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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Don't Buy Home Improvments From Big Box Stores

If you're shopping for home improvement services, stay away from big box stores. Reason? First, nothing you buy is made exactly the same as a product from a local building supply store. If you want proof, shop for a lawn mower or a washing machine with model numbers from a Consumer Reports magazine. You'll find that none of the model numbers match any models sold in the big box store. Why? Because the big box stores dictate to the manufacturers that their prices must be lower than anyone's elses so they must cheapen the product somehow to meet the big box price points. Secondly, big box stores never pay their sub-contractors on time which results in shoddy workmanship and long delays. Here's how it works. Say you purchase a $10,000 vinyl fence for your property. The fence is delivered by the big box store except for the decorative caps that go on each fence post. Result? The sub installs the fence, but you won't sign off that the work was completed because there are no fence post caps. Since you didn't sign off, the sub won't get paid until the caps come in and you sign off on the job. This may take 2 to 3 months. So you're mad and so is the sub. This is how big box stores make big money on the backs of tradesmen trying to make a living. Plus if you financed your purchase through the big box store, you've got no recourse for satisfaction. They've got you coming and going. That's why contractors who are really worth their salt would never be caught dead buying anything in a big box store nor would they work for them as sub-contractors.

Security Freeze Law Helps Protect NJ Residents From Identity Theft

NJ now has one of the strongest identity theft laws in the nation. One aspect of the law allows NJ residents to put a "security freeze" on their credit reports. When you freeze your credit report, the report is placed into a high-security status that makes it theft proof. Only you can unlock the freeze. If you live in NJ, be sure to take advantage of the new law by freezing your report with Equifax at 1-800-685- 1111 or www.Equifax.Com , Experian at 1-800-397-3742 or www.Experian.com and TransUnion at 1-800-916-8800 or www.TransUnion.com

How To Survive Without Health Insurance

If you're one of the 50 million Americans that don't have health insurance, then here are a few tips on how you can surivive until affordable health care is available to everyone . If you don't have a prescription plan, then visit www.AdamsDiscountPharmacy.Com or call them at 215-572-1118. Adams is located in the suburbs of Philadelphia and their Rx prices are sometimes cheaper than Canada, some health insurance plans and many government agencies like the Veterans Administration. Another alternative is www.QualityGenerics.Com. They ship drugs directly from India. And many Canadian pharmacies import their drugs from India before shipping to the US. However, one Canadian pharmacy that has good prices is www.Aptecha.com However, keep in mind that buying drugs from outside the US is illegal but is rarely prosecuted. Consumer Reports has a free website that can help you comparison shop for drugs at www.crbestbuydrugs.com. Another good site to comparison shop for drugs is PharmacyChecker.Com. When buying over the counter drugs, always try to buy "store brands"since they're usually about one half the cost of the name brand version and there's hardly any difference between the two. When getting a prescription, always ask your doctor for free samples . If your doc doesn't have any free samples, always request a generic version of the drug. If a generic version of the drug is not available, then ask your pharmacist to suggest alternatives to