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Halloween Is No. 1 Day for Free Candy — and Property Crime

Make-believe monsters, witches and goblins vie for our attention each Halloween, but Fright Night is also the ideal time for real wrongdoers to wreak havoc undetected.

On average, crime-related insurance claims spike by 24% on Halloween, more than on any other day of the year, according to 2016 data from Travelers Insurance. This includes particularly sharp increases in theft, both inside and outside the home, and vandalism.

Property crime at a glance Burglaries skyrocket

Among property crimes, home burglaries experience the largest increase on Halloween, says Angi Orbann, second vice president of personal insurance at Travelers. Insurance claims due to theft inside the home go up by a whopping 60%.

It’s tempting to assume no one would dare break in when there are so many witnesses walking the neighborhood, Orbann says. As a result, people often drop their guards just when they should be most vigilant.

Thieves don’t just strike at home

Most folks hit the streets in search of candy on Halloween, but prowling thieves have their eyes on more valuable goodies, such as a smartphone left in your car. Insurance claims for theft away from home spike by 21% on Halloween, proving your house isn’t the only hot spot for opportunistic criminals.

Property damage also a concern

All Hallows’ Eve is known for pranks, and the numbers suggest the reputation is well-earned. Claims due to vandalism and malicious mischief rise by 19% on Halloween. This is a fairly broad category of crime, Orbann says, ranging from relatively innocent home-egging to more purposely destructive acts, such as smashing car windows.  

How to secure your home and belongings Turn lights on if you leave the house

People often turn out all their lights to notify trick-or-treaters that they’re not at home, Orbann says. Unfortunately, a dark house is also a green light for prospective burglars and vandals.

It might confuse candy-expectant kids, but Orbann recommends leaving some lights on when you’re away from home and even switching on the the TV. Also consider motion-detecting lights for your yard.

Keep your plans off social media

Leaving the house dark isn’t the only way you might accidentally attract burglars. Be mindful of other hints that your house is empty — such as announcing your evening plans on Facebook.

Make your car look empty

Most Halloween thefts that occur away from home involve belongings in a car, Orbann says. Avoid leaving electronic devices, wallets, sunglasses and other valuable items sitting on the seat or dashboard. She also recommends tucking away car accessories such as USB cords.

If you often leave your car in the driveway or on the street but own a garage, Halloween is a good time to park in it.

Review your insurance

Even if you can’t avoid Halloween property crime, you can make sure your home insurance will help you recover from it.

“We really encourage people to take a home inventory,” Orbann says. Having a ready list of all your belongings and what they’re worth can speed up the claims process, she adds.

If you’re turning your home into a haunted house and charging admission, you should also verify your coverage with your insurer. That might be considered a business activity, Orbann says, meaning your homeowners insurance wouldn’t cover property crimes that occur during the event.

And keep in mind that your home insurance doesn’t pay for vandalism to your car. Make sure you have comprehensive coverage on your auto policy, or the cost to replace the egg-eaten paint on your bumper might come out of your own pocket.

Alex Glenn is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email:

Shaquille O'Neal buys Krispy Kreme store

WSB-TV contributed to this report.

Shaquille O'Neal just took ownership of an Atlanta-area Krispy Kreme store.

>> Read more trending stories  

The basketball Hall-of-Famer and sports and entertainment superstar announced Monday that he has become the owner of the Ponce de Leon location, which has been there for more than 60 years.

O'Neal, who has previously admitted to loving Krispy Kreme doughnuts, has compared his visits to the restaurants to a kid's experience in a candy store.

"In addition to Shaquille's status as a sports and entertainment icon and businessman, he is known for spreading joy, which aligns with our positioning and mission," said Tony Thompson, president and CEO of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. "We are confident this partnership will have a big impact for us in Atlanta and around the world."

O'Neal will also assume the role of a global spokesman for the doughnut company.

"Krispy Kreme prides itself on spreading joy and supporting local communities, and that's a cause that I am thrilled to be a part of," O'Neal said. "Our goal is to help people find their happy place, and what better way than with a box of delicious Krispy Kreme doughnuts."

For a limited time, Krispy Kreme is offering the "Shaq-or-Treat" promotion in which anyone who tags a social media post with #ShaqOrTreat will be eligible to win Krispy Kreme prizes or paraphernalia autographed by O'Neal. The promotion takes place Oct. 28-31.

