Trans World Assurance Blog

Trans World Assurance's Tips for Budget-Friendly Holiday Gift-Giving

Posted on Fri, Oct 26, 2012


With the holidays quickly approaching, Americans are beginning to anticipate the family gatherings, indulgent feasts, and generous gift giving that characterize the Christmas season. Though all the holiday cheer is typically a positive experience for most, families must budget for Christmas gifts, which can be a costly endeavor.  In fact, according to Consumer Reports, approximately 12 million Americans had not paid off their debt from the previous holiday season, as of October 2008.

If you cannot afford to empty your wallet at the checkout counter this holiday season, and the thought of being in debt for a year or more terrifies you, read the following tips from Trans World Assurance to learn about ways to keep your budget for holiday gifts within reason.

1) Create a Budget and Stick to It

To keep holiday spending in check, you must create a reasonable budget and stick to it.  Eric Tyson, author of a 2012 report published in the journal Personal Excellence, recommends creating a budget and documenting the cost of each gift you purchase to ensure that you do not exceed your spending limit.

First, determine how much you can afford to spend.  Then, create a list of every person for whom you intend to purchase a gift, and budget a reasonable, set amount for each person.  Total the amount you plan to spend on gifts for each person and ensure that the amount falls within the amount you can afford to spend.  As you are shopping, write down the cost of every gift you purchase and keep a running total of the amount you have spent.  Once you have spent the total amount that you budgeted for gifts, your Christmas shopping is done.

2) Take Advantage of Free Shipping Offers

You may think that making a trip to the mall is a cheaper alternative to ordering online and paying shipping fees, but free shipping offers can make online shopping more cost effective than traveling to stores. When you travel to a store, not only do you spend money on gas, but you are also likely to stop for takeout or a meal at a restaurant after a long day of shopping.  This can quickly turn a shopping trip into a budget wrecker.

Save money by staying at home and enjoying a cup of hot chocolate as you relax in front of the computer, make online purchases, and enjoy having them delivered to your home free of charge. Check out freeshipping.org to learn about free shipping deals offered by your favorite retailers.

3) Cash in on Rewards

If you have been saving up credit card rewards all year, now is an excellent time to cash them in to buy gifts.  Credit card companies often give you numerous options for redeeming your rewards.  For example, Discover allows its credit card customers to redeem their cash back rewards in the form of gifts cards or select merchandise. Discover customers can also opt to have the value of their cash rewards direct deposited into their checking accounts, or rewards can be put toward their credit card balance. Chase offers similar perks for credit card customers.

Use your rewards to purchase gift cards for loved ones, or have them direct deposited into your checking account so you have extra cash for shopping.  You can also accumulate cash rewards by using your credit card throughout the holiday season, and then use those rewards to pay off your credit card balance.  When using a credit card, however, remember not to spend more than what you can afford to pay off in full, or the value of your rewards may be negated by interest charges.

4) Shop eBay or Amazon

By shopping online at eBay or Amazon, you can save a considerable amount of money on brand new items, such as clothing, electronics, and toys. For instance, Amazon recently boasted 20 percent off the sticker price of a 4th Generation 32 GB Apple iPod Touch. 

Though some items on eBay are used, eBay does offer significant savings on brand new items.  EBay allows users to sell items that are “new with tags,” and these items are typically much cheaper than the brand new item in stores.  For example, Jen Long, an eBay customer from Ohio, recently purchased a brand new Lands’ End black dress, originally priced at $69.99, for just $19.99 on eBay.  Taking advantage of savings like this can profoundly reduce the amount of money you spend on Christmas gifts.

5) Choose Alternatives to Gift-Giving

It may be inappropriate to remove children, close family members, and your spouse or significant other from your Christmas list, but you can find an alternative to gift giving among your friends.  For example, instead of shelling out hundreds of dollars on gifts for your friends, host a holiday dinner and ask everyone to bring a dish or side item, or get together with friends for a holiday cookie-decorating party.  Chances are, you will save money and enjoy the experience more than the act of giving costly gifts.

Perhaps you can also reach an agreement with your spouse. Instead of buying expensive gifts for each other that neither of you truly need, you could contribute a $100 donation to a charity of your choice.  Not only would this likely be less costly than the gifts you usually purchase; it is also a way to give back to your community during the holiday season, which is much more meaningful than any gift under the Christmas tree. Choosing to give to charity instead of spending mindlessly is a telling way to reduce your holiday spending. 

Regardless of the number of people on your gift-giving list or the amount you can afford to spend, you can create a reasonable holiday shopping budget and stick to it with proper planning and a few small sacrifices.


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References
Consumer Reports.  (2009). Holiday shopping gotchas.  Consumer Reports Money Adviser, 6(12), 1-5.
Tyson, E. (2010). Limit your spending.  Personal Excellence, 17(1), 11.