your doctor that may be available. Also, most tablets and pills ( except for capsules, time- release or long-acting)) can be split to save you big money. For instance, if your Rx is for 10 milligram pills, ask for 20 milligram pills. They're the same price as the 10 mg pills but can be split in half. If the Rx calls for 30 10mg, get 15 20mg pills for less money. Make it a habit of going to health fairs to get free screenings. In addition, many local health departments offer blood pressure and other routine exams for free. If you have a medical or a dental school near your home town, inquire whether they have a low cost public clinic available. For simple ailments, you can try www.TelaDoc.Com at 800-835-2362. Phone consultations with a doctor cost $35 plus a registration fee. TelaDoc can also call in an Rx to your pharmacy. Another low cost alternative might be to see a nurse practioner. They tend to spend more time with patients, charge less than doctors, and do a good job of diagnosing problems. Visit www.TheLittleClinic.Com, www.MinuteClinic.Com and www.RediClinic.Com to see if there are NP clinics in your state. ' Free health care can also be available for particular ailments when you participate in a clinical trial. You can go to www.ClinicalTrials.Gov to see what trials are available in your area. Keep in mind that clinical trials may be dangerous if you have a serious illness and you are placed in the group that is given a placebo in place of a real drug. Always ask if everyone in the trial will be given the same drug before signing up . If you need a major operation but can't afford it, you can try Thailand, India or Costa Rica. Many foreign hospitals have US trained physicians and deliver better and safer care in a resort type atmosphere. For instance , a triple by-pass operation in the US is $100,000. In Thailand,it's $12,000. The top hospitals in Thailand are www.Bumrungrad.Com and www.Samitivej.co.th. In India its www.ApolloHospitals.Com and www.WockhardtHospitals.Net In Singapore, try www.Imrc.Com.sg. In Costa Rica it's www.HealthCostaRica.Com. In Mexico, its www.Mediks.Com. In Belgium try www.HipClinic.Com If you've already had a major opertaion at a US hospital, and can't pay for the operation,perhaps you can negotiate the price down. Keep in mind that Medicare and HMO's only pay about one seventh of what an uninsured patient would be charged. So if an operation costs $35,000, offer the hospital $5,000. If they say yes, make sure they send you a letter that they accept your offer as payment in full so they can't turn you in for collection later on. If they refuse your offer, you might want to hire an attorney on a contingency basis that specializes in suing hospitals for unfair billing practices. See www. nfplitigation.com for more info. If you have health insurance that has a large dedeuctable or large co-insurance payouts,make sure you check your hospital bill with a fine tooth comb. Because 50% of all hospital bills contain big errors. If you don't understand items listed on your bill, then go to the hospital's accounting office and ask a hospital accounting clerk to explain each item. If you prefer to hire a company to verify everything on the bill, contact the Alliance Of Claims Assistance Professionals at 630-562-1000 or www.Claims.Org. They specialize in finding hospital bill errors and charge $30 per hour on up. Some charge a percentage of mistakes they find. The ACAP can also help you if your insurance company refuses to pay for care that is covered by your policy. Another company that provides these services is www.HeathCareAdvocates.Com at 215-735-7711. If you don't have eye care insurance, www.EyeCareAmerica.Org has a program open to people under 65 for a free eye exam and eye care for up to one year. Call 800-222-3937 for more info.