4 Credit Cards That Could Help You Get Out of Debt Faster

Are you struggling under the weight of credit card debt? As unsecured debt, credit cards can have much higher interest rates than loans secured by your home or your car. And unlike a home mortgage or a student loan, credit card interest charges are never tax deductible.

When you have credit card debt, you continue to incur interest charges each day on your balance, and it can consume a substantial proportion of your monthly payments. Thankfully, there are some credit cards that can actually help you to get out of debt sooner than staying with your current credit card.

Many credit cards offer interest-free promotional financing on balance transfers. When you open an account with one of these cards, you can transfer your existing balance to your new card and enjoy 0% APR financing for more than a year. However, nearly all credit cards with interest-free promotional financing on balance transfers will charge a fee of 3% or 5% of the balance you want to carry over to the new card.

During this promotional financing period, 100% of each payment you make goes directly towards paying down the principal. As a result, you can pay off your credit card debt sooner without making larger payments each month. Better yet, you can use the end of the promotional financing offer as a goal for paying off your entire debt. When you have an added incentive to pay off your debt before interest begins to accrue, you can work even harder towards avoiding all interest charges.

Here are some of the best credit cards that can help you to get out of debt faster.

1. Chase Slate

This is the only credit card from a major bank that offers 0% APR balance transfers with no balance transfer fee or annual fee. New applicants receive 15 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with no fee for transfers completed within 60 days of account opening. 

In addition to its outstanding balance transfer offer, this card also features Chase’s Blueprint program at no additional cost. Blueprint allows you to set a date for paying off your debt and it provides you with the amount you have to pay each month to reach that goal. Or, you can input the amount you are able to pay each month, and it will tell you how much time it will take for you to pay off your debt. Blueprint also allows you to avoid interest on some charges by paying them in full while carrying a balance on others. There is no annual fee for this card, and it has no penalty interest rate.

2. Citi Simplicity

Citi’s Simplicity card offers the longest promotional financing offer available from a major bank. It features 21 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee. Simplicity also has no late fees and no penalty interest rate. Other benefits include extended warranty coverage and access to Citi’s Price Rewind service. There is no annual fee for this card. (Full Disclosure: Citibank advertises on, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.)

3. BankAmericard From Bank of America

This card offers 18 months of interest-free financing on balance transfers made within 60 days of account opening, with a 3% balance transfer fee. And since it’s issued by one of the nation’s largest banks, those who have an existing checking or savings account with Bank of America can have the convenience of making transfers between accounts rather than payments between institutions. This card is also compatible with mobile payment systems including Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. There’s no annual fee for this card.

4. JetBlue Plus Card From Barclaycard

This card allows you to pay down your balance faster, while also offering travel rewards and benefits. New cardholders receive 12 months of 0% APR financing on balance transfers completed within 45 days of account opening. You also earn 6x points for JetBlue purchases, 2x points at restaurants and grocery stores and 1x on all other purchases. Travel benefits include a 50% savings on in-flight purchases, 10% of your redeemed points back and a free checked bag on JetBlue flights. There’s a $99 annual fee for this card, and no foreign transaction fees.

A Note on Balance Transfers

Once you transfer your balances to a 0% APR card, it can be tempting to spend again on the clean, debt-free card, but it’s important to try to keep your balances as low as possible on both cards. Card balances and a heavy amount of debt influence your credit scores in a negative way, and a low credit score can limit your options in the future. Mortgage rates, car loan rates and even cellphone down payments are influenced by your credit score. If you’re curious to see how your debts are influencing your credit scores, you can see two of them for free, updated every 14 days on 

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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'Same As Cash' Offers: What's the Catch?

Perhaps you’ve heard it before: six months same as cash. The offer pops up frequently at furniture stores, appliance stores and with contractors offering a deal to fix your furnace. These kinds of deals can sound tempting, but they can be troublesome if you’re not careful. How do they work? Are they ever a good idea? And what other options can you leverage instead? Read on to find out.

How Do Same As Cash Offers Work?

Same as cash offers are often considered financing options of last resort. They’re typically tailored to borrowers with low credit who won’t qualify for other financing options. While you can certainly take advantage of these offers, you definitely need to understand how they work first.

Oftentimes, consumers assume that a six months same as cash offer means they won’t pay any interest for the first six months. This is actually not how these offers work. Instead, you can go six months making minimal payments, or sometimes no payments at all. But if you don’t pay the entire balance by the six-month deadline, bad things could happen.

