getty Images
    By Cameron Huddleston

    One in 5 Americans spent more than what they earned in the last 12 months, according to a Federal Reserve Board survey released in May. Some might be relying on credit or dipping into savings to cover their spending because they are having trouble making ends meet. And, some are simply living beyond their means.

    Regardless of the reason your spending exceeds your income, "overspending is harmful because it could be a sign you're out of control with your finances," said Leslie H. Tayne, an attorney who concentrates in debt resolution solutions and author of "Life & Debt." Your overspending might be making it hard to pay bills, have money for emergencies and save for the future. It could lead to serious consequences, such as bankruptcy.

    Here are five warning signs that indicate you are spending too much, how your overspending can hurt you and how to get your spending under control:

    1. You max out your credit cards and pay only the minimum. If you're maxing out your credit cards and can't pay off your balances every month, it's a sign that you're relying on credit to supplement your income, Tayne said. "This is a hard cycle to break, especially if you can only afford to make the minimum payments each month," she said. Not only can this hurt your credit score, but it can also leave you in debt longer than necessary.

    If a high percentage of your available credit is used -- in other words, most of your cards are maxed out -- the credit scoring agencies consider this to be a sign that you are overextended and will likely lower your credit score. A lower score will make it harder for you to get additional credit and might force you to pay higher rates on that credit.

    Paying the minimum on your credit card won't necessarily hurt your score, but it could take you a long time to pay off your debt and cost you extra money in interest. For example, if you had a $1,000 balance on a card with a 16 percent APR and made a minimum monthly payment of $25 on your balance, it would take nearly five years to pay off your debt. And, you'd pay about $440 in interest, according to Capital One's credit card calculator.

    2. You pay bills late. About one out of 20 people with a credit file are at least 30 days late on a credit card or a non-mortgage account payment, according to an Urban Institute report.

    Paying bills late because you don't have the cash to cover them is a sign that you're overspending, Tayne said. And it sends a red flag to your credit issuers, which could hike your interest rates or lower your credit limit, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. You'll also be hit with fees -- which can add up quickly -- and several late payments will hurt your credit score.

    If you're more than 180 days late on a payment, your debt typically is assigned to a collection agency or debt collector. Having debt in collections can lower your credit score and will remain on your credit report for seven years, according to myFICO.com. What's worse is that your creditors or debt collectors can sue you and be allowed to garnish you wages to pay the debt you owe.

    3. You raid your retirement account. You might think there's no harm borrowing from your retirement account because it's your money. About 20 percent of 401(k) plan participants have taken a loan from their account, according to the Pencil Research Council Working Paper. You can borrow up to half of your 401(k) balance, up to a maximum of $50,000, but Tayne said rarely is this a good idea. "Borrowing from your future is a risky move," she said.

    If you borrow from your retirement account, you will have to pay yourself back with interest -- which can be lower than the rate of return you would've gotten if you had left the money in the account. So really, you're just shortchanging your retirement savings.

    4. You use payday loans. Although these short-term loans that typically have to be paid back in 14 days might be seen as a way to cover the cost of an unexpected expense, most people who get payday loans use them to cover everyday expenses, according to a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts. It's certainly a sign that you're overspending if you have to rely on payday loans, Tayne said.

    There is a high cost to these loans. They come with extraordinarily high annual interest rates -- APRs of 391 to 521 percent. And payday lenders will let you rollover the balance of a loan for a fee if you can't repay the full amount when it's due. If you roll over a typical payday loan of $325 eight times, you'll owe more than $460 in interest and have to repay a total of nearly $800, according to the Center for Responsible Lending.

    5. You borrow from friends and family. If you have to turn to friends and family for money, it's a sign that your overspending has left you financially strapped, Tayne said. You might think it's a good way to get an interest-free loan, but "being unable to pay back the loan can lead to tension and can ruin your relationship," Tayne said.

    How to Stop the Overspending Habit

    If you've realized that you have an overspending problem, rest assured -- there are different ways you can get your spending under control and create healthy spending habits.

    1. Create a budget. The first step to getting your spending under control is to create a budget, Tayne said. Take a close look at what you're spending money on and look for ways to cut back.

    2. Rely on cash. By living on a cash- or debit-only budget, you can curb the impulse to overspend, Tayne said. She suggested setting a budget for each shopping trip and only bringing that much cash with you to avoid making impulse purchases.

    3. Get help. If you're buried in debt and can't curb your spending, your best option might be to get professional help. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling member agencies provide free and affordable debt counseling and other money management services. You can find an agency in your area through NFCC.org.

    This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com.

     

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    Wall street, New York, USA.
    Alamy
    From three different amusement park operators checking in with fresh financials to the leading domain name registration company stepping up with its first quarterly report as a public company, here are some of the things that will help shape the week that lies ahead on Wall Street.

    Monday -- Passing the Keys

    The new trading weeks kicks off with Avis Budget (CAR) reporting quarterly results after Monday's market close. The auto rental giant has been acquiring smaller players in this highly fragmented market, becoming a great proxy for the state of car rentals.

    The market isn't exactly excited about Avis Budget's near-term prospects. The stock is trading a lot closer to its 52-week low than its high and analysts see quarterly profits clocking in flat with the prior year's showing. The good news is that Avis Budget has beaten Wall Street forecasts every single quarter over the past year. It will need to put the pedal to the metal if it wants to keep that streak going.

