Clark Howard is a media powerhouse and penny-pincher extraordinaire who knows a thing or two about money. A lifelong entrepreneur who is now the hugely popular host of a talk radio program and television show and the bestselling author of several books, Clark consistently delivers expert financial advice to his wide and devoted fan base.
Living Large in Lean Times is Clark's ultimate guide to saving money, covering everything from cell phones to student loans, coupon websites to mortgages, investing to electric bills, and beyond. In his candid and friendly next-door-neighbor manner, Clark shares the small, manageable steps everyone can follow to build a path towards independence and wealth. Chock-full of more than 250 invaluable tips, the book outlines how to:
* Locate missing and unclaimed money in your name
* Lower your student loan payment
* Find legitimate work-at-home opportunities
* Get unlimited texting and e-mailing for less than $10 per month
* Know what personal info not to post to social media sites
* Determine the best mortgage rate, and much, much more
As Clark demonstrates, there are myriad ways to reduce debt, buy smarter, and build a future. Follow his lead and he'll get you there.
Help Me Now, Clark
Improve Your Personal Finances in One Week
Some consumer problems can be daunting and discouraging. Digging out from under a
pile of credit card debt can take years. Saving for retirement is a slow process. But there
are a lot of things you can do right away to make an immediate difference in your
finances. Then you will have more money to pay off debt, save for the future, or take that
vacation you’ve always wanted but couldn’t afford. I’ve chosen twenty- five of my very best
tips for this section, with a special emphasis on ones you can put to use today. Try a few, and
you’ll get instant satisfaction that will motivate you to try more of the money- saving tips in this book.
"Clark Howard teaches you how to get the best deals."
- Search for unclaimed money in your name.
Do you have money in a bank or brokerage house account that hasn’t been touched in a
while? Or let’s say you’re the unknowing beneficiary of an insurance policy that’s floating
around out there, or maybe a late relative you never met left you some stock in a will. After a
period of time, the state eventually rules those accounts or policies dormant, and the money
is sent to an unclaimed- property office. Which state office it is sent to depends on where the
company holding the money is based or where the deceased person lived.
USA Today reports that certain states suffering from budget problems have decided it’s
okay to steal these leftover funds from you. Washington, Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, South
Carolina, Louisiana, and Kentucky all changed their laws to make it legal to seize unclaimed
money and not give it back. But there’s good news. There’s a way to find out whether you have
dormant money so you can claim it before the state does! A website called MissingMoney
.com allows you to type in your name and see if you are due a refund. You can also check for
relatives, but only they can claim money in their name. Do a multi-state search to include the
state you live in and the states that include the headquarters of all your previous employers.
In addition, always search in Delaware and Connecticut, as most stock brokerage and insurance
companies are based in those two states.
Another website to check is Unclaimed.org. And if you’ve ever had an FHA loan, be sure
to see if there are leftover assets waiting for you at HUD.gov. (Read “See If You’re Owed a
HUD Refund on an FHA Mortgage” on page 132 for more details on the latter.)
You could be a hero to a loved one, or be the beneficiary of money you didn’t even know
- Start enjoying free TV and movies.
If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably paying $60 per month or more for cable
or satellite TV service. It’s not uncommon to pay more than $100. That’s upward of $1,200
annually. Who couldn’t use that money back in their pocket?
The high price of pay TV has forced more than 1 million Americans to disconnect their
satellite or cable service, according to The Wall Street Journal. Are they going TV-less? No,
they’re getting TV content on the Web or with “rabbit ears” antennae instead.
That’s right, you can fire your pay TV provider and use a simple pair of rabbit ears and a
modestly priced digital converter box ($40, $60) to get over-the-air TV absolutely free. The
picture you get over the air is actually superior to what you get when your satellite or cable
provider gets done compressing its signal for distribution.
But getting your TV signal over the air means you’re going to receive only the local broadcast
channels. If you still want to get your cable fix, try going to websites such as Fancast.com
or YouTube. com for free programming. Websites like Boxee.tv and Clicker.com act as virtual
program guides to let you know what’s playing where in cyberspace. Most of the major networks
also have free programming available at their own websites.
Hulu.com was the real breakthrough service in this arena. It was like a poor man’s DVR,
where you could watch what you wanted when you wanted on demand with commercials.
