MONEY freebies

Free Smoothies at White Castle on Sunday

White Castle restaurant sign
K. L. Howard—Alamy

Who knew White Castles had smoothies?

White Castle wants you know it’s come a long way from its days as a beloved late-night greasy burger hangout for Harold and Kumar, the Beastie Boys, and their legions of followers. White Castle now has restaurants in the West—Las Vegas, where a location on the Strip has generated record-setting sales—and the menu has been expanded to include new flavors (Sriracha sliders) and even some healthy(ish) options.

The “Original Slider” chain introduced veggie sliders to the menu late last year, and in recent weeks it rolled out a choice of two new fruit smoothies: Peach and Strawberry Banana. Both flavors are made with Dole fruit and Yoplait low-fat yogurt.

And here’s your excuse to give the chain’s smoothies a taste: On Sunday, May 24, customers who present this coupon at participating White Castle locations are welcomed to their choice of smoothie in a 10-oz. size.

MONEY Holidays

Memorial Day Weekend Traffic, Sales & More, By the Numbers

We know for sure that during the holiday weekend, sales will be big, traffic will be heavy, and many, many hot dogs will be eaten. Here's a big roundup of fun factoids about the holiday weekend ahead.

  • 95¢

    In this May 8, 2015 photo, vehicles drive past a gas station in Andover, Mass. Even after the typical springtime run-up, the average price for gallon of regular gasoline should top out around $2.60.
    Elise Amendola—AP

    Approximate difference in the price of a gallon of regular gasoline this Memorial Day, compared to the holiday weekend in 2014. Even as gas prices have surged steadily for over a month, filling up the tank is substantially cheaper than it was a year ago. The last time gas was this cheap over Memorial Day weekend, it was 2009.

  • 5%

    Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel resort exterior property swimming pool, Orlando, Florida
    Rosa Irene Betancourt—Alamy

    Average percentage rise in hotel rates this year compared to 2014. According to Priceline data, daily room rates over Memorial Day weekend are up even more than that in cities such as Orlando and Dallas, while prices at Virginia Beach, Detroit, and Fort Lauderdale have fallen compared to a year ago. Meanwhile, forecasts from AAA call for a 16% increase in rates at lower-end (two-star) hotels over the weekend.

  • 14

    person clicking seatbelt
    Getty Images

    Number of days that police around the country are aggressively enforcing a “Click It or Ticket” campaign to get drivers and auto passengers to wear seatbelts. Look for police to pull cars over and issue a disproportionately high number of tickets for not wearing seatbelts from May 18 to 31.

  • 14+

    Colonial Williamsburg
    Bob Stefko—Getty Images Colonial Williamsburg

    Number of freebies and special discounts available to veterans and active military on or around Memorial Day, per sites such as Military.com and MilitaryBenefits.info. For instance, at Colonial Williamsburg, admission is free this weekend for all active duty, reservists, retirees, and veterans—and their dependents get in free as well.

  • 25

    War Memorial to Confederate Soldiers, Macon, Georgia
    Sean Pavone—Alamy

    Approximate number of American cities that have laid claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day, the majority of which are in the South and held celebrations in the aftermath of the Civil War. (One of them is Macon, Ga., whose War Memorial to Confederate Soldiers is pictured above.)

  • 54%

    George W. Bush International Airport, Houston, Texas, USA
    Alamy

    Percentage of Americans who said they prefer to travel on non-holiday weekends rather than holidays like Memorial Day, according to a survey conducted for Citi ThankYou Premier card. Only 11% named Memorial Day as the best summer holiday for travel.

  • 57%

    man grilling fish
    Stephen Lux—Getty Images

    Percentage of Americans who say they will grill food on the barbecue during Memorial Day weekend.

  • 60% to 70%

    Cabela’s, Scarborough, Maine
    Gregory Rec—Portland Press Herald via Getty

    Discount off the original prices that shoppers can expect during many Memorial Day sales.

  • $199

    2015 Buick Verano Turbo
    Tom Drew 2015 Buick Verano Turbo

    The hot per-month lease price available for more than two dozen new vehicles during the busy holiday weekend, according to Edmunds.com. The auto research site also notes that there are an exceptionally large number of 0% financing offers in May, including 0% financing deals on several Toyota and Nissan vehicles and most Ford models.

