4 ways to opt out of junk mail

Published: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 @ 1:28 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 03, 2015 @ 1:28 PM

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In the aftermath of the Anthem breach, I've recommended people do a credit freeze. Yet there's a question that has popped up again and again about what happens after you freeze your credit.

When someone freezes their credit, they may get a letter in their mailbox asking if they want to stop pre-approved credit card offers from coming to their address. The letter asks them to write their Social Security number and mail it back.

Naturally, if you're worried about identity theft, the last thing you want to do is put down your Social Security number and send it off in the mail!

How to opt out of getting preapproved credit card offers

Here's how I prefer you handle the situation: My first preference for you opting out is to go to OptOutPreScreen.com or call 888-567-8688.

This website is a joint venture of the credit bureaus that lets you tell them you don't want their junk mail! But note this well: You will be required to give your Social Security number. That's how credit bureaus track people, so it's a necessary part of the process. This is a legitimate request for your Social Security number!

Two special notes about OptOutPreScreen.com: First, as you're doing this online, be sure you select the "Electronic Opt-Out for Five Years" option. The default selection will actually sign you up for more junk mail, so be careful! Second, opting out of these offers is especially important if you move and your mail goes to an old address, or if you have a jointly shared mailbox.

And here's another way to cut down on your junk mail: DMAChoice.org and CatalogChoice.org both help you get fewer direct mailings and catalogs in your mailbox. The latter has recently been rebranded as TrustedID Mail Preference Service.

Finally, there's a low-tech kind of way that works to de-clutter your email inbox. Simply go to the search bar on your email and enter keyword "unsubscribe." Your email will then pull up all the mail from legitimate companies that offer an unsubscribe link. You can quickly go through it and unsubscribe from whatever you no longer want to receive. It's that easy!

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4 warranties you should always buy

Published: Monday, November 06, 2017 @ 5:36 AM

From cars and houses to iPads and phones, no one wants to pay to replace a high-end purchase. But that doesn't necessarily mean you should pay for an extended warranty, either.

"From a purely economic standpoint, it usually doesn't make sense to buy an extended warranty," according to Rajiv Sinha, a marketing professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.
Consumer Reports goes so far as to call most extended warranties "money down the drain," noting that "retailers may push hard to get you to buy these plans because they're cash cows for them. Stores keep 50 percent or more of what they charge for these contracts. That's much more than they can make selling products."

Still, there are four extended warranties you should always buy, or at the very least seriously consider:

Protection for previously owned products

Used cars in particular often warrant the price of an extended warranty, Sinha said. Owners usually hang on to well-maintained, problem-free cars, while the substandard, poorly maintained cars make it to used car lots and online sellers. The odds of defects and damage in the pool of used cars makes buying an extended warranty a smart financial move.

A home warranty for This Old House

Even older homes that have been lovingly cared for can benefit from a home warranty, Sinha said. This is especially true if the appliances included in the sale are dated.

Extra coverage for items added to a home

After noting precisely what a home warranty covers and what conditions you are accountable for, it usually makes sense to buy a warranty for items you add to a home, including windows, fireplaces and shutters. U.S. News cites the example of Margaret King, who bought a lifetime warranty from Home Depot for all 26 windows of her Philadelphia town house. The warranty cost was added to the initial purchase, increasing the price by nearly 20 percent, but she's already replaced windows six times, avoiding $500 in out-of-pocket expenses. "It's quite refreshing to pick up the phone, not your checkbook, to correct any problems – from stains to breakage to track issues," King told the magazine.

When you need the peace of mind

If you're the type who experiences excessive stress and sleeplessness worrying about a smartphone emergency or laptop catastrophe, the $100 or so for an extended warranty is probably "money well spent," according to U.S. News.
Still, there's no need to cave to pressure at the checkout counter. For example, you can usually wait until just before your new car warranty expires to buy the extended version. According to U.S. News, ProtectCELL, which sells protection plans for tablets and phones, also allows some wiggle room, letting customers buy a warranty 30 days to 12 months after purchasing a device, depending on the product.