Tags: money saving tips, purchases, personal finance

How Your Taxes Change After Marriage

Posted on Mon, Aug 06, 2012

Once you get married, you can choose to file jointly or separately. For many married couples, filing jointly has a significant positive impact on their finances. Some couples choose to get married sooner rather than later to take advantage of tax breaks. A few are better off filing separately. Depending on your situation, getting married can help you pay less in taxes in the long run and should be discussed with a tax professional.

Filing jointly when one spouse makes significantly more money than the other can be a huge advantage. When filing jointly, the standard deduction doubles. If the standard deduction is $5,000 for an individual taxpayer, the standard deduction is $10,000 for married filing jointly. If one spouse earned $50,000 for the year and the other earned $2,000 for the year, it's almost as if each spouse is earning $26,000. A $10,000 deduction is taken out despite the fact that one spouse earns more money.  If they filed separately, most of the standard deduction for the spouse who earned $2,000 wouldn't be used.

There is a possibility of a marriage penalty depending on your income situation. Due to the doubling of the standard deduction and adjustments in the tax brackets, most couples don't have to worry about this. These adjustments were enacted to minimize such penalties. However, those who have much higher income are pushed into higher tax brackets that haven't been adjusted completely for two people. These couples may end up paying more in taxes filing jointly than if they filed separately.

Married couples save tax money on more than just income tax. If you're selling your home, as a married couple you will get a double tax break. If the married couple has lived in their home for at least 2 of the last 5 years of ownership, $500,000 of profit can be excluded from taxes whereas only $250,000 can be excluded for single individuals. For those who don't have homes with a large profit margin, this is negligible, but couples who are selling for a large profit can save a significant amount on taxes if they file jointly.

Some people get married looking forward to the tax benefits. Most married couples will benefit from filing jointly due to the many tax breaks available when filing jointly. The best way to pay the least amount in taxes possible is to analyze your situation thoroughly. How much would you pay if you filed jointly and how would you pay if you filed separately? Most likely, filing jointly is the best way to go, but if you're concerned because both you and your spouse have substantially high incomes, experimenting with both ways is a smart decision. As always, your personal tax situation should be discussed with a tax professional.

If you are a military member, according to the IRS, military members and their spouses may be eligible to receive free tax return preparation assistance. The IRS and U.S. Armed Forces participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program which provides free tax advice, tax preparation, return filing and other tax assistance to military members and their families.

"Military Personnel and their Families Get Free Tax Help!" page on the IRS website.

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Disclaimer

The information in this article is intended for educational purposes only. This information should not be considered tax or legal advice. Individual circumstances vary. Please seek the advice of your accountant, tax professional, and/or legal advisor for answers to specific questions and to review your individual circumstances.

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Tags: military, money saving tips, military spouse, personal finance

Money Saving Tips for the 4th of July from Trans World Assurance

Posted on Fri, Jun 29, 2012
The Fourth of July is, for Americans, the single day above all others when we can celebrate the birth of our country and our shared American heritage. But more than that, for many families, July 4th is the summer holiday that means family fun and togetherness. It’s tradition for families across the country to consider the Fourth of July a mini-vacation, either with travel or just fun at home. But with the present economy stifling so many family budgets, too many people think it will be impossible this year to celebrate July 4th with a bang. Even taking tight budgets into consideration, families should not fear; the Fourth of July can be celebrated with just as much fun as usual, with just a few frugal tips.

1) The first tip is simple, but can be hard to follow for so many people. It’s simply this: don’t go overboard on the food. It’s almost tradition for Americans to cook to feed an army during holiday celebrations, and while such bounty is a blessing, buying and preparing so much food can be a major hit on the wallet. Aside from that, much of the food prepared for holidays goes uneaten, and is almost inevitably thrown in the trash. Downsizing the amount of food prepared is an easy task; people never eat as much as hosts usually plan for, and many will not miss food that isn’t there. Plan on having one substantial meal on the Fourth, maybe hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill with a few hearty sides. Prepare snacks like fruit and vegetable trays for those who get hungry throughout the day, and have plenty of water and juices on hand. Those who are celebrating with others should consider a potluck, even if it’s only asking guests to provide sides for the meal.

2) The second tip is even simpler, and is perhaps not so hard for many to follow. Keep the holiday decorations to a minimum, and be prepared to use what you already have. Holiday decorations, in general, can be expensive, and too many people believe they have to deck every nook and cranny of their homes and yards with red, white and blue. The truth is that a few simple and well-placed decorations will suffice for any July 4th get together, and spending hard-earned money buying extras will not make the celebration any more festive. Take a trip to the dollar store to stock up on a few patriotic touches – a few small American flags, plastic tablecloths, and perhaps one door decoration – and leave the rest of the celebration plain. Use your usual plates and cups, or plastic ware left over from previous celebrations. With good food and fun, no one will care about the lack of holiday themed décor.