  • 383

    overturned car
    Sebastien Cote—Getty Images

    Estimated number of fatalities from traffic crashes that will take place over Memorial Day weekend, according to the National Safety Council. Drivers and passengers can expect another car crash-related 46,300 injuries over the weekend as well.

  • 818

    hot dogs on plate
    Greg Elms—Getty Images

    Number of hot dogs consumed every second in the U.S. from Memorial Day to Labor Day, known as peak hot dog season, when we’ll collectively wolf down 7 billion dogs.

     

  • $200,000+

    toasting with beer pints
    John Giustina—Getty Images

    Amount of money raised for military-focused charities last year with the release of a special craft beer, Homefront IPA. Ten craft brewers have made their own versions of Homefront IPA for the charity effort this year, and the official release date for the brews is Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

  • 1.75 Million

    Passengers board a Bolt bus to New York in Washington, D.C.
    Jay Mallin—Bloomberg via Getty Images

    Projected total number of travelers in the U.S. boarding buses on rides of 50 miles or more from Wednesday, May 20, through Monday, May 25. That would be a 5% rise over the holiday period last year, and the highest total for Memorial Day weekend bus travel in 25 years.

  • 37.2 Million

    Interstate I-10, Arizona
    Natalia Bratslavsky—Alamy

    Number of Americans that AAA is projecting will travel at least 50 miles from home over the big holiday weekend. That would represent a 4.7 increase over last year, and the highest volume of Memorial Day traffic since 2005. Nearly 9 in 10 travelers will get to their destinations this weekend via automobile.

  • 42+ Million

    U.S. Marines march during the National Memorial Day Parade on Constitution Avenue in Washington, May 27, 2013.
    Yuri Gripas—Reuters

    Number of American men and women who have served their country in the armed services during war time over the centuries; approximately 1.2 million lost their lives in the course of their service.

MONEY Weird But Useful

The 6 Most Valuable Grocery Items You Can Buy

Paul Burns/Getty Images

138 ways to use these everyday items

When it comes to utility, not all grocery items are created equal.

If value can be defined by versatility then, some grocery items offer a lot more bang for your buck than others.

Sure, everybody knows about the incredible and legendary versatility of duct tape. Heck, duct tape can even fix your personal finances.

Savvy grocery shoppers often take advantage of highly versatile products in the supermarket too. Specifically, here are the six most valuable products in your typical supermarket — along with a partial list of their many uses.

Just keep in mind that I haven’t personally verified all of these tips — so, please, use them at your own risk.

Vinegar

When it comes to grocery store products, vinegar is liquid gold. People have been using it for ages — and not just for cooking and preserving foods. Vinegar’s versatility is virtually unmatched; there are literally hundreds of potential applications. Aside from its primary applications, here is just a small sample of all the other things vinegar can be used for:

1. Disinfect wood cutting boards
2. Soothe a sore throat; use 1 tsp of vinegar per glass of water, then gargle
3. Fight dandruff; after shampooing, rinse hair with vinegar and 2 cups of warm water
4. Remove warts; apply daily a 50/50 solution of cider vinegar and glycerin until they’re gone
5. Cure an upset stomach; drink 2 tsp apple cider vinegar in one cup of water
6. Polish chrome
7. Keep boiled eggs from cracking; add 2 tbsp to water before boiling
8. Clean deposits from fish tanks
9. Remove urine stains from carpet
10. Keep fleas off dogs; add a little vinegar to the dog’s drinking water
11. Keep car windows from frosting up; use a solution of 3 oz. vinegar to 1 oz. water
12. Clean dentures; soak overnight in vinegar and then brush
13. Get rid of lint in clothes; add 0.5 cup vinegar to rinse cycle
14. Remove grease from suede
15. Kill grass on sidewalks and driveways
16. Make wool blankets softer; add 2 cups distilled vinegar to rinse cycle
17. Remove skunk odor from a dog; rub fur with full strength vinegar and rinse
18. Freshen wilted vegetables; soak them in 1 tbsp vinegar and a cup of water
19. Dissolve mineral deposits in drip coffee makers
20. Deodorize drains; pour a cup down the drain once a week, let sit for 30 minutes, then rinse
21. Use as a replacement for a lemon; 0.25 tsp vinegar substitutes for 1 tsp of lemon juice
22. Make rice fluffier; add 1 tsp of vinegar to water when it boils
23. Prevent grease build-up in ovens; wipe oven with cleaning rag soaked in distilled vinegar and water
24. Kill germs; mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
25. Unclog shower heads; place in a pot with 50-50 solution of vinegar and water, bring it to a boil and then simmer for 5 minutes
26. Shine patent leather
27. Make propane lantern wicks burn longer/brighter; soak them in vinegar for 3 hours, let dry
28. Act as an an air freshener
29. Soften paint brushes; soak in hot vinegar then rinse with soapy water
30. Remove bumper stickers and decals; simply cover them with vinegar-soaked cloth for several minutes
31. Prolong the life of fresh-cut flowers; use 2 tbsp of vinegar and 3 tbsp of sugar per quart of warm water

