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--- SPECIAL EDITION ---
How to save money when
Inflation is on the rise
Have you noticed that when the government reports the rate of inflation, the rate seems low? That's because for the last 25 years, you've been hoodwinked by a statistical tool called the "Core Rate of Inflation."
Rotten to the core
The so-called "core" rate does not include the cost of food, energy, or housingf. When UCAN looked at the annual rate of inflation during the last 35 years, we found that in 31 out of 34 years inflation tracked very closely with the cost of crude oil. In fact, for the majority of years, there was a direct correlation between increased energy prices and increased inflation. But, by reporting the deceptive "core" rate, the government hides the financial impact of high energy prices.
High-energy prices spur high inflation
But we aren't. In this special inflation-fighter edition of the Watchdog, we've listed our 24 best tips for saving money during what will likely be amongst the worst of times and, for some UCAN members, at least, the best of times.
Water: San Diego's Challenge of the Century
Australia, Great Britain, Israel and the cities of Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Atlanta and others have addressed equally challenging water problems. The City of Sydney, Australia, for example, uses less water now than it did in 1974, even though Sydney's population has grown by one million people. We can do the same - if we proceed with the proper sense of urgency. You can read the full 88-page report at www.ucan.org
In June, we asked UCAN's staff to come up with the 24 fbest money-saving tips that they've seen in recent years. Hundreds of ideas were vetted, and voted on. We have published the "best of the best" of them here. You can also see many more at our Web site at www.ucan.org.
1) Lower your property taxes. Lower taxes? That's right. If you bought a home recently, it could pay to have your property reassessed. Check the value of real estate in your area and compare it to the assessed value of your home. You may be overdue for a tax break. Learn More.
|2) Does a VOiP phone make cents? VOiP is a phone that uses your high-speed Internet connections instead of a phone line. Some VOIP users have saved hundreds - even thousands of dollars on long distance charges. Get a full comparison at ucan.org, keyword: cheapvoip.||
|4) Find lost money, missing property. California law requires businesses to send the state any property that has remained in their possession without activity on the part of the owner for three years or more. You can see if you have lost or missing money at http://scoweb.sco.ca.gov/UCP/. You can also visit www.missingmoney.com - it lets you search 40 other states that may be holding unclaimed property in your name. These searches are free -- just type in your name. Learn more at ucan.org, keyword: freeproperty.|
|5) Compare prices before you buy anything. On-line buying can be done by you or your children. Amazon.com has become the department store of the Web. And most "brick and mortar" stores also have on-line outlets. Learn more at ucan.org, keyword: websavings.|
|6) Lower your blood pressure and your drug costs!
Use generics: Brand-name drugs can cost $35-$50 for the co-payment whereas generics would cost between $5-$20. If a generic isn't available, ask for a cheaper drug that delivers the same result.
Ask your doctor for free samples: Many physicians will offer free samples ... but you have to ask.
Comparison shop. Companies such as Walgreens, Walmart and Costco offer big savings. What's more, Rite Aid and CVS will match lower costs of competitors. Rite Aid will match Costco's prices. Visit ucan.org, keyword: cheapdrugs.
|7) Get paid to be a pig ... a medical guinea pig!|
For some ailments, you can get paid to participate in medical research projects. This can be especially helpful if you are unable to afford treatment for an illness. Ask your doctors about local projects or pick up a copy of the San Diego Reader to find out what is available. Visit ucan.org, keyword: oinkoink.
|8) Tell creditors you have a high level of interest
A recent study revealed that asking your credit card company for a lower interest rate will result in a "yes" answer 56% of the time, even if you have bad credit. Learn more at ucan.org, keyword: lowinterest.
|9) Avoid the late-payment gotcha! Overpriced late fees recently imposed by financial companies have made late payments very expensive. Late fees are often $25 or more. Beyond the initial smack, late fees can quickly destroy your credit. Universal default policies can also put added pressure on cash-strapped consumers. Learn more at ucan.org, keyword: whiterabbit.|
|10) Is your whole-life a mistake? Give your insurance a tune-up and you could save thousands. For example, "whole-life" and "universal life" are often poor investments. You can trim hundreds from car insurance by raising the deductible, or save on property insurance by using the rate comparison resources at ucan.org, keyword: insurancetuneup.|
|11) Pool your resources. Pools! We love them but they sure cost a lot and waste a lot of water! So we suggest you put a lid on it -- a cover, that is. If you don't have a cover on your pool and hot tub, buy one now. An uncovered pool can lose as much as 1,000 gallons a month. With a cover, you'll get immediate savings in water and energy. Don't skip or put off maintenance. It will cost you more in the long run. More at ucan.org, keyword: moneypit.|
|12) Save money with every flush. It's likely that the biggest water waster inside your home is your toilet. If you haven't upgraded, think seriously about doing so now. Older model toilets use up to 5 gallons for every flush while new low-flow toilets do the job with about 1.5 gallons. Stop flushing your money down the drain. Visit ucan.org, keyword "royalflush" for more help and advice.|
| 13) Borrow.
Most newspapers and many magazines make their content available for free on the Web. Before you renew a subscription, call to try to get a discount, and if that doesn't work, consider reading your publications on the web or at a public library. Public libraries have a great selection of movies and music and library cards are free. More freebie resources at ucan.org, keyword: borrowit.
14) Use "OPV" to drive the car you want.
15) Avoid "FUELISH" buys with gas-saver gimmicks.