    Tuesday -- You Must Be This Tall to Ride

    We'll get a good snapshot of how the country's theme and amusement parks are doing Tuesday with Disney (DIS) and Cedar Fair (FUN) reporting fresh financials. Disney, naturally, runs the world's most popular theme parks, entertaining more than 134 million guests worldwide last year. Cedar Fair is one of the largest operators of regional amusement parks. It's the company behind Cedar Fair in Ohio, Knott's Berry Farm in California and several other hometown favorites.

    Summer is peak season for the industry and the fundamentals have been encouraging. Gas prices, an important component of family road trips, are reasonably low. The economy's improving and consumer confidence is expanding. It's probably been a great summer for a roller-coaster ride and we'll know more come Tuesday.

    Wednesday -- Master of Your Domain

    GoDaddy (GDDY) went public in March, and Wednesday it will discuss its first full quarter as a public company. GoDaddy is the country's leading registrar of domain names, arming consumers and companies with an online presence.

    GoDaddy has yet to turn a profit, but it's having no problem attracting a growing user base. Revenue climbed 23 percent last year and analysts see a 15 percent uptick in 2015. Wall Street pros are bracing for another quarterly deficit Wednesday on continuing top-line growth.

    Thursday -- Just Another Fish Tale

    Two days after Disney and Cedar Fair report, we have SeaWorld Entertainment (SEAS) splashing down with its latest financials. The theme park operator has struggled with declining attendance at its theme parks since being called out in the critical "Blackfish" documentary two years ago.

    Attendance did bounce back during the first quarter, but that was mostly the result of the seasonally potent Easter holiday falling in March this year. (It took place in April last year.) That should make this a challenging second quarter, but if attendance is up for the entire second half of the year when pitted against the first half of last year, it would definitely be a sign that the notorious marine-life park operator is on the cusp of a turnaround.

    Friday -- Watch Out

    Apple (AAPL) has been the only one selling its bar-raising smartwatch, but that changes Friday, when Best Buy (BBY) begins offering the Apple Watch. It won't be available at all Best Buy stores right away. Friday's rollout will be at just 100 of its more than 1,400 retail locations. Another 200 stores will begin stocking the smartwatch later this year. It will also be available to anyone in the U.S. through BestBuy.com, though it's probably just as easy to buy it through Apple.com in that case.

    Apple's refusal to spell out how many Apple Watch devices it sold during its debut quarter has been seen as problematic by some, but it's too early to call it a flop. Distribution into non-Apple locations matters and we'll be getting the first taste of that Friday.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of SeaWorld Entertainment and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Apple and Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days, and check out our free report for one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    Young family sitting in baggage claim area
    Getty Images
    By Christopher Elliott

    Just before Gerald and Byrone LoCasale set sail on an 18-day Princess cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Los Angeles, disaster struck. Byrone LoCasale sustained an injury that required immediate orthopedic surgery. The couple, both frequent Princess customers, reluctantly canceled the trip.

    But there was good news. LoCasale, who is retired and lives in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, learned that Princess had resold his cabin. Getting credit for the $16,201 they'd spent would be easy, right?

    LoCasale faxed all the necessary medical documentation to Princess, but it didn't respond. He e-mailed the cruise line and received a terse phone call from an unnamed representative. "The answer was very short," he says. "They decided not to honor my request."

    Travelers understand "no refund" policies. But when a room, cabin or airline seat can be resold, it's harder to explain why the consumer's money is still gone. Although some companies routinely refund such purchases, many do not. Now, advocates are pushing for more customer-friendly policies.

    I contacted Princess several times about LoCasale's case. A spokesman said its records show that the cabin wasn't resold. Rather, it upgraded another passenger to LoCasale's empty cabin.

    Princess applied a 25 percent credit toward a future sailing "as a gesture of goodwill and to show our appreciation for their future business," said Brian O'Connor, a cruise line spokesman.

    It doesn't always end like this. David Valade had a reservation at the Hartstone Inn and Hideaway in Camden, Maine, which has a similar no-refund policy. If you cancel your reservation up to 14 days before your arrival, it will charge you for one night.

    But, like LoCasale, he had to change his plans because of events beyond his control -- in this case, a death in the family. Valade canceled his reservation without sharing any of the unfortunate details.

    "Their policy was clear, and I knew the risk," he says. "When I called to cancel, they told me they'd refund if they rebooked the room. And they did." A few days later, the inn contacted him and credited $479 back to his card.

    Golden Rule

    Many small hotels do the same. "We do it because, quite frankly, it's how we'd like to be treated," says Stephen Fofanoff, the innkeeper for the Domaine Madeleine Bed and Breakfast in Port Angeles, Washington. "We're a luxury property, and our goal is for everyone to have an experience that exceeds their expectations, even if they don't end up staying with us."

    At Domaine Madeleine, if you cancel up to 14 days before your planned stay, the hotel charges the full amount of the reservation and a $25 cancellation fee. The fee allows the hotel to track the reservation so it can determine whether the room is resold.

    "Anything that is resold is refunded after the reservation dates have ended to account for any last-minute reservations, unless the entire date span is rebooked -- then we refund immediately," he says. "If the reason for cancellation is out of the control of the guest, like a medical illness or weather preventing travel, then we refund the stay and do not charge a cancellation fee even if the room is not resold."

    Ah, but that's a small business. But how about something more complicated, with lots of components, like a tour?

    Elizabeth Avery, founder of Washington-based Solo Trekker 4 U, is developing a technology platform that would in effect allow the resale of tour inventory that's canceled at the last minute.

