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Back From D.C. (and Blog Roundup)

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I took a vacation from work this past week to coincide with my girlfriend’s winter break (she’s a teacher). We traveled to Washington, D.C. to see the sights and meet up with some friends. Thanks to the snow, the exhibits were not very crowded. Unfortunately, the weather had a negative effect on our health, and the one day was the limit to our outdoor exposure. Highlights for us included the Stephen Colbert portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, Treasures of American History at the National Air and Space Museum, a quick run through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and, of course, dinner with friends. The coin exhibit I would have liked to see at the Smithsonian closed about a week ago, and by the time we made it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (my girlfriend’s choice), they had already given their last public tour for the day.

There is more than enough to do the next time we visit, which will likely be around the National Cherry Blossom Festival when the city will be warmer and more crowded.

I hope you enjoyed the guest posts while I was away. Here are some more recent articles from the web, worthy of attention.

When is Debt Real Debt? JLP from AllFinancialMatters asks whether taking advantage a 0% offer is the same as incurring debt. In my opinion, yes, it’s technically debt, even if you can pay it off at any time. That’s a strictly technical definition, but for all practical purposes other than financial reporting, I would say that anything you pay off within a month doesn’t need to be considered bad debt. Therefore, “debt-free living” can involve using credit cards if you either (a) pay off the balance each month or (b) take advantage of favorable interest rates as long as you can pay off the balance at any time if needed.

Is the Cost of Living Increasing Faster Than Inflation Estimates? Nickel asks this question and from my personal viewpoint, the answer is, “absolutely.” Even taking out lifestyle creep, in which I’m spending money for better products every year, the baseline cost of everything I need to survive as a commuter/resident in New Jersey increases beyond the 3% to 4% the government cites as the inflation rate.

Yikes! People Can Create Checks from Your Account and Pay Themselves! Free Money Finance issues this warning. “You authorize a payment by phone, or a telemarketer falsely claims that you authorized a payment by phone, from your checking account. Step Two: The person you authorized, or the person who is out to steal from you, makes up a check on your account and sends it through the banking system.”

Dumb Money: The Movie Theater. Kevin from No Debt Plan writes about the cost of going to the movie theater. It had been a while since I paid full price for a movie, usually going to matinées if at all. Last night, my girlfriend and I went to see the latest romantic comedy, and I was surprised to see that ticket prices in the suburban township have climbed to $10. (If we ordered the tickets online in advance, we would have had to pay an additional $1 for each ticket, as well.)

Mighty Bargain Hunter clears up confusion by writing about seven pairs of easily-confused money terms. MBH describes the difference between multi-level marketing and pyramid schemes. One is legal, one is not, and this post explains why.

Paying for Three Kids to Go to College is Going to Be Expensive. No Credit Needed lays out his plan for saving $2,000 each year for each of his three children.

Wise Bread offers six horrible financial products you should avoid. The first on this list is the 401(k) debit card. “Early withdrawls carry a 10% penalty plus tax expenses so $10 withdrawn from a 401k becomes $6 to $7. In the past it took at least a few forms to do an early withdraw from a 401k, and it is not worth the effort to fill out a form for every $5. However, a debit card just makes the process of withdrawing small amounts so easy…”

Updated February 10, 2011 and originally published February 22, 2008.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I’m so jealous you got to see the portrait!

But yes, I definitely agree that the cost of living rises faster than the rate of inflation. For one thing, the inflation rate is jiggered to exclude the two biggest costs for me: energy and housing.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

Glad you had a great time! Im still getting to know DC myself. Next time, stop by and say hello!

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I work less than two blocks from the Portrait Gallery and we always find it such a riot to see the huge line of people waiting to take a picture of the Colbert portrait. But it’s definitely worth swinging by for a peek. If nothing else, it’s getting people into the Portrait Gallery!

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avatar 4 Anonymous

If your trip for the Cherry Blossoms happens to overlap with April 5th, you should be sure to stop by Freedom Plaza between noon and 5–there will be a swing dance you can watch and it’s bound to afford amusement for at least a few minutes. It is part of the lindy exchange, so some of the best dancers should be out.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Thanks for the link love… wish I could see Colbert’s portrait too!

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