All of these vinegar applications — and scores more — can be found here.

Baking Soda

Aside from its primary use as a baking agent, baking soda is another grocery item with an almost countless number of applications. For example, baking soda can be used to:

1. Deodorize your refrigerator; put an open box in the fridge
2. Remove odors from shoes
3. Keep drains clean and free-flowing; use 4 tbspns of soda and flush with hot water
4. Keep your underarms smelling fresh
5. Soften your skin
6. Relieve diaper rash
7. Relieve sunburn; apply a paste of soda and water
8. Extinguish small grease and electrical fires
9. Polish silverware
10. Clean your refrigerator. (Or your neighbors, for that matter.)
11. Remove cat box odors; cover the bottom of the box with soda, then top with kitty litter
12. Clean and remove stale odors from thermos bottles and coolers
13. Make dried beans more digestible by soaking them in a solution of baking soda and water
14. Make wild game taste less, well, “gamey”
15. Remove oil and grease stains from laundry; add baking soda to the wash water
16. Remove stains from marble, Formica or plastic surfaces; apply a paste of soda and water
17. Remove grease from garage floors
18. Clean vegetables and fruit; sprinkle some in water, then soak and rinse
19. Wash garbage cans
20. Clean and remove odors from your dishwasher; just run it with soda instead of soap
21. Inhibit smoldering butts in ashtrays
22. Clean shower curtains
23. Keep teeth or dentures clean. (Preferably, yours.)
24. Relieve indigestion and heartburn; drink 0.5 tsp of soda in 4 oz of water
25. Use as a mouthwash and/or relieve canker sore pain; gargle with 0.5 tsp of soda in 4 oz of water
26. Remove baked-on food from pots and pans; soak in soda and water for 15 minutes
27. Relieve bee sting pain
28. Make homemade Play Dough; combine 1.25 cups water, 2 cups soda, 1 cup cornstarch
29. Remove feathers more easily when scalding a chicken; just add to the water
30. As a windshield water repellent
31. Clean canvas handbags
32. Shine chrome and stainless steel

For even more baking soda applications, check out this site.

WD-40

You can’t get a gallon of milk at your local Home Depot, but you can often find WD-40 in a grocery store! WD-40 was originally developed as a water repellent and corrosion preventer, but today the manufacturer claims the product has over 2000 uses. But, Len, if there are 2000 uses why didn’t you rank it number one? Well, the answer is two-fold: 1) because most of those 2000 uses are just variations of the same basic applications; 2) this is my list and I’ll do as I want. (So there.)

Here are 20 of the more arcane ones which have actually been verified:

1. Removes road tar and grime from cars
2. Loosens stuck zippers
3. Untangles jewelry chains
4. Keeps pigeons off the balcony. (Apparently, they hate the smell.)
5. Lubricates prosthetic limbs
6. Protects silver from tarnishing
7. Keeps ceramic and terra-cotta garden pots from oxidizing
8. Keeps scissors working smoothly
9. Lubricates squeaky home and vehicle door hinges
10. Lubricates gear shifts and deck levers on riding mowers
11. Eliminates squeaks from kids’ swings
12. Makes home windows easier to open. (And it’s safer than a hammer!)
13. Helps stubborn umbrellas to open and close
14. Restores and cleans vehicle roof racks
15. Lubricates and stops squeaks in electric fans
16. Lubricates wheel sprockets on tricycles, wagons, and bicycles
17. Removes residual duct tape adhesive
18. Cleans bugs off of grills and bumpers
19. Displaces the moisture and allows a car to start when sprayed on the distributor cap
20. Removes black scuff marks from floors

