Mother's Day is this Sunday. That's right, May 10, 2009. In honor of moms everywhere, here are some Mother's Day stats courtesy of census.gov:

  • 82.3 million moms in the U.S.
  • 2.1 kids per mom, on average.
  • 25 years old is the average age of new moms.
  • 38,500 kids were born outside of hospitals in 2006 (latest available year). I like to imagine that most of these births took place in the car while rushing to the hospital.
  • 13,482 births took place on the average Wednesday in 2006 (latest available year), making it the most popular day to have a kid. I always thought Wednesday was a pretty boring day--apparently not for everyone. 

And now for the stats you really care about:

  • 20,227 floral shops with nearly 100,000 employees are ready nationwide to help you buy your mom the most expensive arrangement ever (that's what they hope, anyway).
  • 131 other card companies beside Hallmark have cheesy cards printed up and ready for you to give to mom.
  • 28,300 jewelry stores nationwide are ready for the last-minute rush.

As usual, I've procrastinated and haven't gotten my mom a present yet. But I will. The average total spent per person on moms for 2009 is projected to be $123.89, according to nationalretailfederation.com, and total spending will be around $14 billion. It looks like I have some catching up to do. 

Don't forget your mom this Sunday. If nothing else, give her a call and tell her you love her.

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While it's true that sometimes we aren't responsible with credit cards, some credit card companies aren't exactly helpful when it comes to informing their customers on changing billing practices, etc. But a bill has gone through the House of Representatives and awaits a vote in the Senate that would help scale back or eliminate some of the credit card companies' sneakier practices.

Called the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights, this bill seeks to give eight new protections to cardholders, such as:

  1. Card companies can't increase interest rates if you miss a payment on another account.
  2. Payments made before 5 P.M. EST must be credited to that date, helping you avoid unnecessary late fees.
  3. Card companies must give a 45-day notice before increasing interest rates.
  4. Cardholders can set maximum balance limits on their accounts, eliminating over-the-limit fees.

Many card companies have taken the hint and have begun complying with some these regulations even though they won't go into effect until 2010 (assuming the bill passes the Senate).

Go to billshrink.com for a full list of these rights, and to see if your credit card already has instituted any of these reforms. You can also search for cards that comply to these new standards.

--Cody

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Everyone loves ramen. Who can resist the scrumptious taste of noodles that take 5 minutes to cook? However, it's more likely that the price of these pre-packaged noodles appeals to broke students all over the world, rather than it's taste. At around 10 cents a package, a dollar can buy you 10 servings.

Granted, by itself ramen may not be the most nutritious meal on the block, but I can recommend some healthy and delicious recipes that incorporate our favorite instant noodles. Here are two of my favorites:
 

Chicken Broccoli Ramen Simmer
Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. oil
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 cups frozen broccoli florets
- 4 oz. jar sliced mushrooms, drained
- 1-3/4 cups water
- 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 (3 oz.) pkgs. chicken flavor ramen soup mix

Preparation:
1. Slice chicken into thin strips.
2. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken.
3. Stir fry until chicken is no longer pink in center.
4. Add broccoli, mushrooms, water, soy sauce and 1 flavoring packet from ramen noodles stir to mix well and bring to a boil.
5. Break noodles in half and add to chicken and vegetables.
6. Stir and bring to a boil again.
7. Reduce heat to low. Cover skillet and simmer 7 to 10 minutes or until broccoli is tender and chicken is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently.
 

Ramen Snack Mix
Ingredients
- 1 package of ramen noodles (crushed)
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup dried apricot
- 1/3 cup of vegetable oil (cooking)

Preparation
The noodles:
1. While the noodles are still in the package, break them in small pieces.
2. Put the vegetable oil in the cooking pan.
3. Turn on the stove and wait for the oil to heat up.
4. Put your noodles in the cooking pan.
5. Since ramen are dehydrated, you have to be careful not to burn them. Always gently shake the cooking pan.
6. Your noodles are ready once they have a nice brownish color.
7. Turn off the stove and put your noodles in a bowl.
The recipe:
8. Add the sliced almonds, dried cranberries and dried apricots.

These recipes are just a hint of what’s out there. Check out ramenlicious.com and about.com for some more cheap, ramen-licious meals.

Happy Cooking!

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As anyone within shouting distance knows, I relish every opportunity to lecture. SallieMae's recent report on undergraduate credit debt will come in handy the next time someone looks like they need to be slapped in the face with knowledge. The report found that:

  • Undergraduates on average have 4.6 credit cards.
  • 30% of college students use a credit card to pay tuition.
  • The average credit card balance is $3,173, the highest in the study's history.

For shame. At least your hearts are in the right place. The report also found that 84% of undergraduates said they would like more help learning about financial mangement. That's where brass comes in. Check out our articles on paying for college and becoming debt free, and keep reading the brass|BLOG for more tips on how to manage your money.

--Cody

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By Jennie Bartlemay on April 27th, 2009 • Internet, Life

Overwhelmed with spam and junk mail? It's time to set up a disposable account. 

A disposable account acts as an online alias you use when you don't want to give out your real contact info. This includes a fake name, email account, phone number, etc.

For example, you've probably come across countless websites claiming, "It's free! Just create an account." In exchange, they want your name and email address, or worse, your physical address, before they let you get to the free stuff. Everyone should know by now that if you use your personal email address for sites like these, you'll be drowning in spam in no time.

That's where a disposable account comes in. Set up a free email account (hotmail, yahoo, and gmail are popular options) with a fake name (check out this totally awesome fake name generator) and you're ready to go.

