Consumer

Dry Skies for Days

August 30th, 2011 at 10:52 am by under Consumer, Tony's Pinpoint Weather Blog

If you’re like me and still without power at your home, then at least the weather is cooperating—it’s dry, it’s sunny, it’s seasonable and it’s not humid.  The nights have been comfortable for sleeping without A/C or a fan on and the warm sunshine in the afternoons means all the kids can be outside playing. This stretch of fine late-summer (dare I say, “almost early-Autumn-like”) weather will continue through the end of the work week. 

There are some slight changes down the road… another cool front pushs through on Thursday, bringing a shot of dry, cool air.  It will be accompanied by some clouds, but looks to be moisture-starved (ie: rain-free).  The humidity begins to build on Saturday and the upcoming Labor Day weekend will feature the risk of a passing shower or thunderstorm–though definitely NOT a washout.  The best chance of having to dodge the raindrops looks to be on Sunday night and Monday morning.


The list keeps growing and growing….

April 6th, 2011 at 5:23 pm by under Consumer

If you haven’t received an email alerting you to a security breach from a retailer you do business with, chances are it’s just a matter of days before you get one.  I’ve heard from dozens of viewers who update me daily on yet another business that was impacted by a security breach at Epsilon Data Management.   

On March 30, Epsilon began notifying its corporate clients of a security breach in which potentially 40 billion customers may have had their email addresses compromised.  At this point, Epsilon believes that the breach is limited to names and emails only.  Retailers involved in the security breach are reaching out to their customers warning them not to respond to requests for personal or account information, including login names and passwords. 

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin says there are a numbe of things you should follow to prevent phishing schemes:

-If you receive an email from a company and it asks you to “link” to another site to verify your personal information, don’t do it.  Always enter the URL manually

-Never enter any personal information in a web page that you were linked to through an email or text message

-A legitamate financial institution will NEVER ask you to provide personal identifying information in an email

-If you aren’t sure whether the email you received is from a legitamate company you do business with, contact them by telephone and simply ask

Here is a list of some of the companies affected by the breach:

Ameriprise Financial;Best Buy;Brookstone;Capital One;Citi;Disney Destinations;Home Shopping Network;JP Morgan Chase;Kroger;LL Bean Visa Card;Marriott Rewards;McKinsey & Company;New York & Company;Robert Half Technologies;The College Board (which manages SAT and other college prep services) TiVo;US Bank and Walgreens.

AG Kilmartin says it’s believed additional companies’ information has been breached, yet a complete list has not been released by Epsilon.


Major Massachusetts Restaurant Group to pay Big Settlement

March 28th, 2011 at 12:02 pm by under Consumer

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office reached a settlement with The Briar Group, which owns and operates several popular bars and restaurants in the Boston area, including The Lenox, MJ O’Connor’s, Ned Devine’s, The Green Briar and The Harp. 

The settlement resolves allegations that the restaurant chain failed to take reasonable steps to protect its customers’ personal information, “thereby putting the payment card information of tens of thousands of consumers at risk,” according to Attorney General Martha Coakley.  “When consumers use their credit and debit cards at Massachusetts establishments, they have an expectation that their personal information will be propertly protected,” AG Coakley said.  “In this instance, the Briar Group did not take proper protections to protect customers’ personal information. In addition to the payment, this agreement also works to ensure that steps have been taken to protect consumer information moving forward.”

According to a lawsuit filed,  in April 2009 the Briar Group experienced a data breach when malcode installed on the company’s computer system allowed hackers access to customers’ credit and debit card information, including names and account numbers.   Also according to the lawsuit, the malcode was not removed from the Briar Group’s computers until December 2009.

Under the terms of the settlement, all The Briar Group’s restaurants must develop a security password manangement system and implement data security measures to protect its customers in the future.


Scammers Phishing to Scam Small Businesses!

March 9th, 2011 at 3:09 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

By now, most of us are getting pretty savvy to phishing attempts to our personal email accounts.  Most of them end up in our deleted folder, never to be seen from again.  For those of you who need a quick refresher course on “phishing”…they’re emails from fake companies that appear to look like they’re from our bank, the IRS or a legitamate company.  The scammer then asks us to “click” on a link directing us to a page to “update our personal information” for their records.  But what you are realling linking to is a fake website that captures your information and uses it to defraud you.

Now the Rhode Island Attorney General, Peter Kilmartin is warning small businesses to be on the lookout.  According to a press release sent to Call 12 For Action, Kilmartin says, “These days con artists have new ‘phish’ to fry.  Often using publicly available information about small businesses – including non-profits and government offices – they craft messages tailor-made to sound legit,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “But, when a business recipient clicks on a link in what appears to be a familiar sender, fraudsters install malicious software that ransacks computer files in search of corporate account information.  Once the account is compromised, the crooks can issue counterfeit checks, wire money to partners in crime, and drain a company’s assets.”

The good news, businesses can protect themselves by following some simple steps: 

1)  Educate your employees. The oldie-but-goody advice still applies:  Don’t respond to messages at the office that ask for sensitive information.  And don’t open attachments or click on links in unsolicited email.

 2)  Enhance the security of your computer and networks.  Limit the number of computers that are used for online banking and payments. A workstation authorized for that purpose shouldn’t be used for general web browsing or emailing.  Install routers and firewalls to prevent unauthorized access.  Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date.  Talk to your IT staff to make sure your default settings give you as much security as possible.

 3)  Enhance the security of your corporate banking practices. Talk to your financial institution about services that can help protect your company from altered or counterfeit checks or unauthorized ACH transactions.

 4)  Set up systems to detect fraud at the earliest stage. Monitor and reconcile your accounts at least once a day.  Talk to your financial institution about identifying activity that looks out of the ordinary for your company.  Investigate sluggish networks, unexpected rebooting, a new homepage, unfamiliar toolbars, or unusual pop-ups.

 5)  Move fast if you detect suspicious activity. Disconnect the computer from your network, including wireless connections.  Contact your financial institution immediately to disable online access.  Review all recent transactions and electronic authorizations on the account.  Make sure no one’s added new payees, requested a change to your address or phone number, changed existing wire or ACH template profiles, changed PIN numbers or ordered new cards or checks.


