Courtesy AMC

Among the values vying to survive modern life, financial responsibility is of key concern to many American families.

Whether or not one understands money can make or break a family's livelihood, affect the happiness of a marriage, or even spell the difference between the economic success or failure of nations. That is why such knowledge is vital to navigating an increasingly complex world.

To help our readers combat the often overbearing feeling of uncertainty when it comes to financial planning, Deseret News writers have worked to provide practical insights into the world of money.

Hoping to make the inevitable financial resolutions that will come with the approaching new year a little easier to carry out, we’ve compiled a list of this year’s 20 most popular personal finance stories that ran on

The first few paragraphs of each article are included on the respective slide. If a story strikes your interest, follow the link to the full article.

Did we miss any of your favorites? Feel free to let us know in the comments section.

20 The Ten Commandments of personal finance
Courtesy AMC

Maybe you heard about that infamous Kelton study from 2007 that found Americans could identify more ingredients in a Big Mac than the individual Ten Commandments.

It’s true, folks. Eighty percent of Americans knew there were two all-beef patties in a Big Mac — but just six in ten could identify “Thou shalt not kill” as one of the Ten Commandments. I know.

I’m sorry to say my anecdotal research verifies the Kelton study.

I know a Big Mac has two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions — all on a sesame seed bun, no less — but I can only name eight of the Ten Commandments. (Don’t tell my third grade catechism teacher, Sister Nora.)

I wonder if Sister Nora would feel better if I told her I can name my Ten Personal Finance Commandments.

Read the rest of the story here.

19 Some experts are pushing to end restaurant tipping

Michael Lynn is, quite possibly, the world's expert on tipping. The Cornell professor has written 51 academic papers on the subject. On a Freakonomics podcast, host Stephen Dubner asked Lynn what he would change about tipping.

"You know," Lynn said. "I think I would outlaw it."


Lynn says it is discriminatory.

His 2008 study titled "Consumer Racial Discrimination in Tipping" found that, looking at black and white customers and waiters, "consumers of both races discriminate against black service providers by tipping them less than white service providers."

Read the rest of the story here.

18 Extreme downsizing: Lessons from selling everything you own

IOWA CITY, Iowa — In the summer of 2000, John D. Freyer sold everything he owned.

Freyer was single, in his 20s and was flush with the easy money of the dot com boom. He had been studying for a year at the University of Iowa, but a summer in New York City convinced him he wanted to move to the Big Apple instead.

So he jumped in his white Honda Civic and drove 1,000 miles back to Iowa with the intention of picking up some of his possessions and selling the rest.

Read the rest of the story here.

17 Things to avoid: Don't buy these dumb things for your college student

The eternal battle between real needs and wants pales next to the battle to equip college students with what they need and what they really, really, really want.

Luckily, the Web is full of advice about how to avoid dumb things to buy — meaning, don't buy these things for your college student.

The first thing to remember, according to Kelci Lynn Lucier at, is that "You'll buy stuff when you get there." Students also will get there and find they really didn't need some things.

Read the rest of the story here.

16 'Karate Kid,' high heels and hidden influences on your buying
Jaren Wilkey, BYU

Try imitating an iconic scene from the 1984 movie "The Karate Kid" where Daniel stands in a perfect "Crane Stance" — one leg off the ground, two hands held high above his head, perfectly balanced and ready to deliver a kick from which there is no defense.

Now go shopping.

If a new study by BYU professors Jeff Larson and Darron Billeter is correct, just trying to do the difficult balancing act of the one-leg Crane Stance is enough to influence what you will buy.

Read the rest of the story here.

15 Why you should stop worrying and learn to love inflation
Associated Press

Matt Towery and his wife were recently grocery shopping in Atlanta and noticed that prices seemed higher.

"My money was just not getting anywhere near what it was 2 or 3 years ago," he recalls.

For example, Towery, a conservative syndicated columnist, noticed in June of 2003 that a pound of ground chuck beef sold for $2.23. This year it goes for $3.40. Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine predicts that grocery prices will go up 4 percent this year.

Yet, according to the government's Consumer Price Index, compared to a year ago, all prices are only up 2 percent. If you take out gas and food prices (which are more volatile in their price fluctuations), core inflation is only up 1.7 percent.

