Thursday, August 12, 2010

99 Ways To Save

AARP MAGAZINE July/August 2010

Super Saver’s spectacular win n a muddy track at the Kentucky Derby may have been just the right message for Americans who themselves are still battling the muck of an up-and-down economy. Millions are looking for ways to shave dollars and dimes from their daily expenses. For a lively list of tips, go to Here are the first 99:

I Use up to 60 percent less energy by boiling water in a microwave rather than on an electric stovetop. When you do use the stovetop, make sure pots and pans fully cover the heating element. A 6-inch pan on an 8-inch element translates to an energy waste of more than 40 percent.
2 Improve freezer efficiency by keeping the thing as full as possible—with bags of ice, for instance. But keep a 1-inch open space on each side of the interior for better air exchange.
3 Lower your thermostat in the winter. For each degree that you drop, you cut your heating bill by 3 percent. To feel more comfortable at low er temperatures, place pans of water near heating outlets or radiators. Water-filled air retains heat better, and the added humidity reduces itch ing and dry skin.
4 MIx your own garden dirt. Those “enriched” bags of soil boost flower and veg etable growth—at about $8 a bag. Instead, for each one part of dirt or topsoil mix in about two parts of compost— shredded from leaves and branches and available for free at many municipal recy cllng centers.
toilet by putting a plastic bottle full of water, weighted with pebbles, In your tank.
6 Get a rain barrel. Con nected to your home’s storm gutters, it will collect water for lathr use on your lawn, vegetable garden or car.
lStop that dripping faucet. Sixty drips a minute will waste about 6,428 gallons of water per year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
B Shower quickly and save. A 15-minute shower a day costs about $310 a year, even with a low-flow shower head. Cutting the time by a third will save about $100 annually.
9 Buy torn bags of mulch. Home centers usually set these torn bags aside, then sell the day’s mishaps at a big discount. Your best chance to get these deals is at the end of a weekend shopping day. Bring duct tape to close them, and a tarp to keep your car trunk clean.
10 Rent that extra room or space in your garage, base ment, backyard. Visit spare or storeatmy house.comto list its avail ability and your asking price for free. SpareFoot gets a transaction fee equal to half the first month’s paid rent (a spare bedroom can fetch $150 a month). The site also sells legally vetted ease agreements for $19.
11 Save on printerink by using the Century Gothic font, which a recent study showed consumes about a third less ink than industry-standard Anal. That saves about $20 a year for a home user printing 25 pages a week.
12 Do it yourself or hire someone? You can get es-timates of the difference in cost for a home improvement project at diyornot.corn, as well as advice on whether you should go it alone.
13 Get your castoffs picked up for free by more than 60 nonprofit furniture banks nationwide. (Your items generally need to be in good condition.) Find one near you at
14 Boost your knowledge with free online college courses. (You may need to buy books or download special software.) Yale, MIT and Stanford are among dozens of universities offering no-cost knowledge. Visit and click on “OpenCourseWare’ for a list of offerings by topic.
15 Sell your junk, but first get an idea of what it’s really worth by going to, an online “blue book” for pack rats and collectors. The site analyzes recent sales at online markets.
16 Free photo editing on-line is available at, where your uploaded photos can be tweaked with nifty ef-fects like teeth-whitening and wrinkle-removing. provides free video online editing and up to 10 gigabytes of free storage.
17 Sell your books. At or seliback, you type in an unwanted book’s ISBN numberto get an offer. If you like what you see, fill out a prepaid mailing label, box the books and send them off. Payment comes by check or as a credit to your PayPal account.
18 Volunteer techies give free advice on common com puter problems at
19 Don’t dump, recycle. Join the local bulletin board at and post what you want to give away or something you’re looking for. No money changes hands, and your unwanted stuff won’t add to a landfill. If there’s no group in your area, the web-site tells how to set one up.

20 Ask Doc for a discount. Before your appointment, visit or call a local health insurer to find out what it pays area doctors for a similar consulta tion or test. Then aim for that number, which is usually lower than the doctor’s charge. Try to negotiate directly with the doctor—not office person-nel—in person and before treatment is given.
21 Get dental work for a fraction of the cost from dentist-supervised students at a dental school. Find a school at by clicking on “Dental Schools:’ For low-cost, federally funded care, go to and click “Finding Dental Cane!’
22 Request an itemized bill when you’re hospitalized. A daily bill helps you track whether you’re getting the medical supplies, drugs and services that have been de termined necessary for your treatment, and to cry foul if they haven’t been provided, It also lets you spot and protest outrageous charges, such as $30 for a “thermal therapy kit” that is really just an ice bag.
23 Bringyour own drugs. Some hospitals quadruple the price you would normally pay for prescription and over-the- counter medications, so find out in advance what you’ll need and get them yourself. But ask the hospital if it will allow this. Many hospitals don’t.
24 Free treatment and medication may be available if you qualify for a medical study for a chronic condition such as diabetes or allergies. Find studies at or call local medical schools. Check the study’s credentials.
25 the price of your hearing aid, which typically sells at a retail markup of almost 120 percent. Most of the 15 percent of people who ask for such a deal get one.

26 “Scratch and dent” stores sell groceries and ap pliances discounted by 50 percent or more. They buy up truckloads of items that are damaged, are near or beyond their sell-by dates or season (think Halloween in Novem ber), or just didn’t sell well. Go to for a state-by-state list.
27 Save cellphone minutes by skipping long-winded voice-mail greetings and instructions. Press * when calling Verizon customers, the number 1 for Sprint users, or the # sign for AT&T and T-Mobile subscribers. If you’re not sure of the provider, try this order: 1, then * then #. When you hear a beep, you’ve got the right one.
28 Trade in electronics like old celiphones and com puters at wireflytradeins .com or tigerdirect.cexchange .com and get a charity write off. cash or gift cards. Costco, Best Buy and Sears also have electronics trade-in programs.
29 To save on groceries, check out mygrocerydeals .com, where you can compare prices in supermarkets in your area by product, category or store. Another site is grocery gukie corn. You must register to e:-e sites, but both are
30 Buy gift cards for up to 30 percent off their face value at, giftcard and giftcards, where the cards are sold by gift-getters who don’t want them.
31 Group-coupon websites prove there’s power in num bers. Provide your e-mail and city and you’ll get a daily local offer, If a set number of people sign up, you get the deal. Sites include, social, and
32 See plays for free by volunteering as an usher. Many theaters will let you see the show if you help with the paying patrons. Check with your local theater, and wear comfortable shoes—you may end upstanding for the per formance.
33 Yard sales in your area can be found at yardsaletreas The site tracks sales that have been posted on, then gives you the when, where and driving directions.
34 owner’s manuals are often missing when you buy bargain electronic devices or appliances at online auctions or garage sales. Manufactur ers may charge for the manu als, but you can get many for free at, manuals or usersmanual
35 Get rewards for online shopping from You register and then click to visit any of about 1,000 part ner retailers. You can collect a reward of from 1 to (very occa sionally) 40 percent of your purchase amount. The money arrives as a check or a credit to your PayPal account.
36 Promotional codes can get you discounts of up to 50 percent when you check out at online shopping sites. Though some codes are for returning loyal customers, others are up for grabs—you just have to know where to find them. Try these websites:, coupon, and
37 great stuff at secondhand shops. Donations are often local, so head for thrift stores In wealthier neighborhoods. Find stores at or
Also, shop early in the week— many donations come in over the weekend. And watch for hidden bargains. Thrift stores often set prices by category, say, $3 per shirt no matter what the brand.
38 AvoId high ticket prices for plays, concerts, sports matches, exhibits and other events in eight major U.S. cities by getting a free membership at This online seller of half-price tickets levies a service charge that averages about $4.50 per ticket. The theater chooses the seats. Other websites such as can also get you through the doors at a lower price.
39 Keep your eyes glued to the register at the super market. Some stores have a “scan guarantee policy:’ which means you get the item for free or at a discount if the price the register displays is higher than the real price.
40 Take advantage of discounts offered through “your” organizations. MA, AFL-CIO unions, AARP and college alumni associations are among many groups that offer savings. Read their mail ings closely and check their websites.
41 Need a phone num ber? Call 1-800-GOOG-411, give your location, and speak a name or business category. You’ll get a list of matches, and the service then will dial your choice. The big advan tage over 411: It’s free.

