Interesting Finds

There are so many interesting articles we come across on the web everyday. If you know of any interesting reads, please share these with us. If you are copying and pasting it from another website, please provide source and URL on the bottom of the article. It doesn't necessarily have to relate to Bangladesh.

8 Ways to Cut Back Without Sacrificing

By Kimberly Palmer Posted January 31, 2008

When times are tight—as they are now for many Americans facing declining home values, depressed stocks, and tighter credit markets—cutting back on indulgences can seem inevitable. But it might not be. U.S. News asked budgeting experts for advice on how to make ends meet during tough times without sacrificing too many of life's pleasures. Here are their top tips.Related News

Take bubble baths. If soaking in hot water doesn't cheer you up, find out what does, because it could stop you from wasteful splurges after a bad day. "Especially in times like these, it's very important for find other ways [than shopping] to make themselves feel better, whether it's tantric methods, meditation, Chinese balls, or bubble baths—just do what will not break the bank," says Ken McDonnell, program director at the American Savings Education Council. Cut Costs

Host movie night. Going to the movies, especially if you're a popcorn fan, can easily cost $40 for two people. Instead, suggests Faye Griffiths-Smith, community leader for the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences, rent a movie and invite friends over to watch.

Learn to cook. Not only does eating at restaurants add up, but so too does buying lunch. If you cook dinner at home, you can bring in leftovers to work the next day or take a few minutes to pack a sandwich. If mornings are always rushed, then try packing it at night before bed, suggests Jean Austin, family and consumer science educator for the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service. And when you shop for your ingredients, make sure you have a snack first. Going to the grocery store hungry often leads to impulse buys, Austin warns.

Use the library. Your taxes are paying for it, so take advantage of the free books and movies. Austin says that even her small library in Maryland's rural Kent County offers DVDs, audio books, and free Internet service.

Drink at home. Whether your beverage of choice is green tea, espresso, or beer, it's much cheaper when consumed in the comfort of your own kitchen. Going to a bar with friends can easily cost $50, McDonnell says. Instead, pick up a six-pack and hang out at a friend's house. The social interaction will cheer you up without the hefty bar tab.

Use your savings. If you squirreled away three to six months of emergency savings in advance of being forced to tighten your budget due to a job loss or other unfortunate event, now is the time to use it. "Everybody should be contributing to their own emergency savings fund where it's earning interest," says Austin, so when times are tight, the money can go toward monthly bills and even some small indulgences.

Decide what you really want. Most people can cut 10 percent of their spending within 10 minutes, says Ramit Sethi, author of the I Will Teach You to Be Rich blog. Just write down your major spending categories, such as food and loan payments, and then guess what percentage is going to each category. Make a second list with what you want the percentages to be, and then make a third list describing what they actually are. If the reality doesn't match up with your ideal, then adjust your spending.

Dress in layers. Turning your thermostat down a few degrees and wearing a sweatshirt to stay warm can save on monthly heating costs, says McDonnell, which adds up over time. Just don't skimp on your monthly mortgage or rent payment, or if you need to adjust the payment schedule, contact your lender. Keeping your home should be a top priority.


Anger Management: Anger Issues and Types of Anger

by Kate Barcus Miller, M.A.

anger issuesAnger is a natural part of the human condition, but it isn't always easy to handle. And when people don't handle it well, the harm they do can be visible and it can't be visible.

Some people mask their anger. Others explode with rage. For still others, anger is a chronic condition, a habit of resentment that surfaces over and over again.

There are ten anger styles:

Anger Avoidance: These people don't like anger much. Some are afraid of their anger, or the anger of others. It can be scary and they are afraid to lose control if they get mad. Some think it's bad to become angry. Anger avoiders gain the sense that being good or nice helps them feel safe and calm.

They have problems, though. Anger can help you to survive when something is wrong. Avoiders can't be assertive, because they feel too guilty when they say what they want. Too often the result is that they are walked over by others.

Sneaky Anger: Anger Sneaks never let others know they are angry. Sometimes, they don't even know how angry they are. But the anger comes out in other forms, such as forgetting things a lot, or saying they'll do something, but never intending to follow through. Or, they sit around and frustrate everybody and their families. Anger Sneaks can look hurt and innocent and often ask, "Why are you gettting mad at me?" They gain a sense of control over their lives when they frustrate others. By doing little or nothing, or putting things off, they thwart other people's plans. However, Anger Sneaks lose track of their own wants and needs. They don't know what to do with their own lives and that leads to boredom, frustration, and unsatisfying relationships.

