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Five healthy, budget-friendly dog food brands

Published: Saturday, January 05, 2013 @ 10:16 AM
Updated: Saturday, January 05, 2013 @ 10:16 AM

When it comes to taking care of our beloved animals, it appears that we pull out all the stops. Tons of toys. Designer dog accessories. The most high-end food we can find.

Of course, something we might want to realize is that it doesn't take a whole lot to keep our pooches happy. In fact, as long as we're around and they're healthy, they're pretty happy all the time. So we thought-why not find out if there's an area where we can save. Turns out, Americans spent approximately $20.46 billion in 2012 on pet food.

Seems like that's a good place to start.

"There are many very good dog food brands available," says Domenic Magazu, retail sales manager at Saint Francis Veterinary Center. Below, Magazu offers up the most frequently recommended foods at Saint Francis Veterinary Center, "recommended often with favorable nutritional and allergy friendly results, at budget-friendly prices."

Here's to saving more cash in the New Year! Bon appetite!

California Naturals Grain Free, Kangaroo & Red Lentils
Price: 5lb. bag for $14.70 ($2.94 per pound) or 30lb. bag for $71.70 ($2.39 per pound)
Benefits: A very unique protein with a very low probability of allergic reaction.

California Naturals Lamb Meal & Rice
Price: 5lb. bag for $11.25 ($2.25 per pound)
Benefits: Lamb is a very nutritious substitute for chicken, which is a common allergen.

Taste of the Wild Pacific Stream Salmon
Price: 5lb. bag for $11.25 ($2.25 per pound)
Benefits: A very special omega 3 & 6 fatty acid rich grain free diet.

Chicken Soup for the Dog Lovers Soul
Price: 6lb. bag for $10.20 ($1.70 per pound)
Benefits: Fantastic alternative to the higher priced Wellness and Pro Plan Brands. This food provides great building blocks for a healthy life at a reduced price.

Purina Pro Plan Shredded Blend for dogs
Price: 6lb. bag for $14.46 ($2.41 per pound)
Benefits: I believe Purina Pro Plan is in the upper echelon of K-9 foods. Depending upon the breed and age of your dog, Pro Plan provides excellent building blocks at reasonable prices.

(From store to store prices may vary, the prices used above are from the Saint Francis Veterinary Center)

Keep in mind, there are many dog food brands that promote a healthy lifestyle in pets, it just takes a little research on your part to find them. "I've provided this group as they've helped me meet the nutritional needs of thousands of dogs that our veterinarians care for now, well into our second decade of client care," Magazu added.

Just remember-- be sure to check with your vet before making any drastic changes to your pet's diet.

Cheryl Lock is a personal finance writer at and former editor at LearnVest and Parents magazine. When she's not writing, she enjoys travel, which she blogs about at


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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, 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. 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 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, 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 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, 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

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 “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.”

Your guide to paying off credit card debt

Published: Saturday, September 30, 2017 @ 12:00 AM

            Clark Howard
Clark Howard

There are several steps you should take to get out of credit card debt. Paying off credit card debt that’s several thousand dollars or more takes time, so you must discipline yourself.

The key is to make debt a priority.

I usually find setting a goal of paying down debt in 36 months or less works best for people. If the end goal is any further out than that, people tend to lose their focus.

Once you decide to make your debt a priority, you need to start paying more than the minimum monthly payments. That will allow you to eliminate the debt faster, save money on interest — and most importantly, stay motivated to get the job done and behind you.

Most people only pay the minimum on their credit card bills each month when they could actually afford to pay more. Your statements make the minimum amount very clear, so that’s what most people focus on.

But there’s a better strategy you should consider.

Take a look at your monthly statement, and instead of focusing on the minimum payment, pay attention to the box that shows how much you need to pay each month to get the debt wiped out in 36 months. When you give yourself a shorter time period, your progress is tangible — so you can actually see your debt significantly decreasing as the months go by.

Want to pay off your credit card debt? Here’s how to get started.

Laddering is your friend: If you have several cards, your first goal is to pay off the card with the highest interest rate. This process is called laddering. Pay more money toward that credit card and slightly less toward the other cards, until the card with highest-interest debt has a zero balance. Then you move onto the next card, and so on and so on. Resist the temptation to close the account when it’s at a zero balance. Doing so will only hurt your credit score.

Use the calendar to your benefit: One proven way to pay more toward the card with the highest interest rate — and to get rid of it faster — is to make a separate half-payment every 14 days to the credit card company. Mark your calendar every 14 days and write that check or send your online payment that day. Making a half-payment every 14 days equals one extra month’s payment you’ve made at the end of the year. Work these payments around your statement cycle to avoid paying late fees.

Forget about debt-settlement firms: If you watch bad late night TV, you’ve probably seen those ads being run by the debt-settlement outfits. Their promises scream out in the night about reducing your outstanding debt to just pennies on the dollar without making you file for bankruptcy — no matter how much outstanding debt you have.

That promise, however, is just an illusion. The debt-settlement firms’ typical modus operandi goes like this: You pay an upfront fee to them, plus a monthly retainer. They then tell you to stop paying on your bills, stash the money you would have used to pay bills into a bank account and just sit on it. The idea is to make the credit card companies so desperate that they’ll cry uncle and want to settle with you at a reduced rate. The reality, however, is that too often you wind up just damaging your credit.

In the worst-case scenario, some people complain that the more unsavory players in the debt-settlement business will take your upfront fee and first month’s retainer and then put you on ignore when you try to initiate further contact with them. Beware! It’s so easy to want to believe that somebody has a magic bullet to solve all your problems. But that’s simply not the case.

Get help from a legitimate source: Get in touch with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) at or call 1-800-388-2227 to find a local affiliate office near you. NFCC affiliates offer free or low-cost debt counseling. About one in three of NFCC clients just need some budgeting help to get their lives back on track. Beyond simple budgeting, they can also get you set up on a hardship debt-management plan (DMP) if you qualify.

See if you qualify for a hardship DMP: In the case of a hardship DMP, lenders agree to modify the terms and conditions of their repayment policies. That means they may waive late and over-the-limit fees, in addition to reducing interest rates. They will not, however, agree to a reduction of your outstanding balance. But it could be worth a look if you meet the eligibility requirements. Get in touch with a local affiliate of the NFCC today to find out.

Additional resources: You may also want to check out the book Invest in Yourself: Six Secrets to a Rich Life by Marc Eisenson, Gerri Detweiler and Nancy Castleman.

Good luck to you in paying off credit card debt.

Visit for more info, or get his best-selling books signed with free shipping at