    "Resales would benefit tour providers that may suddenly lack a required minimum number of participants," she says. "It would also benefit travelers who are uninsured but must cancel at the last minute. They would only have a partial loss."

    The reason she says partial is that tour packages tend to be bundled and contain components that are nonrefundable.

    Inflexible

    Airlines are probably the most rigid when it comes to offering your money back. To get an idea of how inflexible they are, consider that until the Department of Transportation stepped in and required a 24-hour cancellation window, virtually all tickets were unchangeable from the moment they were booked, even when the consumer made an obvious error.

    The DOT's new rule, introduced in 2012, forced airlines to hold a reservation or cancel it without penalty within a day, unless the flier was less than a week from departure. In other words, it assumed that the airline would have a sufficient opportunity to resell the seat.

    The National Consumers League, a Washington advocacy group, has been pushing the federal government for fairer refund rules. Instead of a simple 24-hour-window rule, they want airlines to refund a ticket if a seat is resold. To the average consumer, that makes a lot of sense. It's an issue of fairness to them. A travel company wouldn't stand for its guests collecting frequent stayer points on the same room twice or pocketing a refund from both their travel agency and hotel, so why should their travelers tolerate it?

    The standard industry rebuttal, offered only in off-the-record conversation -- and after you get past the technology excuse -- is: We do it because we're a business, and because we can.

    But collecting money twice for the same product smacks of profiteering, and if consumer advocates such as the National Consumers League have their way, it won't be legal for much longer.

    Christopher Elliott's latest book is "How To Be The World's Smartest Traveler" (National Geographic). You can get real-time answers to any consumer question on his new forum, elliott.org/forum, or by emailing him at chris@elliott.org

    Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free!

     

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    Mom taking daughter to school
    Getty ImagesYou'll get more bang for your backpack by shopping these sales.
    Parents of schoolchildren know that August marks a busy shopping month: There are backpacks, ballpoint pens, binders and book bags to buy.

    But you don't have to let back-to-school shopping blow your budget. From office essentials to trendy clothes, we've handpicked the best school supply sales you should shop before the new school year begins.

    Amazon

    Amazon.com (AMZN) is a one-stop school supply shop. The retailer has discounted pretty much everything parents could possibly need to purchase for the start of the new academic year, from Lysol disinfecting wipes to Five Star notebooks.

    Plus, through September, Amazon will roll out a series of limited-time deals on back-to-school products. Featured items include electronics and clothing as well as snacks and beverages. Visit Amazon's back-to-school section, and check the ending date of a specific sale to see how long it lasts.

    Staples

    For a limited time, office supply store Staples (SPLS) promises to get students 110 percent ready for the start of school.

    Now through Sept. 19, Staples will match the price of a competitor's item, and then offer an additional 10 percent off the price difference. Present proof of the competitor's price in store. For online purchases, call 800-333-3330 and provide the url and item number for the lower-priced product you found.

    The Disney Store

    Add a little character to your back-to-school supplies with Disney-themed products from the Disney Store.

    The retailer aims to help students go "back to cool" with discounted prices on movie- and character-inspired products. Select backpacks, for example, have been reduced to $15 (regularly $22.95). Prices of select lunch totes have dropped to $10 (regularly $14.95).

    Verizon Wireless

    School shopping doesn't have to only include the essentials. The back-to-school zone at Verizon Wireless includes all the electronic gadgets that a techie student will need to rock the semester in style.

    And there are some discounts, too. The price of the LG G Watch, for instance, has been slashed by 56 percent. Students can wear this smartwatch for just $99.99 (regularly $229.99).

    Walmart

    At discount giant Walmart (WMT), shopping for school is as easy as searching by grade. The retailer has compiled a list of accessories for students of every age. Visit Walmart's back-to-school section, and click on the appropriate category: preschool, grades K-2, grades 3-5, grades 6-8, grades 9-12, top college supplies or teaching and classroom supplies.

    Within each section, shoppers will discover "rollback" discounts on staple products for the school year. School uniforms, for example, start at just $4.47. Plus, shop online at Walmart and enjoy free shipping on orders $35 or more.

    Overstock

    Fifty percent isn't a great grade in school, but it sure is a great savings opportunity. Online retailer Overstock (OSTK) has launched a school-themed sale and is inviting shoppers to "make the grade" with discounts up to 50 percent off on select products.

    You can find deals on the following: bedding, furniture, storage, kitchen and dining, bath, decor and lighting, laundry and cleaning, electronics, collegiate and more.

    Famous Footwear

    The new school year just wouldn't be complete without a new pair of kicks, and now you don't even have to pick just one pair. Thanks to the back-to-school event at Famous Footwear (CAL), students can get both the Chuck Taylor Converse and the Nike running shoes they want.

    Shoppers can buy one and get a second pair half-off when they purchase one pair of shoes and a second pair of equal or lesser value. Visit Famous Footwear's website to view full details (including excluded styles) of this sale.

    Toys R Us
    Toys R Us isn't just for toys; you can find back-to-school items there, too. Visit the Toys R Us website to browse sale products by category, including: lunchbox supplies, school supplies, classroom furniture, teacher supplies and more.

    Additionally, shoppers who purchase any backpack priced at $12.99 or more can score a free lunch kit (up to a $9.99 value).

    Kohl's

    In some cases, stocking up on classroom essentials is only half the back-to-school shopping battle. For college students, there are dorm room accessories to buy, as well.

