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$ave Me

  Friday, 4 Jul 2014 | 2:00 PM ET

Procrastination pays for cheap concert tickets

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Looking at the prices for a hot concert or rival baseball match-up, cheap summer fun can seem anything but.

On the secondary market, tickets for popular acts such as Justin Timberlake and Paul McCartney are averaging $243 and $241, respectively, reports aggregator SeatGeek.com. (See chart below for the going rates for some of this summer's popular shows.) Baseball fans, meanwhile, are seeing box office ticket prices that are 2 percent higher than last season, according to Team Marketing Report. That's $27.93 for the average seat and $93.41 for premium ones. (See chart below for some of the priciest and cheapest teams.)

Read MoreOverpay? What to do when a store overcharges you

But there's no need to pay a premium price—or in most cases, even shell out for a ticket's face value. Event tickets are the rare area where it can pay to be either an early-bird or a procrastinator.

»Read more
  Friday, 27 Jun 2014 | 7:00 AM ET

Clearing out clutter? Skip the yard sale

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Selling your stuff at a yard sale could be a losing proposition.

Stories of valuable finds abound, like the rare Chinese bowl bought at a tag sale for $3 and auctioned off last year for $2.225 million. Sure, it's unlikely your old junk is worth quite that much. But it could be more valuable than typical yard sale profits imply. (The average item is priced at just 85 cents, according to Signs.com, and 42 percent of yard-sale shoppers say they expect to negotiate.)

Check out the video above for some clutter categories worth researching ahead of time. Trade-in programs and secondhand sites may offer more for certain items than you'd get from individual bargain hunters. Even a few "finds" of your own can add up over multiple closets cleaned and junk drawers sorted.

Read More8 Ways to profit from spring cleaning

Case in point: Electronics. There are dozens of trade-in programs from manufacturers, retailers and independent trade-in sites. To name just a few: Apple, Amazon, Best Buy, NextWorth.com and Gazelle.com. Amazon offers as much as $30 for a year-old Garmin GPS; a Blackberry Bold is worth $30 at NextWorth.com. Even gadgets without power cords, or with cracked screens, may have some value.

Sites typically offer free shipping to send in your stuff, and retailers allow in-store trade-ins for shoppers who want their cash or store credit quickly. Most promise to wipe your gadget of personal content, but it's still a smart idea to clear it yourself first.

—By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant

»Read more
  Friday, 20 Jun 2014 | 9:30 AM ET

To cut moving bills, scrutinize your mover

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Moving takes its toll, emotionally and financially—particularly if you pick the wrong mover.

These days, the average in-state move costs $2,300, according to Angie's List. Heading out of state? Expect to spend about $4,300. (Watch the video for tips to cut the bill.)

»Read more
  Friday, 30 May 2014 | 10:34 AM ET

Want to join a gym? Summer may have best prices

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Tempting as it may be to take a jog in the park or join an outdoor boot camp, there's good reason to check out the gym this summer—it may be your cheapest shot at membership year-round.

Sure, there are plenty of promotions in January, as gyms compete for their share of New Year's resolution-makers. But there are also plenty in the summer, as gyms try to lure in new members amid sunshine, fresh air and warm weather.

»Read more
  Thursday, 22 May 2014 | 1:21 PM ET

How to get gas for less than $3.50 per gallon

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Despite some analysts' predictions for a summer with the best gas prices in recent memory, motorists may still face big fuel bills.

The simple reason? It's not called the "summer driving season" for nothing.

"As the weather warms up, more people hit the road," said Michael Green, a spokesman for AAA. That's more vacations, more day trips and excursions, and that classic, the summer road trip. The extra miles can more than counterbalance any savings from lower prices. Over Memorial Day weekend alone, AAA expects 36.1 million people will travel 50 miles or more, a 1.5 percent increase over last year.

Read MoreHere's why you're paying more at the pump

Memorial Day gas prices are likely to run about $3.62 per gallon on average nationwide, down from $3.65 last year, said Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy.com. He expects prices to continue falling, with the summer average falling somewhere in the $3.40 to $3.50 range for most of the country.

"It should be, overall the cheapest summer since 2010," DeHaan said.

Watch the video above for smart shopping tricks to get the best price while fueling up, including the right way to pay for gas. Whipping out that gas rewards credit card isn't always your most cost-effective bet—Wal-Mart, Cumberland Farms and other chains all offer breaks for certain payment methods.

