Here are three of the week's top pieces of financial advice, gathered from around the web:
Prices that wax and wane
Dynamic pricing — in which prices fluctuate based on demand — is familiar to anyone who has recently purchased an airline ticket or summoned an Uber. But the pricing strategy is now "catching on" with retailers too, said Geoff Williams at US News. Savvy shoppers can make the strategy work in their favor by changing their habits. "Shop on different days than you normally do"; prices are cheaper when fewer shoppers are online or in stores. When shopping online, try leaving items in your cart for several days. "Some retailers, in an attempt to get you to come back, will lower the price by 10 or 15 percent if you go back and complete the sale." Or you can set your browser to "private mode," so you can see what a store charges "when it doesn't know who the shopper is."
Digital shift at the IRS
"Think reaching a human at the Internal Revenue Service last tax filing season was tough?" asked Suzanne Woolley at Bloomberg. A renewed push at the IRS to upgrade its digital offerings could mean even less telephone and face-to-face customer service in the years to come, a new report warns. The Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office within the IRS, said that the agency's online expansion could leave behind many elderly or poor taxpayers who still seek help the old-fashioned way. Despite efforts to limit the need for taxpayers to phone the agency, calls to the IRS increased 60 percent between 2006 and 2015. The advocate added that the agency's plans, which include online accounts for filers, "could force many to pay tax preparers for advice they used to get for free."
Crossing the mortgage finish line
Even if your last mortgage payment is in sight, you've still got work to do, said Pat Mertz Esswein at Kiplinger. One or two months before you expect to make your last house payment, ask for a payoff quote from your lender or loan servicer. Because mortgages are paid in arrears, "you could owe more than you think." You'll typically need to pay a small fee to the county's real estate recording office to release the mortgage lien from your title. Also, homeowners insurance and property taxes will no longer be paid from an escrow account, so those bills are now your responsibility. Contact your insurers to remove the servicer's name. Finally, you won't hold clear title to your home until the county has recorded the release request. After that, "it's a done deal."