Let’s say you take out a six-month same as cash loan for $5,000 to buy new furniture. You understand that the loan has a 24% interest rate and that you aren’t required to make any payments for the first six months. But what you may miss in this “deal” is that if the entire balance of the loan isn’t paid off at the end of six months, you’ll owe all the interest you would have paid over that six-month period. Worse still, the lender could charge this back interest at whatever rate he likes. Any future missed payments could also trigger an even higher interest rate.

The caveat is that if you can get your loan balance paid off in full before the six months is up, you won’t have to pay any interest at all. Same as cash offers vary from creditor to creditor, so be sure you read the fine print on any offer you’re considering.

Are Same As Cash Offers a Good Idea?

In general, same as cash offers may not be the best option for consumers who have trouble making their payments. The only time they’re a decent option is if you are absolutely positive that you can pay off the full balance during the offer period. But you really never know what will happen to your finances over a 90-day or six-month period.

What if your furnace breaks in the dead of winter, and a same as cash offer is literally your only option for getting it fixed? In this case, it’s better to take the chance than be unable to live in your home because of a furnace malfunction. But you’ll want to manage your risk by putting as much money toward paying off the balance each month as possible.

What Are Some Other Options?

When you’re in a situation where a same as cash offer is on the table, be sure you consider your other options first. These include saving up to pay cash and using credit cards or a personal loan instead.

Same as cash offers aren’t ideal for non-necessities, like furniture or vehicle upgrades. If you need a new couch, it’s best to just save up the cash you need to buy it. Or you can downgrade your expectations and buy a secondhand option from a site like Craigslist or Goodwill.

In the case of emergencies, though, you may not have the option to save up cash to cover the expense. In this case, using a credit card or personal loan may be a better option. (Note: If you consider applying for either of these, be sure you know where your credit stands, as this could impact the rate you receive. You can view two of your free credit scores, updated every two weeks, on Yes, you’ll have to pay an interest charge each month while you pay off the debt. But you’ll likely secure a lower interest rate, and you won’t have to worry about taking a huge hit on interest all at once.

As with other financing options, same as cash has its place. But it’s definitely an offer you need to be cautious with and be sure to understand fully before you sign on the line.

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8 Tips to Help You Save Money on Halloween Costumes

If your kids are like mine, they turn to you the day after Halloween and already know what costume they want for next year. Of course, that desire rarely stays the same come the following October, so you can’t really costume shop that early.

But once Halloween is approaching, your kids decide exactly what to dress up as, and you head to the store to see what you can find. Costumes can certainly be expensive. If you have multiple children — and if you and your spouse happen to dress up too — that gets even more pricey. You can easily drop more than $100, just on costumes.

But it doesn’t have to break the bank. We’ve got some awesome money saving tips that you can use to help you and your family celebrate the holiday, all while keeping the wallet happy.

1. Make Your Own

Even if you are not crafty, or can’t sew, you can still make your costume. Consider browsing Pinterest, where you can find all sorts of awesome ideas. Your costume doesn’t have to be perfect — it just needs to be fun to make. You can even find recipes to make your own hair dye, fake blood and more. Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas.

2. Visit Thrift Stores

Many times, you can find Halloween costumes for sale at your local thrift store. Sometimes they are brand new and other times they have been worn only once.

3. Use Coupons/Sales

Keep your eyes open and you can find costumes on sale. You can also use coupons to get an even bigger discount. For instance, Target often releases a Cartwheel coupon for 50% off of costumes, which can make for a great deal.

4. Reuse Clothes You Have

Take the clothes you have and turn them into a costume. For instance, wear a black shirt and pants. Then, create a tail and make ears and you’ll be a mouse. Put on overalls and a flannel shirt and put some dirt on your face and you could be a farmer. This is a good way to be creative all without spending much.

5. Swap Costumes

Swap costumes with a friend who has kids about the same age as yours. This is a great way to get rid of the costume your child wore only once for something like new. Best of all, everyone wins.

6. Be Flexible

You might want to dress up as a grand wizard, but the cost is just a bit out of reach. Change direction and find something that doesn’t cost as much.

7. Shop Yard Sales

Check out yard sales for costumes and costume ideas. This is something you may be able to do as the holiday approaches or something you might want to consider doing throughout the year. You might find a piece here and there and can build a costume from the bargains you find.