National Consumer Protection Week

March 7th, 2011 at 4:28 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

For more than 19 years I’ve been helping you protect yourself against scams, id theft, job schemes, you name it!  During National Consumer Protection Week I will continue to help you fight back.  The first event of the week started at the Providence Post Office where (insert shameless plug here) Colonel Brendan Doherty, RI State Police thanked me personally for helping to educate consumers over the years.  I think we all realize that arming ourselves with information is the best defense against getting ripped off.

Your Information Destination

This year’s theme is “Your Information Destination.”  It’s intended to highlight consumer education resources available, including delivering trust.com.  The United States Postal Office of Consumer Affairs and the US Postal Inspection Service have launched this new website and according to their press release, the site  features free fraud education and prevention videos about counterfeit checks, cross-border fraud, internet fraud, foreign lottery scams, work-at-home scams, ID theft and telemarketing fraud.

Shred-a-Thons

This week the RI Attorney Generals office will be hosting shred-a-thons statewide.   You are invited to bring any of your personal documents to shred as a safe method of disposing of potentially sensitive information.

Shredding events are being held at:

Tuesday, March 8, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

City of Warwick Pilgrim Senior Center

27 Pilgrim Parkway

Warwick

 Wednesday, March 9, 10 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Woonsocket Public Library

303 Clinton Street

Woonsocket

 Thursday, March 10, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Middletown Police Station

123 Valley Road

Middletown

 Friday, March 11, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Stedman Government Center

4808 Tower Hill Road

Wakefield

 Saturday, March 12, 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Office of the Attorney General

150 South Main Street

Providence


Operation Empty Promises

March 3rd, 2011 at 5:34 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

“Be your own boss!” “Make $4000 in one week”

  You’ve heard the promises, but unfortunately, according to the FTC many are empty promises that leave consumers in worse financial shape.  The FTC has now stepped up its enforcement against scammers who falsely promise guaranteed jobs to consumers who are struggling with unemployment or looking to increase their household income.

Operation Empty Promises “

This  multi-agency law enforcement initiative  announced more than 90 enforcement actions, including 48 criminal actions.    During a press conference at the FTC in Washington, DC, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said, “The victims of these frauds are our neighbors-people who are trying to make an honest living. Under pressure to make ends meet, they risked their limited financial resources in response to the promise of a job, an income-a chance at a profitable home-based business.  But these turned out to be empty promises-and the people who counted on them ended up with high levels of frustration and even higher levels of debt.”

Ivy Capital Inc.

The FTC took action against several companies including, Ivy Capital Inc. and 29 co-defendants.  According to the FTC, the company ”allegedly took more than $40 million dollars from victims who paid thousands of dollars believing Ivy Capital would help them develop their own internet businesses and earn up to $10,000 per month.”   

How they Allegedly Did it

 According to the FTC’s complaint,  Ivy Capital’s telemarketers asked consumers how much credit they had on their credit cards and then talked them into using a substantial portion of their available credit to purchase a business coaching program.  But, according to the FTC, the promised products and services were worthless. 

National Sales Group

According to the FTC,  National Sales Group, and I life Marketing LLC, allegedly made false claims to consumers about employment opportunities.  According to the complaint, the company advertised nonexistent sales jobs with good pay and benefits on CareerBuilder.com and other online job boards, and their telemarketers falsely told consumers the company recruited for Fortune 1000 employers and had a unique ability to get them interviewed and hired. 

Without Consent

The FTC alleged that the defendants charged fees they said covered background checks and other services, and often overcharged, taking $97 from consumers who had agreed to pay $29 or $38.  They also charged some consumers recurrnig fees of $13.71 or more per month without their consent.  According to other documents filed in court, the operation has generated more than 17,000 complaints to law enforcement agencies and defrauded consumers of at least $8 million.

Business Recovery Services LLC

The FTC says Business Recovery Services LLC allegedly telemarketed products and services they falsely claimed would help consumers recover money they had lost to business opportunity and work-at-home operations, selling hundreds of variations of do-it-yourself  kits tailored to particular schemes and priced up to $499. 

Advanced Payments

The FTC alleged they violated the telemarketing sales rule by misrepresenting the nature and effectiveness of their services, and accepting advance payments from consumers for recovering money lost in previous telemarketing transactions without waiting 7 business days for the consumers to receiv the recovered money, as required by the rule.  According to documents filed in court, consumers lost an estimated total of $1.5 million in this scheme.


Southwest customers report rewards problems

March 2nd, 2011 at 1:07 pm by under Consumer

EEK!  Hoping to head off to somewhere warm?  Some Southwest Airlines   Rapid Rewards customers  reported they’ve been unable to make ticket reservations and worse, many of their points have been wiped out!  Southwest Airlines confirmed with Eyewitness News that they are having issues.  On its Facebook page, Southwest says the following:

“We are aware of the issues with southwest.com today. We have all hands on deck to resolve the issues as quickly as possible. As you may know, we are launching our All-New Rapid Rewards program today, and we appreciate your patience as we work to get the site back up to speed.”

Join me at 5:00 tonight on Eyewitness News for more information on what customers need to do in order to get back their lost points!


Sam’s Club offering Customers a Deal…

March 1st, 2011 at 12:31 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

Sam’s Club to extend special considerations to members 

 The closing of Sam’s Club on Route 2 in Warwick left a lot of members furious!  Not only was this the only Sam’s Club in RI, but many members just renewed or signed on…so now what? 

Calls started flooding into the office of  Rep.  Patricia Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Warwick, Coventry)  According to the press release, Serpa’s office contacted the closet location in Seekonk to see if any special considerations could be extended to its members.

Rep. Serpa said the following considerations will be made for individuals who have paid their dues as of Feb. 1, 2011 and are enrolled in either individual or premium Sam’s Club memberships:

  • An extended two-year membership will be offered at the Sam’s Club in Seekonk free-of-charge.
  • For those members who would like to discontinue their memberships, they can cancel and request their dues back at the Seekonk location.
  • Members who would like to discontinue their memberships and are unable to travel to the Seekonk location can call 1-888-SHOPSAM to receive their membership rebates via mail.

Sam’s Club in Seekonk is located on 1098 Fall River Avenue, also known as Rt. 6.


Major Sweep of Swindlers

March 1st, 2011 at 10:12 am by under Consumer, General Talk

It’s payback time!  Ever loose money to a scam artist?  The FTC is announcing a major sweep of unscrupulous companies that prey on the unemployed or stay-at-home moms.  It’s those get rich schemes I’ve reported on numerous times, well now it appears some of these sheisters are getting caught!  Follow me on twitter  @susiemakescents for the latest on this sweep and the announcement tomorrow from Washington, DC.

