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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Frugal Corner: Negotiators have their day

Haggling – it’s the new black. A recent Consumer Reports survey found that fully two-thirds of Americans have tried to negotiate a better deal on something in the past six months.

Strapped seniors take health risks

Seniors on fixed incomes have always struggled to keep up with rising costs. A new survey suggests they’re cutting more deeply into essentials during this recession, though.

Everyday Economy: Wanna trade?

When Rob Butterfield needed to find someone to fix his ailing, 16-year-old Chevy Suburban, he thought he’d try something different. It was the same something different that Karla Turk decided to try this spring, in an effort to have her teeth straightened before her July wedding. Butterfield and Turk are trying to barter.

Gas prices show an uptick, but aren’t likely to climb steeply

If you drive, you’ve surely noticed a touch of volatility in the price of gas during the past year. Last April, prices in Spokane crested above $3.60 and were on their way to a record high of $4.19 a gallon for regular unleaded, according to the AAA Fuel Gauge report. Then they plunged in the fall – dropping below $1.50 around Christmas as the recession began showing its ugly face and worldwide demand tanked.

Frugal Corner: Most collegians rely on plastic

Most of us know that college graduates leave school with a sheepskin and a pile of student-loan debt. But a recent report shines a light on a new and growing kind of debt being taken out to pay for college: credit-card debt.

Frugal Corner: Cost of driving outpaces fuel

While fuel costs have dropped recently, the overall cost of driving hasn’t changed much as other costs go up, according to a new AAA survey. The AAA analysis found that the average cost of a new sedan, driven 15,000 miles per year, is 54 cents per mile. That’s down a tenth of a cent from 2008.

Home garden may open door to savings

It may cost you some time and effort, but you can save money by growing your own food. Just how much money, though, depends. One Iowa State University estimate in 2007 found that a home gardener could grow tomatoes for 25 cents a pound – compared to $1.77 per pound at the store at the time. Peppers were 10 cents a pound, compared to $2.37.

Everyday Economy: Remodeling with confidence

It’s spring, and a homeowner’s thoughts turn to home improvement projects. If you’ve got a big one coming up, you’ll be thinking of hiring a contractor. Few relationships can be so fraught with conflict or misunderstanding – or even liens and lawsuits. But homeowners who’ve had successful relationships with contractors say if you take time on the front end, you can avoid a lot of the problems down the road. “When I would tell people, ‘I think we’re going to remodel,’ I heard nothing but war stories, horror stories,” said Emily Sue Pike, a retired high school teacher who had the main floor of her North Side home remodeled last year. “I had a good friend who builds homes, and I asked him, ‘If you were remodeling your home, who would you ask?’ ”

Frugal Corner: Give your home a spring checkup

Routine maintenance around the house may not be the most alluring of spring projects, but making sure the basics are in good condition can save you money on repair bills in the long run. Here’s a list of home maintenance to do this time of year, from the NW Insurance Council, a nonprofit trade association:

Everyday Economy: Mechanics see uptick

Car sales may be down, but car repairs have been a growth industry in the past year. Drivers are sticking with their cars longer – putting off trade-ins and trying to squeeze another year out of their rides, local mechanics say.

Frugal Corner: Credit reports really are free

When it comes to credit reports, it’s become a battle of the jingles. The Federal Trade Commission has launched a series of musical videos for Annualcreditreport.com, the Web site where people truly can get a free copy of their credit report once a year. The ads mimic the ubiquitous musical commercials for FreeCreditReport.com, a Web site that requires paid membership, charges various fees for services and has a rather limited idea of the meaning of “free.”

It pays to think ahead for college

If you’ve got kids ready to enter college next year, you’re already well into the process of planning how to pay for it. Or at least you should be.

Questions address foreclosure relief

Wondering if you qualify for help under the Obama administration’s new foreclosure relief plan? Here’s a series of questions and answers from McClatchy Newspapers that should help you figure it out.

Frugal Corner: Consumer comparisons

What a difference a penny makes. In a recent study by researchers at Washington State University, shoppers made different choices based on whether a price was rounded to the nearest dollar or priced just below that point – the difference between $3 and $2.99, for example.

Cardholders encounter unexpected credit hurdles

Al Anderson had his credit card for a decade or more. He paid his bills on time. He rarely carried a balance. He thought he was a good customer. Then, a couple of weeks ago, he got a notice from Capital One that his interest rate was rising from 9.9 percent to 17.9 percent.

401(k) plans force difficult choices

The declining stock market isn’t the only thing eroding workers’ retirement savings. Increasingly, big companies are suspending contributions to their workers’ 401(k) plans – 90 had done so as of last week, according to a count kept by the Pension Rights Center. Nearly half of those companies – including Hewlett-Packard, E.W. Scripps Co., 7-Eleven and Harrah’s Entertainment – did so in just the month of February, and some fear that it will only continue as the recession drags on.

Tax season brings changes worth considering

It’s not yet the last minute, but tax season has more than arrived. While every year brings changes in the tax code, there’s even more to keep up with for taxpayers given last year’s economic upheavals. Among the changes this year are new tax credits for first-time homebuyers, a larger standard deduction, and a tax break for those who had mortgage debt forgiven through a foreclosure.

Americans show shift in savings strategies

There’s an irony about savings and the economy: When times are good, people save less, and vice-versa. That means the United States may be heading into a period of increased savings – something financial planners have long advised. For years, the rate of personal savings in the U.S. has been near zero or even negative, but the most recent figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show savings are on the rise.