What the experts say
‘Preloading’ big purchases
Practicing a little delayed gratification could save your budget, said Carl Richards in The New York Times. Let’s say there’s something you want to buy, such as a new smartphone. Many of us use the “purchase and pray” method, putting it on a credit card and then hoping there will be enough money to pay off the bill in full. “The downside is that this technique is precisely how most of us end up way over our heads in debt.” Instead of buying that big-ticket item right away, try “preloading” your purchase by pretending to buy it. Set up a savings account and automatically transfer, say, $40 a month until you can afford it. Not only will you avoid debt, you’ll also see “how it feels to have that money leave your checking account before you’ve made a commitment.”
Saving on homeowners insurance
Reviewing your homeowners insurance “could cut thousands of dollars from your premium payments over the life of the policy,” said Robyn Friedman in The Wall Street Journal. “One easy way to save is by bundling insurance policies.” Consumers can save an average of $314 per year by combining their auto and home, condominium, or renter’s policies with the same insurer, according to an analysis by online insurance marketplace InsuranceQuotes. Adding other types of insurance products, such as life insurance, may qualify you for a bundling discount as well.
“Home improvements—including the roof, windows, electrical or plumbing systems—may also qualify for a premium discount.” Installing a security system, for instance, can get you a 5 percent to 10 percent premium discount.
Save those holiday charity receipts
“It’s so customary to make charitable contributions around the holidays that some people don’t even think twice about doing it,” said Jessica Dickler in CNBC.com. But while you’re in the giving spirit, don’t forget about the potential tax benefits. Any charitable contribution of up to 50 percent of your income is tax deductible, and you can reap tax savings from noncash donations as well. For example, the cost of a new coat donated to a clothing drive is tax deductible. For used goods, whether it’s old clothing, books, toys, or furniture, you can deduct the thrift shop or fair market value. “In order to get the deduction come next April, keep a receipt of the donation, a note of the organization’s name, and the date and fair market value of all noncash goods.”
Charity of the week
The Food Animal Concerns Trust (foodanimalconcernstrust.org) is dedicated to promoting the safe and humane production of meat, milk, and eggs by ensuring that farm animals are raised in healthful conditions. FACT’S Food Safety Program seeks to improve operations on factory farms in order to prevent the tens of thousands of cases of food-related illness each year. The group teaches farmers how to maintain healthy diets for their livestock, and trains them in the proper use of antibiotics. Beyond consumer safety, the organization’s Humane Farming program ensures that animals are granted adequate living space and access to the outdoors.
Each charity we feature has earned a four-star overall rating from Charity Navigator, which rates not-for-profit organizations on the strength of their finances, their governance practices, and the transparency of their operations. Four stars is the group’s highest rating.