Read the rest of the story here.

14 How I canceled cable and gained a new outlook on life

When my husband and I began our journey out of debt, our monthly bills were overwhelming. Of course, we were paying for all of the regular stuff like our mortgage, utilities and various insurance policies. However, we were also paying for things that we knew we wanted to live without. Credit card bills. Furniture that we had financed. Magazine subscriptions. I also like to remind myself that I once bought a Kirby vacuum from a door-to-door salesman for $1,300. And worse than that, I financed it! Add that to the list of ridiculous bills I was paying at the time and you might get a better idea of where we started from.

Read the rest of the story here.

13 Free hotels: Swapping houses means great savings for vacations
Courtesy Shelley Miller

When Sara Tetreault in Portland, Ore., first heard about home exchanges in 2004, she thought it sounded awesome.

A friend told her about a friend who swapped homes for a week with somebody in San Francisco — for free.

"It sounded awesome," she says, "Then I thought, 'Wait a minute. How did they do this?'"

Tetreault found a home exchange company on the Internet and signed up. It wasn't exactly free, but the $100 annual membership was less than one night in a hotel.

Read the rest of the story here.

12 9 stupid things you're probably doing with your credit card

You've got a low-interest rate credit card, pay at least your minimum due, and you've never left your credit card sitting in an unlocked car. So, you're covered, right? Wrong. Even the smartest among us are guilty of some of these common credit card mistakes. Improve your credit card IQ by avoiding these common mistakes.

Read the rest of the story here.

11 Couple money woes: When one partner is a financial bully

Most committed couples are on good terms with each other when it comes to family finances. But a new survey for Credit Karma found 1 in 10 consider their spouse or partner to be a "financial bully." It also said young couples are more likely to feel bullied about money than older respondents.

"The overall message is good news because the number that feel financially bullied is pretty minimal," said Bethy Hardeman, communications manager at San Francisco-based Credit Karma.

For those age 18 to 34, the number doubles to 20 percent who say one partner is domineering when it comes to money. And more than one-fifth of those younger respondents said they'd actually get a divorce if they could afford it.

Read the rest of the story here.

10 6 common frugal tactics that are actually bad ideas
Associated Press

Did you truly save money driving 15 miles to save 20 cents on a bottle of soda? Was that $4 bargain shirt that lasted a few months really a bargain?

In a recent Harris Poll, 62 percent of respondents said they are likely in the next six months to cut back on eating out, and 59 percent said they will reduce entertainment spending -- up from 59 percent and 55 percent, respectively, last year. More Americans also said they are switching to generic brands and brown-bagging their lunches, according to the poll. But some other penny-pinching tactics can end up costing you money instead.

"You think you're being frugal, trying to save money on certain things," says Danny Kofke, author of "A Simple Book of Financial Wisdom." "But sometimes in the long run, you end up spending more because you went cheap."

Read the rest of the story here.

9 What I learned about financial independence as a Mormon missionary
Ben Luthi

My experience as a Mormon missionary in Germany was unforgettable. In addition to the spiritual experiences I had and the people I served, I had the pleasure of meeting a self-proclaimed vampire (complete with filed teeth) and a man who was convinced he was Jesus. I was spat on, yelled at and received death threats. So overall, it was a pretty warm welcome to the real world for someone who grew up in a tightly knit religious community.

Mormon missionaries don’t get paid for what they do. In fact, my parents paid for much of my two-year mission. The local mission office took care of the apartment and travel expenses, and I received a monthly stipend to cover groceries and whatever other expenses came up. As a 19-year-old dude fresh out of high school, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, so there were a lot of things I had to learn the hard way.

Read the rest of the story here.

8 Loving kids to debt: Older Americans in trouble for 'helping' children
Deseret News

The first thing Carmen Wong Ulrich discovered when she wrote an article for the New York Times on older Americans getting into debt was how reluctant seniors were to talk about their finances.

"It was incredibly hard to get seniors to talk about," says Ulrich, the author of "The Real Cost of Living," and a frequent guest on national television shows. "It wasn't about medical debt, it was about debt you wanted to take on for other people or you just wanted to buy stuff. Boomers don't want to talk about that stuff."