Paranoid Anger: This type of anger occurs when someone feels irrationally threatened by others. They seek aggression everywhere. They believe people want to take what is theirs. They expect others will attack them physically or verbally. Because of this belief, they spend much time jealously guarding and defending what they think is theirs - the love of a partner (real or imangined), their money, or their valuables. People with Paranoid anger give their anger away. They think everybody else is angry instead of acknowledging their own rage. They have found a way to get angry without guilt. Their anger is disguised as self-protection. It is expesive, though. They are insecure and trust nobody. They have poor judgment because they confuse their own feelings with those of others. They see their own anger in the eyes and words of their friends, mates, and co-workers. This leaves them (and everyone around them) confused.

Sudden Anger: People with sudden anger are like thunderstorms on a summer day. They zoom in from nowhere, blast everything in sight, and then vanish. Sometimes it's only lightning and thunder, a big show that soon blows away. but often people get hurt, homes are broken up, and things are damaged that will take a long time to repair. Sudden Anger people gain a surge of power. They release all their feelings, so they feel good or relieved. Loss of control is a major problem with sudden anger. They can be a danger to themselves and others. They may get violent. They say and do things they later regret, but by then it's too late to take them back.

Shame-Based Anger: People who need a lot of attention or are very sensitive to criticism often develop this style of anger. The slightest criticism sets off their own shame. Unfortunately, they don't like themselves very much. They feel worthless, not good enough, broken, unloveable. So, when someone ignores them or says something negative, they take it as proof that the other person dislikes them as much as they dislike themselves. But that makes them really angry, so they lash out. They think, "You made me feel awful, so I'm going to hurt you back." They get rid of their shame by blaming, criticizing, and ridiculing others. Their anger helps them get revenge against anybody they think shamed them. They avoid their own feelings of inadequacy by shaming others.
Raging against others to hide shame doesn't work very well. They usually end up attacking the people they love. They continue to be oversensitive to insults because of their poor self-image. Their anger and loss of control only makes them feel worse about themselves.

Deliberate Anger: This anger is planned. People who use this anger usually know what they are doing. They aren't really emotional about their anger, at least not at first. They like controlling others, and the best way they've discovered to do that is with anger and, sometimes, violence. Power and control are what people gain from deliberate anger. Their goal is to get what they want by threatening or overpowering others. This may work for a while, but this usually breaks down in the long run. People don't like to be bullied and eventually they figure out ways to escape or get back at the bully.

Addictive Anger: Some people want or need the strong feelings that come with anger. They like the intensity even if they don't like the trouble their anger causes them. Their anger is much more than a bad habit - it provides emotional excitement. It isn't fun, but it's powerful. These pepople look forward to the anger "rush," and the emotional "high." Anger addicts gain a sense of intensity and emotional power when they explode. They feel alive and full of energy. Addictions are inevitably painful and damaging. This addiction is no exception. They don't learn other ways to feel good, so they become dependent upon their anger. They pick fights just to get high on anger. And, since they need intensity, their anger takes on an all-or-nothing pattern that creates more problems than it solves.

Habitual Anger: Anger can become a bad habit. Habitually angry people find themselves getting angry often, usually about small things that don't bother others. They wake up grumpy. They go through the day looking for fights. They look for the worst in everything and everybody. They usually go to bed angry about something. They might even have angry dreams. Their angry thoughts set them up for more and more arguments. They can't seem to quit being angry, even though they are unhappy. Habitually angry people gain predictibility. They always know what they feel. Life may be lousy but it is known, safe, and steady. However, they get trapped in their anger and it runs their lives. They can't get close to the people they love because their anger keeps them away.

Moral Anger: Some people think they have a right to be angry when others have broken a rule. That makes the offenders bad, evil, wicked, sinful. They have to be scolded, maybe punished. People with this anger style feel outraged about what bad people are doing. They say they have a right to defend their "beliefs." They claim moral superiority. They gain the sense that anger is for a good cause. They don't feel guilty when they get angry because of this. They often feel superior to others even in their anger. These people suffer from black-and-white thinking, which means they see the world too simply. They fail to understand people who are different from themselves. They often have rigid ways of thinking and doing things. Another problem with this anger style is crusading - attacking every problem or difference of opinion with moral anger when compromise or understanding might be better.