3) This tip is perhaps the most difficult for many people, especially those with children, to follow, but it is probably the most crucial. Do not buy more than a few fireworks to shoot off on the Fourth. Fireworks are expensive, and buying more than a few for a small celebration can be beyond pricey. The truth is, most Fourth of July celebrations call for little more than sparklers, regardless of the need to go completely overboard at the fireworks stand. Those who wish to see grand fireworks displays need not despair; there are plenty of ways to get your fix on the Fourth. Most towns and cities have organized fireworks displays of some sort, which are always free for those who wish to see them. Taking a picnic blanket to the town center and communing with neighbors while watching the displays is one of the best ways to spend the Fourth. For those without organized displays to attend, there is always the option of spearheading a neighborhood group to buy and set off the fireworks together.

4) Finally, the most frugal of all tips is this: don’t travel on the Fourth unless your plans have already been made and you have already paid for the trip. Holidays are among the worst times to travel, especially with a family, as prices go up and lines get longer. Beaches and amusement parks are always crowded, and the cost of everything from gasoline to souvenirs skyrockets. Almost every family is better off staying home and planning their own private celebration. Not only will this tip save money, it will save the hassle and frustration of traveling at the busiest time of the summer.

While taking all these tips into consideration, it is important to remember that the Fourth of July is about celebrating our country, our freedom, and our families. Whatever the Fourth holds for each and every family across the country, celebrations filled with patriotism are the best way to mark this holiday.

Tags: money saving tips, purchases, personal finance

The Need to Save in Today's Poor Economy

Posted on Mon, Mar 12, 2012

Although it may seem as if economic collapse is on the horizon, it doesn't portend that your future prosperity is a thing of the past. No matter what the economy may be today, there are steps you can take to lessen the impact of a negative economy.  

Troubles are Temporary
No matter how bad things get, there are always methods you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Inflation and depressions have always come and gone. Those who have survived through hard times were willing to make the necessary changes to adjust to economic hardships. Flexibility is a key to survival. In the Great Depression many people learned to grow their own gardens to reduce the cost of buying food.

Plan for the Necessities
In difficult times, the basics need to be covered. Anything else is a luxury that can wait until finances improve. Survival means being willing to make sacrifices and change the lifestyle to meet the times. That may mean giving up Ipods and keeping the car for another three years. It may mean getting to know the neighborhood, establish a barter network and work together to improve the local economy.

The Necessity of a Budget
A budget is a necessity in bad times. Without one you are likely to spend far more and buy more of what you don't need. A budget teaches the reality that money can stretch only so far. The usefulness of a budget teaches the value of discipline and the need to be frugal.

Forced Savings
Taking 10% of every dollar earned may seem like a hardship. In fact, most people who do save that 10% get used to not having it available. That part of the dollar may not add up to much, but it accumulates in the investments where it cannot be so easily accessed. Long term investments create peaces of mind that the family can survive in uncertainty.

An Emergency Fund
This is money that's easy to access whenever you are faced with car and home repairs or need to pay for sudden illness and disability. Like forced savings, setting aside some money from every paycheck can help to handle those emergencies without straining the family budget to the limit. The only requirement is the discipline you need to dip into that fund money for non emergencies.

Limit Credit Card Use
Most people discover the real cost of what they buy on credit. Credit cards are useful to handle emergencies like a car breakdown, but they should not be used to buy luxury items. While interest rates in savings accounts amount to a fraction of those charged, many people only make their situation worse with the free use of credit cards. Generally, you should have only 2 cards and a line of credit you can pay off when the bills arrive. That's a far cry from the 17 cards per family household today.

Alternative Income
Job security for many is a thing of the past, but there are ways to bring in extra money as you need it. Long before money was introduced, barter was the method of exchange. It can still do you well and help you get to know those neighbors you've only seen going to work every morning. Many people have skills that others would be willing to pay for. Hobbies can bring in ready cash. Holding garage and bake sales can add to dwindling coffers. Volunteering for worthwhile causes can give you a sense of purpose, even if the work doesn't directly bring in immediate income.

While the economy may be poor, that doesn't mean you should languish in despair. Those who get active survive better and are well placed when the economy finally improves.

Tags: money saving tips, personal finance, economy, financial stability

How to Save Money During Your Spouse's Remote Military Tour

Posted on Wed, Feb 29, 2012
Remote military tours can take a toll on the family unit, as active duty personnel prepare to spend 12 months apart from their families. If your spouse is about to leave for their remote military tour, you can save extra money during their absence by taking advantage of the monetary benefits you receive. 



Family Separation Allowance (FSA)



Family Separation Allowance (FSA) is payable to active duty personnel with dependents who serve an unaccompanied tour at a rate of $250 per month, provided they meet certain criteria. Family Separation Allowance starts to accrue the day before departure and ends the day before they are due to return home to their home station. Family Separation Allowance is paid in addition to any per diem benefits being paid, as long as conditions are met.