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Come clean: The truth about energy-efficient washers and dryers

Published: Monday, November 13, 2017 @ 5:39 PM

The average American family washes and dries about 300 loads of laundry each year ENERGY STAR doesn't rate dryers because their efficiency has been about the same for years Maintenance will not do much to make a washing machine more efficient Only products that have earned the ENERGY STAR are certified independently to save energy ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular washers You can save $490 over the lifetime of an ENERGY STAR-certi

The average American family washes and dries about 300 loads of laundry each year, according to Energy Star. So, you may think it would be wise to replace washers and dryers with newer models.

Yet dryers can last longer than washers since dryers have not changed much in recent years. Instead, they can be maintained just by cleaning the lint tray before or after every use. However, the story’s a bit different for washers.

In the case of washers, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s appliances guide, upgrading washers every 10 years or so can save you more.

RELATED: Is an energy-efficient dishwasher worth the money?

The EnergyGuide label can be a useful tool when comparing appliances. Here are a few facts about energy-efficient washers and dryers to consider before making your next purchase:

The truth about energy-efficient dryers.

ENERGY STAR doesn't rate dryers because their efficiency has been about the same for years, according to LifeHacker.com. The average cost of a new dryer is $550.

Regular dryer maintenance will keep your dryer from breaking and heat clothes a little quicker which can save you money. In addition to cleaning the lint trap every load, vacuum the area below the lint trap periodically to decrease the dry time and save a few cents every month.

Whirlpool Duet washer and dryer.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The truth about energy-efficient clothes washers.

New models have become more efficient by switching to the front-load clothes washer, using around 50 percent less water and 37 percent less energy. The average price of a new ENERGY STAR washing machine is $750, also according to LifeHacker.com.

Maintenance will not do much to make a washing machine more efficient.

If your washer is over 10 years old or a top-load washer, you could save up to $135 a year on both water and electricity by buying a new or newer front-load washer.

The truth about HE vs. energy-efficient.


Beware of high efficiency (HE) claims since this designation is intended to match certain washer types (for example, front load) with specially designed laundry detergent.

With no standards for energy efficiency behind the HE label, only products that have earned the ENERGY STAR are certified independently to save energy.

Last word from ENERGY STAR

Clothes washers are the second largest water user in your home. If your clothes washer was manufactured before 1999, according to the federal government, you should consider replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-certified washing machine that uses four times less energy.

ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular washers.

Clothes washers and dryers that have earned the ENERGY STAR use advanced features, saving $490 over the lifetime of an ENERGY STAR-certified clothes washer and more with a washer/dryer pair.

Another cool energy-saving fact: If all clothes washers and dryers sold in the U.S. were ENERGY STAR-certified, the savings would be more than $4 billion each year and prevent more than 19 billion pounds of carbon pollution annually −equal to the emissions from 1.7 million vehicles.

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Is an energy-efficient dishwasher worth the money?

Published: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 4:44 PM

ENERGY STAR-certified dishwashers use advanced technology such as soil sensors, improved water filtration, more efficient jets and innovative dish rack designs to help make the cost of a new dishwasher worth the money.
ENERGY STAR-certified dishwashers use advanced technology such as soil sensors, improved water filtration, more efficient jets and innovative dish rack designs to help make the cost of a new dishwasher worth the money.

Are you in the market for a new dishwasher? If so, you’ve probably considered an energy-efficient one.

Costing an average of $550, according to lifehacker.com, newer dishwashers generally use 5.8 gallons of water per cycle instead of 10 gallons per cycle like some older models, even if you have a working older dishwasher there could be savings you’re missing out on.

RELATED: 5 cheap purchases that cost you more in the long run

Before investing in a new dishwasher, you may want to compare energy savings of different models by reviewing their yellow and black EnergyGuide labels provided by the federal government.

Here are some of reasons why an energy-efficient dishwasher might be a good idea:

Advanced technology

Dishwasher technology has improved dramatically over the last decade, according to ENERGY STAR, a federal program that certifies consumer products that meet certain energy efficiency standards.

ENERGY STAR-certified dishwashers use advanced technology to get dishes clean while using less water and energy.

  • Soil sensors test the degree of dirt on dishes throughout the wash and adjust the cycle to achieve optimum cleaning with minimal water and energy use.
  • Improved water filtration removes food soils from the wash water, allowing efficient use of detergent and water throughout the cycle. The final clean-water rinse helps clean dishes more thoroughly.
  • More efficient jets use less energy to spray detergent and water over the dishes when cleaning.
  • Innovative dish rack designs maximize cleaning by strategically situating the dishes.

