Biz Bits: Save money, even when you splurge

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Tip of the Week

We keep hearing the words "bad economy," and while views differ on the strength of the recovery, the reality is that most people are still feeling the aftermath of the recent recession. The good news is that you have control over your own personal economy. More than ever before it's easy to save money and manage your finances. With the abundance of online tools and free apps, consumers can find the best prices and keep track of their spending in mere seconds - they just have to make a concerted effort.

"The funny thing is - even in a bad economy - many people packing into malls across America don't seem very concerned about saving money," says Trae Bodge, senior editor for The RetailMeNot Insider. "Simply cutting costs on the purchases we make every day can lead to significant long-term savings."

Bodge says that the following smart-buying strategies can help consumers save on purchases they were already planning to make.

- Compare prices: Before purchasing a product, do some investigative shopping online. Price comparison tools like Red Laser, PriceGrabber and NextTag allow you to find the lowest possible price online.

- Use coupons: Once you've narrowed down the stores with the lowest list prices, make sure you also search for coupons to maximize your savings and stretch your dollar further. While one store may offer an item for a couple of dollars less, its competitor may have a coupon that saves you even more.

- Be loyal: Do you find yourself shopping online for the same items every month? If so, check to see if those sites offer an auto-delivery service. As a thank-you for ordering regularly, many sites offer you points toward discounts or, as in the case of Drugstore.com, reduced shipping on your replenishment orders. And don't forget that many credit card companies offer loyalty and/or cash back rewards. Just remember to pay down your balance to avoid getting hit with high interest fees.

- Save a bundle: Besides finding great deals on individual items, consider combining your purchases. For example, when it comes to travel, you can find great deals on packaged offers that bundle airfare and hotel, using sites like Orbitz and Expedia. But bundling is not restricted to just travel. Did you know that Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Piperlime are owned by the same company and their websites are linked? They offer free shipping on orders over $50 across all four sites - and you know how easy it is to spend $50 while shopping those four great brands.

- Track expenses: Use a free service like Mint.com to track and categorize your monthly expenses. You may be surprised to learn that you are spending too much of your income in one category (such as fees or shipping) and can make appropriate course corrections to cut unnecessary expenses.

- ARA

BBB Watch

Stay-at-home vacations, or "staycations," can mean a variety of things to different people. For some, it means getting lots of home and garden projects done such as painting, repairs, or tending vegetable gardens. For others, it means having budget-friendly adventures at or close to home such as visiting nearby parks and attractions, attending a neighborhood block party or camping in the backyard. The BBB recommends the following tips to consider when planning a "staycation":

- Know your budget. Breaking the bank to vacation is not a good option, but fortunately, most consumers are budgeting wisely and making smart decisions. According to an American Express survey, American households can expect to spend about an average of $1,200 per person on summer vacations. It's no surprise staycations have become commonplace.

- Look for options close to home. There are plenty of fun things to do nearby where you live and ClearPoint Credit Counseling's eBook, Budget Vacations in Your State can help you discover different options. In this free eBook, there are several exciting opportunities listed for each state and this could inspire you to conduct your own search for other free and inexpensive activities in your own backyard.

- Research deals before making a decision. No matter what your vacation plans are, the BBB recommends that you visit www.bbb.org ahead of time to make sure businesses or offers are legitimate.

- If you choose to travel, be prepared. Those of you who still plan to travel this summer will be among more travelers than last year. Eighty-six percent of travelers are planning trips this summer (up 5 percent from last year), according to TripAdvisor. Thanks to lower gas prices, more people will travel by car than by air.

For more tips, visit www.bbb.org.

The List

According to CNBC, here are America’s highest-paying jobs in 2012:

1. Doctors and surgeons

2. Orthodontists and dentists

3. Chief executive officers

4. Petroleum engineer

5. Lawyer

Number to Know

3 million: Approximate customers who still use AOL’s dial-up Internet service.

Tech Talk

Apple recently purchased fingerprint-reader company AuthenTec Inc. Apple plans to implement the security on its iPhones, iPads and other products, according to news reports.

GateHouse News Service