Dr. Laura, America's #1 Relationship Talk Radio Host
On: SiriusXM Stars Channel 109
Call 1-800-DR LAURA (1-800-375-2872) 11am - 2pm PT
Image 01 Image 02
Simple Savings
05/07/2010
Icon4 Ways to Pay Off Holiday Debts The Dollar Stretcher by Gary Foreman gary@stretcher.com Depending on which poll you use, Americans spent somewhere between $700 and $1,100 on Christmas gifts last year. For a good many shoppers, most of that spending went on their credit cards. And, if history is any indicator, those bills won't be paid off until May or June. Suppose that you didn't want to be laboring under those Christmas bills for months to come? Is there something that can be done now to get them paid sooner? Yes, there are things that you can do now to get those debts off your back. Let's take a look at a couple of strategies you might want to consider. Insurance eats up a fair amount of the average family's budget. Just home and auto insurance can run hundreds every month. For an expensive item, very few people do any comparison shopping. If you haven't taken a look at your insurance in the last year you may be giving money away. The internet has made comparing insurance rates easier. There are a number of sites that provide comparisons. You may also want to talk with an agent. Insurance policies can be confusing. Be careful before you make a switch. Make sure that you're getting the coverage you need. Don't forget to ask about your deductibles. That's the amount that you have to pay before the insurance starts to pay for the loss. Often raising a deductible to the next level can make a big difference in your premium. Finding cheaper insurance pays two dividends. First, you've saved some money. Second, you haven't had to make any changes to your lifestyle. Not bad! Another place to look for money is your tax refund. The IRS will send out checks to over 120 million taxpayers. The average refund check will be $2,100. For many workers their tax refund is a once-a-year bonus. Of course, the sooner you file, the quicker you'll get that refund. Once you do file, you can find out the status of your refund on the IRS's website at https://sa.www4.irs.gov/irfof/lang/en/irfofgetstatus.jsp Unlike the insurance saving, your IRS refund really isn't 'found' money. It's actually your money. It's just that during the year more money was withheld from each paycheck than was needed to cover your taxes. Unlike the insurance idea it's just a one time event. If you want a refund next year you'll need to overpay your withholding this year again. But suppose that you don't expect to get an IRS refund this year. Then how about finding a few extra dollars every work day? If you work you know that the cost of lunches adds up quickly. A simple sandwich in the company cafeteria or local fast food joint will cost you $4 or so by the time you include fries and a drink. If you go out to a sit-down restaurant, it's easy to spend $10 when you include a tip. Many people work one hour per day just to pay for their lunch! Many work places have a microwave oven available. That makes leftovers the ideal lunch. Instead of throwing out that extra serving from last night's dinner or letting it turn green in the back of the refrigerator, take it to work for lunch! If you have teenagers in the house you might not have any leftovers. Then you'll want to consider forming a lunch club. Each member of the club takes a turn preparing lunch for the whole group. You'll probably want between two and five members. The group can decide whether it should be kept simple like salad and sandwiches or if they want something more substantial like casseroles. You'll spend less time and money providing one meal for five people than buying lunch for yourself every day. No leftovers and you work alone? Don't give up. You can solve the problem by increasing your income. One way to do that is to ask your boss for a raise or for more hours. If neither of those is possible, you might consider joining the 7.5 millions Americans who hold a second job. In fact, it might do more than provide some extra income. You could learn a new skill or even try out an entirely different career path. A second job is less stressful when it's used to achieve a short-term goal like paying off Christmas debts. It's easier to handle the extra workload when you know there's an end in sight. There are a lot of other ways to whittle down those holiday bills. Hold a garage sale, take some stuff to a consignment shop or sell them on e-Bay. Look for ways to reduce expenses. Cut your grocery spending. Make your own household cleaners. Join a car pool. So even if you overspent for the holidays, there's no need to get down on yourself. Just figure out what will work best for you and then get started! Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently publishes The Dollar Stretcher.com website. If you'd like more time and money you'll find hundreds of articles to help stretch your day and your dollar. Visit today! Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconShould I Declare Bankruptcy? The Dollar Stretcher by Gary Foreman gary@stretcher.com My husband and I got married quite young, made some unwise financial decisions and ended up in debt (some credit card, some personal loans) with a grand total of $24,000. My husband has worked very hard over the years, sometimes 3 jobs at a time trying to make ends meet. We have gone through credit counseling, and a consumer proposal. We are the parents of 3 young children and have had to choose between paying our bills so we wouldn't go bankrupt or buying groceries. After many years of trying we feel that we have no other choice but to file for bankruptcy. We honestly would like to do anything else but we feel that this is our only alternative. Exhausted in Sudbury Exhausted is not alone. In 2004 there were about 1.6 million bankruptcies in the U.S. and another 80,000 in Canada.According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, the typical filer has about 1.5 times their annual salary in short-term, high interest debts (like credit cards and personal loans). About 2/3 of those filing say that they have lost a job and about 1/2 have faced a serious health problem. Canadian and U.S. bankruptcy law are fairly similar. There's a national law that authorizes bankruptcy and then state or provincial law determines things like what property you can keep through a bankruptcy. Basically, a bankruptcy discharges certain debts and says that the creditor is no longer entitled to repayment. The purpose is to allow the debtor to get a fresh start and creditors to get an equitable distribution of any assets. Just because debts are eliminated doesn't mean that the slate is wiped completely clean. Debts discharged in bankruptcy will appear in your credit history. In Canada they will remain for 6 years. In the U.S. the bankruptcy will appear for 10 years. There are also some debts that a bankruptcy won't eliminate. In both the U.S. and Canada back taxes, alimony, child support, and student loans are not discharged. Canadian student loans can be discharged 10 years after graduation. OK, now let's look at Exhausted's question. When is it time to throw in the towel and file for bankruptcy? Exhausted is correct. Bankruptcy should only be used when the other alternatives have failed. When minimum monthly bills are more than the family can pay, the first step is to contact the creditors and ask for a payment plan. If that doesn't provide enough breathing room, it's time to contact a qualified credit counseling agency. They can negotiate the interest rates down. Neither of those steps will reduce the amount owed. It will only cut interest rates and create a more livable payment plan. Sometimes, that's not enough. If a credit counselor can't work out a plan to pay off your debts in less than five years, then it's time to consider something more drastic. In Canada a debtor can file a 'consumer proposal'. It brings in a trustee and asks for a reduction of the amount owed and/or the interest rates charged. The debtor makes payments per the plan. At the end of the plan remaining debts are discharged. Creditors have the right to reject the proposal. In the U.S. a chapter 13 bankruptcy filing serves a similar function. It's meant for people with a regular source of income and enables them to keep some valuable property (such as a house) while putting together a payment plan that usually runs 3 to 5 years. Payments must be completed under the plan before the remaining debts are discharged. If Exhausted's income is only enough to cover living expenses without repaying debts, a bankruptcy filing in Canada or a chapter 7 bankruptcy in the U.S could be appropriate. In either country, if there's income available for debts, it's the court's responsibility to redirect the debtor to a consumer proposal or chapter 13 filing. In a Canadian bankruptcy or U.S. chapter 7 filing, the court appoints a trustee. The trustee collects the debtor's assets, sells them and then pays the money out to the creditors. Some items are exempted from the sale. After the proceeds are distributed to creditors the remaining debts are discharged. There are other things to consider when deciding whether to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcies are public records. In the past you could be pretty sure that no one would find out unless you told them. But, in today's interconnected world that's not so sure. It#146;s also possible that the debtor has some asset that they could lose during bankruptcy. For instance retirement accounts or valuable family heirlooms could be liquidated. In the states, there will be filing fees, typically about $200. Your lawyer will get about $1,000 in fees, although you can keep that down by having current statements on all your income and debts. Many will offer one free consultation. Canadian fees are government regulated and typically are paid out of the assets available to creditors.Exhausted should also pay attention to proposed bankruptcy legislation in both the U.S. and Canada that would make it harder to declare bankruptcy. Finally, there is one reason for Exhausted to smile despite the challenge her family has faced. There was a time in old England where a person unable to pay their debts could get the death penalty! Fortunately that law doesn't apply today and no one is adding it to any proposed legislation. Could you use more time or money? Visit The Dollar Stretcher.com website for hundreds of articles to help you stretch you day and your dollar. Visit today! Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconRuin My Credit The Dollar Stretcher by Gary Foreman gary@stretcher.com I am not a financial whiz. Never was and never will be. Therefore, I respect the advice of those who seem to be knowledgeable about financial matters. However, when it comes to knowing what is in your credit report, I have one question -- who cares? I am 54 years old, have purchased several vehicles, two houses and can write checks anywhere in the town I live or the surrounding smaller towns without any hassle. I have never been turned down for credit. In fact, if I sign up for a new credit card for a minimum balance I can assure you that within three years my credit limit has increased considerably. Given the above situation, when I am threatened by a bill collector (I don't pay for things just because someone says I owe them money) that they are going to "ruin" my credit, I just laugh at them and say "go right ahead" because it doesn't matter to me. Betty Betty is certainly an independent individual! I suspect that most of us admire that. But, if she's not careful, she could needlessly paint herself into a financial corner. There was a time when having a good reputation in your town was enough to get you credit when you needed it. And, no stranger could destroy a good reputation simply by making a claim against you. But, somewhere along the way companies began to collect information about borrowers. And they sold that information to potential lenders. It's progressed to the point that virtually every adult in the U.S. has a credit score. The FairIsaac Company created the credit score also known as FICO. Your score will be a number between 300 and 850. A higher number indicates a better credit risk. So higher is better. Most people have scores between 600 and 700. Not suprisingly lenders want to get their money back. And the best indicator of a borrower's ability to repay a loan is their credit score. Over 75% of mortgage lenders and 90% of credit card lenders consider your FICO score when determining whether to make a loan and how much interest you should be charged. Now let's look at Betty's situation. It appears that she has had some disagreements over bills and refused to pay them. That, plus the fact that she continues to get credit tells her that her credit score is unimportant. Is that true? Betty's credit score not only affects her ability to get credit, but also the amount that she pays for it. So, unless she pays her credit card bill in full each month, a low score will affect what she pays.She might want to check the fine print on her original credit card agreement. In some, if your FICO score drops below 600 you'll be charged the penalty rate on the outstanding balance. Those rates can be as high as 30%! But, the biggest potential hit from a low score comes when you finance a home or auto. MyFico.com is a website subsidiary of the FairIsaac Company. They estimate that a 200 point drop in your credit score could add 3.5% to the interest rate on a 30-year mortgage. Over the life of the loan that works out to over $80,000 in extra payments. And, unfortunately even if Betty never runs a credit card balance and has her home and auto paid off, she's still not completely independent of a bad credit score. Auto insurers and potential employers can access your score. A low score can affect whether you get auto insurance or that new job. Even utility companies and potential landlords are using credit scores. So should Betty just give up and pay bills that she doesn't feel she owes? Nope. But if the disputed bill is entered into her credit report she needs to contact the credit reporting agencies and have her side of the story entered. Even if you don't have disputed bills, it's a good idea to check your score annually or before you apply for a mortgage or auto loan. Recent studies have shown that 29% of credit files had errors significant enough to cause a 50 point swing in the score. To check or correct your score: Equifax, 800-685-1111, equifax.com Experian, 888-397-3742, www.experian.com TransUnion, 800-888-4213, transunion.com If you report an error the agency must investigate your claim and respond within 30 days.Philosophically I agree with Betty. I dig in my heels when someone threatens me. But unless she's unusually self-sufficient, she probably needs to periodically check her credit score and share her side of the story on any disputed bills. Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar Stretcher.com website. If you'd like to stretch your day or your dollar visit today! Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconRent or Buy? by Candace Bahr, CEA, CDFA and Ginita Wall, CPA, CFPreg; www.WIFE.org www.MoneyClubs.com A tremendous sense of pride comes with owning your own place, and owning a home has financial advantages as well. You can deduct the mortgage interest and property taxes on your income tax return, your house may appreciate in value, and when you sell your home you#146;ll likely realize that gain tax-free. Those are pretty great perks for investing in property. But buying a house at the wrong time or spending more than you can afford are mistakes that can seriously derail your financial plan. Fail to pay your mortgage and you could lose the roof over your head. During a housing slump, renting is often your best bet, since property owners who are waiting for prices to rise will rent out their property, flooding the market with rentals and causing rents to drop. Your decision to rent or own should be based on your own personal situation and finances. For a worksheet that will help you get a better sense of the financial and tax consequences of renting or buying, click here. http://www.wife.org/money-invest-rent-or-buy-home.htm . Cofounders of the nonprofit Women#146;s Institute for Financial Education ( www.WIFE.org ) and the new MoneyClub for women ( www.MoneyClubs.com ), Candace Bahr, CEA, CDFA and Ginita Wall, CPA, CFPreg; are trusted financial guides for millions of women. As owner of her own investment management firm, Candace was recently recognized as one of the top ten brokers in the country for 2003 by Registered Rep magazine. Ginita has been named to Worth magazine#146;s Top Financial Advisors for seven years. Both authors are nationally-recognized experts on women and money and regularly appear on CNN and CNBC and in national financial and women#146;s publications. This article is excerpted from their new book It#146;s More Than Money#151;It#146;s Your Life! The New Money Club for Women (John Wiley, 2004). Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconInvestment Returns The Dollar Stretcher by Gary Foreman I have read lots on saving money and retirement. In most of the articles it states you can get a return of 10% or 12%. Where do you go to find this kind of earnings? If you have to invest in the stock market, where do you find a person to help you do this without them getting most of your money for helping you? Thanks. Joy Joy asks two very good questions. What is a reasonable rate of return for her retirement savings? And, what does she need to do to earn it? We'll begin by looking at the return question. Is 10 to 12% per year a realistic goal? The first thing for Joy to remember is that as the potential return increases, so does the risk of loss of part or all of her investment. But, not all risks are the same. She needs to evaluate the risks. For instance, with a CD she'll have a bank guarantee that she can have 100% of her principal back any time she wants it (minus any interest penalties for early withdrawal). Or she could choose to invest in stocks. Greater risk, but also a greater possible reward. The risk is different, however. No one can guarantee that any stock, fund or market will go up in the next year. So there's greater risk for the next year. But, suppose that Joy is years away from retirement. If she'll be keeping her investment for ten years and is willing to own a variety of companies, the risk can be largely eliminated. For instance, the Dow Jones Industrials have gone up in every ten year period going back for over 100 years. Including the depression years. One other interesting item. What Joy really needs to know is what the Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) is. That's not the same as asking what the "average" return is. The difference is in how compounding affects up and down years. You could do the math manually, but a financial calculator is much easier. Back to Joy's original question. Is 10% possible? Yes, as a matter of fact it is. The SP 500 CAGR has been in the range of 10.5 to 11% per year for 10 year periods since 1926. So if Joy can just do as well as the historic market average, she should do ok. What about bonds? Over the long term stocks will outperform long risk-free bonds by about 6%. So if Joy wants to be in that 10% range she'll need to stay with stocks. Now to the second part of Joy's question. Where can she get advice in selecting investments? Selecting individual stocks is not a good idea. Finding a good broker will be difficult. When I was a broker we were instructed to find 200 clients who could produce $1,000 worth of commissions in a year. Very few retirement accounts are that large. So Joy would always be at the bottom of the broker's list. Joy will do much better investing in something called an 'index fund'. Not only can an index fund earn you the stock market average, it will do so with minimal expenses since it doesn't need a large staff to decide which stocks to buy and sell. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website describes an index fund as a "mutual fund or Unit Investment Trust whose investment objective typically is to achieve the same return as a particular market index, such as the SP 500 Composite Stock Price Index, the Russell 2000 Index, or the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index." Joy will need to do a little research before choosing a fund. But, it's not something that's too difficult for the average adult. She can find help online at The Motley Fool site . And there are numerous books on the subject. Any by John Bogle are excellent. He's the man who literally invented the mutual fund back in the 1950's and is a supporter of index funds. If Joy wants to take an active part in managing her retirement portfolio, she might want to select a couple of different index funds. Different indexes will behave differently in different economies and a changing world. NASDAQ will be more affected by technology stocks than the Dow Jones Industrials. For instance, if she's bullish on technology she should have more of a NASDAQ index and less of the Dow Jones one. Bottom line? Over the long term Joy should be able to earn about 10% on her retirement savings without spending a lot of time or money managing her investments. Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters. Visit today. You'll find thousands of money-saving articles. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconLess is More this Christmas! By Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam www.livingonadime.com After laying down my last women's magazine telling me how to be less stressed during the holidays, I'm even more confused and stressed then ever. On one page I'm told to take time for myself and indulge in a lovely spa bath. That sounds great, but I can hardly find time for a shower on a slow day in June let alone take a spa bath the week before Christmas. As I turn the page, I'm told to give all my friends and family homemade ornaments to which I have lovingly glued 500 beads, each the size of a grain of sand. OK I'll admit I'm not a rocket scientist, but I am baffled when I try to imagine how I could accomplish these two things even if I didn't have an ever growing list of Christmas preparation tasks. Hmmm. Maybe I could lay in my spa bath carefully gluing on beads to ornaments throughout the night. Oh, it gets better. As I read on, there are articles telling me how not to gain weight at Christmas parties. Isn't that like telling a three year old to not get dirty while making mud pies? Oh! But it gets better. They then tell you to eat a meal before you go to the party. What? Is that some kind of new diet where you lose weight by eating two meals in the evening instead of one? If it is then I'm all for it. I mean really - who eats four carrot sticks and five pieces of celery at home then arrives at a party where they have pecan pie, five different types of fudge, 10 dozen cookies and egg nog and says " Oh no, I really couldn't eat a thing. I'm sooooo full..?" Excuse Me! Doesn't anyone live in the real world any more? I think to top it all off (and the part I like the best) is after they tell us how to get rid of stress and not gain weight, they give us 10 pages of recipes for Christmas cookies made with real butter and cream that are decorated so elaborately in the pictures that it probably took a trained kitchen staff of 10 a week to make one cookie. If you are like me and can't stand that kind of stress, try some of these Christmas ideas from www.livingonadime.com to help you have a relaxed and Merry Christmas. Don't over-spend - It may be tempting to fixate yourself on the sparkling look in little Johnny's eye when he sees that $300 play car under the tree. Advertising people are really good at feeding many parents' fantasies of their children thinking that mom and dad are the peaches and cream for shelling out the cash and looking fondly back on the moment for the rest of their lives. The reality of it though is that most kids have lost all interest in that particular toy long before the credit cards are paid off. When we were growing up, my mom pulled out all of the stops at Christmas to make it as wonderful for us as she possibly could. The funny thing is that now that we are grown, the things we remember the most fondly are mom's red jello salad (made with red hots - yummy!) and sitting together and reading the Christmas story before opening our presents. I can't remember what presents I received, but I always look back on the Christmas story. Do a few things well - Instead of trying to do everything and ending up depressed with how it all turns out, focus your energy on a couple of things that are the most important to you. You may be tempted to extravagantly decorate every room in your house, but if you don't have the time or energy, focus on one room, like a living or family room. If your entire house is beautiful but you have to go see a therapist when it's all over, the romantic mystique will be lost. Trust me, I know about this one from personal experience. Limit activities - Think of the holiday season as