Coca-Cola

Wisebread highlighted a whole bunch of clever uses for Coke or Pepsi. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

1. Remove grease and blood stains from clothing and fabric
2. Clean oil stains from a garage floor
3. Remove rust. (My mom said she used to do this as a kid do get corrosion off her bike — I guess she didn’t have any WD-40!)
4. Loosen a rusty bolt. (Another WD-40 trick. Am I the only one here beginning to think Coke is a main ingredient in that stuff?)
5. Tenderize and add extra flavor to a pot roast. (Okay. Let’s see WD-40 do this!)
6. Kill slugs and snails
7. Help a lawn become lush and green
8. Prevent an asthma attack
9. Defrost a frozen windshield. (I prefer using hot coffee — black — but that’s just me.)
10. Clean burnt pans
11. Neutralize a jellyfish sting
12. Clean car battery terminals.(I’ve done this before. It works!)
13. Entertain the kids by creating an exploding fountain. (With the help of a pack of Mentos.)
14. Make your hair curly
15. Age documents and photos
16. Clean tile grout
17. Make better compost. (The the acidity and sugar feeds microorganisms.)
18. Remove gum from hair
19. Remove stains from vitreous china
20. Clear up swimming pool water
21. Deodorize laundry
22. Remove dye from hair by pouring Diet Coke over it
23. Remove marker stains from carpet

Fabric Softener Sheets

Most people use fabric sheets to make clothes soft and remove static cling. But did you know that these versatile sheets can also:

1. Repel mice and ants
2. Act as a mosquito, bee and yellow jacket repellent; tie one through a belt loop
3. Prevent dust from settling on computer monitors
4. Dissolve soap scum from shower doors
5. Eliminate wastebasket odors; just place them in the bottom
6. Prevent dust from settling on Venetian blinds; wipe them down and no more dust
7. Deodorize stinky shoes
8. Keep stored tents and sleeping bags smelling fresh
9. Prevent musty suitcases
10. Collect cat hair. (No word on whether it works on dog hair too.)
11. Act as a car or room air freshener
12. Prevent thread from tangling; run a threaded needle through a sheet before sewing
13. Collect sawdust resulting from drilling or sandpapering
14. Eliminate odors from dirty laundry; place a sheet at the bottom of a hamper
15. Remove splattered bugs from cars; scrub with a wet sheet
16. Clean baked-on food from pans; put a sheet in pan, fill with water and let sit overnight. Sponge clean.

Paper Towels

Those of you who have seen my great paper towel test know that some paper towels are better than others when it comes to sopping up spills — but paper towels can also:

1. Act as a quick-and-dirty lumbar pillow. (You’ll need to use the whole roll, of course.)
2. Remove silk from fresh corn; just run a damp paper towel across the ear
3. Act as a coffee filter. (I’ve done this before in a pinch and it works well.)
4. Keep lettuce fresh longer; wrap around lettuce head to soak up excess moisture. (I’ve done this for years.)
5. Prevent frozen bread from getting soggy as it thaws; simply place a paper towel in the bagbefore freezing
6. Provide temporary sunburn relief; lay a damp towel across affected skin
7. Clean your can opener; close the opener over a paper towel edge and turn the crank
8. Keep cast iron pots rust-free; placed in clean pots, they’ll absorb moisture
9. Remove crayon from chalk boards; place a paper towel over wax, then press a warm iron over towel
10. Remove candle wax from carpet and upholstery(Use the same method as above.)
11. Sprout seeds; place a few seeds between damp towels, then keep damp for two weeks
12. Act as a cheap place mat
13. Strain fat from broth; place a paper towel in colander and pour the broth through it
14. Protect Christmas tree ornaments during storage
15. Prevent bacon splatter in a microwave oven
16. Remove residual grease from sewing machines; run the first few stitches through the towel

Well, that’s it. Remember, these are only partial lists for each of these products.

If you have any favorite special applications for any of these items, don’t be shy! Share them with the rest of us!

