Panera Bread is trying to speed up ordering and service at its restaurants.
Panera (PNRA) is installing Apple (AAPL) iPads at kiosks in its stores to allow guests to place their own orders. Customers can also put a table number on the order to have their food delivered. Panera hopes that will eliminate some of the bottlenecks in getting your food.
General Mills (GIS), the maker Cheerios and other well-known food brands, is taking preemptive steps to block lawsuits against the company. %VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%According to The New York Times, the company has added language to its website telling customers they give up the right to sue if they download coupons, enter company-sponsored sweepstakes, or join its online communities such as Facebook (FB). Instead, you automatically agree to settle any disputes through an arbitration process. One attorney says this protects the company from all accountability.
Florida will soon become the 21st state to collect sales taxes on goods bought on Amazon.com (AMZN). That means about 60 percent of the U.S. population will be subject to sales taxes on their purchases. Up next is Maryland, which will impose a sales tax later this year.
Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) gained 162 points Wednesday, bringing the this week's gain to nearly 400 points, the Dow's best three day run in four months. The Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) rose 19 and the Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) added 52 points.
It's one of the busiest days of the earnings season, with dozens of leading companies posting their quarterly report cards. Among stocks to watch: General Electric (GE), Goldman Sachs (GS) and PepsiCo (PEP), along with IBM (IBM) and Google (GOOG), which reported Wednesday night.
Finally, the Milwaukee Bucks are the worst team in the NBA this season, but they're still worth $550 million. That's the reported sale price for former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, who bought the team in 1985 for $18 million. The sale, to a pair of hedge fund billionaires, requires that they keep the team in Milwaukee.
-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.
10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt
Money Minute: Can iPads Improve Service at Panera?
"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.