8. Shop at the End of the Season

This one may not help you with this year’s costume, but is good to keep in mind for when the holiday has passed. Once Halloween is over, many stores will offer holiday items at a deep discount, so consider picking up makeup, colored hair spray and other items you can put away for next year. Think twice before getting a costume your child may not wear or could outgrow next year. However, these may make for good dress up items, if they’re a good deal.

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4 True Tales of Maxing Out Credit Cards

Some people like to joke about taking things to the limit, but when it comes to your credit, maxing out a credit card is no laughing matter.

Maxing out a credit card means swiping until you reach the card’s credit limit, or the total amount of credit extended to you. And that’s bad news for your credit scores because your debt utilization ratio (e.g., how much debt you have versus your total available credit) is one of the key factors credit agencies use to determine your score. Bump up against that limit, and your score will take a hit.

Debt levels are another factor that go into your score. Carry too much, and you’ll send a red flag to lenders that you’re in over your head; slack off on a few bills, and they’ll begin to think you can’t manage your payments responsibly.

A few readers learned the hard way about the dangers of maxing out credit cards. While they aren’t proud of what they did, they came out stronger for their experience and took steps necessary to get their finances back in order. (Note: At their request, some names and locations have been withheld to protect readers’ privacy.)

‘I Maxed Out Seven Cards’  

Between 2006 and 2008, Steven M. Hughes was saddled with a lot of debt. “I maxed out seven cards in my freshman year alone,” he said via email, “two more as a young professional.” The problem was he didn’t understand how to use them. “My parents always told me to stay away from them and didn’t teach me how to manage them properly,” he said.

“I had one credit card for emergencies that I maxed out on car repairs for a car at the time. I had department store cards that I maxed out on clothes for school and work because I worked while I was in college. I had a card I maxed out going to a family member’s wedding in New York City. I started assigning jobs to each card, but I didn’t have the income to pay them off, and paying the minimum balance wasn’t cutting it. All but one card was charged off. I managed to pay the lone card off and start a new account with the creditor.”

Today, the Columbia, South Carolina, resident teaches millennials how to manage their money through his nonprofit, Know Money, Inc. “After making all the financial mistakes, I started to learn as much as possible about personal finance,” he said.

‘I Was Into Wearing Ralph Lauren’ 

Deborah Sawyerr, a fashion and lifestyle blogger based in London, was about 32 when she visited Woodbury Common Premium Outlet, in Central Valley, New York, during a family holiday in 2005. “We bought clothes, shoes, suits, my daughter some bits, belts, jackets and some gifts,” she recalled via email. “At the time, I was into wearing Ralph Lauren clothing, so most of my spend went on this particular brand.”

Her credit card balance at the time was pretty low, but she admits she went a bit overboard that trip, racking up roughly $5,000. “As luck would have it, at the same time, my employer had just paid me in excess of £5,000, or thereabouts, as a redundancy package,” she said. “I basically — and perhaps I wasn’t so naïve — used the entire redundancy package to clear the debt in one go.” Humbled by the experience, Sawyerr said hasn’t maxed out a credit card since.

‘I Knew Very Little About Money’ 

In 1997, John Schmoll, Jr. was an undergrad with four maxed out credit cards totaling a whopping debt of $25,000. “When I went to college, I knew very little about money and was enticed to sign up for credit cards out of the promise of some sort of free swag — T-shirt, Frisbee, you name it,” he wrote in an email. “I ended up signing up for four credit cards this way, and used them to finance a lifestyle that I wanted but could not afford.”

Teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, at a roommate’s urging Schmoll decided to meet with a debt counselor, who helped him lower the rates on his cards. From there, he set up a budget, which enabled him to pay the cards off five years later. “That changed my life forever and put me on the path I am today, working toward financial independence,” he said. Today, the Omaha-based father and finance industry veteran blogs at Frugal Rates about what he’s learned.

‘0% Offers Were Appealing’ 

Years ago, Lisa, a marketing strategist, found that the 0% promotional APR offers from credit card issuers “were appealing.”

“I had six credit cards, all with a little over $3,000 on them,” Lisa said in an email. “I consolidated them into one account, maxing out that card, and I paid it off in about two years.”

So what got her there in the first place? Overspending. “I was floored to find out how liberal I’d been with spending — luxury items, travel to the Maui Writer’s Conference, etc.,” she said. “I behave very differently now.”