    At department store Kohl's (KSS), the limited-time home sale applies to dorm furniture and bedding. Customers can find price cuts on everything from chairs and air mattresses to desks and laptop trays.

    Plus, through Aug. 1, you can take an extra 15 percent off online purchases of eligible backpacks, kids apparel and shoes. Simply enter promo code "SCHOOL15" at checkout.

    Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, which saves consumers cash and compares everything from shopping deals to credit cards.

     

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    Consumer Spending
    Alan Diaz/AP
    By Lucia Mutikani

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. consumer spending advanced at its slowest pace in four months in June and factory activity slipped in July, indicating the economy lost some momentum recently.

    But that could be temporary as automakers reported Monday that U.S. sales increased solidly last month after dropping in June, keeping the industry on track for its best year in a decade.

    We expect growth momentum to re-accelerate over the next few months, providing the Fed with the necessary confidence they need to raise rates in September.

    The sluggish economic data didn't change economists' expectations that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates this year, given a tightening labor market.

    "We expect growth momentum to re-accelerate over the next few months, providing the Fed with the necessary confidence they need to raise rates in September," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

    The Institute for Supply Management said its national factory activity index fell to 52.7 last month from 53.5 in June. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in manufacturing.

    A gauge of new orders received by factories rose to a seven-month high, while inventories continued to decline.

    There was growth in 11 of the 18 manufacturing industries, including furniture, fabricated metal products, electrical equipment, appliances and components, and transportation equipment. Five industries including machinery reported that production had contracted in July.

    Dollar strength has hobbled manufacturing, pressuring the profits of multinational corporations. Deep spending cuts in the energy sector after last year's plunge in crude oil prices have taken their toll too, while weak global demand has also been a drag on manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the U.S. economy.

    "The negatives of the strong dollar, slower-than-expected foreign growth and lower oil prices appear to still be exerting a negative influence through an inventory adjustment," said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.

    U.S. stocks ended lower as slumping oil prices pushed energy shares to a three-year low. U.S. Treasury debt prices were mostly up and the dollar rose slightly against a basket of currencies.

    Consumers Step Back

    In a separate report, the Commerce Department said consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 0.2 percent in June after a 0.7 percent increase in May. When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending was unchanged after rising 0.4 percent in May.

    The data was included in last week's second-quarter gross domestic product report, which showed consumer spending expanding at a 2.9 percent annual rate and the overall economy growing at a 2.3 percent pace.

    The Fed last week described the economy as expanding "moderately," upgraded its view of the labor market and said housing had shown "additional" improvement. Its assessment left the door open for a possible rate hike in September, which would be the first increase in nearly a decade.

    Consumer spending in June was restrained by a decline in auto purchases. But with auto sales accelerating in July, spending likely gathered steam last month, and is expected to be supported by rising incomes as the jobs market approaches full employment and firming home prices boost household wealth.

    U.S. auto sales rose 5.3 percent to 1.51 million vehicles, above the 3 percent rise expected by analysts, according to Autodata Corp. That translates to an annualized sale rate of 17.55 million vehicles in July and keeps the auto industry on pace for its best year since 2000.

    High-margin pickup trucks helped sales of market leaders General Motors (GM) and Ford Motor (F), which each showed gains that were more than double analysts' estimates.

    "Durable goods consumption looks off to a good start heading into the third quarter," said Jesse Hurwitz, an economist at Barclays in New York.

    Personal income rose 0.4 percent in June, increasing by the same margin for a third straight month. Inflation remained well below the Fed's 2 percent target.

    A price index for consumer spending rose 0.2 percent after gaining 0.3 percent in May. In the 12 months through June, the personal consumption expenditures price index rose 0.3 percent. Excluding food and energy, prices edged up 0.1 percent for the third straight month.

    It was up 0.148 percent before rounding. The so-called core PCE price index rose 1.3 percent in the 12 months through June.

    "There is a hint of an upward trend here that might help reassure policymakers that headline inflation will head toward the Fed's target rate once oil prices stabilize," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York.

    -Bernie Woodall contributed reporting from Detroit.

     

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    A Save-A-Lot grocery store.
    Alamy
    Plenty of stocks go up and down in any given week. The gainers inspire us to keep investing. The decliners keep greed in check while reminding us about the risks of the equity markets.

    Let's go over some of last week's best and worst performers.

    YRC Worldwide (YRCW) -- Up 56 percent last week

    Nasdaq's biggest winner was YRC Worldwide. Shares of the trucking network soared after posting better-than-expected quarterly results. It wasn't even close. Analysts were targeting an adjusted profit of 31 cents a share, but YRC Worldwide came through with adjusted earnings of 80 cents a share.

    Supervalu (SVU) -- Up 25 percent last week

    Grocery stock operators don't often make big moves, but Supervalu made it happen after revealing that it's considering spinning off its Save-A-Lot chain. The move would unlock the value in the company, and the mere possibility of a spin off got the market excited. Telsey Advisory Group and Morgan Stanley (MS) upgraded the stock following the news.

    Shake Shack (SHAK) -- Up 20 percent last week

    The old "Buy on the rumor, sell on the news" mantra sometimes works the other way around. Investors had been unloading shares of Shake Shack in recent weeks, and the stock shed nearly half of its value since peaking in May. The fear here was that insiders would bail once lock-up restrictions expired late last week. Stocks go public with conditions that insiders wait several months before selling.