Best Fast Food In The USA

FRIES: Original Hot Dog Shop, Pittsburgh, In-N-Out, Las Vegas, Bistrot du Coin, D.C., The Fire Dog, San Antonio, Frities, Seattle, Ishkabibbles, Philadelphia. HOT DOGS: Original Hot Dog Shop, Pittsburgh, Pinks, Hollywood, CA, Spikes, Boston, Steves Snap N Dogs, Denver, Shake Shack NYC, Nathan's , Las Vegas, Ben Chili Bowl and The Reef, D.C., The Stand, Encino, CA, Zack's, Baltimore, Skyline Chili, Cincinnati, Mulligan's, Atlanta & Carl's Drive-In, St. Louis. BURGERS: All American Driv-In, L.I. NY, Chris Madrids, San Antonio, City Grille, Denver, Dicks Drive-In, Seattle, Goldyburgers, Chicago, In-N-Out Burgers, LA ,CA O'Connell's Pub, St. Louis, Roaring Fork, Phoenix, Stanich's, Portland, OR, Tossaro's, Pittsburgh, Thurman Cafe, Columbus,OH, Val's Burgers, San Francisco, 96th St. Steakburgers, Indianapolis.

How To Get Car Dealers To Beg For Your Business

If you're shopping for a new car, don't waste your time visiting car lots unless you want to test drive a car. If you'd really like to get a feel for the car you want to purchase, consider renting the car of your choice for a fews days to see if you really like it. That way, you can avoid visiting a dealer's lot until the day you decide to make a purchase. In this article, you'll learn how to shop for a car from the comfort of your home or office by phone, fax or e-mail without putting up with any hassles, mind games or pressure. To get a great deal, you only need to engage dealers in a competitive bidding process for your business. Once you've decided on the make and model of a car or truck, you can start the bidding process. You don't have to know the exact factory options on your choosen vehicle right away. However, always conduct the bidding process by phone, fax, or e-mail. Never try to deal in person to avoid dealing with a salesman. If you deal with a salesman, the dealership will have to pay him or her a commission and the dealer won't take your seriously. When calling a dealership, ask for the fleet manager or the sales manager. Dealing with a fleet manager is prefered since a fleet manager 's commissions are based on sales volume instead of the gross profit per vehicle sold. However, some dealers don't have fleet managers and you'll have to deal with the sales manager. To find a list of dealers near you , you need only go to the car manufacturer's website for a list of dealers in your state or nearby states. To find a manufacturers 's website, just type www.and the name of the maker plus .Com. For a GM car or truck, it would be www.GM.com We recommend you get bids from at least 10 dealers. You should get each dealer to bid any amount above or below the factory invoice price. The factory invoice price is the same for all dealers in the same region. So if one dealer bids $500 above invoice and the second bids $500 under invoice, you'll know the second dealer is $1,000 lower in price than the first. Using this method, you don't have to decide the exact options you want until the bidding is complete. To get factory invoice pricing on new vehicles, , visit www.Edmunds.Com or www.KBB.Com However, you don't really need the factory invoice information in advance. Just inform each dealer you speak with that you expect to be shown the actual factory invoice on any car you are considering. Here is what you should say when speaking with a fleet or a sales manager: "I'm in the market for ( make & model of vehicle) and I've made a list of several dealers to call. I'm done my research and I know the approximate invoice cost of the car. Right now, I'm calling each dealer on my list to find out what each wants as a markup or markdown from factory invoice. I expect to take my pick of any car on your lot within my model range. To be fair to all the dealers, I'm only calling each dealer once, and I won't reveal what any other dealer is bidding." "To make sure everyone is bidding on the same basis, I need to know all the extra charges that may show up on your factory invoice. Does your invoice show a dealer advertising association fee? If so, how much is it? Are there dealer prep charges, port charges, or any other charges? To do business with me, you'll have to show me the factory invoice for any new vehicle I choose to buy on your lot. " Plus if there is any factory-to-customer rebate on the car, I expect you to not figure it in your bid and subtract the rebate as a furthur discount on the bid. "Also, before we discuss any mark up or mark down from the factory invoice, you must inform me about any document fees or other charges that are not listed on the factory invoice. Will I be required to pay for dealer add-ons like rustproofing, pinstripes, wheel locks or other items that I don't want? "Are there any important options I might want that you may have to install because they are not installed at the factory and are not listed on the factory invoice?" For some foreign makes, options like air-conditioning are dealer installed. Ask the dealer for his charge to install these items. Then say: "I think that's about it. So what is the best markup or markdown from factory invoice if I buy the vehicle in the next 30 days?" Once you collected all your competing bids by phone, make the lowest bidders confirm their offers in writing via e-mail or by fax. After you get your best offers in writing, and there are some things you don't understand, or if answers to your questions are unclear, ask again. Remember, it's your money! If there are dealers who won't cooperate and give you a phone bid, tell them if they don't bid, they will have no chance at your business. Do