Feature

Making money: What the experts say

Texting for free; Utilities pay off; Last chance for bargains

Texting for freeTexting can get expensive fast, said Kate Murphy in The New York Times. But several mobile apps can save you a bundle with free text messaging. Apps like TextFree, TextNow, and textPlus can offer no-charge texting because they are supported by advertising; ads appear at the bottom of your screen as you type, “although your recipients see nothing but your text.” Users get a new number just for texting, and messages that you receive are forwarded to your cellphone. In a test run, TextFree was “the fastest, most reliable, and easiest” app to use, and it has the added benefits of working from a laptop and offering free texting to 25 foreign countries. “Some of my friends complain about having to text to a different number,” says Florida middle-school teacher Barry Asch, who uses TextFree. “But in this economy, if I can save $20 a month on texting fees, they can get over it.”

Utilities pay offWant to invest in “recession-resistant companies that earn a guaranteed rate of return and pay excellent dividends?” asked Jeffrey R. Kosnett in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. Look no further than U.S. electric utilities. Morningstar’s electric utilities category returned 4.5 percent this year through Sept. 9, compared with a 6.9 percent loss for the S&P 500. Other blue-chip electrics, like Dominion Resources, Southern Co., and Exelon, have “all remained in the plus column” despite this year’s market swings. And the companies themselves are “running tighter ships [and] winning fair rate increases.” The most convincing argument for utilities: the dividends. Electrics are “on pace to boost their payouts by 7 percent this year,” after an 8.2 percent increase last year and a 7.2 percent boost in 2009.

Last chance for bargains It’s official: “Filene’s Basement is going bust,” said Quentin Fottrell in SmartMoney. The popular, 102-year-old discount store filed for bankruptcy (for a third time) last week and will close all of its 21 stores by January. While that’s bad news for the chain’s dedicated fan base of bargain hunters, it’s good news for anyone looking for steeply discounted merchandise in the run-up to the holiday shopping season. But keep in mind when buying holiday gifts at closeout sales that “once the stores are closed, the stores are closed.” In other words, no credits or returns.

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