As reported on the The Federal Trade Commission’s website: The FTC  will host a press conference in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at 11 a.m. EST to announce a major federal-state law enforcement crackdown on swindlers whose bogus employment schemes cheat financially distressed Americans.


EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VERIZON iPHONE

January 11th, 2011 at 4:58 pm by under Consumer, General Talk, Technology

So many of you have been asking me questions about the Verizon iPhone, so here you go…hopefully your questions can be answered here!

When will the Verizon iPhone 4 be available?  If you are a Verizon customer you get first crack at it.  You can pre-order it starting Feb. 3rd, the rest of you can get it Feb. 10th.

What is the difference between the Verizon iPhone and At and t’s?   The major difference is the CDMA chips inside the Verizon iPhone that will allow it to run on the Verizon network.  It’s software is more advanced too: running iOS 4.2.5, while most current release for all other iPhones is iOS 4.2.1. One other big feature Verizon will offer that AT and T does not, it’s the ability to use the iPhone as a WiFi hot spot.  Verizon tells me up to 5 WiFi devices can connect to the iPhone’s Internet connection at the same time! 

How much will the Verizon iPhone Cost?  $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32GB, both include a two year contract!

Will your AT and T iPhone work on Verizon’s network?  No. Unfortunately, the two are on separate frequencies so if you are an AT and T customer and want to make the switch, you have to buy the Verizon iPhone and go on Verizon’s network.

 


Who Made the Nice List?

December 16th, 2010 at 4:32 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

Of course I have to show you those retailers Consumer Reports feels offer some pretty fair return policies and fees.  But I should also mention that Consumer Reports disclosed that this information (including the Naughty list) was not an extensive research project, but simply based on information supplied to them by its reporters and websites from the actual stores. 

Nice:

1 Southwest. Two pieces of checked luggage, no charge. And that includes bulky freight such as golf clubs and skis.

2 L.L.Bean. 100 percent product satisfaction guarantee. Return anything at any time for any reason.

3 Zappos.com. Free shipping and free returns, including prepaid return label.

4 Costco. Open-ended return policy for virtually everything the warehouse retailer sells minus some home electronics, which come with a still-generous 90-day return period.

5 U.S. Cellular. While the FCC is proposing that cell carriers alert consumers who are about to exceed their plans’ monthly minutes allotment, which could lead to significant overage charges, this company is already practicing due diligence and giving its customers a heads up.

6 Orvis. For customer service the old-fashioned way, shoppers can call a toll-free number and speak to a human being without wading through an arcane automated menu system. Alternatively, Orvis offers live-chat with support staff, e-mail queries, and a guaranteed response time of two hours or less.

7 Hotels.com. The travel website never charges a fee to cancel or change a room booking. But it’s still imperative to check the hotel’s specific reservation policy to avoid any penalty imposed by the chain.

8 J&R. The electronics superstore and e-retailer has a straightforward price-match policy without the many caveats and fine-print exclusions of some other merchants: Find it at a lower price at an authorized seller (the exception being a warehouse membership club) and “we will do everything possible to meet or beat that price” via a special telephone hotline. J&R also gives customers 30 days to ask for a price adjustment on existing orders if they unearth a lower price.

9 Walmart. No receipt, no problem. Customers can return most items to a Walmart store for a cash refund (for purchases under $25), a gift card (for purchases over $25), or even exchange. There’s one catch: More than three such returns within 45 days requires a manager’s approval.

10 Publix. It’s no fun being sick, but if you need an antibiotic, the Florida-based supermarket chain will have its pharmacies dispense up to a 14-day supply for some of the most common generic ones free. All you need is a proper prescription.


Who Made the Naughty List?

December 16th, 2010 at 4:26 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

No, no.  I’m not about to divulge any personal information about my co-workers! 

This is about retailers who were called out by Consumer Reports for either “grinch-like” return policies, or expensive shipping fees, or simply for just being Scrooge.

Naughty:

1 Buy.com. No returns for “oversize” TV sets, defined as any model 27 inches or larger. If you fail to inspect set upon delivery and sign shipper’s release, Buy.com says it’s your problem and go deal with the manufacturer. Its website also lacks a phone number for customer contact.

2 CompUSA. For imposing unusually punitive restocking fees of “up to 25 percent” of the purchase price on any product the retailer decides doesn’t meet its return criteria. Nowhere is it spelled out which specific products are subject to such a fee.

3 Best Buy. Offers a 14-day grace period to return computers, monitors, camcorders, and digital cameras.

4 Spirit Airlines. The carrier, which pioneered “ancillary” fees among domestic airlines, charges for carry-on bags: $30 in advance, $45 at the gate.

5 Verizon Wireless. Doubled to $350 the Early Termination Fee imposed on consumers who cancel their smart-phone contract after the 30-day grace period. Mercifully, Verizon kept the penalty at $175 for consumers with conventional cell phones.

6 Dollar car rental. It’s bad enough that companies force you to pay for gas you never use if you choose not to refuel the vehicle yourself. But Dollar is even more penny pinching by demanding customers present a receipt to prove that they filled up the tank within 10 miles of the drop-off location or face a fee to top off the tank and the labor required to do so.

7 SanDisk. If mail-in rebates weren’t enough of a headache, SanDisk, which frequently dangles promotional offers for its memory cards, is a big fan of mail-in rebates which are issued in the form of a gift card. What’s wrong with an instant rebate at the register, a practice that the rival company Lexar began based on customer feedback?

8 Macy’s. Proving that high shipping fees are not necessarily a thing of the past, the department store chain calculates its freight charges on the dollar amount of the order, not the size and weight of the package. The base fee is $5.95 for orders under $25, to as much as $23.95 for those $300 or more. And that’s standard delivery.

9 United Airlines. No one wants to overpay on airfare, but you never really know whether you’re getting a rock-bottom price. As peace of mind, United offers customers a low-price guarantee. Find a lower fare on the company’s website for the same itinerary you already booked and not only will United give you the lower fare, but also a voucher good for 20 percent off your next purchase. But hold on. If you have a nonrefundable ticket—the type most people buy—and find a cheaper flight, United imposes a $150 “administrative” fee to make the change.

10 DirecTV. The California-based satellite TV firm, which has more than 18.7 million subscribers, has a policy that automatically extends a customer’s contract for another 24 months if any new equipment is added. If that policy rubs you the wrong way and you want to cancel your service, the penalty is an early termination fee.