16) Get to the root of your water problems
17) Insist upon a real voice. Hey, your time is worth something, isn't it? Unfortunately, the big corporations don't see it that way when you phone them. You can avoid those annoying "press this / push that" phone systems and get help right away if you know what to do. Check our Web site for a list of the latest shortcuts for America's largest utilities (keyword "gethuman") or try these tricks:
1 - Press 0 (or 0# or #0 or 0* or *0) repeatedly, sometimes quickly. Unfortunately the same keystroke does not always work for each company. Many automation systems will connect to a human after a few "invalid entries", although some will hang-up.
2 -Talk. Say "get human" (or "agent" or "representative") or raise your voice, or mumble.
3 - Stay on hold, pretending you have only an old rotary phone.
4 - Connect to account collections for sales or account cancellation; they always seem to answer quickly.
5) Toll call - For credit cards, if the expected wait time is too long, hang up and try to call back on their non-toll-free number, as they often have shorter queues.
6) Selecting the option for Spanish will often get you a bilingual human more quickly than waiting for an English-only operator. You can visit our Web site to learn more, (keyword: "gethuman") or call UCAN's Fraud Squad at 619-881-UCAN between 9AM and 5PM M-F for personal help.
#18 Avoid the flue. We mean, your chimney flue. When the fireplace is not in use, keep the flue damper tightly closed. A chimney is designed to let smoke escape, so until you close it, air escapes--24 hours a day! Keeping the damper open is like keeping a 48-inch window wide open during the winter. If you don't use your fireplace, seal the flue.
#19 Be a fast food chef. Speed cooking saves you time AND money. Nothing is more energy efficient for cooking than a microwave. It uses two-thirds less energy than a stove. Stir-fry - good. Deep frying - bad. Slow cooking and baking are sumptuous, but they cost more.
#20 Keep your fridge full - with water. An empty refrigerator is a terrible waste of energy. Filling the unused space in your fridge and freezer with plastic water jugs will minimize the loss of cold air when the doors are opened or closed and will keep your food chilled during a power outage. Cost: Free.
#21 Watch the water. Take steps to cut water use such as installing faucet aerators, low-flow showerheads, and low-flush toilets. As much as 19% of California electricity is used to pump, transport and treat water. And much of your natural gas bill goes to water heating. If you don't have them already, low-flow showerheads and faucets cut your hot water heating expenses by 10-16%. Cost: Less than $20 for most showerheads, more for faucets.
#22 Phantom of the appliances. In the average home, 75% of the energy used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Avoid these electric vampires by unplugging the appliance or by getting a power strip and using the switch to cut all power to the appliance Cost: less than $10
Fueltracker is back!
|#23 Turn down the heat on your water heater. There are two ways to reduce the amount of energy used to heat water - use less water and use cooler water (about 80% to 85% of the energy used for washing clothes is for heating the water). Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut a load's energy use in half. Turning your water heater down by a few degrees also will also trim your utility bills. Cost: Free
#24 Bad computer habits. If you think your screen saver saves energy, think again. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning the monitor off is always the best energy-saving strategy. Also, consider buying a laptop for your next computer upgrade. They use much less energy than desktop computers. Cost: Free.
One extra tip, with an extra "charge ..."
#25 Recharge and recycle. Using rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and PDAs is more cost effective than throwaway batteries. If you must use throwaways, check with your trash removal company about safe disposal options. Unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not being used. Cost: less than $20 per year.
For even more money-saving ideas, head to our Web site at www.ucan.org.
UCAN, the Utility Consumers' Action Network, is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit formed to protect consumers from SDG&E and other large, abusive corporations. You can support us by becoming a member at www.ucan.org, and by inviting us to your parties. Members get valuable benefits including a subscription to the Watchdog (published quarterly), and priority access to the UCAN Fraud Squad with personal help and dispute resolution advice when you have a problem with your cell phone company, SDG&E, or other companies doing business in San Diego or the state of California (some limitations apply). Get the full story and JOIN at www.ucan.org
Get the BENEFITS
| More Inflation-Busting Ideas ...
Avoid cell phone hell with a pre-paid plan
Clean up your phone bill and get extra cash
Save money when you terminate your cell phone
Block data charges, and set caps on your kids' phones
Save on long distance charges
Don't let your phone roam free ....
Hold out on cell phone contracts
Spanked at the tank? Consider e-85!
Ethanol & Octane = http://www.itsgood4.us/ethanol_mileage.htm
Lists of cars that are ethanol compliant = http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/hybrid_sbs.shtml
Are hybrid vehicles a good buy?
EDMUNDS HYBRID SHOPPING GUIDE
Web sites for 4WD vehicles:
Alamo 800/327-9633 Avis 800/831-2847 Budget 800/221-1203
Get a gas-sipping scooter
Cheap Scooters that can be sold in CA.
Expensive Scooters ($2k to $6K)
Saving money on home energy bills
Clothes lines - This cheap investment can cut your bill by as much as 20%. Check with your homeowner's association before installing. Cost: less than $3.
Save money on music and software
Save money by listening to music for free using the Internet. There are plenty of places on the Internet where you can listen to music for free. Just to be clear, we said "listen," not "download." The types of sites fall into three categories and it doesn't matter what operating system you are using.
Music Blogs and Music Blog Aggregators
Online Music Stores
Do your memberships keep you financially fit? Memberships can be a great thing, if you actually use them. Bankrate.com puts gym memberships as number 10 in it Top Ten List of Money Drains. You can easily find yourself spending $40 a month on a gym pass which adds up to $480 a year. That $480 would look a lot better in a savings account if you're not flexing those muscles at the gym. Some memberships offer money-saving services that can help reduce the cost of a service or item. Pull your wallet out and do a quick audit of the membership cards that you find. Discover some of the services like family health insurance, travel, entertainment, florists, and pharmacies that the memberships offer. Maximize your memberships; after all, that is why you have them. If you discover the yearly membership isn't worth it, don't renew it.
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