Hate: Hate is a hardened anger. It is a nasty anger style that happens when someone decides that at least one other person is totally evil or bad. Forgiving the other person seems impossible. Instead, the hater vows to despise the offender. Hate starts as anger that doesn't get resovled. Then it becomes resentment, and then a true hatred that can go on indefinitely. Haters often think about the ways they can punisih the OFFENDER and they sometimes act on those ideas. These people feel they are innocent victims. They create a world of enemies to fight, and they attack them with great vigor and enthusiasm. However, this hatred causes serious damage over time. Haters can't let go or get on with life. They become bitter and frustrated and their lives become mean, small and narrow.

Anger is a tricky emotion, difficult to use well until you learn how. It is a real help though, as long as you don't get trapped in any of the anger styles aforementioned. People who use anger well have a healthy or "normal" relationship with their anger. They think of anger in the following characteristic ways:

* Anger is a normal part of life
* Anger is an accurate signal of real problems in a person's life
* Angry actions are screened carefully; you needn't automatically get angry just because you could
* Anger is expressed in moderation so there is no loss of control
* The goal is to solve the problems, not just to express anger
* Anger is clearly stated in ways that others can understand
* Anger is temporary. It can be relinquished once an issue is resolved

When you practice good anger skills, you never need to use your anger as an excuse. You can take responsibility for what you say and do, even when you are mad.

The more you know about your personal anger style(s), the more control you will have over your life. You can learn to let go of excessive anger and resentment.
Katy Barcus Miller, M.A.

Crush course in Chittagong language - Part 1

শব্দার্থ টু চট্রগ্রাম
Chittagong Language

Crush course in Chittagong language - Part 2

শব্দার্থ টু চট্রগ্রাম

Chittagong Language

Crush course in Chittagong language - Part 3

শব্দার্থ টু চট্রগ্রাম

Chittagong Language

Crush course in Chittagong language - Part 4

শব্দার্থ টু চট্রগ্রাম

Chittagong Language

Crush course in Chittagong language - Part 5

শব্দার্থ টু চট্রগ্রাম

Chittagong Language

Crush course in Chittagong language - Part 6

শব্দার্থ টু চট্রগ্রাম

Chittagong Language

Crush course in Chittagong language - Part 7

শব্দার্থ টু চট্রগ্রাম

Chittagong Language

Crush course in Chittagong language - Part 8

শব্দার্থ টু চট্রগ্রাম

Chittagong Language

Early Skeleton Sheds Light on Evolution


NEW YORK (May 19) – The nearly complete skeleton of a small 47 million-year-old creature found in Germany was displayed Tuesday by scientists who said it would help illuminate the early evolution of monkeys, apes and humans.
About the size of a small cat, the animal has four legs and a long tail. It's not a direct ancestor of monkeys and humans, but it provides a good indication of what such an ancestor may have looked like, researchers said at a news conference.
Scientists on Tuesday unveiled the skeleton of this 47 million-year-old creature from Germany that could provide clues into the early evolution of primates. While the well-preserved creature is not a direct ancestor of humans, it may provide an indication of what that ancestor may have looked like, experts said. Because the skeleton is so remarkably complete, scientists believe it will provide a window into primate evolution. The animal was a juvenile female that scientists believe died at about 9 or 10 months.

"She tells so many stories. We have just started the research on this fabulous specimen," said Jorn Hurum, of the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, one of the scientists reporting the find.

The creature is nicknamed Ida after Hurum's 6-year-old daughter.
The unveiling, at New York's Museum of Natural History, was promoted by a press release for the cable TV show History, which called it a "revolutionary scientific find that will change everything."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, among the speakers at the news conference, called it an "astonishing breakthrough. "The story of the fossil find will be shown on History, which is owned by A&E Television Networks. A book also will be published. Hurum saw nothing wrong with the heavy publicity which preceded the research's publication Tuesday in the scientific journal PLOS (Public Library of Science) One. "That's part of getting science out to the public, to get attention. I don't think that's so wrong," Hurum said.

Financial Aid Advice for Students

U.S. News: Posted 4/11/07

Having trouble figuring out just how much college is going to cost? Worried about raising the money you'll need? We've gathered some of the most frequently asked questions and condensed the advice of dozens of experts into a few simple steps.

Can't figure out how much the school is really going to cost you?

• Look for the school's total cost of attendance (COA)—which includes tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel, and miscellaneous living expenses—in the papers the school sent, or on its website.

