The right way to rent textbooks
If the high cost of textbooks has you in a panic, consider renting, said Ann Carrns at The New York Times. The average cost of college textbooks and supplies is about $1,200 per year, but more-affordable alternatives are becoming more popular. Last semester, more than a third of students rented at least one textbook, up from a quarter a year earlier. When deciding whether to rent or buy, start by comparing prices, both at your campus bookstore and online booksellers like Chegg.com and Amazon. If you rent and are worried about late fees, text and email reminders can help you stay in the clear. And don't forget that there are a few downsides to renting, including fees for any damage and the fact that you won't "recoup any of your money by reselling the volume."
Consolidating IRAs with a spouse
If you and your spouse are trying to merge a retirement account, forget it, said Liz Weston at Bankrate. Though spouses can inherit retirement accounts after a partner's death, retirement accounts are ultimately "like credit scores. Each person has his or her own, and they can't be merged after marriage." But if you're trying to make managing your retirement funds more, well, manageable, consider consolidating your family's accounts to a single investment firm. "Not only will it be easier to manage and coordinate your investments, but some firms lower or waive fees based on how much a household has invested with them." Vanguard, for example, waives one of its annual fees when a household has combined assets of $50,000 or more.
The cost of retail-branded cards
Stay away from store credit cards, said Mitch Lipka at DailyFinance. Though big sign-up discounts can make store-branded credit cards a tempting offer, a new survey released last week shows those initial savings will cost you — big time. The CreditCards.com survey found that the average retail card's annual percentage rate was 23.2 percent — more than eight points above the average credit card's interest rate, "and more than double what consumers with good credit can get." That means that a cardholder with a $1,000 balance on a typical store-branded card who makes minimum monthly payments would spend more than six years paying off the debt, including $840 in interest. That's a year longer — and more than twice as much in interest — than the same balance on the typical nonstore card.