For longer trips, sites such as AAA's Fuel Cost Calculator and BeFrugal.com's Fly or Drive Calculator can help you figure out whether it's cheaper to get in the car or hop on a plane, based on your vehicle and the route. BeFrugal.com also factors in considerations like tolls, hotel (if you'd need to break up the trip over several days) and added cab costs to and from the airport if you decide to fly.

—By CNBC's Kelli B. Grant.

»Read more
  Friday, 16 May 2014 | 8:29 AM ET

Overcoming the $30,000 student loan burden

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Graduating from college and striking out on your own can be a financial wake-up call—one that's as jarring as a bucket of ice-cold water.

Sure, the job market is a little rosier for this year's grads. Employers expect to hire 8.6 percent more 2014 grads than they did from the Class of 2013, according to the National Association of College and Employers. But the April unemployment rate for people ages 20 to 24 is still high at 10.6 percent.

Read More The jobs outlook for the Class of 2014

Add in average student loan debt of $29,400 (or more—that figure, the latest available, was Project on Student Debt's estimate for 2012 grads) and $3,000 in credit card debt, and the outlook is a little rougher. Not panicking yet? A new Pew Research Center report found that households with student loan debt have less money and more debt overall. Other studies have found they're more likely to put off home-ownership.

Read More Student loan debt dragging on young households

All the more reason to be smart about your money from the get-go, financial advisors say.

"Right after college, you're creating financial habits that will follow you for a lifetime," said certified financial planner Janet A. Stanzak, president of the Financial Planning Association. "You have to be intentional about how you use your money." (Watch the video above for three tips to get started.)

Though it can seem overwhelming, don't focus solely on student loan debt. "A lot of people ask, 'should I be paying off my debt and then start to invest?'" said Stanzak, whose son and daughter will be graduating from college this spring. "It's really important to keep a balance and do both." Time is on young adults' side to build those savings into a retirement nest egg.

Saving as you pay down the debt can also make your financial situation less precarious. Most planners recommend having at least three months' worth of living expenses in a savings account. "Establish an emergency fund so if something goes wrong, you aren't begging, borrowing or stealing," said Mark Prendergast, a certified financial planner based in Huntington Beach, Calif.

»Read more
  Friday, 2 May 2014 | 9:34 AM ET

Why a $100 Mother's Day bouquet won't cut it

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Picking a Mother's Day bouquet for Mom's exacting style and financial standards is no easy feat.

The average U.S. consumer will spend $184 on Mother's Day, up 7.5 percent from last year, consulting firm Brand Keys projects. But there's a lot of variation. Men will spend close to $215 for their wives and mothers, while women will spend $153.

If you're not careful, the bulk of that budget could be blown on flowers. Taxes and fees included, a quality bouquet could easily cost upwards of $100.

(See the above video for some of the best tricks to cut the cost of a florist bouquet.)

A fast way to save is to call a local florist (or at least, local to Mom, if she doesn't live nearby) instead of ordering online, said Paul Goodman, president of Floral Finance Business Services, a consulting firm in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Delivery and service charges might be half as expensive as those online, at $7 or $8 per order.

»Read more
  Friday, 25 Apr 2014 | 8:25 AM ET

Here's how parents can be happy campers

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Sending your child off to summer camp can be an easy choice, but picking the right one? Much tougher.

There are more than 2,400 camps nationwide, with weekly fees ranging from under $100 to more than $1,500, depending on the kind of camp (day or overnight) and its programs, according to the American Camp Association. "There's a lot of diversification within the camp community," said chief executive officer Peg Smith. "We're constantly trying to keep track of the trends."

Don't choose by the cost alone, said Chris Thurber, founder of CampSpirit.com. "Camp is very much a situation where price does not necessarily correlate with quality," he said. "It behooves parents to do some research on the camps they're interested in."

Consider which have activities your child might enjoy. (See charts below for some of the most popular at day and overnight camps—and how easy they are to find.) Then talk to the camp for a sense of daily routines and structure to see if it's a good match for your child's personality and age. Picking the wrong camp in those regards can be an expensive mistake, if it means your child is miserable, he said.

»Read more
  Friday, 18 Apr 2014 | 2:00 PM ET

Extreme strategies to earn airline miles

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

To get a free airline award seat these days, it's time to get creative.

Road warriors racking up miles for elite status have been getting hammered by changes to frequent flier program terms. So have leisure travelers patiently collecting enough for that rare "free" ticket. Delta, United and, most recently, American, have all announced program changes this year that alter the number of miles required for various award seats: A few are getting cheaper, while many others get pricier. In some case, the changes almost double the cost.