not fall for any excuses why the dealer can't give you a price by phone. Don't give in one inch on this requirement. Keep in mind that some dealers will be able to sell you a car several thousand dollars well below the factory invoice. This is possible because the dealer often gets "holdbacks" or "factory kick backs" or "end of year carry over allowances" that don't show up on a factory invoice. He may pass them on to you. Once in a blue moon a dealer won't live up to the bid he or she gave you. So if this happens, then refuse to do business with that dealer and move on to the next lowest bidding dealer. Also, keep in mind that you are better off not to limit dealer bids to specific options or colors. Factory installed options will have the same invoice price regardless of the dealer you choose. This approach allows all dealers to bid even if they don't have a car with a specific option you requested but may not be important to you. Once you have your bids, you can call the lowest bidders to see what options and colors are available on their lots. When asking for bids, tell all the dealers you don't need financing and you don't have a trade-in. If you need financing or want to trade a car in, mention these issues only after you get your lowest bid on the car with the color and options you want . Mentioning financing and trade-ins before you get your final bids will only confuse the process. These issues should only be brought up when you physically go to the dealership to inspect the car. Then financing and trade-ins can be brought up at that time. Just make sure you check your financing options in advance by shopping local banks in your area. Currently, the time of year you request bids does not matter except when the new model year is being introduced and dealers must get rid of leftovers quick. If sales are up for your particular car or truck, you may not get favorable bids. However, if you're not in a hurry, you can wait a month and and start a new bid process. If you're offered an extended service contract, you can shop that too. For instance, you can buy a Honda from one dealer, buy a Honda backed extended service contract from another Honda dealer and take your car for factory service to another Honda dealer. For instance, one dealer may offer you an extended service contract at $400 while the same contract at another dealer might be $1200. So when considering extended service contracts, shop around. When it comes to dealer add ons like rustproofing, paint sealent , pinstripping ,and fabric protection, dealers pay only about $50 per car for all these items. So if these items are on a car you may be considering, pay no more than $50 for these items. Other scam overcharges to watch out for are environmental fees, and advertising fees. Advertising and others fees are the dealer's responsibility. If you want to get a good idea on the wholesale true worth of your trade-in, visit several used cars lots that buy cars and ask them to make you an offer. If three lots offer you $1,000, and the dealer where you plan to buy your car offers you $1500, then you might want to trade it in. Edmounds and KBB can also give you a good idea what your trade-in is worth . You can also get used car values from www.Cars.com If you plan to lease a car, the purchase is a little more complex because it involves dealer financing. For help with leasing , visit www.LeaseCars4Less.Com , www.LowerMyLease.Com and www.LeaseCompare.com If you don't have the time or the desire to go through the phone bid process, Capital One Bank has set up a free website that will do the lowest bid car shopping for you. But keep in mind this free service is not available in all areas. Visit: www.DriveOne.Com If you're buying a used car from a private individual or a dealer, never make the purchase unless you get the VIN or "vehicle identification number" from the selling party. Then you can buy a www.Carfax.Com report that will tell you if the car was in a wreck, a flood or other seedy situations. If you plan on financing your car, watch our for dealer financing scams that involve a downpayment and 5% financing. One scan involves the salesman spreading out several documents on the desk and asking you to sign in serveral places. Never sign any blank documents unless you have time to read them completely. If you're too eager to sign the documents, you'll drive off the lot with a car and get a phone call from the dealer a week later saying that the financing didn't go through. Then the dealer may say you have to come up with a few more grand and the financing rate is 9%. The dealer may also lie and say your trade-in was sold to get you to agree to the higher financing rate. So don't sign any applications containing a writ of rescission and don't agree to take delivery of any vehicle until the dealer approves your loan. A better tactic is to get a loan pre-approved from a credit union or bank so the dealer can't play loan and interest rate games with you. Also, try to avoid zero interest rate deals, because only a few buyers qualify for these rates. If you pay some interest on these deals, you might end up owing way more than the vehicle is worth. To avoid this,refuse to sign any agreement that makes the sale contingent on financing and insist that the dealer arrange any financing while you wait. Also, make sure you do not sign any mandatory arbitration agreements. They are usually worded in the dealer's favor are are usually used by dishonest dealers who don't want to be sued. If the deal is contingent on your signing one of these documents, cancel the deal.