More From Len Penzo dot COM:

Len Penzo blogs at lenpenzo.com, “the off-beat personal finance blog for responsible people”.

MONEY deals

This Week’s Best Deals: Memorial Day Sales Have Already Begun!

You don't have to wait for the weekend to snag Memorial Day sales.

It’s a good week to save on home goods and sporting equipment during Memorial Day sales, plus a big sale on iPads and free jazz album downloads.

Here are our top choices for bargains this week:

Shop Early Memorial Day Sales

Memorial Day isn’t until next week, but the sales have already begun. Sears, Overstock, and Cymax all offer savings on home goods like mattresses, furniture, and tools, while Cabela’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods are slashing prices on outdoors and sporting equipment. Overall the discounts amount to up to 60% to 70% off, but your total savings could be even higher at other stores through some special holiday coupon codes; while you wait for additional sales to be unveiled, brush up on what the best deals will be with our Memorial Day sales guide.

Expand Your Musical Knowledge for Free

If you’ve been meaning to learn more about the classic jazz musicians that continue to inspire generations of singers and instrumentalists, now is the time. Google Play is offering several MP3 album downloads for free, starting with a “best of” record for the legend Miles Davis. There’s also a free compilation for the equally renowned Billie Holiday, as well as a “Jazz Pioneers” primer featuring talents like Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, and Eartha Kitt. Normally, these albums would sell for about $28 total.

Fitness Equipment for the Home

The arrival of Memorial Day signals the unofficial start to the summer beach season, which in turn might elicit some groans about one’s personal fitness. There’s still time to tone for the season though, especially as Walmart offers stellar savings on some home fitness equipment. Snag either the Bowflex PR1000 for $349 or the Bowflex PR3000 for $649, both at the lowest price we could find by at least $112. The best part? Shipping is free, so you can avoid store pickup and save the heavy lifting for after the equipment is in your home.

The Cheapest iPad You Can Get

At this point, many American households already own one tablet, and consumers are now starting to add second and third tablets to their device lineup. This 16GB Apple iPad mini — in white/silver or space gray/black — for $199.99 is ideal as a secondary slate, because it’s the cheapest Apple tablet you can get without resorting to refurbs. Sure, it’s the first generation model, but that’s why the savings are so strong. (Apple still sells the original mini for $249, whereas the mini 2 sells for $299.) This deal is also good for anyone who is cautiously considering giving the tablet trend a try.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so consider signing up for a daily email digest from DealNews to have the best offers sent directly to your inbox.

MONEY groceries

This Is America’s Favorite Supermarket

Robin Gallo (center) of North Palm Beach attended the opening on the new Trader Joe's store in Palm Beach Gardens store Friday, September 19, 2014. ''I got here at 6am and was the first in line, '' she said. ''I am using half a vacation day for this.
Bruce R. Bennett—The Palm Beach Post/Zuma Press, Inc./Alamy The opening on the new Trader Joe's store in Palm Beach Gardens store in Florida on Friday, September 19, 2014.

Yet again, Trader Joe's has been named as the best supermarket in the land by grocery shoppers, in a survey that factors in cleanliness, service, speed of checkout, and overall value.

Trader Joe’s may be known for its small stores, but it would be understandable if the grocery chain was getting a big head. For the third year in a row, TJ’s has been named by consumers as their overall favorite supermarket in a survey conducted by Market Force Information.

Survey participants are asked to rate grocery chains on attributes like Courteous Service and One-Stop Shopping, and Market Force compiles the data into what it calls a Composite Loyalty Index, meant to gauge overall consumer satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending the retailer to others. Trader Joe’s may not be the go-to spot for one-stop shopping, but for the past few years, it has ranked at or near the top of shopper ratings for attributes such as Courteous Service, Inviting Atmosphere, Low Prices, Cleanliness, and Fast Checkouts. That’s given the grocery chain the top ranking three years and running.

Publix’s high scores for courteous employees, speedy checkouts, and cleanliness helped the Florida-based supermarket chain nab the #2 slot in the Market Force study. The third-highest grocery chain, meanwhile, is Aldi, the exceptionally low-price, no-frills, generic-brand sibling of Trader Joe’s. WinCo Foods, another emerging low-price chain, and Costco received the highest ratings for value alongside Aldi.