For starters, she said she doesn’t keep a revolving balance, and diligently pays her balances off every month. “That way, there’s no surprise debt, no interest charges, no late fees, etc.,” she said.

If you have reason to believe your spending’s out of control and it’s affecting your credit, you can read up on these tips to build credit the smart way and view your free credit report summary on to see where you might want to improve.

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The No. 1 Rule of Balance Transfer Credit Cards

Having a mountain of debt is both stressful and draining. In order to pay off credit card debt, some people turn to a balance transfer credit card.

While it may seem like a strange idea to move your credit card debt from one credit card to another, doing so can be a good option. This new piece of plastic may come with a 0% APR for a given period of time, so you can focus on paying off your debt without adding interest charges on top of what you already owe.

That being said, if you’re not careful and diligent about paying off this new card, you could end up right back in the same situation you were in before transferring the balance.

But don’t worry; we’re here to help. We’re going to tell you the most important rule to follow with a balance transfer credit card: Make sure you pay off your debt during the interest-free period ends.

Why Is This So Important?

As we mentioned, balance transfer credit cards typically come with a promotional APR period, during which you won’t accrue more interest charges each month. Paying off your card during this time is imperative because, once that promotional period ends, you’ll likely end up with a higher interest rate, which could mean even more debt if you can’t pay the balance.

Because of this, it’s important to remember that just transferring your balance isn’t the answer to getting out of debt — the process actually starts before getting the new plastic.

Considerations to Make Before Getting a Balance Transfer Credit Card

Before you sign up for a new card, you’ll want to look at your budget and see how long you think you’ll need, realistically, to pay off your debt. Once you know that, it’s a good idea to look at all your different card options. Some cards offer this benefit for 18 months, while others offer it for 12, so you’ll want to look for a card that will offer the 0% APR timeframe that will work best for you.

As you’re doing your research, make sure you also read the fine print and take note of the terms and any fees — for example, some cards charge a balance transfer fee, while others have different interest rates for the transferred balance and new purchases.

As you continue to work on paying off your debts, it’s a good idea to monitor the effects it’s having on your credit. You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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10 Ways to Lower Your Utility Bill

Last year, most of us in the colder states got lucky with one of the warmest winters on record. We didn’t have to crank the heat and cheaper fuel prices staved off high utility bills. But we might not be so lucky this year.

Although no one can never truly predict the exact weather months in advance, The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting “exceptionally cold” weather for most areas of the U.S. and some pundits are predicting increased utility costs as a result. If you’re hoping heating bills don’t bite into your holiday budget or new year savings plan, read on. We reached out to energy savings experts in some of the coldest states in the U.S. to find ways to lower your utility bill.

1. Insulate Walls, Attic & Floors

In Alaska, the coldest state in the U.S., surviving the cold is a matter of life or death. Temperatures routinely plummet far below zero, and have set the country’s low temperature record of -80 degrees. (Alaska’s winters get so cold that a steaming cup of water will freeze before it hits the ground.) “Since fall is so short in Alaska, many people start thinking about their winter energy use near the end of summer,” said Michael Rovito, spokesman for Alaska Power Association/ARECA Insurance Exchange. They make insulating their homes a priority. “The first task many Alaskans think about is to make sure their insulation and weather stripping is in top condition. This helps to prevent against heat loss from the home during the long Alaska winters,” Rovito said.

According to the laws of physics, if it’s colder outside, heat will always leave your house without a proper barrier to block its departure, and “experts estimate that 40 million single-family homes in the U.S. need more insulation,” according to Black Hills Energy, which provides gas and utilities to some of the colder states, such as Wyoming, where January temperatures can hover around -5 degrees.

Insulate just about everywhere. Things like improperly installed ceiling fans, chimneys and improperly insulated ducts can whisk heat away and cost you up to 30% of your house’s heating (or cooling) energy, and a whopping 30% of your energy costs could be saved by better insulating your attic or top floor, according to Black Hills Energy. Another 20% of energy can be contained by insulating your exterior walls. And insulating the floor areas over crawl spaces, basements and garages can save another 8% if you insulate properly, according to Black Hills Energy.

