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Investor’s column: Money-saving tips to help you make the most of your budget

How to avoid becoming debit card fraud victim

Sgt. Aaron Clem of the Kennewick (Wash.) Police Department offers tips on minimizing the risk of becoming a victim of debit card fraud when making purchases in a store or at the gas pumps.
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Sgt. Aaron Clem of the Kennewick (Wash.) Police Department offers tips on minimizing the risk of becoming a victim of debit card fraud when making purchases in a store or at the gas pumps.

Hopefully you got or will get a nice tax refund this year.

With that in mind, here’s how you can get even more of a bonus in your budget: Stop spending money you might not realize you’re wasting.

Some tips:

1. Don’t get addicted to shopping on Amazon, eBay, infomercials and TV shopping channels. These venues are built for temptation.

Psychologically, the hosts and company know how to tempt you. Whether they are offering a sweet deal on credit or the “rush” of being the winning bidder at an auction, these kinds of shopping outlets are nightmares for people who act on impulse.

Sometimes, a good “sale” gives a little bump in self-esteem or overcomes a bout of boredom (until the bill comes). The purchases, whether jewelry, clothing or perhaps exercise equipment, go unused.

If you are prone to impulse purchases, shut off the TV. Stick to buying food, shelter and clothing necessities. Avoid buying things you, in your heart know, probably won’t ever use.

Moods and emotional states can affect impulse shopping. Stress and loneliness can cost you. A good rule: If you want it, put it in your shopping cart online and wait for two weeks. If you still must have it, get it.

Jim G. Germer.jpg
Jim Germer is a CPA and financial adviser at Cetera Financial Specialists, LLC, in Bradenton.

2. Beware of auto-renewals. It is monotonous going through the legalese online to sign up for things such satellite radio, internet dating, the latest phone apps or streaming services for your television. Most of us don’t remember all of our online monthly debits and don’t see them unless we regularly balance our checkbooks.

Worse yet, increases in subscription charges automatically appear when you didn’t read the fine print. I believe the companies know this and exploit our too human impatience. Telephone automation rarely offers a cancellation option.

3. Read your insurance policies, not just a summary update. Reading insurance policies is dull, but imagine how many people were shocked to find they no longer had sinkhole protection or didn’t notice that their insurance rep changed their level of coverage when switching companies.

You get an invoice that you think is right, but you don’t know. For example, you’ve had the same homeowner’s insurance policy for 10 years, and you find out only after your dog bites someone that you are not covered. If you have a dog, call your insurance agency or company and find out if you are covered. If you do not arrange for coverage, look into an umbrella insurance policy.

4. Watch yourself at the grocery store. Bakery items are marked up about 100 percent or more. A cut pineapple often goes for $4.25 or more per pound, while a whole pineapple costs about $2.75. In short: Cut your own fruit.

When you go to a wholesale club, make sure you are going to use enough of the mega-sized item you are buying to justify what you are spending. Stores notoriously have sale items to get you in the door, but will jack up the price of the ketchup and toilet paper you throw in the cart — just because you are there.

These tips are just for starters that I hope will save you a lot of money. I’d love to hear your tips, too.

Jim Germer is a CPA and financial adviser at Cetera Financial Specialists, LLC, member FINRA/SIPC, located at 100 Third Ave. W., Suite 130, in Bradenton. Call 941-746-5600 or email jim.germer@ceterafs.com.

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