This past spring, Consumer Reports’ study on the nation’s best supermarkets also placed Trader Joe’s and Publix in the top three, though it named Wegmans as the overall best grocery chain. (Wegmans wasn’t featured in the Market Force survey.)

One other notable nugget from both surveys is that Walmart is singled out for two reasons: It is the biggest and most visited of all grocery stores, and it receives the lowest ratings from shoppers.

 

MONEY Health Care

7 Strategies for Lowering Your Medical Bills

stethoscope wrapped around wallet
Getty Images

Pay less out of pocket by being a smart negotiator

Can you imagine buying a car a piece at a time — and trying to figure out what the total cost is? One person sells you the tires, another a steering wheel — oh, and a specialist will give you a transmission. And you need an engine? The cost will depend on which network you’re in.

That is, of course, how health care is sometimes sold in the United States. You want to know the price of your surgery? OK, but that doesn’t include the operating room, the anesthesiologist or the pathologist . . . they’ll be billing you separately.

But things are beginning to change, partly because Americans are now demanding answers. Motivated by high-deductible health plans and other health care changes, we want to know what we are paying for, and whether the services we receive are competitively priced. And the health care world is responding.

Stephen D. Neeleman, MD, founder and vice chair of HealthEquity, which offers health care savings and spending accounts, says many consumers don’t yet know how to negotiate for the best prices.

And to understand how to work within that system, it’s important to know a few things. First, hospitals may bill for about twice what they actually expect to receive, he says. Networks with negotiating power have agreements with the health care providers that allow them to pay less than the price you’ll see on your bill. So the amount you are billed can depend on whether you have insurance and which network you’re in. Different people pay different prices for the same service. Why can’t you get the best discount? The good news is, you may be able to. Here are some of Neeleman’s tips.

1. Offer a lower lump sum cash payment instead of payment in monthly installments. Yes, they give up a little money, but they are assured of payment and that there will be no need to write off the bill or send it to collections.

2. Talk to the right person. The right person is typically the office manager, and you can open the conversation with, “I’m here, and I’m ready to pay. I realize there are other patients that get better discounts because they are in bigger networks. I want the best deal you give anyone if I pay right now.” Even if your plan has a negotiated rate that is on the high side, the health care provider is free to charge you less than that, Neeleman said.

3. Call at the right time. The right time is as far ahead of your procedure as you can. Having surgery? There can be a dramatic difference in what facilities charge. You have time to find out where your surgeon performs surgery and if having it done at facility X on Tuesday is cheaper than having it done at facility Y on Wednesday, you’ll want to know that. Explain that you want to understand how the charges are determined because you will be paying for a lot of your expenses yourself. (Neeleman said you may be surprised to discover that many conditions don’t require emergency treatment, citing an example of a patient who, on a doctor’s advice, flew cross-country with a complex fracture so that she could be treated within her network, for a much lower price.)

4. Request that your services and procedures be recoded and verified for accuracy. You can look online to check the meanings of the CPT codes. Make sure those agree with what you believe the diagnoses and services were, and ask questions if they do not. Mistakes happen. Neeleman compares it to when grocery store cashiers keyed in prices and now when items are scanned. There is no scanning of medical procedures, and you need to check your bills at least as carefully as your mother checked her grocery receipts.

5. Know what the cost should be before making any payment. Your insurance company may have a tool to help you figure it out. You can find similar information here:

  • clearhealthcosts.com
  • healthcarebluebook.com
  • newchoicehealth.com

6. Don’t pay your bill right away. Give yourself time to be sure the bill is accurate, checking codes and expected prices carefully. However, you do want to pay on time. Medical bills can affect your credit. If you don’t pay, the account may be turned over to collections. (In fact, try to figure out which providers should be sending you bills, and ask questions if you don’t get one. Even bills you never received can wind up as collection accounts.)

7. Be nice. Understand that patients and providers who actually know what things cost is a fairly new phenomenon. So ask rather than demand, and let them know that you’re looking for a solution that will benefit both parties. Your mother was right: It pays to be polite.

