Thursday, October 29, 2009

Choose Window Treatments to Save Energy and Money

The choice of window treatments--curtains, drapes, or shades--can make a difference in your utility bills in both summer and winter.

If you are at the crossroads of choosing window treatments for your house, try to choose coverings that will be energy efficient and save you some money. Consider also that bedroom window treatments may need to be able to block the light.

Save on your utility bills in both summer and winter with your curtains, drapes, or shades. Read more about how to choose your window treatments with energy savings here.

See you soon!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Prescription Drug Assistance is Available

With the prevalence of the H1N1 Virus or Swine Flu, many of us will need a prescription for Tamiflu or Relenza, or maybe some other drug to speed recovery and get us on the go again. If you are no longer employed, you may not have any health insurance coverage or may need help with your prescription drugs.

There is help available, and sometimes it requires a search in your local area or on the internet. We have written an article to help you locate prescription drug assistance, or to give you some ideas as to where to look.

As consumer advocates, we want you to find opportunities for help, particularly if you are having a difficult time financially.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions. Here is the link to the prescription drug assistance article again.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Save Money and Energy with a Washer and Dryer

Washing and drying clothing seems to be a large part of the energy costs in most homes. Even if the utility bills have no breakdown as to what portion is used with a washer and dryer, it is usually significant.

This is not necessary, and if you want to be energy efficient and practice frugal living, you can improve your energy consumption in the laundry room.

Using cold water when possible, and using cold water for all rinse cycles will save money and energy. So will drying your clothing only as much as it needs. Many dryers are set for far longer than it takes to dry the clothing, and the result is wrinkles and static electricity. You can do better than this.

We have written an article with tips for saving money and energy with a washer and dryer.

This article is particularly relevant if you are planning on the purchase of a new appliance when the Cash for Appliances rebate becomes available, but it may give you a few tips for reducing your energy bills with the washer and dryer you currently own.

You can also run the dryer evenings or early mornings when the weather is coldest to warm that area of the house if your dryer is located where the heat might be meaningful. We often run heated appliances only in the evening when it gets colder. Here is the article: tips for reducing your washer and dryer energy expenses.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

How to Buy Appliances

There may be some Federal stimulus money available by the end of the year for cash for appliances rebate that will be handled by the different states. If you think you will need a new appliance soon, it is already time to start thinking about what you will buy.

It appears that the Energy Star appliances will be the ones that will have the potential rebates, so of course that will be a primary consideration. If you are a frugal shopper, you will be planning ahead (and hoping that your appliance does not give out yet) to get any rebate you can. You also want to get the best appliances for the money, too.

We have written an article to help the frugal consumer consider the possibilities when purchasing appliances. You may want to take a peek at it if you will be in the market for a new washer or dryer, air conditioner or heat pump, refrigerator or microwave. How to Buy Appliances

We hope this is helpful to you. Let us know if you have comments. We are here to help you, the American consumer.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Pay your Bills in a Bad Economy

Many are looking at ways to pay the bills in this economy, and there is lots of advice out there. Not all of it is good advice, particularly the information about refinancing the house to consolidate debt. Bad advice also relates to using one credit card to pay another.

There is some good practical advice available, and it does not finance your life for thirty years. Here are some suggestions that may help:

Sell items you do not need, or sell flowers, plants, seeds, rocks, naturally occurring products that you own or can obtain.

Work extra at your current job, or at another job, or work on the internet to make extra money.

Live on less. Revise your lifestyle. Learn about conservation and frugal living. Make frugal living fun for your family.

We have an article about paying bills in a bad economy that you might enjoy. We also have other articles we will be referring to during the next week that may be helpful.

Here is the article. See also Resources below the article for more information about paying the bills, including one about enjoying Christmas debt free. Start now!

Have a great week!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Prevent and Report Internet Fraud or Crime

Internet fraud and crime comes in many forms, including non-delivery of purchases made online. The internet is such a large lake that many people who have been victims feel that there is nothing they can do. There is.

Inaction lets the bad guys win, so act quickly once you believe your item will not be delivered, or if you credit card has been charged for a purchase you did not make--or for any number of other internet crimes, like identity theft or invasion of your computer by hackers. An internet criminal is just like a chameleon--difficult to find.

Protect yourself from the bad guys by not opening spam mail or clicking on links. If you need to enter information online, go to the website directly by putting the URL in the box at the top. Give only the information required, and no extra.

If you fall victim to internet fraud or crime, know what you can do about it. You can usually get your money back, if it is for a purchase and if you paid by any method other than wire transfer.

We have more information about this subject in an article on reporting and prevention of internet fraud or crime.

Did you know that your telephone number can be traced online? Or that your nine-digit zipcode goes only to your house? Read more here.

Stay safe on the internet until next time!


Monday, October 5, 2009

US Postal Service Mailing and Shipping Regulations

The USPS or Postal Service changes the cost of the First Class postage stamp about every year, and everyone groans until they get used to the new pricing. This seems to be a cover for the real changes they make that many Americans only feel at Christmas time.

The cost of shipping a package, and the rules regulating the shipping of parcels slips by most of us until we have an occasion to need them. That occasion usually strikes from about the middle of November to the end of the year. That is when "parcel shock" sets in.

You take the little package to the post office to send off to another state, with a $5 in hand, knowing that will more than cover the shipping. You wait in line with ten other people with larger packages than yours. You finally get to the counter, and plop that little package right in the clerk's face. She wants to know if it has anything liquid, fragile or perishable.

Shall you take a chance? Tell her it is fragile? If she marks it "fragile" it will probably get invited to the basketball game in the back. Make a fast choice. She is about to tell you the COST of shipping this little bugger to your favorite relative. Hang on! It went up from last year. LOTS. Are you ready?

You might want to consider a flat-rate box. If the item is small but heavy, and not fragile, that may work for you.

Are you interested in the USPS Rules? They are found in the DMM or Domestic Mail Manual provided by the Postal Service. We have a review of what you might need to know in an article about the USPS shipping and mailing regulations. That way, you don't have to read the DMM unless you have additional questions. You can quickly read the difference in a flat and a parcel, and find the size of a letter, according to the postal service. You may find some information you did not know that will help you make decisions before you go to stand in line at your local post office. We hope so.

Here is the article.

Hope you have an uneventful trip to the post office next time around!


Friday, October 2, 2009

Property Taxes are Still too High? You can DO Something.

Property values in the USA have tanked in most areas of the country, but many taxing entities have not reduced the property taxes since they all need money, too. Most states require that the taxing entity keep the appraisal on property within ten percent or so of the actual value based on comparable homes sold in the area.

If your taxes have continued to rise, or have not gone down, you may want to watch for the window of opportunity to PROTEST your taxes. We have done this a few times, and it has a long-term effect on the taxes, since it lowers the taxes for years to come.

You may find it well worth your while to protest your real estate taxes this year when the opportunity is available. There is usually information provided with your appraisal or tax bill that tells when you can protest, and where.

We have written about this subject and have a couple of articles that may help. One article covers the Protest. Another covers the appeal process if you lose the first round.

Here is the protest information.
This gives you the basics for what to expect if you Protest your property taxes.

This explains how to APPEAL the protest if you do not get your taxes reduced as much as they should be.

YOU can do this yourself. You do not need an attorney, an appraiser, or an ombudsman.

Let us know if we can help. We are in Texas, and of course the laws vary from State to State.