Just Checking In!

December 16th, 2010 at 3:50 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

By now you have either had way too much holiday cheer or are fretting over spending way too much money.  So I figured I would “check in” to see how you all are coping!  Personally, I am doing ok.  I am fighting the urge to continue spending, and I haven’t cracked open too many cartons of egg nog. 

I normally do not allow my children to watch TV during the week.  But during the “25 days of Christmas” I put that rule on the back burner and we watch a Christmas show each night together.  It’s been a fun time for all of us just to chill out together and stay up a little later than allowed.

Feel free to share with my bloggers how you are coping!  We would love to hear some ideas from you!


Tired of being frugal? Yeah, me too.

December 13th, 2010 at 3:30 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

There’s actually a term for what “ails” us, it’s called “Frugality Fatigue!”  Really!  But unfortunately, there is no pill for us to take, no elixer to wash down, the only remedy?  Retiring our scissors to the drawer from clipping thousands of coupons over the years…WARNING!  This remedy should be temporary.

A professor at Bentley University was quoted in a recent news story as saying, “They’re sick of being frugal, they’re sick of being told to tighten their belts. They’re sick of being told to buy environmental.”  Yup, that’s me.

It seems my countless attempts at trying to buy ‘on sale’ or buy what what my family needs and not wants and the coupons, the thousands of coupons I’ve printed or cut over the years, just hasn’t made a dent in the debt and it certainly hasn’t given me the opportunity to take what I’ve saved and splurge on a tropical vacation!

So what gives?

It comes down to spending.  Although we may be clipping, printing or shopping the bargain aisles, we’re still spending more than we can pay off each month.

So what now?

According to bankrate.com:

1. Don’t set goals too high.

Instead, start with a series of smaller goals.  Instead of saying you are going to pay off all your debt, pay off the card with the highest interest rate first.

2. Know why you’re doing it.
Of course, we can live better if we’re not in debt.  Gary Foreman, editor of The Dollar Stretcher says, “The idea behind frugality is that we can live better if we’re not in debt. If all you see is deprivation, it’s going to be hard to reach your goal.” By prioritizing what’s important to you, you can cut the things that don’t matter to you and spend money on the things that do.

3. Acknowledge the mile markers.

Celebrate when you achieve a milestone. On a recent trip to Stop and Shop I noticed my “year end” savings…more than $800!  For that, I drove right over to Starbucks and bought a $3.00 coffee…(ok ok, that’s a problem, I know)

4. Have a built-in splurge.

For example, budget $100 per month to do whatever you want. You can save it for six months and buy Jimmy Choo shoes you don’t really need, but that’s far better than to fall off the wagon and charge those shoes.”

5. Make a plan for the hardest challenges.

Leah Ingram, the author of “Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less,” says the key to her success in changing her spending habits is “having the systems in place.” One of her biggest budget-busters was eating out, so she developed a system of meal planning that made it almost as easy to cook at home as to go out.


Welcome to Fraudland

December 9th, 2010 at 1:36 pm by under Consumer

Someone stole the number to this credit card. (Photo by Todd Dukart)

When you work in news — even in a semi-anonymous behind-the-scenes role like I do — you hear about it all the time. People’s credit card numbers are stolen and they get large bills racked up in their names.

“I’m pretty careful online,” I thought. “It’ll never happen to me.”

Then it happened to me.

Someone stole my credit card number and used it to at least attempt to buy a couple thousand dollars’ worth of stuff – clothing, mostly. So now instead of just navigating the tricky waters of Christmas gift shopping, I’m also navigating the waters of disputing fraudulent purchases on my main credit card – the one with the high credit limit and the nice rewards points. The one I now can’t use to buy gifts while I wait for the new card to arrive.

So here’s Part One of the story. This all happened yesterday. In the past, I had set up all sorts of text-messaging alerts with my credit card company, Chase. The most common one is a daily nudge reminding me that I carry a lot more debt on the card than I’d like, so it’s a motivator for me to pay it off.

I was at work, getting started on a web development project for WPRI.com, when my phone buzzed. New text message: Your balance is high. I looked at my phone, gave it the standard “I know, and I’m trying to pay it off” look, glancing at the previous messages to make sure my balance didn’t rise too much since the day before. (It was a couple bucks more, but I had spent a couple of bucks on music.) Back to work.

About an hour and a half later, another buzz from my phone. “Available credit below $1,000.00.” Something cleared, I thought. So I logged onto my account and checked what cleared: $200 or so at a website I had never heard of before. Some quick Google-fu revealed it to be a British clothing retailer who does quite a bit of business in the U.S. They had just never done any business with me.

Lovely.

I called Chase’s fraud hotline. The very first thing after I put in my card number was somewhat ominous, and in a different voice than the rest of the menu up to then: “Press 1 if you are calling about a recently declined transaction. Otherwise, press 2.”

After a little bit of menu navigation, I got connected to an operator who went through the transactions that hadn’t yet posted: $500. $1,500. $300. She mentioned a $2,000+ transaction that got declined — presumably the “recently declined transaction” from the menu.

The only two transactions she read that were legitimate were 99 cents at one online music store and 98 cents at another. I’ve heard in the past that music downloads are one way fraudsters check their stolen credit card numbers, but it seems this person went straight for the kill.

Anyway, the operator flagged those not-so-legitimate pending transactions as fraud, along with the British clothing store’s charge, and canceled my card number. I’m waiting for a replacement card to arrive in the mail — it’s only been a day.

This saga is certainly far from over. I now have what has the potential to be a boatload of paperwork, plus so far I have no idea who the thieves are or how they got a hold of my number. I try to keep it secure but either I made a mistake somewhere or one of the many companies with my card number released it (or got hacked), but I have no way to figure that out yet.

I’ll keep you posted. Still, a couple early lessons learned:

  • Set up alerts. I found out about the fraud rather quickly thanks to my e-mail and text alerts, telling me when my available credit is below a certain amount or a transaction was posted above a certain amount. I also later discovered in my e-mail a foreign-transaction alert. (Although, to be honest, that may not have alerted me too much: I took a very recent weekend getaway to Canada and sometimes it takes a while for transactions to settle. I would’ve checked anyway but not with the “what on Earth?” feeling I got from my first alert.)
  • Use only credit cards online. Granted, this is a challenge now that I don’t have access to my largest line of credit for Christmas shopping, but imagine if someone had cleaned out my checking account and caused my rent check to bounce. Now, if all this goes well, I’ll be on the hook for $50 at the most, but in this case probably the cost of a stamp because my card has $0 fraud liability.