Of course, they’ve now changed their strategy to a “freemium” model: There’s only a limited
amount of programming available for free, and the rest can’t be accessed until you pay $7. 99
each month for their Hulu Plus pay service.
Certain cable channels have not yet made their content available on the Internet. But
they’ll ultimately have to do so or risk losing the advertising base of tech-savvy, high-income
viewers. If there are specific programs you can’t live without, you can always rent them from
Netflix.com or a similar service.
I’ve been talking for three years about people disconnecting from the cable and satellite
companies. Now that I’ve been with Netflix on demand for a year, I can tell you it’s a
real deal. My family almost never watches regular TV anymore. We simply use a Wi-Fi–enabled Blu-ray player to get the programming from Netflix to our TV. Netflix is $7. 99 each
Ratcheting up the competition, Amazon has introduced unlimited streaming video as a
feature of its Amazon Prime loyalty program. The main attraction of Amazon Prime was
originally the offer of free two-day shipping on most online purchases, with no minimum
order size for hardcore Amazon customers who wanted to pay $79 for annual membership.
But the free streaming has been thrown in as a carrot to entice more casual customers to
join. Right now there are only 5,000 programming choices on Prime, but that’s expected
to grow quickly. The monthly charges work out to be a little less than $6.60. Visit Amazon.com/Prime for more details.
I love the idea of competition creating innovation and more choice for you. When you
think about how many more competitors will be coming to market soon, you realize it’s
going to become routine to watch video in a whole new way for very little dough.
- Get unlimited texting and e-mailing for $10 per month.
Have you ever tried to use a smartphone and wound up feeling really dumb? Today’s
mobile devices are packed with so many features that it’s easy to get confused when using
one. That’s where a handheld device called Peek comes in. The Peek is a super simple-to-use
mobile device for e-mail and texting at rock- bottom prices.
The Peek was originally marketed to tweens and teens because it’s an e-mail-only device
that does not feature any calling capability—we all know how young people actually think
using a phone to talk is something only old folks do! But that approach missed a more valuable
market segment. Now they’ve modified their business plan to cater to small businesses.
Corporate types may not know how much their CrackBerry or iPhone costs each month if
their company is paying for it. But entrepreneurs who are struggling to make a profit need
to watch every penny.
The Peek Pronto sells for $70 in charcoal gray for businesspeople. (There’s also a black
cherry–colored model that would appeal to tweens.) Monthly service starts at $10. And
there’s never a contract! Think of it as a poor man’s BlackBerry. If you have a teen whose
texting is eating up your wallet, the Peek could present a solution. One thing Peek doesn’t
offer, however, is the ability to use your existing phone number. Visit GetPeek.com for more
Kajeet.com is another service that’s geared to parents who want to monitor what their
teens are doing with their mobile devices. This service has a full suite of parental controls
that let you restrict certain numbers for incoming and outgoing calls and texts, select when
the phone can be used, and more. Refurbished Kajeet phones are available for as little as
$24.99. Monthly service with unlimited text messaging and sixty minutes of talk time starts
In addition, Kajeet allows parents to track the movement of their teens with a built-in
locator for an additional $8 per month. Unlike Peek, Kajeet does allow you to move a phone
number you already have over to their service.
- Get a 2 percent cash-back card with no strings attached.
When the new credit card rules went into effect February 2010, the banks that issue the
majority of cards in the United States were prohibited from practicing many of their common
rip-offs. But that hasn’t meant that the rip- offs have stopped completely; to the contrary,
the banks have instead switched to cooking up new legitimate gouge fees, especially
annual fees on cards that previously had no annual fees.
That’s put a lot of people into the market for a new credit card. Fortunately, one respected
low-cost brokerage house has stepped up to offer what I call the best credit card deal in
America: Fidelity Investments.
Their Fidelity Retirement Rewards American Express Card takes your 2 percent cash
back and deposits it directly into your IRA, 529 college savings plan, or Fidelity brokerage
account. This is not 2 percent cash back only when you charge $500 on the third Tuesday of
every other month; this is every single charge—no games, no gimmicks, no annual fees, and
no limits on what you can earn back. Visit Fidelity.com or call 800-343-3548 for more
"Howard is all for the little guy."