If you are frugal, you can bank $3000 of Family Separation Allowance over the 12 month remote tour, which can help to pay down debt. Even if you are married to another servicemember, you might still be entitled to receive Family Separation Allowance (for one, rather than both members) if you can prove that you were living together for 30 days prior to the start of the remote military tour. Once servicemembers have completed DD Form 1561 (Statement to Substantiate Payment of Family Separation Allowance) and it has been approved, they will begin to receive Family Separation Allowance. 



BAH (Basic Allowance for Housing)



Dependents that continue to live in government housing on the military installation during their spouse's remote military tour are not entitled to claim BAH. However, if you and your dependent children move out of government housing, you will be entitled to claim BAH to help cover the cost of the rent or mortgage payments. 



The amount of BAH that you receive will be based according on rank and location. If you budget your BAH well and choose to live in modest accommodation below your means, you can save the difference you receive each month from your BAH.

Not all active duty personnel head off for a remote military tour during their career, but many do. If your spouse is about to depart on a remote tour, take advantage of the financial benefits to be had by saving your Family Separation Allowance as well as the difference left from your BAH after you have paid your monthly housing costs.

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Written by,
Sophie S

Sophie S is a freelance writer from the UK residing in California. She holds a BA (Hons) in English with Sociology. She works as a freelance writer, specializing in web content on immigration, expatriate life, cat care and much more. Sophie has had over 3,500 articles published on the Yahoo! Contributor Network, other sites and for private clients.

Tags: money saving tips, military spouse, deployment, military spouses, military pay, personal finance

Go Further On A Tank Of Gas! (Updated) - Part 3 by Jeff Burch

Posted on Wed, Jan 25, 2012

PART 2 - Tips 5 thru 7

8. Maintenance and tune-ups: Regular maintenance as prescribed by the vehicle owner's manual will help your vehicle achieve its best fuel economy and improve mileage by up to 4%. Some overlooked Maintenance tips:

  • Use the correct oil: You can stretch your gas mileage by 1%-2% by using the thinnest viscosity grade of motor oil recommended by the car manufacturer. Example: Dumping 10W-30 motor oil in an engine that is designed to use 5W-30 can lessen your gas mileage by 1%-2%. In addition, use "Energy Conserving” motor oil containing friction-reducing additives.
  • Keep tires inflated and aligned: It's estimated that properly inflated tires can save the average car owner 3.3% with each tank of gas. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3% for every 1 PSI drop in pressure of all four tires and wear out faster. When replacing your tires, replace them with the same make and model as the tires that were on your vehicle when it was new. In addition, poor alignment can cause tires to wear out quickly and force your engine to work harder. Align your tires, and save up to 10% or 20 cents per gallon.
  • Check spark plugs: Two worn-out spark plugs can cost 20% or more of your fuel economy
  • Check the oxygen filter: If your car has a faulty oxygen sensor it can cause you to lose up to 40% of fuel efficiency.
  • Check Air filter: Tests show replacing a clogged air filter on cars with fuel-injected, computer-controlled gasoline engines (cars made from early 1980s and upward) does not improve fuel economy, but it can improve acceleration time by around 6% to 11%. However, tests suggest that replacing a clogged air filter on older model cars with carbureted engines may improve fuel economy 2% to 6% under normal replacement conditions.
  • Change fuel filter: Clean fuel is essential for a long engine life. So replace your fuel filter once a year or no more than 30,000 miles. If the filter plugs up it can starve an engine of fuel and if it fails it can release debris into injectors, causing expensive repairs. Also, a restricted filter will stress the electric fuel pump, leading to early failure.
  • Check brakes: Gas mileage can be affected by brake drag. Brake drag occurs when the lining is in constant contact with the rotor or drum and gas mileage suffers (metal to metal). Repair ASAP, not to get the best gas mileage, but for your own safety.

9. Fill it up and other gas filling tips:

  • Don't top off: Over-filling the gas tank causes charcoal evaporation emissions canister to saturate. This part can cost $100 to replace. Stop fueling at first click of pump nozzle.
  • Fill up your gas tank in the morning on weekdays:

A. Gas stations tend to change their prices between 10 a.m. and noon, so head to the pump early in the morning if gas prices are on the rise. However, if prices are falling, go later in the day.

B. In addition, weekends and holidays often see slightly higher fuel prices, so if you can fill up mid-week, you may save more.

C. Since gas expands when heated and contracts when cooled fill up your tank before heat expands it (especially during the summer). Currently, there are several theories as to why filling up in the morning does or doesn't work. As for my own experience, when I fill up in the morning I get 25 extra (freeway) miles or more out of my tank. Will it work for you?  To find out, keep track of your mileage with a gas log book.