42 Find free Wi-Fl hot spots, particularly useful when you travel, atjiwire .com. The searchable site lists almost 300,000 hot spots, both free ones and those that charge, in 144 countries.
43 Kids eat for free—or at a discount—at dozens of chain restaurants. But check ahead, because often kids must be under a certain age, or you must order from special menus at specified times. Find spots at familyfriendly and coupondivas .com—whether you’re on the road or at home.
44 Get group airfares by putting together at least 10 travelers on carriers, including Southwest, United and American. Also ask tour operators and cruise lines about deals for groups.
45 Join a B&B club and pay $10 to $20 for a room, with breakfast, in the homes of travelers like you. In return, you offer your spare room to people on the road. Call Evergreen Club at 1-800-962- 2392 or Affordable Travel Club at 253-858-2172. Of course, be careful when you allow strangers into your house.
46 AvoId booking fees by using a computer. Virtu ally every U.S. airline adds a hefty surcharge if you book by phone or at a ticket counter.
47 Free admission to more than 100 museums, zoos and science centers is yours on the first weekend of each month if you have a Bank of America ATM, credit or check card. Get details at museums
48 Older train riders get discounts in the U.S. and Canada. Amtrak cuts 15 percent off most fares for riders 62 or over, while Via Rail Canada offers 10 percent off
the full adult fare fortravelers over 60.
49 DrIve for free by signing up at autodriveaway .com for cars that need to be relocated. There’s no rental charge, only a $350 refund able deposit, and the first tank of gas is free. Also call rental car companies about one-way deals to relocate their vehicles.
50 For free sightseeing excursions—with a local resi dent’s educated perspective— in select cities around the globe. visit globalgreeternet There’s also the new, which offers no-cost walking tours with locals in European cities and Israel. For similar offerings, call the chamber of commerce in your destination.
51 If predawn flights are getting tiresome, check out sleep-and-park packages that combine a night at an airport hotel, a shuttle to the terminal and parking at the hotel for 7 to 14 d ;. These deals often cos t the as park-
the full adult fare fortravelers over 60.
49 DrIve for free by signing up at autodriveaway .com for cars that need to be relocated. There’s no rental charge, only a $350 refund able deposit, and the first tank of gas is free. Also call rental car companies about one-way deals to relocate their vehicles.
50 For free sightseeing excursions—with a local resi dent’s educated perspective— in select cities around the globe. visit globalgreeternet There’s also the new, which offers no-cost walking tours with locals in European cities and Israel. For similar offerings, call the chamber of commerce in your destination.
51 If predawn flights are getting tiresome, check out sleep-and-park packages that combine a night at an airport hotel, a shuttle to the terminal and parking at the hotel for 7 to 14 d ;. These deals often cost the as park-the full adult fare fortravelers over 60.
49 DrIve for free by signing up at autodriveaway .com for cars that need to be relocated. There’s no rental charge, only a $350 refund able deposit, and the first tank of gas is free. Also call rental car companies about one-way deals to relocate their vehicles.
50 For free sightseeing excursions—with a local resi dent’s educated perspective— in select cities around the globe. visit globalgreeternet There’s also the new, which offers no-cost walking tours with locals in European cities and Israel. For similar offerings, call the chamber of commerce in your destination.
51 If predawn flights are getting tiresome, check out sleep-and-park packages that combine a night at an airport hotel, a shuttle to the terminal and parking at the hotel for 7 to 14 days. These deals often cost the as parking at the airport.,, and let you compare rates.
52 Birdlng overseas? Log on to It will link you up with a birciwatcher who’ll happily share the ornithological wonders of the country you’re visiting.
53 Flying with luggage? Ship it ahead instead, using a ground service like FedEx or UPS. Most big airlines charge up to $25 one way to check a second bag, and more for additional or overweight bags. Calculate whether shipping makes sense for you at fedex .com or
54 It’s not always true that online prices are cheap est. Often you can save a lot by negotiating with a human.

55 For cheap gas, you can compare costs at a variety of websites. A few sources: gas, gaspricewatch .com and everyday/gasstations,aspx.
To locate low-cost stations selling alternative fuels in your area, visit
56 Just 10 seconds of idling your car’s engine uses as much gas as restarting it. Two minutes uses enough fuel to drive a mile. So turn your engine off.
57 Buying a car? Contact the dealership’s Internet sales department to ask for the “best quote” (which could be lower than posted website prices). These sales reps often have more negotiating room, because commissIons are of ten based on number of cars sold, not value of the deal.
58 Fuel efficiency drops about an average5mpgfor each 10-mile speed increase over 55mph. Jackrabbit starts and stops reduce it an addi tional 3 mpg.
59 Facing car repairs? First visit repairpal.corn to find out what the job should cost. The site gives free quotes based on surveys of thou sands of shops.
60 Forevery extra pounds it carries, your car can lose ito 2 percent of fuel efficiency. Remove unneeded items from your trunk, Planning a road trip? To estimate the cost, enter the vehicle year, make and model at fuelcostcalculator .com or
62 To find the price the dealer pays for the car you want to buy, visit or the True Market Value sec tion of When buying new, haggle up from the dealer’s invoice. When buying used, start negotiating at $1,000 to $2,000 below the asking price.
63 To learn about problems and repair costs concerning the car you are thinking of buying, go to car comp! There you’ll find out what owners of that model have to say.
64 An existing car lease maybe key toadeal foryou. Find a driver who wants to end a lease early without pay ing the balance due or early termination penalties. If you assume the lease, you can avoid the usual hefty downpayment. Websites such as leasetrader.corn and swap connect the two sides of such deals.
65 “No-haggle” dealer ships may ease stress, but experts say their cars typically sell for $500 to $1,000 more than at a dealer who actually deals. Go to a traditional kind of lot and stand your ground.
66 Save $20 an hour and pay less for parts by going to an independent mechanic. Service by a qualified independent is unlikely to invalidate your car’s warranty. But read it carefully, follow the maker’s maintenance recommendations and keep records of service.