• If you can't find the total COA, you can estimate it yourself by adding tuition, fees, room, board, and about $3,500 or so.

• If you can't find the COA, you can also call and ask the college financial aid office for the COA. Make sure they don't just give you the total "direct costs," which accounts for only tuition, fees, room, and board. Federal law requires schools to make available to students their official total cost of attendance.

• Subtract the total of your free money (grants and scholarships) from the COA. If you have trouble with the math, ask the financial aid office for help calculating your out-of-pocket costs. Explain that you want your cost only after grants and scholarships have been subtracted from your total cost of attendance.

Having trouble estimating your true cost of a degree?

• Enter the school's name in this federal government web tool. After you've clicked on the school's name, click on "Retention/Graduation rates" on the left. The second chart on the right gives the percentage of students who graduate in four, five, and six years.

• Calculate next year's true cost of attendance by adding up tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel, and miscellaneous expenses. Then subtract out your free money (grants and scholarships).

• Multiply your net cost by four if the federal statistics indicate most students at your school graduate in four years. If most students take longer, then multiply by five, or even six, depending on the school's statistics. Increase the total by about 10 percent to account for probable inflation.

Haven't received enough aid?

• Figure out your total cost of attendance by adding up ALL the costs: tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel, and miscellaneous living expenses. Then subtract out only the free money (grants and scholarships).

• If your true cost seems unaffordable, BEFORE YOU SEND IN YOUR DEPOSIT BY THE MAY 1 DEADLINE, gather your family's financial information to see if there is any cost that was not accounted for by the FAFSA or PROFILE, such as medical bills, funerals, support of a relative, etc.

• Gather any evidence of a reduction in the family's income since the FAFSA was filed, such as a job loss.

• Prepare an argument as to why you legitimately cannot afford to pay what the college is asking. Warning: Schools won't be sympathetic if you can't pay because you've just bought a new truck or have vacation plans. Also, if you lowballed your income on the FAFSA or PROFILE, don't appeal. Schools taking a second, harder look at your application might decide to reduce your aid.

• Call, E-mail, write, or, most persuasive of all, visit, the school's financial aid office and ask for a Professional Judgment Review. Be prepared to present your arguments and evidence in whatever format they request.

Has your favorite school awarded so much less aid than have other schools that you won't be able to afford your top choice?

• Analyze each school's true cost of attendance by adding up ALL the costs: tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel, and miscellaneous living expenses. Then subtract out only the free money (grants and scholarships) to make sure you're really comparing apples with apples.

• Compare the quality of the schools. Is your top choice highly ranked and the generous school a local community college or other school that isn't of the same quality? If so, take a moment to consider things from the school's point of view. Sometimes you get what you pay for.

• If the true cost of your favorite school is significantly higher than another school of a similar quality, BEFORE YOU SEND IN A DEPOSIT BY THE MAY 1 DEADLINE, draft a polite letter to the financial aid office of your top choice. Explain how much you would add to the school and what a loyal alumnus you would be, and how sad it would be if a few thousand dollars stood in the way of such a winning combination. Include a copy of the more generous award letter and ask diplomatically if your top choice might have overlooked something about your finances that the other school noticed.

• Follow up a few days later with a telephone call, or, to show how serious you are, a personal visit. (Call and make an appointment, to be polite, of course.)

Can't afford your true costs?

• If you haven't already done so, fill out the FAFSA (and, if necessary, the PROFILE) immediately. Call the college's financial aid office and ask to apply for as much financial aid as possible.

• Calculate any potential savings that can be applied to reduce your true costs. Many middle-class families find that they are able to reap $2,000 to $3,000 in food, insurance, and miscellaneous savings when the student moves to college.

• Unless there's a good reason to the contrary, students should work summers AND during school and contribute a total of $4,000 a year toward college costs. Students should save $2,000 from a summer job to cover books and travel and should be able to earn another $2,000 to cover entertainment and miscellaneous expenses by working no more than 12 hours a week during school. (Working more than 15 hours a week has been shown to hurt studies.)

• The student can take on a reasonable amount of debt through the Stafford loan program. Freshmen are allowed to borrow $3,500. Sophomores can borrow $4,500. Upperclassmen can borrow $5,500.

• Find out if you are eligible to get any tax breaks such as the Hope or Lifetime Learning credits, or take an education deduction. Those could reduce April's tax bill by up to $2,000.

