8 Purchases That Can Save You Hundreds or Thousands of Dollars

pic 2

If you’re frugal, you might frequently find yourself worrying over purchases, asking yourself, “Is this too expensive?” But that’s not the right mindset – the questions you should be asking yourself are “What value does this have to me once I buy it?” and “Can this save me money?” In fact, there are many purchases – cheap and expensive alike – that can save you (or make) you money in the long run. Here are just a few that can save you hundreds or thousands over time.

1. A bike or transit pass. If you live in an area where you can forgo having a vehicle, you can save thousands of dollars a year. Just think, no more car payments or pricey repairs. And that’s just the big stuff – you won’t have to pay for car washes or gas either. Don’t think you can manage without a car for occasional errands? Many cities now have Zipcar or other car sharing programs, which allow members to rent cars for short time periods and low rates.

2. A TV-streaming device. All this talk about canceling your cable is great – if you still have a way to watch TV on your TV. Thankfully, there are now several options for streaming devices that bring services like Netflix and Hulu to your living room TV. Apple TV, Roku and Amazon Fire are all options to check out. Each requires a one-time initial investment, usually between $50 and $100. According to the research company NPD Group, cable bills might reach $123 a month by next year. With prices for Netflix and Hulu Plus hovering around $8 each, getting one of these devices could add up to thousands of dollars in savings in just a few years.

3. An espresso machine. If you’re one of those people who won’t give up going to the coffee shop because you don’t want to switch to make drip coffee at home, you can still save money by buying your own espresso machine. Yes, it’s a higher initial investment – depending on what features you’re looking for, an espresso machine can cost anywhere between $100 and $1,200, and you’ll need to buy coffee and milk. But if you buy a $4 latte 250 days of the year, that’s $1,000 on its own, and you’re not even buying coffee every day of the week!

4. A crockpot. Grabbing take out on those nights you’re too rushed or exhausted to cook dinner can add up fast, and it costs you even more if you’re ordering delivery. But if you have a crock pot, all you need to do is throw in a few simple ingredients before you go to work, and you can come home to a fresh, hot meal for a fraction of the cost of food from a restaurant.

5. A programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats allow you to automatically change the temperature based on the time of day, which means you can use less energy to heat or cool your house when you’re sleeping or out at work. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that using one of these thermostats can save you up to $180 a year.

6. Reusable water bottle. If you’re buying a $6 case of bottle of water a week, that adds up to $312 a year.  Reusable bottles can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of a year, depending on the size of your family and how much water you drink.

7. Personal finance book. For all the money they can help you save, personal finance books are worth a lot more than their cover price. Which book you start with depends on what matters to you. Ramit Sethi’s “I Will Teach You to Be Rich,” Dave Ramsey’s “The Total Money Makeover” and Gary Belsky and Thomas Gilovich’s “Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes” (which helps you understand the psychology behind your money decisions) are all great options. If you want to go beyond saving money and start making money on the side, U.S. News personal finance editor Kimberly Palmer’s “The Economy of You” is a fantastic resource.

8. Hobby equipment. If you’re able to turn your hobby into a side job, it has the potential to pay for its costs – and then some. Examples of equipment you might buy include a DSLR camera, woodworking tools or a sewing machine. But only make big purchases like this if you have some experience with the hobby – what is not a good investment is buying an expensive piece of equipment and then discovering you’re not as interested in turning the hobby into a business as you thought.

By Meg Favreau



NJ Police Departments to be Reimbursed for Defective Bulletproof Vests


The state Division of Consumer Affairs will be reaching out this week to 100 police departments in the state that might have purchased defective bulletproof vests more than a decade ago.

More than 260 police departments bought about 5,000 Second Chance Body Armour vests between 1999 and 2003 through a firearms and sporting goods store in North Plainfield.

According to the Attorney General’s Office of New Jersey these vests were made with Zylon, a material that has been found to fail and deteriorate over time. In 2003, bulletproof vests used by an Oceanside, California police officer and a Forest Hills, Pennsylvania police officer failed. The California officer died of his injuries while the other sustained a severe gunshot wound.