    With Shake Shack's stock soaring since its IPO six months ago, it's easy to see why folks were concerned that insiders would want to cash out when the window to do so opened late last week. They didn't, and the stock took off when it was clear that the market had overreacted by selling off the stock in recent weeks.

    Yelp (YELP) -- Down 24 percent last week

    The market gave Yelp a one-star review last week. The company behind the website that offers reviews of local establishments gave investors plenty of reasons to sell the stock after posting unflattering financials.

    Yelp posted a small quarterly loss when Wall Street was settling for a small profit. This is the second time in a row that this has happened. Yelp also lowered its guidance, and if that's not bad enough, it also revealed that its chairman will be leaving the company and that it will be closing down its high-margin brand business. More than a half-dozen analysts downgraded Yelp following the laundry list of bad news.

    Cimpress (CMPR) -- Down 19 percent last week

    Cimpress didn't impress last week. The provider of a wide variety of printing services that used to be known as Vistaprint spooked investors after saying that it would no longer be offering up financial guidance. It's a surprise since Cimpress is coming off a solid quarter.

    Some investors may appreciate companies that stay tight-lipped when it comes to providing financial outlooks, but the market itself can be jaded about these things. It takes the old "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all" adage to heart when corporations decide to clam up, assuming that bad things are on the horizon.

    Twitter (TWTR) -- Down 12 percent last week

    Concerns of user growth continue to dog the social media platform. Twitter's base of active users has been decelerating on a percentage basis, and its CFO said last week that meaningful growth won't return until it reaches the mass market. He expects that to take a "considerable" amount of time, and that's not good enough for an impatient stock market.

    Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Cimpress, Supervalu, Twitter and Yelp. The Motley Fool owns shares of Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    Auto Sales
    AP
    By DEE-ANN DURBIN

    DETROIT -- More Americans are buying cars that say "look at me."

    Luxury vehicles like Audis and Volvos drove off dealer lots at a furious pace in July and, combined with sizzling demand for SUVs, helped the auto industry roll on toward its best annual sales since before the recession. July sales rose 5 percent to more than 1.5 million, according to Autodata Corp.

    Subaru reported the biggest sales gain of 10.5 percent over last July. General Motors (GM), Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) and Hyundai all saw 6 percent sales increases, while Honda (HMC) and Nissan saw 8 percent gains. Ford's (F) U.S. sales rose 5 percent. Volkswagen sales rose 2 percent. Toyota's (TM) sales were flat, hurt by a big drop in car sales.

    LUXURY AUTO SALES
    The high demand for big, pricey vehicles is defying recession-era predictions that Americans would downsize and stop flaunting their wealth. Luxury sales were up 10 percent in the first six months of this year; in the same time period, mass-market vehicle sales rose just 3 percent, according to car shopping site TrueCar.com.

    The surge in SUV sales is due in part to relatively low gas prices, which ended July at around $2.70 a gallon nationwide. Sales of Nissan's new Rogue SUV jumped 51 percent in July, while sales of GM's Buick Encore jumped 68 percent.

    Summer discounts to clear out 2015 models also lured buyers. Sales of midsize sedans have been struggling as Americans pass them over for small SUVs, so automakers enticed buyers with zero-percent financing deals on the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima and other sedans. It worked. Altima sales rose 27 percent and set a new July record.

    Another big motivator: status. Luxury brands made up 11.5 percent of vehicles purchased so far this year, up from 10.2 percent three years ago, according to TrueCar.

    Audi saw its best July ever in the U.S., with sales up 21 percent to more than 17,500 cars and SUVs. Lincoln's sales jumped 21 percent; the brand sold 785 Lincoln Navigator SUVs, or 25 per day, at more than $62,000 apiece. Acura and Infiniti sales both climbed 20 percent. Volvo's sales were up 15 percent.

    Luxury brand sales have been growing faster than mass-market ones since 2013, but the pace is accelerating for several reasons, says Larry Dominique, TrueCar's executive vice president.

    Luxury automakers are adding more models at lower prices, which is attracting new buyers. Mercedes' CLA sedan, introduced in 2013, starts at $31,500, while Lexus has a new small SUV, the NX, that starts at $34,480. That's within reach of younger buyers. Dominique said Millennials are now leasing luxury cars at a higher rate than other generations.

    Dominique said that before the recession, when housing values were high, the industry believed luxury sales were inflated because people were borrowing against their home values. But that wasn't the case. After the recession, luxury sales took off even before home values had recovered.

    "People who buy luxury want luxury. It's a cultural phenomenon," Dominique said.

    Increases in the stock market have fueled luxury sales. Low interest rates have also helped some luxury buyers lower their monthly lease or loan payments.

