Energy Myths Exposed

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Energy Myths Exposed

Source: Find Energy Savings

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6 Tips for Saving Money on TVs

With spring fever striking and another five months until football season starts, TV shopping has dropped to the bottom of the priority list for many Americans. If you count yourself among those willing to wait for another round of holiday deals, you may want to reconsider your strategy.

Consumer Reports recently reported that many television manufacturers are changing their pricing policies as of April 1. The new policies will prevent stores from selling TVs at a price lower than the one suggested by manufacturers. Though these policies are designed to protect stores from losing ground to Internet retailers, they also mean higher prices for consumers. Luckily, you still have a chance avoid this impending price hike by following these tips.

1. Research First
Even though it feels like the clock is ticking on your remaining time to buy a TV, don’t succumb to the shopping pressure. A new television is a big expense and worth buying for quality instead of a bargain. Often product specs are analyzed in detail by review sites, but they neglect the user experience over time. CNET.comprovides a nice pairing of expert reviews with user reviews to give you a complete picture.

2. Buy Old Models
If you’re still lugging around one of those bulky tube TVs, the picture on an HDTV from last year versus the picture from the latest release will be unrecognizable. What you will be able to notice is the huge discrepancy in price. Manufacturers turn out new television technology all the time, and stores will still slash prices to make room for units that make them the most money. Before you go shopping, brush up on some key HDTV terms so you don’t end up like a deer in the headlights.

3. Using Coupons
Whenever the tyranny of high prices threatens innocent consumers, coupons come to the rescue. These money-savers are especially important when you’re planning to order your TV online. For example, TigerDirect coupons from sites like FreeShipping.org will often combine a discount with free shipping and help you get a better deal all around.

4. Open Box Specials
Most stores have a section at the end of an aisle or off in a corner filled with open-box items. While the name is somewhat offputting, don’t mix these discounted products up with damaged goods. They’re generally items that were opened and returned, but are still in working condition. Sometimes open-box items will have different rules regarding warranties, so be sure to ask first.

5. Buy Used
Buying used electronics isn’t for everyone. However, if you need your TV for utilitarian purposes like video games or a spare bedroom, there are always plenty available locally on Craigslist or at a pawn shop. Just make sure you check what the same model is selling for new. People often ask outrageous prices for their unwanted sets and sometimes you can get an identical TV right out of the box for less than it’s listed for online.

6. Buy Accessories Separately
It’s astounding what stores will charge for HDMI cables. One simple, six-foot cord can run upwards of $30 when purchased directly from stores like Best Buy. A quick search of Amazon will produce dozens of results at a fraction of the price. If stores are already going to raise prices on TVs, don’t let them nickel-and-dime you on the accessories.

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Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Planning on Buying the New iPad?

apple ipad

 
Full article, from dealnews.com.

Banking Apps Weak On Many Features Users Look For

Majority of Banks only offer basic features – Security big weakness

 

Of the 10 most important features user expect of their banking mobile apps, for only three is provision by the banks adequate. This is a leading finding of a survey by MyPrivateBanking Research, in which the Swiss research company compared the features integrated into the mobile apps from world’s 50 top banks with the needs voiced by the users of banking apps.

Besides obligatory basic features such as online banking and a Branch/ATM-finder, the most important features for users include a range of transaction tools for brokerage, state-of-the-art direct interaction channels with the bank and advisor and, of course, appropriate security features. Of less importance to the users are the availability of financial planning tools, company information or research libraries. ‘Users of banking-apps are early-adopters and to really score with their clients, banks have to offer more than online banking’, explains Steffen Binder, Research Director of MyPrivateBanking. ‘Interaction and social media features are must-haves to keep and win the new generation of clients’. 