 Example: 

June 13 / Time filled: 7 am / 18 gal. / Miles: 368
June 23 / Time filled: 5 pm / 18 gal. / Miles: 326

  • Tighten the gas cap: To tighten, twist gas cap until it clicks three times. However, if you constantly smell gas in the vicinity  of the gas tank, you may need a new gas cap. If the cap is loose or defective, gas vapor will constantly leak out and you'll waste gas. Also, if the cap is faulty it can cause your oxygen sensor to read incorrectly and tell the engine management computer to adjust the fuel-air mix and you'll end up burning more gas than needed.
  • Fuel injected cars: Keep the gas tank at least full enough to supply fuel for the electric pump, which depends on a steady supply of fuel to lubricate its inner parts. Running your car low on fuel causes the pump to wear out, especially when cornering.
  • Stop fuel lines from freezing: Keep the gas tank 1/4 full and add isopropyl alcohol (commercial additive) to the gas tank when filling up before and during especially cold weather.
  • Car storage: Keep the gas tank full to limit the amount of water condensation in the gas tank when storing a vehicle. If car will be stored for more than a month, add a gas preservative.

10. Save gas while driving:

  • Avoid idling: A cold engine on today's modern cars should be warmed up by idling no more than 30-35 seconds. An idling engine eats up to 1/2 gallon of gas per hour and gets 0 mpg.
  • Drive 55 mph: All vehicles gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 55 mph. Driving 65 instead of 75 mph reduces fuel cost 13%. Driving 55 would save 25%.
  • Drive efficiently and take your time getting there: Save up to 20% by driving the speed limit. Avoid aggressive driving, rapid acceleration, speeding and braking that can lower gas mileage by 33% on highway and by 5% driving in town. Other tips:

A. Listen to radio reports to use alternative routes to bypass traffic congestion
B. Drive in the highest gear possible without lugging the engine
C. Try to keep your speed constant. Use cruise control when on long stretches of road

  • When is the best time to use your AC? City driving uses up to 3 miles per gallon when using AC, but if you drive at a constant speed on a highway, AC use doesn’t matter.
  • Lighten your load: Don’t carry needless gear and luggage in your car. Gasoline mpg decreases 1%-2% for every extra 100 lbs of weight or conversely, save 3 cents per 100 lbs removed.
  • Don't be a drag! Keep car aerodynamic: Remove accessories, spoilers, etc., or repair body damage, crunched front fender, etc., that can alter a car's aerodynamics and reduce gas mileage by up to 8% (ask any race driver). In addition, refrain from driving with an open sunroof or windows at high speeds. Also, using a loaded roof rack creates wind resistance and can increase fuel consumption by up to 5% (better to pack items inside the car).

11. Other gas saving tips and ideas:

  • Use other forms of transportation: If you share a ride to work with a friend or co-worker(s), you will cost-effectively double your fuel economy. Check with your city or state to see if it has a "Rideshare" program. Other transportation options: Instead of driving use bus transits, bicycle, walk or catch a ride from friends, etc., to get to your destination of choice.
  • Fuel Economy for Cars: Fuel economy information for 2010 and 2011 cars, trucks, SUVs and vans is available to assist consumers in purchasing fuel efficient new vehicles. When purchasing, consider the most fuel efficient vehicle and save up to 50%. For more information, visit: www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/FEG2000.htm
  • Gas Mileage Impact Calculator: This calculator offers information correlating to gas consumption, fuel cost and emission of major pollutants. For more information, visit: www.hybridcars.com/calculator
  • Gasoline-Saving Devices: The U.S. EPA and FTC have both stated that there are no devices, currently on the market, that helps boost gas mileage any appreciable amount. Buyer beware!


Sources: Department of Energy, California Consumer Energy Center, Consumer Federation of America, Nerd Wallet, ALLDATA, EPA and Oakridge National Laboratory

Be sure to check out other articles from Jeff Burch on the Trans World Assurance Blog.

Tags: Trans World Assurance, Money Book, Jeff Burch, money saving tips, better gas mileage

Go Further On A Tank Of Gas! (Updated) - Part 2 by Jeff Burch

Posted on Tue, Jan 24, 2012


PART 1 - Tips 1 thru 4

5. Shop with grocers that use Fuelperks: Through Fuelperks you can earn 5¢ off per gallon of gas and up to 20 gallons for every $50 of food or goods you'd normally purchase through retailers. There's no cap on savings and you can earn a free tank of gas (3 month expiration date if not used). Furthermore, most retailers run extra promotions on select items that earn more fuelperks.