Good link for those of you who may be in the same boat as me: The Federal Trade Commission offers tips on how to deal with credit card theft.

By the way, I have a call into Chase’s media hotline but I haven’t heard back yet. I’ll let you know what I find out from them.

Update 3:27 p.m.: Gail Hurdis, a spokesperson for Chase, sent me this statement via e-mail:

In general, Chase is actively involved in fraud protection. We use sophisticated systems to monitor and detect fraudulent activity and employ over 1,000 people dedicated to protecting our customers.  I thought your readers may also be interested in some tips we frequently provide to customers for avoiding fraud.

To avoid fraud and identify theft, we encourage consumers to:

1.     Secure your personal information. Do not carry your Social Security card with you.
2.     Never give out personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call or know the organization.
3.     Be aware of suspicious emails that may ask for confirmation of a credit card number, PIN or other sensitive information.
4.     Monitor your accounts regularly, online and/or through your statements, and contact us if you see any suspicious transactions.
5.     Shred all documents that contain sensitive information.
6.     Check your credit bureau report at least once a year.

By the way, to get your credit report for free, the FTC and the three major credit bureaus operate annualcreditreport.com. That’s not the site you see advertised on TV a lot (which signs you up for a trial membership to a paid service), but is part of a 2003 law, the FACT Act, which requires each bureau to offer a free copy of your credit report each year.

Update 3:34 p.m.: Hurdis also mentioned a service that Chase offers to its customers where they can get instant text message alerts of suspicious transactions, and then respond by text whether the transaction is recognized or not. Customers can call 1-800-432-3117 to sign up. Other credit card companies may offer similar services, so you might want to call to see what you can do.


12 End-of-Year Tips from the Tax Man

December 8th, 2010 at 3:20 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

 Planning now may give you the gift of time and money saved next year! 

 1.  Get Your Records Together

With the current tax year “winding down,” the Internal Revenue Service is encouraging taxpayers to gather and organize their tax records now to reduce stress at tax time.  As your tax documents (W-2’s, 1099s, etc) arrive, file them together so you won’t have to search when you begin to file your tax return. You should keep any and all documents that many have an impact on your tax return. Generally, tax records should be kept for three years, but some documents, for example, records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRAs, rental property or a business, should be kept longer.   

2.  Get Information about your Federal income tax withholding and the Making Work Pay Credit

The IRS encourages all taxpayers to periodically check their withholding in order to ensure they are meeting their requirements.  Due to the Making Work Pay credit, extra emphasis is being given for taxpayers who fall into any of the following groups to review their tax withholding and ensure enough tax is being withheld.
  • Married couples with two incomes
  • Individuals with multiple jobs
  • Dependents
  • Pensioners
  • Social Security recipients who also work

In 2010, the Making Work Pay provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will provide a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for eligible working individuals and up to $800 for eligible married taxpayers filing joint returns. 

If you find you need to adjust your withholding, submit a revised Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate to your employer. An automated IRS withholding calculator is available at IRS

 3.   Get Information on Updating Your Name and Social Security Number

 If you are married or divorced in 2010, make sure you report any name change to the Social Security Administration before you file your tax return. If your name doesn’t match your social security number, your refund can be delayed.  To get more information about updating your name change visit the SSA Website at social security  or call 800-772-1213.  And, report any address change to the Postal Service, your employer and the IRS to make sure you get tax-related items. 

 4.  Get information about the First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Long-Time Resident Credit

 Eligible first-time homebuyers who purchased a home on or before Apr. 30, 2010 or entered into a binding contract by April 30, 2010 and settled on the purchase on or before September 30, 2010 may be able to claim up to an $8,000 tax credit.  Additionally, a new law also provides a “long-time resident” credit of up to $6,500 for taxpayers who do not qualify as “first-time homebuyers.” To qualify for the $6,500 credit, a buyer must have owned and used the same home as a principal or primary residence for at least five consecutive years of the eight-year period ending on the date of purchase of a new home as a primary residence. For qualifying purchases in 2010, you have the option of claiming the credit on either your 2009 or 2010 tax return. Paper returns must be filed to claim these credits and documentation of the purchase must be included with the return. More information is available at IRS

5.  Get Credit for Making Your Home More Energy Efficient

Tax incentives are still available for making energy efficient improvements to your home. You may be able to claim a “nonbusiness energy property credit” of 30% of the cost of certain energy-efficient property or improvements you placed in service in 2010. This property can include high-efficiency heat pumps, air conditioners, and water heaters. It also may include energy-efficient windows, doors, insulation materials, and certain roofs. The credit has been expanded to include certain asphalt roofs and stoves that burn biomass fuel. The total amount of credit you can claim in 2009 and 2010 is $1,500.

 6. Get a Tax Break for Education Expenses

 The American Opportunity Credit, a modification of the Hope Credit has been expanded for 2009 and 2010 and is available to a broader range of taxpayers, including many with higher incomes and those who owe no tax.  It also adds required course materials to the list of qualifying expenses and allows the credit to be claimed for four post-secondary education years instead of two. Many of those eligible will qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student.

 7.  Get a Tax Credit for Adopting a Child

 The Affordable Care Act raises the maximim adoption credit to $13,170 per child.  It also makes the credit refundable, meaning that eligible taxpayers can get it even if they owe no tax for that year.  The credit is based on the reasonable and necessary expenses related to a legal adoption, including adoption fees, court costs, attorney’s fees and travel expenses. Income limits and other special rules apply.  Taxpayers can claim the credit by filling out Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses and must include one or more adoption-related documents.

 8. Get the Most Out of Your Retirement Accounts

Are you maximizing your contributions to your retirement accounts? This year, you can contribute up to $5,000 in an IRA, as well as another $16,500 to a 401(k) employee plan. If you’re 50 or older, those numbers go up to $6,000 and $22,000, respectively.  

9.  Get Documentation for Your Cash Contributions to Charities

 To deduct any charitable donation of money, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the qualifying charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. A bank record includes canceled checks, bank or credit union statements and credit card statements.

10. Get Information About the Earned Income Tax Credit

 Are you wondering if you might benefit from the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is available to low and moderate income workers?  Use the EITC Assistant on IRS.gov which helps determine eligibility for the credit. The program will also assist you in determining your correct filing status, determining whether your child meets the tests for a qualifying child, and estimating the amount of credit that you may receive.