67 Sell stock and mutual fund shares. Selling equities at a loss cuts your tax liability by offsetting capital gains, but this year you might consider selling winners. After 2010, the maximum capital gains rate is scheduled to go up to 20 percent, from 15 percent.
68 Max out on employer matches of IRA or 401(k) contributions, or you could be leaving money on the table.
69 Free online calculators can help you make decisions on tough money issues like retirement, investing and insurance. At, operated by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, you can find several specialized number-crunchers.
70 Get a tax credit of up to $1,500 by installing qualify ing energy-efficient windows, doors, a water heater or roofing. Do the work by the end of 2010, but if you did it last year, check if you are still eligible. Find details at
71 If you turn 70 1/2 this year, you’ll have to take money out of your 401(k) or IRA by April 1, 2011. Do it this year, not next. Some experts say income tax rates may rise next year, which would mean a bigger bite out of your withdrawal.
72 Book time this summer with your tax preparer, who may give you a better rate during the slow months. Aim at getting a tax-cutting plan in place for the rest of the year.
73 Redeem that bond. The Treasury says that $17 billion worth of U.S. Savings Bonds no longer earn interest but remain unredeemed.
74 Owed money? The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators is holding almost $33 billion of unclaimed stocks, bank accounts and other as sets. Go to or to see if any of it has your name on it.

75 Bundle insurance. If you roll your homeowner’s, automobile and any liability coverage into a package with the same company, you may save between 5 and 15 per cent of what it would cost to purchase separate policies.
76 Consider dropping collision coverage if you can af ford car repairs or replace cars frequently.
77 If you carpool, have low mileage, or commute by rail and park your car at a sta tion, discounts may be avail able from your auto insurance company. The same Is true for teenage drivers who get good grades.
78 Nonsmokers, exercisers and people who maintain a healthy weight can enjoy as much as a 50 percent saving on life insurance.
79 Pay annually, rather than in installments, and you could save as much as 8 per cent by avoiding fees.
80 A homeowner’s re duction of up to 10 percent is often available for people 55- plus because they may spend more time at home and can better monitor and maintain their property.
81 Think about raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000 to save up to 15 percent on a homeowner’s premium.
82 Inventory your pos sessions annually and adjust your coverage. If you gave away expensive jewelry, remove that rider, which typically runs $1.75 to $2 in premiums per $100 in annual coverage.
83 Long-term policy hold ers may earn a cut in premi ums of as much as 10 percent. But that discount may come after years of increases, so check if you might do better elsewhere.
84 SecurIty improve ments such as an alarm or fire sprinkler system may cut your homeowner’s insurance cost.
85 Standard amounts of insurance are worth checking out. For example, a $250,000 life insurance policy may have a lower premium than a $200,000 policy simply because the company’s stan dard policy is $250,000.
86 Consider ditching a second or third car—along with 33 to 40 percent of your premium.
87 safe-driving course may get you auto insurance discounts of up to 10 percent. Washington, D.C., and 36 states mandate discounts for people who take a course. which usually costs between $10 and $30. Ask your agent—restrictions may apply.

People can be quite ingenious. Here are a dozen tips from savers around the country.
88 Look at each $1 bill you get and note the letter of the alphabet in the circle on the left half. (These seals denote Federal Reserve regions and run from A to L) Save bills with a letter of significance to you for specific purposes, such as C for a gift for Carol, or B for a new bicycle. You can easily save $500 or more a year without missing a dollar here and a dollar there. —Leita Spears, Waldron, Ark.
89 Freeze your credit cards—literally. Soak them in water and put them in the freezer to prevent you from using them. —Kip Kiebke, Hart ford, Conn.
90 Round up in your checkbook. When I write a check for $13.63, I write it as $14.00 in my checkbook. I do the same thing with debits. At the end of the month, I calculate my savings and transfer that to an online savings ac count. The change really adds up, and since I don’t see the money, I don’t spend it. —Dawn Carrington, Charleston, SC.
91 Wait 24 hours before you buy anything that costs more than $100. If you still want it the next day, buy it. Most of the time, you’ll forget what it was. —Marcia Brixey, Silverdale, Wash,
92 Don’t buy canned goods at the grocery until at least half of the ones on your shelf are gone. I find that I often don’t use the cans at the back of the shelf just be cause I can’t see them. —Balika Haakanson, Kodiak, Alaska
93 Keep condiment packages given to you when you eat takeout food. Don’t steal them, but save them. They add up. —Anna M. Aquino, Kissimmee, Fla.
94 Suy the huge popcorn at the movies for about $6. A small bag is about $4, so instead of buying four small ones, we buy one huge bag, split it and save $10. —Cathie Ericson. Wilsonville, Ore.
95 Take online surveys from legitimate market researchers in your spare time and make $100 or more a month. —Tricia Meyer, Indianapolis
96 Stick with basic recipes when you cook. New ones almost always add costs for new spices, specific cuts of meat and other fancy ingredi ents or equipment you’ll never use again. —Tonya Gustafson, Seattle
97 GO barefoot more. You’ll buy fewer shoes. —Jan Patenaude, Marble, Colo.
98 Turn off call waiting. It saved me $5 a month, or $60 a year. —John Ulzhelmer, Atlanta, Ga
ones, we buy one huge bag, split it and save $10. —Cathie Ericson. Wilsonville, Ore.
95 Take online surveys from legitimate market researchers in your spare time and make $100 or more a month. —Tricia Meyer, Indianapolis
96 Stick with basic recipes when you cook. New ones almost always add costs for new spices, specific cuts of meat and other fancy ingredi ents or equipment you’ll never use again. —Tonya Gustafson, Seattle
99 Make all your kids wear white socks. When they lose a sock or wear a hole in it, keep the other as a spare. With three kids, it saves our family about $40 a year. -Julie Parrish, West Linn, Ore.

The AARP Bonus

We’ve given you 99 savings tips. Here are even more ways to stretch your dollar with your AARP mernber.shIp, plus lifestyle programs available to everyone on health, fitness,jobs and retirement.