    Here are more details, by automaker:
    • GM's sales rose 6 percent to 272,512. Buick sales jumped 18 percent, but Cadillac sales were down. GMC and Chevrolet sales were up thanks to demand for trucks. Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck sales were up 34 percent in July.
    • Ford's sales were up 5 percent to 222,731. F-Series pickup sales, which had been down due to lack of inventory as a new truck went into production, were up 5 percent. But Ford's car sales fell 4 percent.
    • Toyota's sales were up less than 1 percent to 217,181. Sales of the Tacoma small pickup jumped 29 percent, while Lexus SUV sales were up 28 percent thanks to the new NX small SUV. But car sales were down. Prius hybrid sales dropped 13 percent.
    • Fiat Chrysler's sales rose 6 percent to 178,027. Jeep sales increased 23 percent and Ram sales rose 1 percent, but Dodge and Fiat sales were down.
    • Honda's sales rose 8 percent to 146,324. Honda's SUV and truck sales jumped 13 percent, led by the CR-V SUV and the Odyssey minivan. Honda's car sales were up 3 percent.
    • Nissan's sales rose nearly 8 percent to 130,872. Nissan said sales of its trucks and SUVs set a new July record, but low gas prices took a toll on the electric Nissan Leaf, which saw sales drop 61 percent.
    • Hyundai's sales rose 6 percent to 71,013. Sales of its Santa Fe SUV were up 35 percent.
    • Subaru's sales rose 10.5 percent to 50,517. Sales of the XV Crosstrek small SUV jumped 30 percent but sales of the Outback SUV fell 8 percent from last July, which was a record July for the Outback.
    • Volkswagen's sales rose 2.4 percent to 31,300 vehicles. Sales of the new Golf and Jetta sedans more than doubled over last July.

     

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    Earns Verizon
    Mel Evans/AP
    By Krystal Steinmetz

    Verizon's 100 million broadband customers now have the option to sign up for HBO Now, the premium network's stand-alone streaming service.

    The new partnership is providing some consumers with an attractive reason to cut the cable cord.

    "Our customers want choice in accessing premium content when and where they desire, on a variety of devices," Ben Grad, executive director of content strategy and acquisition for Verizon, said in a statement. "HBO Now brings compelling content and choice to Verizon broadband customers today -- and exciting possibilities for HBO content within Verizon's pending mobile video service." HBO Now offers free 30-day trials for new customers. Verizon customers can click here to sign up. After the free trial, HBO Now is $14.99 a month.

    The Internet-only service offers instant access to HBO content, including popular series like "Game of Thrones."

    "We're excited to evolve our partnership with Verizon and bring HBO programming to a new generation of broadband-only customers," said Jeff Dallesandro, HBO's senior vice president of worldwide digital distribution and business development.

    According to Re/code, this deal with Verizon could be huge for HBO, depending on how aggressively the wireless carrier pushes the new service. Previously, HBO had a three-month exclusive contract with Apple to serve as the digital provider of HBO Now.

    "Since then HBO has added other digital distributors, including Amazon and Google's Android, but besides Cablevision, it hasn't added any other pipe owners -- cable TV providers like Comcast have been distinctly unenthusiastic about the plan," Re/code said.

    There's no word on when Verizon's wireless customers may get access to HBO Now.

    If you're not quite ready to cut the cable cord, but want to save some money on your bill, check out some great tips on how to do that.

    What do you think of Verizon's new partnership with HBO? Would you consider cutting your cable cord? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page
    .

     

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    The Pentagon, Washington Dc, Usa
    Getty Images
    After laying out more than $30 billion on military equipment and services contracts in June, the Department of Defense dialed back the spending last month, holding total outlays (not counting servicemembers' salaries and benefits) to just $26.5 billion.

    How do we know this? Let's give credit where credit is due. The Pentagon may be a big spender (of your money), but it's a whole lot more open about how it spends that money, and on what, than many other government agencies are. Every day of the week, almost in real time, the Department of Defense reports to U.S. taxpayers on what contracts it's issued, to whom, and for how much -- all right out in the open on its website.

    Today, we're going to give you a glimpse at those, as we review the top five most interesting Pentagon contracts awarded last month.

    Military Intelligence

    "Military intelligence" is more than just a well-worn joke about a "contradiction in terms." It's also big business. In July, the Defense Intelligence Agency hired a team of 50 companies -- including both IT specialists such as CACI (CACI) and Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) as well as more traditional defense contractors like Boeing (BA) and Northrop Grumman (NOC) -- to support the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency's Enhanced Solutions for the Information Technology Enterprise program over the next five years.

    Total value of the contract: A whopping $6 billion.

    Obamacare for the Military

    In another of the month's big contracts, government contractor Leidos (LDOS) was awarded a $4.3 billion contract to modernize the Pentagon's Defense Healthcare Management System. Leidos will provide the Pentagon with an off-the-shelf electronic health records "solution" and integrate and deploy said solution "across the Military Health System" over the course of a project that may last 10 years.

    Additionally, in a separate award later in the month, Leidos was given a piece of a $501 million contract to conduct unspecified "medical research" for the U.S. Army.

    Robots for the Navy

    Almost as big a deal was a U.S. Navy contract awarded earlier in the month to expand the use of unmanned underwater vehicles and unmanned surface vehicles in dangerous minesweeping operations.

    Seven defense contractors, including big names such as Harris Corp. (HRS), Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), and Lockheed Martin (LMT), were all granted $100 million-plus awards totaling at least $846 million -- and potentially as much as $1.4 billion -- to design, test, and build equipment and software for the new robotic warships.

    Missiles for Peace?

    In another award -- and this is one that Lockheed Martin will get to keep all for itself -- the Pentagon brokered a deal in which Lockheed will sell $1.6 billion worth of Patriot surface-to-air missiles (600 in total) to Chinese neighbors Taiwan and South Korea, and also to buyers in the Persian Gulf region -- Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

    The next day, the Pentagon served as intermediary on a separate contract that will see Raytheon (RTN) supply 355 Joint Stand-Off Weapon smart-bombs to Saudi Arabia (and a further 200 JSOWs to the U.S. Navy). In total, this smart-bomb contract will be worth $180 million to Raytheon.

    Uh-Oh! Better Get Maaco!