        

Percentage of Banks Offering
Most Popular Banking-App Functions:

Most Important Features of Banking Apps % of World’s 50 Top Banks Offering App-Feature
Account overview 94%
Online banking 84%
Branch and/or ATM finder 84%
Market information 64%
Securities brokerage 40%
Product and service offerings 36%
Direct contact to financial advisor (e.g. chat, messaging function, ) 36%
Video- or Podcast 32%
Full Security (encryption, password and username safety measures) 30%
Link with Facebook presence 18%

However, the MyPrivateBanking analysis of the mobile apps offered by the world’s 50 top banks shows significant short-comings when compared to the list of the features desired by users. Only the most basic functions such as an account overview and Branch-/ATM-finder are offered by more then 80% of the banks.

Other core banking services such as brokerage are offered by only 40% of the banks and even fewer banks incorporate online communication channels and social media features into their apps. ‘We see a big mismatch between what users expect from their banking apps and what banks offer’, is how Steffen Binder summarizes the benchmarking results. ‘Banks need to start now with   integrating not only all banking services, but also with opening up their apps to each client’s preferred medium of communication, be it e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or any other communication channels.’

The single most disappointing finding of the survey is the shortcomings in the security features of mobile apps. Despite the high sensitivity of the data, only 30% of the banks offer appropriate safety measures. MyPrivateBanking Research warns banks with sub-standard security features that they run the risk of loosing out in terms of users’ regard, no matter how good their apps’ other features are.

About the Survey: MyPrivateBanking identified the 10 most highly prized banking-app features through interviews with users of banking apps and analyzed the apps offered by the world’s top 50 banks to determine how many offer the desired features.

Banks Analyzed: 
ABN Amro, ANZ Bank, BBVA, Bank of China, Bank of Montreal, BNY Mellon, Barclays, BB&T, BNP Paribas, BofA, Bradesco, Caisse d’Epargne, CIBC, Citibank, Clariden Leu, Commerzbank, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Danske Bank, DBS Bank, Deutsche Bank, Dexia, Erste Bank, HSBC, ING, Intesa Sanpaolo, Itau Private Bank, J.P. Morgan, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Merrill Lynch, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, National Australia, Nordea, PNC, Postbank Deutschland, Rabobank Group, Royal Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander, SEB, Société Générale, Sparkasse Deutschland, Standard Chartered, Suntrust, Toronto Dominion, UBS, UniCredit, Volksbank Deutschland, Vontobel, Wells Fargo

About MyPrivateBanking:

MyPrivateBanking is an independent research company, serving its global clients with research and advice on how financial services firm should run their websites, social media presences and mobile apps to stay ahead in a fast developing market environment. MyPrivateBanking provides its evaluations and recommendations in comprehensive research reports, customized research and events.

For further information please check www.myprivatebanking.com.

How to update your spring wardrobe without falling into debt

save money on fashionThe first official day of spring has finally arrived, creating the desire to overhaul our wardrobes with the latest looks. Sadly, most of us don’t have celebrity-sized bank accounts to accompany our star-worthy fashion sense. But that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on the latest trends. Consider the following ways to update your spring wardrobe without falling into debt.

1. Pastels
Just in time for Easter, pastels are making a name for themselves on New York runways. Embracing this trend requires the purchase of one versatile piece – like a blazer or pencil skirt – to be paired with other basics already available in your wardrobe. Channel your inner Chanel and pair pastel pink with black accessories, or keep it light with nude accents.

2. Colorful Denim
Leftover from fall, the colorful denim trend is spreading faster than wildfire and offers a refreshing pop of color to any outfit. Since this look is definitely a fad, avoid spending too much on your first (or third) pair by shopping inexpensive retailers like Kohl’s. Shop online for even more inventory and savings, and look for Kohl’s free shipping codes from FreeShipping.org to dodge delivery costs.

3. Sporty
You might say Sporty Spice was ahead of her time in her choice of athletic-inspired ensembles. Or not. Regardless of your attitude about the “Wannabe” star, active wear and sports-inspired looks are definitely in. That means you can enjoy your off-the-shoulder fleece for at least one more season, and incorporate your gym go-tos into everyday outfits.