Taxpayers who earn less than $48,362 in 2010 may be eligible for a refundable tax credit of up to about $5,680.

 11. Get Ready to E-File

 E-file is the safe, accurate way for taxpayers to quickly complete their taxes and make certain to take advantage of credits and deductions that may apply.  Not only that, but taxpayers can get a refund in as few as 10 days by choosing direct deposit.  This option even allows split disbursement where deposits can be made into as many as three separate accounts including checking, savings and other investments.

 12. Get genuine IRS info from www.IRS.gov 

 The one and only official source for IRS information is at IRS  Don’t be fooled by scam artists who attempt to create look-alikes.

The IRS does not send out unsolicited email messages.  Email messages claiming to be from the IRS are probably phishing scams.  Recipients of such emails are urged not to open attachments, click on links, reply with personal information, or complete any other activity that could compromise their computer’s security and lead to identity theft or worse.


Oh the Guilt! Save me from myself!!

December 6th, 2010 at 4:42 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

If you read my previous posts you will have noticed that I sounded very strong.  I used words like “budget” “make a list” “stay strong” …but this Consumer Reporter needs to practice what she preaches during the Christmas shopping season!

This Saturday I went Christmas shopping, with my list and a set amount of money in my head to spend.  I bargained hunted, I scoured coupons, I compared prices from Walmart to Toys R Us to Target and in the end I THOUGHT I did pretty well,  I didn’t veer from my list. 

But here is where the problem started.  When I got home with my loot and started putting it in piles (3) one for each child, I felt that ‘ugh’ feeling….I DIDN’T BUY ENOUGH!   I thought to myself, ‘my children will be so disappointed Christmas morning when they don’t see presents oozing out all over the living room floor! 

SAVE ME FROM MYSELF.  I think, as parents, we all get to this point.  When is enough, enough? Is it when our money runs out? Is it when we get everything on our children’s list? Is it when it looks more like the toy aisle in Toys R Us in our living rooms instead of….well, our living rooms?

I started to panic.  I felt that I needed to buy just to buy, quantity over quality.  To save me from myself, I poured a glass of wine, built a fire and sat in the (still empty living room with the tree all aglow) and played cards with my children. Talked with them about school, about friends, about the New Year.  That’s when I suddenly realized, enough WAS enough. 

Time alone with my children, without distractions was better than any gift I could buy them.  Even though they may feel a little “cheated” come Christmas morning because I chose to stop the insanity of trying to please them with quantity, I believe in the end, we will all be better off.

Afterall, when the bills come in January, instead of trying to figure out how to pay for my brief moment of guilt, I can sit back, open up my checkbook and pay off Christmas debt.


Do NOT track me!

December 2nd, 2010 at 1:52 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

First there was “do not call” then “do not mail” now, “do not track”.  This is something I know many of you will like, a lot. 

Today the FTC is proposing to creat a “do not track” tool for the internet so that you can prevent marketers from tracking your web browsing habits and other behavior in order to target advertising. 

For someone like me or you who shops online a lot, this is especially important.  I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’ve googled , for example, Toys R Us suddenly your email is innundated with information about toys, children’s products, diapers,  you name it! 

Protecting consumer privacy, the agency says, is critical since marketers — particularly online marketers — are increasingly analyzing the websites that consumers visit, the links they click, Internet searches, online and offline purchases, the physical locations of wireless devices and all sorts of personal information you may disclose on any given website.

The Commission recommends a simple, easy to use choice mechanism for consumers to opt out of the collection of information about their Internet behavior for targeted ads. The most practical method would probably involve the placement of a persistent setting, similar to a cookie, on the consumer’s browser signaling the consumer’s choices about being tracked and receiving targeted ads.


Fill your Shopping Bag with Gifts NOT Debt!

December 1st, 2010 at 4:20 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

Tough to do, but totally possible.  Even if you are starting 2011 in debt (join the club since most of us are) there is an easy way to manage it, but it all starts with your ability to be strong and not get sucked in.

Pre Holiday:

1.  Creat a budget.  Take a close look at your budget and determine what you can afford to spend.  REMEMBER this important point, your budget should include all things “holiday” from gifts, to food, to decorations, to parties, to even a larger electric bill due to Christmas lights. 

2.  If you are using your credit cards for gifts, go forward with a plan for paying the balances off as quickly as you can.  I recommend planning for a payoff in 3 months or less.  IF YOU CANNOT DO THIS DON’T SPEND THE MONEY!

3.  Make a list and CUT it twice.  Be sure you are only buying gifts on your list, do not buy gifts out of guilt.  Our kids are cute, we want to make them happy, but will they be happy when mom and dad are stressed out in January when we can’t pay our bills? 

POST HOLIDAY

1. Create a damage sheet.  List the names of your creditors, amount you owe to each and the current interest rate, then total it up. Update that sheet monthly and tape it wherever you will see it regularly.

2. Create a budget and repayment plan.  Track your expenses for one month so that you can be sure EVERY expense is included.

3. Those little jaunts to Home Goods or TJMaxx  or Target can cost you big and totally break your budget.  If you need one item from that store, brace yourself and be strong, keep blinders on and get the one item and proceed to check out.  I guarantee you, if you walk out of there with only that one item, you will feel fabulous!  (Do what I do when I acheive this huge goal…I treat myself to a Starbucks coffee!)  

4.  Shelve your credit cards.  I did this, I admit it was not easy, I live only on my debit card and only spend what I have.  Take them out of your wallet and leave them hidden away at home. 

5.  Pay off the credit card with the highest interest rate first.

6. If you cannot make a dent in your post-holiday debt consider credit counseling from a reputable source. For stories on credit counseling, I have trusted and interviewed experts from the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern New England in Warwick.  They are now part of Money Management International.  


Share the Cost of Christmas….

December 1st, 2010 at 3:59 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

I have 3 kids, two of whom are turning 12 the day after Christmas, so it’s a double whammy for me!   Trying to stay on a budget is extremely hard, I get it.  I also think my two (almost 12 year olds) are “milking” this Santa thing for all its worth!  Once they admit they don’t believe, the party IS over!

For years, I admit, I have preached to all my viewers about how important it is to make a budget and spend only what you have, I have yet to practice what I preach.  But that has all changed….really!