• Check to see if your employer has any education benefits.

• Apply for private scholarships.

• Consider delaying school for a volunteer year in AmeriCorps, VISTA, or similar program. You'll get a living stipend and $4,725 toward future college costs. Even better, a growing number of colleges are matching that grant with scholarships.

• Consider lower-cost educational options such as community college.

• Try studying and passing tests, such as the CLEP and DSSTs, to place out of the freshman year and thus reduce total educational costs.

Source: US News

Gasoline Tips

Received this from a friend...

Here are some tricks to get more of your money's worth for every gallon.

Only buy or fill up your car or truck in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the gasoline, when it gets warmer gasoline expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening your gallon is not exactly a gallon. In the petroleum business, the specific gravity and the temperature of the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, ethanol and other petroleum products plays an important role.

A 1-degree rise in temperature is a big deal for this business. But the service stations do not have temperature compensation at the pumps.

When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode you should be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapors that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapor return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some other liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapor. Those vapors are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.

One of the most important tips is to fill up when your gas tank is HALF FULL or HALF EMPTY. The reason for this is, the more gas you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Gasoline evaporates faster than you can imagine. Gasoline storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the gas and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation. Unlike service stations, here where I work, every truck that we load is temperature compensated so that every gallon is actually the exact amount.

Another reminder, if there is a gasoline truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, DO NOT fill up - most likely the gasoline is being stirred up as the gas is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom. Hope this will help you get the most value for your money.



Gorgo Eating Live Pinky

Only in the World

Only in the World

Save Money on Transportation

The average cost of owning and driving a car 15,000 miles a year is $7,830 according to AAA. SUVs are even more costly, at $9,990 per year. That includes all costs of ownership, such as gas, insurance, maintenance, registration, taxes depreciation, financing and more. Yikes.

No doubt getting around can be a huge budget buster. Here are ten tips to help cut your costs:

Buy a Used Car

Because cars lose most of their value in the first few years, buying used allows you to drive a vehicle you probably couldn't afford brand new.

Recent used models -- those that are less than five years old -- can be a real value because you get a nearly new car still in fine working order for a fraction of the new-car price. And you'll pay less for collision insurance and taxes, too.

Buy a Sipper, Not a Guzzler

You don't need a hybrid vehicle to save money on gas -- higher purchase prices can cancel out any savings. But a regular car with good gas mileage could save you hundreds of dollars a year on fuel.

Drive 1,200 miles per month in a car that averages 18 miles per gallon, and you'll spend $187 per month (at $2.80 per gallon).

Drive a car that averages 25 miles per gallon, and you'll spend $134 per month -- a savings of $53 per month, or $636 per year.

Re-Shop Your Car Insurance

Using a comparison site like can help you determine if you've got the best deal. Rates vary widely from insurer to insurer. Your savings could equal hundreds of dollars.

Shopping around is especially important for young adults because their rates could drop as they approach age 25 or older, build a credit rating, start a career and get married. Insurers reward customers who are responsible.

Drop Collision & Comprehensive Coverage

If you drive a beater -- say, one worth less than $2,000 -- you'll probably pay more to insure it than you would ever collect on a claim. Dropping that part of your coverage can reduce your premium by one-third.

Raise Your Deductible

Upping your out-of-pocket outlay from $250 to $1,000 on any car can save you 15% or more on your car insurance.

But make sure you have enough cash in an emergency savings account to cover your deductible so you won't have to rely on costly credit cards to bail you out.

Join Policies

When shopping around for auto insurance, check first with the company that provides your renters or homeowners insurance. You could snag up to 15% off for a multiple-line policy.

Shop Around for Gas

Gas prices can vary as much as 20% within only a few blocks, according to, a price-monitoring site. So hop online to find the best deal in your neighborhood or along your commute route.

A 20-cent difference on 60 gallons of gas per month adds up to $12 per month or $144 per year.

Use a Gas Rebate Credit Card

If you frequent the pump, soften the financial sting with a credit card that'll give you cash back for filling up.

For example, the Discover Open Road card gives you 5% cash back on gas and auto maintenance charges. So if you spend $200 a month on gas and maintenance, you get $10 back -- or $120 each year.

Hop on the Bus, Gus

Public transportation can save you a bundle on commuting costs because you won't have to spend money on a parking space, gas and auto maintenance. Plus, you can probably get a lower insurance rate for driving less.