CLICKING FOR COUPONS The AARP Grocery Coupon Center, powered by, offers on line coupons for food and beverages, household items and health products (

Learn about AARP’s tips on low-cost home modifications and no-cost ways to improve energy efficiency, plus save money and make your home more comfortable and beauti ful (

The AARP Travel Center, powered by Expedia, features domestic and inter national vacation packages, cruises, flights, hotels and rental cars. Receive
discounts from most AABP Travel hotel and car providers, plus extra onboard credits on select cruises. No airline or cruise booking fees (1-800-675-4318;

Receive up to 50 percent off on prod ucts from national chains such as, Sears, Kmart and hun dreds of other participating retailers online at Everyday Savings Center, powered by Next Jump. Discounts are available on everything from electron ics and books to apparel and furniture (

Save 10 percent at more than 130 off-site discount airport parking facilities operated by Park Ride Fly USA nationwide. Complimentary services include “curb-to-curb” shuttle service to and from the air port, valet and/or self-parking and luggage assistance (1-877-503-7275 toll-free;

Save 20 percent off your check every day from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Denny’s restaurants by showing your AARP card’. Also, coffee for you and your guests is a dollar, 24/7 (1-800-733-6697;

AARP offers the nation’s first and larg est driver refresher course in the class room and online at a discounted rate for members. In some states, finishing the course may save you money on insurance premiums (1-888-227-7669 toll-free;

If you insure your home and auto with the AARP Auto and Homeowners Insurance Program from The Hart ford you’ll receive up to a 10 percent discount on your homeowner’s insur ance rates and an additional 15 percent on your auto insurance coverage (1-800-689-9089, code 440160;

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Police Do Not Have a Speeding Ticket Quota

A friend of mine is a cop and I’ve been lucky enough to go on a few ride-along trips with him. It’s pretty interesting to get a firsthand look at the job of a police officer. It gives you a lot of respect for the tough job they do.

When they’re not responding to calls, they’re doing paperwork and enforcing speed limits. On one particular ride-along, we spent a couple of hours trying to catch speeders. This was of great interest to me since I am a chronic speeder.

The first thing I wanted to know, what is the deal with quotas?

He said they don’t have a quota. Although, he added that if he didn’t write any tickets then it wouldn’t look like he was doing his job. Also, there are some cops who are trying to get promoted and write a lot of tickets, so if the other cops don’t write a fair amount of tickets then they come across as slackers. So, while there isn’t an official quota, these are the reasons why cops are driven to write tickets.

There are many tools that cops use to catch speeders. There are two speed measuring technologies, doppler radar and laser (aka Lidar, Ladar and “Laser Radar”). Doppler radar technology is the same technology that is used by meteorologists to analyze clouds and predict weather patterns. It’s also used at many stores to control automatic doors. Doppler radar units for law enforcement, come in many varieties: hand-held, vehicle mounted and automated photo-radar.

Laser speed tools for police only come in hand-held models. Although, similar technology is also used by the military and airports to accurately monitor air traffic movement. In fact, there are many other uses for this technology too. One of the newer uses is in wind power farms to measure incoming wind so the turbine blades can be adjusted for best performance and to prevent damage to the equipment in heavy winds.

Both, doppler and laser technologies have advantages and disadvantages. Laser speed guns are extremely accurate and are effective at great distances. They’re also very fast, which is bad for radar detector users — laser detection doesn’t give much time to slow down before your speed is detected. Because they are so accurate, they are only available as hand-held units.

Doppler radar systems are available as hand-held units and vehicle mounted systems. Doppler radar is not very accurate, it can have a wide beam spread that can be as wide as four lanes of traffic at 200 meters (650 feet). That’s great when there are few cars on the road, you can’t miss. It also means the technology can be mounted in the front and rear windows for automatic readings as the officer is driving around — the units will automatically read the speed of traffic in front of and behind the vehicle.

Because the beam covers so many lanes, it means that many vehicles can be picked up at once. If the officer is not properly trained, it is easy to make an error and suspect the wrong vehicle of speeding. Because of the way the technology works, larger and faster objects often take precedence in speed readings. When the large object is a nearby airplane, the 300 mph reading is an obvious error. When the object is a semi truck in the opposite lane traveling faster than a small car in oncoming traffic, the 20 mph difference may be less obvious and lead to officer error.

Neither radar technology works in a perpendicular manner, so if you’re traveling from side to side in front of a speed unit, it cannot read your speed. They only work when you are either getting closer or further away. When a speed reading is possible, the most accurate reading is when the device is directly in front or behind your car. The further to the side the speed gun, the lower the reading will be. That’s why you will often see speed traps on corners of the highway, this allows the officer to get directly in front of your car and achieve the highest and most accurate speed reading. The element of surprise is also important, anytime you come over the crest of a hill, look at the bottom of the hill for a speed trap.

License Plates and Headlights Make You Visible to Traffic Radar

There are two primary types, laser and tradition (Doppler) radar. Even if you have a radar detector, laser is the most difficult type of radar to avoid getting caught by. Laser radar gives officers a near instant reading on your speed, so you don’t have time to slow down before they get a reading on you.

Your best defense is prevent the laser beam from bouncing back to the radar gun. The front license plate and your headlights are the most reflective thing on the front of most vehicles. If you’re not required to have a front plate in your area, get rid of it.

The next best thing is laser jamming, although it’s not legal in all places. But, if it is allowed in your area then you can buy laser jamming or scrambling units which prevent the radar gun from receiving a laser signal that it can use to measure your speed.

If laser jammers are not allowed, you have some other options. You can get plate covers and headlight treatments to help reduce the amount of laser light that is reflected back to the radar gun.

All of these tips should help you avoid some speeding tickets.

The Secret Powers of Time

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The cab ride

Cab Ride

I walked to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a
frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across
the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's
stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat
with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as
if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was
covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on
the counters. In the corner&nb sp; was a cardboard box filled with
photos and glassware.

'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the
suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her.
'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother

'Oh, you're such a good boy', she said. When we got in the cab,
she gave me an address, and then asked, 'Could you drive through

'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly.

'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way
to a hospice'.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I
don't have any family left,' she continued. 'The doctor says I
don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the

'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed
me the building where she had once worked as an elevator

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had
lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a
furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had
gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular
building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness,
saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly
said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'

We drove in silence to the address she had given me.It was a low
building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that
passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They
were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must
have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The
woman was already seated in ; a wheelchair.

'How much do I owe you?' she asked, reaching into her purse.

'Nothing,' I said

'You have to make a living,' she answered.

'There are other passengers,' I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto
me tightly.

'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said.

'Thank you.'

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.
Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove
aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could
hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or
one who was impatient to end his shift?

What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then
driven away?

On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more
important in my life.

We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great

But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in
what others may consider a small one.


Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we
might as well dance.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Your attitude towards life defines not only who you are, but the quality of life you are after.

Whatever it is that has been bugging you, Doesn't seem so bad anymore, does it? If only we all could have the spirit that this little boy has!

Friday, April 9, 2010

What to take to bed with you

Put your car keys beside your bed at night

Tell your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your parents, your Dr's office, the check-out girl at the market, everyone you run across.. Put your car keys beside your bed at night.

If you hear a noise outside your home or someone trying to get in your house, just press the panic button for your car. The alarm will be set off, and the horn will continue to sound until either you turn it off or the car battery dies. This tip came from a neighborhood watch coordinator. Next time you come home for the night and you start to put your keys away, think of this: It's a security alarm system that you probably already have and requires no installation. Test it. It will go off from most everywhere inside your house and will keep honking until your battery runs down or until you reset it with the button on the key fob chain. It works if you park in your driveway or garage. If your car alarm goes off when someone is trying to break into your house, odds are the burglar/rapist won't stick around. After a few seconds, all the neighbors will be looking out their windows to see who is out there and sure enough the criminal won't want that. And remember to carry your keys while walking to your car in a parking lot. The alarm can work the same way there. This is something that should really be shared with everyone. Maybe it could save a life or a sexual abuse crime.