Part of the reason they may not want to talk about debt is that the news isn't very encouraging. A January 2013 analysis by Nadia Karamcheva at the Urban Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., that examines social and economic issues, found debt for older Americans is increasing.

Read the rest of the story here.

7 How to save money by only changing your oil once a year

So let me guess, after reading the headline, you’re thinking I either really don’t drive much or am criminally abusive to my car. I can assure you it’s not the former and given all of the misinformation out there, I don’t blame you for thinking the latter.

Truth is, I drive between 15,000 miles and 20,000 miles annually and have improved my miles per gallon, reduced my maintenance expenses, and spend roughly 20 minutes a year dealing with my oil change. Oh, and after 120,000 miles on my truck I have an engine that is so clean inside someone once accused me of steam cleaning it. By “inside” I literally mean the inside of the engine, not the outside. How do I know the inside of my engine is clean, you ask? Because I used a flashlight to look. Anal-retentive, you say? I stand guilty as charged, but my engine is still really clean inside...

Read the rest of the story here.

6 Getting unstuck: Why some people get out of poverty and others don't
Deseret News

Call it rags to rags.

While many Americans believe the poor can rise up from the bottom, statistics show the majority do not. New research by Pew's Economic Mobility Project finds 70 percent of those who are born in the bottom fifth never climb to even the middle of the economic ladder.

"One of the hallmarks of the American Dream is the belief that anyone who works hard and plays by the rules can achieve economic success," says Diana Elliott, who manages Pew's research on economic mobility.

While that dream may seem no longer in reach for the poorest Americans, some do move up, Elliott says.

Read the rest of the story here.

5 How much money do you need to retire comfortably?
Associated Press

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, almost 50 percent of workers ages 45 and older do not know how much they will need in retirement. In addition, those that had started the planning process and made the calculations generally were more confident in their ability to save and had higher savings goals than those that hadn’t.

Retirement planning is an inexact science with many uncertainties around variables that determine how you are going to get from here to there.

To keep from getting bogged down in the complexities, simplify your retirement planning by breaking it down into two important principals: make sure you are saving enough towards your retirement, and have a well-thought out plan.

Read the rest of the story here.

4 'Prosumption': Why just about everybody unwittingly works for free
Associated Press

NEW YORK — When his friends wanted him to join them at a restaurant in New York City, Jim Dailakis unwittingly ran smack-dab into a perfect example of an increasing trend called "prosumption."

"Oh, it is really cool," his friends told him about the restaurant, "and you take ingredients and you take it to the table and then you cook it yourself."

"And I'm paying for what exactly?" thought Dailakis, a New York-based comedian.

On one level, Dailakis was being asked to have a fun experience with his friends — being a consumer. But on another level, he was being asked to come and act as an employee for the restaurant by cooking his own food — being a producer.

Read the rest of the story here.

3 Home no loan: Should you pay off your mortgage early?
Deseret News

Grace Cohen wasnt going to take any chances. When making the last payment on her Henniker, N.H., home in 2003, the 49-year-old divorced mother of two carefully wrote the check and put final payment on it. Then she went to the post office just to make sure.

"When I put it in the box," she says, "I had a moment of gratitude and just a tremendous feeling of freedom. It was a very uplifting moment for me."

But was it the right thing to do? Is paying off a mortgage early a good idea or a fool's errand? The answer depends on whom you ask.

Read the rest of the story here.

2 Better than a raise: The smallest thing you can do to make the biggest difference this year
Tori Telfer

So far, budgeting hasn't quite worked for Tori Telfer, a 26-year-old writer living in Chicago.

Telfer tried using a spreadsheet to budget her expenses.

"It was too involved for me," she says, "because it requires a lot of math."

She also tried using her checkbook to budget, something her parents and grandparents did.

"It was a little old-fashioned for me," she says.

Read the rest of the story here.

1 9 ways student loans impact your credit score
Deseret News

Many people are curious, and often worried, about the effect that student loans will have on their credit score.

They wonder if taking out a student loan will help their credit, or hurt it, and to what degree will it influence overall creditworthiness.

The way that your federal student loans impact your credit is actually quite similar to the way any loan does. Just like any loan or line of credit, they can help your credit score when you make your payments on time — and they can hurt it, if you don’t.

Read the rest of the story here.