4. Color Blocking
Color blocking is one of the easier trends to embrace and offers an opportunity to incorporate other trends. For example, you can pair bright denim pants with a neon shirt or blouse to easily achieve the look. Bisect the top from the bottom with a neutral belt — think black, navy or white — and accessorize with equally neutral jewelry.

5. Tangerine Tango
I’m enamored by the color orange and publicly display my affection with a bright leather purse I purchased a couple years ago. Tangerine Tango has a decidedly redder hue but can be incorporated easily with accessories. You can also find inexpensive tees or blouses to embrace the official color of 2012 without going overboard. If you want to balance the brightness, pair with white or gray. If you’re more daring, go for hot pink or teal.

6. Metallic
Shiny dresses are great for the red carpet — Jennifer Lawrence is clearly a fan — but avoid this trend during the nine-to-five. Depending on your workplace environment, you might pull off metallic pants with a white blouse and black blazer. Alternatively, embrace the trend with footwear and find shiny heels for work and metallic, strappy espadrilles for weekends. Endless.com offers a great selection of well-priced foot candy, and free shipping both ways allows you to return whatever doesn’t fit.

7. Bold Prints
As if neon and color-blocking weren’t bold enough this season, runways everywhere featured bold prints with nods to art deco and the great outdoors. Since this look will likely go the way of last season’s Navajo-inspired patterns, opt for one or two pieces that you can pair with basics from your closet. Shop discount retailers like TJMaxx and Ross to find this trend on the cheap.

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Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the marketing coordinator for Kinoli Inc., she has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as CNN Money, TIME Moneyland, FOX, ABC, NPR and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visit HassleFreeSavings.com.

How to Be a Coupon Consumer – Without Getting Consumed By Coupons


More people than ever are clipping coupons for their supermarket trips, but they’re often not saving as much as they could, says Toni House, author of How to Reduce Your Weekly Grocery Bill to $85 Per Week – Or Less!.

“You can easily shave $5 to $20 off your weekly grocery budget with a minimal investment of time,” says House. “Cutting your bill just $10 a week will save you $520 over the course of a year.

“Taking a couple of extra steps to ensure you can use all the coupons you clip will save you more money – and protect your investment of time in clipping them.”

How can consumers take advantage of coupons without becoming consumed by them?

Let us count the ways!

• Learn different stores’ rules. Call the grocery stores that are convenient to you (near home OR work), ask these questions and write down the answers: Do you have double or triple coupon days? (If so, what are they?) Do you accept other stores’ coupons? Do you allow “stacking” coupons – using them on sale items?

• Seek coupons far and wide. The Sunday paper is always a good place to start, but most households also get coupons through direct mail. And you can find coupon deals atSaveYourMoneySaveYourFamily.com, Coupon-Lady.com and a host of other sites. If there are brand-name products you just have to have, try Googling the name and “coupon.”

• Plan meals around your coupons. Say you have coupons for 30 cents off a box of pasta, half-off spaghetti sauce (a type you normally buy – not a pricey splurge!), buy-one, get-one canned mushrooms and $1 off a pound of ground chuck. Can you smell dinner simmering? For less than $4?

• Organize your coupons. An expandable folder, like you might use for taxes, is a convenient place to store coupons at home. You might organize it by product – frozen foods, snacks, meats, or by expiration date. If you’re going to do some meal planning around coupons, you might want a section for those. As you clip, sort the coupons immediately so you don’t end up with a big pile that never gets sorted or used. Clip the meal coupons together and drop them in either the meals section or, if you’re organizing by date, the date the first one is set to expire

• Save up to 30 to 50 percent with “shopping club” cards. Many supermarkets now offer “shopping clubs” that provide members with special in-store discounts. These are no-clipping-required coupons that never expire! Sign up for free and get a “membership” card that clips to your key ring. When the cashier swipes it, the discounts are applied to your grocery bill. Some stores have an associated website where you can log in while you’re planning your shopping list and see what discounts are available that week.

• Upload coupons directly onto your shopping club card. Stores that have a shopping club website may also post manufacturer and brand coupons there. Log into the site with your card ID number, then click on the coupons you want and they’ll load right onto your card! Instead of carrying coupons to the grocery story, you get your discounts when the cashier swipes your card.