P.S. I am sending this to everyone I know because I think it is fantastic. Would also be useful for any emergency, such as a heart attack, where you can't reach a phone. My Mom has suggested to my Dad that he carry his car keys with him in case he falls outside and she doesn't hear him.. He can activate the car alarm and then she'll know there's a problem.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Claim: The price of generic drugs can vary widely from one pharmacy to the next.


Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2003]
On Monday night (July 22), Steve Wilson, an investigative reporter for channel 7 News in Detroit, did a story on generic drug price gouging by pharmacies. He found in his investigation, that some of these generic drugs were marked up as much as 3,000% or more. Yes, that's not a typo . . . three thousand percent!

Mr. Wilson did a thorough research, and checked out all the major drugstore chains, discount chains, independent pharmacies, and even checked on some Canadian pharmacies. So often, we blame the drug companies for the high cost of drugs, and usually rightfully so. But in this case, the fault clearly lies with the pharmacies themselves.

For example, if you had to buy a prescription drug, and bought the name brand, you might pay $100 for 100 pills. The pharmacist might tell you that if you get the generic equivalent, they would only cost $80, making you think you are "saving" $20. What the pharmacist is not telling you is that those 100 generic pills may have only cost him $10!

At the end of the report, one of the anchors asked Mr. Wilson whether or not there were any pharmacies that did not adhere to this practice, and he said that Costco consistently charged little over their cost for the generic drugs. They gave the link to Costco, which I will include here, so that you can go and check prices for yourself. Costco Online pharmacy

I went to the Costco site, where you can look up any drug, and get it's online price. It says that the in-store prices are consistent with the online prices. I was appalled. Just to give you one example from my own experience, I had to use the drug, Compazine, which helps prevent nausea in chemo patients. I used the generic equivalent, which cost $54.99 for 60 pills at CVS. I checked the price at Costco, and I could have bought 100 pills for $19.89. For 145 of my pain pills, I paid $72.57. I could have got 150 at Costco for $28.08.

I would like to mention, that although Costco is a "membership" type store, you do NOT have to be a member to buy prescriptions there, as it is a federally regulated substance. You just tell them at the door that you wish to use the pharmacy, and they will let you in.

Origins: As the popularity of this e-mail attests, the fact that one can find a wide disparity in drug prices from one pharmacy to the next was apparently surprising news to many people. And there's probably some truth to the notion that because we tend to view generic drugs as great "money-saving" alternatives to brand drugs, we often don't consider that the mark-up on generics can vary widely from one retailer to the next.

The basic facts laid out in the message quoted above are true. Steve Wilson, a reporter with WXYZ-TV in Detroit, conducted an investigative study into the cost of generic drugs at various pharmacies and other retail drug outlets and found quite a disparity between the highest and lowest prices

charged for certain generic drugs. For example, the Prescription Drug Price Comparison Chart available in conjunction with Wilson's report shows that a one-month supply of Fluoxetine HCL (the generic for Prozac), which wholesales for $1.48, varied in retail price from a high of $92.24 to a low of $9.69 just within the Detroit area.

Comparison shopping applies to generic drugs just as much as it does to food, clothing, DVDs, automobiles, or any other product. Those willing to do some hunting around get the best prices, and many drug comparison sites are available on the web to help consumers compare the costs of various drugs at different retail outlets before submitting their prescriptions (although medical insurance or HMO restrictions may limit which pharmacies a covered patient can use). Price differences between pharmacies can't necessarily be chalked up to nothing more than mere greed, however — some pharmacies offer additional levels of service (such as staying open 24 hours a day) and have to recoup the costs of those additional services by charging higher prices.

Although we can't guarantee that Costco always has the lowest prices on generic drugs, it is generally true that their pharmacy will fill prescriptions for non-members (but be prepared to pay by cash or ATM card rather than check).

Later versions of this message had the following table added to the beginning:

The Cost of Prescription Drugs

Did you ever wonder how much it costs a drug company for the active ingredient in prescription medications? Some people think it must cost a lot, since many drugs sell for more than $2.00 per tablet. We did a search of offshore chemical synthesizers that supply the active ingredients found in drugs approved by the FDA. As we have revealed in past issues of Life Extension, a significant percentage of drugs sold in the United States contain active ingredients made in other countries.

In our independent investigation of how much profit drug companies really make, we obtained the actual price of active ingredients used in some of the most popular drugs sold in America. The chart below speaks for itself.
Brand Name
of Drug Consumer Price/100 tabs Cost of General
Active Ingredients Percent Markup

Celebrex 100 mg $130.27 $0.60 21,712%
Claritin 10 mg $215.17 $0.71 30,306%
Keflex 250 mg $157.39 $1.88 8,372%
Lipitor 20 mg $272.37 $5.80 4,696%
Norvasc 10 mg $188.29 $0.14 134,493%
Paxil 20 mg $220.27 $7.60 2,898%
Prevacid 30 mg $44.77 $1.01 34,136%
Prilosec 20 mg $360.97 $0.52 69,417%
Prozac 20 mg $247.47 $0.11 224,973%
Tenormin 50 mg $104.47 $0.13 80,362%
Vasotec 10 mg $102.37 $0.20 51,185%
Xanax 1mg $136.79 $0.024 569,958%
Zestril 20 mg $89.89 $3.20 2,809%
Zithromax 600mg $1,482.19 $18.78 7,892%
Zocor 40mg $350.27 $8.63 4,059%
Zoloft 50mg $206.87 $1.75 11,821%
This chart is of dubious accuracy and has little relevance (other than an inflammatory one), as far more goes into the retail pricing of drugs than the raw cost of their active ingredients. Pharmaceutical companies expend money on the research and development costs of creating the drugs, plus the overhead costs of manufacturing, marketing, and shipping them; as well, pharmacies must sell drugs for more than their wholesale prices in order to cover the overhead costs of store operations (including pharmacists' salaries).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Avoiding airline baggage fees

The nation's airlines are looking for more ways to get in your pocket. The latest effort by Delta and Continental involves raising baggage fees to the point that they may exceed some tickets!

The first checked bag will be $25 ($23 if you do it online) and the second somewhere in the $30 range depending on airline.

Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, still has no baggage fees. Nor will this discount airline charge you to change a trip once you've booked. Perhaps that's why Southwest keeps gaining more market share while the full-fare airlines watch their shares shrink.

Think Southwest is crazy? Well, they must be crazy like a fox. Customers who may be on the cusp about taking a trip are probably more likely to book because they know they won't get hit with a fee to change a ticket.

