Despite the improving economy, Americans are still hunting for bargains.
A study by Consumer Reports finds that most of us love a good deal. In fact, more than a third of those surveyed feel guilty when they pay full price. Nearly 60 percent wait for a sale to buy what they want. And 23 percent say they buy things that are on sale, even they don't need them.
%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%There's no bargain here, but if Donald Sterling is forced to sell the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team, all sorts of very rich people are expressing interest in buying it. Oracle (ORCL) chief executive Larry Ellison -- the third wealthiest American -- is teaming up with Oprah Winfrey and entertainment mogul David Geffen. Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson is part of an ownership group that paid $2 billion for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 -- and he's expressed interest in becoming a team owner in the NBA. So are boxing legends Floyd Merriweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya. By some estimates, the team could be worth as much as $1 billion, and the stars are coming out.
AT&T (T) is no longer your grandmother's Ma Bell. The telecom giant has reportedly held talks about buying satellite-TV provider DirecTV (DTV). A deal could be worth more than $40 billion, and it would make AT&T a close second in the pay TV business to the planned tie up of Comcast (CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (TWC).
Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 45 points Wednesday, to close at its first record high this year. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) added 5, and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) rose 11 points.
After tumbling in January, the Dow has jumped 900 points over the past three months.
Finally, in one of the first fallouts from the Western sanctions against Russia, a U.S. court has temporarily blocked Boeing and Lockheed Martin from dealing with a Russian supplier of rocket engines. The company is run by one of the individuals targeted by the Obama Administration.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.
10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt
Money Minute: Survey Shows Americans Still Love Bargains
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of TheSimpleDollar.com. "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much?
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back."
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like Mint.com, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes Mint.com spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more.
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt.
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.