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Save Money, Eliminate Debt, and Live Better on Less

by Marc Eisenson & Nancy Castleman

From: Invest in Yourself: Six Secrets to a Rich Life

Beat the High Cost of Forced Savings.

If you're like almost 100 million other Americans, you get a refund on your taxes- the average is now $2,033, or $169 a month. That means you give Uncle Sam an interest-free loan every year- and you earn zilch on those dollars. Change the number of dependents you claim on your withholding at work, and you'll have another $169 or so a month to invest. If you use it to pay down today's typical $8,000 credit card bill, you'll save over $8,600 in interest - more than you owed in the first place! No credit card debt? That's great. Pay down your mortgage, invest in your 401(k) or IRA ... put that money some place where it will be working for you, full-time.  

Don't Be Late!

The truth is, the consequences of making even one late payment on a credit card or other bill can break your budget. You'll pay high fees, for sure, but what's worse, you could easily be hit with higher rates across the board- on everything from your other credit cards to your insurance policies.   

Take Maximum Advantage of Tax-Deferred Retirement Plans.

If you don't max out your company's 401(k) or Keogh plan, you're throwing money away. Ditto for IRAs. Don't think you can afford the maximum amounts, or think retirement is too far away for you to make it a priority? At least sock away something, and get in the habit of saving for the future. Once you see how little difference it makes in day-to-day living, we hope you'll contribute more. 

Grieve Your Property Taxes.

Most homeowners who challenge their tax bills get them lowered. Math errors, incorrect classifications, and out-of-date information are just a few of the reasons that your assessment might be just plain wrong. With the help of this
article that Jenny C. McCune wrote for, you can make sure you're paying no more than you ought to for your piece of the rock. 

Take the Sting Out of Student Loans.

Clark Howard, a true hero in the war against consumer abuse, suggests a way to reduce the burden imposed by student debts, while simultaneously helping Uncle Sam with some of his chores: Work for the federal government, or agree to teach in an eligible school, and have up to $60,000 in debt wiped out. For the rest of the story and lots of other great advice, go to
's Web site.

Know Who to Call.

If you're having grief with a corporate or government bureaucracy, as we all ultimately do, you'll want the 2004 edition of the Consumer Action Handbook by your side. Its 174 pages are full of the names and numbers you'll need to right the wrongs, and (who knows?), sing some praises, too. You can download it for
FREE, or order a printed version, again for FREE, by calling 888-878-3256 or by filling out this form. Any which way, get a copy today!   

Be Prepared to Fight Against Scam Artists.

Their pitches can sound plausible even to the most sophisticated of us, and their offers, though too good to be true, often sound too good to resist. Protect yourself and your family with an innoculation of reality from the folks at the FDIC:

Common Cons ...And How to Avoid Them

Ten Simple Things You Can Do to Fight Fraud

Stop Paying the Bills.

Why write out a check, pay postage every month, and risk late fees? You can save time and $4.44 a year in stamps on every monthly bill by paying online. Some banks will transfer funds directly from your checking account for free, while others charge for it. If your bank charges for the service, you can set up online bill paying at the Web sites of your electric company, your phone carrier(s), your oil or gas supplier, insurers, and/or your mortgage holder. While you're at it ... 

Have Your Lender Take Out a Pre-Payment.

For example, $100 a month more than is required on a typical $150,000 mortgage, will save almost $35,000 in bank interest. The more you owe and the more you pre-pay, the more you'll save. See how much you can save here at our Mortgage Prepayment

Enjoy Free Fruit and Vegetables.

Since fruit packers don't have the time or patience to come up with the perfect weight for each bag of produce, they invariably put in extra. That means it's easy to get more than your money's worth.One recent example: Navel oranges from
were on sale- $4.99 for an 8 pound bag. They looked and felt great, so we decided to buy some. In under a minute, we got two extra oranges- for free. We simply took a couple of bags over to the customer scale, and picked out the one that weighed the most- nine pounds as opposed to just a hair over eight. Next time you buy pre-packaged fruit or vegetables- e.g., oranges, apples, carrots, potatoes, onions- weigh a few bags before tossing one into your shopping cart. It's a quick, fun way to get free produce and save money.

Need a Computer? Stay a Generation or Two Behind.  

If you consistently choose machines without the latest bells and whistles, you'll save thousands on hardware. Thousands? Think of how many computers you've bought over the years ... $200 here, $300 there ... and pretty soon, we're talking thousands. Sure, the newest machines are powerful, but they have far more power than most of us need. (This piece of advice comes to you via a 486 with 8 meg of memory, running Windows 3.1. It may seem a small step above our old typewriter, but it's far more powerful than we need around here for writing.)

For more practical tactics, see our book "Invest in Yourself: Six Secrets to a Rich Life"

*Marc Eisenson and Nancy Castleman have spent the last 20 years teaching people how to save money, get out of debt, and live better on less. Visit their Web site,, for many samples of their work.

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