Nobody knows if Southwest will continue with no baggage fees, but it certainly has made for some strong imaging for them. You can see their "no baggage fees" commercials on constant rotation during the NFL playoff games.

But what if Southwest doesn't serve the markets you need? There's still one way to avoid baggage fees on the full-fare airlines: Don't check a bag!
Just be sure you follow the carry-on rules of your airline to the letter.

Extend Your Laptop’s Battery Life

Laptops tend to lose their charm quickly when you’re constantly looking for the nearest power outlet to charge up. How do you keep your battery going for as long as possible? Here are 15 easy ways to do so.

1. Defrag regularly - The faster your hard drive does its work – less demand you are going to put on the hard drive and your battery. Make your hard drive as efficient as possible by defragging it regularly. (but not while it’s on battery of course!) Mac OSX is better built to handle fragmentation so it may not be very applicable for Apple systems.

2. Dim your screen – Most laptops come with the ability to dim your laptop screen. Some even come with ways to modify CPU and cooling performance. Cut them down to the lowest level you can tolerate to squeeze out some extra battery juice.

3. Cut down on programs running in the background. Itunes, Desktop Search, etc. All these add to the CPU load and cut down battery life. Shut down everything that isn’t crucial when you’re on battery.

4. Cut down external devices – USB devices (including your mouse) & WiFi drain down your laptop battery. Remove or shut them down when not in use. It goes without saying that charging other devices (like your iPod) with your laptop when on battery is a surefire way of quickly wiping out the charge on your laptop battery.

5. Add more RAM - This will allow you to process more with the memory your laptop has, rather than relying on virtual memory. Virtual memory results in hard drive use, and is much less power efficient. Note that adding more RAM will consume more energy, so this is most applicable if you do need to run memory intensive programs which actually require heavy usage of virtual memory.


6. Run off a hard drive rather than CD/DVD - As power consuming as hard drives are, CD and DVD drives are worse. Even having one in the drive can be power consuming. They spin, taking power, even when they?re not actively being used. Wherever possible, try to run on virtual drives using programs like Alcohol 120% rather than optical ones.

7. Keep the battery contacts clean: Clean your battery’s metal contacts every couple of months with a cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol. This keeps the transfer of power from your battery more efficient.

8. Take care of your battery – Exercise the Battery. Do not leave a charged battery dormant for long periods of time. Once charged, you should at least use the battery at least once every two to three weeks. Also, do not let a Li-On battery completely discharge. (Discharing is only for older batteries with memory effects)

9. Hibernate not standby – Although placing a laptop in standby mode saves some power and you can instantly resume where you left off, it doesn’t save anywhere as much power as the hibernate function does. Hibernating a PC will actually save your PC’s state as it is, and completely shut itself down.


10. Keep operating temperature down - Your laptop operates more efficiently when it’s cooler. Clean out your air vents with a cloth or keyboard cleaner, or refer to some extra tips by

11. Set up and optimize your power options – Go to ‘Power Options’ in your windows control panel and set it up so that power usage is optimized (Select the ‘max battery’ for maximum effect).

12. Don’t multitask – Do one thing at a time when you’re on battery. Rather than working on a spreadsheet, letting your email client run in the background and listening to your latest set of MP3’s, set your mind to one thing only. If you don’t you’ll only drain out your batteries before anything gets completed!

13. Go easy on the PC demands – The more you demand from your PC. Passive activities like email and word processing consume much less power than gaming or playing a DVD. If you’ve got a single battery charge – pick your priorities wisely.

14. Get yourself a more efficient laptop - Laptops are getting more and more efficient in nature to the point where some manufacturers are talking about all day long batteries. Picking up a newer more efficient laptop to replace an aging one is usually a quick fix.

15. Prevent the Memory Effect - If you’re using a very old laptop, you’ll want to prevent the ‘memory effect’ – Keep the battery healthy by fully charging and then fully discharging it at least once every two to three weeks. Exceptions to the rule are Li-Ion batteries (which most laptops have) which do not suffer from the memory effect.

Bonus Tip #1: Turn off the autosave function. MS-Word’s and Excel’s autosave functions are great but because they keep saving regular intervals, they work your hard driver harder than it may have to. If you plan to do this, you may want to turn it back on as the battery runs low. While it saves battery life in the beginning, you will want to make sure your work is saved when your battery dies.

Bonus Tip #2: Lower the graphics use. You can do this by changing the screen resolution and shutting off fancy graphic drivers. Graphics cards (video cards) use as much or more power today as hard disks – Thanks Andrew

Update 7/7/07: Bonus Tip #1 to give caution about turning off autosave, tip #8 to change information about discharging batteries – thanks to all who pointed it out. Added Bonus tip #2, Tip #1 to add in clause in regards to Mac OSX, Tip #1 about the spinning of hard drives – thanks to all who pointed it out

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Great uses for coffee filters


Coffee filters .... Who knew! And you can buy 1,000 at the Dollar Tree/Store for almost nothing even the large ones.

1. Cover bowls or dishes when cooking in the microwave. Coffee filters make excellent covers.

2. Clean windows, mirrors, and chrome... Coffee filters are lint-free so they'll leave windows sparkling.

3. Protect China by separating your good dishes with a coffee filter between each dish.

4. Filter broken cork from wine. If you break the cork when opening a wine bottle, filter the wine through a coffee filter.

5. Protect a cast-iron skillet. Place a coffee filter in the skillet to absorb moisture and prevent rust.

6. Apply shoe polish. Ball up a lint-free coffee filter.

7. Recycle frying oil. After frying, strain oil through a sieve lined with a coffee filter.

8. Weigh chopped foods. Place chopped ingredients in a coffee filter on a kitchen scale.

9. Hold tacos. Coffee filters make convenient wrappers for messy foods.

10. Stop the soil from leaking out of a plant pot. Line a plant pot with a coffee filter to prevent the soil from going through&nb sp; the drainage holes.

11. Prevent a Popsicle from dripping. Poke one or two holes as needed in a coffee filter.

12. Do you think we used expensive strips to wax eyebrows? Use strips of coffee filters..

13. Put a few in a plate and put your fried bacon, French fries, chicken fingers, etc on them. It soaks out all the grease.

14. Keep in the bathroom. They make great "razor nick fixers."

15. As a sewing backing. Use a filter as an easy-to-tear backing for embroidering or appliqueing soft fabrics.

16. Put baking soda into a coffee filter and insert into shoes or a closet to absorb or prevent odors.

17. Use them to strain soup stock and to tie fresh herbs in to put in soups and stews.

18. Use a coffee filter to prevent spilling when you add fluids to your car.

19. Use them as a spoon rest while cooking and clean up small counter spills.

20. Can use to hold dry ingredients when baking or when cutting a piece of fruit or veggies.. Saves on having extra bowls to wash.

21. Use them to wrap Christmas ornaments for storage.

22. Use them to remove fingernail polish when out of cotton balls.

23. Use them to sprout seeds. Simply dampen the coffee filter, place seeds inside, fold it and place it into a plastic baggie until they sprout.

