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12 Days of Giving (Day 7): MY M&M'S Party Bundle Valued Up to $149.99

Published: Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 3:32 PM
Updated: Sunday, December 16, 2012 @ 3:32 PM

Who likes chocolate? Or shall I say, who doesn't? We're already on Day 7 of our 12 Days of Giving and we've got a treat for you! Thanks to our merchant partners over at My M&Ms, we are giving away a MY M&M'S Party Bundle with personalized M&M'S (valued up to $149.99) to one of our lucky readers. Yay!

The party bundle comes with a 5lb bag of MY M&M'S and the Classic Dispenser. Can you guess how many servings you will get? Approximately 53 servings of candy! You better hide these from the kids.
Please comment below letting us know your favorite idea from the Idea Gallery to be eligible to win. Comment by 11:59 PM PST on December 20, 2012. One entry per giveaway; one prize per winner.

If you haven't already entered one of our giveaways from Day 3 - Day 6, you still have time to enter:

Eligibility: Winners will be chosen from the comments on this post using Random.org. Winners will be notified via email and have 72 hours to respond with confirmation for prize delivery. If another winner must be chosen, winner will be randomly selected from the comments using random.org. There is a limit of one prize per household per month. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery of your prize. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. VOID WHERE TAXED, PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Subject to official rules and open to United States residents. Subject to official terms.


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5 cheap purchases that cost you more in the long run

Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2017 @ 10:07 AM

Skimping on the following five purchases can end up costing you in the long run Trying to save a few dollars per light bulb doesn't pay off Cheap interior paints often require more coats than pricier paints and don't hold up as well over time You spend six to eight hours a day lying in bed so buying the cheapest model isn't a good idea A laptop is a purchase that's worth saving up for whenever possible Car insurance is one of those expenses where you don't want to skimp on coverage

Saving money often involves finding a way to pay less for something that you want or need. But sometimes the old adage about being "penny wise, pound foolish" applies, as the cheaper way out can end up costing you.

RELATED: Save money, stop fraud: 4 things to watch on your credit card statement

For certain purchases, spending more money up front can help you save in the long run.

Skimping on the following five purchases can end up costing you in the long run:

Lightbulbs are 25 cents each at the ReStore. Nicole Villalpando/American Statesman(American-Statesman Staff)

Lightbulbs

Trying to save a few dollars per lightbulb doesn't pay off, according to The Simple Dollar. When comparing incandescent bulbs, CFLs and LEDs, the site found that the approximate cost for each bulb was $1 for incandescents, $2 for CFLs and $8 for LEDs.

The savings for just one bulb over a 23-year period can be more than $150 if you switch to CFLs or LEDs. Multiplied by the number of bulbs in your home, this total becomes even more significant.

Exterior of small American house with blue paint and red entrance door.(irina88w/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Paint

If you're starting a home painting project, you may be tempted to pick up the cheapest paint you can find in a shade you like. According to Consumer Reports, that's a big mistake.

Their tests found that economy grades of both interior and exterior paints don't perform as well as their more expensive counterparts. Cheap interior paints often require more coats than pricier paints and don't hold up as well over time. Economy exterior paints also don't weather as well as more expensive paints made by the same brand.

RELATED: 5 items that are cheaper on Amazon

Mattresses

You spend six to eight hours a day lying in bed, so buying the cheapest model you can find isn't a good idea, according to Money.

Money recommends identifying what you don't like about your current mattress, trying many different types in stores by lying on each for a minute or two and being prepared to invest in one that suits your needs and preferences.

(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Laptops

A laptop is a purchase that's worth saving up for whenever possible, according to Business Insider. Otherwise, the site says, you're walking into "the tech equivalent of a minefield."

Inexpensive Windows laptops often aren't as fast as their more expensive counterparts, and they're usually bulky. You may also find a short battery life, clunky keyboard and lots of useless pre-installed programs that make your computer function even more poorly.

Car insurance

Car insurance is one of those expenses that you pay for again and again without a payoff for months or even years. While you should shop around to get a good deal, Consumer Reports warns against skimping on liability coverage.

This pays for bodily injury and property damage that you cause. If you buy only enough coverage to meet your state's mandated minimum requirements, you leave yourself open to extremely costly claims that could jeopardize your life's savings.

Save money, stop fraud: 4 things to watch on your credit card statement

Published: Monday, October 16, 2017 @ 3:06 PM

Here are the most crucial things to watch for on your credit card statement Review your statement every month to catch these errors early and correct them Set up reminders or even automatic bill pay to avoid late payments Read your credit card statement carefully to get interest rate specifics and start addressing them To set a personal deadline for paying off a credit card, find a reliable credit card repayment calculator

With credit cards, what you don't know can cost you. 

Luckily, most of what you need to know is right at your fingertips − your credit card statement. Review it with a critical eye, and you'll save money, correct errors and even stop fraud. 