Let’s do this together, shall we?  First, let’s pledge to budget our holiday spending and try not to compete with our wealthier neigbhors.  Second, let’s pledge to actually follow this rule!

Here are some things I am doing this year that worked very very well for me last Christmas season.  Instead of trying to buy everything myself that is on my kids Christmas list, I decided to “split” the more expensive items with family members.  At first I thought this might be “tacky” but, in the end, my children got what they wanted and I didn’t go broke.

For example,  My daughter wanted an iPod touch $299.  That was her #1 gift that would bring her joy on Christmas morning.  I asked her Aunt and Grandmother to split it with me and therefore the cost per person was just $100.   My son wanted an x-box, I split it with other relatives and…again, saved a bundle!

This year, I am doing the same thing with the pricier gifts.  My relatives don’t seem to mind a bit in fact, they would rather get something they know my children want as opposed to buying something for the sake of…well, buying.


Susan Hogan’s Cyber Monday…more deals for you!

November 29th, 2010 at 4:34 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

Thanks to my friends on Facebook I have some great deals to pass along to you!  I’m all about freebies, and thankfully, so are my friends.  Here are some websites offering “free” stuff  or free shipping along with a purchase.

Check out Victoria’s Secret for cute flannel jammies for $39 and you get for free a pair of slippers!

JCPenney is offering free shipping with a minimum purchase of just $25.00

Kmart is offering free shipping with a minimum purchase of just $29.00 by using promotional code kmgifts

Before checking out,  check to see whether the retailer has promotional codes you could use.  By using one of those codes you may get additional savings or free shipping.


Is RI’s pension liability really $6.5B, not $4.4B?

October 6th, 2010 at 3:31 pm by under Consumer, News and Politics

Pensions pensions pensions.

I could probably spend all my time writing stories about the arcane ins and outs of the state’s public pension system and never run out of stories. (Whether I’d run out of readers is a separate question.) But a document released this week contained a small bombshell I wanted to point out.

When it comes to the pension system, the problem everyone usually talks about is the “unfunded liability” – basically, the amount of money the state has promised to pay out in pensions over the next couple decades for which it hasn’t set assets aside to cover. And each time we write a story about the unfunded liability, we cite the same dollar amount: $4.4 billion.

That number is based on a host of technical assumptions made by the state’s actuaries, from how soon retirees will go to their reward to how much they’ll be making at retirement. But one of the most important of those assumptions is the state’s future investment return.

Right now, Rhode Island assumes its investments will grow 8.25 percent a year before inflation. But from 1999 to 2009, the average annual return was actually 2.02% – only a quarter of what we expected.

No doubt, that’s an especially gloomy time period to use for comparison purposes, since it starts amid the dot-com bubble and ends just months after the worst of the financial crisis. And I’m not suggesting we should switch to a 2.02% assumption.

Still, Frank Caprio suggested in March the state should consider revising expectations downward, especially since our 8.25% is even higher than the estimates used elsewhere in the country. But if we assume a poorer investment return, that means we need to shovel more money into the pension system now to make sure it has enough assets in the future. In these tight fiscal times, that’s an unappetizing prospect to say the least.

An indication of just how much money we’d owe was buried in a June 1 memo to the treasury by Gary Bayer, an actuary at the big broker Aon, that Caprio’s office released this week. Aon was asked to estimate how much larger the unfunded liability would be if we assumed a 6% return instead of an 8.25% one, and here’s what Bayer came up with:

If liabilities were valued based on a 6% rate instead of the current 8.25% rate, we estimate that the unfunded liability would increase from $1.7 billion to $2.7 billion for the state employees and from $2.7 billion to $4.6 billion for the Teachers.

For the mathematically challenged, that’s an increase in the unfunded liability from $4.4 billion to $7.3 billion $6.5 billion, or nearly 48%. Just something to keep in mind as the candidates discuss their pension plans during our televised gubernatorial debate tonight at 7.

Update: As you can see from that correction, the “mathematically challenged” clearly includes yours truly. Mea culpa.


CONSUMER REPORTER MOM

September 22nd, 2010 at 5:29 pm by under Consumer

If you like your eggs over easy…you don’t expect to get queasy…ok, i know that’s cheesy, (I’m getting worse I know, I will stop!)  The nations largest EGG recall reminds us how important it is to cook our food thoroughly. 

Today, the owner of one of the EGG farms spoke before Congress about how 16-hundred people who ate his eggs got salmonella poisoning.  He said he was sorry and blamed someone else.   However, this same farm has a history of safety violations in 3 states that goes back 20 years.  When FDA inspectors visited Hillandale farms shortly after this Salmonella outbreak, inspectors uncovered live rodents and mice at both Hillandale, and at Wright County Egg (another company involved in the salmonella outbreak) Inspectors also found manure piled so deep it was leaking through a foundation.  And maggots were found near EGG belts. YUCK.

Needless to say, this is a YUCK factor.  But recalls like this brings up a very important reminder, to cook our foods thoroughly.  That includes no more dipping into cake batter or eating raw cookie dough, and cooking your eggs until the yolk is no longer runny.


A Keurig for free & Wii for just pennies

October 18th, 2009 at 12:59 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

We….well my husband really..just figured out a few cool things that allowed us to get a new Keurig coffee machine for free and a Wii with spare change.

Keurig for Free

Let’s start with the Keurig machine. I have wanted one for years and my husband just surprised me with one for our anniversary. To make the surprise sweeter, he told me he basically paid nothing for it.

He used the cash back bonus credits from our Discover card, which we have been racking up for years. To make the money go farther, instead of taking the cash outright, he bought $25 gift cards at Bed, Bath, & Beyond for $20 bucks each. Combine that with a 20 percent off coupon from the store – he paid nothing out of pocket for the machine.

BTW – We now only use the Discover card to buy gas and groceries (since you get more cash-back bonus credits for those purchases) and pay it off at the end of the month. After all, the cash back bonus really is no bonus if you are paying interest rates on a balance.

(A side note: If you buy a Keurig – be sure to read the manual. They have a deal – buy two large boxes and get two for free. Plus you get 10% off each order and free shipping if you register online.)

Wii with Spare Change

Now to the Wii. We have wanted to get one for a while, figuring it would be a great video game console the whole family could play together. Then one day I came home from work, and my husband was setting one up.

He told me he paid for it with the spare change he’s been saving up for years. Every time he comes home he throws his spare change into a big jug. We’ve been meaning to roll it up for a while now – but it’s such a pain, we always put it off.