24. Use coffee filters as blotting paper for pressed flowers. Place the flowers between two coffee filters and put the coffee filters in phone book..

25. Use as a disposable "snack bowl" for popcorn, chips, etc.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What You Need to Know About Big Box E-Tailers

Fewer hassles, more choices. But watch out for shipping charges that can offset your discounts.
By Thomas M. Anderson, Associate Editor
From Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, February 2010

1. No jockeying for parking, no mega cart. BJ’s Wholesale Club (, Costco Wholesale ( and Sam’s Club ( match the low prices at their brick-and-mortar stores. That saves you the hassle of finding a space in a crowded parking lot on Saturday morning. Plus, you can use online tools to pull up previous orders and create shopping lists.

2. Membership has its privileges. For $45 a year, you can become a member of BJ’s Inner Circle; a Gold Star or Business membership at Costco is $50; and Sam’s Club charges $40 for new Advantage members. (Nonmembers may buy items online if they pay surcharges ranging from 5% to 15%.) And all three extend their rebate programs for top-tier memberships to online purchases. A BJ’s Rewards membership ($80 a year) entitles you to a 2% rebate on all purchases, up to $500 annually. Costco’s $100-a-year Executive members also earn a 2% rebate, up to $500. Sam’s Club Advantage Plus members ($100 a year) earn a tiered rebate, up to 2%, on purchases worth up to $1 million per year.

3. The Web is an even bigger box. A warehouse club’s Web site typically carries 80% more products than the local store does -- though not the perishables, such as bananas and salad fixings. BJ’s specializes in consumer goods. Sam’s Club caters to entrepreneurs by providing special supplies for small businesses. Costco’s strategy is to provide an inventory of high-quality products and eclectic items, such as a man-size safe from Cannon ($850 including shipping). Prices usually reflect what you’d pay in the club’s store, plus shipping costs.

4. You can stock up discreetly on products that you’d rather not be seen carting out of a store in large quantities. For example, Costco sells prescription drugs online (it’s the only one of the Big Three that does). In a survey of pharmacies in 2008, Consumer Reports found that Costco had the cheapest prescription prices. Costco also sells wine online (in fact, the store is the world’s biggest retailer of Dom PĂ©rignon champagne). The catch? delivers wine only to addresses in California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

5. No coupons required. Each warehouse-club site has a section for items that are on sale that day -- no coupon necessary. Among recent offers that beat other top online deals by at least $100: a 47-inch Philips flat-screen HDTV ($998 at, shipping included) and a Reebok CrossWalk treadmill ($600 at, including shipping). The member coupons you receive in the mail may also be used online.

6. But watch out for the shipping. Unfortunately, the sites don’t tell you how much shipping will cost before you add an item to your online cart. “Shipping costs add to the confusion about shopping online at warehouse clubs,” says Michael Clayman, editor of industry newsletter Warehouse Club Focus. But some sale offers -- with or without a coupon -- waive the shipping. Larger items and more-fragile products may cost more to send. If you don’t like the price, you can cancel the transaction at checkout. As is usually the case with online shipping, you’ll save if you’re willing to wait for delivery.

The Most-Overlooked Tax Deductions

1. State sales taxes. Although all taxpayers have a shot at this write-off, it makes sense primarily for those who live in states that do not impose an income tax. You must choose between deducting state and local income taxes or state and local sales taxes. For most citizens of income-tax states, the income tax is a bigger burden than the sales tax, so the income-tax deduction is a better deal.

The IRS has tables that show how much residents of various states can deduct. But the tables aren’t the last word. If you purchased a vehicle, boat or airplane, you get to add the state sales tax you paid to the amount shown in the IRS tables for your state, to the extent that the sales-tax rate you paid doesn’t exceed the state’s general sales-tax rate. (Download IRS tables in .pdf format here).

The same goes for any homebuilding materials you purchased. These items are easy to overlook, but they could make the sales-tax deduction a better deal even if you live in a state with an income tax. The IRS even has a calculator on its Web site to help you figure the deduction, which varies depending on the state where you live and your income level.

2. Reinvested dividends. This isn't really a deduction, but it is a subtraction that can save you a bundle. And this is the break that former IRS commissioner Fred Goldberg told Kiplinger's a lot of taxpayers miss.

If, like most investors, your mutual fund dividends are automatically used to buy extra shares, remember that each reinvestment increases your tax basis in the fund. That, in turn, reduces the taxable capital gain (or increases the tax-saving loss) when you redeem shares. Forgetting to include the reinvested dividends in your basis results in double taxation of the dividends -- once when you receive them and later when they’re included in the proceeds of the sale. Don’t make that costly mistake. If you’re not sure what your basis is, ask the fund for help.

3. Out-of-pocket charitable contributions. It’s hard to overlook the big charitable gifts you made during the year, by check or payroll deduction (check your December pay stub). But the little things add up, too, and you can write off out-of-pocket costs incurred while doing good works. For example, ingredients for casseroles you prepare for a nonprofit organization’s soup kitchen and stamps you buy for your school’s fundraising mailing count as a charitable contribution. If you drove your car for charity in 2009, remember to deduct 14 cents per mile.

4. Student-loan interest paid by Mom and Dad. Generally, you can only deduct mortgage or student-loan interest if you are legally required to repay the debt. But if parents pay back a child’s student loans, the IRS treats the money as if it was given to the child, who then paid the debt. So, a child who’s not claimed as a dependent can qualify to deduct up to $2,500 of student-loan interest paid by Mom and Dad. And he or she doesn’t have to itemize to use this money-saver.

5. Moving expenses to take your first job. Here’s an interesting dichotomy: Job-hunting expenses incurred while looking for your first job are not deductible. But moving expenses to get to it are. And you get this write-off even if you don’t itemize. If you moved more than 50 miles, you can deduct the cost of getting yourself and your household goods to the new area -- including 24 cents per mile for driving your own vehicle for a 2009 move -- plus parking fees and tolls. The same holds true for any new job you take.

6. Military reservists’ travel expenses. Members of the National Guard or military reserve may tap a deduction for travel expenses to drills or meetings. To qualify, you must travel more than 100 miles from home and be away from home overnight. If you qualify, you can deduct the cost of lodging and half the cost of your meals, plus 55 cents per mile for 2009 for driving your own car to get to and from drills. In any event, add parking fees and tolls. You get this deduction regardless of whether you itemize.

7. Child-care credit. A credit is so much better than a deduction; it reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar. So missing one is even more painful than missing a deduction that simply reduces the amount of income that’s subject to tax.

If you pay your child-care bills through a reimbursement account at work, it's easy to overlook the child-care credit. Although only $5,000 in expenses can be paid through a tax-favored reimbursement account, up to $6,000 (for the care of two or more children) can qualify for the credit. So, if you run the maximum through a plan at work but spend even more for work-related child care, you can claim the credit on as much as $1,000 of additional expenses. That would cut your tax bill by at least $200.

8. Estate tax on income in respect of a decedent. This sounds complicated, but it can save you a lot of money if you inherited an IRA from someone whose estate was big enough to be subject to the federal estate tax.