Health care is changing, Neeleman said, but it’s slow. In some cases, charges are now being bundled so you DO know the final cost of a procedure. But it’s a whole new world. He compares it to being an early buyer of a Model T — you have the car, but where are the roads? Where are the gas stations? Concerned consumers are forcing a new transparency, though, and that can only be good in the long run.

More from Credit.com:

TIME deals

3 Charts That Show Why Verizon Wants AOL

Why Verizon says the former dial-up company is worth $4.4 billion

Verizon announced Tuesday a $4.4 billion deal to acquire AOL, the former dial-up service turned media company home to news sites like The Huffington Post and TechCrunch.

Why does Verizon want AOL? Some observers have pointed to Verizon’s interest in its thriving advertising technology business, built over the past few years through various acquisitions. The unit lets other companies pay AOL to buy and sell targeted ads across the web algorithmically. It’s one of AOL’s fastest-growing units, and Verizon could use the technology behind it to make more money from videos streaming across its network:

AOL’s display and search advertising on its own sites isn’t growing as quickly compared to its ad tech business. But it has long been the backbone of AOL’s strong advertising revenue. In 2014, the company earned nearly $1 billion from these display and search ads:

Still, it’s not clear if Verizon wants to keep AOL’s news sites, although the company has flirted awkwardly with its own content sites in the past.

Meanwhile, the unit that generates most of AOL’s income is probably the one that interests Verizon the least: Internet subscribers. While the number of AOL dial-up subscribers out there has slowly and steadily declined over the years, the company still counts about 2.2 million of them. The AOL unit that includes those subscribers generated over $600 million in revenue last year; their fate in a post-merger AOL is unclear:

 

MONEY Shopping

How to Buy a Mattress in 10 Minutes or Less

woman on bed
iStock

Simplify your quest for the perfect night's sleep

Mattress shopping can be kind of a nightmare. There are so many choices. And since the last time you bought a new mattress was probably several years ago, you probably can’t even remember how you did it. Is this an all-day shopping event? An endless, store-hopping nightmare?

Finding your perfect bed doesn’t need to be a stressful ordeal. In fact, preparation and the right tools will help you find a mattress in less time than it takes to brush your teeth, change into your PJs, and set the sleep timer on your TV. Here’s how to find the perfect mattress in less than 10 minutes.

1. Identify Your Current Mattress’ Flaws

Before even going to the mattress store, figure out what you want to avoid in your next mattress. Too many coils? Too firm for you and not firm enough for your partner or spouse? Narrowing down your list of current mattress flaws will give you a better idea of what you do want.

2. Do Your Homework

Once you know what you don’t want, and have a vague idea of what you do want, it’s time to do a basic search online. Check for prices, sizes, and brand names you’d like to see in person. This, too, will cut your actual in-person shopping time way down.

3. Test With a Trust Fall

For every mattress I’ve ever purchased, this is the sure-fire method I’ve used to find my ideal mattress match. I stand at the foot of the bed, pretend there are eight sets of trusting arms about to catch me, and I fearlessly fall back. I wouldn’t recommend this if you prefer a firm mattress, because, ouch, or if you have pre-existing neck problems, because whiplash. But if you’re looking for a soft and cuddly pillow-top, this is all kinds of fun, and only takes one minute of your time.

4. Try Out All Options

If you’re looking for a new kind of bed, then take the homework you did and test out firm, pillow-top, adjustable, and Tempur-Pedic mattresses by laying down for one or two minutes on each one. It’s kind of like trying on wedding dresses, in that you’ll know instantly once you’ve found “the one.”

5. Don’t Go for the Cheapest Mattress

A mattress is probably one of the most important purchases you will ever make. Restful sleep is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing, so going for the cheapest mattress you can find is not the best idea. You will spend six to eight hours a day laying on this thing, so acknowledge that this is an investment and is worth the hefty pricetag.

6. Know Your Warranty and Refund Rights

You might feel confident in your mattress selection at the store, but just in case you take it home and completely hate it, make sure you know what the mattress store’s policies are with warranties and refunds. Most quality mattresses will come with a 10-year full warranty. As for refunds, some brands give you two weeks to decide if you want to keep it. Some offer a “comfort period” for your body to adjust to the mattress and then a set time frame for returns. But be wary of these “comfort periods” because they often come with a shipping fee and a restocking fee. So once you’ve found your top pick, ask about both before handing over your money.