2. When You’re Hiring, Get Specific

Some insulation jobs might need a professional, and if you’re choosing an insulation contractor, get a few estimates. Once you decide, make sure the contract includes the job specification, cost, method of payment and warranty information provided by the insulation material manufacturer, according to the Insulator Contractors of America. Keep in mind that some types of insulation are better for different areas of the house, and make sure that your contract lists the type of insulation to be used and where it will be used, and that each type of insulation is listed by R-value (which indicates resistance to the passage of heat).

3. Cover Windows

Heat escapes through a single pane of glass almost 14 times faster than through a well-insulated wall, according to Black Hills Energy. Other penny-pinching options if you can’t afford new windows or storm windows are plastic sheeting, a thick curtain made of thermal material and double glazing (i.e. installing another window or door to reduce the heat transfer between the windows or doors).

4. Apply for Help

If boosting your home’s energy efficiency seems like too much of a financial hurdle, the Department of Energy has a Weatherization Assistance Program which, according to its website, “provides funding to states, territories and tribal governments to improve the energy efficiency of the homes of low-income families, persons with disabilities and senior citizens.” It’s also wise to check with your utility provider since programs are also offered through many utility companies and there may be state programs to assist you as well.

5. Look for Energy-Efficient Appliances

“A furnace that is over 10 or 15 years old, may not be as efficient,” said Roger Morgenstern, spokesman for Consumers Energy of Michigan, which has several months of below-freezing temperatures. Furnaces now are 96 to 97% efficient, which means they burn fuel more effectively, he said. Also, have it inspected once per year by a licensed heating and cooling professionals. When buying appliances, seek Energy Star labels that indicate lower energy usage, and make sure your lint trap and exhaust trap are cleaned to prevent fire hazards and keep the dryer from working so hard, said Morgenstern. Also keep the dryer only 75% full so that the clothes have room to dry.

6. Consider a Programmable Furnace (or Thermostat)

Wouldn’t it be nice if your house could be toasty warm just in time for your arrival but stay cool during the day? This is another tool Alaskans use to cut their heating usage. “Many Alaskans invest in programmable furnaces so they can adjust the temperature of their home and control costs. This is helpful since it remains cold for so long that it’s important to regulate how long a household’s furnace runs,” Rovito said. Installing one before the winter could save as much as 20% on your heating costs and recover your investment in the first year, according to Consumers Energy.

7. Limit the Energy Vampires

Reducing your water heater down to 120 degrees, or turning it off when it’s not needed, can save you more than 20% on energy, according the U.S. Department of Energy. And some appliances and electronics still draw electricity when they’re not in use. Unplugging them or confining them to a power strip that you can flip on and off can help you to lower your utility bill. Also turn off lights when leaving a room, use timers on holiday lights and switch out old, fluorescent bulbs, recommended Rovito.

8. Put Weather Stripping Around Doors

If you can see daylight around your doorframe, or can feel a draft around a gap, get some weather stripping from the hardware store. “A half-inch gap around your door would be the same as a softball-sized hole in your door to let that cold air in,” Morgenstern said.

9. Know Average Local Utility Costs

Residents in some states spend more on their utilities than others, and, if you’re new to an area, or considering a new house and mortgage, it helps to know what an average utility bill will be for your source of fuel so that you can budget ahead. (You can check out our housing cost tool here for more budget planning.) It also helps to know your credit history, because some utility companies will charge you a larger down payment if your credit isn’t stellar. (You can get a snapshot of your credit report for free every 14 days on People spent an average of $1,121 on their residential utility bills in frigid Alaska in 2012, according to a chart from the Department of Energy, and $918 in New York, while Hawaii spent $814 and Utah spent an average of $518.

10. Get a Budget Plan

This is a free option from your utility company that levels out your bills so that you don’t have to go into debt, overburden your credit card or become a holiday spending scrooge when you face a large utility bill. It works by mashing up your utility bills over the last year and averaging them into one consistent amount for each month. “That way, you’re not paying significantly more over the winter months and less over the summer,” said Morgenstern. If it’s a new home to you or your first year at your apartment, the average is taken from past bills at that address, but it’s reconciled and adjusted every year, said Morgenstern. 

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Five Fun Financial Facts: Halloween - #1 of 5


Americans are expected to spend a record $8.4 billion this Halloween, up a billion dollars from last year. Next Photo ©

Originally Posted at:

Spooky Spending This Halloween

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Five Fun Financial Facts: Halloween - #1 of 5


Americans are expected to spend a record $8.4 billion this Halloween, up a billion dollars from last year. Next Photo ©
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