Ask if your employer will pick up part of the tab for your public transportation costs. If not, suggest the company look into the matter -- it could qualify for a tax break.

Car Pool

Two heads are better than one when it comes to commuting. Sharing the ride -- and expense -- with another person heading your way can cut your gas costs in half.

Copyrighted, Kiplinger Washington Editors, Inc.

See-Through Frogs, Alien Salamanders, and Spiny Bugs

See-Through Frogs, Alien Salamanders, and Spiny Bugs...
by Vera H-C Chan
A salamander that looks like E.T., a micosized frog smaller than a fingernail, and a spiny-crested grasshopper. Who says the age of exploration is dead?
It's definitely not for Conservation International (CI). Their scientists have come back with some startlingly vivid images of endangered and never-before-seen critters from a whirlwind trip to the Nangaritza Protected Forest in Ecuador, near the Peruvian border. CI researchers came across at least 15 species of creatures and plants "unknown to science."
One of the most remarkable creatures is the Hyalinobatrachium pellucidum, also called a glass or crystal frog because you can see through its transparent flesh (right down to its guts). This guy's not new, but he's definitely endangered, so the find is heartening for environmentalists.
The purpose of the three-week biodiversity study was to identify species and make conservation recommendations for ecotourism possibilities, which the Ecuadorian locals are entertaining. It also turns out that frogs and insects yield medicinal properties, and a proper population survey is needed to see what else is out there in the forest.
According to Bloomberg, out of 14 million plants and animals in the world, human beings have been acquainted with only about 1.8 million. Below are more images of new friends; you can find other photos and expedition details at CI's site.
New-to-Us Species, Ecuador

Six Ways to Safeguard Your Online Assets

Do you think using online financial services is just too darn risky? Well, think again. Online banking may actually leave you less vulnerable to fraud than traditional banking, according to Javelin Strategy and Research.

The research firm found that customers who made a habit of monitoring account activity online tended to discover suspicious activity more quickly. And early detection spelled savings: victims of cyber crime who tracked their accounts online paid out an average of $551 per incident, whereas those who relied on paper statements paid an average $4,543 per incident, reports MSN Money columnist Liz Pulliam Weston.

This knowledge, coupled with the convenience of having account information available at a moment's notice, has undoubtedly prompted many former skeptics to go electronic. But if you choose to bank online, be aware that you are offering thieves another avenue to your finances.

To ensure that you don't fall prey to cyber fraud, be sure to follow these six rules for safe online banking from Weston's book, "Easy Money":

1. Install a firewall. A firewall is a software program designed to allow good people in and keep bad people out. Most new computers come with firewalls integrated into their operating systems. Those who have a DSL or cable modem have an added layer of protection because these modems come with yet another firewall built in. If, however, you have an older computer or use dial up, you may need to buy a firewall separately and install it yourself.

2. Install and update antispyware and antivirus programs. Microsoft and numerous application vendors offer users regular updates to existing antispyware programs, so be on the lookout. As for antivirus protection, Symantec and Norton antivirus are popular choices. If you're looking to cut costs, Consumer Reports says Alwil Avast offers the best free virus protection available.

3. Avoid accessing financial information in public. Resist logging on to check your bank balance when working from a coffee shop that offers wireless access. These systems are convenient, but also unknown. Casual users have no way of assessing how sturdy their firewalls are.

4. Update your browser. Updating your browser on a regular basis can help plug up security holes, so make it a habit.

5. Look for "locks." How can you tell if your financial site is really secure before you log on? The Web address should start with "https," instead of "http," says Weston. Also, look for small lock icon in the lower-right corner of the browser window.

6. Don't open mystery attachments. Never open an attachment or click on a link sent to you by an unknown party. Attachments can contain viruses and links can lead unsuspecting users to dummy sites where they are asked to input financial information.

Copyrighted, MarketWatch.

Tackle the cost of college

A few simple steps and some tough questions can help families tackle the cost of college
By Kim Clark
Posted 4/8/07

More than 2 million Americans have just three weeks to make what will probably be one of the biggest financial bets of their lives: where to go to college.

Unfortunately, the odds of making a mistake are high because many colleges and lenders fail-sometimes intentionally-to provide the basic information students need to keep college costs within their budgets. Many schools, for example, ignore at least the spirit of vague federal laws requiring them to give students plenty of warning about scholarship details and total costs. And the New York State attorney general has launched an investigation into whether colleges and lenders have been illegally steering students and parents away from the cheapest education loans. Such tactics can be especially effective on college applicants, most of whom are young adults whose biggest previous financial decision may have been which sneaker to buy.