7. Negotiate Away

If a mattress store is willing to negotiate on price, then you need to make sure they negotiate fairly. This is because most mattress manufacturers apply set minimum prices for their retailers, so many will just price them at the minimum right off the bat. If you find some wiggle room in price discussions with the salesperson, bring them down as low as possible, since you know they marked it way over the minimum manufacturer price. This might take the most time, so save five minutes for haggling, if needed.

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MONEY deals

This Week’s Best Deals: Cheapest China Trip, Free Target Gift Card

Chinese Ethnic Culture Park and Olympic Stadium, Beijing, China
José Fuste Raga—agefotostock Chinese Ethnic Culture Park and Olympic Stadium, Beijing, China

A special promotion brings a seven-night package to Beijing and Shanghai down to the lowest price we've seen in years. Or stay put and score a free $20 gift card at Target, or a (mostly) free desktop calendar from Walgreens.

Here are our top choices for bargains this week:

It Pays to Do Back-to-School Shopping Early

It’s just about time to start thinking about all the necessities your college-bound student will need before heading off for some higher learning, and Target is making it easier on your wallet. The first 50,000 people to create an online college registry with Target worth $500 or more before May 16 will receive a free $20 Target gift card. (It will be mailed to you within three weeks.) Plus, the next time a family member asks how they can help out, you can just direct them to the registry. Any way you can save money for college will help!

A Freebie That’s Ideal for Father’s Day

Another fantastic freebie this week comes from Walgreens. Normally this personalized desktop calendar costs $9.99, but coupon code “TOPOFDESK” cuts it to $0. Unfortunately you’ll have to shell out $5.95 for shipping, but that’s exceptionally cheap for a custom-made calendar. Mother’s Day has passed, but consider loading up some pictures for a nice Father’s Day treat. Deal ends May 13.

A Lot of Luxury at a Little Price

It’s rare for luxury brands to offer steep discounts, which is why this clearance sale from Cole Haan is so juicy. Predominantly known for high-end leather goods, the store is taking an extra 40% off both men’s and women’s clearance shoes, handbags, and accessories via coupon code “EXTRA40.” That’s the best discount we’ve seen from Cole Haan this year, knocking many items to exceptionally low prices. We recommend stocking up on some quintessential ballet flats while the shopping is hot. Deal ends May 13.

The Cheapest Way to Visit China

Smart travelers know that in order to save mucho dinero on a trip, you have to be flexible with your vacation dates. Case in point: If you don’t mind waiting until January 2016 to embark on this Beijing and Shanghai 7-night vacation package for two people, then you’ll pay only $2,198 total, which is the best price we’ve seen for anyweek-long Chinese vacation. You’ll save up to $1,580, which is no small chunk of change. The trip includes round-trip airfare from the U.S., hotels in Beijing and Shanghai, flights between the two cities, meals, and sightseeing tours, so it’s perfect for a traveler who gets overwhelmed by choice. Book this travel deal by May 27.

Amazing bargains pop up at any given moment, so consider signing up for a daily email digest from DealNews to have the best offers sent directly to your inbox.

MONEY freebies

Haagen-Dazs Gives Away Free Ice Cream on Tuesday, May 12

150511_EM_HaagenDazs
Franziska Krug—Getty Images for Haagen-Dazs

Hit up Haagen-Dazs on Tuesday for a free cone or cup of ice cream in whatever flavor you want.

Following on the heels of recent ice cream giveaways from Carvel, Ben & Jerry’s, and Dairy Queen, Haagen-Dazs is hosting a Free Cone Day on Tuesday, May 12. That may be a slight misnomer because freebies are not available for the whole day. Instead, the giveaways are limited to 4 p.m. through 8 p.m. at participating Haagen-Dazs locations.

But “Free Cone Day” sounds a lot better than something like “Free Ice Cream for Four Hours Day.” Here are the rest of the pertinent details explained in the promotion’s fine print:

Stop by any participating U.S. store and get one free kiddie size ice cream in either a cup, sugar cone, or cake cone… Limit 1 kiddie scoop per guest. All other menu items are regular price.

In any event, free ice cream! Enjoy Free Cone Day—or whatever you want to call it—at Haagen-Dazs on Tuesday afternoon or evening.

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