ENERGY STAR effect

Standard-size dishwashers that have earned the ENERGY STAR are, on average, 12 percent more energy efficient and 30 percent more water efficient than standard models.

  • Trim your utility bills — If you have a dishwasher made before 1994, you're paying an extra $35 a year on your utility bills compared to owning a new ENERGY STAR-certified model. Replace one of these old dishwashers with ENERGY STAR and save enough money to pay for dishwasher detergent all year.
  • Save on water — A dishwasher built before 1994 wastes more than 10 gallons of water per cycle. A new, ENERGY STAR-certified dishwasher will save, on average, 3,870 gallons of water over its lifetime.
If you have to keep your older dishwasher, here are some tips on still saving energy and money.
  • Buy an electricity usage monitor for about $20 to measure the energy use of your dishwasher, according to bankrate.com. These monitors work with any appliance that runs on 120-volt electricity.
  • A faster way to save money and help home appliances work longer is to improve your home by caulking and weatherstripping it, according to a different article on bankrate.com.
  • If your dishwasher is still running pretty well, replace the filters instead.
  • Soak your dishes in hot water with a few drops of dish detergent for about 5-10 minutes. Then clean them with a towel, sponge or steel wool, depending on the dish, to reduce detergent residue.

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Is an energy-efficient fridge worth the money?

Published: Friday, November 03, 2017 @ 4:03 PM

Gail Peterson, Boynton Beach, looks at refrigerators Wednesday with sales counselor Walter Fron at Rosner’s Appliance in West Palm Beach. “My fridge is dying,” Peterson said. Fron explained the upcoming Florida state sales tax rebate on Energy Star appliances during her visit to the store.
Thomas Cordy
Gail Peterson, Boynton Beach, looks at refrigerators Wednesday with sales counselor Walter Fron at Rosner’s Appliance in West Palm Beach. “My fridge is dying,” Peterson said. Fron explained the upcoming Florida state sales tax rebate on Energy Star appliances during her visit to the store.(Thomas Cordy)

Refrigerators have seen a huge bump in energy efficiency since 2000, according to Lifehacker.com. They now use 40 to 60 percent less energy than back then. 

With fridges costing an average of $1,100, is it time to flip your fridge?

Here are some of the reasons you might want to consider and energy efficient refrigerator:

If you have a fridge more than 20 years old

In terms of maintenance for an older refrigerator, there isn't a lot that can be done to ensure the fridge lasts longer, nor would it be worth the price of trying to make it last a little longer. The best you can do is ensure that your current refrigerator is maintaining a temperature between 37 and 40 degrees. Make sure all foods and liquids are covered because uncovered foods release moisture, causing the compressor to kick on more often which uses more energy.

If your current refrigerator was built in the 1990s or earlier, then it's definitely worth buying a new one. You'll save between $100 and $200 a year in energy costs, according to EnergyStar. If it was made in the last 10 years, you're only looking at energy savings in the range of $5 to $20 a year.

If you're in the market for a new fridge

For energy efficiency, classic top-freezer refrigerators use less energy than side-by-side or french-door types.

According to EnergyStar, a top-freezer fridge costs $45 a year to run, a bottom-freezer refrigerator costs $70 a year and a side-by-side fridge costs $75 a year, so going with a top-freezer fridge will save substantially more compared to bottom-freezer or side-by-side fridges. Of course, the size of the refrigerator, its defrost type and whether the model has a through-the-door ice dispenser can lead to large variations in enerygy use.

An energy calculator is available at EnergyStar.

Which fridge type is the most energy efficient?

The most energy-efficient models aren't necessarily the most expensive, according to bankrate.com. Refrigerators that use the least energy can have relatively modest prices, partly because they're smaller and have fewer features.

The easiest way to compare is to read each model's black and yellow EnergyGuide label which includes a sliding scale that shows the appliance's estimated annual operating cost within the range of costs of similar models. EnergyStar provides this Product Guide for comparisons on annual energy savings.

Rebates and recycling programs by local utility companies and government tax incentives also can help lower the upfront cost of new energy-efficient appliances. Recycling your old fridge can prevent old refrigerant and foam from adding to carbon pollution, according to EnergyStar.

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