How it works:

A. Fill out an application and receive a loyalty card from one of these grocers in your area: Winn Dixie (FL, AL, LA, GA, MS), BI-LO (NC, SC, GA, TN), Martin's or Giant (MD, PA, VA, WV), Giant Eagle (OH, WV, MD, PA), Roundy's (WI, MN) or Rainbow Foods (MN)

B. Once you have your loyalty card, then go to www.fuelperks.com and register your loyalty card online.

C. Start shopping to save gasoline

  • Gas saving tip 1: From the comfort of your home, earn points by purchasing goods through their website.
  • Gas saving tip 2: Purchase gas gift cards from retailer(s), and at the same time earn points.
  • For more information, visit: www.fuelperks.com

Jeff Burch Save Gas

6. Save gas through your grocer:

A. KROGER: Gas discounts can be found through Kroger, the largest grocery chain in the country. States excluded from the program: AL, CA, LA, MO, OR, WA. The basics:

  • Earn 1 point for every dollar you spend on groceries (before coupons).
  • Earn 50 points for each prescription filled (excludes all government funded programs).
  • Receive 100 points for every $50 spent in gift cards (doesn’t include Kroger store gift cards).
  • For every 100 points redeemed at the pump, 10 cents per gallon is rewarded up to $1.00 per gal up to 35 gal per purchase.
  • Fuel points must be used during the month (“all or nothing”). Customers cannot use partial points for separate fill-ups:

Example:
100 points =      10 cent discount
200 points =      20 cent discount
500 points =      50 cent discount
1,000 points =   $1.00 discount  

  • Customers who use a Kroger 1-2-3 MasterCard can receive an additional 5¢ gas discount.
  • If your local Kroger store has teamed up with Shell or other outside gas stations, then buy $50 gas gift cards at Kroger, so you earn rewards points and save even more on gas!
  • Kroger pharmacies will match any local pharmacy's price for prescriptions, which means you get the best possible price on pharmaceuticals and earn points to save gas.
  • For more information, visit: www.kroger.com/in_store/fuel/Pages/default.aspx

B. FOOD CITY: Receive gas discounts from Food City (KY, TN, VA) through their Fuel Bucks program. The basics:

  • No limit on number of points you can redeem.
  • Earn 1 point for each $1.00 purchased in grocery items.
  • Receive 10 bonus points for every $10 of Food City brands purchased.
  • Earn 50 bonus points with qualifying prescriptions.
  • 150 points earns you 15¢ off per gallon on a single fill-up (Up to a maximum of 20 gallons per fill-up).
  • Points earned in one month, will expire at the end of the following month.

Example:
Points earned in Dec 2011 will expire Jan 31, 2012.

  • Earn 50 additional points for qualifying Pharmacy prescriptions. Applies to all new, transferred, or refilled prescriptions. Excludes federally funded prescriptions and $4 generic prescription plan.
  • For more information, visit: www.foodcity.com/save/fuel-bucks

C. WALMART: Get a Walmart gift card and use it at participating gas stations and you'll save 10 cents per gallon, with no other restrictions or requirements. For more information, visit: www.walmart.com/cp/Gift-Cards/96894 (see "Important Deals and Limitations" near bottom of the page).

D. PUBLIX: Keep an eye out for gas saving promotions through Publix (AL, FL, SC, TN). This promotion was recently released:

"$10 Off the Purchase of One $50 Gas Card.  With a grocery purchase of $25 or more. Coupon required for each deal. Only one deal and coupon accepted for every $25 grocery purchase."

WOW! This means you get $10 in free gas, and even if the gas cards sell out, you can get a rain check and receive the offer when they replenish their stock. Furthermore, the rain checks don't expire. Publix run these type of promotions every couple of months, so stock up when you see them.

  • If you live in area that has both Publix and a Fuelperks provider, buy gift cards to use at those stations. Save on the gift card and then save further on gas with your fuelperks!

  • Final grocer gas saving tip: Since you can purchase gas up to 20-35 gallons through these gas saving programs, and the average gas tank only holds 16 gallons, then bring your other car or gas cans to the pump, so you won't waste the discount.

NOTE: If the grocers mentioned are not within a reasonable distance or in your state, then check around with your local grocer(s) for gas saving promotions or special discounts.

Example: Safeway: www.safeway.com/ifl/grocery/club-card

For more information, visit: www.publix.com

7. Club memberships and gas cards:

  • Club memberships: Take the time to research club memberships, wholesale clubs, automobile clubs, and other organizations that offer gas discounts to members. Below, are just a few clubs to assist you in your research.

A. Costco ($50 to $100 membership): www.costco.com
B. Sam's Club ($40 to $100 membership): www.samsclub.com
C. AAA Club ($59-$159 membership): www.aaa.com
D. BJ's Wholesale ($50-$90 membership): www.bjs.com

  • Pay with gas card: Think about getting a gasoline credit card that offers 5% to 10% rebate on every gas purchase.

 

Go Further On A Tank Of Gas! (Updated) by Jeff Burch will continue tomorrow on the Trans World Assurance Blog with PART 3 - Tips 8 thru 11 .

Tags: Trans World Assurance, Money Book, Jeff Burch, money saving tips, better gas mileage

Go Further On A Tank Of Gas! (Updated) - Part 1 by Jeff Burch

Posted on Mon, Jan 23, 2012

Worried and feeling helpless because your budget's been blown out of proportion due to the skyrocketing prices of gasoline? Solution: Get into the habit of using the following gas saving tips and ideas that will help you go further on a tank of gas.
                         