Hip Replacement Made Easy

The FDA has approved a new partial artificial hip aimed at younger, more active patients. Called the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing system, the less invasive procedure requires little bone removal. It simply replaces the ball on the high bone and resurfaces the socket. For more information go to : www.BirminghamHipResurfacing.Com

How To Make An Extra $3,000 A Year With Your Credit Card

When you get those 0% interest free checks in your credit card statements, don't toss them. Deposit them in a high yield, FDIC insured no minimum money market account like the ones offered at www.CapitalOne.Com These types of accounts pay 5% interest per month. If you deposit $50,000 in 0% interest free checks, you could make up to $3,000 in interest in one year. Just make sure you withdraw enough money to make the minimum re-payments, and repay the loans in full at the end of the six month grace period. You also select certain cards for transfers only with no spending and make sure you never pay a transfer fee more than $75.

Best Wine Buys For The Summer Of 2006

Great white wines that go with fish are the 2005 Muscadet from Domaine de la Pepiere $12, 2004 Will Schaefer Estate Riesling #1 from Germany $17, and 2005 Luigi Ferrando di Caluso from Italy $14 . For reds that go with grilled meats its 2004 Zweight Riedencuvee from Glatzer-Austria $14, 2004 Sigalas Santorini -Greece-$14 and from France its 2004 Chateau d'Opia Minervois. For wines to drink with everything try 2005 Estancia Piedra Rosado-Spain $11, and 2005 Commanderie de Peyrassol @ $15 from France. Great salad wines include 2003 Nine Stones Shiraz -Australia-$11, 2003 Schlumberger Gewurztraminer -France-$16, and from Argentina try 2005 Bodegas Lurton Pinot Gris @ $9. For fabulous Bordeauxs at half the price try France's "second label" wines. They are dead ringers for a "Grand Vin" but are the result of over production and younger vines. Try Carruades de Lafite 2004 @ $44, Les Hauts de Pontel-Canet 2000 @ $24, and Amiral de Beychevelle 2002 @ $29. For remarkable roses try 2005 Bonny Doon "Vin Gris de Cigare" from CA @ $13, and 2005 "Sabine" Rose from Bieler Pere et Fils-France @ $10 or try 2005 Routas "Rouviere" Rose also from France @ $11. To find all the wines listed Go2 www. Wine-Searcher.com

The Best Rugged Notebook Computers

The supertough Rough Rider Max @ $4,999 from www.Ruggednotebooks.Com The Panasonic Toughbook 29 used by troops in Iraq is $3700 from www.Panasonic.Com and the glow in the dark keyboard model ,the Itronix GoBook III @ $4330 at www. GoBook3.Com

The Best Of Harlem NYC

For the best eats in Harlem try www.LondelsRestaurant.Com at 2620 Frederick Douglas Blvd between 139th & 140th Sts. Phone 212-234-6114. Reservations are always suggested. For seafood try www.Pier2110.Com at 2110 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd. Phone 212-280-7430 and for southern style comfort food it's www.MelbasRestaurant.Com, 300 W. 114th St @ Frederick Douglas Blvd. Phone 212-864-7777. For custom men's and women's clothing check out www.BoyamaHomme.Com at 2330 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd, between W. 136th & W. 137th Sts. Phone 212-234-5128. For unusual and custom made hats visit www.HatsByBunn.Com at 2283 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd, between W. 134th & W. 135th Sts. Phone 212-694-3590

The Best Of Indianapolis, Indiana

Where to stay: www.TheVillaInn.Com, 317-916-8500 and www.Westin.Com Call 317-262-8100. For cocktails its Nicky Blaines Cigar & Martini Bar, 20 N. Meridian St. Call 317-638-5588. For juicy steaks and crab cakes its www.14WestIndy.Com. Call 317-636-1414. For breakfast check out www.CafePatachou.Com. Call 317-636-1414. For an afternoon stroll, check out the cafes, hip galleries and vintage clothing stores in the Broad Ripple District. It's just 20 minutes from downtown on the northside. For dinner, visit www.TheOceanaire.Com for seafood that's flown in fresh daily. Call 317-955-2277. For late night entertainment, make it a point to slip into the www.TheSlipperyNoodle.Com . Call 317-631-6974, $5 cover. And for a memorable steak dinner before the trip home visit St. Elmo's Steakhouse. www.StElmos.Com. Call 317-635-0636.

A Dirt Cheap Way To Test Your Drinking Water

Instead of paying $100 or more to test your drinking water, you can buy the Watersafe All-In-One Drinking Water Test kit for $15.95 at www.H2OKits.Com The kit tests water for bacteria, lead, two pesticides, nitrate and nitrite, clorine, PH and hardness.

Free Financial Planning Advice

For free financial planning and retirement advice, visit www.Fidelity.Com The service is free for customers and non-customers working with a rep over the phone or at any Fidelity Investment Center.