We always knew Coin Star was convenient – but we were reluctant to use it because of the fees - UNTIL my husband realized there were no counting fees if you choose to take your money in gift card form as opposed to cash. There are several gift card options. He chose to take an Amazon gift card.  We had enough change to buy the Wii and still had some money left over on the card.

Not bad for life’s little luxuries!


Pampering yourself is okay

September 9th, 2009 at 9:36 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

For months I have wanted to go and get a manicure/pedicure – but never did because I didn’t want to spend the money. I was being fiscally responsible and not spending my money on frivolous things.

You see - as part of a financial makeover - I am much more frugal than I was even a year ago.  Back then, I would have gone to get my nails done at the first urge. I would have had to charge it because money was tight and my day of pampering would have ended in guilt.

But that was then. For months – I have been strategic shopping, saving my family hundreds of dollars. I’ve also been doing my daughter’s clothes shopping at consignment and trying to pack my lunch on most days. I have even given up my $50 haircut in exchange for a $15 do.

Saving money does feel great. But, then it hit me – what is the point of saving a bunch of money, if I don’t take the time to spoil myself every now again? Isn’t that the point of pinching pennies in some areas, so I can afford the small pleasures in life – without having to turn to my fair-weather friends, Visa and Mastercard?

So with this new revelation, over the weekend I put my daughter to nap, kissed my husband goodbye and went to the salon. I got that mani and pedi. I even sprung for an eyebrow wax. And you know what, for the first time in years, I didn’t feel guilty about it one bit.


Save big bucks on brand name kids clothes

August 3rd, 2009 at 10:37 pm by under Consumer, General Talk
Gap, Children's Place, Talbots shirts. Gymboree skirt.

Gap, Children's Place, Talbots shirts. Gymboree skirt.

Anyone who has a child knows clothing him or her is one of the biggest expenses you will face. Especially if you are in my position, where my daughter, 4, is my only child thus far and hand-me-downs are limited.

Two Baby Gap sweaters

Two Baby Gap sweaters

For years I longed to dress by precious little girl in Baby Gap, Gymboree, LL Bean, etc. However, since I had to buy a new wardrobe for my growing child every few months, my bank account wouldn’t allow it. How could I justify a pair of $35 jean for a toddler who would outgrow them in a matter of months? (more…)


Saving money but….(a lesson learned)

July 5th, 2009 at 11:40 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

I have been saving a ton of money since we’ve adopted strategic shopping, but this is the first week I bought things just because of the deal and not necessarily because I use them all of the time – and let me tell you I am already regretting it. Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t go off the savings wagon. I bought $165.17 worth of groceries for $83.58 – a savings of $81.59 – almost 50% - Even better considering we haven’t gone shopping in 3 weeks or so. However, I need to keep myself from getting caught up in the high of getting a great deal – and to make sure I am buying only what we need and what we use. Let me explain.. (more…)


Competition is Good

June 10th, 2009 at 10:57 am by under Consumer, General Talk

A new thing I have discovered – competition is good when it comes to grocery shopping. (more…)


Strategic Shopper on TV

May 21st, 2009 at 11:08 pm by under Consumer, General Talk

I work in a TV station, but I purposely work behind the camera not in front of the camera. Being on tv is not something I aspire to. However – when our Call 12 for Action Problem Solver Susan Hogan asked me to share what I have learned about saving money at the grocery store, I couldn’t say no.  In the few months I’ve been doing this – I have already saved hundreds of dollars – and if I can help someone else do the same – or just help them realize that it really takes only an hour a week to practically cut your bill in half – it will all be worth it.

Check out the story online:

http://www.wpri.com/dpp/news/12_for_action/local_wpri_call12_clipping_coupons_saves_big_bucks_20090513_mds


Save with a little help from your friends

April 23rd, 2009 at 12:13 am by under Consumer, General Talk

I have been doing strategic shopping now for several weeks, and have saved a bunch of money. But now I have learned you can save even more with help from your friends. Let me explain.

According to couponmom, there were $318 bllion in coupons printed last year and only $3 billion were redeemed – that means $315 billion worth are thrown away, and I’ll bet many of your friends and family members are among those discarding coupons. Coupons that could be saving YOU lots of money.

Several of my co-workers know I am doing the strategic shopping thing, and I have asked them for their coupons. Now, when I come into work on Mondays I find 2-3 extra booklets of coupons.  We also have taken the coupons whenever we’re visting our family in NY. I have learned this week – having multiple coupons can multiply your savings.

receipt_20090421

In all, I bought $170.86 worth of groceries this week for $91.02 – a savings of $79.84 or about 47%. Here are some of my better deals:detergent

Arm & Hammer laundry soap was on sale this week at Shaws – buy one get one free. I bought 4 bottles. Normally selling for $6.99 a bottle, that’s a good deal in it’s own right.  But, because I got extra booklets from friends, I also had two $1 off /2 coupons – so that’s another $2 saved. I also printed two $1 off/2 coupons on shaws.com – so that was another $2 off. In the end, detergent that would have cost me $27.96, ended up costing $9.98 – a savings of almost $18 or about 65%!

yogurt

Yoplait yogurt – normally 75-cents a cup – was on sale 20 for $10 – so 50-cents a piece. Shaw’s had a circular coupon for $2 off with the purchase off 20. In addition, there was a newspaper coupon for a free yogurt with the purchase of 6. Since I was buying 20 anyway, and I had three of the coupons, I was able to get 3 cups of yogurt for FREE. So in the end – I got 23 yogurts. At full price, it normally would have cost me $17.25, but I paid $8 - or 35 cents a piece – a savings of $9.25 or about 55%

breyers

We have a 3-year-old and as a treat we give her ice cream on Fridays. Breyers ice cream was on sale this week, normally $5.79/container – it was on sale for $2.99. I had two coupons, one for $1 off 2 and another for 75-cents off one – which was really $1.50 off since Shaw’s doubles coupons. I bought 3 containers. What normally would have cost $17.37, ended up costing $6.47 or $2.15 a container. That’s a savings of  $10.90 or about 60%.

Remember, strategic shopping is about buying when items are at their lowest, using coupons, and buying in bulk. My earlier blog enteries talk more in depth about the premise. I welcome any questions, comments, and of course your money saving tips. If we can all learn from each other, we can all help each other save a lot of money. And, who couldn’t afford that!