• Organize your shopping club cards and coupons with your smart phone. If you shop at a lot of stores, you may be carrying around a lot of shopping club cards. Ditch the cards by loading them on a free club card organizer app available soon at saveyourmoneysaveyourfamily.com. You’ll also soon find a free coupon organizing app there. It will allow you to click on coupons online and load them onto your phone for the trip to the grocery store.

Planning ahead is the most effective way to use coupons. Since we know you would never dream of heading to the supermarket without a list — because that’s a huge money waster – just match your coupons to your shopping list before you head out the door.

Be sure to check expiration dates, brand names and quantities on the coupon (if it says “8-ounce tub of lard,” don’t grab the 24-ounce tub of lard!)

Imagine, if you save just $1 a week with coupons, you’ll have $52 extra at the end of the year. And then you can get that splurge spaghetti sauce – and the 24-ounce tub of lard!

About Toni House

Toni House has a bachelor’s in accounting and a master’s in business administration and was most recently the senior consultant and owner of an accounting firm. “How to Reduce Your Grocery Bill” is her second “Savvy Shopping” book. Her first was “Save Your Money, Save Your Family.” Find her money-saving blog tips at www.saveyourmoneysaveyourfamily.com.

10 Ways to Save on Pet Care

According to a recent article in USA Today, Americans spent approximately $50.8 billion on their pets last year, up from $10.1 billion just four years earlier. That’s a lot of money for Max or Fluffy, but still nothing compared to the unconditional love they shell out for you every day.

As the proud owner of two Labrador-Australian Shepard mixes, I’m no stranger to the rising cost of pet care. In addition to frequent exercise and annual check-ups, my husband and I save hundreds of dollars on pet care by adopting the following savvy strategies.

1. Create an Emergency Fund
There are at least nine reasons for an emergency fund, according to Kiplinger, including the ability to offset a costly vet bill should your beloved animal need expensive treatment. When my dogs were just 12 months old, one choked the other during aggressive play and — $1,700 later — we had a very tired but recovering puppy. Our savings account kept this traumatic experience from creating a financial hardship.

2. Don’t Skimp on Food
Food is likely the most expensive necessity next to vet visits, but that doesn’t mean you should opt for low price over quality. By purchasing healthy food, you’re enhancing your pet’s quality of life and ultimately saving yourself from costly vet bills down the road. Purchase discount gift cards to PetSmart and other stores from sites likeGiftCardGranny.com to nab some savings.

3. Consider Pet Insurance
If you’re the type of pet owner who will spare no expense for veterinary care, consider signing up for pet insurance. The number of pet insurance carriers has increased significantly from just ten years ago, and most offer several levels of coverage. Visit PetInsuranceComparison.org for information on available policies, reviews and questions to ask providers.

4. Take Advantage of Clinics
Some veterinary practices offer free clinics one or two times a year, waiving appointment fees that compound the cost of annual visits. My husband and I always schedule check-ups and vaccinations during these times. If your vet doesn’t offer this service, check with your local Humane Society or animal-control unit for recommendations.

5. Research Your Options
When facing a hefty vet bill, you might assume your only option is to throw down a credit card and pay off the expense over time. However, there are other sources for financial aid, including state programs and breed-specific organizations. Consult this article from the Humane Society for more information.

6. Buy Discount
I shop discount retailers like TJMaxx and Ross for clothes and housewares, and always peruse their pet-care aisles for deals. I’ve found great pet beds, bowls and toys for much less than pet-store prices, though I avoid treats and food items since I’m not familiar with the brands. Ultimately, new pet owners can score serious savings by stocking up on discount supplies.

7. Be Loyal
PetSmart and PetCo each have free loyalty programs that offer discounts and, in the case of PetCo, 5-percent cash back on purchases. You should also sign up to receive email notifications about upcoming sales and exclusive discounts, and stock up during these specials to tide you over until the next promotion.