Some websites require a phone number, so check out inumbr.com. It generates a privacy number--a phone number complete with area code and extension that forwards calls to your main phone. That way you can still get the call, but no one has your actual phone number.

An alternate way to take care of the problem is to use bugmenot.com. They have a database of user contributed usernames and passwords (all volunteered, all with fake information) that anyone can use to access content at websites like newyorktimes.com or imdb.com. While this is useful, I've found it's easier to create one profile I can use on multiple sites, rather than getting info from BugMeNot every time I want to access something. It's nice to have one username, email address, and password for every non-important account.

Don't do this for your important accounts (like main email, online banking, online marketplaces like amazon.com, or any sites that have your financial or other important information). If your little sister or a thief gets a hold of your password, they'll have access to everything. Always create unique usernames and passwords for important online accounts.

 

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Last spring, The Buried Life challenged brass readers to think about what they want to do before they die. Committed to walking their walk while talking their talk, the guys have been busy checking items off their personal lists like Grow A Mustache, Street Perform and Make $100 and, most recently, Make a Television Show. The Buried Life guys recently inked a deal with MTV, and the show will highlight their travels across the country helping others achieve lifelong dreams.

First step brass|MAGAZINE, next step MTV.

"The Buried Life" premiers on MTV July 20th. [Edit: "The Buried Life" premiers on MTV Jan. 18, 2009.]

--Cody

By Cody Wetmore on April 23rd, 2009

Even though it's the best place to find moving images of groin trauma and live TV mess ups, YouTube is losing money at record pace. This year the video-sharing site is projected to lose $470 million

YouTube's popularity seems to be what is dragging it down. Although the site gets a lot of traffic, there is no way to capitalize on it. Unlike other sites that make money off of ads, most of YouTube's user-generated content is, to put it nicely, nothing an advertiser would want to endorse. As a result, less than 10% of YouTube videos receive advertising.

At the same time, it's hard to keep up with storage and streaming of videos when any dork (see above) can upload and view as many as they want. The site spends $360 million in bandwidth costs alone.

Hopefully they can find a way to make the site viable, because if i can't watch chimps riding Segways at a moment's notice, I'm not sure if life is worth living.

--Cody

Photo taken from this photostream and used with permission of a Creative Commons license.

 

By Cody Wetmore on April 20th, 2009 • Books, Investing

A few days ago, a friend who wanted to start investing asked me what books he should read. The first thing I did was point him to Book It, a brass 10 article from last Fall.

But then I started thinking: There have been a few notable books published in the last few months that might be worth reading as well. So I poked around my bookshelf and the Internet, and here's what I came up with.

 

I Will Teach You To Be Rich, Ramit Sethi

Ramit has been blogging at iwillteachyoutoberich.com for years, becoming one of the major financial experts of our generation. His book launched to the top of the bestseller list at Amazon.com the day it was released (he even beat the Twilight series). If he sounds uncannily familiar, it's because he wrote an article for brass in February.

The Motley Fool Million Dollar Portfolio, David and Tom Gardner

Recognize the name? These are the guys that started that famous investing resource fool.com. It's not their first book--they've published several volumes on other topics. However, this one is a little different. It's based on a Web experiment they conducted where readers followed along as Tom Gardner invests and managed $1 million, and what they learned from it.

The End Of Wall Street As We Know It, Dave Kansas
Dave is the editor-at-large at filife.com (where you might find blog posts from someone familiar--our former intern Susie). Dave has also been a reporter at The Wall Street Journal, and was the editor-in-chief of thestreet.com in the late 1990s. In his book, Dave explains what he thinks caused the recent financial crisis and how to deal with its aftermath.

These books are all new, published in 2009. Happy page-turning!

--Jennie

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By Lauren Sigel on April 16th, 2009

Want to get paid just for driving to work? Paid-to-drive programs may seem too good to be true, but think again. They’re administered by advertising companies who are paid by clients to promote products and services. When you agree to place one of their ads on your car, you receive part of that advertising fee.

Here's a quick summary of how it works, based on this article from leaseguide.com: Companies pay you to drive your car (or, in some cases, a car they’ve given you) with their advertisement on routes that are heavily populated--so that their ad gets as much exposure as possible. Ads range in size from  full car posters to window decals. If you’re worried about your ’91 Toyota Camry’s sweet paint job, don't--the ads are paint safe. Just remember, the ad will be on your car 24 hours a day. Also keep in mind that many companies will place a GPS in your car to make sure that you're driving on routes that you told them you would and to see the number of miles you are driving.

The qualifications? For one, you must be at least 18 years old. Most programs require that you drive at least 1,000 miles a month and have an excellent driving record. If you live in the suburbs, the chances of your application being accepted are slim. There are more applications than opportunites, and you'll be competing with people who live in major metropolitan areas (where ads will be seen more).

If you think this would work for you, start with freecarmedia.com: it's free to sign up and it has a high rating from the Better Business Bureau. However, keep an eye out for scams. Always research a company with the BBB and/or Google it for information on its legitimacy. 

Happy driving!

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By Jens Odegaard on April 15th, 2009 • Budgeting, Free

Today is tax day. I told you not to procrastinate, but you might just now be finding out that you officially owe the government money and are as broke as a joke. So, to cheer you up, here are some tax-day freebies (click the links for all the restrictions and details):

I would prefer it if you made the copies while getting a massage and eating the taco, ice cream and cinnamon rolls all at the same time. (If you know of other freebies, post a comment with the link.)

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