The costs of making a mistake have never been higher. About 40 percent of all students drop out of college and so get little career or earnings boost-but are often left with big bills. And this year's freshmen will face the risk of the biggest bills in history, as colleges around the country are raising tuition to new records. The California State universities' fees will jump 10 percent this fall; the University of Kentucky's, 9 percent. Even accounting for increases in federal Pell grants and other financial aid, students at public universities will probably have to scrape together about $14,000 from their own families next year, up several hundred dollars from last year. Meanwhile, students who get no scholarships and choose to pay the sticker prices of the most expensive private universities will have to pony up more than $50,000.

But the payoff to making a good decision is still lavish. Those who choose the right college, and make the grades and payments to receive a degree, earn about 40 percent more than those who drop out of college. That kind of jackpot is what is inspiring Olga Nuñez, 23, to ask plenty of questions about the financial aid offer she expects from a community college in New Jersey. She's being careful this time around because of the blunder she made at 20, when she was thrilled to get a small scholarship from private Wheelock College in Massachusetts. She didn't notice then that much of the rest of her aid package was loans. And she didn't check out the school to see if she'd be comfortable there. After just one year of feeling isolated and becoming alarmed by her new college debts, she dropped out. "Now I have almost $15,000 in loans," she says.

"This time, I'm going to do it right."

Financial aid experts and students like Nuñez say that a few hours of research and some simple strategies are all it takes to tilt the odds in students' favor.

Step 1. When Joe Paul Case, director of financial aid at Amherst College, helps friends decide which college to choose, he says the first step is to figure out just how much each college is going to cost. So he sits down with all the student's financial aid award letters, a big pad of paper, and a pencil. He draws a grid, writes the name of each school at the top of a column, and then starts to tear his hair out. The very first and most important number-the total cost of a year at the school, including tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel, and other reasonable expenses-is often left off award letters and college websites. Many schools reveal their total costs only upon request, so that their high prices don't scare applicants away. "They don't want to have confrontations with families" about costs but instead want students to get excited and say, "Oh, look how much scholarship there was," Case says.

Once over the excitement, families can call the schools and ask for the total cost of attendance or estimate it by adding about $3,700 to tuition, fees, room, and board. To get the net out-of-pocket costs for the first year, just subtract grants and scholarships from each school's total cost. Loans and work-study jobs are often good deals, but they still eventually come out of the pocket of the student or parent.

Experienced students warn against stopping there, however. The goal isn't just to pay for freshman year but to get the student through to a degree. And that means asking the school-and the student-tough questions. Andrew Blucker, a freshman at Tennessee Tech, now realizes every student should investigate the rules for and likelihood of renewing each scholarship, for example. Money awarded because of a student's need, such as Pell grants, won't be renewed if the income of the student or parent gets a sudden boost. And Blucker was shocked to learn how easy it is to lose merit scholarships. He is about to become one of 50 percent of Tennessee HOPE scholarship recipients who lose them because of low grades after just one year. "College was quite a bit more difficult than I expected," Blucker says. It's more difficult than most students expect. Tennessee's research shows that more than 60 percent of students who leave high school with a B-plus grade-point average end their freshman year with a sub-B average. That's a warning to students who accept scholarships that require maintaining high grades in college.

How long? In addition, figuring out the cost of a degree means asking how long it will take the student to get through the coursework. Most college students now take at least five years. But there's a great variation from school to school, as a few quick clicks on the federal government's College Opportunities Online Locator website ( show.

Alas, once they've figured out their bottom line, most families are unpleasantly surprised. The ugly reality is that most colleges feel they simply can't afford to provide enough aid for every student. And that leaves students who can't afford college with two solutions: cut their costs, and raise extra funds. But the way students make up the cash shortages can influence their chances of graduating.

A growing number of students are saving money by living at home and spending the first couple of years in low-priced community colleges. Those students need to be especially disciplined, however, because many community colleges have a low rate of transferring students on to four-year schools.

Raising cash can also be tricky. Working no more than 15 hours a week can earn students about $2,000 over a school year, enough to cover books and extra expenses. Better yet, studies show the discipline of a part-time job improves grades. But working more than that tends to steal time away from homework and is associated with a higher dropout rate.