8. Order Meds Online
Most pet owners know medications purchased directly from the vet come with a hefty price tag. Unless it’s an emergency, request the prescription information and shop online at sites like 1800PetMeds.com. I save 34 percent on our dogs’ heart worm medication by ordering online and using the generic alternative.

9. Fix for Less
Neutering or spaying your pet is crucial to avoiding the exponential expense of caring for a litter down the road. The average cost of the service from your local vet is between $200 and $300, but many organizations offer this service for less to curb the number of homeless animals. Consult ASPCA’s Low Cost Spay/Neuter Programs page to find a provider near you.

10. DIY
Though I wouldn’t attempt to clean a cat’s teeth, there are several services you can administer at home to save money. Brushing, ear cleaning and nail clipping are just a few necessities you can likely handle without the assistance of a professional. In fact, your vet will happily share with you the best techniques for at-home care, as they’d much prefer to spend time on more specialized services.

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Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. As the marketing coordinator for Kinoli Inc., she has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as CNN Money, FOX, ABC, NPR, TIME Moneyland and Kiplinger Personal Finance. For savings tips and more information, visitHassleFreeSavings.com.

Five Debit Card Don’ts to Help You Avoid Trouble


Using a debit card may seem like the best choice when you don’t want to use cash or a credit card to make a purchase.   However, the latest issue of ShopSmart identifies five scenarios that can put consumers at risk when using their debit cards. The April 2012 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports also features five ways consumers can protect themselves from common debit card dangers.

                                                             

“Debit cards are sneaky – they are extremely convenient but can get you into a lot of trouble if your information winds up in the wrong hands,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart. “Some simple precautions can save you a lot of trouble and protect you and your account from danger.”

 

1.      Don’t use your debit card for big purchases or when you shop online. Unlike debit cards, credit cards may add a year to manufacturer warranties. What’s more, if you buy something online that’s defective or damaged during shipping, you can dispute the charge and ask your credit card company to intervene.  You might miss that leverage with debit cards.

 

2.      Don’t take your debit card on trips. Many credit cards come with some level of travel insurance and auto-rental insurance. They may also come with concierge services that could help you out in sticky situations.

 

3.      Don’t use a debit card if you’re worried about getting ripped off. Under federal law, your liability for fraudulent charges on a debit card can be greater than it is for a credit card. With a credit card, you’re only responsible for up to $50 in unauthorized purchases. But with a debit card, you can lose up to $500 if you don’t report the theft or loss of your card or PIN within two business days of discovering the problem.

 

4.      Don’t rely on a debit card if you want to raise your credit score. When you use debit cards, you’re not building a credit history. But well-managed credit cards can help boost scores.

 

5.      Don’t use your debit card if you want to earn money on purchases. A recent federal law cut the amount that banks can make on debit-card transactions, so they scaled back their rewards. If you have a good cash-back or rewards credit card, use that instead.

 

 

Five Ways to Protect Yourself Against  Debit Card Dangers

 

  • Save receipts and check them against your monthly statement. Make sure all the charges are correct and there are no errors on the statement or any unauthorized charges.

 

  • Don’t use a PIN that is too obvious, like your date of birth, and change it regularly.

 

  • Sign up for online banking if you haven’t yet so that you can check your account often.

 

  • Reduce your risk of ATM “skimming,” in which a device electronically swipes your data and PIN. Use machines at banks rather than in convenience stores, airports, gas stations, or any isolated locations, which can be riskier.

 

  • Use your debit card to make purchases only with trusted merchants, and don’t give your card number to anyone you don’t know over the phone or by e-mail.

 

 

About Consumer Reports:

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936,Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website, and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues inWashington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

About ShopSmart magazine:

Launched in Fall 2006 by Consumer Reports, ShopSmart draws upon the publication’s celebrated tradition of accepting no advertisements and providing unbiased product reviews. ShopSmart features product reviews, shopping tips on how to get the most out of products and “best of the best” lists. It’s ideal for busy shoppers who place a premium on time. ShopSmart has a newsstand price of $4.99 and is available nationwide at major retailers including Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, Borders, Kroger, Safeway and Publix. ShopSmart is available by subscription at www.ShopSmartmag.org.