triage for activities. Don't commit to do too many things. One or two parties during the holiday season will make you get all tingly in that "It's a Wonderful Life" kind of way. One or two parties a week may send you over the edge, especially if you have kids. (Refer to my therapist comments above.) This also applies to all of those appealing looking activities around town like Victorian Christmas events, Christmas celebrations at the zoo or winter carnivals. One or two can be a lot of fun, but too many will ruin the fun. Limit cookie baking. Don't try to make 15 different kinds of cookies like Martha. She may look like she is super woman, but did you know she has a lot of people that help her? How much help do you get with your baking? I mean real help, not your five year old who makes everything twice as difficult for you. This is great for grandma, but you have to see your daughter every day and grandma can send her back when the house is sufficiently covered in flour. Again, pick your two or three top favorite cookies to bake and celebrate the fact that you had few enough priorities that you remembered to put the sugar in them. Everything doesn't have to be homemade. I know that we advocate making your own stuff, but Marie Callendar's makes some great pies that you can pass off as homemade if you want to soothe your guilty Martha Stewart conscience. In 20 years, your kids will look fondly back on it as the best pie they ever had. But seriously, if you are making things homemade just to save money, remember that some things like candies and pies are often more expensive to make homemade, especially if you cut your finger while slicing the apples. Don't ask me how I know, just trust me on this one. These aren't the only things you can do to reduce your stress, but if you stick to doing a few things well, you can truly relax and enjoy the season with your family. In the end, they would rather have fond memories of their time with you than memories of how strung out mom was after she burned the cookies. Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are the authors of Not Just Beans . Not Just Beans will help you shop smarter, by cooking simpler meals and by making your own basic cleaning products. For free tips recipes visit www.livingonadime.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconFreecycle The Dollar Stretcher by Gary Foreman www.stretcher.com Dear Dollar Stretcher, I found a website that you will love. It's called Freecycling. People post stuff they don't want, other people contact them to get it. It started in Tucson in 2003, I think, and there are now groups all over the world. I'm in Cincinnati - our group has 3,000 members. Please check this out - this is the ultimate in frugal living! Mary Lynne Mary Lynne is right. She's onto something that a lot of people would find interesting. The Freecycle.org website describes the project this way: "Freecycle is a project of RISE, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission includes reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and fostering cooperation between other nonprofit organizations and the public." It works fairly simply. People join a list of freecyclers in their city. When they're ready to dispose of an item or looking for something they send an email that goes out to the entire list. If you have an interest you contact the original poster and make arrangements to exchange the item. No money changes hands. The freecycle site will allow you to look for a group in your city. If you don't find one, the site will give you step-by-step instructions on getting one started. The site claims that just under 600,000 people are part of the groups. They're not limited to the U.S. but can be found worldwide. Twenty five different countries are shown on the list of international participants. They range all the way from Brisbane, Australia with nearly 500 members to a number of cities that have one lone member trying to get things up and running. Portland has the largest group with over 11,000 members. The 2002 census put Portland's population at 538,000. So clearly it's an idea that's caught on there! Nonprofit organizations are encouraged to use Freecycle to get things that their clients need. Members are requested to give priority to nonprofits if more than one person wants their item. So how does it work from a practical aspect? I joined about two months ago. Our list has 600 members in a city of about 50,000. To avoid a lot of email I chose to use the 'digest' mode. That means that I get one email each day that includes all the individual emails to the list over the last 24 hours. I could also have chosen to not get any emails and used the webpage to view postings. A couple of things are important to the program. Everything offered must be free. Lists are monitored and they claim to maintain a '2 strikes and you're out' philosophy. That means that if you break the rules once, they'll assume you didn't know and warn you. But, if you break them a second time you'll be banned from the group. Our