A year later, in 2004, Second Chance Body Armour filed for bankruptcy.

“It is hard to imagine a more unconscionable business practice than the sale of defective bulletproof vests for New Jersey police officers,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said.

Many of the police departments that purchased the vests already have received reimbursement from a prior class action lawsuit.

The state, which has received $173,780 from the company’s bankruptcy proceedings, is now contacting about 100 police departments who bought the vests but did not receive reimbursement from the previous settlement. The state did not release the names of the police departments.

10 Ways to Avoid Fraud


What to Do

1. Know who you’re dealing with.
Try to find a seller’s physical address (not a P.O. Box) and phone number. With internet phone services and other web-based technologies, it’s tough to tell where someone is calling from. Do an online search for the company name and website, and look for reviews. If people report negative experiences, you’ll have to decide if the offer is worth the risk. After all, a deal is good only if you get a product that actually works as promised.

2. Know that wiring money is like sending cash.
Con artists often insist that people wire money, especially overseas, because it’s nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Don’t wire money to strangers, to sellers who insist on wire transfers for payment, or to anyone who claims to be a relative or friend in an emergency and wants to keep the request a secret.

3. Read your monthly statements.
Scammers steal account information and then run up charges or commit crimes in your name. Dishonest merchants bill you for monthly “membership fees” and other goods or services without your authorization. If you see charges you don’t recognize or didn’t okay, contact your bank, card issuer, or other creditor immediately.

4. After a disaster, give only to established charities.
In the aftermath of a disaster, give to an established charity, rather than one that has sprung up overnight. Pop-up charities probably don’t have the infrastructure to get help to the affected areas or people, and they could be collecting the money to finance illegal activity.

5. Talk to your doctor before you buy health products or treatments.
Ask about research that supports a product’s claims — and possible risks or side effects. In addition, buy prescription drugs only from licensed U.S. pharmacies. Otherwise, you could end up with products that are fake, expired, or mislabeled — in short, products that could be dangerous to your health.

6. Remember there’s no sure thing in investing.
If someone contacts you with low-risk, high-return investment opportunities, stay away. When you hear pitches that insist you act now, that guarantee big profits, that promise little or no financial risk, or that demand that you send cash immediately, report them at ftc.gov.


What Not to Do

7. Don’t send money to someone you don’t know.
Not to an online seller you’ve never heard of — or an online love interest who asks for money. It’s best to do business with sites you know and trust. If you buy items through an online auction, consider using a payment option that provides protection, like a credit card. If you think you’ve found a good deal, but you aren’t familiar with the company, check it out. Type the company or product name into your favorite search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” See what comes up — on the first page of results as well as on the later pages. Never pay fees first for the promise of a big pay-off later — whether it’s for a loan, a job, a grant or a so-called prize.


8. Don’t agree to deposit a check and wire money back.
By law, banks have to make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. You’re responsible for the checks you deposit: If a check turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for paying back the bank. No matter how convincing the story, someone who overpays with a check is almost certainly a scam artist.

9. Don’t reply to messages asking for personal or financial information.
It doesn’t matter whether the message comes as an email, a phone call, a text message, or an ad. Don’t click on links or call phone numbers included in the message, either. It’s called phishing. The crooks behind these messages are trying to trick you into revealing sensitive information. If you got a message like this and you are concerned about your account status, call the number on your credit or debit card — or your statement — and check on it.

10. Don’t play a foreign lottery.
It’s illegal to play a foreign lottery. And yet messages that tout your chances of winning a foreign lottery, or messages that claim you’ve already won, can be tempting. Inevitably, you have to pay “taxes,” “fees,” or “customs duties” to collect your prize. If you must send money to collect, you haven’t won anything. And if you send any money, you will lose it. You won’t get any money back, either, regardless of promises or guarantees.

Federal Trade Commission via http://www.consumer.ftc.gov