The 10 Most Overlooked Discounts

Even novice couponers know the best source for grocery-store discounts (the Sunday circular) and have the smarts to time their shopping trips around a sale. However, unless you’re an extreme saver with surplus storage space for toothpaste and toilet paper, you may not be aware of many discounts crossing your path every day.

Before you let another dime go down the drain, check this list of the most overlooked discounts and be sure to include them in your savings plan.

1. Receipt Coupons
I opt for self-checkout whenever possible to ensure swift service. That means grabbing the receipt on the way out and stuffing it in my bag, never to be seen again. Mistake! Not only is it good to review your receipt to ensure you weren’t overcharged, but they’re also a great source for discounts on groceries and local services.

2. Catalina Coupons
Similar to receipt coupons, Catalina coupons are usually printed from a small machine at the register. These coupons are triggered by your previous purchases, yielding useful discounts on products you typically buy. You can even use them at other grocery stores when they’re offered by the manufacturer. For more information on Catalina coupons, consult this article from Savvygirl Living.

3. Customer Service Surveys
Readers of my blog already know I’m a fan of The Limited, but even I forget to take advantage of an easy resource for savings. Every time I’m handed a receipt, the cashier circles a phone number I can call to offer feedback on my shopping experience. In exchange for a few minutes of time they provide $10 off my next purchase of $50 or more. Lots of retailers have similar offers, so pay attention and make the call.

4. Mobile Coupons
Despite my best intentions, I’ll often leave carefully clipped coupons on my kitchen counter and miss out on the discount I intended to score. Thankfully, my husband’s smartphone gives me online access to deals via the Coupon Sherpa mobile app. This app allows me to search for retail and supermarket savings on-the-go, and I can also download grocery discounts directly to my loyalty card.

5. Peelies
It’s always a bonus when something you intended to purchase comes with a peelie — or a coupon adhered to the product for immediate use. However, these sticky gems do you no good if you fail to point them out to the cashier. To ensure savings, remove the coupon from the product before checkout and hand it to the cashier.

6. Status Discounts
Most seniors I know are pretty good about asking for discounts, but I often overlooked my savings potential as a student. Additionally, teachers and military personnel can score great deals from retailers, restaurants and even travel agencies. It never hurts to ask whether discounts are available for your particular status; just be ready to present the necessary proof.

7. Preferred Customer Offers
I get $10 in DSW Rewards every now and again, and my husband will score $10 in savings on his next Dick’s Sporting Goods purchase. How do we land such great discounts? We accrue points via “preferred customer” programs that yield savings after a certain spending amount is reached. Since we frequent these retailers it makes sense (and cents!) to sign up for their free programs.

8. Sports Tickets
Like Catalina coupons, your ticket to last weekend’s big game might have some local coupons on the back. Some people save sporting-event tickets for sentimentality, but everyone should glance at the back of their stubs before tossing them. More often than not you’ll find discounts for local restaurants or retailers.

9. Magazines
If you’re like me, the first thing you do before thumbing through the latest issue of your favorite magazine is remove the annoying subscription offers. As you tear them away, don’t overlook potential coupons. I’ve found discounts and even free samples for makeup and other items in conjunction with the magazine’s advertisements.

10. Recycling Programs
You’re likely in the habit of recycling what you can, but did you know some retailers offer discounts for your efforts? I didn’t either until recently, when a box of Kashi cereal prompted me to sign up forRecycleBank.com. By entering a code printed inside my cereal box, I earn points toward discounts on products I already buy.

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Kendal Perez is a frugal fashionista and bargain shopper who helps fellow shopaholics find hassle-free ways to save money. She has the resources to be an extreme couponer but prefers a less complicated approach to staying in-budget. Kendal has been quoted in such media outlets as CNN Money, FOX, ABC, NPR and Home and Family Finance Radio. For savings tips and more information, visitHassleFreeSavings.com.