Best Designer Outlets On The East Coast

The best designer outlets on the east coast are located in the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, 498 Red Apple Court, in Central Valley, NY. It's about a two hour ride by car from central New Jersey. Save up to 70% off names like Armani, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Escada, Fendi, Nieman Marcus, Saks 5th Ave, Prada, Miu Miu, Versace, Zegna and 200 other big names. For more info, call 845-928-4000 or visit: www.PremiumOutlets.Com . Right click on "select one of our centers" scroll down to Woodbury Common Premium Outlets and right on it. While you're there, try to visit the outdoor sculpture museum at www.StormKing.Org open until Nov 15th. Phone 845-534-3115.

Buy Wines Below Retail At Auction

The best way to buy some decent wines way below retail is to attend wine auctions. Leave the over priced rare wines to the high end bidders and concentrate on the wines that have low reserves or low starting bids. There are 5 auction houses in NY, 2 in IL, and one in CA. The New York houses are: www.Ackerwines.Com,www.MorrellWineAuctions.Com, www.Zachys.com , www.Christies.com and www.Sothebys.com. In IL see www.Eriwine.com and www.Tcwc.com and www.Hdhwine.com . In CA it's www.Bonhams.com.

Best New Eateries In US & Around The Globe

Atlanta: Trois 404-815-3337 Austin: Cibo 512-478-3663 Chicago: Blu Coral 630-719-8808,Los Angeles: Red Pearl Kitchen 323-525-1415, NYC: Lonesome Dove 212-414-3139, Porter House 212-823-9500, P*Ong 212-929-0898, Philadelphia: Mala 866-907-6242, Tinto 215-665-9150, San Francisco: Lark Creek Steak 415-593-4100, Prana 415-247-9911,Salt House 415-543-8900, Seattle: Serious Pie 206-838-7388, Washington DC: Bastille 703-519-3776 and BLT Steak 202-689-8999. Bangkok: All-Seasons Place, Wireles Rd, 011-66-2-654-1187. Hong Kong: Pierre, 5 Connaught Rd., 011-852-2825-4801 London: Tom's Kitchen, 27 Cate St, 011-44-207-823-3652 Paris: Sensing, 19 Rue Brea,011-33-1-4327-0880.

How To Save 50% Or More On Moving Costs

When choosing a mover, forget the yellow pages. Go to www.moving.org and click on "how to choose a certified mover". Then choose several movers in your area and check out their complaint records at www.bbb.org Then get bids from at least three firms. Interstate moves cost the most. A typical household move of 1200 miles and 8,000 pounds of stuff runs about $3,000. But if you move in October or May, you'll save about 10% during these months. To save even more money, pack your own boxes. Most movers charge an additional $1,000 to pack and unpack you boxes. And you can buy your own packing supplies for 20% less than movers charge at www.BoxesDelivered.com and at www.OnlineMovingBoxes.com When you hire a full service mover, insist on going with the driver to the weigh station twice. Once to see what the van weighs empty and next to see the weight after the van is loaded. If not, the company may jack up the weight and charge you more if you're not present during both weigh-ins. You can save up to 50% or more if you do your own move by renting a van from U-Haul, Rider or Penske. But an even smarter option is to contact www.Upack.com, or www.DoorToDoor.com. These two companies will leave a trailer outside your house. You pack the boxes on and unload them when they get to their destination. They pick up the trailer when its loaded and drop it off at your new location. For a 2,000 mile move, a U-Haul would cost you about $3,000. But if you call one of the drop trailer companies, it just $50 more than renting a U-haul and you leave the driving to them! However, if you called a full service mover they would charge you about $6,000! The drop off trailer companies are the best option to save money. Also, you may be able to write off all your moving expenses if your new workplace is at least 50 miles father from your old home than your old workplace. Check with the IRS or your accountant for full details.

How To Save Money On Utilities

To save money on utilities, compare your bill with a neighbor whose house is about the same size as yours. If your bills are a lot higher, survey your energy use with a free online Home Energy Saver tool at www.EnergyStar.gov However, for a about $400, you can higher an energy auditor to do a comprehensive energy diagnosis of your home. The findings and recommendations of an auditor may shave 25 to 50% off your energy bills. For a list of auditors check out www.Naseo.org and www.Bpi.org