Nearly 7 percent of college students also raise extra cash through private scholarships from charities, clubs, and businesses. But the biggest prizes go to the early birds. Only a handful of contests are still accepting applications in April.

One of the most effective ways to get more aid is to call, write, or, best of all, visit the aid offices of the student's top-choice school. Students who can supply good reasons and evidence for needing more money can ask for a "professional judgment review" of their award. Job loss or unusual but necessary costs such as hospital or funeral bills are the kinds of factors that tend to win the most additional aid, officers say. Unwillingness to divert money from payments on the Hummer or beachfront vacation home typically won't win sympathy or money. Students or parents who have low-balled their income or savings on financial aid applications should not appeal. Officials taking a harder look at a family's finances can-and sometimes do-reduce aid.

A growing number of schools are also receptive to appeals based on offers from competing schools. Some universities, such as Carnegie Mellon and Harvard, encourage students to give them a chance to match other colleges' awards. (They may not respond to offers from schools they don't compete with, however.) Other schools prefer to be approached more diplomatically.

It took Janean Laidlaw of Williamstown, Mass., five hours of scouring through websites and college catalogs to figure out the real costs of the eight schools her son, Hal, got into in 2003. And then she discovered that Hal's top choice, Swarthmore, would cost the family $16,000, or as much as 22 percent of the family's after-tax income, and was thousands of dollars higher than his other choices. So she wrote a letter noting that other schools had been more generous, wondering if those schools "had looked at us differently," and explaining it would be difficult for the family to live on three-quarters pay. After an initial rejection, Swarthmore offered to replace Hal's loans with grants. Though sorely tempted, in the end, Hal chose to study math and computer science at Princeton, a less expensive option. Now a senior, Hal is being recruited by tech companies, and the Laidlaws' oldest daughter just received a nice offer from Columbia. "We're very lucky," Laidlaw says. Of course, the Laidlaws also put in the effort to increase the odds that financial aid luck would favor them.

Considering Aid Offers?

- Find out the college's total cost of attendance.

- Deduct grants and scholarships to calculate your out-of-pocket cost.

- Determine what the requirements are to have a scholarship renewed for subsequent years.

- Figure out how long it's likely to take to get a degree. Most students now need at least five years.

- Weigh the savings from living at home for two years and going to community college vs. the chance that you won't transfer to a four-year school.

- Decide how many hours a week you could work at a job without hurting your grades.

- Look for last-minute scholarships with late deadlines.

- Appeal to the college financial aid office for a better deal if your family has evidence of greater need.

Source: U.S. News

Top 10 Money Drains

1. Coffee -- According to the National Coffee Association, the average price for brewed coffee is $1.38. There are roughly 260 weekdays per year, so buying one coffee every weekday morning costs almost $360 per year.

2. Cigarettes -- The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids reports that the average price for a pack of cigarettes in the United States is $4.54. Pack-a-day smokers fork out $1,660 a year. Weekend smoker? Buying a pack once a week adds up, too: $236.

3. Alcohol -- Drink prices vary based on the location. But assuming an average of $5 per beer including tip, buying two beers per day adds up to $3,650 per year. Figure twice that for two mixed drinks a day at the local bar. That's not chump change.

4. Bottled water from convenience stores -- A 20-ounce bottle of Aquafina bottled water costs about $1. One bottle of water per day costs $365 per year. It costs the environment plenty, too.

5. Manicures -- The Day Spa Magazine Price Survey of 2004 found that the average cost of a manicure is $20.53. A weekly manicure sets you back about $1,068 per year.

6. Car washes -- The average cost for a basic auto detailing package is $58, according to The tab for getting your car detailed every two months: $348 per year.

7. Weekday lunches out -- $9 will generally cover a decent lunch most work days. If you buy rather than pack a lunch five days a week for one year, you shell out about $2,350 a year.

8. Vending machines snacks -- The average vending machine snack costs $1. Buy a pack of cookies every afternoon at work and pay $260 per year.

9. Interest charges on credit card bills -- According to a survey released at the end of May 2007, the median amount of credit card debt carried by Americans is $6,600. Rate tables on indicate that fixed interest rates on a standard card average 13.44 percent. Making the minimum payment each month, it will take 250 months (almost 21 years) to pay off the debt and cost $4,868 in interest. Ouch!

10. Unused memberships -- reports that the monthly service fee at gyms averages between $35 and $40. At $40 per month, an unused gym membership runs $480 per year.

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