    Not all Pentagon contracts are about blowing things up. Some are just about holding things together. In our final featured contract for the month of July, privately held Q.E.D. Systems and International Marine and Industrial Applicators -- a distant subsidiary of defense giant General Dynamics (GD), were hired to perform "preservation" work on U.S. Navy submarines.

    Los Angeles-, Virginia- and Ohio-class nuclear submarines will get the full Maaco treatment, as they're sand-blasted and repainted to ward off rust and such. Q.E.D. will get $149 million for its work, and Industrial Marine $141 million.

    These awards represent only a small sampling of the hundreds of contracts your tax dollars funded last month, of course. To see the rest, check out the Department of Defense contracts website.

    $290 million for paint and body work?! Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith wonders if the Pentagon might be better off contracting with that other repair shop -- the one that declares "You're not going to pay a lot for this muffler." Rich owns shares of Raytheon. Follow him on Facebook for all the latest in defense news.

    Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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    Financial Markets Wall Street
    Richard Drew/AP
    By Noel Randewich

    NEW YORK -- Wall Street ended lower on Monday as tumbling oil prices dragged energy shares to a three-year low and factory data from China raised concerns about the world's second-biggest economy.

    Energy stocks were the biggest losers among the main S&P sectors. Exxon Mobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX), which reported poor results Friday, led the losses.

    Oil prices fell on fresh evidence of growing oversupply and data highlighting slowing demand in China. Crude prices are on course for their weakest third-quarter performance since the financial crisis in 2008.

    In the United States, consumer spending recorded its smallest gain in four months, while the pace of growth in the manufacturing sector slowed in July.

    China's factory activity shrank more than initially estimated last month, a survey showed. Concerns about China's economy hurt U.S. industrial stocks as well as Apple (AAPL), which relies on that country for much of its iPhone sales.

    It's a combination of the energy stocks, then the industrials and now the tech stocks, which have joined on the downside.

    A report from market research firm Canalys showed Apple lost some smartphone market share in China in the second quarter. Its stock fell 2.4 percent, weighing most on the Nasdaq and the S&P 500.

    The company's shares slipped below their 200-day daily moving average, a key technical level closely watched by traders, for the first time in nearly two years.

    "It's a combination of the energy stocks, then the industrials and now the tech stocks, which have joined on the downside," said Donald Selkin, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York, which has about $3 billion in assets under management.

    The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 0.5 percent to end at 17,598.2. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GSPC) lost 0.3 percent to 2,098.04 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 0.3 percent to 5,115.38.

    Half of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower, with the energy index falling 2 percent to its lowest level since 2012.

    After the bell, shares of Tenet Healthcare (THC) rose 2.3 percent as the company's second-quarter report pleased investors.

    Tyson Foods (TSN) shares fell 9.9 percent during Monday's session after the biggest U.S. meat processor cut its profit forecast for the year, citing export market disruptions in its beef business and high cattle costs.

    Peabody Energy (BTU) fell 9.2 percent as President Barack Obama prepared to unveil the final version of his plan to tackle greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants.

    Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.54 to 1 ratio on the downside. On the Nasdaq, that ratio was 1.73 to 1 ratio favoring decliners. The S&P 500 index posted 23 new 52-week highs and 26 new lows; the Nasdaq composite posted 78 new highs and 141 new lows. Some 6.5 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, below the five-day average of 7.1 billion this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

    -Tanya Agrawal contributed reporting.

    What to watch Tuesday:
    • The Commerce Department releases factory orders data for June at 10 a.m. Eastern time.
    Earnings Season
    These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:
    • Activision Blizzard (ATVI)
    • Aetna (AET)
    • Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. (ADM)
    • Charter Communications (CHTR)
    • Church & Dwight Co. (CHD)
    • Coach (COH)
    • CVS Health (CVS)
    • Emerson Electric Co. (EMR)
    • Entergy (ETR)
    • Hyatt Hotels (H)
    • Kellogg Co. (K)
    • MGM Resorts International (MGM)
    • Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH)
    • Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN)
    • Sprint (S)
    • Toyota Motor (TM)
    • Walt Disney Co. (DIS)

     

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    Young women and man studding in library
    Getty Images
    Going to college has become an increasingly expensive proposition. With tuition rates quadrupling at public universities over the last 35 years, students are being squeezed at every turn. Although the cost of going to college has certainly increased, students are now able to cut down on some of the costs of attending class, specifically when it comes to their college textbooks.

    It wasn't long ago that college students were presented with just one option to purchase their textbooks -- the university bookstore. The Internet has broken the monopoly on college textbooks formerly held by the university bookstores. These days, students have the ability to get the information that they need at much lower rates.

    Here are a few ideas to help you save money on your college textbooks this Fall.

    Shop for Books Online

    Shopping for college textbooks online has become the rule rather than the exception. Rather than spend double what you would at many college bookstores, you can now go online to any number of different websites to find the best deals on textbooks. Of course, large online stores like Amazon have textbooks available, as do countless other specialty sites.

    One way to save time is to use a free online textbook search tool. These tools enables you to search for textbooks by the book title, author's name, ISBN number or a keyword. It returns results from more than a dozen online textbook vendors to make comparison shopping easy. It also has an option to compare buying a book with renting it.

    Buy Used (In Person or Online)

    If you have the opportunity, try to buy nice copies of used textbooks. You can usually get them for much cheaper than a new, unused copy. Whether the book is new or used, the information in the book didn't change (unless it is an older edition). Some of these used books may already have margin notes or highlights from their previous owner. While that may seem like a bummer, you can actually use those notes as a guide to see what information somebody else thought was important. It's like getting a sneak peek at the course material before you cover it in class.