1. Be smart and wise when purchasing gasoline: Regular grade fuel costs about 20-40 cents per gallon less than premium grade. However, using regular gas in a car intended to run on premium can quickly destroy an engine. Conversely, using premium gas in a car intended to run on regular wastes gas, money and causes car problems. Check your vehicle owner's manual to find out what type of gas is right for your car.

2. Check the Internet for cheapest gas prices: Find the lowest gas prices in your area by using the sites below:
www.motortrend.com/gas_prices
www.gasbuddy.com
www.gaspricewatch.com
www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/gasprices/states/index.shtml

3. Nationwide gas discount and rebate gas station finder:
To find the nearest gas station that gives gas discounts for paying in cash or rebates/rewards by utilizing certain credit cards, visit: www.nerdwallet.com/gas-prices

4. Credit and debit cards: Some credit and debit cards provide reward points, coupons or other benefits for purchasing gas. For a list of credit cards that offer gas discounts, rebates, etc., visit:
www.fatwallet.com/forums/finance/711457
www.indexcreditcards.com/gascreditcards.html
www.rewardscards.com/gas-rebate-cards-ranked.asp

 

(Updated) Go Further On A Tank Of Gas! by Jeff Burch will continue tomorrow on the Trans World Assurance Blog with PART 2 - Tips 5 thru 7 .

Tags: Trans World Assurance, Money Book, Jeff Burch, money saving tips, better gas mileage

Smart Consumer Cell Phone Checklist (Jeff Burch, Money Book)

Posted on Fri, May 06, 2011

 

WARNING: DO NOT SIGN ANYTHING UNTIL SALESPERSON COMPLETES AND SIGNS THIS CHECKLIST!


Name of Calling Plan: _______________________

Plan cost per month: $___________

Discount(s) (military, retiree, etc.)   - $___________

Estimated taxes/fees/surcharges per month: $___________ 

Contract Termination Fees

Carrier early termination/per phone: $___________

Dealer/Agent early termination/per phone: $___________ 

Cancellation Period(s)
(Maximum number of days you have to cancel plan) 

Dealer/Agent: ______ days

Carrier: ______ days

Contract Length: ______ One Year ______ Two Years

Costs per Minute

# of Anytime Minutes per month: _________

# of Night/Weekend minutes per month: _________ 

_______ Hrs: ___:___ PM TO ___:___ AM

Cost of additional minutes per minute: _______¢ 

Roaming charges per minute:  _______¢ 

Free Mobile-to-Mobile

In-network only ______ Yes ______No

Number of minutes: _________ 

Unlimited minutes:  _________

Internet Use (downloads, ringtones, data, music, etc.)

Subscription per month:  $___________ 

_____ Opt-In _____ Opt-out _____ Internet blocked

Text Messaging

Sending/receiving per message: _______¢ 

_____ Blocked _____ Not blocked

International Calling (verify rates with carrier before calling)

Country: ___________________________________

Per month: $___________ @ _______¢ per min.

International roaming rate per minute: _______¢ 

Block international calls? _____ Yes _____ No 

Monthly Insurance:  _____ Yes _____ No

Cost per month: $___________ 

With a deductible of: $___________

(Replacement phones may be refurbished comparable models.)

Carrier Rebate:* _____ Yes _____No 

Amount: $___________

Deadline to apply for rebate expires on: ___/ ___/ ___

Dealer Rebate:* ____ Yes ____No 

Amount:         $___________

Deadline to apply for rebate expires on: ___/ ___/ ___

Rebate will be paid by company before: ___/ ___/ ___

Manufacturer Rebate:* ____ Yes ____No 

Amount:         $___________

Deadline to apply for rebate expires on: ___/ ___/ ___

Rebate will be paid by company before: ___/ ___/ ___

* Make copies of all rebates and documents before mailing. Rebates more than $50 should be sent certified mail.

 


__________________________________________Salesperson Signature:  Date: ___ /___/___

 

 

__________________________________________Customer Signature:             Date: ___ /___/___

 

Note: Save this document as proof of your negotiated contents of plan. Be sure you understand each item and that document is signed and dated before leaving. 

 

Source: "Mobile Phone Plan Checker - Buying a Cell Phone" at www.ucan.org

Tags: Money Book, Jeff Burch, money saving tips, cell phone

Time Purchases and Save Up To 80% (Jeff Burch, Money Book)

Posted on Fri, Apr 15, 2011


Early in my marriage, my wife, occasionally, would come home with what seemed like a boatload of stuff from shopping all day. Our money was always tight back then, so being under pressure to stay financially afloat, in frustration, I'd bark out with something like, “What bank did you rob to buy everything.” She'd immediately fire back, “I saved you money! Everything was on sale!” The debate would last into the wee early morning hours, with the typical make-up, and the promise of "It'll never happen again," until it happens again (sigh). 