RELATED: 5 things to know about your FICO score

Here are the five most crucial things to watch for on your credit card statement:

Your transactions: Credit card companies do make errors. Review your statement every month to catch these errors early and correct them, advises Credit.org, a nonprofit financial education group. Each monthly printed statement should include a detailed list of activity from that billing cycle. If you get online statements, you can usually see transactions before and after the bill's closing date, too.

Credit.org also recommended keeping credit card paper or email receipts to compare to your monthly credit card bills. If you see something that's not correct, act immediately to protest. You are only protected when you report a discrepancy within 60 days of getting your credit card statement.

And don't just go after the big, noticeable fraudulent charges, the Credit.com blog warned: "It's actually the small ones that are the most likely to creep into your statements unnoticed. Thankfully, federal law says that cardholders are never responsible for more than the first $50 of any fraudulent charge, and nearly all card issuers waive this requirement by offering zero liability policies."

A company that studies the industry reports that store charge card generally have higher interest rates than other cards. Charges for some go up to 30 percent.

Late payment warning disclosure: Don't skip this. Credit card issuers are required to post a late payment warning disclosure explaining precisely what will happen if your payment is late, according to the Balance. First you should understand that late means after 5 p.m. on the payment due date. The disclosure should also include the amount of any late fee and possible penalty APR if you don't make the minimum payment by the due date. According to the Balance, late payments are limited to the lesser of your minimum payment or $25, or a maximum of $35 if you've already been late on a payment within the past six months. 

However, the late payment disclosure doesn't tell you about the effect of late pays on your credit report. It's up to you to know that once a payment is 30 days past due, the past due account status may be reported to a credit bureau. Once you bring your account current again, your bills and online account will show that you're caught up, but your credit report will retain the late payment record for seven years.

Credit card issuers are required, by law, to send your monthly credit card statement at least 21 days before your minimum payment is due. Of course, if you opt to save paper and postage and receive only online bills, you are responsible to make sure you log onto your bill and pay. According to Credit.com, one way to improve your odds of paying either type of credit card bill on time is to set up reminders or even automatic bill pay.

Any notices of changes to your interest rate: Read your credit card statement carefully to get interest rate specifics and start addressing them, according to MyCreditUnion.gov. When you trigger the penalty rate with a late payment or going over your credit rate, the company may notify you that your rates will increase. You must be informed at least 45 days ahead of the rate change activating, which is another reason to make sure you check your online statements reguarly -- monthly at the very least.

If you catch this increase notice quickly and it's due to a single late payment, Credit.com suggested trying to contact your card issuer to request a one-time waiver of the late fees and penalty interest rates. And since the credit card company isn't permitted to impose the penalty rate unless you've been 60 days delinquent on your payment, according to the Balance, make sure to verify that you've been that late and protest if your records show you haven't.

To see a sample notice of interest rate change, check out the interactive credit card statement at the non-profit's website. to familiarize yourself with the terms commonly included on a real statement.

The minimum payment warning: Minimum payment copy is now required by law. The disclosure is listed within your statement, detailing the sometimes horrifying amount of time it will take you to pay your balance, including interest charges, if you stick to making only the minimum payment. Make sure to read this every month, the Balance advised. This may encourage you to up your payment to avoid paying maximum interest. If you are trying to pay off more than one credit card, comparing minimum payment warnings will also let you know which card to focus on first.

To set a personal deadline for paying off a credit card, find a reliable credit card repayment calculator like the one offered at Credit.com.

Don't phone it in: 5 hacks for getting the best mobile phone plan

Published: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 4:54 PM
Updated: Wednesday, October 11, 2017 @ 4:54 PM

These five hacks will help you get the best cellular plan Research coverage areas that have good coverage where you live and travel Shop around – with a little help from resources like Clark Howard Be willing to make a change Check with your current provider Timing is important to find out when your billing cycle ends

Cellphones have almost become a necessity, but figuring out the best plan to get can be a challenge. 

The price of a phone and plan can be substantial, and the amount of information available about carriers and plans is often overwhelming. Many people simply make a choice and stick with the same provider for years, which may not necessarily be best for your budget or your needs.

RELATED: Numbers don’t lie: 5 things to know about your FICO score

Whether you're getting new service, adding a line or switching providers, these five hacks will help you get the best cellular plan:

Research coverage areas

No single carrier provides the best coverage in every part of the country, so it pays to consider companies that have good coverage where you live and travel, according to Investopedia.

Ask your co-workers, friends and neighbors what provider they use and whether they have any problems with coverage. In addition, you can often try cellphone service for 30 days without obligation so you can see first-hand how good the coverage is.

A customer hands over hundreds of dollars at the Apple Store in downtown Chicago, Friday, June 29, 2007, to purchase the company's new iPhone, a gadget that combines the functions of a cell phone, iPod media player and wireless Web browser. Apple is banking on the new do-everything phone with a touch-sensitive screen to become its third core business next to its moneymaking iPod players and Macintosh computers. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)(M. Spencer Green/AP)

Shop around – with a little help

Consumer adviser Clark Howard offers a list of providers and the best deals. You can contact the companies for more information, but the guide is a great start for comparing the various providers and plans.