group seems to be controversy free, but the moderator has included a reminder of the rules once or twice. One weakness that I've noticed is that there seems to be a lot of 'wanted' postings. And, while that could trigger someone to clean out a closet, my experience is that rarely seems to happen. A second weakness is that the size of the group is both an advantage and disadvantage at the same time. A larger group will have more items available and more people who could be interested in an item. But, as a group gets larger the amount of mail it generates also increases. Giving items away seems to work well. I tried it with some household items and it worked without a flaw. One posting elicited two email responses. I connected with one by phone and they came and picked up the items the same day. Like most projects, the biggest trick is to get it started. A group with a very few members will have a difficult time finding matches between those offering and people wanting goods. Probably 100 or more members are needed for a well functioning group. One thing leading to the success of Freecycle is that it is free. There are no dues to belong to the group. You only risk a few moments of your time to try it out. The project appears to be very much a grass-roots effort. The freecycle.org webpage doesn't have a 'contact us' link. So beyond the initial instructions on how to form and group and get the computer list running, you're pretty much on your own. Take Mary Lynne's advice. If you like recycling and getting the most for your money, you should check out freecycle.org. At the very least you'll have an interesting, free experience in how the internet is impacting our world. Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar Stretcher.com website. You'll find thousands of articles to help you stretcher you dollar and your day! Visit Today! Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconChoosing a Space Heater The Dollar Stretcher by Gary Foreman www.stretcher.com Last year when the price of natural gas went up, I was shocked at my heating bill. Almost one week's paycheck a month was going to keeping my house at only 65 degrees. I decided a change had to be made. I sewed a heavy floor to ceiling curtain and hung it in the hallway separating the bottom floor of my house from the upstairs. That way I wasn't heating empty bedrooms and a second bathroom all day long. I turned my furnace thermostat down to its lowest setting and bought a small electric heater to heat the bottom floor of my house during all but the time we were sleeping upstairs. My heating bill went down almost 35 percent! This year gas in my area is going up 12 percent and electric is actually going down. I am thinking about not using gas heat at all and getting another electric heater for upstairs at night. I am confused about what kind of electric heater to get. Which is the most efficient? I've seen quartz, ceramic, coil, and oil filled but I don't know which one works best? No matter which one I get I will try and get one with good safety features. Mary Mary has discovered one of the best ways to reduce your home heating bill. Only heat the rooms that are occupied. Especially when there's only one person at home and they're only using one or two rooms. And the simplest way to heat a room is to use a portable electric space heater. Space heaters convert almost all of the electric used into heat. In that, they're very efficient. Unfortunately, electricity is often made from gas, oil or coal. And only about 30% of the energy used goes into electricity. So while you probably wouldn't want to use electric to heat your whole house in a cold climate, it's often the most cost efficient method for heating a smaller area. According the Central Maine Power Company the average cost of an electric heater is 13 cents per hour. Mary is also wise to be concerned about safety. Space heaters can be dangerous. Even deadly, especially if you have small children. Safety features are an important part of the purchase decision. Make sure that you read and follow the instructions. Space heaters generally provide heat in one of two ways. Radiant heaters actually heat the objects at which they're aimed. They do not heat up the air in the room. The other type, convection heaters, warm the air around them. Not heating the air is an advantage for radiant heaters. There's no drafts from moving air. And radiant heat is great for heating just portions of a room. You're only heating the areas where you want heat. Just point the radiant heater at the chair that you're sitting in! Radiant heaters use a variety of heating elements. Many use quartz tubes. Quartz heaters generally cost less than $70 and are rated between 750 and 1500 watts. Parabolic heaters use a ceramic core. They cost a little more than quartz and put out about the same amount of heat per watt used. Ceramic element heaters are safer than heaters with coils. They use a larger heating area so it doesn't need to be as hot. Halogen or reflective heaters use an energy saving halogen