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Psychology on order: How restaurants get you to spend more


NEW YORK — You may think you’re immune to transparent sales pitches like “Do you want fries with that?” But the tactics restaurants use to nudge you into spending a little extra may be subtler than you realize.

Here’s a look at a few ways companies get you to spend (and eat) more than you intended.

Restaurant menus are a complicated mixture of psychology, art and sales pitches. No detail is too small to matter, right down to the dollar sign.

Higher standard deduction, other breaks for older taxpayers


WASHINGTON — You’ve downsized to an apartment, the kids are long gone, and you’re no longer eligible for some of the deductions and exemptions that had helped you lower your tax bill.

But for those 65 years or older, there are other tax breaks that might benefit you come tax time.

5 Spot: Tips on raising a puppy


Raising a puppy can be challenging for both new and experienced owners. There is a fine line between being overprotective and providing your puppy with a safe environment to let his personality develop. To help guide your puppy into becoming a happy, healthy adult, the American Kennel Club offers a few of the don’ts about puppy rearing:

— Puppies love to play, but don’t get too rough. Pups need to learn how to be appropriately rough when playing and learn their manners. This is all part of your dog’s socialization.

Tips for tackling tax season


To help maximize refunds and avoid time-consuming complications, tax preparers are urging locals to gather all pertinent financial documents before filing their tax returns this season.

Deb Tuszkiewicz, a registered tax preparer with Liberty Tax Service, recommends people gather all of their income statements before filing, especially documents related to wages, bank interest, stock dividends and unemployment payments.

4 ways to get your money in order


Budgeting, bill paying, health care spending, investing, taxes, insurance, argh! It’s not easy to stay on top of it all. So ShopSmart, the shopping magazine from the publisher of Consumer Reports, checked out some new ways to get your finances organized.

Try SimpleeONE. It’s bad enough if you are ill or injured and need expensive medical treatments, but the subsequent tsunami of paper statements, bills and notices from multiple health care providers and insurance companies can be overwhelming. SimpleeONE turns awful into awesome by organizing all of the information in one place.

Consumer complaints up more than 10 percent


MADISON — Scammers and thieves stepped up their efforts to steal your money or identity in 2014 based on the double-digit increase in complaints received at the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Overall, complaints filed by Wisconsin consumers were up more than 10 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year, and four out of the top five categories of consumer complaints all saw substantial increases.

Chase Bank closes drive-thru lanes at two Kenosha locations


Chase Bank closed drive-thru lanes at two Kenosha branches in an effort to focus resources on mobile and online services, a spokeswoman said.

The locations — 2901 Washington Road and 3611 80th St. — continue to provide lanes for ATMs. However, customers hoping to speak with a teller or deposit physical checks must now walk into those branches. Other locations may soon follow suit.

Groups offer help for low-, moderate-income tax filers

A pair of services are available to help low- and moderate-income families file their taxes.

Free tax-filing assistance is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

Tax scam avoidance starts with awareness


MADISON — Imagine going to your tax office with all of your paperwork and finding out that a return had already been submitted and paid out in your name. Or receiving a letter in the mail that a tax return using your information was filed in multiple states without your knowledge.

These are only a couple of examples of tax identity theft that have been reported to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Tax ID theft causes delays in victims’ tax returns and costs victims significant time and money in repairing the damage to their identities.

5 steps to getting your house in order


Just because I write about home maintenance, yard work and related topics doesn’t mean I’ve got my own house in pristine order. I’m as human as the next homeowner.

But I’ve developed a plan, ideally suited for New Year’s resolutions, that can help you and me get going on those projects we’ve neglected in the past year. And I’ve broken it down into five manageable steps:

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