Read MoreAs the mile gap widens, new frequent flier loyalty tactics

If you're not a road warrior, taking a few of their tricks can help you earn enough miles for a free ticket, faster—and limit the effect of program inflation. After that, consider swapping your loyalty to a different kind of program.

Check out the video for tips on three popular strategies. Here's how to make these six worthwhile:

Tactic: Mileage runs

"My wife and I had dinner in China once so we could make American executive platinum status," said Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare.com. Taking a flight solely for the miles is still popular, he said, although some airlines are starting to thwart the practice by awarding miles partially on fare class rather than miles flown. Less-frequent travelers aren't likely to find a mileage run pays off: It's an expensive way to get a few thousand miles, if you're not gunning for even more valuable elite status. But still, it's worth checking for airline mile bonuses to see if a planned trip could net a few thousand extra miles.

Tactic: Credit card churn

Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com, knows some frequent fliers who sign up for several new cards each year to nab the bonus miles. This tactic is a little dicey—consumers risk dinging their credit score with a succession of new credit inquiries and subsequent account closures. Plus, issuers aware of the tactic have added fine print limiting the bonuses to new cardholders only, and requiring the account stay open for a set period, he said. Still, an airline credit card (as in, one) or a general rewards card with a good point-transfer program can be a smart tactic. Many offer bonuses of up to 50,000 miles, and waive any annual fees for the first year.

Read more: Has American Express Platinum lost its luster?

Tactic: Buying miles

If you're not sold on other tactics, this avenue can be enticing. It's sometimes worth it, but you have to do the math first, said George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com. Skip offers at check-in or at the airport to double or triple miles earned. They're typically the worst deals, he said. Road warriors usually look online, where issuers have better bonuses—as much as a 100 percent bonus on miles earned. Even then, the offer may not be worth it. Miles are worth about a penny each at redemption, but purchase offers usually price them at three times that. The pricier the flight you'll redeem them for, the more likely a purchase is to work in your favor.

Read more: Save money by planning your summer vacation today

Tactic: Paying bills

Once you have a miles-earning card, using it for regular bills—like your cellphone, mortgage or even federal taxes—can net extra miles on purchase you'd normally pay with cash or a check. Approach this with caution, however. Many vendors, including the IRS, charge you the 2 to 3 percent processing fee that the credit card issuer normally picks up. "That kind of negates the value," Kelly said. Even if the transaction is fee-free, paying credit card interest would also more than offset the value of any miles earned if you can't pay the balance in full each month. Not for you? For upcoming graduation, wedding and other gifts, sub cash gifts for gift cards—you'll earn miles for the purchase of each card.

Tactic: Shifting cash

This hack gets a little complex. Some fliers use their miles-earning credit card to buy reloadable bank gift cards at various retailers, earning miles for that purchase, Seaney said. Then they use the gift card to buy a money order, and put that cash right back in their account (or spend it on bills, as above). A few dollars in fees can net thousands of miles: One site, MightyTravels.com, netted 6,000 points for $12.50. "It's like the equivalent of extreme couponing," he said. The catch: Too many big transactions could trigger possible fraud alerts on your card.

Read more: 8 Ways to profit from spring cleaning

Tactic: Stacking bonuses

An easy one for less-frequent travelers to follow: "When you buy anything online, shop through the airline shopping mall," said Hobica. Each purchase at favorite retailers earns you miles with your preferred airline, even if you don't have a miles-earning card. "They have retailers high and low, everyone from Wal-Mart to Saks Fifth Avenue," he said. "You can get thousands and thousands of miles a year." All on purchases you'd (hopefully) make anyway.

»Read more
  Friday, 4 Apr 2014 | 8:00 AM ET

Save money by planning your vacation today

Posted By: Kelli B. Grant

Memorial Day is still nearly two months away, but scoring a beachfront summer rental is a lot easier—and cheaper—for vacationers able to plan ahead.

Vacation rental sites say their early bird users tend to book about 90 days out, meaning summer spaces are already starting to fill up. On HomeAway.com, "a little over half [of owners] are already half-booked," said Jon Gray, senior vice president of HomeAway Americas. (See chart below for average prices in some of the more in-demand locales.)

Read MoreProof that Americans are a bunch of workaholics

»Read more

About $ave Me

  • Spending money is easy. Finding ways to make the most if it requires smart thinking and strategic planning. CNBC.com Consumer Reporter Kelli Grant brings her expertise to the table to help viewers get an edge when it comes to putting their cash to work and making good financial decisions.