However, over the years, I found that she was right; you really can save 10% to 80%, “if,” you time your purchases. Use this page to assist you in scheduling the purchase of specified products, so you can receive deep discounts during particular months of the year.

 
Items to Buy Best Time to Purchase
   
Best Clothing Sales After Washington’s Birthday, 4th of July,
Easter, Christmas Biggest Sales, Jan, Aug
Air Conditioners Feb, July, Aug
Appliances (Small) Jan, April, Nov, Dec
Appliances (Major) Jan, Mar, July, Dec
Art Supplies Jan, Feb
Auto Batteries Sept, Oct
Baby Products* Nov
Backpacks* Aug
Bathing Suits Jan, June, After July 4th, Aug
Bedding Jan, Feb, Aug
Bicycles Jan, Feb, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec
Blankets Jan, May, Nov, Dec
Books Jan
Builder Hardware June
Camcorders* June, July, Nov, Dec
Cameras Digital* Feb, April, Sept, Oct
Camera Equipment Oct, Nov
Camping Equipment May, Aug
Camping Gear* May
Car Seat Covers Feb, Nov
Carpeting Jan, May, June, July, Aug, Sept
Cars New* Aug, Sept, Dec
Cars Used* Feb, Nov, Dec
China Jan, Feb, Sept, Oct
CDs* Jan
Christmas Gifts Anytime but December
Christmas Supplies Jan and After Xmas
Clothing Athletic* May
Clothing Children’s April, July, Sept, Nov, Dec
Clothing Men’s Feb, April, Oct, Dec
Clothing Women’s Jan, Feb, April, Nov, Dec
Clothing School Aug, Oct
Clothing Spring* April
Clothing Summer June, July
Clothing Winter* Jan
Coats Children’s April, Aug, Oct, Nov, Dec
Coats Men’s Jan, Mar, Aug, Oct
Coats Women’s Mar, April, Aug, Oct, Nov, Dec
Computers* Jan, April, June, Oct
Cookware* Jan
Costume Jewelry Jan
Curtains Feb
Dehumidifiers* Aug
Dishes Jan, Feb, Sept, Oct
Drapes Feb, Aug
Dresses Jan, April, June, Nov
DVDs* Jan
Electric Blankets Summer, Oct
Electronics (small)* Mar, May, June, Sept, Dec
Ellipticals* Jan, Feb
Fans May, Aug
Fishing Equipment Oct
Fuel Oil July
Furniture Indoor Jan, Feb, June, July, Aug, Sept
Furniture Outdoor* July, Aug
Furniture Porch April, May
Garden Equipment Mar, Aug, Sept
Garden: Trees & plants* May
Glassware Jan, Feb, Sept, Oct
GPS Navigators* Nov, Dec
Grills (Gas)* Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec
Handbags Jan, May, July
Hardware Aug, Sept
Home Decorating Nov
Home Furnishings Jan, Feb, June, Aug, Oct
Home Enter. System Jan, May to July, Nov, Dec
Hosiery April, Oct
Houses & Condos* Jan, Feb
Housecoats April, May, June, Oct, Nov
House Wares Jan, Feb, Mar, Aug to Oct
Humidifiers* Feb, Mar
Infant Wear Jan, Mar, April, July
Irons Jan
Lamps Feb, Aug, Sept
Lawn Equipment March
Lawn Mowers April, May, Aug, Sept, Oct
Lingerie Jan
Luggage Mar, May, Nov
Lumber (Wood) June
Nursery Items Dec
Paints April, Aug, Sept
Phones Cordless* May
Ranges April, Nov
Rugs Jan, Feb, Mar, July, Aug, Sept
School Supplies June, Aug, Oct
Shoes Athletic* May
Shoes Boy’s & Girl’s Jan, Mar, July
Shoes Men’s Jan, July, Nov, Dec
Shoes Women’s Jan, July, Nov, Dec
Sheets & Spreads Jan, June, July, Dec
Silverware Feb, Oct
Snow Blowers* Aug, Sept
Sports Gear June, July, Sept, Oct
Sports Gear (Winter)* Mar
Sporting Goods Feb, Aug
Stereo Equipment Jan, Feb, July
Television Sets Jan, May, June, Nov, Dec
Tires May, June, end of Aug
Towels & Linens Jan, May, Aug
Toys Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec
Treadmills* Jan, Feb
Vacations Before Christmas
Water Heaters Jan, Nov

   

■ PRICE CHECKER: www.consumerworld.org. Use Price Checker to help you shop around for a specific item at lowest cost, if you need it now and can’t wait for a sale.

■ DEALNEWS: http://dealnews.com. Dealnews is one of the web's best deal-hunting websites. 

*Reference: Consumer reports Magazine - January 2011 issue

Tags: Trans World Assurance, Money Book, Jeff Burch, money saving tips, purchases