By Linsey Knerl

Welcome to Wise Bread’s Best of Personal Finance roundup. Today, we share the biggest ripoffs in America, how you can save money by skipping soap, and why shade trees are a smart investment!

Top 5 Articles

America’s Biggest Rip-offs — Think paying a 6500% markup for text messages is ridiculous? You’ll love (or hate) the rest of the items on this list. CNN Money

Save Money, Don’t Use Soap — If you’re not a germaphobe, you’ll probably love this article on why you might not need as much of the bubbly stuff as you think. I also love the alternatives to lathering up (they save on money and waste!). Ultimate Money Blog

Party Foul! Is Double Dipping Truly Dangerous? A recent study reveals frightening findings about the amount of bacteria that can enter a party dip if “double dippers” hit it first. If this article doesn’t convince you to bring your own to the party, I don’t know what will! Divine Caroline

Shade Trees as a Smart Financial Investment — Check out these five really clever reasons why you should start planting now (or perhaps buy one somewhat grown and have it landscaped in). Making your yard beautiful has never been so valuable! The Simple Dollar

Collection Agencies Giving Away HDTV’s and iPods if You Pay Up — Can this be for real? Apparently so. As if clearing your conscience and getting debt collectors off your back isn’t enough, some now have a rewards catalog to choose a free gift with payment! Generation X Finance

Other Essential Reading

Bundling: Paying Extra for Crap you Don’t Want —When you end up paying for “free extras”, are they really that good of a deal? Finally, someone says it like it is. Weakonomics

College 401: Tips for Advanced Students — Looking for some ways to do college really well? This list is genius, and gives ambitious students some solid advice for excelling in any college setting. Stepcase Lifehack

The Eight Biggest Mistakes Investors Make — If you’re looking to invest, read this first. It’s a simple but effective set of guidelines that will help your basic knowledge of stocks. Free Money Finance

How to Avoid a Tax Audit — Some of these seem obvious, but others are not so much. Get the skinny on the things that will most likely keep you under the radar for an unnecessary (and time-consuming) audit. Moolanomy

The Coupling of Finance and Romance — Our friends over at Money Management International lay out some really great tips for meshing cash with companionship, including some cheesy but cute ideas for cheap dates. Get all the tips by downloading their free ebook! Blogging for Change

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