    Try an Off-Campus Bookstore

    If you have an off-campus college bookstore available in your area, it wouldn't hurt to go and compare prices there. Generally speaking, prices at these bookstores are going to be less than prices at your on-campus bookstore. However, you aren't going to find the same type of deals that you will find at some online stores. Still, if you can't find what you are looking for online or if you need the book immediately, if may pay to wander a few blocks off-campus to check out their textbook selection.

    Go Book-Free (If You Dare)

    Let's face it, instructors love books. As academics, teaching out of books is what they do. They read ... and write ... and sell books. In fact, they love books so much that they will often "require" more textbooks than what they will actually cover during the course. I can't tell you how many times I never even cracked open the cover of a book I paid good money for because we either didn't get to the material or the book simply wasn't needed to begin with. More importantly, most instructors are going to present the important concepts and materials in class during their lectures times. That is what lectures are for. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on gobs of textbooks that you won't use, simply go to class. Take notes, and figure out whether or not you need the books to learn the material. Chances are good that you probably won't.

    Look for Free PDF's Online

    In addition to the numerous ways to buy books online, the Internet has also become a place where students can actually download books in PDF format for free. Though these copies may not be the most recent edition of the book in question, for many genres, the important concepts and materials are still presented. Several websites provide these free PDFs, including the College Open Textbooks Collaborative. If you are short on cash, or just a savvy textbook bargain shopper, make sure to check them out.

    Hit the Library

    Some professors are very understanding about the fact that many college students don't have a lot of extra money laying around. However, they still feel that it is their duty to present each student with the best possible chance to learn the material. To balance these priorities, many instructors will actually place the texts they require for their courses on hold at the school library. When that's the case, you can head to the library, check the book out from the desk, make copies of the material they need and return the book before leaving. Not only is this a great way to make sure you aren't missing any important reading material, it is also free aside from any fees you pay for copies.

    Even though the price of tuition may be up, the price of your college textbooks doesn't have to be. By becoming a savvy shopper and using these techniques, you can save big money on your college textbooks.

     

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    A Tesla Model S charging. Parco Valentino car show hosted 93
    Marco Destefanis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images
    Buying an electric vehicle has become something of an aspirational purchase for those looking to go green, but it's no longer only feasible for those willing to spend a fortune in the name of saving the Earth. It could actually be a way to save money on how you get around, especially as new, cheaper models come out over the next few years.

    On a per-mile basis, the savings can add up quickly. Take a look at just how much you could save on a monthly basis.

    Gasoline Savings Add Up

    If you're the typical driver who puts 15,000 to 20,000 miles on your car a year, it wouldn't be uncommon to spend $150 a month or more at the gas pump. Depending on how efficient your vehicle is, the cost could be significantly more than that.

    But electric vehicles use low-cost electricity, which can lead to significant savings each time you fill up. Below is an example of just how significant those savings can be.

    If we assume the national average $2.79 a gallon of gas as of this writing and an average cost of electricity of 12.64 cents a kwh, here are the costs to travel 265 and 20,000 miles in a Telsa Model S, a BMW 3-Series, and a Ford Fusion Hybrid.

    Measure Tesla Model S BMW 3-Series Ford Fusion Hybrid
    Range/mpg 265 miles 32 mpg city 44 mpg city
    Cost to travel 265 miles $10.74 $23.10 $16.80
    Cost per mile 4.05 cents 8.72 cents 6.34 cents
    Fuel Cost to Drive 20,000 Miles $810.56 $1,743.40 $1,267.92
    Source: Company websites, author's calculations
    For someone who drives 20,000 miles a year, the Tesla Model S could save $934 in fuel costs annually versus the BMW 3- Series. Even against a Ford Fusion Hybrid, the Model S would save $457.36 annually.

    Add to that the savings of not having to change the oil ($30-plus every 3,000 to 6,000 miles) and even the added cost of buying an electric vehicle may not be all that daunting. But even that hurdle isn't as big as it once was, as the cost of electric vehicles is coming down.

    As the Cost of EVs Comes Down, the Market Should Explode

    Today, a Model S is significantly more costly than a BMW 3-Series, which I would say is a close competitor given the performance and finishes of each. The Model S starts at $75,000 ($67,500 after the $7,500 federal tax credit) and you can get in a 3-Series car for $32,950; the Ford Fusion Hybrid starts at $25,990. At those prices, even the fuel savings I've outlined above wouldn't make up for the added cost of an electric vehicle.

    But the market will change in the next few years as more electric models are released. Tesla's Model 3 is expected to cost $35,000, while the Chevy Bolt will start at $38,000 and the Ford Focus Electric starts at $29,170, although it has just an 80-mile range. The clear trend is that electric vehicles are coming down in cost and they'll only be more competitive in the future.

    Time to Think Electric

    Depending on your personal situation, an electric vehicle might not be right for you. But it's becoming more and more clear that cost isn't going to be what holds back electric vehicle sales. In fact, many people could save money by going electric, simply because electricity is such a cheap source of energy.

    Maybe fuel savings are something to consider next time you go car shopping. And it's probably time to look beyond mpg to miles per kwh the next time you look at a car.

    Motley Fool contributor Travis Hoium owns shares of Ford. The Motley Fool recommends BMW, Ford and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

     

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