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This week: How restaurant menus make you spend, how perception shapes reality, how bad student debt really is, when to start saving for college and money tips from HBO's John Oliver.

1. 4 Ways Restaurant Menus Are Designed to Make You Spend More

[Credit.com] “When you go to a restaurant, you likely don’t think of a menu as an advertising tool — it has all the necessary information. But it turns out menus are as much of an ad for expensive items as anything else in the media.”

We’ve covered this topic before in posts like “Tricks of the Trade: Restaurants,” but it never hurts to get an extra taste. So how do menus make you hungry to spend more? Using organized categories, splashy photos, flowery descriptions and design. See the story for details.

2. How You Look at Your Situation Could Make All the Difference

[The Dollar Stretcher] “If you have a 1,900-square-foot home, you might compare it to your friends’ and think that you’re really quite cramped. In fact, it might be very important to you to find something bigger. Even if it means higher mortgage payments, insurance costs, utility bills and additional upkeep. Moving to a larger home could have a major impact on your budget and your bank account. But, if your friends’ homes are the comparison, you’ll probably talk yourself into moving.”

This is a well-reasoned article about how, when it comes to both our happiness and our finances, perceptions often trump reality. Not a surprise, perhaps, but something we’d be wise to remember. Check it out.

3. Crushing Student Debt: Myth or Reality?

[Money] “It’s not that the individual stories we hear are untrue. But most of them describe situations that are far from typical. And many report on situations that the borrowers — if they had good information or put more thought into their decisions — could have avoided.”

This article put into words something I’ve been thinking for a long time: Student debt, while bad, probably isn’t the disaster the media implies and a lot of the wounds are self-inflicted. Like this author, I’m not suggesting it’s not a problem, or that it’s something that should be ignored. But maybe it’s being blown somewhat out of proportion. Read this and see if you agree.

4. Most Kids Expect Parents to Pay for Any College They Want

[Debt.com] “According to investment group T. Rowe Price, 62 percent of kids believe their parents will pay for whatever college they want, and only one-third of parents think they’ll be able to afford it all.”

This article cites a study about how families finance education, as well as offering advice on when the savings should begin (the earlier the better) and how those savings should be invested (in a 529 savings plan). If you’re going to be paying for your kids’ education, give it a read.

5. 7 Best Money Management Tips From John Oliver

[Wise Bread] “If you haven’t had a chance to watch all of John Oliver’s money-related episodes, here are my favorite financial funnyman’s seven best money management tips:”

Like this author, I’m a John Oliver fan. If you’re not familiar with him and/or don’t have HBO (his show is called “Last Week Tonight”), check out these clips. You might learn something, and you’ll almost certainly laugh while you’re at it. Warning: Be prepared for some salty language.

Don’t forget to share your thoughts and reactions in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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