Time magazine's Money website also has a list of recommended plans by category, including Best Unlimited Plan and Best Couples Plan.

Be willing to make a change

In some cases, providers are willing to offer perks such as giving you a new phone or paying your early termination fees to entice you to switch.

Consumer Reports surveyed 100,000 subscribers and found that the 10 percent who had switched plans in the past two years reduced their monthly bill by at least $20. Just make sure early termination fees don't offset your savings.

Check with your current provider

Fox Business suggests calling your provider to ask if there's any way you can save money. It doesn't always work, but it's worth a try.

If you're paying for more data than you actually use, you may be able to switch to a cheaper plan without breaking your contract. Conversely, if you find yourself needing more data, ask about moving to a plan that better suits your needs.

Time it right

If you're currently with a provider and want to switch companies, your timing is important. Clark Howard suggests that you check first with your current carrier to find out when your billing cycle ends.

Most cell phone companies won't refund money for unused days, and you'll likely have prorated charges with your new company. As a result, you could end up paying for both your new and old service. The site recommends that you sign up for new service and transfer your phone number four days before the end of your billing cycle with your old carrier.

The best and worst things to buy in October

Published: Monday, October 02, 2017 @ 6:31 PM

Apple Unveils New iPhones

October brings cooler temperatures, colorful foliage and cute little goblins trick-or-treating for candy at month’s end. It also provides some savings opportunities for shoppers.

But don’t be tricked. With Black Friday and holiday sales looming on the horizon, there are some items you’re better off closing the door on and waiting a few weeks. Read on to find what you should skip and what you should buy to save money in October.

Best thing to buy: A New Orleans vacation

New Orleans can be one of the most expensive tourist destinations in the U.S. But visiting in October compared to other times of the year might provide some savings opportunities.

Travel experts recommend traveling to New Orleans during Halloween when accommodation prices fall an average of $202, said Sarah Hollenbeck, shopping and savings expert for Offers.com. “That’s 34 percent less than hotel rate averages in Mardi Gras.”

Best thing to buy: Seasonal produce

Summer isn’t the only time to buy fresh produce for less. Look for acorn squash, apples, butternut squash, pumpkins, winter squash, sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, all of which are freshest and cheapest during October, said Hollenbeck.

When you see a good deal, buy in bulk and freeze the produce to enjoy through the winter months. Check out October sales on apples during National Apple Month. Freeze apples whole or in slices on a cookie sheet, then transfer them to plastic bags once they’re solid. Use the frozen apples for tasty cobblers, pies or applesauce into the new year.

>> AMC offers $5 tickets Tuesdays in October

Best thing to buy: A mulching lawnmower

As lawn care season rolls to an end, you might be looking forward to not thinking about mowing for a few months. Now’s the time you’ll find the best discounts of the year on lawnmowers, according to Consumer Reports.

Look for mulching lawnmowers that can eliminate the need for raking leaves and prep your lawn for the cold weather ahead. The machines reduce clippings and leaves to a nourishing mix of carbon-rich leaf particles and nitrogen-laden grass clippings. Popular Mechanics recommends getting a self-propelled, rear-wheel-drive model to make light work of mulching your leaves.

Worst thing to buy: Cosmetics

“Cosmetics of all types are a bad buy in October, and that means both drugstore and department store brands,” said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews, a comparison shopping site.

“The reason? A surprising number of drugstores and beauty brands will offer huge discounts on Cyber Monday,” she said. “Many of these brands only go on sale during Black Friday or during bi-annual friends and family events. If you buy cosmetics in October, you could end up paying about 30 percent more.”

>> Fall foliage: Where to get best views

Worst thing to buy: A used car

Not all used cars are bad buys, but as hurricane-flooded cars make their way out of Texas and Florida to unsuspecting consumers in other parts of the U.S., you’re at higher risk of getting a lemon.

“Flood-damaged vehicles that have been repackaged and dressed up are a common scam after major weather events like what we’ve seen recently,” said Willie Hall, a detective sergeant with Arizona Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General, in a news release.

A flood-damaged car should have a salvage title, but scammers fake the title. Buy a vehicle history report using the car’s VIN that can reveal flood damage info. Use your eyes to discover silt and mud in places where scammers probably didn’t take time to clean. And believe your nose if something smells “off.”

Worst thing to buy: iPhones

If you want to save money on your Apple products, Sakraida also recommended passing on the new iPhones in October.

“Many people don’t realize that even new iPhones eventually see deals, and you might not need to wait that long for a discount,” she said. “At the very least, we expect to see the iPhone 8 come with gift cards of up to $250 during Black Friday, while December will bring straight discounts.”

More difficult to predict is when the iPhone X will go on sale. “It’s almost like a new product line,” she said. “However, history tells us that we’ll likely see a discount of some kind on the iPhone X within the first six months.”