bulb to produce heat which is reflected on nearby objects. The feeling is much like having the sun shine on you. Convection heaters can heat a whole room more quickly than a radiant heater. That works well if there are a number of people in the room or they're moving about within the room. Some convection heaters also have fans to circulate the air in the room. Convection heaters are inexpensive. You'll get one rated up to 5,000 Btu's for less than $50. Like radiant heaters, convection heaters use a variety of heating elements. Ceramic disc heaters cost up to $150 and produce up to 5,000 Btu's per hour. Oil and water filled units are the most efficient convection heaters. They utilize a heating element in a bath of oil or water. Like a water heater, the element cycles on and off. The water or oil stays warm in its container and heats the surrounding air. So which heater is best for Mary? Since she's considering a nighttime application people won't be moving around. So she's probably best choosing a radiant heater for each occupied bedroom. And, unless she has young children with inquisitive hands, the halogen or ceramic heater will provide more heat per kilowatt hour of electricity. Whatever Mary picks we hope that her utility bill won't be the hottest thing in her home this winter! Gary Foreman is the editor of The Dollar Stretcher.com website. You'll find thousands of articles to help you stretcher you dollar and your day! Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconThat's The Ticket: Discount Night At The Movies By Cheryl Gochnauer Cheryl@homebodies.org Copyright 2004 In less than a month, #147;Lord of the Rings: Return of the King#148; hauled in more than $300 million from moviegoers. Ecstatic reviews propelled audiences into theaters across the country, eager to enjoy Peter Jackson#146;s talented team delivering Oscar-caliber performances. Not to be an Orc about it, but the ca-ching of the Ring could have been held to only $298 million or so if ticket buyers had taken advantage of a multitude of discounts available to them. It only takes a change of hobbit #150; er, habit #150; to save money the next time you storm the walls of your local cinema. GO BEFORE 6:00 PM. Matinees ticket prices are usually a couple of dollars cheaper than for prime time shows. That means a family of four can visit the concession stand with $8 extra dollars in their pockets if they head for the theater after school instead of after dinner. LET AGE WORK FOR YOU. Children and seniors pay lower rates, as do students with current ID cards. Some drive-ins admit kids under 11 free. Don#146;t forget seasonal programs like Regal Cinema#146;s ( www.regalcinemas.com ) Family Film Festival and Dickinson#146;s ( www.dtmovies.com ) Summer Kids Movies pass featuring past G and PG-rated films. Sure, they#146;re already out on video, but it#146;s still great to see favorite films on the big screen. And at $1.50 or less per ticket, it#146;s a cheap way to entertain the tots. CHECK THOSE COUPON BOOKS. The next time a fundraising student appears on your doorstep selling Entertainment or Gold C books ( www.entertainment.com ), invite them in. Recent Gold C books included coupons for Cinemark ( www.cinemark.com ), AMC Theatres ( www.amctheatres.com ) and Regal Cinemas. The Entertainment book tends to expand these listings, adding even more movie houses. Also flip through those coupon pages in your phonebook to seek additional discounts. REWARD CARDS. Just like grocery stores, several nationwide theater chains reward repeat customers. Membership is free; ask for card applications at the box office. AMC MovieWatchers accumulate 2 points for every ticket purchased (limit 4 points per visit). As they hit 10-point thresholds, customers receive coupons for free drinks, popcorn or tickets. MovieWatchers also get free popcorn on Wednesdays, and can order advance tickets with no service fee. Many Dickinson Theaters feature the DT Movies Bonus Club Card. One point is awarded for each ticket purchased; moviegoers get free popcorn at 5 points and a free ticket at 10 points. Saving this much money may put you in the mood to return to the movies again. Have fun, and may the Frodo be with you. Comments? Contact Cheryl by writing Cheryl@homebodies.org . Also stop by www.homebodies.org , where you can interact with other parents on a variety of lively message boards. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
Stay Connected
or connect at a place below
Normal Gear
Latest Poll
Do you believe as a couple you should have to work on your marriage or should it come naturally?
Work on
Come naturally
Not sure
Archives  |  Results
Programs
About Dr. Laura
Letters
E-mail of the Day
From Listeners
Audio & Video
YouTube Videos
Stay at Home
Parenting
Relationships
Simple Savings
Work at Home
Tip of the Week
Subscription
Membership
Help & Support
Family Premium Help Center
Podcast Help
Contact Us
Legal
Terms of Use
© 2014 DrLaura.com. Take on the Day, LLC
Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy
Powered By Nox Solutions