Basically, you get an income-tax deduction for the amount of estate tax paid on the IRA assets you received. Let’s say you inherited a $100,000 IRA, and the fact that the money was included in your benefactor's estate added $45,000 to the estate-tax bill. You get to deduct that $45,000 on your tax returns as you withdraw the money from the IRA. If you withdraw $50,000 in one year, for example, you get to claim a $22,500 itemized deduction on Schedule A. That would save you $6,300 in the 28% bracket.

9. State tax paid last spring. Did you owe tax when you filed your 2008 state tax return in the spring of 2009? Then, for goodness’ sake, remember to include that amount in your state-tax deduction on your 2009 return, along with state income taxes withheld from your paychecks or paid via quarterly estimated payments.

10. Refinancing points. When you buy a house, you get to deduct in one fell swoop the points paid to get your mortgage. When you refinance a mortgage, though, you have to deduct the points over the life of the loan. That means you can deduct 1/30th of the points a year if it’s a 30-year mortgage. That’s $33 a year for each $1,000 of points you paid -- not much, maybe, but don’t throw it away.

Even more important, in the year you pay off the loan -- because you sell the house or refinance again -- you get to deduct all as-yet-undeducted points. There’s one exception to this sweet rule: If you refinance a refinanced loan with the same lender, you add the points paid on the latest deal to the leftovers from the previous refinancing--and deduct the amount gradually over the life of the new loan.

11. Jury pay turned over to your employer. Many employers continue to pay employees’ full salary while they serve on jury duty, and some require employees to turn over their jury pay to the company coffers. The only problem is that the IRS demands that you report those fees as taxable income. To even things out, you get to deduct the amount you pay to your employer.

But how do you do it? There’s no line on the Form 1040 labeled Jury fees. Instead the write-off goes on line 36, which purports to be for simply totaling up the deductions that get their own lines. Add your jury fees to the total of your other write-offs and write “jury pay” on the dotted line.

12. Property-tax deduction for nonitemizers. This break, new in 2008, also works in 2009, but millions of taxpayers who claim the standard deduction may miss it. Normally, to write off property taxes, you must itemize deductions. But this new rule lets homeowners who don’t itemize boost their standard-deduction amount -- by up to $500 if they’re single and up to $1,000 if they’re married and file a joint return -- to account for property taxes paid during 2009. You’ll need to include extra paperwork -- a Schedule L -- with your 2009 tax return to get this break.

13. Casualty-loss deduction for nonitemizers. For 2009, taxpayers who claim the standard deduction can add casualty losses to their standard-deduction amounts -- if the loss occurred in a presidentially designated disaster area. Also, the casualty-loss deduction for losses in presidentially declared disaster areas is not subject to the usual reduction equal to 10% of your adjusted gross income. If you suffered such a loss, be sure you let Uncle Sam help you out by lowering your tax bill. As with the property-tax deduction for nonitemizers, you’ll need to file a Schedule L with your return to pump up your standard deduction to include the loss.

14. Hope credit for college juniors and seniors. Parents of college kids know the $2,000 Hope credit is just for the first two years of college; after that, the lower Lifetime Learning credit applies. But wait! That’s not how it works for 2009. Instead, the credit has been renamed, increased and expanded. It’s now called the American Opportunity Credit, and it will rebate up to $2,500 for each qualifying student for the first four years of college. The full credit is available to individuals whose modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less, or $160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above those levels. The income limits are higher than last year’s. (More on the American Opportunity Credit here.)

15. Making Work Pay credit. You’ve probably been enjoying the fruits of this credit via reduced payroll tax withholding since spring 2009. But to lock in your savings–by reducing your tax bill by $400 if you’re single or $800 if you’re married and file a joint return–you’ll need to actually claim the credit on your 2009 tax return—and you’ll use brand-new Schedule M to do so. The credit is equal to 6.2% of your earned income, capped at $400 or $800. For single filers, it starts phasing out at $75,000 of adjusted gross income and dries up at $95,000. The phase-out zone for couples is $150,000 to $190,000.

16. Sales-tax deduction for new vehicles. If you bought a new car, truck, motorcycle or motor home after February 16, 2009, and before the end of the year, you can deduct the sales tax paid -- up to a maximum purchase price of $49,500 per vehicle -- either as an itemized deduction or, if you claim the standard deduction, as a supercharged standard deduction. The benefit begins phasing out for married couples with adjusted gross income over $250,000 and singles with AGI over $125,000, and it is completely gone for single filers with AGI of $135,000 or more and joint filers with AGI of at least $260,000. Nonitemizers need to file a Schedule L with their return to get the benefit; itemizers who elect to deduct state income taxes will claim the car sales tax as a separate itemized deduction.

17. Credit for energy-saving home improvements. The tax credit equal to 10% of the cost of energy-saving home improvements is increased to 30% for 2009 and 2010, up to a maximum of $1,500 in the two-year period. The credit applies to biomass fuel stoves, qualifying skylights, windows and outside doors, and high-efficiency furnaces, water heaters and central air conditioners. The dollar limit on a particular type of improvement, such as the $200 cap on the credit for windows, has been repealed, so don’t limit yourself to the old rules. Finally, there’s also no dollar limit on the credit for qualified residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines. Your credit can be 30% of the total cost of such systems.

18. Break on the sale of demutualized stock. Taxpayers won an important court battle with the IRS in 2009 over the issue of demutualized stock. That’s stock that a life insurance policyholder receives when the insurer switches from being a mutual company owned by policyholders to a stock company owned by stockholders. The IRS’s longstanding position was that such stock had no tax basis, so that when the shares were sold, the taxpayer owed tax on 100% of the proceeds of the sale. But after a long legal struggle, a federal court ruled that the IRS was wrong. The court didn’t say what the basis of the stock should be, but many experts think it’s whatever the shares were worth when they were distributed to policyholders. If you sold stock in 2009 that you received in a demutualization, be sure to claim a basis to hold down your tax bill.

19. Home-buyer credit. We put this last on the list because it’s hard to imagine any taxpayer missing this big a tax break. But the rules changed late in the year, so snafus are certain. For most of the year, only first-time home buyers qualified for this credit. A “first-time buyer” is defined as someone who didn’t own a home in the three years leading up to the purchase of a new home. But big changes apply to homes purchased after November 6, 2009. First, in addition to the $8,000 credit for first-time home buyers, there’s a $6,500 credit for longtime homeowners, those who continuously owned a home for at least five of the eight years leading up to the purchase of a new home. The new law also increases how much buyers may earn and still claim the credit. For deals closed before November 7, the right to the first-time buyer credit gradually disappears as adjusted gross income rises between $75,000 and $95,000 on single returns and between $150,000 and $170,000 for married couples who file jointly. For purchases after November 6, the phase-out zones–for both the $8,000 credit and the $6,500 credit -- are $125,000 to $145,000 for singles and $225,000 to $245,000 for married couples. More questions? See FAQs on the Home Buyer Tax Credits